Sunday, 25 April 2010

Adventures in th Big Smoke, Part 2.

After the entertaining bath incident - I managed to turn the tap off eventually, just before I had to call for boats to get everyone out two-by-two...I realised I had forgotten to bring the appropriate bra to wear with my purple velvet strapless ball gown, meaning I had to wear my other one, with the straps tucked into the top.

Why is this starting to sound like a Bridget Jones adventure?...And, no I didn't wear Magic Pants. No need, since I've been on the gluten-free diet. I no longer blow up in the middle like one of those sheep in Thomas Hardy novels and have to be punctured with a knitting needle to get me back down to a size ten...

Thus, when I arrived downstairs I spent the first part of the evening not daring to move in case I had a mammary mishap. Luckily, I dress in Edwardian style so everyone just assumed I had been brought in from Madame Tussuad's because the Oscar waxwork was busy doing a television show standing in for Jonathon Ross...

There were, however, no mammary mishaps or absconding bosom moments. My talk - which was about Oscar Wilde's impact upon contemporary culture - went well and afterwards I was interviewed by an Italian television channel, web address, The interview will be on youtube after May 12th

Just one more quirky thing. On the train, on the way home I managed to sit next to a man who was humping a very large bag onto the table. He caught my eye, chuckled, then said, 'It's all right, I've got the body of my wife in there.'

Then he proceeded to read 'Introverts' Monthly', AKA The People's Friend. (Isn't it always the quiet ones you have to watch?...)

The interview will be broadcast on youtube under

adventures in the big smoke, part one

I was in London on Thursday night for the 115th anniversary of Oscar Wilde's trials/arrest. As an author of a book on Wilde, I had been invited to speak at the event, hosted by The Cadogan Hotel, scene of my horse-and-carriage-arrival book launch.

Getting there was interesting, however. I had a close encounter with the barrier at St.Pancreas station, which decided it didn't like me and was going to let everyone through except me - not that I have a persecution complex or anything...

After several attempts to put my ticket through whilst holding up a long queue of people I decided to try and dive through after the person in front of me, but it slammed back, nearly knocking me off my feet. I promptly burst out laughing hysterically and the crowds, by now, were all staring at me as if I had clearly gone mad.

At this point an official approached me and explained that I was using the wrong ticket, my reservation ticket instead of my actual ticket. If there is anyone I would like to put a curse on it is people who decide these things:

As in, 'I know, let's create a system where you have two tickets that look identical just to confuse you, and to give the innocent bystander some entertainment when you spend twenty minutes trying to work this out and get yourself smacked in the duodenum by an agitated barrier.' (perhaps that should be pancreas...)

Whoever you are, may you simply stop breathing. Inexplicably.

When I arrived at the hotel I decided to have a bath, so I put the plug in. It was one of those high tech bathrooms where there are lots of knobs everywhere and no instructions (a bit like St Pancreas really...) Thus,I spent fifteen minutes trying to work out how to turn the tap on. What is it they say in the film 'Titanic' - 'women and machinery do not mix?'

After I had finished running my bath I realised I couldn't remember how to turn the tap off, or take the plug out (it wasn't a manual one). The water level was getting higher and every time I turned the tap function off the shower function came on, and vice versa.

I had visions of drowning in my hotel room, in a Biblical style tragedy. I thought of calling the maintenance man but I was only wearing a towel and wouldn't have time to dress...The Cadogan is a five-star hotel, so service is fast.

Still, it wouldn't have been the first time I gave the maintenance man an eyeful. I once answered the door in my room at The Grand in Brighton having forgotten to put my top on, (the room was very warm). Let's just say I have never seen a man turn so red or run so fast...I thought it was hilarious.

And all this was before the evening had even begun. To be continued in Part 2...

