Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Tall and Very Hairy.

Tall, very hairy and with massive feet! No, I'm not talking about Mr Blue, I'm referring to a certain hirsute beast called Bigfoot. 

At the beginning of September, I will be deep in a forest in Alaska, looking for Bigfoot with 3 friends... and a Bigfoot tracker, obviously! Just to reassure you, lovely readers, I am not inebriated whilst writing this nor have take taken any medication which might alter my rational thought process. I really have been invited to the wilds of the Northwest, to try and find Sasquatch. Yippee. 

As most of you know, I like a bit of 'odd', so when my friends asked me to join them on their next adventure, I was in. 

I have known one of these friends since University in America, and have been green with envy ever since he set up his company 'Believe It', exploring the world and seeking out myths and legends. In his own words: 
"I wanted to inspire people to live life like they did as a child. With open eyes and minds the world is a much more fascinating adventure. Covering the areas of paranormal, cryptozoology, extraterrestrial, monsters and folklore, this adventurous group travels the globe in search of mysterious legends... not afraid to ask “what if…?”

I know, a bit loop de loopy but that means I will fit in quite well. I constantly ask questions and query the unanswerable, I'm curious about the world and what's in it. I want to believe in fairytales and love stories, century old legends and ghosts, and the people that believe in these legends have a passion that we rarely see anymore. Wether the stories are believable or not, it doesn't matter... they tell a good tale and I can listen to that sort of passion for hours... and I want to do all of that with lovely fun people. Over the years, this group have sought out Dracula in Transylvania, searched the world for the secret to eternal youth, explored the Bermuda Triangle, investigated paranormal activity and buried crystal skulls in the Mayan jungles of Belize… very Indiana Jones! The trip in September will not only track Bigfoot but we will be hearing stories from Native American Indians about Thunderbirds, Water Monsters and Little People… and I'm sure that doesn't mean Loch Ness and dwarves! And because we will be travelling North, very close to the Arctic Circle, we will almost certainly see the Aurora Borealis, the thing I have wanted to see my whole life. 

If I'm really honest, I had a few wobbles when Mike and Diana originally asked me to join them. My first hesitation was the expense and how far it was… it's not cheap flying all the way across Canada and let's face facts, Alaska is actually closer to the Eastern tip of Russia than North America, but once I had figured out money and flights, and with the added generosity of my Uncle in Minneapolis (my stop off point), the tickets were booked. 

Then I had worry number 2. Mike told me about our mode of transport… a 24 foot Winnebago, or, as our American cousins like to call them, a Recreational Vehicle or RV. Twenty four feet sounds quite big doesn't it... but when I learnt that passenger number 4 was Brad, and heard a brief description of him, it sounded as if he might be more closely related to Bigfoot than was really necessary. I began to get premature 'sleep deprivation' anxiety. Where was this 6'5', 300lb man going to sleep? In fact, where were we all going to sleep? I asked Mike to send me the layout of the RV which he duly did. He and Diana, being a couple, were obviously going to sleep in the double berth at the back of the RV, which left a platform bed above the drivers seat (accessed by a tiny ladder), or a fold out bed converted from the kitchen seating, under the platform. Dilemma. If I chose to sleep on the platform, I would be up and down that ladder 4 or 5 times a night due to the ridiculous amount of water I drink. Also, I suspected the rungs of that tiny ladder would be like razor blades and would incur some sort of horrendous injury. Taking that all into consideration and with the added problem of me being accident prone, I thought it much safer to opt for the bottom bed. But that has drawbacks too... what if Brad rolls over in the night and comes crashing down on top of me, forgetting he is 6 feet up? What if Brad talks in his sleep or snores like a warthog? These things I have absolutely no control over so for a self-confessed control freak, I am about to enter the depths of my own personal hell!

Driving through the bear-infested wilderness for 2 weeks, whilst sharing a small space with one large man and two normal sized people, will be challenging, but the adventure will be worth it. I will never ever get the chance to do it again, especially with the knowledge of my friends and their incredibly good company. 

So, I'm sure the little niggling worries are completely normal. I have three months to get used to the idea... that, or I will resort to alcohol, ear plugs and hypnosis!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Case of Mistaken Identity

Many people confuse my Mother and I on the phone. When I stay at their house, I often answer it and am greeted with a "Hello Anne", and before I can utter a response, I've heard all the latest village gossip, been invited to the next book club, asked round for lunch and been put on the rota for the coffee morning and the church flowers. I don't mind getting mistaken for my Mother but what's a little discombobulating is when my boyfriend confuses my Mother for me. Oh dear. 

