Saturday, December 31, 2005

England: A Retrospective

Well, it's been a long time coming, but here I am on this final day of 2005, finally ready to regale you all with the tales of my recent, fabulous trip to my home away from home, the United Kingdom. Brace yourself... it's gonna be long. Sickeningly long. In fact, I think I'd do well to get it all finished by the end of the year (*chuckle*) but I do hope to watch the ball drop so that will be my incentive to hurry it up. Away we go!

During the first few nights I was there, for some reason, I didn't take any photos so you'll just have to rely on my vivid descriptions. The first night I went to a Christmas dinner with Micki and some friends from her old work at a restaurant in Marlow called Pachangas.

Like I said, no pictures. But just try to imagine Micki and me inside a Mexican restaurant drinking "Cancun Coolers" with her old work friends (with one of them yelling "Get your kit off!" to a Birthday group at a nearby table) and you've pretty much got the night sussed.

The next night, Fliss and I went to nearby Maidenhead (which for those not in-the-know, is the name of the town not a bar) with, oddly enough, an old work friend of hers. I did get a picture from this night but sans flash, so it didn't come out. I was promised pics from the friend's boyfriend's camera, but I haven't got it so again, use your imaginations. I had a hat on if that helps.

Am I boring you yet?

The following night, a Thursday, I met up with "the lads" at the Horse & Jockey Pub in Wycombe. Early in the evening I (finally) took my first real photo of the trip, which was this one with Wycombe's own "Glennie":

And no, we're not models. Imagine that.

For some unknown reason, many of us ended up going to this place called The Blue Room (formerly The Orchard or 'Chad). It's good for a sort of "old times sake" laugh, but other than that, it's the sort of place that no one should ever want to go... ever. But what the hell, I started my Wycombe journey there almost 5 years ago so who's to say I'm too good for it now??

Imagine our surprise when we arrive to find that it's a private party (for under 17's) and that we're not allowed in! Hmmph!

A few arguments ensued between expert blagger Summers and his girlfriend (who'd arranged for us to have a reduced cover and stuff -- long story) and lo and behold, within minutes we were in. Yes... in an under 17's party. We actually had to wear wristbands to show that we were old enough to drink! Disgraceful!

Shame on us!

The night also brought about quite possibly the most unflattering picture of me ever taken, but Mini looks good so what the hell...

I made it home in one piece and I was ready to begin the next day of my holiday.

The following night, I went out with that lot again, this time to a different pub that I don't remember the name of. I'm thinking it was probably The Something Arms or the Queen's Something or the Horse & Something. Most of them are. Anyway, it's unimportant.

That night I got to catch up with Mark Blackwell, whom I hadn't seen since he came and stayed with me during my senior year of college. He and I go way back to my first summer in High Wycombe (2001) when I threw a house party at my boss's house while she was in Florida. That night, he fell backwards down her back garden steps and crashed through the garden fence, splitting his head open. Nice. Thank God he wasn't hurt! That same night yeilded a food fight, several headbutts and a broken eardrum on Richie's part, care of Glennie. Only at my party. But that's a whole other time and place so let's get back to the present!

I forgot my camera on this evening so I unfortunately didn't capture any pics of Blackwell, but for now you can enjoy this one of him from that fateful night, just after "the incident."

When we left, Summers, Whiz, Blackwell and I ended up heading over to a nightclub called Time, an old standard in the town center, and stayed until closing. Nothing too eventful, but a good night all the same!

That Saturday turned out to be quite an eventful day... almost too eventful if you ask me. I'll cut through the boring stuff and bring you right to the goss. Picture this:

Stu and I innocently enjoying our final round of the evening in a central London pub.

Enter a maniac.

This Moroccan guy (or something like that... he was slurring so I couldn't really be sure) comes in, gets a drink, and (lucky us) pulls a chair up and joins us. Yay.

He preceeds to pull out his Blackberry and say (something like) "I'm going to give you the names and addresses of the important people in here. I do it for everybody. Do with it what you will. Further your career, whatever." I had a look and people like "Jake's mum" (whoever that is) weren't really of any interest to me in furthering my career, but whatever.

He then starts telling us about all these restaurants and coffee shops he owns around the world and how rich he is. Apparently he's got a "business meeting" in 10 minutes as well. Oh yeah, and did I mention that he's a world champion martial artist as well?

