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!
No, this isn’t the name of my new crime novel. Yes, I am writing a crime novel, but it’s nowhere near to completion for me to spill the beans about it. Worry not, however, for you’ll soon be hearing lots more about my raunchy and outrageous new novel Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts due out in spring!
As for the case of the missing glove, it is, in fact, a real case, and it takes place on the dark foggy streets of Londontown. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so foggy when it happened…
Teddy Tedaloo and his mate enjoy a pint of Fruli beer
The mystery all began thanks to my famous social butterfly and bon-vivant bear Teddy Tedaloo and his Christmas meet-up with a mate of his, who was coming down by train from “oop north.” Ted was in fine Christmas cheer attired in a dapper Santa suit, replete with hat, which ended up coming in quite handy for warding off the freezing Siberian cold that had draped itself like an old lady’s shawl over our little island. Of course no meet-up worth its weight in ale can kick off without first paying a visit to a favourite drinking establishment in Covent Garden – particularly one that serves Fruli strawberry beer. We were already halfway to the floor drinking our lunch when Ted’s Uncle Geoff turned up, at which point things began to lean a wee bit toward the surreal. Though frankly, I’ve become so used to surreal that if Salvador Dalí gave me a melting clock for Christmas, I’d likely not bat an eyelash. (The fact that he’s dead probably wouldn’t faze me either.)
Teddy Tedaloo on Thames River Christmas cruise
We set off down to the river, where we availed ourselves of a Christmas boat cruise on the Thames. Little did we expect to be entertained by a commentator who could have put any of the top British comedians to shame, he was that good. Alas, nearly all of his humorous jibes went over the heads of our mostly foreign sailing companions, who seemed more interested in speaking as loudly as possible and instigating their screaming children to do likewise. But hey, it added to the hilarity of the moment, as did the gingery fizzy cocktail we were served. I mean, we really needed a drink to sober up after all that Fruli!
Once we’d teetered off the boat, we sobered up even more in the Arctic blast and had a look at the Christmas market set up on the South Bank, which featured among all the sweet sellers and soap pushers a babushka lady selling religious icons and statues from Minsk, Belarus. Now I ask you, what else would you possibly expect to find on London’s South Bank but a babushka lady from a convent in Minsk? It’s the first thing you think of, right? I have a feeling that Ted’s uncle was rather taken with her, but he decided to play hard to get by going off to buy some sweets, which we later stole off him, afterward topping up our hunger with some roast pork and sage stuffing sandwiches, which we ate while standing up, our frigid fingers clinging to our food for dear life. We next got some rubberised French crepes that were a challenge to eat, particularly with a plastic fork. These were eaten to the accompaniment of a musician whose hands were so frozen he could barely get any sound out of his guitar. Yeah, baby, it was cold.
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo observe safely from the sidelines
We rounded off the evening by schlepping across the river yet again, this time to Somerset House to watch the ice skating, where we were joined by yet another mate of Ted’s. Enter the missing glove. Apparently somewhere between Waterloo Bridge and the ice rink Geoff discovered his right glove had gone missing. With no sign of Sherlock Holmes (Elementary, my dear Watson!), it was up to us to solve the mystery. A frantic search ensued, involving much harassment of the security people, neither of which yielded a result. We ended up inside the viewing galleries, warming up with tepid and obscenely overpriced cups of “hot” cider and dancing to some very peculiar Balkan-esque music being piped in, whereupon it was decided we’d find another pub once we’d escorted our out-of-towners safely to the tube station.
The pub never happened, which might, in retrospect, be a good thing. We were in the vicinity of Charing Cross station when our glove man, who was to catch us up after one more check with Somerset House’s lost-and-found, sent a text that he was returning back across the river to the South Bank to search for his glove. Had it been me, I’m not sure I would’ve gone to that much bother on a freezing cold night in a city that is exhausting even in the best of times. However, it was probably the temperature that drove him to seek out his glove rather than endure further torment.
Later that night when I got home, I texted Geoff to see if he’d found his errant glove. I didn’t receive a reply. My first thought was that he’d been mugged during his search or possibly even run off with the babushka lady. Indeed, perhaps his claim to return to hunt for his glove on the South Bank had been but a ruse to put us off the scent. I mean, you just never know with men.
The next morning I had an email informing me of the sad news: the black glove was never found. On the bright side, however, Geoff happened upon a right-handed green glove that some other poor soul had lost, thereby giving him a proper (albeit unmatched) pair. The last I heard, he was still wearing it!
So now you know what happens to all those lonely gloves you see scattered around London. They eventually find a new partner, and live happily ever after.
