In the words of C. S. Lewis…

betty-blue-dvd

A famous C. S Lewis quote reminds us that “We read to know we are not alone”. Whilst I certainly believe this to be true in respect of books, this mantra also works for me in relation to cinema-going. The film I saw this evening, exceptional in its theme and creation, reiterates the theme of feeling alone, like the tears of a clown.

When I was a 21 year old University student working in Paris back in 1991/2, I lived in a former Prison that was converted into lodgings for about 1,000 girls (only). In France, such styles of shared living where you have your own room, shared bathrooms and a group dining room, are quite commonplace for young single workers. My employers paid for my accommodation so it gave me more money to spend on clothes, a fancy gym membership, travelling and cinema outings.

Like any big City, Paris can be a terribly lonely place to live. At weekends, when many of the girls would go and visit their families, I felt like I was actually incarcerated (when I wasn’t with my boyfriend, friends or family) so I spent a lot of time in the cinema as well as at the gym. At the time I was writing a thesis on French Cinema’s lauded ‘Nouvelle Vague’ movement and many of these films were showing in theatres throughout Central Paris.

I was obsessed with the world of Beineix (Betty Blue, 37.2 Le Matin); Besson (Le Dernier Combat, Le Grand Bleu and DIVA) and Carax (Les Amants du Pont Neuf) – so much so that I hunted Beineix down and interviewed him about my favourite film of all time, Betty Blue. I also visited where Betty Blue was filmed and considered buying and living in one of the ‘baraques’ where Zorg and Betty lived. It never happened. Fortunately, I didn’t poke my eye out like Betty did!

The cinematic experience has always allowed me to drift off into a world of my own, as if I was having a Mr Benn moment, launching my designer boots into the screen and actually feeling, touching and tasting the actors’ temporary reality. I was desperate to get an MA place at The British Film Institute (BFI) where eight places are awarded, annually. Whilst they said my written skills were up to scratch, most of the applicants had years of experience as Directors or Producers. This didn’t happen either. I was gutted for weeks.

Almost 25 years later, I still love the cinema and it is actually a weekly outing for me. I like to go on my own, ironically; I can’t digest the film properly if I am talking to other people. But I never feel alone during a film, or lonely. I feel safe sitting in an awkwardly familiar fake-velour chair, in complete darkness, wrapped up in my pashmina. As I read this back, it makes me sound like such a sad bastard, but actually I am quite happy with my own Mr Benn-style existence. Mr Benn also has excellent taste in hats.

The reason I refer to loneliness or feeling alone though is because of the film I saw this evening: American Sniper with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood. To his fellow Navy SEALS and Snipers, Chris Kyle was a true legend. He felt he belonged within his Unit. He felt he had a life purpose. Yet every time he returned to his wife and family (and Sienna is beautifully cast, as a brunette and somewhat bulked up (the chemistry between them is great) he felt alone and couldn’t connect with the outside world. And this is not an experience only felt by veterans.

So many people suffer in their own perimeters, whether it be from depression, loneliness, illness, fear and also in the increasingly solitary existence that we lead… “Metro, boulot, dodo” (“Tube, work, bed”) as the French so aptly say. We spend time actually talking to ourselves on social media and are constantly attached to our phones, Ipads and Kindles. We are all Lone Wolf Packs, to quote another, quite different type of film, The Hangover. Remote feeling and experiencing will get worse as we progress to the 2020’s and 30’s I believe, but films and books can always comfort us, wherever we are.

I spend a lot of time on my own. I rarely feel lonely per se. I feel alone but not lonely, if that makes sense. I can actually feel more lonely in a crowded room than on my own. I also know what it feels like to be in a relationship and to be alone. When your partner is with you in body but not in person. This is a very lonely place to be and one that Sienna Miller portrays so wonderfully on screen.

So what is the point of my blog? Well apart from the fact that leaving the cinema always inspires me to write, I think what I am trying to express is that feeling isolated, without connection or alone comes in many guises. Just look at the tragedy of Robin Williams… a smile can mask a thousand demons. I enjoy being on my own – possibly too much (which is partly why I am not married) but I know many people who can’t stand the silence or bear to be on their own for a few hours let alone a weekend or longer.