Anyway, cutting to the chase, out of nowhere he starts to get violent and it looks like he's going to pretty much kill Stu for no reason. I plead with my eyes to the barman to help us. Long story short, the guy gets kicked out but doesn't leave, so Stu and I are scared shitless to leave. I don't really think I'm doing the story justice actually. This guy was an unstable lunatic and the night definitely could have turned out very wrong.

Thank Christ it didn't. You know what though? As I write this I have to wonder where the photos from that day went because I know I took some. Hmm... guess they didn't come out. Oh well. You can just enjoy this one from Stu's visit to America in '04:

Cut to Sunday.

Despite having been completely bolloxed the night before, Fliss managed to get up at a decent hour and prepare a proper full-on Christmas dinner for me, her, Dave, and their friends Adam, Steffan and Lorna. It turned out to be a really great day!

We mostly just drank our faces off (some of us more than others -- Lorna this means you!) and played games around the table. You know that game where everyone has a post-it on their forehead with a name and they have to guess who they are? What the hell is that game called? Anyway, I made Adam, who was sat next to me be Graham Norton. After asking the question "Do I bum men?" he was finally able to guess. Well done him. :-)

It all started innocently enough. I mean, look how cute Dave and I are:

The night ended up getting a little crazy and somehow hats got involved, as evidenced in the following shots:

Not too bad yet.

A Motley Crue if there ever was one.

The leaning tower of Fliss.

Steffan, the completely not gay cowboy.

There was plenty more, but I'll spare you.

Lorna ended up going slightly overboard and projectile vomiting all of Fliss's bathroom which is always good, but I'll spare you the rest of that as well. The day was definitely a success and I look forward to seeing that whole crew again soon!

Steffan, you better call me when you're in New York!

That Monday ended up being another very eventful day! Fliss and I dragged ourselves out of bed and hopped a train into London. We did a quick bit of shopping and then met up with Liam for a drink. He unfortunately had to piss off home but that didn't stop us. Oh no.

We eventually ended up in a Leicester Square bar where we stood wondering why no one was coming up and talking to us (so humble, us). Ultimately we ended up joining up with this group of Army lads who were out for their Christmas "do". They turned out to be HILARIOUS and so much fun, especially Daryl.

Actually, I have no idea if that's how you spell his name. It could be Darrell or Darell. Then again, he's Welsh so it could also be Daftylgir. We'll just say Daryl even though that's almost certainly not it.

I'll spare you the pics of Daftylgir pole dancing, but you can enjoy these:

And here's me with cute Pete.

He was cute.

Then there was this barrell of fun (whom I think was called John but to be honest I can't remember):

This shirt became tragically untrue fairly early on.

Daryl gave me his number which accidentally on purpose had one too many digits so I was never able to get in touch with him again, which was a shame because he really did make me laugh out loud the entire evening. And the terrible thing is I can't even put his full name (nor the spelling of his first name) here so he can Google himself and find me so we can all reunite (you know, in case the phone number thing really was an oversight) ;-) A shame. Another successful night though. It would have gone on much longer but unfortunately the last train back to Wycombe is at a stupidly early hour. Damn you UK National Rail!

This post is getting sickeningly long and I still have LOADS to write, so I'll cut through Tuesday and Wednesday (which really only included more shopping, a quick checking of emails and more projectile vomiting, this time on the part of Fliss). Nice.

On Thursday, Micki and I met up again to have dinner at one of our favourite places, an Italian chain restaurant called Zizi's in Beaconsfield. It was just a shame that Zizi's was packed and we'd have had to wait 2 and a half hours to get seated. As the English would say, sod that.

We headed around the corner to a quaint little Chinese restaurant. Just as we sat down, we looked over and saw Micki's in-laws sitting across from us. Naturally, they joined us, much to Micki's dismay.

Well, and my dismay once her mother-in-law ever so politely implied that I was a hopeless drunk, but that's neither here nor there. I took it with a smile. I also took it with a smile when she accidentally on purpose threw her little Christmas Cracker toy and narrowly missed my eye... but whatever. It's cool. Karma and all that. :-)

Friday was the day that the projectile vomiting a la Fliss actually occurred so we didn't do much, but I didn't mind. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and chill out! Actually, we did go over to Sunrise Spa in Marlow to get the infamous spray tans done (my second of that trip) so that's always fun. You'll reap the benefits of mine in later photos. It gets pretty ridiculous.

Anyway, that night I sadly bid adieu to Fliss and Dave who were phenomenal hosts to me during the previous two weeks (thanks again guys!!) and headed over to Micki and Jay's for my final night in Wycombe. We had a fancy dress (costumes, for the Americans) Christmas party at the football club with the lads.