Last weekend, I was staying at my parents house so I asked Mr Blue if he could call me on their landline, on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, just as their home phone rang, I was talking to a friend on my mobile, so my Mother answered it instead. From what I have gathered from talking to both parties afterwards, this is sort of how the conversation went...

Phone rings, Mother picks up:


Mr Blue (thinking it's me): 

Hi darling.

My Mother, not recognising the voice but thinking that anyone calling her 'darling' must be an old friend, responds accordingly with:

Oh... hello darling. How are you?

Mr Blue: 

Ah, great thanks... so how was your day?

My Mother: 

Lovely thank you. And yours?

And so it went on. 

After another minute or so, my Mother realised she still had no idea who she was talking to. Most people would have asked who was calling by now, but my mother felt the conversation had already gone past that stage, so she just kept going... pretending she knew... in the vain hope that suddenly it would 'click'. 

Mr Blue, meanwhile, had started to feel a little apprehensive, especially when he asked:

So, I bet you didn't think I would call the landline?

And my Mother replied, with a giggle:

No, I thought you were going to pop it through the letterbox?

If I was Mr Blue, I would have hung up at this point... I mean, even if it had been me on the other end of the phone, that was 'Mrs Crazy' talking. I suppose it could have been a very weird euphemism for something but even with Mr Blue's wild imagination, it was not quite right. For him, that was when the penny, very loudly, dropped. For my Mother, however, what she had just said about the letterbox made perfect sense. She had quickly decided that the person on the end of the phone must be her new Irish neighbour in the village, who had seen her earlier in the day and promised to drop something off. 

Mr Blue, suddenly realising he had been speaking to my mother the whole time, was now absolutely mortified and quickly explained who he was. He apologised profusely for the misunderstanding and tried to start again, asking her how her day had been. My Mother is not easily flustered, so she simply carried on chatting as if nothing untoward had happened. She told him about what we'd been up to... a bit of gardening, what we'd had for lunch, the jigsaw we'd started, about how difficult the jigsaw was... absolutely scintillating conversation! But then, out of the blue, she asked him how 'Brian' was?

Now, I can explain this. Earlier in the day, I had received a text from Mr Blue while he was at a rugby awards ceremony with his son. His message said that he had gone to the loo and found himself standing next to this famous rugby legend called Brian... he was a little in awe. I thought this was quite a bizarre coincidence because a school friend of mine had married this particular player, and my Mother and I had only been talking about her earlier in the day. We also remembered that this school friend had been on a children's programme when she was younger and unfortunately, the TV host had subsequently been discovered as a prolific sex offender. Not good. Of course, I didnt relay that story back to Mr Blue, all I texted was that my school friend was married to him, and that if he met her, could he say 'hello' from me. 

So when my Mother asked Mr. Blue, "How was Brian?", in the middle of a conversation about jigsaw puzzles, Mr Blue was, justifiably, very confused and said: "Brian who?"

My Mother then launched into the story about my friend being on a children's programme, omitting any explanation that the friend in her story was the same one married to Brian, the famous rugby player, thinking I had already told him. She then ended the conversation with: "Well at least she wasn't molested." 

Poor Mr Blue's brain was rattling by this stage and he didn't really have any sort of comeback to that, so I think, only then, did he ask if I was available to come to the phone? I was still on my mobile and said I would call him back, totally unaware of what had just taken place. So he apologised again, to my Mother, for getting us mixed up and my Mother said it had been lovely talking to him and that she hoped to meet him soon. 

I went into the kitchen about ten minutes later and asked if she'd had a nice chat. She looked amused and said: "Oh yes, we had a wonderful chat. It was a little confusing at first but I thought he was very charming." She wasn't being very forthcoming at all and she also had that look in her eye where I knew something had gone a bit wrong, so I rang Mr Blue to see if he could shed some light on it. He relayed the whole conversation and I was in hysterics. Poor Mr Blue. Welcome to the Sellars family... mad as a box of frogs!

Mr Blue has no idea what he's let himself in for. I thought easing him in gently with a simple phone call might be all right. How wrong could I be?

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Swede

What I Saw.

After our hideous night at the Opera a few weeks ago, I was reluctant to ask Mr. Blue if he wanted to come with me to another slightly odd play I had bought tickets for.

