Monthly Archives: June 2015

Orange Is The New L Word


Today it came to my attention that I never did find out who killed Jenny Schechter in the final instalment of ‘The L Word’.

The groundbreaking series about a group of mostly middle-class lesbian pals living in LA, which ran for six successful seasons during the mid to late noughties, was one of my biggest TV staples back in the day; and even though the emotionally unhinged and often manipulative Jenny (played by Mia Kirshner) was my least favourite character, it still bugs me that her murder / accidental death / suicide via drowning was left unresolved. So, naturally, I spent the afternoon thinking about it, and wondering what would happen if one of the other characters did get convicted of bumping her off, and how that person would fare alongside Alex and Piper and the rest of the lags in Litchfield Penitentiary in the event of a cross-over episode/s with ‘Orange Is The New Black’.

Of course, I’d previously heard the rumours about the spin-off prison drama ‘The Farm’ starring Leisha Hailey, where her quirky character Alice Pieszecki is banged up in a Californian jail after being charged with the murder. And during a frenzied bout of googling, I found further reference to the pilot series which, apparently, was filmed but later cancelled by ‘Showcase’ network. I then spent a further two hours trying to find out more information as well as hunting for a trailer, but gave up after my search revealed nothing but nasty footage of farm animals being tortured and a short horror film of the same name.

I can just imagine the sort of scenario that would take place if Alice’s character ended up in Lichfield: she’d be five and a half years into a life sentence, long-forgotten by all her old West Hollywood buddies and worn down by the unfairness of the prison system… until of course she meets Piper who straight away recognises her as an ex-almost-celesbian journalist and radio show host; Piper will then stalk and talk at Alice (despite warnings from her on-off girlfriend, Alex, that she shouldn’t get involved) until Alice wearily agrees to ask Counsellor Healy if she can be the host of a new prison radio station project. Said radio project will initially be a success, until shenanigans take place and the Healy shuts it down; but obviously not before Alice gains renewed media attention and is freed on appeal.

Antonia disagrees with this particular vein of thought. She maintains that feisty art-critic Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), who she’s fancied ever since she saw her playing a tom-boy welder in the eighties movie, ‘Flash Dance’, would make a much better inmate; Antonia claims that a) Bette had a stronger motive for murder (Jenny photographed Bette looking like she was in a compromising situation with her old college pal and then threatened to send the pics to Bette’s partner); and b) she likes the idea of Bette going head to head with Alex Vauss.

Two of my friends also thought that rich bitch Helena Peabody (Rachel Shelley) would look good in orange jumpsuit; and a third said she’d like to see Jenny end up in Litchfield – when I pointed out that Jenny Schechter’s character was dead so that was unlikely, the possibility of an evil twin was suggested.

Personally, I think Showcase missed a really good opportunity when they turned down The Farm: even if the storyline with Alice as a convict ended up being completely rubbish, the lesbian contingency would still have tuned in just to see what happened. So, on the off-chance that producer Ilene Chaiken decides to give the series a second chance and is looking for a writer with a fresh perspective, I am keeping my Saturday nights free…

Orange Is The New Specs


Yesterday, during a quick trip to Colchester, my hay fever got so bad that I had to invest in a pair of protective goggles. I did look a bit silly, mostly because they were florescent orange – and I definitely was not rocking the librarian-chic-look inspired by prison drama star Laura Prepon – but it was necessary because I was on the verge of committing murder as Antonia dragged me snuffling and wheezing around a DIY store; because the last thing a person wants to hear when they are contemplating gouging their own eyeballs out, is their stanley-knife-wielding other half telling them in a high-pitched wee know-it-all voice: ‘Don’t rub them, henny, or you’ll just make it worse!’

Over the last decade, I’ve tried a multitude of different medicines and countermeasures to curb my itching and sniffing and sneezing, including over-the-counter anti-histamines (liquid-form but not tablets because the pills always have lactose in them), flower remedies and edible flowers, eye washes and nasal washes, homeopathic treatments, herbals teas and even a good old-fashioned salt pipe. However, nothing seems to work. Or if it does, there’s usually a nasty side effect which is just as bad, if not worse, than the actual hay fever.    

For instance, almost all the pharmacy-bought medicines make me drowsy – even the children’s and the non-drowsy ones – I know I’m a bit of a unique case because these side effects are aggravated by the petit mal seizures and associated neurological problems I’ve experienced ever since my brain injury twenty-two years ago ( I have been known to start drifting off to sleep at the dinner table shortly after taking them and on a couple of times I’ve actually slipped off my chair altogether. On one occasion, I also ended up at A+E with a swollen eyeball because I had an allergic reaction to a cucumber slice I placed on my eyelid for a few seconds – oddly enough, I have no problems eating cucumber. The salt pipe did slightly alleviate the problems I had with my sinuses, and I might well have persevered with it had it not been for Antonia pointing out that I had started to produce a very unpleasant salty aroma every-time I sneezed. And then there’s nettle tea: a recent article in cited this as a good natural remedy, and they were absolutely spot on: it cleared up my hay fever symptoms completely within twenty-four hours. However, it also made me pee non-stop (it’s a strong diuretic), kept me awake and agitated and fidgety for nearly forty-eight hours; and caused me to have such a bad allergic reaction that a health professional described me as ‘looking like I was on ecstasy’.   