Before we left, Micki and Jay and I posed in front of the in-laws Christmas tree for this far-too-grainy photo that I like to call

Marnie "Barely a costume" Farlow poses with Jay "Chav Elf" Richford and Micki "What are you supposed to be" Richford Under the Tree

That was a great night as well. Super cheap drinks for one thing, added to the fact that I could finally catch up with everyone that I hadn't seen in the previous two weeks. Everyone looked really great in their costumes (barring Olney, Newelly, and Jonny who are asshats who didn't wear them... no offence of course) ;-)

Richie went as Noel Edmonds (I don't know either) and it was absolutely hilarious. You don't even have to know who he is to know that it was a great costume, as evidenced by this photo:

This board game was given out as a prize in the raffle... that is, before a drunken Mini kicked it across the room. Luckily this pic was taken before the damage had been done!

Liam came as Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Not Christmas themed (he "fancied the wig and thought 'fuck it'") but it's okay because it had me in tears most of the night.

Liam Does Liam.

I wish I'd gotten a full view shot of Matt Solomon who went as Noddy the Elf because the shoes were to die for, but this one will have to do:

The real thing:

I once again reunited with my 2003 trip hosts Andy and Glennie for this festive shot:

With Priesty, without whom none of these photos would be possible:

Tom, one of "Three French Hens" kept getting trying to trick me into eating meat, but I took this picture with him anyway:

Posing with Jonny "Bah Humbug, I'm not wearing a costume" Miller:

Unfortunately I took this after James wiped his white lipstick beard off:

As anyone could have guessed, we ended up at the Blue Room again (oh, how I hate that it's called that now...) where I was lucky enough to have my picture taken with Noel Edmonds:

Even Jesus turned up:

Mini's costume, while extremely politically incorrect, was very funny! I wish I'd gotten a picture of the back which said "Of Nazareth" and had a jersey-style number. Classic Mini! The only thing I wondered was why Mini's version of Jesus had a Jheri curl. *Shrug*

I sadly ended the night by bidding everyone adieu, as I was heading to London the next day to begin the second leg of my 3-and-a-half week trip. Micki and Jay (who quite smartly refused to step foot into the Blue Room) were kind enough to wait up for me and open the gate so I could get in, so I didn't have to sleep on the street. Always good!

The next day, we just kind of chilled out. We went and got a pub lunch where Jay accidentally ordered regular lasagnes for us instead of vegetarian ones. At least three of the waitstaff felt the need to remind us that "you didn't ask for the vegetarian one!" no less than 5 times which was so unneccessary! Jay let them have it on the comment card though, so we had the last laugh. Well, sort of since, we didn't end up knowing where to put the comment card. Ha. I guess they had the last laugh after all. Or at least they will when Jay and Micki go back there and they spit in their food!

I was meeting up with Matt that evening so they dropped me at the train station so I could head into London and we said our goodbyes. I HATE goodbyes!! Rushed ones are almost better than long drawn-out ones though because it leaves less room for sadness. And thus began the second leg of my journey. Goodbye Wycombe!

When I got to London, I headed straight to my hotel in Bayswater where I hurredly got dressed and headed off to meet Matt. Typically, but through no fault of my own, it didn't go smoothly and I was late, but we got there in the end, which is really all that matters.

We started our evening at a little Italian place where we caught up and did a little pre-gaming with a bottle of wine. Matt is one of those people in my life that even if I haven't seen him in say, two and a half years, it feels like I'd seen him the week before. That's the best way to be if you ask me.

We then headed to a few central London bars where we caught up some more, drank some more, and had a really nice time. Of course, it would have been better had the heel of my expensive boot not randomly snapped while I was doing little more than standing still, but oh well. At least it didn't come completely off and I was able to complete the evening okay.

Despite the new 24-hour drinking law that's been passed in England, we ended up having a little trouble finding a place to drink after 2am. Everywhere seemed to be closed except for this big Latin place near Covent Garden (I think). We were lucky enough to find a booth to sit in (you know, with my broken shoe and all) and we contined drinking and chatting, the things we do best.

We were able to snap a few pictures, none of which captured Matt smiling but oh well. Here's two of them for you to enjoy. Ignore my weird looking arm in the one pic. That's what happens when you have to take pictures of yourself!:

My company must be so stimulating!

We ended up catching an illegal mini-cab back to my hotel... sort of. The guy didn't really know where the hotel was, so we had to kind of get out in the general area and walk from there. I had to break down and take the shoes off and walk barefoot for fear of twisting my ankle and my feet were freezing, but at least it was helping to sober us up. Or so I thought.

