Posts Tagged ‘English eccentrics’

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the High Street

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I often wonder if I have some magnetic force field operating around me that causes strange things to happen. I admit that I keep a rather low profile locally, since I don’t want hoards of fans queued up at my front door with copies of “In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed” for me to sign. (I prefer they do this in a bookshop, where I won’t be obliged to make them cups of tea.) But low profile or not, I only need to walk a couple of minutes from home before something odd transpires.

For instance, the other week I was heading to the post office when I happened on a busker and her dog. The busker, an Irish woman who seemed to think that I was also Irish (apparently I have an Irish accent), was playing guitar and singing, and the dog, who was wearing a bonnet straight out of a Jane Austen novel, was her devoted sidekick.

I guess I’m a soft touch when it comes to animals, so I put a few coins in the busker’s guitar case, slightly ashamed at the paltry offerings of the locals. Anyway, I got chatting with the woman, who was about to pack up for the day, and somehow from all this I ended up taking on the job of dog minder while she headed off to find a public loo. There I was, sitting on a bench with this dog in a Jane Austen bonnet parking her furry bum on my foot while all and sundry filed past. A few people offered me a friendly smile (I don’t think they were serial killers), including this guy I’d met earlier, who returned to pester me to join some new gym in town when I’d earlier told him that I was happy with the one I already go to – especially since his gym would have cost me double what I now pay.

When the busker returned, I was at last free to do my post office run, afterward heading off to the bank, where, along the way, I ran into an elderly lady I thought I knew from a writers group I’d given a talk to. (By “ran into” I mean on foot, I wasn’t driving.) Turns out it wasn’t her at all, but that didn’t matter, because she invited me to go Scottish dancing in Upminster (which is nowhere near Scotland, by the way). When I explained that I didn’t have a car and, although it sounded like good fun, it would be rather difficult for me to get to, she tried to entice me with tales of men in kilts, suggesting that perhaps I could find out what they wore beneath them. Well, I’d never been so shocked in my life! Okay, maybe I have. I think she just wanted to take me along as some sort of foil, and I probably would have gone, if she’d offered to pay for the taxi.

No sooner had I recovered from this adventure when yet another landed on my doorstep, for just the other day I was running some errands when, in the process of barreling toward the greengrocer’s, I was waylaid by a sweet little old lady with one of those push trolleys. She gave me a big smile and asked if I might offer her my arm so that she could get to a nearby bench to sit down. I saw a couple of old codgers seated there and, although I suspected her intent might be to chat them up rather than rest her elderly bones, I allowed her to borrow my left arm. (She didn’t much care for my right.) There we were, moving along at a snail’s pace and discussing that all-time favourite of English topics, the weather, when suddenly out of the blue she asks me why I think Jesus died.

Well, all I know is that I wanted to buy some of those lovely Spanish peaches before the season was over, therefore I was unable to shed any light on the subject of her query. Undaunted, she continued in what appeared to be a very concerted move to convert me to Christ, or at least drag me into a church. Okay, everyone’s entitled to their own gig and I respect that, but this was getting a bit much, particularly when we got to the bench and she made no effort to let me go – or to sit on the bench she claimed she needed to sit on. By the time she began fiddling in her sleeve for some of those Jesus pamphlets, I’d caught on to what she was about and made my departure before lightning struck me dead.

When I arrived at the greengrocer’s, I got chatting with the cashier and mentioned what had just happened, only to learn that a few days earlier she too had met with the very same elderly lady who had asked for her arm to help her get from point A to point B, only to be given the exact same pitch word for word. The cashier went on to say that a friend of hers had also met with this elderly lady, and so on and so on. Seems she was working the entire street! What bothered the cashier the most (she told me she was raised a full-on Christian, btw), was the degree of sneakiness and dishonesty involved, which she felt gave Christians a bad name. In fact, she didn’t believe the old woman was infirm enough to require assistance at all, and had merely been using this as a ploy. Indeed, we fully expected to see our doddering granny go jogging past the shop at any moment! We both concluded that we would very likely think twice before lending our arms to anyone. As for me personally, I never felt so cheap and used in my life!

The following day I returned to the High Street for a bit of grocery shopping and no, I didn’t see the elderly lady, but I did encounter a group of Native American Indians in full regalia performing tribal song and dance. Having by now learned my lesson, I didn’t stop to chat.

I bet you’re thinking that it’s only my local High Street where all these curious adventures take place, but it seems that no matter where I go, this magnetic force field of mine follows – even in the middle of Central London (or, in this case, beneath it). One night I was on a standing-room only underground train when I and several of my fellow passengers noticed a moth sitting on the handrail (at least it had somewhere to sit). The man near me was discussing with his mates what a moth riding the tube might eat, and I remarked that it was quite likely curry, since the moth was yellow. He agreed as to the logic of my argument, at which point several more people joined in the conversation. We then started taking guesses as to which stop Mr. Moth would get out at. I said Liverpool Street (turns out I was right). After so much speculation on the life of the Central Line moth, we were sorry to see it go, and when it came time for our little group to disband, we did so with tears in our eyes. (Okay, so maybe we didn’t, but we did part fondly.)

You’re probably saying that all this random weirdness must be some eccentric English thing, not a Star Trek-ian force field that has attached itself to me. Well, I’ve got news for you: it isn’t. Just wait till I tell you what happened when I ran into a bunch of Klingons in France!

“Born To Be Wild” – The New Video From Mitzi TV

Friday, September 25th, 2009
Mitzi TV video shoot

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.

Mitzi Chats About All Things Mitzi TV

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

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.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Mitzi TV "Eels" video shoot

Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Prowling For Eels" video shoot

…It’s Mitzi TV!

And just what did you think it was, a man with three buttocks?

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.

Mitzi TV Talent

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 TV "Car" video shoot

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…


“Knees Up Mother Brown” – The New Video From Mitzi TV

Monday, August 10th, 2009
Mitzi TV video shoot

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!

Visit the official Mitzi TV website at:

“Everybody Dance Now!” – the new video from Mitzi TV

Monday, July 13th, 2009
Mitzi TV

Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV Morris Dancing video shoot

Mitzi TV ventures into Central London to meet up with the Westminster Morris Men, a team of Morris dancers who do a lot more than shake their booty as they keep alive this wonderfully rhythmic English folk dance!

Visit the official Mitzi TV website at:

“Baby You Can Drive My Car” the new video on Mitzi TV

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Me and Austin

Mitzi Szereto interviews an Austin Healey for Mitzi TV

Mitzi TV heads to the Connaught Village Spring Festival in London, encountering some cool cars and the likes of Batman, Fred Flintstone, Formula 1 racecar driver and BBC Television’s “Top Gear” and “Fifth Gear” presenter Tiff Needell, and Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo!

Visit the official Mitzi TV website at: