Category Archives: Sparks

In memory of those who died too young

Trying to work around other potential events, which now look like they’re not going to happen, I took the chance yesterday to visit Glendale, and most significantly Forest Lawn, where someone I have a bit of a link to is buried. Strictly, yes, I mean Jean Harlow, at rest there for now fast coming up on 80 years, but call it a feeling, or otherwise, whenever I visit, I just have this instinct that Clara Johnson may be at rest somewhere in those large grounds as well. As I say, no evidence, impossible given I dont know her married name, but just something calls me when I’m there, and though that might be Jean, I do just wonder. But anyway…

As for all the best laid plans…The 2 previous visits, I’d found a pleasant little fast food restaurant near to where I get off the bus, and therefore I planned to go there for lunch, before going on to pay my respects. Only snag is, sometime in the last 18 months or so, it closed! Anyway, I knew I’d seen a few shops on the road leading to Forest Lawn, in the opposite direction at the junction, so hoped I’d find something there. Yes, I did. Its not glamorous or anything, but I found one of these roadside buildings with a few tables, and took my chance. To be honest, under $9 around LA, for a burger, fries, and a drink is hard to find. To find it cooked to order at that price, even more so! If anyone around that area wants to know the name of it, shout, and I’ll work it out on Google Maps, if I can.

After that, I walked down to Forest Lawn, to see a stunning layout of US Flags in the grounds, for Memorial Day on Monday. I gather something is happening there then (think it was 1.00, but check?) to respect the occasion. Fine, not for the first time, I entered the actual grounds, hoping for 2 things to happen. Firstly, some signal from ‘above’ that would lead me to Clara’s resting place. The second, that the gate in the mausoleum where Jean is at rest would be open, as it was the first time I visited, but not the second.

No, neither happened! I didnt really expect the first, somehow, and no, the gate was very firmly shut across the passageway where Harlow rests. In truth, I think the first time was sheer fluke, whether that was divine intervention, or just Jean ‘fixing it’, I have no idea? But yes, shut is the norm, according to everything I’ve read online about the place.

So fine, I said a few words, from as close as I could get, and said my farewell, as I’m pretty sure this is my last visit here for a number of years, if ever again. And whether at that point my body will be capable of climbing the hill up to the mausoleum, I doubt it somehow! Also, at the top of the hill, before dropping down to the exit, I did the same to Clara, not knowing where she was in that huge area, or strictly, if she really is there, but job done.

Then finally, as I passed back those flags, all set up for Memorial Day, I paid my respects to all those brave military folk, who had died in our, and other generation’s service.

Today, really not much to tell, so lets throw it in briefly now. Really just a stroll up the Boulevard, to do some souvenir shopping, for me, and others at home. One gift I couldnt find, so tripped off to Universal Studios to get in the shop out there, which I knew would have it. If she reads this, she’ll know whose gift that was! Tomorrow, I get to walk along Hollywood Boulevard again, this time on a guided walk, run by a friend I know from Twitter, and have met before. Should be fun, especially as she knows the whole Harlow thing with me! I think I have the place planned for my last big meal in town, unless someone wants to treat me to Musso and Frank’s lol?

After that? No idea, in truth. I’ll sort of say goodbye to an old friend on the walk in the morning, so where I go after that, will think on it at the time. I will get out at some point Saturday morning, but wont get far, thats for sure. I have a feeling I might do a little walk along Beachwood, just for old time, and admire the famous sign, one last time, without annoying the locals!

Right, video time. Not that Jean could sing (well proven), and though Clara was a decent dancer, she was no star. Besides which, this group is from LA, and the song fits in from yesterday. So all in all…

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When do I get to pay my way?

One issue I have found over the years when trying to arrange, or pay for things in the US, is that so many companies, and websites are just not designed for dealing with someone who isnt in North America. I’ve tried to buy things through websites over there, but unless your credit card details have a zip code, that you cant use them. Some, like AT&T have given me work arounds, that using 00000 as a zip code will work on their sites, and some others.

Other times I’ve tried that, no joy! The funniest thing was once when I was ordering a food delivery over there, tried to do it on their website, no joy. Rang up, they settled it, some way or another, no idea how. Another time I rang up, only to be told that I couldnt purchase what I wanted, because I didnt have a US address, no way, no how!

Recently I found out that its not only credit cards that cause issues with US firms. On my 2 previous trips to LA, I’ve used a company called Prime Time Shuttle to get me to, and from where I have been staying in Hollywood, ordering it online, no issues whatsoever. Anyway, somewhere in the last 18 months they’ve changed their site to something that I assume is more tablet/cell phone friendly, as a lot of sites seem to have done of late. Generally I tend to find these sites less laptop/PC friendly, which is what I use of course, but I survive all the same.

No, the snag is now, that before they will take a booking from you, they have to send you an authentication code to your cell phone. Even ignoring the fact that I dont have one over here, I certainly dont have a US one, as indeed anyone travelling from Europe, to LA would be in the same position. So yes, you’ve guessed it, I cant do a booking with them. I actually checked, to see if I had a UK cell phone, if I could get the code that way, but no, it could only be sent to a North American phone anyway! Fine, I have a way around it, by using a friend, while on Facebook messenger, get the code sent to her, she pass it on to me, and then… But seriously, should it come down to doing something like that, just to make a booking for a shuttle?

There is also an alternate company I can use, without the same issue, though of course I have no idea how reliable they are? I’d rather use Prime Time, who I know are reliable, but equally why should I support a company that doesnt seem to realize that people from outside the US would like to book with them? Or that there are still people in the world who feel no desire to own a cell phone! 😛

Of course, if anyone wants to solve the issue for me, by picking me up from LAX, late afternoon on 17th May, and get me to my apartment in Hollywood, then let me know! It would cost me about $25-30 by shuttle, so happy to pay that amount to anyone doing the same job for me, and saving me the whole US company insularity issue! Return trip would be early afternoon of the 27th if anyone wants to offer that too, same arrangement!

Shout here, on Facebook or Twitter (if seeing this there) or email me at stephmajor8@hotmail.com, if a willing chauffeur. Sorry, I’m not yet a movie star, but maybe one day lol…?

Video, a take your pick moment, from one of my favorite LA groups. First one is a live performance from Hollywood Forever cemetery in 2013. Seriously, if you havent been there, and get the chance to, its a must, especially if you like seeing the last resting place of movie stars, including Valentino!

This version is a symphonic version of the same song, which I love, but naturally, no live performances this way!

You’ve got to beat the crowds

The only problem I have with working Saturday’s in Bradford, during the football season, is getting out of town before the football (soccer, for US readers) crowds pile out of the stadium in Huddersfield. As in, if I make it, the bus from town takes 10-15 minutes to get up here from town. If I got caught up in the crowds, it would be more like 40-45 minutes! Yes, that bad, especially with road works between here, and town at present. And thats on a normal week, with a league game going on, which is once a fortnight, or so. Bad enough if you like football, but if like me, you cant stand the sport, even more annoying.

Oh, and yesterday wasnt a normal week, it was an FA Cup match crowd, playing against one of the top premier league teams, so the crowd would be huge, and if I got caught up in that, an hour to get home from town might be good! Now normally, the 4.10 bus is fine, gets me into town for 4.50, so I can get the bus up before they come out in too large a number. We sometimes meet a few sneaking out over the hill (back route) when almost home, but thats it.

So of course, yesterday, things didnt go to plan. It was time for the bus to leave, and he starts reversing out of the bay, fine. Until someone rushes through the door, he drives back into the bay to pick them up, and they take 5 minutes deciding where they want to go, and where the money for their fare is! Anyway, in theory I should have about 4 minutes (to allow for time to get to other bus stop) between buses, so all should be OK. Well, it was until someone in a wheelchair got off the bus in Brighouse, and couldnt direct his motorised chariot off the bus. In the end the bus driver assisted him, and we got back under way, but by now, it was cutting it close! Good news, got there, just in time, got the bus, and nearly got home fine. Yes, nearly, I ended up getting off one stop earlier than planned, as the queue down the road was so bad, it would have taken forever to cover the next 100 yards or so.