So for my part I am indebted to the hundreds or even thousands of book authors and film directors and producers that have made me feel connected with their world, whilst still keeping me in the realms of my own happy kind of Lone Wolf Pack. From Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier to Lord Archer and John Green… to Malcolm Gladwell and Dr Wayne Dyer to Lesley Kenton and Roald Dahl – all these authors (and many more) have illuminated my Yellow Brick Road. And to the directors and producers too – many of whom are fellow loners who use their solace to help share the insides of their minds with the outside world. And for all of this we should all be eternally grateful. If C. S. Lewis were alive today, I am sure he might amend his famous quote to “We read and watch films to know we are not alone”. Amen.

Valentine’s – 50 Shades of Doomsday

sally

We all know it is coming… by the end of January each year, retail morphs into 50 hues of red and pink and men starting sweating each time they cross the family threshold, for fear of being asked “So what are you getting me for Valentine’s Day?” or “Where are we going on Valentine’s Day?”. And to top it all off, this year, we have the premier of ‘50 Shades’ the movie to rattle our S&M cages. I’ll bring the handcuffs, fear not, dear readers.

Most men hate Valentine’s Day (unless they are proposing and need a jolly good old backdrop) and I can understand why. It just means pressure not pleasure. And they usually come up with the goods as a way of keeping the peace or so that they get to see and touch some nice undies by midnight. Oh, cynical me, but it is true. Putting so much pressure on the boys is enough to generate 14th Feb erectile dysfunction, on a global scale.

Back in the day, when I was a school kid wearing white knee high socks, my late mother would always send me a Valentine’s Day card, just in case I didn’t get any. Bless her, I always knew which one was from her, not only because of the handwriting but also because of the postcode. If she had gone to Aberystwyth I might not have guessed. But alas, the postcode was always London NW something and usually smelled of her perfume. Bless all mums the world over.

But anticipation was all, back then. Getting a text or Whatsapp message is just not the same as getting a card in the post, or anonymous flowers from a mystery admirer. The mystery of romance seems to have dwindled altogether in 2015 – I wonder how Tinder members celebrate this auspicious date? Two hook-ups in a night? Mystery and anticipation are two of the key factors in seduction and romance. Even Mr Grey knows this.

I actually hate Valentine’s Day and would always opt for staying at home eating some great steak (not Rump) and then having some even greater ‘rumpy pumpy’ both before and after food. Greedy, me… The thought of being crammed into a tiny restaurant with a single sad red rose donning each table, paying exorbitant prices and eating a heart-shaped chocolate fondant for pudding almost sends me over the edge.

And whilst you might shout ‘Oh bitter, twisted Leslau’, I am speaking up for the boys here – just because women can be so bloody demanding and annoying. A man having his hand forced to make any type of gesture or shower of affection is not a genuine demonstration of love. A man will do what he wants to do (eventually) and will end up resenting you, either sooner or later.

One of the most romantic gestures a man ever displayed was showing up at my doorstep, single rose in hand, picked from a garden and sporting a sexy public schoolboy smile (wearing clothes, not naked)! A man will always show you (for better or worse) how he feels about you through what he does, 100 times over what he says. Talk is cheap and actions that are spontaneous and natural should be the most cherished and loving of all: those that come from the heart, in the truest sense of the words.

The irony is that women also love men to show us this genuine, more spontaneous side to their personality. The money spent on us doesn’t make us weak at the knees – it is the Flash Mob in Grand Central Station (‘Friends with Benefits’) or the non-sensical soliloquy (‘When Harry Met Sally’) that really gets us going, commercialism aside. But men are all too often scared of being rejected to do these things for fear that all we women want is ‘The Valentine’s Day Dream Boat’.   