Back in the room, I passed out within minutes and woke up the next day with a doozy of a hangover, only the second in my life. I don't know what it is with me, but I only seem to get hangovers when I've got to travel somewhere and it's really going to negatively affect my life. Last year it happened on the day of my Luton Airport debacle, the day after Morrissey's Earl's Court afterparty. This year I had a 4 hour trip to Manchester ahead of me to meet up with Paul and Duran Duran. Nice! (Hahaha... but I have to admit, hangover or not, reading that sentence back reminds that I do have a pretty cool life).

Anyway, Saint that he is, Matt patiently waited for me to pack up my crap and try numerous times to be sick (to no avail) and helped me with my bags for which I am eternally grateful. Everyone should have someone that they know so well that they don't even care when that person is seeing them look like absolute hell. Love it.

Thanks Matt. :-)

I did say that Saturday started the second leg of my journey in that I was leaving High Wycombe for the final time, but in actuality, Sunday was the true beginning of the (amazing) second half of the trip. In fact, I think this part of the trip deserves it's own post, so that's what I'm going to do!

A Duran is a Duran is a Duran...

Picking up where I left off, I made the 4 hour journey to Manchester feeling horrible and wishing myself dead. Of course when I arrived at the hotel (the super nice Radisson Edwardian) I walked into the lobby and immediately saw Simon Le Bon standing there. Being the mature gal that I am, I actually hid from him so he wouldn't see me looking so rough. It's only fair seeing as, unlike Matt, he's only used to seeing me looking lovely (insert tongue firmly in cheek for that one).

Imagine my surprise when Paul informs me that I'll be putting my bags into the room and turning straight back around to go and watch the Chelsea v Arsenal football match.

"But I need a shower!" I plead, "Can't I meet you?"

"No, we're watching it in Simon's suite."

"Ahhhhhhhh!! F***!!!!"

Suffice it to say I never got ready so fast in my life. Five minutes to go from hungover and CRAPPY to cute but not overdone. Didn't want to reek of "tried to hard" you know? :-)

When we got to Simon's room he answered the door and was as friendly as I've ever seen him with the "Lovely to see you again!" and all that. John Taylor was there too, as well as two girls Chloe and... I forget the other one. Sorry, other one. The girls didn't stay very long because they had to get ready for the concert so pretty soon it was just me, Paul, Simon and John. So freaking surreal.

I mean, I've met the guys plenty of times before but there's just a bit of a difference between being at a gig afterparty with someone and actually just hanging out in a casual situation in their room, watching football. Am I right? I'm not going to lie and say that I wasn't secretly freaking out, but I'm far too cool to show it. :-)

One of the first things the guys were talking about was how they were recently looking into the "accounting" regarding Notorious B.I.G's sampling of their song Notorious a few years ago. Simon was actually hilarious about Biggie in general, saying:

"His lyrics are rubbish! He's actually got a lyric that says (rapping) 'When I'm done I flip the mattress and change the sheet.' What I want to know is, what is the time frame of this? Is it a few minutes? An hour? The next day? When?"

He then proceeded to make up his own lyrics to the song and said "I just made that up just now. That was pretty good!" and laughed at himself. Brilliant.

Another funny Simon moment came during the match when he said "Arsenal has a thing for the Dutch. They have a lot of Dutch players."

John challenged him with "Who?" and the conversation continued like this:

Simon: "Well, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Robben"

John: "Robben's Chelsea"

S: "No he isn't"

J: "Yes he is! He's right there, look!"

S: (pauses) "Oh... well... he's Dutch anyway! HA!!!"

My favourite moment of the day though, was sitting there and hearing Simon from behind me say "Marnie. Your hair is lovely!"

When I said thank you he said "No really, from the back! The way it is.. turn around, turn around! Look at it! The way it is, isn't it lovely?"

