Monday, June 27, 2005

Andrew, clad in his Leap for London T-Shirt, joins in the Back the Bid celebrations at Greenwich Park Saturday. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Prince William to Work in the City

Prince William, future King of England, will work alongside those who think they are kings when he takes a job in the City.

Prince William graduated with honours from St. Andrew’s University Thursday. The British press quickly dubbed him the brainiest-ever royal, as his neither father or his uncles graduated with honours. (The Queen, alas, did not go to university. She has a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And a crown.)

Upon graduating, William outlined the three work experiences he has chosen for the next six months. He’ll work on a farm, with a mountain rescue team, and in the City. “The City”, for those MarathonMum fans not from here, is the London equivalent of Wall Street. When you say you “Work in the City” it is understood to be at a financial institution, usually making loads ‘n loads of cash.

“I very much hope that these work placements will give me hands-on experience in three very different but important areas," William said in a statement. “The work experience in the City was something I was particularly keen to do as I feel that this is an area in which I could learn a lot, and it may well help me with charitable fund-raising in the future.” [Read: Meet more rich people who will be able to pony up large amounts of cash when I need it for my yet-to-be-named-or-formed charity.]

No specific financial institution was named due to security concerns, so Bloomberg News needs to get on the case and break the story. Come on, people! This is the sort of news people need, not the latest in the Citigroup-Legg Mason deal or whether oil is still trading above $60 (At the time of writing, it was trading at $59.90).

The Friday newspapers contained some speculation about where William will work. The Sun said it might be Merrill Lynch, where William’s friend Edward van Custem is employed. The Telegraph said it might be Barclays, KPMG or Coutts, the Queen’s bank. (“Would you like me to ask my banker if they have any summer jobs?” she asked her grandson. “Sure, Grandma, that would be brilliant!”)

Personally, I think it’s hilarious that William will work in the City. Here he is, the future King of England, surrounded by men with Ego Complexes larger than England. Wouldn’t it be great if just once he told them, “You think you’re so hot because you got a £5 million bonus last year? One day I will be your ruler!” A girl can dream, can’t she?

“The City” can also roughly include Canary Wharf, just on the other side of the river from Greenwich, since so many financial institutions are there. Maybe one day, I’ll be minding my own business at the local Pret a Manger when he will stroll over to buy a Coronation Chicken sandwich. Again, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Tim Henman Update

Tim Henman put Britain out of his annual misery by losing in the second round of Wimbledon. He did put up a fight, losing in five sets, but still, that's it for him, for this year at least.

We'll always have Henman Hill, though.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tennis Update

Tim Henman barely made it past his first-round opponent Tuesday, taking more than three hours to finally win in five sets.

Andy Murray, The Next Great Hope, breezed through his first-round game, winning in straight sets.

See what I said about the up-and-comer and the old timer? Remember: You read it here first in MarathonMum.

Wimbledon, a British institution

It’s late June, and that only means one thing to the fine people of Britain: Will this be the year that Tim Henman finally wins Wimbledon?

Henman-fever really is something to see. It’s a combination of national pride and a desire to see the nice guy win. In some ways, it is not very British to be so ambitious and obvious to hope that this will be the year he'll do it. Every year, in the days leading up to Wimbledon, there are the inevitable stories and speculation: Will this be Tim’s year? And for the seven tournaments I’ve witnessed from these shores, the answer has been (sadly) No.

This year, however, there seems to be a lower temperature for Henman Fever. Either the fans have been disappointed enough times, or it’s a nod to the fact that Tim is in the twilight years of his tennis career, but there’s an up-and-coming British player, Andrew Murray, who is getting an equal amount of attention.

Murray won the U.S. Open Junior title last September, and he’s in Wimbledon on a wild card. (His mother, incidentally, taught tennis to my friend Gillian, who grew up in his hometown). It probably won’t be Andrew’s year, but I doubt, as much as I’d like to see it—that it’ll be Tim’s year either.

