New York Shenanigans

Staying in New York

New journal post over on www.rickiejosen.co.uk

Posted by rickiej on July 14, 2009

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Diary – July 7th 2009

Posted by rickiej on July 13, 2009

‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’

That song by Crowded House was the first song I ever heard on American radio early one Monday morning in Thanksgiving week in November 1989. And so the New York love affair went from being a dream to a solid, achievable goal.

Today there is no more dreaming of New York or any other city in the USA.

Today on July 7th, on this poignant of London days, I have been denied another visa having held the previous one for 5 years and used it just once. This last trip to the US was the first in 20 years that I had stayed longer than 10 days. But that’s enough for the United States of America.

5 hours of waiting and not being able to concentrate on the light reading I had taken with me, 2 minutes of ‘interview’ comprising 2 main questions, why do I go to the USA and what do I do for a living and then 3 minutes of me asking questions after being rejected. The other areas they were interested in are marriage, children and mortgage. They could have rejected me  on that basis on the phone as I didn’t give them any new information.

They don’t want me back spending thousands of my hard earned pounds, entertaining the locals with my British sense of humour, making new friends and definitely not dating an American! I think that threw them over the edge with the ratio of men : women being so disproportionate in New York. Reports say there are 185,000 more single women then men. Incidentally there are 40,000 more single men than women in LA so a small migration would re-address the balance somewhat.

With the statistics stacked against women, and the fact that I was not looking, I find myself adoring a New Yorker within 2 months. I think he has a little crush on me too.

The official reason given is that they think I was working in the US but they don’t have to prove it. I wasn’t, but cannot prove it.

They grey area being that by working, they possible mean on my own UK based business. On that basis every parent that goes to Disney with their family and communicates with their UK colleagues is working and therefore violating the terms of the visa.

In their eyes, my business of 5 years is ‘fledgling’ and cannot sustain my extended visit although the officer did not ask for any evidence against her hasty decision. She did not ask for my bank statements, annual accounts, information about how the business works, the two folders of press coverage I have  collated, the character references I gathered or my proofs of address. Most importantly of all they don’t ask for my certificate to prove I am a Godparent of a British child. Surely the most significant responsibility of all?

I cannot think of any other ways to prove my ties to the UK but now realise what they want to hear: mortgage, kids, marriage and 9-5 job. Everything I have wanted to get away from and now find myself questioning if I should have.

There is no appeal but I can try again paying £1.20 per minute to call the Embassy and $135 fee every time. Not even considering the cost of trains and taxis, food, storing phones and the loss of earnings and going in front of the firing squad each time. It’s a game of Russian roulette to them and it’s all down to the individual officer.

I will never be allowed back on the visa waiver programme as a normal British citizen who can stay three months at a time. I can only visit America with an applied for 6 month visa, even if only passing through for one day.

The America that I have admired, respected and been inspired by all my life and worked specifically towards for the last 10 years or more has gone.

 

I’d already text all the text well wishers from the morning during the very long and disrupted train journey back from London. I had to buy another ticket as even having allowed 4.5 hours for my interview rather than the 2-3 hours they suggest, I miss the reserved train by 2 hours. I had to leave my Blackberry, phone, laptop and mini personal radio with left luggage as none of those were allowed at the Embassy. I email everyone else when I get home.

I come back to be greeted by supportive and understanding room mates who help me clear all references to USA from my room. I had picked up an American history book from the library last week. I hide it from view until I can return it unread. I have a whole New York Cheesecake in the fridge, as is de rigueur for me, but it remained untouched for 3 days.

I can’t quite put the words into a sentence to describe how I’m feeling but here they are:

heartbroken                 distraught                    upset               low                   blue                 helpless                       frustrated                     innocent                      deserved                     exhausted                   in pain              British              tired                 un free             wasted             tainted             marked                        unlucky                        without             lost                   overworked                 bullied              outcast                        hurt                  ill hungry                      non-trusting                 loyal                 loved               supported                    respected                        uneconomical

I’m not feeling angry. I’m too tired to be angry.

The hardest thing is making that call to my boyfriend. I wake up at exactly 3.48 in the morning having fallen asleep without a problem after my 5am start. I checked the flashing light on my Blackberry, and sure enough, he had emailed me 3.28 to find out what had happened. I guess he knew I would have called him immediately if there was even a glimmer of hope. I so desperately want to speak to him but know I would not be able to hold a coherent conversation. It will have to wait. Tomorrow’s another day.

 

Thanks for reading about my adventures in New York. There will be no more New York Shenanigans but I will still be writing on www.rickiejosen.co.uk

Until the next adventure starts……..

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Diary – June 28th 2009

Posted by rickiej on July 5, 2009

Tune of the week: David Guetta / Kelly Rowland – When Love Takes Over

Of all the things I have achieved, this has to top them. Marks and Spencer are following me on Twitter. Fantastic!