I later discovered that nettle isn’t suitable for everyone: pregnant and lactating women should avoid it, as should young children, anyone who suffers from epilepsy or has neurological problems (although I’ve also read contradictory information which says nettle can aid certain neurological conditions); and if you’re diabetic it’s best to consult your GP first because it can affect blood sugar levels.

My GP sent me to the hospital for allergy testing a couple of years ago because my hay fever symptoms were so severe (and persisted from February through to November) that he wanted to make sure I wasn’t suffering from some other ailment. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that I was allergic to grass pollen, four different types of tree pollen (I now wish I’d asked which ones) and dust mites. The consultant gave me a sheet of paper with instructions on how to manage my condition. It said something along the lines of: ‘Don’t go out in the morning. Don’t go out in the evening. Don’t hang your laundry outdoors. And take coastal holidays.’ As I was leaving, she added: ‘Obviously, if that advice doesn’t suit then just ignore it.’

Currently, I am taking a cocktail of Vogel’s flower remedies: Luffa Complex (drops), Pollinosan (nasal spray) and Eye Bright (drops). I had some itch-relief between two pm and three thirty today and almost felt normal, but now my symptoms appear to be coming back with a vengeance. If this continues I might have to take more than a coastal holiday – I might have to move to a seaside town. I suppose there is always Brighton: it’s very vegan and very gay and Ruby Rose (Stella from ‘Orange Is The New Black’) is appearing at this year’s Brighton Pride, which conveniently takes place on my birthday.

Funnily enough, last year, when I was working in the jail, one of the prisoners told me that there had been an inside clamp down on anti-histamines because they were being sold illegally. I was completely confused by this as I couldn’t work out why anyone would want to take them if they didn’t have an allergy. The answer: they give you a good night’s sleep.

I am now starting to think that a few weeks in the hoosegow away from all the evil pollen wouldn’t be such a bad option for me: I could stay indoors and yet still toddle along to the dinner hall and the library and the gym… and I’m sure it would inspire some interesting pieces of writing…

Orange Is The New Addiction


‘Orange Is The New Black’ is back today for a third season, and Antonia has got her geek specs and her tributary satsumas at the ready. I did suggest dying our hair ginger and buying tangerine coloured t-shirts but she thought that idea was too last season. Funnily enough, I’ve been avoiding eating oranges because they contain histamine and I’ve been locked up indoors for the best part of the week with a bad bout of hay fever. I am also trying for my orange belt in wado ryu karate this weekend, which will come in handy if I ever end up sharing a cell with a pyschopath.

The Netflix prison drama, based on Piper Kerman’s best selling autobiography ‘Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison’ (2010, Random House), first burst onto our screens with its blend of comedy and controversy in July 2013, and has fast become one of the streaming channel’s mostly frequently watched shows; it follows the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a thirty-something, white, middle-class career woman who is sentenced to fifteen months in an American correctional facility for transporting a suitcase of drug money through customs – an offence she committed ten years before for her ex-girlfriend. On leaving her charmed life with man-childish fiancee, Larry (Jason Biggs), and her newly established business, Piper vows to make prison a meaningful experience and possibly learn carpentry; however, once she’s inside the walls of the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary, she struggles to fit in with the other women (most of whom haven’t shared her privileged upbringing) and their rules: in episode one, she is served a bread roll with a bloody tampon in it after she offends kitchen matriarch, Red Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew); and she is shocked to discover that old flame and ex-drug-smuggler, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), is also an inmate.

I sometimes wonder how I’d fare food-wise if I were ever incarcerated: on one hand I’d want to stay true to my beliefs and steer clear of eating and wearing animal products, but on the other I’d be worried about rocking the boat and making enemies of the prison wardens or kitchen staff; I would also want to avoid going without meals or important food groups because I’d like to have my wits about me in case of any altercations, but having worked as a writer-in-residence in a prison for two years I’ve heard my fair share of grumbles relating to the dinners inside and I understand that providing fruit and veg for cons is not high on the rehabilitation agenda. Obviously, this is a very good incentive not to break the law, but the idea of any fellow vegan – no matter who they are or what they’ve done – having their human rights breached bothered me, especially since I knew there must be plenty of political prisoners serving custodial sentences in the UK who are devoted to living a cruelty-free lifestyle.