On a personal note, I find it funny that the torch is being passed from a Tim (my husband’s name) to an Andrew (my older son’s name).

Regardless, when Wimbledon is on it’s a great time of year to be in London. Strawberries are in season. It’s time to make Pimms on a regular basis. The BBC coverage—from dawn until nightfall—is unparalleled. I’d be in front of the telly all day watching tennis, if I could.

When we went to Wimbledon ourselves, in 1999 and again in 2000, we loved it. It was one of those wonderful moments in life when you take a minute, look around and think, “I’m really here! This is so cool!!” We ate strawberries. We studied the brackets. We saw some great tennis. I even caught an errant ball, which, to this day, I’m sorry I threw back to the ball boy.

Wimbledon is a great British institution. Be sure to eat strawberries and drink some Pimms while you watch it-- if you can. But most of all, enjoy it-- even if Tim doesn’t win.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Human Cannonball Can't Fly

A human cannonball was fired from his job because he wouldn't fly.

Todd Christian, who worked for Cottle & Austen Circus, lost his job because his fear of flying prevented him from attending a special training camp in human flying in Brazil, according to a story in today's Independent.

Christian, who previously held posts as a lion trainer and trapeze artist (talk about multi-talented!), took on the explosive task of human cannonballing two months ago. However, the daily act of being shot out of the cannon via compressed air with pressure of 190-pounds-force per square inch led to several injuries and muscle strain.

The circus wanted to send Christian to special training at the Guiana space center in Brazil, but he didn't want to fly there. He told the Independent, "I know it sounds silly because I'm a human cannonball, but I don't like long flights and if I'm on a plane for a long time I start to panic." The circus fired him once he refused to fly.

Christian is now consulting with a lawyer about suing for unfair dismissal.

Christian's replacement, Diego the Human Rocket, has been to the specialist training camp. But he is from Brazil. It is not known if Diego also suffers from a fear of flying, but it seems unlikely.

Now I'm no expert on phobias, but do you think the fear of flying and the whole shot-out-of-a-cannon-at-60-mph thing are related?

Please, justify my existence.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Live 8 Ticket Mania Update

Winners of Live 8 concert tickets will be banned from using Ebay to sell them, the global auction house said late Tuesday.

As first reported in MarathonMum Tuesday afternoon, some Live 8 ticket winners were attempting to use Ebay to sell the highly sought after tickets. However, many of these sellers were being stymied in these efforts as people put in false bids of up to £10 million pounds.

Sir Bob Geldolf, Live 8’s organizer, described the sales as “sick profiteering” and pressed Ebay to ban the sale of the tickets. More than 2 million people sent text messages in the hopes of winning tickets to the Live 8 concert on July 2 in Hyde Park, which will feature U2, REM, Madonna, Coldplay, Sir Paul McCartney and others.

Even though Ebay has banned the sales, it’s not going to stop people from trying to profit from their good fortune. But with Ebay out of the equation, it will make it much more difficult to get a high price for the tickets. Sellers will have to return to the dark and scary place where there is no Internet, and sell them through word of mouth, classifieds or the local newagent's window.Posting a notice in your local newsagent’s window is pretty far afield from being able to sell it on Ebay.

Finally, while I think it’s great that Ebay bowed to public pressure, I’m not convinced it was wholly necessary. When I checked the site late last night, before the tickets had been removed from sale, more than 20 pairs had bids of £10 million. It seemed as though those who objected to the sales were doing a fine job themselves of thwarting the auctions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Live 8 Ticket Mania

As my mobile phone sits silent, I’m guessing that I didn’t win Live 8 London concert tickets. Bummer. I really wanted to go. Now I’ll have to watch it on BBC with everyone else. Looking on the bright side, at least I won’t have to stand all day, getting high off secondary smoke, only to listen to one band play three songs, followed by one hour of changing equipment for the next act. (At least, that was my experience when my friends and I went and saw the Amnesty International concert in Philadelphia in 1988.)