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo (the "Norfolk Hayseeds")
My beloved sidekick Teddy Tedaloo and I are recently back from our first in what will hopefully be many visits to the wonderful county of Norfolk. When friends told me that things are a bit quirky in those parts, I knew it was the right place for us – and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, I got a bit of ribbing about all the inbreeding and webbed hands and feet (the same kind of jokes you get about Wales, which is a beautiful place!), but I saw no webbed hands or feet (except on the ducks), and the locals I met were friendly, pleasant and helpful.
The plan was to soak up lots of local colour for a quirky novel I’m going to write, and soak it up I did in abundance! The quirkiness kicked off a few minutes before my train arrived at King’s Lynn, with my friend and hostess sending me a series of progressively panicked text messages informing me that she was stuck in the soap cycle at the car wash and could not get out. I ended up waiting outside by the taxis with some poor woman whose friend apparently forgot to collect her from the station, and we amused ourselves by watching the gulls deposit their waste onto parked vehicles until a car came skidding to a halt before me. My friend had arrived.
Well, I felt really let down, especially after all those text messages. I’d expected the car to be covered in soap suds like some giant bath sponge, but apparently my friend managed to make it into the rinse cycle, and hence to freedom. And off we went for a Magical Mystery Tour of Norfolk that lasted for several days and probably put a couple of pounds on me from all the eating I did (did someone say “pudding“?).
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at a Norfolk pub
Now there’s nothing Ted and I like better than country and village pubs, and we availed ourselves of plenty while there. My favourite pub was in a village straight out of Midsomer Murders, replete with a local vicar drinking there… only he wasn’t a local vicar as I soon found out. In fact, he was a Welsh vicar with a parish in Essex. You figure it out. Even he thought it was a scream. It was in this quaint old pub where I found the perfect inspiration for my novel – and I sketched out the entire plot on a scrap of paper in between exchanging quips with the vicar, who was a bit of a comedian. It seems his parish is very near the part of Essex where the ferries go to the continent, only he said his parish was for “the incontinent”. I kinda got the impression he wasn’t too crazy about Essex when he told me: “I love everybody, but I don’t have to like everybody.”
The Norfolk Broads
Welsh vicars from Essex aside, you haven’t lived till you’ve gone to a pub with a black labrador that’s in season. We’d all just come from a lovely walk on the beach, barely missing being swallowed up by high tide, and were in the mood for some real fish ‘n chips (not sure what the lab was in the mood for, but let’s not go there). Anyway, there was this smaller male dog at the bar giving her the eye and, well… let’s just say he was interested and leave the subject before it disintegrates into non-family content.
Actually, forget about the horny dogs. You haven’t lived till you’ve been on a boat in the Norfolk Broads piloted by Ted. He’s a pretty good driver for a bear, and, in fact, he was a damned sight better at driving our boat than my friend (who continues to assert that I ran over a swan when I took the helm). But I had to get to the Broads and at least see what David Bowie was singing about in “Life On Mars“.
Teddy Tedaloo piloting a boat through the Broads
The only thing actually wrong with Norfolk (and there isn’t much) are all the Londoners coming in and trying to change it into a smaller version of London. There are quite a few so-called “celebrities” and other assorted riff-raff with too much money and no sense who descend on the county in their requisite Sloan Square attire, poncing about and trying to be all country-ish and “bishy-barney-bee” as they shop at the London clone shops and eat in the London clone restaurants (lovely old pubs that have been bought out and destroyed by the gastro craze and certain “celebrity chefs” who fob off their overpriced kibble on you). I have suggested putting barbed wire up to keep these Londoners out, or better yet, an electrified fence. I mean, if you want Primrose Hill, then stay in Primrose Hill!
Of course, coming home is never without its own excellent adventure, particularly when the train driver can’t be bothered to stop at my stop, or indeed, two of the previous stops, when they are ALWAYS scheduled stops. Just one more great mystery brought to you by British Rail. I had been so elated that for my journey home I wouldn’t need to schlep my heavy suitcase up and down countless stairs as I had to on the way to Norfolk (resulting in a slightly sprained hand), but not only did I end up at the next town up from mine, I ended up having to deal with stairs when I was forced to make the reverse journey back to my town. Thankfully my plight was put to an end when a young gentleman intervened and took over suitcase duty. I have often said there are no gentlemen left in Britain (especially in the London area), and I continue to adhere to that statement, therefore it was a pleasant surprise to actually find one (the only ones still alive are usually walking with zimmer frames). Mind you, this particular gentleman (not surprisingly) was from out of town.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to getting a start on my new novel, and I might at some point need to pop back up Norfolk for an inspiration fix. And who knows, maybe I won’t leave!