Until I look at who else they follow. 14000 other Tweeters, mostly female I think.

Later Microsoft Office Live started following me so now I’m thinking these large companies must have some software that allows them to find out all about their consumers through their Tweets and online networking habits.

Meet Up

Talking of networking, I attended my first events since arriving back from New York. Both clashed with the Confederations Cup football tournament. On Wednesday I trundled into the city for the Birmingham Entrepreneurs Meet Up, my first in the UK. The instructions say to go to the back of the bar where there will be a table flagged so I’ve got here early but still can’t see a table having gone round the Cheers style bar twice. I ask at the bar but as per the smaller New York business events, they are clueless. I decide to make one more round trip as the organiser must be here at the very least. From the corner of my eye, I see a small Meet Up logo which I obviously missed the first two times that I passed the very first likely table I saw as for some reason I literally expected a flag!

The table is already full which surprises me this early on. The group look like creative types but turn out to be from a variety of corporate and business backgrounds although I only manage to speak with four of them before making a dash for at least the second half of the football. Not before having a drink spilt at my end of the table missing me but just catching my all important writing book. The only other female at the group, a fashion graduate catches most of it but thankfully on her bare legs as she is wearing the 1970s shorts that seem to be the rage at the moment.

Still it’s good to meet the software engineer who was instrumental in helping Egg turn into an internet bank, the business consultant who has a client setting up a new coffee franchise in Birmingham, a serial student (surprisingly not American) and the graduate who I invite to a Business Scene event the next evening.

I’m home just after the second half of the match has started and am shocked with the score of 2-0 to USA v Spain! USA only just scraped into the semi-final having indirectly knocked Italy out by beating Egypt in the final round. I would like to have seen it all but then I wouldn’t have met a whole load of new people and found out about a Social Media event on Friday morning and about the very wonderful Moo business cards.

New Business

I had an idea for a new business brand a few months ago, right before my laptop crashed but now have written the plan. See what you think Hudson Concierge and Twitter

Thursday and I’m at the second event in two days this time meeting the fashion graduate beforehand. It turns out to be one of those terrible networking events where everyone is desperate to talk to everyone else and no seems to want to start any meaningful, respectful relationships. So I grab a glass of OJ and make two trips to the lovely buffet table before settling down for what should be an interesting talk about using online social networking to promote business.

It turns out to be fun but just really a list of networking sites rather than the ways in which we should promote ourselves. He gives case studies in how the medium has helped him build contacts but no practical ways in which to promote ourselves.

 I am amazed that no-one has asked for my business card after they find out I spend other people’s money for a living. Not even the caterer asked after I went out of my way upon my exit to congratulate him on the very fitting food.

Still the food is nice. I should have eaten a lot more to get value for money.

Football Two 

I rush hoe again although this time I’m missing out on the good food to see the South Africa v Brazil match. SA are putting up a great fight and are stepping up their game to be worthy semi finalists but Brazil have to win this one 2-0. They go on to play the newly better-than-average USA in the final on Sunday. Which I will miss as I have a date in Hyde Park.

At the Birmingham Entrepreneurs Meet Up on Wednesday, I was recommended the Birmingham Social Media Group and have decided to attend on this sunny Friday morning whilst (or while if you’re American) I’m still in the mood to meet new people. Not a good time for me as mornings = business and creativity is for the afternoons but I’m intrigued and don’t want to wait a month to the next one. If I go again, my memory of this group is always going to be regretting my battery is low on my micro radio and trying to listen to the Michael Jackson tunes played across every radio station all day today. Today being the day after the passing of the talented artist who influenced a generation. I wouldn’t call myself a fan but I have utmost respect and admiration for his ability, especially as many of today’s hip hop, R & B and pop artists are clearly influenced by him. It’s warming to hear all the radio stations acknowledging his achievements on this beautiful sunny morning as I took the scenic route to the city’s Coffee Lounge.

I get to the Coffee Lounge on time but decide it looks a little quiet so its too early to go in as a newcomer – anyone who is here will feel obliged to talk to me. I’m popping into M&S to get the weekend breakfast – a rare treat and a big bonus to be in the city on a Friday – and then to Boots to get a present for my newly engaged roomie. I’ve already got a good bottle of red for her intended. I stroll back to the Coffee Lounge although the shop is still quiet. On entering I realise there is a downstairs! So that’s where it is! I grab my coffee and negotiate the steps as the noise gets louder and I’m greeted by a packed room.

Actually, I’m not greeted at all but figure out I need to put my moniker on a sticky name badge.  I make sure that I give a nod and a smile to anyone standing or walking in on their own to give them the go-ahead to come and introduce themselves but I eventually approach someone unaware from behind who had just finished a phone call. The I move on to the person who had emailed me back when I inquired about the event. There is something to be said for name badges, despite my disliking wearing them.

