Monday, June 21, 2010

There's a price on my head in Brooklyn


The last piece of advice I had before going to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, was "Don't upset the locals."

"Viiiiie you take my peecture vivout permission?" snarls an old Russian lady, after cursing me in her native tongue. The only Russian I know is 'Glasnost', 'Perestroika' and 'Double Vod-ka' and by her tone I guess she doesn't want to discuss any of those.

I also am pretty sure she won't appreciate a diatribe on how photojournalism relies on catching your subject unaware, so I lie and say I was taking a picture of the building behind her. She stares are me so intently I feel a piece of my soul breaking off and crumbling into dust.

From there on, it is not just my imagination that every other old lady on the beach is giving me stinking looks-The Teenager notices too. There is a price on my head with the elderly women of Brighton beach and I'm scared as they all have big umbrellas.


I continue to document our day at Little Odessa with my camera though. Hey, I've been chased out of town before, it's no big deal, especially when you've done the dreaded death knocks as a reporter. Sometimes then, there was Alsatians involved and I was on The Gurnos estate in Merthyr, so I am pretty robust.

After what seems like about three minutes tanning on the beach, The Teenager announces she is bored. I thought at 16, we had moved on from this hyper attention deficit problem, yet we enter into a bartering phrase about what time we can leave.

"Can we go at 3 p.m. Mum?"


"Can we leave at 3.30?




"I would go sooner that later if I was you."

"And why is that?"

"Cos there is another old Russian lady coming towards us and she's giving you like, proper evil stares."

So we pack up swiftly and make our way down to Coney Island by walking down the shoreline.


On the way a man is practising Yoga and he's doing the crab. On the beach. I am fighting to find the pun.


A mile down the coast and we arrive at Coney. The Russians are replaced by a motely crew of ghetto unfabulous, freaks, schoolkids, tourists and Manhattanites enjoying the 'irony'.


The Teenager and I wander up the boardwalk in the searing sunshine, burgers and doughnuts smoke in the air. We stop and stare at attractions like 'Shoot the freak' with it's real human target. I buy a cowboy hat and get the feeling I should be drunk or on hallucinagenics to fully appreciate the place. Everyone else apparently is-all sipping on what looks like giant plastic bongs full of Margarita. Maybe If I got wrecked I would wear a g-string in public?



We sit down by a seafood stall and watch the colour and craziness go by. I snap away with the camera and The Teenager threatens to get the train home on her own if I don't stop.

"Mother. For god's sake! Why won't you put the camera down?"

I pause thoughtfully and look wistfully at the sky and say: "I's know, I want to document life wherever I go."

She says "Ugghhh. Because you are a *rolls eyes* bloody journalist?

And I say "Nah. Just because I'm a nosey cow."

And we both laugh until snowcone comes out of our noses.

And because nice moments are rare when your children are Teenagers, I take another picture, but this time in my head.

It's the best one of the day.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sgorio in the city


My mother says I have an answer for everything.

I like to call this 'being a journalist'. The American would say I use my profession as an excuse for most of my personality pitfalls.

But one question flummoxed me recently: "When it comes to England v USA in the World Cup who will you be supporting?"

That one, I had no answer for.


The Welsh among you will be frothing dragon scented spittle that I could even think of supporting England. "As long as we beat the English we don't care." Ok, that's stolen from the game with the funny shaped ball, but it applies to football too.

The English will be thinking it's a no-brainer. We're all Brits after all yeah? Innit? Whatevs'? Ribena? Marmite? Crumpet? And Wales never qualify for any major footie tournaments, so obviously cheering on the neighbours is the next best option.

The Americans reading are probably just confused. You're thinking "What's the problem, you are English aren't you?" and then you'll ask "Where's Wales?" and I will do my frantic arm flapping demonstration of the UK map where I draw in the air with my fingers and point out the four countries that make up The United Kingdom. You will then remain confused, yet entertained when I speak some Cymraeg and you laugh heartily and say it sounds like Lord of the Rings language.


When the world cup rolled around every 4 years in the UK, I would always end up cheering for England. I was brainwashed by The Sun and their clever low rent headlines and reminiscences of '66 and all those Page 'free stunnas' wearing hotpants with The St George's cross on their arse.

Here there was little to no build up. Although now it's got going, there seem to be flags and tournament schedules outside most bars. I think it's seen as another excuse to drink here. Not that New Yorkers need much of a reason to imbibe. The rising of the sun is enough to perpetuate the institutionalised alcholism of this city.


So, last Saturday I go to a bar in Hell's Kitchen to meet with English and American friends. I am asked who I'm supporting and I explain my dilemma of being British but living here and being married to an American, albeit one who has no interest in soccerball.

I make a crack about possibly cheering for The USA, being as I now have American DNA in me. Unfortunately I forget The Teenager is right behind me and old enough to get such inappropriate jokes. She is horrified and I throw another wad of virtual notes in the virtual therapy pot. That pot, however imaginary, overfloweth.