And now onto the boys… bottom line girls (excuse the pun) what most men really want for Valentine’s Day is you for starters, main course and pudding, à la When Harry Met Sally. And you can be served à la mode, on top or with or without dressing. Who needs 50 shades of anything and they also don’t care if you fake it! Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

‘We need to talk…’ BT (British Telecom) vs BT (Before Technology)

maureenlipman

As a linguist (and not a cunning one) I have always been fascinated by language and emotional intelligence. Both are interlinked even though we may not realise it. Language: in its ability to harm, heal and tell you everything you need to know about a person or culture and emotional intelligence in relation to all manner of interpersonal and professional relationships. I have named this blog ‘We need to talk’ because you know as soon as someone says that to you, a bombshell is about to drop from the sky. Right on your barnet before you hit the family size tub of Ben & Jerry’s or a kilo bar of Dairy Milk. But as human beings, we DO need to talk. And a lot more. BT got it right in their ads with Maureen Lipman and her grandson’s ‘ologies’ and those were BT (Before Technology).

From the way Eskimos describe snow and how Spaniards use food and mother references to offend to NLP training and how to master and ‘manipulate’ the spoken word, language is the most powerful and beautiful tool in the world. But we humans, the most advance of all beings (except for Daleks, of course) too often forget its power. Unlike our predecessors who used the power of the word to bring us literary delights that formed and moulded our very being, BT (Before Technology).

A situation happened with a client this week: a long-standing issue for a client that hadn’t been settled by law or technology. So I got involved and spoke to the third party in question. Within minutes if not hours, this particular situation was one step further towards resolution than it had been in two years – due to one polite and, dare I boldly say, intelligent email plus a planned telephone call.

Whilst we hide behind social media accounts and email, our ability to communicate becomes anti-social, if anything. A goldfish bowl attention spans filters into our living and breathing world, so much so, that we lose touch with our greatest gift. K.I.S.S. as one of my other client always says: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Just pick up the phone.

Not all PR’s love to write but I do. I love to read as much as I love to write but over the years, as technology hurls us forward into the unknown, I would much prefer to have a telephone conversation with someone first and then follow up with one or two simple emails. I used to hate the phone and never answered it unless it was for work – phone = work in my PR world. And then the world changed. I now enjoy speaking on the phone most of the time before I slump back into my loner, ‘bah humbug’ ways.

Listening to someone’s voice also brings a different level into any form of interpersonal relationship. Yet even when we do talk, do we actually listen? When listening to a foreign language by phone, we only pick up about 55% of words, which is why it is sometimes hard to understand. But many people are never present or listening at all, regardless of whether they are speaking in Mother Tongue or A N Other language (by phone or otherwise). It all gets rather complicated.

When you listen to what someone says, coupled with their body language, it will tell you everything you need to know about them. If they use the words ‘that looks great’ a lot, you know they are visual people; if they say ‘that sounds great’ you know they are auditory souls. If they cover their mouth while you speak you can pretty much assume they don’t want to answer, don’t believe what you are saying or have something to hide (unless you have a halitosis problem). Most body language is involuntary so should never be underestimated.

If we shout at someone, there is a higher probability that someone will shout back at us, as if under attack. In the same way that when animals sense fear, they attack, we too use our voices, words and, with the advent of technology, capital letters and exclamation marks, to both attack and defend. In relation to animals I often test this theory with ‘vicious’ dogs – I ‘speak’ to them in a very loving way (and tone of voice) and see how their posture changes.

When trying to fathom Mars and Venus distinctions and manage personal relationships, don’t ask me about the latter. I have a filthy temper on me when it comes to men and arguments (only if I care about them) but as I can no longer shout, post-Cancer, I have to take my emotional intelligence to new highs (or just punch their lights out and end up with a criminal record – does jail do Gluten-Free meals?). The key is always language. Not always shouting, just words, the most powerful weapon of them all. But never be too controlled, get it out and don’t fester (note the use of exclamation marks here)!!