Is it sad that that was like a total life highlight for me? Yes, yes it is. All I can say is I'm glad I didn't get the haircut I was planning before this trip or else it may never have happened. I'm such a Duran tard. :-)

When the room service came, all Simon could do was marvel (or complain really) at how ridiculously creamy the soup was. He asked if I wanted any and I explained that I was hungover and that cream soup perhaps wasn't the best thing for me. He smiled and said "Oh... well do you want a bit of the drinky then?" :-)

I had a few interactions with John as well, which was nice because I always thought he was kind of aloof. On this trip he became one of my favourites. He was really personable and lovely. I was talking about going to a football match live and wondering how all 40,000 people know exactly what to chant at exactly the same time. John informed me that "It's not 40,000... it's 30. They're just REALLY loud." :-)

We were in there for quite a while so there's so much more. Chats about the setlist, Simon talking about how the aforementioned Chloe "makes him go all gooey" or how he was excited to see his "lovely wife" later that night. Or how every time he would get up he'd wink at me and hit my knee. You know, cool stuff like that... but I'll spare you any further details. I would have scrimped on all those details above, but this blog is sort of like a diary for me too, and these are the things I want to remember. Sue me. :-)

Obviously I don't have any pictures of any of this, but should anyone doubt the authenticity of these events, get in touch so I can give you Paul's contact details. He'll set you straight. :-)

After we left, Paul and I went and got some pizza and then quickly rushed to get ready for that night's show at the MEN Arena. We met Simon and John in the lobby at 7:15 and drove over to the arena together. That again lead to yet another moment that falls under probably the "Top 3 Most Surreal" of my life.

As we were pulling into the backstage area, John and Simon in the first car and Paul and I in the second, a huge group of insane girls starting jumping at the car and banging on the windows, screaming at the top of their lungs! I guess through the tinted windows I must have looked like Nick. :-) I have to admit it was pretty cool though. I felt like I was reliving Sing Blue Silver (you Duranies will know what I mean). I did say to Paul that having your car banged on by insane fans was something everyone should live through at least once.

I then got to meet Paul's parents, aunt, and brother, all of whom were absolutely lovely. It was an utter pleasure! I somehow doubt they'll be reading this, but perhaps you can pass the sentiment on, Paul. :-)

Once inside the venue we met up with two of Paul's friends with whom I took this funny picture:

At the last moment, I looked up at Christian for whatever reason and this photo was born.

The show itself, needless to say, was fantastic...

There's something to be said about watching a show knowing that you were totally just hanging out with two-fifths of the band only a few hours before. Hot. It was also great looking over at Paul's 80-year-old aunt, watching her bob her head along to the music. Classic!

After the show, we had a few drinks in the hotel bar before and hung out with John a little more. He normally doesn't come out after the shows too much because he doesn't drink but he said he was looking for a "little social intercourse". Again, I was just loving standing there with him while all the fans watched longingly. Sounds terrible, but I was on the outside looking in for so long that I think I deserve to feel that way! :-)

While we were there, Paul took this less-than-stunning pic of me with Al, of Duran security fame, and a fan named Stacy:

I think I at least owe it to Al to say that this is a wholly unflattering picture of him and that he's really far more attractive than this picture would have one believe. Sorry, Al!

After John had enough of the "social intercourse" and went back up to his room, we all headed to the Manchester Press Club, a completely unexplainable little "Members Only" place that kind of reminds you of a run-down reception hall in North Philly. Think La Salle University "bus party". (Those of you who know what that is will certainly be getting a mental image at this moment).
I'm glad I got to experience this place, but for God's sake, the stench stays with you for weeks!

After about 2 drinks we headed back to the hotel bar to find that it was closed. We also found another Al, known in the Duran community as "Cell Phone Al" (long story -- you can probably Google it) passed out, mouth agape on a chair at the bar. All of the fans were around him taking compromising pictures with him that no-doubt found their home on the web somewhere by the next day. Paul was lucky enough to capture this gem:

Sorry Al, but it had to be done!

The Next Day, Paul, Cell Phone Al and a friend of his all went to The Dutch Pancake House, which Paul had been raving about for months. I really enjoyed my pancake (which was more a crepe really) but for the fact that it came with a shot of some over-the-top liquor that I really shouldn't have poured over it. I almost felt a little tipsy afterwards!! After that, Al and friend went on their merry way, and Paul very kindly showed me around Manchester (his home town) which I have say is truly a lovely city. I've never really seen a city combine the old and the new in quite such a way and it really "works". It's really kind of hard to explain if you haven't been, but should you find yourself in England (or you live there, as many of you reading this do) then it's worth a trip! We even got my boot fixed so that I could wear it to the Coldplay show that evening!!

When we arrived at the Coldplay show, we went to the window, got our passes, and coincidentally met up with two more of Paul's friends Lisa and Andy who were both SO nice! Lisa had me laughing out loud for much of the evening. I have to say, Paul certainly surrounds himself with fantastic groups of people. Definitely something to be said for that. :-) (And no, I'm not referring to myself! I'm not THAT bad!).