I go on to meet someone who has been living in Barcelona for 20 years; I thought I had a culture shock after being away for just 5 months! I also met someone who had written 2 Pink Floyd books. Or rather he had re-written one and then had re-wrote so much it became his book.

There were at least 2 other people here from Wednesday’s Meet up that I didn’t get a chance to speak with then and although I blatantly said hello, it didn’t develop into a full conversation here either.  Maybe it was their turn to be busy today. I only spoke with the Fashion Graduate who came in after me.

There were a few strange people too, as there would be at any gathering so despite being asked in no uncertain terms why I was at social media event and being told I was approaching online networking incorrectly – also with a tone of aggression, I liked a few of the more friendly people I met there so will try it again.

On the way back, still straining to listen to the radio’s coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, I take the scenic route but have not managed this successfully as yet, missing a turning and ending up 10 minutes from home at my regular coffee shop. Oh, well, it is a lovely sunny morning.

Glasto

I love the Glastonbury weekend. I’ve never been as I have no inclination to stand, sit or sleep in a muddy field for 3 days solid, trusting my belongings to 178,000 strangers and assorted pests or the alternative of walking 2 hours to the nearest hotel with running water after standing up for the best part of 8-10 hours every night. On reflection, had I known I was going to be in the country, if there is any year I shoulda/coulda/woulda, it’s this one. Springsteen headlining on Saturday night.

I cannot think of anyone else that was ever likely to play at Glastonbury that was worth the sacrifice. Unless Gun reform of course but then I would go anywhere in the world to see them play. There is a lot to be said for being fans of solo artists then bands that inevitably break up.

If you can’t take the girl to New Jersey, bring New Jersey to the girl

The Boss is at Hyde Park London on one of the hottest days of the year. All my CDs are in New York but the radio has been very Springsteenesque this week building up to the two big weekend shows.

I cannot believe it’s been over 20 years since I last saw him. In what world is that OK? What was I thinking?  That day on the Tunnel of Love tour in c1988 is one of the best of my life so why did I leave it so long?

Maybe that’s why. The day couldn’t be topped. I still love the Tunnel of Love album and the highlight of that show was Tunnel of Love and Born in the USA. At that time, the song hadn’t been wrongly used by so many political campaigns as being a patriotic message and of course it’s long been removed from the set. But Tunnel of Love is still one of the best which ever format it’s heard in.

I pre-booked my train tickets so as to have not too early a start on Sunday morning but have popped out to pick up the Sunday Times. The local news shop is closed (!) so I have to go across the big street to the other one. I eventually leave with a good 10 minutes to spare to stroll to the train station. Luckily I have as 5 minutes into the walk, I realise I’ve left my train tickets in my other purse, having swapped at the last minute to carry as little as possible. I race home and race back in the midday heat picking up speed. Any other time I wouldn’t have minded getting the next one but the support acts were only announced on Friday, after I booked my train and I want to see the third support in particular, Gaslight Anthem also from New Jersey.

They looked great at Glastonbury last night, all the better for the Boss coming on stage to join them for a track. They must have felt like the luckiest band on the planet; to be at the same festival is one thing, being at Glastonbury is an honour anyway but to have one of your inspirational fellow statesmen on stage with you, singing one of your songs! Does the world get any better than that?!

I’m at the train station with 2 minutes to go, look up at the boards. My train is cancelled.

Power Failure

There’s been a power failure in North London and the next one is in 20 minutes but it’s a slower train. It’s already waiting and in the panic, having already gone through ticket inspections, I get on regretting not grabbing a large comforting coffee first.

The train is comfortable but full to bursting having picked up the passengers from my cancelled train too and painfully stopping at every city for several minutes. As we approach London, I’m already an hour late and calculate Gaslight Anthem will be going on about now, it’s stopped. Completely.

The train is too busy for me to try and find a coffee, plus I wont have enough time to drink it now before I make a run for the tube when we reach Euston so I decided to make the most of the time and find a bathroom to pop my contact lens. These are the only pair I have, saved for a special occasion as the other 100 or so pairs are in NYC.

Every the time the train nudges forward, it feels like being able to breath again only to have the oxygen taken away from me when it stops.

I don’t wear a watch any more but I heard the 3pm news come on the radio before I rapidly switched stations to avoid it. I keep reminding myself I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen! Everyone else is a bonus.

Finally, the train reaches Euston and I’m ready to sprint. I wanted to buy a postcard with the London tube map to send back to BF and friends in NYC but that gesture is out the window now. Luckily the tube is waiting for me and the stifling underground heat is no match for the adrenalin building up inside of me.  10 minutes and I’ll be in Hyde Park.

