Comic Relief Episode of “Great British Bake Off”:
One of my recent obsessions is, as I told you a few weeks back, The Great British Bake Off. We call it something different here, but I can never remember what. It doesn’t roll off the tongue so effortlessly, so I don’t pay it any mind. Every year, the BBC has a period called Comic Relief when all their programs do shorts or other things to raise money for charity. It’s a wonderful program and much more entertaining than anything we do here. PBS has its week of begging, but they do it for the station, not for the good of mankind. We don’t seem to have many charity drives here in America. Maybe I’m just not aware of them? Anyway, what will surely go down as one of the greatest shows in Comic Relief history was the premiere of their adaptation of The Great British Bake Off. Jennifer Saunders, my queen, Joanna Lumley, my idol, Dame Edna, one of my comic inspirations, and Lulu, who just shouts a bunch, came together under the tent to prepare a series of cakes and cookies. It was…get ready for it…absolutely fabulous! HAHA PUN. This combination was perfection and I had the best time shaking with laughter at the disasters they whipped up. Dame Edna’s cookie fused to the pan, which she still served and mentioned that it was an excellent source of aluminum. She is a global treasure. Jennifer made a cake that looked like EDINA MONSOON. I died. We all died. Collectively, the viewers died. She was the best baker of them all, much to her surprise, and she danced around with her victory flowers.
Lulu was fun and the host shouted, “Stop touching your B-Side, Lulu!” at her, which made me spit up the meal I was enjoying while viewing. The best part of all, though, was Joanna Lumley, truly the love of my life. She is an endless inspiration to me. She had a series of catastrophes, but she didn’t do that badly, and said something that spoke to my soul. “It’s an endless procession of disappointments,” she said, perfect elaborating why I no longer attempt to bake professionally.
The entire hour was a triumph of television, and you must simply see it.
Joanna Lumley on Rick Steve’s Podcast:
Yesterday, I was trying to clean up an enormous collection of podcasts on my iPhone. There were about five million episodes of Rick Steve’s Travel. That’s almost an exaggeration. I knew I’d never have the time or inclination to get around to them all, so I deleted the vast majority. Happily, in the middle was an episode starring one of my true-life heroes, Joanna Lumley. I adore her for a million reasons. She is cultured and classy and kind and just one of the most extraordinary people. When I’m older, I want to be gracious and charming like her. When she’s not cavorting as Patsy Stone on the greatest British sitcom of all time, Absolutely Fabulous,
or acting on the stage, she is producing wonderful travel documentaries. She has gone through Greece, traced the history of feline domestication (A TRIUMPH OF TELEVISION), found the Northern Lights, survived on a desert island, and sailed down the entire length of the Nile River.
Maybe you’re starting to understand why I love her so much? The documentary about the world’s longest river is truly one of the greatest things I have ever seen and ever since I downloaded it, I have watched it several times a year. I watched it right before landing in Egypt last year and used it as a source of inspiration while I was there. When I was on my camel, Joanna was beside me, and when I was walking the streets during Ramadan, Joanna was there. So, to find an episode with her discussing her travels was a rare treat. [Listen here.] When they began discussing her great adventure and Rick repeated the lines that begin the program, “We are leaving the Mediterranean and now entering the Nile.” I started to get all misty eyed. I was a mess. I am so lucky to have been on that river, to have seen it and loved it. I miss Egypt so, and I worry so very much about the political state there. I want those wonderful people to find peace. And if terrorism and violence keeps me away for the years to come, well, I’ll always have my memories and Joanna’s voice to take me back.
“Reflection” by Fifth Harmony:
I’m all about pop music, and I’m all about this album. I have it stuck in my head 24/7, and it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to lose my mind. Every song is delightful, especially their most popular track, “Sledgehammer.” It’s become my new treadmill inspiration, and I find it much easier to accumulate 10,000 steps if I listen to some delightful music about singing like Mariah and getting Oprah dollars and dancing like Beyoncé. Give it a listen, readers, you shall not be disappointed. “This Is How We Roll” is my jam right now.
Wind & Rain Ballad (The Twa Sisters):
I love folk music, and I love country music. Not that modern stuff about tractors and beer on a beach. I like the classics. Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. I can’t get enough of them. But beyond country, folk tunes are a particular treat for me because of their literary element. You don’t get that in today’s songs about being lost in the woods. “The Wind & Rain” has long been my very favorite and I’ve long wanted to do something with it — what that is, though, I don’t know. I’ve had many ideas. It’s a ballad about two sisters who battle for the love of a young man. Out of jealousy, one sister pushes the other one into the river to drown. The song tells of the body’s journey down the waterway and being found, and then how the skeleton of the dead girl is turned into a fiddle. The fiddle can only play the most melancholy music. It’s so depressing, but it’s so beautiful. It makes me want to learn to play the fiddle and be able to sing better than my mildly pleasant voice lets me. Give it a listen. Listen to every version you can! Each is so nuanced and different.