 So I googled ‘Vegan’, ‘Uk’ and ‘prison’ which came up with a blog post by PETA (‘People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals’) called ‘The Top Five Vegan-Friendly Prisons In The UK’, followed by a link to the ‘Vegan Prisoners Support Organisation’ and an article from the Guardian dated 2009 which stated that after a fifteen year campaign imprisoned vegans would be permitted to buy animal-free food and basic hygiene products such as soap and tooth paste; the ‘fight’ to allow vegan prisoners to wear non-leather shoes was allegedly still continuing at that time. I can’t help thinking it’s great that this information exists, but that it’s completely useless to people who can’t access it or don’t know about it. Plus, how would you ascertain someone’s vegan status? Would someone who followed a plant-based diet for health reasons but wore leather be excluded in the eyes of prison authority? And who would get to decide how far vegan ethics would be allowed to stretch?

Most of the storylines in OITNB are about women who are in some way marginalised; and for that reason I’d love to see them include a vegan character. It would be even better if a potential vegan storyline was a bit more imaginative than the stereotypical crazy-animal-rights-activist-blows-up-science-lab-to-save-two-rabbits-and-kills-loads-of-people-in-the-process. Maybe there could be a new sexy cucumber-wielding vegan lesbian love interest for either (or both) on/off girlfriends Piper and Alex? Or a tofu-eating, kick-ass, hipster warden could take over and force Red to take meat off the menu altogether?

One thing’s for sure: Antonia and I will be under house arrest till we’ve watched all fourteen new episodes.

I’m Gonna Dance Forever

Yesterday I visited Leatherhead, a tiny wee medieval market town in Surrey, which is situated on the right bank of the River Mole. I’d never been to Leatherhead before, and I didn’t have particularly high expectations in terms of plant-based eating out options ever since I’d googled vegan and vegetarians cafes in the area and was signposted to an Italian restaurant that had a menu with a heavy bias towards tiger prawns; I only went because my sister (Nikki) combined her visit to Sudbury with the dance rehearsals she was doing at the Premier Production Studios, in the Mole Business Park, in preparation for her next tour; and I thought she might like the company during the two-and-a-half-hour drive.

When I tell people that my sister is a ‘cookie monster’, I don’t mean that she eats a lot of biscuits, nor am I referring to that fact that she worked part-time in ‘Millie’s Cookies’ during the time she was training at musical theatre school. No, I mean that her current job involves dancing around in a giant blue furry costume to a backdrop of songs like ‘The Cookie Crumba Rumba’. But, this is not the oddest-sounding occupation that she’s ever had: she’s spent time as an elf in lapland, a chipmunk on a Disney cruise, and a pink-haired tutu-wearing monkey called ‘Panzee’ in the Zingzillas high-energy road show. In the past, Nikki has toured around the UK and to the Middle East with the cast of ‘Sesame Street’ – and could potentially travel the world – and by the time this email goes viral she will be on a plane to Indonesia.

 Personally, I couldn’t do what she does: I would hate the long and unpredictable hours, and having to traipse to random destinations or live in accommodation that I’ve not picked out myself; I’d also hate having to rely on other performers turning up or getting things right and I’d probably find it soul destroying every time I saw someone younger and prettier than me bust a better move – but then that wouldn’t be hard because I’ve got two left feet and can’t even cartwheel.

 I had absolutely no intention of watching my sister rehearse – in fact, I’d decided without knowing anything about the show that it would be preferable to gouge my own eyeballs out. My plan had simply been to walk around the shops and stake out the local cafes before settling down in a coffee shop to do some writing whilst she was prancing around. And, fortunately, after turning down the cheese and nachos that bar staff in one establishment tried to palm me off with, I was lucky enough to discover a vegetarian stall at the outdoor French market which had two vegan options – ratatouille (which I love) and another dish that was made up of potatoes, aubergine and tomato that I can’t remember the name of; I chose the potato dish and was not disappointed.

  We had planned to meet up during her lunch break but, typically, my sister’s timetable didn’t run to plan. So she suggested that I come along to the studio instead. And I, reluctantly, agreed.

 And I’m glad I did. Because I was proved wrong for the second time that day.

And if ever I had doubts or concerns about Nikki’s career choice, watching her yesterday annihilated them. Not only was the dancing top-notch but the lyrics were clever (I can’t stop singing the Count’s mathematical parody of the song ‘Fame’ and now Antonia’s picked it up) and it was generally very very funny. My sister was also the most enthusiastic-looking person on the stage and I have never seen her shine so much or look as happy in her entire life; and I genuinely felt very privileged to have been given a sneaky peek into her world.