I don’t the exact time I arrived at the entrance near Speakers Corner, but it was somewhere between 3.30- 4pm. In music terms, Gaslight Anthem had come off and the stage was being set for James Morrison. Well I’m here. Where’s my coffee?

This seemed more like a family occasion with a subdued, relaxed, grown-up audience. We have all grown up along with the Boss but are clearly still in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s at heart – whichever era of Springsteen belongs to you. Wow, what a back catalogue.

The event is so grown-up they have a coffee and cake stall. 2 words that normally fill me with girly delight but the line was too long and happily the more traditional burger joint next door has a very satisfactory large coffee. Two words I thought I’d never use to describe something at any rock gig.

Time to check out the view of the stage for two much more important words Bruce Springsteen.

Hard Rock Calling

It must be around 4pm as James Morrison comes onto the stage and I sip my coffee just as some rain drops come down. I have my cord, cap hanging from my bag filled with M&S picnic goodies so put the coffee down to scoop my hair up under it. What’s a few rain drops in this heat. Given the time, this large drink is pretty much going to be the last one if I am to find a spot within the first 30 rows and stay there until the main event to keep the view of the stage.

James Morrison was as refreshing as the coffee and the rain and a lot heavier than I imagined. Is this for the Hard Rock Calling crowd or his normal live set? In either case, the boy done good despite his obvious disappointment with the lack of good backing singers amongst the crowd. Hard Rock is not how I describe any of the acts although I won’t know about the first one that came on, Beauvoir Free.

The heaviness was probably mostly contained within Gaslight Anthem. I heard them being described as Springsteenesque on Radio 2 yesterday by a reporter who was clearly excited about the prospect of the Boss going on with them. That’s how I knew to tune into their set on TV later.

I didn’t hear of the duet being mentioned at Hyde Park or on Twitter so I guess I didn’t miss it live. It did happen during the Springsteen set later though.

I negotiate my way into position near the end of Dave Mathews Band set holding a bag of hot chips. I know DMB are big in the US and although I know the name, I couldn’t give you a tune. I know this is their play for world, or UK domination and their tracks sound good and go down well with their fans but it wasn’t quite as too my taste as Gaslight Anthem. I find a good view and sit down with my chips for a little rest before having to stand up for a marathon 3 hours or so.

So now I’m here, waiting for the Boss and the legendary (word use absolutely intended) E Street Band to come on and ignite the stage. Will it be pulsatingly loud as the last time? Will the bass drive an arrow threw my heart? Will the sound of guitars rocket above the crowd towards me? Will Clarence’s sax overpower us? Will the drums pound through the holler of the crowd?

They come on stage. No introductions. No greeting. No logos. No fancy lights. Just good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll starting with the Clash’s London Calling. An excellent start.

The fact that I could hear the conversations around me but not the sound of heart beating loudly meant that this wasn’t as loud as before. But we are all 20 years older and the first time is always the best. Right?

Rock n Roll

I know he doesn’t include Tunnel of Love or Born in the USA in his set anymore but Born to Run is still included and still the crowd pleaser. Hungry Heart and The River were both unfortunately omitted but I’m sure I will hear them live again at some point. Hungry Heart and especially Tunnel of Love would be two request songs – he does a couple in every show but now Trapped has popped into my head so as I look at the crowd, there is a small sign requesting it. I’m beside myself with excitement when the Boss selects it later on. That was my moment.

It’s a shorter set than I envisaged, not much longer than 2½ hours and the boss finishes 15 minutes early at 10pm. There is time for another 2-3 numbers and the next day I hear that Jon Bon Jovi (Bi Jovi) was waiting in the wings to duet on Hungry Heart. If that is true, that would have been my moment.

It’s a fantastic show, something positive to come out of the Summer of 2009. Despite the fact my last train home is delayed again, packed again but with coffee and complimentary water and a taxi waiting at the other end, it was all worth it coming home at 2.20 in the morning.

I look forward seeing Springsteen again and much more frequently. Next time at the old Giants stadium, New York in October. Here’s hoping.

PS Confederation cup final: Brazil 3-2 USA, Brazil coming from behind to win it. Still no press coverage for the success of the team in the US.

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Movie – Red Cliff

Posted by rickiej on June 27, 2009

The trailer did it justice. Red Cliff is no, Last Samarai, the best of this genre and the only Tom Cruise film I really like, but it has all the essential ingredients; honour, 1000 extras in battle scenes, valour, family values, love etc.

The battle scenes alone make Lord of the Rings 3 look like Enid Blyton or maybe it’s just that I haven’t seen it for years. There is enough blood spilt in the first 30 minutes to keep a blood donor unit happy for months. It’s a shame they didn’t think of that centuries gone.