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.
So what does an Irishman who’d come by with his guitar to serenade me with weepy Irish songs (the Irish can compete with the Hungarians for misery, I’ll tell you that) have in common with a classic Iggy Pop song? Well, it’s the kind of thing that could only have happened to Yudge.
I’d been living in Leicester at the time, and one afternoon he’d taken the train down from Sheffield, armed with gee-tar and a bottle of red. We met up in town first, had a couple of pints at this dodgy pub full of arguing Scotsmen, then landed in a tapas place with a pitcher of sangria rapidly disappearing between us. After that it was back to mine, where Teddy and I were regaled with tragic musical tales of lovers lost at sea and potatoes that refused to grow – all this to the accompaniment of that very potent bottle of red. In between this melodic misery we had the comic relief of Iggy Pop – and I made my mate sing “The Passenger” at least three times, too. Damn, even now I still love that song!
When the bottle had run dry and we’d likewise run dry of songs (not even The Beatles were sacrosanct), I realised I either had to offer my sofa for the night or pack this Irish crooner into a taxi. The taxi won out, since there was plenty of time to catch an early evening train back up north to Sheffield. However, when the clock struck midnight (okay, the digital face on my bedside clock) and I hadn’t received so much as email or text, I became concerned; it was only an hour’s journey. I texted, I phoned, neither of which yielded a result. Where in hell had he vanished to? Had he run into a mate and gone down the pub? – or worse, run into his estranged wife and her gangster boyfriend? There was nothing I could do but go to bed and hope for the best. He was a grown man – surely he could look after himself. He may have had the heart and soul of a poet, but he’d grown up on a rough estate in Belfast.
The following afternoon the phone rang. No, it wasn’t Sheffield’s version of the Old Bill trying to touch me for bail money. It was the errant Yudge, telling me that never again would he go near red wine; from now on he’d stick to white. It seems he’d fallen asleep on the train and ended up in Leeds – and there were no more trains back down to Sheffield. Thus while I’d been frantically staring at my clock, he’d been wandering about Leeds city centre armed only with his guitar and a terrified expression, being eyed up by all sorts of shifty characters, until he finally ducked into a hotel that had a vacancy on offer at the extortionate rate of 160 quid. It ended up being the most expensive day out this “passenger” ever had. Clearly, this was no story that was destined to see print in a volume of my Erotic Travel Tales anthologies!
Now I’m not trying to upset anyone who might be from Leeds (heartfelt apologies to the Kaiser Chiefs!), but nearly everyone I know who’s been to Leeds has run into a spot of bad luck. One guy I know went there for a night out with his mates and ended up having the crap beaten out of him by some local lads just because he walked down the wrong street. Another guy I know had his wallet stolen from out of his jacket pocket while having dinner at a restaurant (along with his return train ticket home to the safety of rural Lincolnshire). Now I’ve been to Leeds, and I managed to get out unscathed. Mind you, I did leave before dark – and in the safety of a Peugeot that sped away on the M1 with pedal to the metal! So in my opinion, Yudge had a lucky escape.
Alas, he died three years ago this coming August Bank Holiday weekend.
On the day of his funeral, I had to fly to Greece to teach one of my erotic writing workshops on the island of Skiathos. He’d often spoken of moving back to Greece, where he’d spent the early days of his marriage. Since I couldn’t make the funeral (I don’t believe in funerals anyway), I thought it more significant to bury his photo in the sand at the beach. Afterward, I went to light a candle for him at a little church that I found open during siesta. It was empty, save for a handful of other candles that had been lit. Half an hour later I returned to look for the priest and hopefully communicate to him to say a prayer for Yudge (he was Irish Catholic, though I doubt he’d have minded being Greek Orthodox for a day). Unfortunately, there was no sign of the priest – or of anyone, for that matter. Nor was there any sign of the candle I’d lit. The other candles were still there, burning away – but mine had vanished. And yes, I’d put a euro into the box!
Was this my friend’s idea of a joke? Because there was no earthly explanation for that missing candle. It’s a shame Mitzi TV wasn’t around back then – we could’ve done a Greek Tales of the Unexpected!
It took a year before I stopped expecting my phone to ring at 1am in the morning. We thought nothing of calling each other at outrageous hours – we’d usually be up anyway. Perhaps we both suffered from the same malady: he always told me we were too delicate for this world.
He was right. And so was Iggy when he wrote that song.
