Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mumsnet Blogfest

I have been a member of Mumsnet for a couple of years but, in all that time, I've probably been on it on only a handful of occasions.  I joined up in search of some moral support when the children were younger and being vile and I felt I really couldn't bore my friends with my traumas any longer.  I'm happy to say that support was there in abundance and it was reassuring to realise that most people seemed to think the kids were being normal and that it would all pass (it did).  

After that, my activity lapsed for lots of reasons.  Firstly, I have a full time job and am knackered by the end of most days.  Also, I have a family I quite like spending time with and 'having a couple of hours to ourselves once the kids are in bed'  is in the distant past.  Nowadays, they go to bed much later than us.  I felt that perhaps Mumsnet is aimed at a different generation from mine....there seems to be lots of talk about breastfeeding and nappies and I am (very happily) way past that era now.  Finally, I was quite bemused by all the acronyms that the Mumsnetters employ and kept having to refer back to their helpfully-provided list which was slow and quite irritating but probably something you get used to if you are a regular.  Finally, did I really need to be a member of a website which uses the acronym EWCM (Egg White cervical mucus)?  Yes, really.  Bleurgh.

But last week, someone at work mentioned Mumsnet and I decided to pay my annual visit :-)  The first thing I saw was the ad for their upcoming Blogfest - 10th November - a Saturday!  Whoo hoo - workers can go too!  And an early bird booking price of £50 (rising to £75 on 30th September).  I also realised that Mumsnet has a blogging section which either I didn't notice before or (whisper it) I haven't visited the site since I started this pathetic excuse for a malnourished, pox pitted, scurvy-ridden blog.

The line-up of speakers looks amazing and, frankly, a bargain at fifty smackers but then I can get to London in half an hour and I realise others have to add enormous sums for hotel accommodation and/or ludicrous train fares levied by profiteering bastards train companies.

How about this lot:-

Caitlin Moran (whose star is really in the ascendant at the mo), Jeanette Winterson, Liz Jones (for whom I have a morbid fascination - is she for real?), Professor Tanya Byron and many other freelance writers, journalists, social commentators etc.  It looks brilliant and I am sorely tempted.  If any of you lot out there decide to go, it would be great to meet up and put faces to names.

Somehow remembering my sign-in and password, I updated my profile and applied to join their blogging forum.  Once I pressed 'submit' I got a friendly message, thanking me and saying that they would be in touch once they had had a gander at my blog.

Then I realised what my last post said.  

Oh well.  Some you win...

Monday, 17 September 2012

New York in characters...

No, not letters or digits - I mean real live (and some dead) characters. There are millions of them in New York, much as there are in any big city but somehow, in Noo Yoik, they seem to have that little bit more chutzpah  than anywhere else.  

One notable New York character was 
Dorothy Parker 
who was a renowned wit, poet, writer and depressive.  She formed part of the famed Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York from the summer of 1919 until its demise in the late 1920s/early 1930s.  The Round Table - which also called itself 'The Vicious Circle' for a while (a name I much prefer) was formed of a fairly fluid group of authors, columnists, poets and actors and as well as Parker, the group included at any time (amongst many others) Robert Benchley, 

Harpo Marx 

although he probably didn't have a lot to say for himself.

Parker wrote articles, short stories, plays and poetry.  One poem which may well reflect her suicidal tendencies and frequent depressions is called 'You Might As Well Live' and goes like this:-

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
Drugs cause cramp
Guns aren't lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live

She was equally well known for her witty one-liners - for example when reviewing a performance by the actress Katherine Hepburn, Parker commented acidly that "she runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." Other sayings of hers are "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves" and "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to. (I couldn't agree more with both of those!)

Anyway, the point of all this is that I have a cousin who has married an American and now lives in New York State with her family. Unfortunately, on this trip, we only had time to meet up for Brunch one Sunday but she said on the phone that she would book somewhere and where would we like to go?  Maybe somewhere typically New York? Sounds good, I said and was thrilled to find ourselves, a couple of days later, sitting at a table at the site of the actual Round Table in the Algonquin Hotel (sadly the original is long gone).  I would like to think my conversation was up to the sparkling repartee of those long-dead New York characters but, sadly, I know my limitations.  I know my cousin reads my blog - so thank you again K - it was an inspired idea to take us there!

The lobby of the Algonquin
And you don't get away without a couple of (slightly out of focus) photos of the place of worship...
The Round Table (after we'd eaten, so a bit messy!) The painting is of the original Round Table membership including St Dorothy of Parker.
Of course, there are probably still literary salons, overflowing with intelligentsia and oddballs  in existence in the Big Apple.  Unfortunately, we didn't find any.  What we did find, however, was a couple of characters who called themselves the Naked Cowboy and the Naked Cowgirl.  This pair of lovelies hung out in Times Square (where else?) and seemed to make their living by getting punters to give them money for photo ops.

I had to sneak a photo of the Cowboy from behind because I was mightily a-feared of a wardrobe malfunction, given that he was wearing just a pair of flimsy budgie-smugglers...

His oppo was even more gorgeous...ahem...

The Naked Cowgirl.  Note the charming finger gesture...
I have to admit that I sneaked both these snaps without paying.  I got the Cowgirl just after a punter had given her the dollar bills that are shoved down her (substantial) cleavage.  There followed this conversation:-

Punter (excited):  Hey - can I take your picture?  I've heard all about you, my best friend, Caesar, knows you really well!
Naked Cowgirl (deadpan):  Caesar Salad?
Punter (puzzled): Erm no.  Caesar Chavez...

She was a sight to behold.  Clearly she had taken to heart of one of Dorothy Parker's more famous aphorisms - "Brevity is the soul of lingerie".