What makes this film very modern is that the two armies that have joined together to fight for a better world have a strategic thinker trying to out manoeuvre the huge force that they are fighting. He is there to forecast the enemy’s every move and be one step ahead.

As in every ancient, oriental film the bad guys have a much bigger army than the good guys combined together. This is because bad guys – dictators – rule by fear and soldiers don’t fight for honour, they fight for their survival.

The ultimate genius moment from the strategist comes when the two good armies split and the army that remains doesn’t have enough ammunition to fight the now seemingly bigger army. The strategist comes up with a plan to steel the enemies arrows by sending out empty boats knowing the enemy would fire arrows at will. They promptly pull the boats back with the confident knowledge they now have thousands of new arrows. Genius.

 The films moves at the right pace all the way through with enough heart in your stomach moments to keep your mind focussed.

8/10    Smile factor 8/10                                           June 19th 2009

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Diary June 21st 2009

Posted by rickiej on June 25, 2009

Writing

Well I have sent out lots of emails to editors and last week I received my targeted 3 responses back. Just have to keep doing it and doing it better….

That is spurring me on plus I have the usual influences of reading about people doing what they love for a living, and indeed all the time. Twitter is helping; I’m even following Martha Stewart on one of my four accounts (business, writing, new business launch – not using the one under my own name yet). Now there’s a women who has dragged herself up to the top. Twice.

Tuesday

I came back from the wedding at the weekend later on Sunday that I had planned so missed House, the one and only drama I watch on TV! In fact the only thing I watch outside Jonathan Ross. What else is there? And I missed the repeat on Tuesday! Will note that day for next time.

I’m consoling myself by watching Italy v USA for the Confederations Cup on the I Player. I didn’t even know the tournament was on; once the football season is over I guess I don’t take too much notice of the sports news but I’m still amazed I didn’t hear about it. And Italy are in it!

I’m definitely watching the Italy v Egypt match live on Thursday. Good to have some football on again.

Bloomingdales

On the way to the coffee shop, I see someone with the large Bloomingdales shopping bag which got my attention and then I see another lady with the smaller version of the bag which really made me smile.

I wonder if they work together and a colleague has bought a load of bags over from New York. They make good presents. I know because I bought all the girls in my family them for Christmas, wrapped the up with a gift inside and shipped them back from New York. I didn’t get a volume discount and they cost a fortune to mail.

It’s Friday

I don’t often go out on a Friday afternoon to write because of my Friday cinema habit, going to see Red Cliff later, but I’m having a sneaky, quick chai in a different coffee shop. My one doesn’t do it which I prefer as it’s full of sugar unlike my plain old coffee and its 50p more but I think this will be weekly sweet treat. I’m spending the whole time brainstorming new ideas based on New York and Customer Service and feeling mightily creative.

I always brainstorm or do first drafts by hand, even though I really detest writing by hand ordinarily but I seem to prefer it for this purpose. I’ve discovered a great web-based brainstorming tool www.bubbl.us which means I can even brainstorm with people remotely now. In any case my 8 month old Toshiba laptop is playing up but I can’t be without it for days or weeks by sending it back to them under warranty so the extremely handy laptop doctor around the corner has had a look. It just needs a small replacement part which will take an hour to do – once he get’s hold of it – and cost around £75 to stop the screen from going almost black. It’s almost better to have laptop man around the corner than a 7-11 I think.

Saturday

I’ve got the place to myself again this weekend so started by cleaning it. Well cleaning what was left as my roomie had already cleaned up the kitchen before she left for the weekend. I wanted to write, or at least tidy up some pitches but the city was calling me. I’m in search of the scenic canal walk to the city but have got about half way before reaching a dead end and I have scuffed my £3 disposable white shoes! These are one of the 3 pairs of cheepie shoes I picked up a few weeks ago just to keep me going for the next couple of months or so as all my good shoes are in New York. The other 2 cost £2 and £10 and I am closely monitoring how long they last compared to my normal £50 in the sale pairs.

Note to self: pick up a canal map

Back home, I’m enjoying the Spain v South Africa match. Spain are on fire and I enjoy watching them play but I’m feeling for South Africa as the home nation of this and the up coming world cup. They have to do well! A perfect Saturday evening, home alone with the football. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this/said that.

Well as perfect as can be stuck in England with no social life and zero ambition to have one here.

South Africa work really hard, lose 2-0 but go through on points.

I celebrate their success with lemon cheesecake, to make a change from the New York cheesecake but I’m already missing it enough to look forward to it next weekend.

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Diary June 14th 2009

Posted by rickiej on June 19, 2009

The Boss

Well, there is a silver lining; after deciding that there was actually no reason not to see Springsteen in Hyde Park on June 28th, I couldn’t get even one ticket. Not one. Until the fourth day of trying and then for a few minutes a hundred mini sparklers lit up inside me whilst I raced for the two minutes I was given to (correctly) input my payment card details, hoping I wasn’t going to get an interruption in those few moments. Finished. Any minute now, I was going to get a confirmation email that will put a most welcome smile on my face and a silver lining on the dark cloud that has engulfed me since April 17th.

