I recently had a chance to chat with Ross Hemsworth on his UK web radio programme The Hammer Show and a good time was had by all! From the controversy surrounding my recent novelPride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts and my work on Mitzi TV, to celebrity culture and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s animal cruelty involving his own dog – no subject is immune!
Tune in for some lively discussion and a perspective on the world from both Britain and America. Clink to listen to the replay of the interview at:
The proud mama with Teddy Tedaloo and his wife Ninny
What happens when you combine too many pints of Belgian Fruli strawberry beer with a gang of rowdy bears out on the town?
Answer: Complete chaos.
Yes, folks, it was the famous Teddy Tedaloo‘s glittering goodbye meet-up in London’s trendy Covent Garden. You see, Ted’s off to America for awhile and, being the popular bear that he is, his nearest and dearest mates wanted to give him a proper send off. (Luckily I was invited too.) So we convened at our usual haunt, The Porterhouse, home of beers guaranteed to send you sprawling onto the floor (after emptying out your wallet – this is London, after all!).
The afternoon kicked off in high style in the pouring rain about half past three, lasting till nearly 11pm, with most of that time spent at the pub. Mind you, considering that people and animals were either lost on public transport or coming from the office, we were definitely in it for the long haul.
Winston's mother doing god knows what
It was a very international turnout, including my international bear (Ted holds both American and British citizenship) and myself (the aforementioned nations being saddled with me as well); Ted’s little cutie of a wife Ninny (with Ted’s mother-in-law in tow); a gaggle of bears and other creatures (including two humans) who’d just arrived from Paris; Winston the dog and his parents (one of whom disgraced herself under the table); a trio of Italians, including an elephant that had so much to drink the poor bugger fell over into a plate of baba ghannouj; and a lass from Luton with some monkeys. Oh, yeah, and we had Ted’s Uncle Geoff (a regular cast member, since he always makes a point to attend any London events of merit); Ted’s recently acquired Uncle Paul (who let Ted drive his Mini the other weekend); and Ted’s newest uncles on the scene: Dave (who sneaked out early before things got too wild) and Chris (who forgot to bring his giraffe).
Mitzi Szereto drinks herself under the table
Lots of under-the-table activity was enjoyed by all, including Winston’s mother and, of course, yours truly. I think the former enjoyed it a bit more than was prudent, however.
Having said that, it wasn’t all about boozing and crawling around under tables and getting up to all sorts. There were tender moments to be had as well. Ted hadn’t seen his wife Ninny since their big Valentine’s wedding, and those of us gathered became quite teary-eyed at seeing the young lovers together again.
Ninny plants a big one on Ted
Okay, I’ll omit the fact that they spent most of the evening snogging, but they did have a lot of catching up to do.
Only when we had the last man (or rather bear) standing did we finally leave the joint and head for the tube station. Being the sharp-eyed lass that I am, I spotted a very interesting-looking ice cream parlour with some very interesting-looking ice cream in the display case, and we executed a quick beeline through the door. Turns out it was a “gay” themed ice cream parlour with plenty of rude posters on the walls, one of which pertained to the film “Brokeback Mountain” and warm bananas. Hey, they said it, not me! The young gent in charge of spooning out our ice cream was such a tasty dish that it was probably inevitable he didn’t swing toward the direction of the ladies in our party. (Always the way, innit?) But the ice cream more than made up for the heartache. In fact, a female member of our party commented that it was better than sex.
Errr… no surprise, that.
A grand day and evening out was had by all. Teddy even ended up with a spiffy new outfit (courtesy of the Italian elephant’s mother). As for me, I ended up with a Fruli hangover and a sore eye.
And I bet you thought my life was just spent writing steamy books!
Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Born To Be Wild" video shoot
Mitzi TV head to the pastoral English countryside for some peace and relaxation, only to get a lot more than they bargained for when a hoard of Harley Davidson riders descends on their quiet country hotel.
Yours truly (that’s me!) recently took some time out to chat with journalist Michael Casey at a local Essex watering hole about my new entrepreneurial Internet television venture Mitzi TV – its origins, its direction, and its future, as well as the business of books, blogging, and social media.