At work, the angrier I get (when I allow things to get to me) the more polite I become, just because I can’t lose my rag with a client or a journalist or third party – I always try and be reasonable and the work world is very small. If I ever start a sentence “With the greatest of respect…” you know my blood is boiling. The more I dislike someone or I know they are false, a wanker or a liar (and I can always sniff out a liar, so much so I discovered someone living under an alias, LOL), the more polite I am. It is fun to watch me in action, I can assure you. It stems from my late father teaching me “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”. I know it is one of the all-time favourite Godfather lines but never a truer word was spoken – and he did actually say it!

This particular phrase takes me right back to where this blog started, to the client situation. I told my client to keep enemies closer and all that. Confuse them. Be nice to them. I was extra nice on their behalf and it appears to be working. And the root of this power? The spoken word, always. Am I evil? Probably. But don’t tell anyone (on email, text, in person or on Whatsapp!). Definitely not on the phone!

Enigma Vs Enigma

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Now that I am back in the office post-hysterectomy, for my first blog of 2015 I wanted to talk about the film ‘The Imitation Game’ and why it has entered my top 20 film list of all time. It is an exceptional piece of cinematography.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than a bit of maths, a bit of history and a bit of code-breaking. For me personally, as my late father was a self-appointed code-breaker (sic The Holbein Conjecture), the theme of the story was fascinating. On the historical side, I had never heard of Alan Turing during my turgid history lessons, simply learning dates and battles off by heart.

What I didn’t realise was that Alan Turing’s ‘Christopher’ code breaker was the sole reason we won the War and the sole reason I am here writing this blog. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance was so outstanding and believable, I didn’t know when to stop holding my breath for the duration of the film.  

Alan Turing was a lauded mathematician and sufferer of Asperger’s Syndrome (unrecognised at the time), a loner, a gay man living in a homophobic world where being a homosexual was a crime and worthy of time in prison. His genius and unstoppable passion led him to break the German’s ‘Omega’ code during World War II, through the creation of a code-breaking machine called ‘Christopher’ – the first computer of all time (‘The Turing Machine’).

For 50 years, no one was allowed to speak of Turing’s mind blowing impact on the modern world as we know it and, after the War, in 1952, he was medically castrated (rather than serve time) when outed as a gay man living in the UK. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II apologised to Turing, posthumously, for how he was treated, following on from an apology by PM Gordon Brown back in 2009. The same man who prevented 14 million deaths and reduced the duration of the War by two years. Alan Turing killed himself in 1954, during the 2nd year of his medical castration.

What I can’t get my head around is how the West and in particular the British powers that be could be so pig headed and arrogant to mislead us in relation to our heritage. I am sure many more children would favour history as a subject if they learnt about ‘Christopher’ and how he changed the world. You will note I refer to Christopher here as a ‘he’. I do so in respect of the late great Alan Turing who deemed Christopher his friend and someone who would not leave or hurt him.

Secondly, during the Second World War, the Nazis used chemical castration as a form of experimental torture on Jews and other people destined for the Concentration Camps. Yet in the 1950’s the UK used this as a way of ‘managing’ a gay population and as an approved alternative to prison for gay men. Someone please explain.

Approximately 49,000 people were sent to prison during this time for being gay yet homosexual activity has always been prolific within the Church, the Establishment and the notoriety of Public School. Bottom line, I am reeling from the hypocrisy, the insult and the ignorance of less than Great Britain. The one man who changed the face of the modern world, whose ground breaking invention, on a par with Alexander Graham Bell, Da Vinci, Steve Jobs and Einstein, killed himself with cyanide. He didn’t need the Nazis to kill him. The British did.   

This film is so extraordinary, even Keira Knightley, most surprisingly, steps up in her role of Joan Clarke. I can’t stop thinking about what it must have been like living during WWII. I doubt anyone reading this blog can imagine either: the fear from ongoing air raids, the camaraderie, the lack of food, the loss and then the gain when the Germans surrendered.