Now, if I can get back to New York to see the Boss with the E Street Band – the greatest backing band in the history of the musical universe – for the last performance at the old Giants Stadium in October, it will sure put the spring right back in my step. Where it always has been.

Talking of springs, I got a call to say my new bed was finally arriving this week so now the only thing I need to get back to any sort of normal existence is a freezer. Yes, I have simple needs. Talking of existence, I got an email from Manhattan Mini Storage to say they will release my goods on Tuesday as they now have my notarised letter. So the letter was OK at least.

Writer

This week I started sending out emails to pitch my writing talents (hey if I don’t big myself up, who will?) to editors. I decided I will send some emails out each day, Tuesday to Thursday, figuring on Mondays and Fridays they are busy, not there or nonchalant. I’m aiming at around 50 emails per week on this basis so was delighted when I had a response from and unlikely source, Women’s Fitness magazine!

They asked me to pitch some feature ideas so during next day’s coffee shop session I brainstormed (with some help from my good friend the copywriter turned photographer) more than enough and duly sent over a selection. I know from experience (14 years in publishing) and research (2 books and hundreds of articles) that feature ideas probably languish in the bottom of editors’ piles for months, especially on monthly publications that our planned months in advance. I will persevere and simply build up my collection of contacts and keep in touch with new and original ideas. You heard it here first.

King Eric

On Friday, I momentarily forgot which movie was coming out this week so the fact that ‘Looking for Eric’ came up when I checked meant the little sparklers lit up inside me again. It’s about a down-on-his-luck, single father of ungrateful teenagers in Manchester looking for inspiration to just keep going. The Eric he was looking for is Mr Cantona, known as King Eric to United fans, or sometimes referred to as just God.

I have to say the film being British, by Ken Loach and funny was enough to entice me in but you’ll have to read the review to find out my thoughts I had some interest in the old bed so I had booked them into see/collect it in an hour long window before the cinema which also gave me some time to start putting the new one together. That all went well with most of the bed together inside 30 minutes – the next 30 minutes was spent putting the final 2 screws together and wondering what happened to the people who wanted the bed.

I spent the final 30 minutes before King Eric time struggling to put the two ends of the bed together on my own before breaking off for a quick chai and snack just as my room mate came home and the internet phone rang. It was the car rental company saying they couldn’t pick me up tomorrow at the allotted time. I had a wedding to go to then and a film to go to that I had fortunately already picked up the ticket for earlier so I had no time for last minute customer service failures.

I grabbed their number and dialled it from my mobile before saying goodbye to my roomie and heading across the street to the cinema. By the time the pedestrian lights changed, I had convinced the rental company that they needed to stick to the plans as I don’t have time to change them at 5.45 on a Friday evening (when King Eric was waiting) and they agreed apologising profusely. All was good again.

The English Wedding

Enterprise arrived right on time on Saturday morning to take me to my car which gave me enough time to come back, pop on one of best summer frocks and load up the car to be on my way. I got to MK with the essential Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 as company an hour earlier than I needed but whiled away the next 45 minutes looking for a take out coffee kind of on route from somewhere I could park close by and that wasn’t Starbucks – over rated, over priced, corporate monster with a holier than though attitude although is no better at looking after the planet than you and I and has obliterated the face of New York by being in about 9 million places more than it ought to be.

I passed the surprisingly OK for coffee Wild Bean Café at the petrol station on the opposite side so ended up in Stony Stratford, the oldie worldly bit of Milton Keynes that is tolerable but after walking for 10 minutes through the High Street in my wedding finery on a warm Saturday lunchtime, I came across the worst of the chain coffee stores, Costa! Still I got a big coffee, after giving the staff a lesson in what chai is and then arrived at the bridal house right on time at 12.45 ready to help. Turns out the house was calm and organised with just a hint of nervousness.

Not so calm when I started counting down the minutes at gone 2pm when not one of the 6 bridal party were dressed and the cars were arriving at 2.45. Whilst it was a privilege to see the bride before she had got into a dress, by 2.30 I had forcibly (verbally) moved the bridesmaids upstairs to get ready and seen the bride start to panic. I then put my event planner hat firmly on and did my best to diffuse the inevitable tension rising with 6 people getting ready at the same time on the most important day of at least one of their lives and everyone wanting it to be perfect.