Just out of curiosity, I decided to check EBay, the capital of secondary markets, to see at what price tickets are being sold. At the moment, there are 422 ticket pairs up for sale. Five pairs of tickets have the highest bid-- a staggering £10 million pounds, with two more pairs at more than £9 million and three pairs at £5 million. No, those aren’t typos. Upon closer inspection, it seems as though people who have a philosophical problem with selling the tickets on EBay are driving up the prices. Some of the names of the bidders include, “don’t-bid-live8-is-for-proverty-not-profit,” and “against profit from suffering” and “charity cheaters get stuffed” and “live8istomakepovertyhistory”.

EBay seems to have its hands full, as when I look into the bid history of some of these tickets, there are dozens of bids cancelled for each of these tickets due to it being an excessive bid. Some of comments of the cancelled bids were, “I suspect the user is abusing the system.” One could argue that the seller is doing the same.

The anarchist in me applauds these people for mucking up the bidding when people are trying to profit off of Live8. If any of the sellers were to say that they would be contributing their sale’s proceeds to charity, then I’d say, let the market decide how much the ticket is worth. But since all of them seem to be trying to profit from what is a worthy cause, then I’d say, they deserve it.

But if any of you out there have won tickets and are looking for a friend to accompany you, I’m available that day.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fame! (For one evening only)

Now I know what it feels like to be famous. (And frankly, it was great.)

CAMFED (The Campaign for Female Education), the Cambridge-based charity that sends girls to school in Africa, held a fundraising evening on Wednesday at Marlborough House on Pall Mall. Allison Pearson, best selling author, brilliant journalist and CAMFED patron, gave a rousing speech to the assembled throng of super-successful women. The key to success is education, she said, and if you educate one girl, you educate an entire village.

So how did I make the cut for this event? I did say the room was filled with “super-successful women.” I first learned about CAMFED from Allison in early December, about a week after I learned I had a spot in the London Marathon. I wanted to find a charity that didn’t have any official London Marathon charity spots, and one that could benefit from my luck. In December, when Allison said the three magic words: girls, education and Africa, and I realized I had found my charity.

Now after months of badgering my friends, family and strangers about CAMFED, I’m thrilled to announce that I was able to raise more than £4,000 (nearly $8,000) to send African girls to school. Now if someone asks me, “What have you done to make the world a better place?” I have an answer.

Even though I found myself in the rare but glorious position of being perfectly dressed for the occasion—especially with my new red L.K. Bennett shoes—I still found myself wandering around the party in Younger Sister mode, i.e. skulking about around the outer fringes of the party, hoping no one would notice me.

Marlborough House is a next-door neighbour to St. James Palace, and just down the street from Buckingham Palace. It’s a quintessentially British royal residence: with huge murals, marble floors, sweeping staircases and drafty windows. Apparently, the royal pet cemetery is on the grounds of Marlborough House. “Where the ground is stiff with corgis,” said Allison Pearson.

CAMFED is a small, but incredibly effective, organization. Ann Cotton, its founder, began the charity with a bake sale. She had visited Zimbabwe, saw that girls needed money to fund their education, returned home to have the bake sale and sent the money back to Zimbabwe. Through those simple actions, CAMFED was born. Now, more than 10 years later, thousands of African girls have been educated through CAMFED’s efforts.

Once I called CAMFED and told them what I wanted to run the marathon for them, they were very supportive and helpful. Kirstin Gaymer, who ran the marathon last year, also gave me some survival tips. Finally, on Wednesday, I got to meet most of staff. Apparently, the staff, most of whom I didn’t know, also became fans of this online journal. “You’re Maureen Stapleton!” they would say, as if they had met someone important. One woman said, “It’s so great to finally meet you!! I love your blog!” Someone else told me, “You are our celebrity.”