The play had been touring around Sweden, Denmark and Norway to sold out audiences and had been brought to London for a short 3-week run. It was called Doktor Glas and had my favourite Swedish actor (and possibly the only Swedish actor I know the name of) Krister Henriksson, in the lead. Well, not just the lead, he was the only actor in it. Some may have seen him as the dark, brooding detective Wallander, (not to be confused with the English adaption with Kenneth Brannagh, also brilliant). It's a beautifully shot drama, showing the incredible landscape of Sweden at its very best and I highly recommend it. So, I was very very excited to see this amazing actor perform on stage and bought tickets immediately... without really checking all the details.

My tickets arrived a few days later and I noticed some small print at the bottom saying:

"Doktor Glas will be 90 minutes in duration with no interval. It will be performed in Swedish with English subtitles."

What the...? Ok, so I'm getting used to the 'no interval' thing. Sitting with a full bladder has become fairly commonplace with the variety of films, plays and opera's I have seen recently so a mere hour and half was nothing. "Pah" to your 'no interval'! What was more odd was the whole swedish play with subtitles thing. How do you show subtitles during a play for goodness sake? Was a strange man dressed in black going to come and squat at the front of the stage holding up a big placard? Were they going to be on a TV screen at the side of the stage? I was quite baffled. I also had the added problem of actually finding someone to go with me. My usual group of theatre luvvies had fallen silent when I described the performance, and when I asked Mr. Blue if he was interested, he said very forlornly and with a big sigh, "I'll go if you really can't find ANYONE else, but please please try to find someone". Then hurrah, the next day my Godmother replied to my email and I had my theatre buddy.

We weren't sure what to expect at all, especially my Godmother, who hadn't even seen Swedish Wallander, so she was going in cold. Brave. We soon realised we were in the minority as we estimated about 80% of the audience were Swedes, possibly feeling terribly smug that they wouldn't have to read subtitles and could laugh, gasp or cry at the exact moment in the play, rather than a delayed reaction as the rest of us read what was happening. That must be strange for the actor too... having most of the audience laugh at something you've said and then several seconds later, the rest of us guffawing like crazy people. As the lights dimmed, Krister began and the subtitles suddenly appeared, projected onto the back wall of the set, very artistically and very beautifully as if they were their own light installation. We were mesmerised. It was a masterclass in acting and we agreed afterwards that there weren't many people who could hush an audience and hold their attention for 90 minutes. 

Of course, by the end, I had tears of pride in my eyes and as he came back on stage to take his second bow, I erupted out of my seat with rapturous applause. But it seemed I was the only one standing. I looked around fleetingly and saw no one else on their feet and felt a flush rise on my cheeks. Krister saw me immediately and walked to the front of the stage, grinned at me, then shook his head in mock reprimand and waggled his finger at me, indicating I should sit down. Maybe a standing ovation is not proper etiquette in Sweden, who knows. Of course, I never do what I'm told and remained standing, clapping like an excited seal. He then threw some roses into the audience, one of which I was sure was for me, until the woman in front of me rose out of her seat to grab one coming in my direction. I can't say in English what I thought about that, but it sounds better in Swedish anyway...

"Vad en ko!"

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Tower and the Friends.

There is something slightly terrifying about being introduced to a new boyfriends' friends... especially when you are meeting them all in the space of a week. No gently gently approach, more a wham bam, here they are.

Two of these friends, I met on a Monday evening for a quick drink before going into the Tower of London for a special night time tour. I wanted to give a good impression so I took a while to get ready and gave myself an hour to get there. I had decided to drive instead of using the tube because the tube stresses me out at the best of times, and I had also found a really quick route in the car that ran directly along the edge of the Congestion Zone. This is an invisible border around central London... inside the zone, you pay £10, outside the zone, you can drive for free. I managed to keep on the outside of this nightmare line until the last 3 yards of my journey. I saw a car park, turned left excitedly, and realised I had just entered the zone. Damn damn damn. The car park was a complete rabbit warren and I couldn't keep track of what floor I was on because I seemed to go endlessly down dizzying spiral ramps... once parked, I had absolutely no idea where I was. I finally saw a square of light and aimed for that, hoping it was an exit. It opened out onto an airless stairwell that seemed to go up and up with no vanishing point, so I climbed about 4 flights and finally came to another door, exhausted. This opened out on to a lorry and coach park... almost pitch black with no visible exit either. I hadn't actually seen a human since entering the car park so my heart was thumping wildly. I walked around in circles and finally saw a sinister-looking man standing stock-still behind a large bin, eyes to the floor. I managed a petrified squawk as I asked him where the exit was and he simply pointed across the garage floor. I finally emerged breathless and blinking, like a mole from the earth, but before I could become fully acclimatised, I saw a traffic warden and charged across the road to ask about paying the congestion charge. Eyes watering from the bright sunlight, I tripped up the pavement and went flying, landing on my knees at his feet. "If you are begging to be let off a ticket, I won't do it", he said with a laugh as I struggled to get up. I scowled at him for a minute or so but suddenly realised my right knee was killing me so I bent down and lifted up my skirt, looking under my dress to see what damage I had done... which must have looked a bit odd to passers-by. I had a graze and a bit of a bruise forming so went off in search of some antiseptic wipes and some Arnica. 20 minutes later, armed with my first aid, I headed hurriedly to the pub to meet Mr. Blue, now very very late. I caught my reflection in the glass on the way in and was horrified. I had started off my journey, neat, smooth, blow-dried and calm and the last hour had produced a ruffled, creased and sweaty mess. My hair was plastered across my forehead and my dress looked like I had just run it over. Nooooo!! Of course, Mr. Blue was terribly polite and just said "You look lovely" with a tiny amused smile. His two friends were charming and friendly and didn't let on that I looked a complete mess, which was a relief.