In case you didn’t already know (like where you been, mate?), Mitzi TV is the new web TV channel to head to for all things quirky and eccentric in London. We’ve gone from crazy pub singalongs, eating jellied eel, and chatting about classic cars with such luminaries as Formula 1 racecar driver/BBC TV presenter Tiff Needell, couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo and Batman – to Morris dancing with software geeks. And no, this wasn’t in the same episode!
Of course, I couldn’t create all this madness and mayhem without the talents of cameraman extraordinaire/stand-up diamond geezah Steve Beer and cutie-pie theme musicman extraordinaire Andrew Shatnyy (Facebook/MySpace). And let’s not forget the talents of my handsome (albeit furry) production assistant extraordinaire Teddy Tedaloo, who also provides onscreen talent.
As for those buttocks I mentioned, how do you deal with a governmental body that has all the common sense of not even one buttock?
In my never-ending quest to bring you the ever-quirky and eccentric (while still managing to stay out of the loony bin), I recently found myself entering into a rather annoying fracas with a governmental body: the Royal Parks people. I knew I should’ve cut through all those buzzing drones and biscuit-eating/tea drinking middle men (and women) and gone straight to the top, specifically HRH. Now Lizzie’s a queen who gets things done!
I am referring to a recent attempt by yours truly to line up permission to shoot a Mitzi TV video at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Because it’s a “Royal” park, I knew I’d need to obtain an official okay. I mean, it wasn’t like we’d be there with a little digital camera and could subtly blend into the crowd. We run a professional operation with professional equipment. (Plus people have commented on that big-ass mike I use, so “subtle” is not the word that springs to mind when we’re talking a Mitzi TV shoot.) Since Speaker’s Corner necessitates a substantial police presence (some of the speakers and audience members can get pretty wound up apparently), I didn’t fancy being led away by the Old Bill, therefore I decided to follow the proper channels to make the shoot happen. It’s a quirky kind of event, and Mitzi TV is nothing if not quirky, so it didn’t seem likely I’d be given an “on yer bike, missus!”.
When I received an email replying to my query, I thought, hey, this is great – sounds like we’re in! Here follows the exact text that refers directly to the issue about who and what controls the area in question:
Speaker’s Corner is an integral part of Hyde Park, which is one of London’s eight Royal Parks. The Royal Parks are owned by the Crown, but were passed to the Government under the Crown Lands Act 1851 to be managed as public open space. They are now the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who delegates their day to day management to The Royal Parks. They are funded by the taxpayer.
Teddy Tedaloo in Mitzi TV video opener
“Public open space.” “Funded by the taxpayer.” Well, I’m no lawyer, but this sounds like the definition of a public place – and you do not need permission to film in a public place (not yet anyway). That is why it’s called “PUBLIC.” That statement about being funded by the taxpayer put a further stamp of approval on the process, because guess who’s a taxpayer? Yeah, moi. Just to make certain there was no misinterpretation on my part as to what clearly looked to be a clear description of who controls the park, I messaged once more to confirm that I’d be allowed to shoot some video of the speakers, and asked which specific days they were there spouting off.
The reply came back that these Soapbox Annies and Alis are there on Sundays only, and yes, I would need permission to film, but my message was being forwarded to the Appropriate Party. Not wanting to waste time, I shot off an email to this A.P., explaining what I wished to do and that I’d like to take care of the details as quickly as possible. A.P. messaged back, informing me that they do not permit filming at Speaker’s Corner on Sundays, but I could phone them to discuss the matter further.
Umm… did they not just tell me that I couldn’t film there on a Sunday? So what was there to discuss, the weather? Of course we all know how the Brits love to talk about the weather.
So did this mean they’d give me permission to film at Speaker’s Corner on a day that was not a Sunday? Now forgive me if I’m wrong (or extremely stupid), but what’s the point of filming speakers at Speaker’s Corner when there aren’t any speakers there to film? This is the very question I put forth to A.P. in my reply, also mentioning the fact that plenty of people have shot videos there – how could this be possible if they needed to obtain permission? Needless to say, my email did not receive a response.
Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Baby You Can Drive My Car" video shoot
Now I have nothing against doing a bit of guerrilla filming – I’ve got more cajones than any of the men I’ve known. However, what I do have something against is being harassed (and led away by handcuffs) by the police. There’s a time and place for handcuffs – and this isn’t one of them. Besides which, London coppers aren’t as cute as they used to be. They’re getting a bit wide, if you know what I mean, looking more and more like their doughnut-eating American counterparts. So we’d better forget the handcuffs for now.
As for Mitzi TV, keep an eye out for me at Speaker’s Corner, because I don’t like taking “no” for an answer.
Guess it’s a good thing they abolished beheading in this country…
Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Knees Up Mother Brown" video shoot
Mitzi TV go for a right old knees-up at a proper authentic English “local”, The Duke of Kendal pub in Central London, where all forms of madness ensue. From colourful characters to rude Cockney songs and operatic arias, this is English eccentricity at its very finest!
Mitzi TV goes on the prowl in London in search of the famous East End Cockney delicacy, the jellied eel… (Turns out these scary denizens of the deep weren’t our cup of tea. We should’ve ordered the pie and mash instead!)
Well, I’ve barely been back in the UK for 24 hours and I already have an all-new train adventure to tell you about. I mean, I didn’t expect this much excitement so soon after returning home to Blighty, but as they say, “It’s all go round ‘ere!”
It all began when I dragged my jetlagged self into Central London on Saturday to meet a friend for lunch, with us starting out in the South Bank and ending up at a curry house in Soho. Okay, so the vindaloo nearly killed me (more like blew the back of my bloody head off), but I managed to survive both it and the usual swarm of Saturday afternoon humanity one tends to encounter on Oxford Street. I’m sure my face was still beet-red from the crowds and the vindaloo by the time I reached Tottenham Court Road tube station, having to reroute myself there after the big Gaza demonstration screwed up any chances of making it into the Oxford Circus station, let alone crossing the road to John Lewis, where I’d hoped to find an adaptor. Instead I glommed onto two confused-looking women and hurled myself in the opposite direction, just wanting to get the hell out of there asap.
The tube wasn’t very interesting, but my train ride back to Essex was. (If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts you’ll know that something always seems to happen on my train.) Being an early Saturday evening my car was crowded with passengers on their way home from their various outtings in the city, so I sat with a trio of lads, who instantly took me under their protective wings and welcomed me to their little party. I must’ve looked more lost and forlorn than usual, so I was happy for the distraction and hilarity they provided – and they provided it aplenty! Indeed, there was never a dull moment with this charming troika, who started out by offering me polite little smiles, after which proper introductions ensued. Obviously I didn’t tell them that I’m a famous author of both erotic literature and revenge stories. After all, a woman must maintain some aura of mystery, right?
I had a front-row seat as one of them received a phone call, the booming male voice on the other end giving him a right bollocking for not turning up for a job interview. The rest of us were trying to contain our laughter so as not to make the situation any worse for the hapless job seeker, but we weren’t too successful. I don’t usually like to laugh at other people’s misfortunes, but in this case I made an exception. He probably wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. I mean, if he’d wanted it badly enough he would’ve gone for the interview surely? He soon saw the funny side of it after the caller rang off, whereupon he decided to discuss Michael Jackson until I cut him off, informing him that I can’t stand Michael Jackson.
After disclosing that two of them were aged 19, with the one next to me a seasoned old man of 20, the lad across from me (their chief spokesperson from what I gathered) played a game of “Guess the Accent” and got mine right on the second try (Canadian is usually the first guess). He next began to interview me as to my relationship status, gaping in disbelief when I told him. He digested this information for a moment, then asked politely and respectfully if I’d consider going out with him, only to engage the shy lad beside me into this romantic discussion, suggesting to him that he might “walk the nice lady home” from the train station – that “nice lady” being me. Seems all three of them wanted to walk me home, and it wasn’t even dark yet! Who says there’s no gallantry in the Englishman? – or, for that matter, the Essex chav? And before you scoff, let me say this: I didn’t hear one single curse or foul word pass through the lips of these lads. Now if that isn’t proof that God exists, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, they invited me out for a night on the town (or rather the town we all coincidentally live in). In fact, there was even a mention of a dozen red roses. Although I didn’t give them a definite answer, I didn’t say no either. Just before they got off the train at Romford (they decided to kill some time at The Brewery since I’d said I was jetlagged and planned to just crash at home for the night), I was given the phone number of their head honcho.