I declare myself neutral in summary. That makes everyone calls me Switzerland. I'm not crazy keen on that, I was nearly arrested there once over an argument about using Euros. Despite their neutrality they are very insistent about their Swiss Francs.

Then I head to the bar, and before I can even be misunderstood with my drinks order it happens... England score. I pause. The small but vocal fans go crazy in the bar... I feel nothing.

Flatline. Passionless emptiness.


We watch the rest of the game and I enjoy not feeling attached to either team, it's zero stress. I clap when there's a clearance or decent shot at goal. The Teenager shouts at me when I do it for USA. but I ignore her-she is influenced by an English boyfriend and has grown up under a united Europe. Sporting Jingoism escapes her.

Then the USA equalise and I laugh. Really hard. America has got it's dick out again, only this time it's like it's pissing on the overinflated egos of the England team. And maybe that's the best thing that could happen to them in early on?

Soccerball is one of the few sports The USA play where they are the underdog. We all agree it's nice to laugh at Yanks doing something badly. However, this time, they are 1-all with England in a World Cup. Unexpected doesn't begin to cover it. Is there an evolution happening where by the USA get less of a joke every 4 years? Maybe Becks has been secretly coaching them in a hidden tunnel underneath The Home Depot Centre?

When the whistle blows not much past 90 minutes the bar goes gaga, chanting "U.S.A." I laugh some more. England played better, but it feels like the right result, even if it's just for England fans to step into a Welsh supporters shoes for one game.


The next day the strangest thing happens: a phonecall with my Mother makes everything clear. Really, that never happens.

I tell her of my supporting dilemma and she reminds me of what my late, beloved football crazy Dad Big D would have said:

"I support Wales and whoever England are playing."

In this topsy turvy world where the Yanks beat the English in the World Cup and The New York Post can run this genius headline, it seems like a perfect philosophy for a Welsh alien in New York.


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Summer cover ups - the style quest continues....

Posted: June 15, 2010


I'm not sure if it's one of those "cripes this year I really have to hide the stomach flab" things or just a minor obsession, but summer cover ups - I'm sorry, I can't get enough of them.

I have a collection of designer ones - ok, not this years, but the ones fenagled off some sale site or other that still had their label slightly attached but were sooo last year that they were below the $200 mark.

Then there's the "ok, let's go with urban LA style maxi dress look" moment, where I imagine for one moment that the house boat that I'm spending next week on, is in fact somewhere within a 10 mile radius of the golden city and not 1,000 miles away, as I fear it may be - chalk it up to big sis making the booking again!

Followed by the "if I'm out in the wilderness I can channel my inner hiking chick" kind of cover up, which basically means anything warm and unflattering that can pack up really small in my suit case to avoid taking up too much space where my Burberry wedges need to fit.

Given I keep buying cover ups with sleeves on for Blighty - which I then end up figuring are completely stupid in New York City's climate as it gets good and humid here in the summer, let alone the Vegas climes which I'm about to hit - my quest this year has been focussed on sleeveless or bandeau styles - and you know what - there's a lot out there!

From DVF who knock out beach friendly wear year after year,


To the print/luxe specialists Tibi - who have some to die for resort wear not just right now, but quite honestly continuously.


So back to the bandeau idea - you know, no strap lines and all that - check out this Topshop number that (thankfully) we can now get in the Big Apple.


But then my crazy designer wannabe thing kicks in and "I'm a sucker for any label" and all of a sudden my Marc by Marc Jacobs bell is ringing


But hang on, it's only Tuesday - with a flight scheduled to Vegas Saturday, by my slim mathematical brain and my zen like knowledge of fedex/ups overnight shipping standards (due to the slight shopaholic gene I've been bestowed) - that makes me figure I have 3 clear shopping/shipping days to get my beach cover up mojo sorted...

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Burn before reading


Last Monday I spent the day with my new Welsh friend, who is actually just Taffy on a technicality. She's really a Liverpudlian, but if she were a boy she could play football for Wales and that's good enough for me.

We decide on a trip as it's what Brits would call May Day bank holiday. In the U.S. it's called Memorial Day, which is when soldiers who have died are remembered. I deduce they'd appreciate women getting bikinis on in their honour, so the beach it is.

When you don't have a proper job, are freelance-every day can seem like a holiday, but when it's an official holiday there is the contagious stench of getaway in the air.

We head to Penn station where we buy two tickets to Long Beach. Welsh friend says there is some kind of package you can buy that admits you onto the beach as well.

"Admits me? What do they do? Charge to get on the sand?"

As it turns out, that's exactly what they do. As much as this annoys me, I don't stress. How much can it be? It'll be like the car park at Porthcawl-just a nominal fee that funds the picking up of crisp packets and seagull poo.


Turns out it costs 12 bucks to get onto Long Beach and it isn't the paradise you might imagine considering. It's certainly noFire Island, although it's not quite Barry Island either. However, there's sand and water and enough Jersey ShoreGuido-a-likes to keep me entertained.