My only critique of the film is that I would have liked to better understand Alan Turing’s childhood from a family perspective – perhaps his living relatives didn’t want this to form part of the historical legacy. And also the title. The Imitation Game – use of the word Enigma might have been appropriate, given the Enigma Code and the Enigma that was the one and only Alan Turing. May his soul rest in peace. Thank you Alan for the gift of peace you gave us. If only some of the world’s terrorists could learn one iota of your tenacity, passion and desire to make the world a better place. For future peace we will need far more than a code-breaking Christopher. And this breaks my little old heart.

Miranda The Mermaid’s (AKA Fishtail’s) Fishy Tale

mirandahaseverything

It is a very poignant and reflective time for Fishtail, AKA Miranda The Mermaid. Tomorrow is the 10th Anniversary of my Dad’s death and on 29th of this month this Piscean’s womb is being removed. On the flip side, on January 1st 2015, miranda leslau pr is 15: ‘15 in 15’. All are milestones in the circle of (my) life; beginnings, ends and next chapters.

I have always had problems with my womb, possibly linked to having been sexually abused and raped as a young girl (shock horror, to reveal such things, B(l)OG off, people). I should have had a hysterectomy a long time ago but I held out… hopeful that my time would come. It didn’t and ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ effect kicked in.

Now, after having Cancer this year, I can’t freeze my eggs (post-iodine chemo) and womb removal is the only option. My freedom and choice have been taken away from me. And I am big on freedom and choice, hence why I have worked for myself for the last 15 years. I am not very good at following rules.

Many people are asking me how I feel… I always wanted a big family, a husband and to be a mum to lots of children. I guess it is the antithesis to the life I had. I had a fantasy in my head of a big house, with me baking bread and tendering an organic vegetable garden. This never happened, sadly. Some may say we create our own destiny. In this case, I hope not. I had reality to deal with.  

Yes I can adopt but I won’t do it on my own. Yes, I will have a better of quality of life post-op and yes, my destiny wasn’t to carry a child, full-term. But, my fundamental life force still feels like I have missed out in some way. I don’t have a legacy or a DNA reflection of who I am and what I have to share with another little person and the Universe.

Of course, whilst rushing around (as we all do) chasing my (fish)tail during my 20’s and 30’s, I never considered where I would or could be today, in 2014. But as I approach 45 and having been through the year from hell, I find myself crying at the sight of a cute baby smiling at me. I never thought I would be emotional about not being able to have a baby. I am angry, with myself mainly. But this won’t change anything.

I wasn’t scared about Cancer (other than never seeing my dogs again) and very little frightens me about Life or Death but this experience hanging over my head (and tail) does scare me. It takes me into an unknown, vulnerable space: the maternal female energy that makes us human(e). And I am also reminded of the Legacy of my vocal cord and airway damage, being deemed ‘high risk’ as a patient on the operating table. I would scream but I physically can’t.

And whilst I roll my eyes when some ‘smug’ parents (homage to Bridget Jones, here) tell me I will never feel fulfilled or worthy unless I have a child and that I have no responsibility without a husband or children, they seem to forget that my offspring are simply different: mine have four legs and are called miranda leslau pr’s clients.

My challenge lies in the unknown, out of my control. I don’t know how I am going to feel, either physically or emotionally. I could potentially drive myself mad in the process. So I stop. I look at up the glorious sunshine and give thanks for what I have, not what I don’t have. My legacy is what my Dad (and Mum) taught me, as well as how I have helped 100’s if not 1000’s of other people’s lives and businesses. I also saved two rescue dogs’ lives. I am alive, I am Cancer-free.

So why does any of this matter? Well, I guess my tale is simply an umbilical cord shaded alert to each and every one of us. Don’t wait to do things. Life sometimes lays paving stones for us, the shape of which is out of our due control. However, our control does lie in where and how we choose to tread as well as the shoes we wear. In my case, the shoes are high-heeled black patent stilettoes. I’ll start off with Hopscotch and break into a mean disco repertoire with a few of MJ’s ‘Thriller’ dance moves, leading me right up to the sandy shore. I’ll then take off my shoes, affix my pink Mermaid’s tail and return to my Creator for the next Chapter in this Fishtail’s tale.