The Month of February:
There is an expression amongst gardeners that goes something like this, “February is the cruelest month.” In my young adult life, I grew up on Martha Stewart, and so these aphorisms are a big part of my existence– that and an obsession with Sharkey Gray paint, excellent design, spontaneous travel, gold everything, and a veritable passion for superiority. I don’t know if this month or March is the cruelest, but at the moment, that philosophical speculation is irrelevant because I effing hate February. First of all, the spelling is idiotic. I hate it. The weather is even dumber. I have been freezing for the past two weeks, and it doesn’t show any signs of warming up. What I wouldn’t give for a bit of warmth! I am not a winter person at all, and I am working on moving someplace warmer, but these things take time. I am shocked that I’ve made it so far in my life living here. My seasonal depression, which I thought I had managed, is starting to come back with a vengeance. Yesterday, it took me all I had to get out of bed, and even then, I wound up taking two naps and feeling bad about the world. Hopefully springtime comes quickly. I can’t take much more. I need to be outside and I need my salad garden and I need to be able to go for long bike rides through the countryside. I miss the person I am in the warmth.
Death of Louis Jourdan:
The Golden Age of Hollywood has long come to an end, and I feel fortunate to have been alive when several of its stars were still existent. Bette Davis and I were alive for a few months at the same time. As I grew older, my love for old films grew ever greater, and so I began to reach out to those remaining. Olivia de Havilland never responded to my letters, so one day in Paris, I shouted up at her townhouse that I love her. It wasn’t creepy…I suppose it might have been. Joan Fontaine was much more eager to correspond, and happily sent me an autographed photo…but only after I gave her some money. I admired her pluck. I mourned her passing. And now, Louis Jourdan has gone on, which makes me sad, but he had a full and long life. I wrote him a letter a few years back telling him how much I enjoyed his work in The Swan and Gigi — I hadn’t yet seen the 60s disaster, the wonderfully gaudy Made In Paris, seen above — and he responded after a long time that he no longer responds to fan mail. It was odd since it was a response. Maybe he wasn’t fully there at the end. I think he must have become something of a recluse. I wrote a book called Terrible Miss Margo, and if it’s ever adapted into the triumphant cinematic version that I envisioned it to be at the onset, there is a scene where all sorts of the legends of Hollywood come together at a charitable fundraiser in Louisiana, under twinkling lights. But, it seems that if that ever happens, they’ll all be gone. Oh well. We always have the magic of computers. Remember that Dior commercial? The greats will never really die.
“Hôtel-Ker-Maria” Writing Struggles:
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Working on a project that has consumed me for years and years and years. I've collected documents from all over, made trips through tiny French villages and cemeteries, written to strangers, researched too many dead ends, and made new friends. It's time to get this story finished.
I have no doubt that I’ve written of this before, but my struggles are so real. Hotel-Ker-Maria is the working title of the first novel I ever attempted to write. I have written a dozen drafts of varying lengths. I have written from every perspective. I have written as a ghost. I have written it as a diary. I have written it as a musical. And I have written it as a screenplay. No matter what I do, though, it just does not feel like the creation I have in my mind. In my head, the story is sorted and it’s perfect. But, every time I go to type or write or draft it, it just isn’t what it needs to be. It’s not as romantic and sweeping. It’s trite and dull. I can’t understand it. Last night when I couldn’t get to sleep, I opened up every draft I’ve kept of it — I flung one into the fire years ago in frustration, which I regret — and skimmed through. The first one is laughably bad, but that was started probably seven years ago. I have learned so much about the art of writing in the meantime, for which I am so thankful. The most recent draft, one that I have no recollection of writing, is the best so far. It was spirited and the dialogue was melodious. It read like a film from the 1940s, which is really how I envision it, so I was pleased. Unfortunately, this was only some thirty pages long. I need to get this book done. It drives me crazy. I’ve written three since I started the first draft. Terrible Miss Margo, Haskell & Eudora, and now I’m coming to the final stages of a prequel of my story of the immortal siblings from Stillwater. These pages flow effortlessly from me. I only hope that in time Hotel-ker-Maria will be so kind to me.
Fear, Hatred, and Violence In My Favorite Places:
I’ve been awfully concerned about the news lately. I am not one to listen to the media’s negative portrayal of the world around me, but for some reason the past few weeks have really gotten to me. It started with the Charlie Hebdo massacre that took place recently in Paris. I was absolutely disgusted that something so heinous could happen in my hometown and place I plan on retiring. It shouldn’t happen anywhere, of course, but the fact that it went down a minute or two from my old apartment really messed with my psyche. Then, I have been reading about growing antisemitism in Europe, especially in Paris, and I’m left shaking my head. I don’t understand how people can be so idiotic and cruel. Hatred of the Jewish faith and the growing Islamophobia in the world is surely a minority, but one that rears its ugly head far too often. And just the other day, I read about the ISIS murders of twenty-one Christian Egyptians, and I was left with nothing to say. I do not understand this group for a minute. I do not understand any group or person that does not strive for peace amongst people, and I include my own nation in this. It’s exhausting that there is so much negativity and cruelty in the world. Egypt launched an aerial assault the other day, and I didn’t feel bad or good. I just felt sad. Egypt is one of my new favorite places, where I have planned for decades to work and retire to in the wintertime, and I just want everybody to calm down and enjoy life, not destroy it. The world doesn’t have to be so miserable. I tell this to everybody who asks about my travels, and I feel lucky to have seen these places that are now in turmoil. I hope to see them again very soon.