Long Beach is true to it's name, it's just really long. A straight strip of beach next to a seemingly endless line of grey Monolithic apartment buildings that look like they were built by depressed Russians in the 60's and are now being touted as 'Luxury Rentals'.


I am just glad The American didn't come along, being as he's from California and therefore ranks East Coast beaches somewhere between sewers and the bins at the back of our local Chinese takeaway.

After a few hours of tanning in the breezy sunshine, Welsh friend's Australian mate comes to meet us. She is covered from head to toe in clothes to avoid the sun and donning a floppy straw hat and sunglasses. Pah! Aussies and their sun overreaction. It's not Melbourne here ya' know. I continue spraying my factor 10 with a flourish and slowly cook my pale skin. At one point Oz girl warns me my side boob is burning, my response to which is to tuck it back into my bikini top and turn over.


At 4.30 p.m. we head back to the station and when we're on the train Welsh friend says:

"Woaaaah girl, you got some sun!"

I check out my face in a hand mirror and it looks a bit pink, but nothing too bad. There are some worryingly white large circular areas on my upper arm though. Maybe I should have actually rubbed the suncream in rather than just spraying it?

When we get back to Manhattan it is dull and overcast and my skin suddenly seems a lot pinker in contrast. I say goodbye to Welsh friend and pop into the local supermarket. I am trying to find Feta when I catch the man on the cheese counter staring at me.

"Hey!" He shouts across the shop, "Someone went to the beach today!"

"Yes. I did."

I try to slink away into the bread aisle.

"Listen, I'm the same as you," he says, while slicing into a giant wheel of Gouda, "Always gotta go through the Lobster stage before I go brown."


I hurry to the checkout where a Mexican girl looks at my face and then sniggers at me.

When I get home the reaction is no better:

"FUCK-IN-HELL" says The American

"Hey I'm back!"

"Or...badger is back?" he says and starts laughing.

I look in the mirror and there are two white rings where my sunglasses have been. My arms are also pink and covered in pale patches. My legs are the same too. I strip off in front of the mirror and see I look like a giant marbled strawberry cheesecake. Angry pink splodges of sunburn pepper my whole body.


"FUCK-IN-HELL" says The American again, but he's not laughing this time and goes into full on panic mode and there is mention of 'hospital' and 'sunstroke' and '1st degree burns'. He orders me into a cold shower and does an emergency run to Duane Reade. He actually runs, which he never does, so I get that he thinks this is quite serious.

After I get out of the shower he insists on slathering half a bottle of Aloe Vera gel over me that also has Menthol and Litacaine in it. I go into a crazy shivering state. Who the hell puts menthol in aftersun? That's just sadistic.

"I have never seen sunburn this bad." he says.

"Oh I have. I'm Welsh."

"Well I have never seem you burn this bad."

"That's cos you have never been on a beach holiday with me."

"You need to use sunscreen."

"I used sunscreen! Factor 10!"

"Factor 10? Factor 10? That might be enough in you Wales, that is not enough here. This is American sun Emma."

So even the sun here is different apparently.

I'll add that to the list.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Notes from a Stylist is trying to find the BBC

Posted: June 5, 2010 -


It's at times likes these - you know, Gulf oil spill still spewing on day 40 whatever, conspiracy theory roving around about oil spills on the Bronx River parkway being related ( no really, I got that from a TV camera guy who swears the world is imploding and no-one is telling us) World Cup and the Gaza crisis upon us....


Anyways, it's at times like these that one needs a safe pair of hands to turn to - that's right, the good old BBC. No biased opinion, no bung in the back pocket from oil men to foil the story - so how is it that when you are in the good old U S of A, that you can't find any sane news apart from weather or baseball. Oh how I yearn for a bit of bolshy Paxman and the diminutive Jeremy Bowen dodging bullets in Israel still managing to look suave whether it's a mustache kind of a day or a clean shaven kind of a day. Whatever the crisis, at home, we were assured of real news on the hour at a channel number that was in single figures and not hard to find.

Flitting through channels aimlessly this evening I've stumbled upon BBC World News in the top end of the 100 channels. I thought I had a fix on it for a moment until my remote weary finger slipped and instead of hitting select for channel 104 and the safety of the BBC, I was thrust into Lusty Lovely Lawyers - which appears to be a torrid office affair for adults. In fact if you linger around the early 100's on cable that's about all you do get - so how are us sane news starved Brits to survive?

Short of harking back to my old Hewlett Packard laptop that still seems to be vaguely configured to the UK and can somehow catch Capital Radio, my new (USA) iMac resolutely refuses to pick up any Blighty related channels - thank the lord then for Big Apple Brits - a tiny slice of home with radio, networking and a Brit Fest to boot.

With 80f+ forecast for the next few weeks I think I'll settle for Stateside and World Cup viewing from here rather than Gary Lineker and WAGtastic goings on at home....


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