I thought I may have been needed to lend a hand holding hair grips for the hairdresser or running to McDonalds if that was the only thing the bride could face eating but instead was responsible for putting on the bride’s garter, adjusting her net underskirt and finding 4 pairs of silver sandals before we started a new trend for the bare foot bridal look. All the time I was taking the official getting ready photos. The 3 bridesmaids looked fantastic and not in the least bit cliqued and managed to put on their own footwear. The bride however could not now bend to see her feet with the restrictions of the dress so I had to aid her in finding the extra holes the father of the bride had kindly put into the straps to make them more comfortable. She was good to go.

Her friend had borrowed a large Mercedes from his employer but it was still a task to put the slim, elegant bride inside it with the fluffy layers of the dress. Once I closed the door, it was time for me to accompany my friend, the mother of the bride to church. From the resplendent beautiful bride, the proud groom, the dolly mixtures and love hearts on the cake and in the favours to the hog roast and BBQ and especially the yellow and white daisies giving the gardens a quintessentially English feel, the whole day went perfectly.

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Movie – Looking For Eric

Posted by rickiej on June 17, 2009

Although I momentarily forgot this came out today I was very much looking forward to seeing Looking for Eric. Ken Loach, British, football and humour were already fine virtues to make me part with my hard earned pennies and the United / Eric Cantona connections were simply the icing on the cake.

In my view, the proceeding trailers are a good indication of the film’s quality and I don’t remember the last time I wanted to see each and every film trailed. I cannot remember the name of any but I have no doubt some or all of them will be talked about here in weeks to come.

So I was even more like an excitable 6 year old being allowed to pay for her own candy in the store for the very first time by the time the of the opening credits. I wasn’t disappointed for a single second for the next 116 minutes of sheer joy.

All the cast were fantastic and I believe it would have been hard for Cantona to play himself, especially a heroic guardian angel version of his legendary status.

The only really sad part of the film came when what sounded like gun shots was the police raiding the family house thanks to one of the wayward teens of the single, down-on-his-luck, sometimes suicidal father. The sort of kids you want to throw out of the house and then move to another continent without telling them. OK that’s just me then.

The father was the one looking for a heroic figure when Cantona’s angel-like character came into his life and steered him back to a healthy, positive attitude. All his macho Postal Delivery colleagues rallied round too trying to cheer him up with just the sort of funny banter you would want in his position. The funniest was the one who had a self-help book for every occasion which was hilariously at odds with their solid, working-class, northern roots.

One of the best parts of the film was when our favourite Postie realised what a misery his kids were making his life and started looking after number one but the last 20 minutes or so are sheer genius.

The film started as 8/10 and my hopes of it staying there weren’t dashed thanks to the fast wit and sweet story, even when the local gangster tried to humiliate the star of the show.

8/10 (Would have been 8.5 but that would it put it in The Wrestler category. Is it also a film I want to see again and again? Quite probably).

Smile 9/10

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Book – Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer

Posted by rickiej on June 16, 2009

Oh Audrey! What an impact you had on the world.

This is not my first Audrey book; the last one that came out came to me as a much wanted birthday present a couple of years ago. I had a look through it at the time; it’s a most beautifully put together scrap book of momentous occasions, complete with copies of theatre tickets and other documents tucked inside but now it’s with all my other belongings in New York so I got this one out of the library to keep me going.

I had read that Audrey’s eldest son had written a book although admittedly it is at least half filled with the most gorgeous family photos. Did the lady ever look anything less than serene, gracious and elegant yet with a girlish demeanour?

Although Audrey is my style icon, I had never read anything about her, I just like her aura so it was nice to get to know Funny Face albeit that her life, like most artistes had a fair amount of uncertainty and sadness. I was quite taken when I realised she was born in England and not Holland or the US although it’s clear she had some English heritage.

It makes the story all the more sweeter and inspiring.

8/10

Inspiration Factor 8/10

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Movie – Terminator Salvation

Posted by rickiej on June 11, 2009

Finally, it’s here.  Not just a Terminator film but Terminator 4, without Arnie.

It had an odd start with a long list of boring credits, although not boring to those credited I guess, rather than perhaps a recap of the long story so far but then the music got VERY LOUD leaving the watcher in no uncertain terms that they mean business.

There’s definitely the impression that post block busting Arnie trilogy, T4 matters.

To get the girly quip out of the way, whilst no body, including me wants to pay good money to see anyone [woman] looking like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards by a Terminator, it was a bit much to see a lone Resistance soldier take off her hat to reveal long, glossy, worthy of L’Oreal advert, locks and perfect film star make-up. Really?

She was stranded with a 48 hour trek back to base but of course arrived looking perfect, joining the equally glamorous, heavily pregnant Doctor Connor, wife of the hero, John Connor. The planet had been wiped out by machines but the leading ladies managed to find just the right shade of red Chanel lipstick. Where do you buy that from when the world has been wiped out? The real hero of course is Arnie’s Terminator in the best film ever made T2 but I hear he’s busy doing other things now.