I tell you, if an artist had to paint my life, it would definitely be Salvador Dalíwere he still alive. Nevertheless, I have to admit, those lads from the train made me laugh, and they were very sweet and gentlemanly too. I could do worse. (And honey, I have!)
So what do you think? Should I take them up on their offer?
Well, it’s that time of year again when I’m receiving panicked emails from my mother informing me that yet another hurricane is about to hit South Florida. Seems like only yesterday when this end-of-the-world scenario was transpiring, with wild-eyed rabid shoppers climbing all over each other to lay claim to the last torch (flashlight to you Yanks) on the shelf at The Home Depot, not to mention queuing up to buy petrol for the family car. I well remember being stranded in Glorious Sunshine Land during Hurricane Katrina, the eye of which went right over the roof of my mother’s house, sparking off a psychedelic light show on the power lines that would have put any rave to shame, leaving us with no power for several days – and no air conditioning. If you’ve ever spent a summer in South Florida, you’ll know that this is tantamount to the very worst of CIA torture techniques. It took three days before we could find a hotel that had either electricity or a working generator. My flight back home to Blighty had to be delayed by another week, and I was never so glad to see the glum-faced immigration officers at Heathrow in my life.
Which makes me wonder why people get so worried about earthquakes. I’ve experienced a few during my time on the West Coast. These are the little things in life that keep you on your toes. I mean, there’s nothing like being jolted out of a sound slumber at 5am and having to sprint naked into the nearest doorway (for those of you who don’t know about such things, doorways are apparently the strongest part structurally in a building). With the opening lyrics to “The End” by The Doors playing in your head, you wonder if this is finally THE BIG ONE that everybody’s been going on about – the one where the San Andreas Fault will crack wide open and swallow up Los Angeles. Now I ask you, is that such a bad thing? Just think, no more mediocre television sitcoms or plasticised dim-witted celebrities!
You don’t get warnings about earthquakes, therefore there’s no need for those panicked trips to Home Depot or the BP station. Theoretically you’re supposed to have an emergency supply kit on hand anyway, which includes flashlight, radio, batteries (gotta have them batteries, and I don’t necessarily mean for the flashlight and radio either!), canned food, and a generous supply of water for both drinking and washing (and to help flush the loo if things get really dire). Of course hardly anyone bothers with this. I never did. Guess I figured I’d just get in the car and get the hell out of town.
As it happens, we have earthquakes in England too, though they’re pretty wimpy compared to those butch California ones. I remember being awakened in my bed in Sheffield in the middle of the night, thinking “did we just have an earthquake?”, whereupon I promptly fell back to sleep. The next morning I heard on the news that there had been an earthquake across the Pennines in Greater Manchester. A few broken windows and fallen bricks – nothing remotely along the lines of the 1906 San Francisco quake that nearly destroyed the city or the one in 1989 that re-deposited cars on the upper level of the Bay Bridge to the lower level.
Volcanoes. That’s one thing we don’t hear too much about on our curious little island, though they do exist. Now those can be tricky. I lived in Seattle for awhile, and had a rather oblique view of Mount Rainier from the balcony of my apartment. In fact, I even climbed it once (Mount Rainier, not my apartment building), though abandoned the quest at the halfway mark when I passed some snowboarder who couldn’t have been more than 15 looking on the verge of a stroke as he scrambled back down after only having made it part of the way. Needless to say, I ended up leaving Seattle before any lava came rolling in my direction. Or any more snowboarders.
I guess it’s safe to say that I’d take an earthquake over a hurricane any day. I mean, why get all worked up about something before it even happens? Then again, why not just opt for the quiet life? Aside from random earthquakes, windstorms, floods, tornadoes, strikes, football hooliganism, terrorist attacks, riots, never-ending engineering work on the railways and tube, Chancellors with surnames like “Darling“, and wood lice that somehow manage to get through your front door, life in Britain is pretty peaceful overall.