Oh, the result, Huddersfield got a draw, but thankfully the replay will be in Manchester sometime (I really dont care!), so the crowds wont be a challenge for me. But yes, roll on the end of the football season, please. Or move the football ground, or…anything?

The video, some vintage Sparks. They’re doing a world tour later this year. Oh they play LA in May when I’m there! That would be one crowd I’d happily get caught up in!

These seats aren’t big enough for the both of us!

OK, bonus blog, silly rant.

Now that I’m travelling by bus a lot more, I’ve noticed one trend I absolutely hate. For those of you people who use buses, and quite likely, trains, will probably know what I’m talking about, but those ‘posh folk’ who drive everywhere wont have a clue. For want of a better term, its people who think that paying for one seat on the bus entitles them to two, however busy the bus might be!

On the lower floor of the bus tonight, there are, for want of a better term, 9 pairs of seats facing forward on the 2 sides of the bus, plus a back row of 5, and a pair of double seats facing the wrong way at the back. There is also at the front, room for baby buggies, but thats not what this is about.

Tonight, of those 9 pairs of seats, despite the bus being fairly busy, 5 of those pairs of seats had 1 person sat on the outside seat, and their bag (or nothing at all) on the window seat, making it clear to anyone else that you dont sit next to them. No, I wasnt one of them! Eventually someone got on, and asked one of them to move across, so they could sit down, and the look on his face would make you think someone had insulted him, not asked something reasonable of him. Yes, shortly after that, another had the same treatment, and she wasnt happy about it either.

Please, you pay for 1 seat, you’re entitled to one seat, and thats that!

Oh fine, it got better, or worse, depending on your view of it later. I turned around to see what was going on behind me, as someone either thought that the whole bus wanted to listen to her awful modern music, or was deafening herself through her headphones, and frighteningly, it was the latter. Heaven knows what her hearing will be like when she gets older?

But yes, she was on that back row, but on the 2 back facing seats opposite her, her bags on one seat, her feet on the other! Seriously? OK, I know, I’m getting old, but…rolls eyes!

I’d love to think it was just an issue in this area, but I doubt it!

Fine, rant over.

Video? Bit of a clue in the title, I guess? Yes, a group I’d love to see live, but whether it will ever happen now, who knows?

The Commercial Break

Oh please, dont just pass on by, its not like I inflict lots of ads for my stuff on you. Besides which, doing it this way, you still get 2 more blogs this weekend, which wont be adverts for my new book!

Yes, I’ve been writing again, and this time, its something a little bit different. No light and fluffy here, though fine, the ending is pretty sweet, all the same. But just gets a bit grittier, and thought provoking along the way.

Oh, right, the link. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/667260 is where you need to go. Yes, it is also up at Amazon, and will be up at Barnes And Noble, and a few other places soon, but at the moment, its just those two, and Kobo, so…Yes, fine, I’ll admit it, Smashwords pay far better commission than Amazon, which is why I’m featuring them. But if you love Amazon, just go there, search on Merry Brooks, and you’ll find it there too.

Yes, as mentioned, this isnt your sort of cute story that ‘Miss Brooks’ has written before, because it tackles a subject that interests, and intrigues me, but has the same effect on people as Marmite, seemingly you love it, or hate it, only in this case, it seems more fall into the latter. So, my positive look at ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) is going to annoy some folk, for sure! Hopefully some will agree with me though. As to the modern style of treatment, its very different to what you see in the movies! Best example I can come up with, is this one. I know, its in Dutch, but I cant do everything. Let me make a film in English, with me as the patient, and I’ll do it, willingly!

I know what you might be saying, she’s putting forward a positive case for it, but if she had to have it herself… Sorry, I would, happily, though fine, ideally, at first at least, I might prefer a lower voltage passing through my mind than a standard treatment, but if that was the only choice, then yes, I would, definitely! In fact, if anyone is offering…?