My mate Yudge was, indeed, the passenger. And I’m willing to bet anything he still is!
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 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!
They don’t call this country “Blighty” for nothing. It seems like everyone’s always ailing around here, especially me. I get shot of one malady, only to have another swoop down and carry me off in its germy clutches. In the past few weeks I’ve been hit by a cold, followed by what may or may not have been food poisoning, followed by bronchitis (with severe laryngitis) combined with a head cold (that’s still going on). I average something every four weeks now, except for the summers, when I get time off for good behaviour. I shudder to think what would happen if I was forced to join the daily commute in and out of London with millions of germy commuters hacking and coughing and sneezing their way through the morning and evening rush hour. Frankly, I’m beginning to think the plague was never fully eliminated from Britain.
Some time back I was out for an evening in Blackheath with a bunch of Cockneys (I do seem to know a lot of Cockneys, don’t I?) and I was given a most interesting history lesson. Apparently the heath itself – which is a green space situated between some of Blackheath’s village streets – can never be built on. Now let me say to those blissful in their ignorance, the heath itself is one hell of a nice piece of real estate… until you hear that there are plague victims buried there. Oh, sure, there are mixed reports on all this, but when was the last time you saw anyone spending a Sunday afternoon on the heath with a bucket and spade? I mean, would you let your children play there? Er, well… providing you actually LIKE your children, that is.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming Blackheath specifically for my maladies! I guess if I were to place the blame on any one particular location, I’d probably have to opt for Eyam, the famous plague village in the Derbyshire Dales, since I’d been there way before I’d ever stepped foot in Blackheath. When I lived in the dreaded north (by that I mean Sheffield, home of the Arctic Monkeys, Sean Bean, and assorted bits of steel cutlery), I spent quite a lot of my free time in Derbyshire, hiking about in The Peak District, only to end up in some wonderful country pub afterward (that really was the whole point of the exercise, if I’m honest!). If you want to know of a good pub in the Peaks, just ask – I know them all. There were very few Sunday afternoons when you wouldn’t find me at some cosy country pub with a pint and a plate of some tasty pub grub. No frozen rubbish there. The food was fresh and often bordering on gastro-cuisine, and there was always room for sticky toffee pudding. One tends to work up an appetite hiking and climbing and teetering about on cliffs, believe me.
I’ve had some very enjoyable experiences in the Peaks. In fact, I’ve even taken some literary inspiration from the area via my short story Bakewell, Revisited originally published in Erotic Travel Tales 2. It’s set in the market town of Bakewell and involves its most famous celebrity: the absolutely divine Bakewell Pudding. Mind you, I’m not entirely certain the Bakewell Pudding’s founding fathers (or mothers) had envisioned quite the scenario I’d conjured up for my story, but…
Anyway, let’s get back to those Peak District jaunts before I get myself into trouble here. I tell you, you haven’t lived till you’ve been right in there among the heather when it’s in its full purple glory. Oh yeah, you’ll have plenty of company buzzing about too, which can be a bit of a challenge. I’d already had some nasty run-ins with wasps on a remote mountaintop in the Greek islands (Epinephine anyone?), so their English cousins were not exactly winning me over – especially when one of the cheeky buggers got up my skirt. And honey, I mean WAY up my skirt. Let’s just say this could have been a la petite mort that would have truly been mort.
I’d probably have to say that one of the absolute highlights of my time there (the Peaks, not Greece) was when I was out one Sunday afternoon with my walking/hiking mate Liz and a couple who were visiting her from France. After a scenic drive, we partook of a brief walking tour of duty along a hilly country lane, which wound past a farm full of sheep bleating and whatever else it is sheep get up to. Indeed, our Frenchman was so inspired by this pastoral English setting that he burst into song, serenading these farm residents with the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie En Rose”. (Oddly, there was no applause when he finished.) We then trudged our way back up the hill to the pub, whereupon he ordered the lamb for dinner. I never quite forgave him for that.
Meanwhile, back to the plague. The crazy thing is, I was never ill this often when I lived in Sheffield – and that hilly city is far colder and much windier than The Big Smoke by a long shot. Perhaps those salt-of-the-earth Yorkshire folk are hardier and not as prone to germs as these spoiled Southerners are – after all, they come from steel mill and coal pit stock. Now I’m not saying the dreaded lurgy never sank its talons into the locals, but I don’t recall anything quite to the extent of what I’m experiencing here. Mind you, it could just be me. In fact, I’m certain of it.
I wonder if someone’s trying to tell me something. Is that a voice in my ear, whispering “Come to California! Come to California!”?