Saturday, 3 April 2010

No More Ghosts, Not even for ready Money

People throughout the ages have turned to spirit mediums and sages in times of crisis. Oscar Wilde, in which I have a keen interest, consulted many mediums throughout his life, always whenever he needed advice and guidance. Indeed, one of them, a renowned palmist of the day, even forecast Oscar's disastrous downfall, declaring that his left hand - which in palmistry, represents the past - was 'the hand of a king,' but that Oscar's right hand - his future - 'was the hand of a king who will send himself into exile.'

Mediumship in Oscar's time, the 1890s, was as popular then as it seems to be today. There was the famous Madame Blavatsky and her talking bazoomas - well actually, it was a baboon, but photographs of her ample bosom do lead one to speculate...

Madam Blavatsky led the then growing spiritualist movement in late Victorian England, which attracted the attentions of many famous faces, Oscar Wilde being a case in point. However, the skills of these people seem to be on the wane, if my recent experiences are anything to go by.

Perhaps humanity has become so dehumanised by the information age that it has lost touch with its spiritual side, or is suffering from a severe case of myopia of the third eye. Perhaps all those dimly-lit rooms, with their flickering shadows and stuttering oil-lamps - to say nothing of the London smogs - were just bettter at attracting manifestations from the Other Side.

In the modern age, however, the quality of mediumship seems to be on the decline. Like Oscar Wilde, I confess to having an unfortunate tendency to consult psychics during times of crisis or uncertainty. My recent experiences, however, may have succeeded in putting me off this particular habit.

Of the two mediums who came to my house, both were bordering on certifiable. The first one was a lady - who shall remain nameless in case she decides to make use of her sparse talents and send her ethereal friends to haunt me. This lady insisted on sitting on a book because she said it helped her make contact with the other side.

After being late due a public transport malfunction she spent the best part of an hour muttering strange and incomprehensible words that sounded like a cross between Ancient Egyptian and the lyrics to Agadoo. Every now and then she would stop, stare at me and say, 'do you know a woman called Doreen?'

By the end of the session she had established nothing except that, a) the number 27 bus didn't go through the town centre - and b) I didn't know a woman called Doreen. Oh, and she charged me twenty pounds for the priviledge.

The second one, a man, walked into my Victorian flat, which is bedecked with antiques, declared with enthusiasm, 'I can feel something coming through,' looked around my house and said, 'hmm, I'm getting "oldy", and I'm getting "worldy."' He spent most of the session telling me I needed to take a vitamin supplement for my energies - which he had decided must be low, in spite of my attempts to get rid of him by dashing around the room like a mayfly on an acid trip, dusting.

During this uninformative visit he gave me numerous Tarot readings in which we kept getting The Fool. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be me, or him. He stayed for nearly two hours and I was beginning to think I'd never get rid of him.

The whole time he was here he did not stop talking and I couldn't help thinking that the reason the spirits were not coming through was because they couldn't get a word in edge ways. As he was leaving he threatened to return ,and give me another free reading, to which I muttered something about being otherwise engaged until Judgement Day and slammed the door.

Such experiences prompted a chain of thought that led from the world being full of blarney-spouting devious con-merchants to the idea that maybe there are no ghosts anymore. After all, the modern living room has the wrong atmosphere for a seance, in spite of the efforts of Laurence Llewellyn Bowen. Gone are the dimly-lit rooms and the stuttering oil-lamps flickering oh-so-evocatively across darkly painted walls.

The modern spiritualist holds hands while sitting on a 'Harvey's the Furniture Store, Sponsors of Coronation Street' sofa, by the light of a metal 100 watt lamp from Ikea , utters the immortal words, 'is anybody there?' and wonders why there is no reply.

Maybe, after all, it isn't the mediums who are to blame but the atrocious state of contemporary decor? (That said, they didn't make an appearance in my house either and mine definitely looks the part).

Of course it could simply be that the world is so over-populated that there are no dead people left because all the souls have migrated to this side... Whatever the reason, it seems there are no ghosts, not even for ready money...