Anyway, the story, though you can read it in the synopsis on the link, a quick resume. Susan is a great believer in method acting, and likes to know how her roles would react to events. So when she is offered the chance to play a wealthy lady, whose children want her out of the way, in a psychiatric unit, while they blow her money, she needs to find out what that would be like, for real. And fine, because the children dont want her out too soon, they plan on getting her ‘treated’ in a way that will keep her there for a while. So, a stay is booked, though Susan plans to avoid the treatment, but…

Yes, its a role, yes, its fiction, and no actresses were harmed in the making of this story lol! Fine, I wouldnt mind being ‘harmed’ that way, but anyway…

So yes, if you want to make me happy, go give the book a try. Better, buy it, its only $2.99, and you have no idea how good it is to see your books sell a few copies. If not for you, go check out my other books, and maybe buy one of those instead?

OK, publicity moment over, which means its time for the video! Or tonight, two videos! Yes, same group, same song, so take your pick. Firstly, the original video

Then, a recent live performance, which proves that they can still do it live, about 40 years later!

Yes, you like the name of the group, which is why I used it? An amazing pair of brothers, it has to be said.

Thanksgiving, and a white Black Friday

And so, the end is near, though the video isnt going to be My Way…well, not the one you’re expecting at least!

Yesterday, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, was Thanksgiving Day, here in the US. And for the first time in my life, I got to experience what that magical day is like.

It started off with what I gather is another US tradition nowadays, the Macy’s parade in New York City. Lots of hype, lots of over exuberance from the commentators, so I kept the volume low, and survived. Then, a little NFL, a phone call to start getting ready (into dress, and low heels), and then over to the home of my wonderful host, James.

The afternoon was wonderful, the conversation, his family, and the meal, all of them. If, and when I repeat this delight, no idea, but I’m so glad I’ve done it once in my life now, at least. Put it this way, I had absolutely no need to eat again after that until this morning!

Black Friday is a crazy shopping extravaganza, that now seems to start at 6 pm, on Thursday! Yes, I know, but thats the way of life nowadays, seemingly. Anyway, I ignored it completely, both last night, and today. So I headed off down town by bus, and went to the New York State Museum, for a very interesting visit. Then back into town, via the State Plaza, and a lunch break, and then finally back to the hotel.

Yes, with all the snow still on the ground, I didnt go out to eat tonight. I know, I’ll probably regret it, but… and tomorrow, I head back to the UK, James very kindly running me back to the airport. Hard to believe, its less than 2 weeks to the Work Christmas dinner.

Not only that, but by the next time I return to the US (Hollywood, next April, if all goes to plan), I should look even more stunning than now, as I will be a beautifully made up lady, looking even more like Jean Harlow, I suspect.

Last, but not least, I’d like to thank my 2 wonderful hosts on this trip, James, for letting me fulfil that dream of celebrating Thanksgiving, and to S, for letting me discover that I was indeed a Hollywood actress in a previous life, and for letting me find out how much fun life as ‘Jean’ can be.

The next blog, probably a jet lagged one from the UK, on Monday.

As I said, the video isnt ‘My Way’, but…

Beating the clock.

Fine, the last blog was one that cast a less than sunny eye on work, so lets compensate for that totally, with a bright, and happy tale of today.

Yes, I’m on holiday now, always would have been, I was down to finish at 5.00 today, and that will then be it for November, my next time at work will be on 2nd December, 12 days away. But I’ll let you into a little secret, I didnt finish at 5.00 tonight, I finished at 12.45!

Because of all the international football that has been going on the last few days, there was less football being played today around the world than normal. Which doesnt always mean less work, you’d be amazed at some of the leagues punters will plumb the depths of, just to have a bet. And when that happens, you can get a pile of calls, on the basis that those leagues are not worth putting into the shop system, for obvious reasons.

But when there is even very little of that…No, I wasnt sitting twiddling my thumbs at work today, chance would be a fine thing to even get close to that. But, we werent buried in calls either.

So anyway, about 12.45, I assume someone in the management team decided that someone could go home early, to balance numbers slightly better. Now, when Julie came around, looking for volunteers, ironically, I was on a call at the time. But to my delight, one of my fellow workers, Scott, spoke out in favour of the poor old lady, doing her last shift before her holiday. Yes, me!

A few moments later, I’m asked if I want to go early (counts against my holiday allowance, if you need to know), and unsurprisingly, I say yes! A few minutes later, desk tidied, email box cleared, and I’m heading out the door, a smile on my face, a rare event at work lol!