Sunday, 9 September 2012

New York, New York (Part 2, geddit?)

Don't come running to me, whining about the endless New York saga. You were the one who hit the button, lured no doubt by my snazzy headline and the promise of yet more sarcasm and cynicism.  And you won't be disappointed, chums. I'm afraid I took far too many pictures there for you to be able to get away with a single blogpost about it. Sorry about that but I am here to share yet more of our hot, steamy sojourn with you.

So where was I?  Oh yes, something about weird shop windows - LV took the Digestive, frankly.  And then I had to lie down and recover for a long time after the horror of the M & M store.  I forgot to mention that the place reeked.  There is something very, very wrong with American chocolate (that should generate some outrage across the pond) but to the European, used to the finery that is Swiss/Belgian chocolate, not to mention good old Cadbury's, it's just over-sweet, has a vomitorious after-taste and is, frankly, vile.  And the M & M store stank of it.  But let us move on.

Last time I covered shopping - something that my daughter is proving to be exceptionally good at - and I saved this little gem as it is too good horrific to be buried in with other stuff.

My girl has long had a fascination for shoes designed by some geezer called Jeffrey Campbell.  Do, by all means follow my thoughtfully-provided link but do also make sure you have a bucket handy at the time.  Unless of course self-aggrandising twaddle like:

 "Inspiration and design ideas come from everywhere. The “JC design team” isn’t a group of 6th Avenue, corner office executives… it’s you. It’s the JC Girl bloggers. It’s the interns, the assistants, boyfriends, girlfriends and boutique owners around the world, all trading ideas with the JC Team.Because you are Jeffrey Campbell."

... somehow doesn't make you want to lose your lunch.  

But let me take a deep breath.  Apparently, JC's shoes are difficult to source in England and, to get the pair you really want, you tend to have to order direct from the States which costs extra in postage, import tax etc.  So it stood to reason that she would try and get her mitts on a pair while were were over there.  Unfortunately, I was with her when she happened upon a pair of these, erm, boots.  The ensuing squealing and swooning was more than a soul could bear - that and the fact that the Shah and the son were also with us and were already mighty bored and intolerant of girly shops, so I felt pressurised from all sides.

Anyway, the upshot was that, in a weak moment, I agreed to pay for these monstrosities enviable designer duds, on the basis that she would reimburse me, I hasten to add.

Drum Roll please - I give you ...
Jeffrey Campbell Litas

As I said to her, she could probably have got them for free on the NHS because they supply footwear for clubbed feet, don't they?  Then she could just have stuck some stars or something all over them.

Jeffrey Campbell Lite

Yes, I know what you are all thinking.


Yup, me too.  Inexplicable.  But at least she's paid me back.  Until she did, I put them on from time to time and trotted about wearing "my" JCLs.  Cue outraged squawking, which entertained me no end.  Actually, they are surprisingly easy to walk in - even for a legendary klutz like me.

She has paid me back in another way as well.  Like this:-

Oh yes, she has had her tongue pierced.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS CHILD?  To be fair, she 'asked my permission' which is a euphemism for telling me what she was about to do.  Her friends are agog with envy as most of their mothers won't let them do it until they are 18.  What's the point?  What difference does it make whether she does it now or in a few months' time?  She's been banging on about it for ages so the ignore-it-and-see-if-she-loses-interest tack clearly didn't work.

I have huffily refused to have anything to do with it and have taken great pleasure in playing the role that my mother and countless others have played since time immemorial.  "Don't come running to me...."

Sunday, 2 September 2012

New York in pictures

So...finally back home and have the photos uploaded.  As I said before, New York was great but felt very different this time.  There seemed to be a lot more homeless people on the streets and many of them clearly immigrants.  We wondered to ourselves what kind of appalling experiences they had at home which made it better to become a homeless beggar in America?  Probably the same sorts of things that drive people to the UK as well.  I bought a poster from a street vendor who spoke virtually no English.  She had trouble with the currency and gave me back too much change.  When I tried to hand her back the $3 extra she had given me, at first she didn't understand and seemed afraid of me.  When I finally managed to explain, she became almost tearful and couldn't thank me enough, putting her hands together and bowing repeatedly.  It was profoundly depressing.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom - far from are some of the good bits:-
42nd Street

The bendy Grace building

We met Uncle Sam:-

This cat sat outside outside our hotel every day.  He had been shorn because of the heat so he looked like a lion, although his name was (ironically) Tiger.
We discovered Bryant Park which provided some respite from the relentless heat and which featured an open-air 'Reading Room'...

as well as the opportunity to play Ping Pong out in the open...

We shopped until we dropped, although the prices were not as low as they used to be - far from it!

Louis Vuitton's weird and wonderful window display.  The daughter and I went in here just for a laugh.  It was quite scary - there was an almost cathedral-like hush.  She picked up a handbag - "Look Mum - this one's $360!"  I was about to grab my credit card and dig deep..."No hang on, wait a minute - it's $3600!"  And this is the child who got an A in her iGCSE Maths!  We made our excuses and left.
This one needs no introduction...

The Shah had to be dragged away from here...(and then I woke up)

And then there was the 7th circle of hell, aka the M & M store... 

 We called in here to try and get some personalised M & M's for the daughter's friends back home.  We couldn't find any staff to help us as they were all too busy showing off and dancing the 'Cha Cha Slide'.  When we eventually found the personalisation bit, it turned out they cost $20 for a small cup of sweets.  I needed that brown paper bag again and no, we didn't buy any.

 Despite it being hot and crowded and pricey, I still love New York - we all do and the daughter is determined to live and work here one day.  The buzz and the atmosphere makes it unlike anywhere else on earth.

More next time...