Before the show, Paul snapped this shot of me and Lisa. Remember that spray tan I was telling you about? Well...

"Jaundice is the new black"

Note how much more normal Paul looks next to her:

Richard Ashcroft opened the show and Paul got this good shot:

Coldplay came on and were absolutely amazing...

Although I suppose some would disagree...

This guy was actually asleep at the show. It was truly a classic moment!

After the show, we headed back to the Friends and Family room backstage with the lovely Debs, a friend of Paul's. Oh yeah, and she happened to discover Coldplay too. I'm sure there are millions of people out there out there who'd like to give her a hug!

Like say, Lisa:

Paul was lucky enough to score this autographed program before the band hurried off...

Hopefully he holds onto it. I'll be watching out on Ebay, Paul!

Lisa spent most of the time backstage opening beers for people in assembly-line fashion. She's going to make some man very happy one day!

After that, we headed back to enjoy the veritable cornucopia of aromas that awaited us at, you guessed it, the Manchester Press Club.

When we couldn't take the scent any longer, we parted ways with Lisa and Andy, and Paul and I headed to the kebab shop. Just as we were nearing the door, we noticed a man coming from the other direction with no shoes and... no pants. He headed into the kebab shop too, where he waited in line for a minute or so. I think the flurry of "Where's your trousers, mate?" got to be too much for him and because he headed off before ordering. I wonder where that guy is now.

Either way, it seemed a perfect way to end the evening.

The next day, there were no shows or anything and I headed back to London while Paul stayed in Manchester to catch Little Britain Live at the MEN. John and Andy left for London that day as well, while the rest of the band had all left the night before. When I got back to London I checked into the hotel, walked around the area (Trafalgar Square) and went down to Oxford St. for some last minute shopping. Then I came home, had a bath in the gigantic hotel tub, watched TV (including Creature Comforts which, in my opinion, is one of the best shows ever) and went to bed. I can't tell you how nice it was to do that!!!

On Wednesday, I just did my own thing around London. I did a little more shopping and I made a few returns on some impulse buys that I'd got the night before. Then I got a sandwich and went and ate it on a bench in Hyde Park. The birds probably ended up eating most of it actually. It was really nice. It wasn't that sunny of a day or anything, but it wasn't raining and it wasn't even all that cold. It was just a really nice day.

Paul was taking a train from Manchester that day and his train was delayed after someone committed suicide by jumping onto the tracks. By the time he got to the hotel he pretty much had to head straight out to the venue. I hung out in the room for a little longer before getting ready and heading out. I actually wore legwarmers that night. I'm so trendy and glamorous. :-)

On my way into the venue I ran into Al (not security Al, but "Cell Phone Al") and we ran and got a few drinks at a nearby pub before heading in. I have to say, I really love Earl's Court. I mean, I know I'm biased because I have some really good memories there with Morrissey and all, but I just really like it and no one else seems to (except Nick Rhodes, which we'll get to later). I don't care what anyone says, it's a cool venue!

Once again, the show was to die for. This time I stood right up front to the side of the stage (like old times, only this time I didn't have to pay) :-) and the guys were as good as ever. Paul snapped a few great shots, including one of the flames during "Wild Boys" (which scared the shit out of most people, even if they were expecting it after previous nights!)

At the afterparty, I met a lot of really nice people. More friends of Paul's who were really nice and, strangely, Monica Lewinsky! Who knew she was a Duran Duran fan? I have to say, she's actually really sweet, and much more attractive in person than she's appeared on television and such. Paul jumped on the photo op:

Wouldn't you??

After a while, I decided to head over to hang out with the kids. That is, Izzy, Andy's Taylor's 11-year old daughter and Elliot, Roger Taylor's 11-year old son, as well as Elliot's friend Zach. They were playing pool and happy to have me join them. They are really sweet and down-to-earth kids. I actually spent the majority of the evening with them and would happily do so again!

Elliot (left) and Zach

After that I snapped a pic with Roger (who is the drummer, for the non-Duranies) and headed over to say hello to Nick for the first time on the trip. He was lovely as always. He's so tiny in person. His daughter, Tatjana was asking him for a 20 pound note and when he said he didn't have it, Paul remarked that he's found that most rock stars never have any money. Tatjana replied with "He always gives me 50 pound notes but never 20 pound notes!" which I thought was odd (yes, I repeated it correctly) but to each his own, I suppose!