So, I have to thank Julie, Scott, and Carmen (who I think was going to be the lucky person, until Scott spoke out) for letting a weary old lady start her holiday a few hours early!

Tomorrow, I’ve got my hair being done in the morning, my body being sorted out (massage, for those with a less than clean mind) in the afternoon, then out for a meal in the evening. Friday, to pack, and Saturday, to America!

So all in all, a cheery side to tonights blog. 🙂

The video, one of those more, err, interesting 70’s groups, shall we say? The song, what I did today.

Modern town centres, for richer, for poorer?

When I was young, and yes, that is a long time ago, town centres were anything but uniform. In fact the main high streets through the 3 parts of the Medway Towns that I knew well, were full of delightful independent stores, only occasionally interspersed by the odd national name, like Boots, and Woolworths. Indeed, as a record buying teenager, the real delights were the independent record shops in Strood, and Chatham, where it was always possible to get records outside of the top 30, and would also carry a good back catalogue of both albums, and more importantly singles, still available to buy.

You also had butchers, greengrocers, hairdressers and the like, which were not national chains, mainly no more than 2 or 3 shops maximum. It was fun shopping, because no 2 towns, or cities weren’t identical shopping centres. Therefore a visit to a new town, would introduce you to new delights, but…

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it did. National brands jumped into towns, firstly through supermarkets, and gradually most of the small food stores got pushed out, because these mass buyers could get discounts that smaller shops couldnt dream about. Music megastores opened, and pushed out the people who really cared about music, not just the profits they could make. As for clothing…! Slowly but surely, town centres became more and more alike, until, well, you cant really tell them apart!

Nowadays, it seems that completely controlling the high streets is not enough for many brands, they have to have ‘shopping centres’ everywhere in town too. In many cases, major names will have a branch in town, and in the shopping centre in the larger cities, just in case one person might pass them by! In smaller towns, its why so many high streets are filled with betting offices, charity shops, pound shops, and pawnbroker/cash loan places, everything else is in the shopping centre!

Thankfully, some smaller towns and cities have tried to resist this event, though in the end, they all seem to be got, to some degree or other. But in the end…the great serpent of ‘shopping heaven’ seems to win through.

Lets take Wakefield as an example, where I went this afternoon. The heart of the town isnt entirely gone, though a big gash through the heart seems to be on its way. A few years ago, a little shopping centre, called ‘The Ridings’ opened up in town. Its a mix of national names (Primark, WH Smith, and the like), and little local shops, so fits in quite well.

Unfortunately, the big developers saw this, and started to build ‘Trinity Walk’. To say its soulless, and full of national brands would be putting it mildly! Fine, its avoidable, and on the whole, I did, and focussed on the little shops, the charity shops, and the wonderful market for my purchases.

The thing is, Trinity Walk decided in its wisdom that it needed to expand more, and put a cinema complex where the market currently is. So that will be gone within months, and no alternative site offered, its more opposition out of the way. Today, as I was heading on the home stretch to the bus station, I noticed one thing, a whole stretch of shops, just around the back from Trinity Walk had suddenly all emptied. Including unfortunately, my favourite charity shop for vintage stuff in town. A lot of these shops had signs up, with one message in common, the lease has ended, and they’ve had to move out, no offer of the chance of staying on. It doesnt really take a genius to work out who’s to blame, does it, seeing they own all the land leading up to that area, Trinity Walk!

Maybe they dont realise, if they shut down all the popular little shops, they may kill off the opposition to them, but, far less people will come to town, if their favourite stores are no longer there! I know, as an option, Wakefield drops down the list for me after today, and I suspect I wont be the only one.

I know, I know, US cities are even worse, on the whole! Not only do they not have downtown shops, they are all parked out in ‘Malls’ miles from town, many of which are hard to reach, if like me, you dont drive! So, I’m not saying they’re any better, just…

And then you hear news reports that retailers are ‘concerned’ because people arent going on to ‘High Street’s’ buying things! Its such a soulless experience, its hardly surprising!

Right, rant over. The video, the song sums up for me the attitude of the big shopping centres, to the rest of the town shopping. Please, special plea, wherever possible, support the smaller shops, and avoid the greedy cartels, thanks