Anyway, of course the film is aimed at men not super fans like myself so in that respect, a job well done.

Not to dwell on the time traveller issues but I’m not sure how Connor was on the planet the same time as his teenage would be father as I thought this was in the future, before Terminator 2 when he sent back a good terminator to protect his mother and to ensure he was OK and possibly before T1 when he sent back the father to impregnate his mother?

But as any Star Trekkie will tell you, who cares. Anything is possible with time travel; what we want is action, spectacular effects, intense battles and the good guy to win – but only after he has to make many personal sacrifices.

I liked the part about the Terminator/human character having a strong human heart and the bikes were pretty cool.

The best parts, however, were when they paid homage to T2 with an Arnie look-a-like, a snatch of the Guns and Roses soundtrack and at least one of the famous one liners.

They all made me smile with appreciation and certainly bought a little credibility to the film that probably took itself a little too seriously, like T1. Nonetheless it was fabulous to see another film in the series. Here’s to the next one.

8/10

Smile factor 8/10

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Diary – June 7th 2009

Posted by rickiej on June 10, 2009

Ok, this is the last of the bad luck, things happen for a reason period. This week, I received not one but two letters on the same day from two different police forces. Both have accused me of speeding but obviously in 2 different parts of the country. What are the chances of that?! 

This is when I was in a hire car for a week after selling mine. I got a slightly larger than diminutive car to help with shifting boxes and furniture that I was shipping and selling so I did have cruise control, as in my own car but hadn’t worked out how to use it, thinking how fast can this little thing go anyway? Plus, I wasn’t meant to be in the country for the next few months so didn’t think it mattered too much!

Cruise control evidently works (if you use it) as I hadn’t had a speeding fine since 2006. 2006! So as of May 31st, I had zero points for the first time in probably a decade! So it could have been worse. Oddly enough, looking back, I had been caught 3 times in May over the years (although this was April). Remind me not to drive next May.

So on to the good fortune, this week I received some money that I was owed from a client earlier in the year. I knew I’d get at least half of it but was delighted when my debt collection agency not only got it fully paid but how soon they retrieved it.

I’ve been keeping up with the reading a book a week goal and this week finished one about writing memoirs which had some good tips. On to an Audrey Hepburn one next.

On Thursday, I met with a lawyer in the city who could notarise a letter to give permission to Manhattan Mini Storage to release my belongings that they refuse to store without me being there. I still don’t understand why as I’m an existing customer and this cost me £50. It’s half the price of competitors but it would have been $7 in New York where this is so very much more common practice.

What a good job he did though; It came complete with green ribbon, a red seal, another embossed seal and several stamps to authenticate. One thing I’m not sure if it will work though as no sooner had I put it in the post, I thought surely I could have put any letter in the envelope with the notarisation? I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

The $500  cash that I had lying around so thought it best to send to my good friend Jersey Girl in New York is still missing in action almost a month later although it was sent in the very same way.

Terminator

A bright spot of the week was the new Terminator film which I duly saw on the usual Friday evening, having seen T2 in the week and followed it by watching T1 late on Friday after the excellent Jonathan Ross with Eric Cantona and Hugh Laurie. More excitement than a girl can take in 48 hours.

This weekend, the heat wave of the last couple of weeks has been replaced by the more common place cold and rain. It’s still a shock to the system and I optimistically delayed my walk into the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday to see if the rain stopped, although it was forecast for the whole day.

I covered a different part of the gallery this week although I couldn’t resist going through the Obama’s People exhibit again which lead me to the Renaissance section – the usual stuff really.

I’d already popped into M&S in the week to purchase some of their 125th Anniversary limited edition souvenirs – I couldn’t resist having that to take back to the US with me – so it was just straight forward food buying today. I so very much miss the big fridge/freezer I’m used to instead of 1 shelf in the fridge and a non-functioning freezer. (It’s supposed to be on its way – has been for about 6 weeks now. As has my bed).

The highlight of the week was finally catching up with Country Boy on Saturday night having missed him each time I called in the week. I realised that we had a working landline in the apartment which by my recollection means we have free weekend calls with Virgin. I decided to take advantage of a nice clear connection and waited until Saturday to call him even though by now I knew he was around on Friday afternoon (UK:late night).

I actually caught him in a shopping mall with a friend – a sentence I never thought I would write to include his name. I agreed to call him back a couple hours later to save interrupting them only for our landline to ring a little while later. I had not heard it ring previously so before I could work out where the sound was coming from my room mate answered it and it was him calling me back. That was a first and a lovely surprise but I think it was in response to my slightly cheeky complaint that I had tried him 3 nights in a row and he hadn’t picked up! He’s not to do it again though as it would have been incredibly expensive whereas I’m all Skyped up so it doesn’t cost me any extra.

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