Little Drummer Boy

The party was winding down at that point. Simon's throat had been bothering him so he cut out early, and the rest of us were ready to leave as well. In Surreal Moment #4,378, Paul and I left with Nick and Udo or Uri or something, who was Davey the security guard's temporary replacement, . He was nice enough, but he was no Davey. I can't wait until he's back!

I was happy to get the opportunity to have a chat with Nick on the car ride to his house. Having been the love of my life for so many years (this is post-Rod Stewart, of course) I wanted to make sure I did so before the end of the trip. We talked about how we both love Earl's Court (so Boo to the naysayers!) and he asked me how Morrissey was when I saw him there. Then we talked about that night's show, and I mentioned how the flames during Wild Boys scared the shit out of everyone. He laughed and said "It scared the shit out of the girl's. I look out and see all the guys standing there grinning."

I don't really remember much else about that ride other than Nick's leather pants, and thinking that his legs were about as short as mine. I don't know if it's because it was short, or because ultimately I was wrapped up in the fact that I was squashed into a car next to my hero. Like I said, I've met him before, and it's been fantastic, but there's just something different about riding in the car to the house of your very favourite star in history. And you know what? It's f***ing cool. :-)

When we got to Nick's house, Paul commented "Well Marnie, there's Nick's house, but you'll never find it again," to which I responded, "Won't I?"

Paul underestimates me.

But don't worry Nick. I've had my fun. I won't be showing up at your doorstep. :-)

This, of course, is another crucial moment of which I wish I had photographic evidence, but it wasn't really the most opportune thing. I suppose it's just better to savour the memory in my mind forever!

When we got back to the hotel, we had a drink with Wendy Laister, who owns the band's management company, and a friend of hers visiting from France. We didn't stay too long. She mentioned an earlier run-in with Cell Phone Al (whom I have to go on record to say is a very cool guy and while his reputation precedes him, he's a good friend) and we pretty much called it a night.

The next day, which was Thursday, was my last full day in the country. As usual, I headed back to TopShop with some super last minute "what am I going to wear tonight" blues. Sad thing was, I'd practically memorised the inventory on all 4 floors, so I'm not quite sure what I was hoping to find there that I hadn't seen 100 times already on this trip. And for the record, I found nothing.

I got some lunch and then headed back to the hotel where I watched a little Happy Days and did some Sudoku. Again, Paul had to head to the venue early so we didn't go over together. I made plans with Cell Phone Al to meet up at the same pub from the night before and have a few more drinks before the show (makes a change, right?).

So I got ready surprisingly without hassle and wore something that I've owned for ages (actually, a year today since I bought it for last year's New Year's festivities). I threw a gold scarf around the waist to change things up a bit and away I went! All those last minute shopping woes for naught!

After Al and I had our drinks, along with a friend of his, we headed to the venue and... well, continued drinking. We then split up and did our own thing, which for me, meant just wandering around the venue chatting with different people. After the opening act was through, I went and sat in the sound booth and chatted with one of the security guards. He was really nice and we had a decent conversation. It was almost a shame when the band came on and I had to go to my spot at the front of the stage. Almost. :-)

Once again the boys rocked the house. About 5 songs in, the girl who was maniacally dancing next to me somehow managed to kick over about 5 beers that were lined up along the barrier, thus soaking the feet of everyone around her, including me. The puddle that formed was getting ridiculous (especially for me in the satin, open-back flats... yay!) so I decided to backstage and get some towels.

On my way back, I encountered Yasmin Le Bon, who gave me a friendly smile and nod, which I have to admit was cool. I always hear how cold she is but she didn't seem that way at all. She's stunning as well. Even more tall and thin than she looks in photos. Anyway, I eventually brought the towel out and saved the day.

After the show, I headed to the afterparty which was much bigger this time around. No Monica Lewinsky this time, but I did see British socialite and former Nick Rhodes girlfriend (thus, formal mortal enemy of mine) Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Gela Nash, co-creator of Juicy Couture (and John's wife) was there too, and I have to say she looks fantastic, especially for her age. She's actually very tiny in person and, as expected, extremely stylish. There were so many people milling around that I could barely take it all in. I just walked around with my enormous plastic cup of wine (classy bird that I am) and smiled and chatted with people.

At one point, a young girl walked by me and I complimented her on her skirt. She said "Oh thanks! It's a dress actually!" and lifted her shirt to show me, at which point I realised it was Saffron Le Bon, Simon's 14 year old daughter. I got to chatting with her and her friends and they were absolutely adorable... some of the sweetest girls I ever met! Considering their lifestyle, particularly in Saffron's case, you wouldn't think it, but she was an absolute doll and I hope I see her again some day.