We made our way to the Tower and were escorted in. Once inside the 15 foot thick stone walls, it is a silent, dark, haunting place but with nearly a thousand years of gruesome history, it's no surprise that you can feel the ghosts. Large black ravens peck at unidentified remains lying on the cobblestones, ominous shadows fall at your feet and you suddenly realise that once you enter the Tower, you can't get out again. The giant gates are locked behind you by a huge, burly Beefeater so there's no arguing with that. We wandered over the cobbles as the light faded, hearing only our echoing footsteps, past the exact spot where many many people lost their heads. We heard macabre stories of botched beheadings, of torture and murder, and as night fell we went to the pub for dinner. Yup, not only do the Beefeaters live within the walls but they also have their own pub. We had sausages and mash, peas and gravy... good hearty English food. I say English because our particular Yeoman was very upfront about saying he hated the Scottish, the Welsh and the Irish. Poor Mr. Blue kept very quiet! I can't repeat what he said about the French but it wasn't: 'Gosh, isn't Paris lovely this time of year, I just adore the French'. Americans didn't escape his sharp tongue either, in fact, he didn't have anything good to say about anyone other than fellow Englishmen. I think that sort of back-slapping, jovial racism goes with the job really... Beefeaters can only qualify for the job if they have served as an Officer in the British Armed Forces for at least 22 years. After dinner we were led out to see the Ceremony of the Keys... a tradition of locking the Tower with the same set of keys, dating back 700 years, never missed, and only late once... when the Tower was bombed during an air raid in World War II. The Yeomen on duty simply brushed themselves off and carried on. It was a fantastic experience and I felt very privileged, and because his friends had been so lovely and welcoming it also made me less nervous about meeting the rest of Mr. Blue's chums.

3 days later I met his best friend, and 5 other friends, all in one sitting. I did feel a bit like a gladiator being led into the arena, about to be fed to the lions, because these weren't normal people. They were detectives. And they weren't going to just make small talk and ask me about the weather, these guys were professionals. Every eye movement and hair flick would be picked up and analysed. My speech patterns, my body language, was I sweating or fidgeting? If I accidentally looked up and left, would they think I was lying... what was the expression "lefty lying, righty remembering"? Oh God. The lions den was a pub in Soho and as I walked in there with Mr. Blue, the interrogators were there at the front table, facing the door, in a semi-circle. Two chairs were positioned in front of them slightly away from the table. Bloody hell. I suddenly panicked and thought the only way to break the ice, as I walked in, was to curtsy and do some jazz hands and a 'ta dah'. That sounds a really hideous 'luvvie' attempt to lighten the mood and it could have gone horribly wrong but, thank god, it actually seemed to work. They laughed and we all just seemed to let out a big sigh of relief. They, I was told later, were just as nervous.

The only slightly scary moment was when his best friend cornered me after a few drinks and with a big grin and a bear hug, whispered in my ear, "Just don't break my friend's heart or I will track you down" in a tone not dissimilar to Liam Neeson in the film 'Taken', when he tells his daughters' kidnappers...  "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you." 

I was inclined to believe him. So after that slightly nerve wracking moment, and a few stiff drinks, things were completely relaxed and lovely and I had an amazing evening. I got good feedback the next day apparently too, so thats a plus. I passed. Yay. I will get my own back though. In two weeks time, he gets to meet my close friends, in one sitting. Only 8 of us. What could possibly be intimidating about that?