Even Anthony Lane, ANTHONY LANE!, found me wandering around in Younger Sister Mode and said, “You’re the woman who ran the marathon. Well done!” [Anthony Lane, for those among you who are not New Yorker readers, is the movie critic at that magazine. He is a brilliant writer, and if he has a byline in that week’s issue, I tend to read him first.] Sadly, later on in the evening I think I blew my movie-loving credentials with him, when he enthusiastically asked me, “Have you seen ‘The Lady Eve’?” and I had to say no. I wanted to respond, “But I saw the four-hour long ‘La Belle Noiseuse’ and liked it! The last movie we saw was the documentary, ‘My Architect’! The next movie I’m going to watch is the Italian film, ‘Io Non Ho Paura [I’m not scared].’ I’ve spent my life talking about the career of Oscar winner Maureen Stapleton! I have movie-loving credentials! Really, I do!!”

But I digress. The amazing evening ended with me in a cab home (I missed the last train to Greenwich), taking yet another opportunity to talk about the marathon. “I ran this route when I did the marathon in April,” I told the driver. “You did?” he asked, looking back at me to get another look. “Well done!” I couldn’t help but add, “I also raised more than £4,000 to send girls to school in Africa.”

I can’t decide which accomplishment I’m prouder of.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

We're Back from our Holiday!

Hello, class. Now that we’re back, we have many topics to cover.

Yes, MarathonMum has been away. I know, I know, I should have put a thoughtful “Blog Break” message on my site, but I did not. (My friend Kathy Quigley did that at her very funny and addictive blog, Instead, if you kept checking the site, you were faced with the oh-so-classy headline, “There’s a Needle in My Butt” for nearly two weeks and I am sorry. The following are short tidbits to preview what I’ll be writing about in the days ahead:

* MarathonMum and family went to Germany for the half-term break. For my American readers, “Half-Term” is what they call weeks off from school. It can be a bit a nightmare here in England because all schools follow almost identical schedules. So if you go on vacation during the week off, chances are good you will be surrounded by other British families. When we were waiting for the Eurotunnel on our drive over last Monday, nearly all the cars and minivans around us contained school-age children with parents looking somewhat overwhelmed and apprehensive. When I told one father, “Happy Half-Term!” he just grunted at me.

Germany was very….interesting. We stayed in an apartment overlooking the Mosel River and the surrounding vineyards, which was beautiful. We did lots of hikes through the woods, toured some castles (one of which I didn’t get to see really because Nicholas wasn’t so interested), drank lots of wine and generally had a great time. Andrew has written a story about it, which I post with pictures.

*My marathon efforts have been included in the CAMFED website! I am very excited about this. To see it, go to Faithful MarathonMum fans will have heard it all before, but it’s still incredibly cool to be recognized. Also, when they wrote the bulletin, we were at 140 primary school girls to be educated for one year, but the figure has now increased to more than 150 girls. I am going to do my accounting tonight and will have an exact figure by tomorrow.

*My friend Tom Standage wrote the Most Excellent Book, “A History of the World in Six Glasses.” I had the time while on holiday to read it, and I loved it. It got a great review in the New York Times on Monday, and he’s been on his book tour in the U.S. and Canada this week. Buy this book! My review will be posted shortly.

*Live 8 is going to actually happen in Hyde Park and will feature such legendary artists as U2, REM, Madonna, Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John, Coldplay and…Mariah Carey. More than 1 million people have already sent texts hoping to win tickets to the concert. As the chances aren’t great, I don’t know if I will enter the lottery, but it’s such a good cause, it might be worth giving it a try. All proceeds will benefit Make Poverty History, a cause close to my heart, and one I will write about soon.

*I have less than one month until my next race, the British 10K on July 3. Yes, my hip still hurts, but I’ve realized that it might just have to be some pain that I’ll have to live with in the short term. Nicholas and I had a great run this morning—the weather was gorgeous—so that makes me optimistic that the 10K won’t be the disaster that I fear.

I hope these short previews will hold you over until I can tackle these subjects properly. Welcome back, everyone!