While we were chatting, she said of Simon, "He's so embarassing!" which only proves how EVERY 14 year old is embarassed by their dad, no matter who they are! :-)

When we posed together for a picture, and the lady who took it said "Geez! I don't have to give any of you any direction, do I? You just jump right to it!" Here is said photo, with me once again looking extremely fake tanned:

Moi, Saffron, and friends

When it was nearing time to go, I started to make my rounds to say goodbye to the band. I never actually encountered Andy or Roger, but thankfully I was able to see Simon, John, and Nick before I left.

I told John it was lovely watching the football with him and he was like "Oh that was FUN!" Ha. It sure was!

Nick was with Tara P-T and I didn't want to interrupt them too much so I said a quick goodbye with the perfunctory kiss on the cheek. Nick is so, so lovely, but I have to admit that on this trip, Simon and John quickly usurped Nick's position as my favourite... with Simon being slightly ahead. :-)

Speaking of Simon, his was definitely the warmest goodbye and I was really glad I got to see him before I went. He gave me a genuine hug and a kiss on each cheek and said he'd see me next tour. I hope so! Bring Saffron. :-)

On my way out, I ran into Paul Taylor, the band's merch guy who inadvertantly started this entire thing by giving Morgen a pass lo those many months ago. If only he knew. :-) Either way, I was glad to get to say goodbye to him as well!

As I exited, so ended my Duran adventures, but not my England adventures, as that night still held many hours of fun!

After the party, Paul and I headed to the local O'Neill's pub where we met up with some more of his really cool friends, including Ady, a friend whom I've met several times before. I ran into Ady briefly during the show but it's hard to talk when "Friends of Mine" is blaring out of the speakers 2 feet from your head.

We stayed at O'Neill's for a bit and got these shots:

With Nicky and Katie, who were awesome.

Nicky, Paul, and Moi

After that, the lot of us (and there were a lot!) headed over to the exclusive "Soho House" where we stayed until the wee hours of the morning. I spent most of the time there chatting with Mark, a friend of Paul's who not only shares my birthday, but also grew up in High Wycombe. One of those ~spooky~ things, don't you think?

When the lights came up, and we were ushered out, we headed back to the hotel where the bar was closed, much to Paul's dismay. The front desk girl got a slight 'tude with him as well which didn't help matters, but we decided to just suck it up and drink from the mini bar... despite the fact that you could do that or send your child to college one day -- your choice. I was done drinking anyway so it didn't much matter to me!

Up in the room, Nicky and Katie (but mostly Nicky) insisted on dancing to "Wham Rap" (yes, that's Wham... like George Michael Wham... rapping) which she just so happened to have on her Ipod. The still pics don't quite do it justice so I'll just skip them.

Mark then took this photo from a ridiculously unflattering angle, which finished my film for the evening and the trip as a whole.

Sleep then called. We bid our adieus and dispersed accordingly.

The next morning, I got up early so I could make one final return to Top Shop (which I'm sort of regretting because it was a beautiful top but I didn't wear it and I probably never would have so oh well). I pretty much packed my stuff and had to head out.

Unfortunately, my goodbye to Paul was sort of dampened by the fact that he had the hangover of all hangovers and could barely walk or talk. I've never seen anything like it, and I felt so bad for him! It was actually worse than the day after my night out with Matt! God Bless You, Paul!
And thus concludes my journey. You have to admit it was pretty amazing. I haven't really even gotten over it. I've been sick since I've been home and in between my bouts of nausea I've still been thinking about the whole thing. :-)

A huge thanks to Paul for everything, including putting up with me for extended periods of time amidst the Duran hysteria. Thanks for showing me around Manchester, and for putting up with me drinking very little on that first night. Thanks for introducing me to loads of cool people and for being such a cool person yourself. Thanks for letting me use a lot of your pics for this post. Thanks for everything. Just everything.

Thanks to Paul Taylor for giving Morgen that initial backstage pass, thus allowing all this to unfold. Even if you didn't know what you were doing, you did it. :-)

And thanks to Duran Duran for being the best band ever.

So I hope you all enjoyed my Epic last post of 2005. Even though it's going to go up beforehand, it's actually well after midnight now so Happy New Year to everyone! I have to admit I took a break from this to catch the last East Coast bit of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, but more on that tomorrow. :-)

And I don't want to hear any crap about how pathetic I am for staying in and blogging for hours on New Year's Eve! I'm sick, damn it! :-)