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AFRICA DIARY: IN TANZANIA WITH SAVE THE CHILDREN

November 26th, 2013 No comments
Here’s a copy of the email I sent to family and friends after returning from Africa last weekend with Save The Children. More will follow over the months but as you can imagine this has been a life-changing experience and one that I naturally feel the need to share through my love of the alphabet. Lisax

Dear family, friends and (one) prospective Congressman,
Last week I spent four days in Africa with the charity Save The Childrenand one of their ambassadors. It was an amazing, inspiring, emotional, jaw-dropping, once-in-a-lifetime trip to a continent that might as well be on planet Mars.It’s a different world in every single way.
Once vaccinated (diptheria, polio, tetanus, typhoid, hep A and malaria to name a few), I travelled to Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, on the east coast of Africa, via Doha, in the Middle East, where I joined a small team from STC. We were on a fact-finding mission as part of their 2014 newborns campaign to publicise Kangeroo Mother Care (where preemie babies are incubated using 24-hour skin-on-skin contact).
Our amazing group, complete with photographer, videographer, producer and security detail, travelled across the country by air and jeep to remote villages in the region of Lindi, which is south of the capital. We dined on our one choice of rice and beans, drank clean water from bottles, washed our hands constantly, sweated in the searing heat, screamed at the sight of monkeys and mongeese and gazed on helplessly at the sight of tiny, filthy children with giant machetes selling mangoes by the side of the road.

 

I’m still processing the entire experience (so excuse my less than stellar prose) as it flew by so quickly but yes, in 2014, people still live in mud huts without electricity or water. Frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone lives beyond five-years-old. Children still die of dehydration. One woman from a remote village was put in a bicycle basket during labour and travelled for an agonising three hours to the nearest health centre, where she eventually gave birth (the baby died a year later of pneumonia). We all cried at the horror stories, many of which could have been prevented with access to basic health care.

At our remotest location, I met a village chief who told me he wanted a better life for his 1,568 villagers, and then we fist-bumped because one of the crew had taught me the the word for “fist-bump” in Swahili – the chief thought it was hilarious. It’s “pigatano” should you ever need it.

 

I also met one of the Chief’s town counselors, a proud lady who – in the middle of a dusty, remote village – greeted us in front of a mud hut wearing in a blue sequinned evening gown. It was one of the most bizarre sights I’ve ever seen (and this from someone who has driven along Hollywood Boulevard on a Saturday night).

 

The villagers I met were an impassive tribe – sombre and expressionless. But once you found the international language, the one that sits somewhere between compassion and laughter, they lit up. Children in rags were enthralled when we took photos of them on our iPhones. It was absolutely delightful.

 

I know I’ve seen things that most people only hear about, and I feel very honoured. We think the west is the centre of the universe, but it’s not. There’s this whole other world where people have to walk an hour to collect water, eat boiled maize with dried fish every day and sleep ten to a bed in a mud hut with no roof. I stood in my bathroom this morning watching in awe at the clean water pouring out of the tap, and then burst into tears later in the supermarket when I saw a pile of mangoes on the shelf. It’s going to take a while to sink in.

 

But I wanted to share the experience as best I can at this time, so I’ve put together a rudimentary pdf with a handful of images, and over the next few months will be publishing various articles and blogs. Excuse this email if it’s not your thing but I felt the need to share.

Ultimately, I was left with this: the people I met had absolutely nothing, and I will never look at life in the same way again.

So Happy Thanksgiving this week to all my friends in America, and to those who are not in the States, cook a turkey this Thursday anyway. Why? Because you can, and because, well…we all have a lot to be thankful for.Not that I need to tell you that but when you’ve seen those things with your own jet-lagged eyeballs, it really makes you want to hug the world and tell it that everything’s going to be alright.
Lisax

@savethechildren

SAVE THE CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS JUMPER DAY IS DECEMBER 13, 2013. CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE AMAZING WORK THEY DO. OR ELSE. 

ARTICLES: DIET & FITNESS

September 30th, 2013 No comments

My recent Body Chat features for Closer magazine. Click to download PDF’S.

Liberty X’s Michelle Heaton

TOWIE’s Ferne McCann

CBeebies’ Sarah-Jane Honeywell

BACK TO JACK: A MOVEABLE FEAST-OLOGY

August 19th, 2013 No comments

My second Back To Jack column for Brits in LA: this week, Maureen Lipman, Alan Partridge and food trucks.

I’m constantly amazed at how many American-isms have crossed the Pond since I left London for LA.

‘Douchebag’ now seems to be as popular with the Brits as ‘awesome’ is. They even used ‘awesome’ on the BBC news the other night. Now that’s just wrong.

Food trucks are also big business, although they don’t call them food trucks here. I’m not sure what they are to be honest (“Posh burger vans?”) but you can’t move for four-wheeled falafal, Jamaican goat curry and ‘authentic’ American hot-dogs being served up to the hungry masses on the South Bank of a balmy summer’s evening.

I met the most fabulous Nichola Smith, who owns the @healthyummies food truck (her show Red, Hot and Yummy, airs on the Food Network UK) and tried some of her incredible steak and salads. She also co-founded Fabric nightclub so as you can imagine her music choices were as tasty as her grub. She told me that the food van/truck explosion was now so big in the UK that they were lobbying the government to release more permits. There’s not enough parking for everyone. But this is London, when is there ever enough parking?

This summer’s been perfect. Actually, the fact that there’s been a summer at all seems to be something of a miracle from what I hear, but it’s always nice to sit in a dark room and be entertained.

I used to live in Crouch End, and when I left for California there wasn’t a small but perfectly formed theatre in Finsbury Park – but now there is.

It’s called the Park Theatre and boasts two spaces, one that seats 200 and another snug little room that seats 90. That’s virtually a Brits in LA breakfast mixer.

My cousin booked tickets for Daytona starring Maureen Lipman, Corrie’s John Bowe and Harry Shearer. It blew my mind that the bloke who makes a fortune every year as the voice of Mr Burns in The Simpsons, was appearing in a small north London theatre in his holidays.

(Surely he should be chartering that yacht Simon Cowell is rather fond of, and singing “I’m On A Boat” at the top of his voice?).

The play, by Oliver Cotton, tells the story of Joe and Elli, whose plans to win a dancing competition are interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious man. It was so wonderful and I was so near Maureen Lipman I wanted to cry with happiness.

Maureen, who was superb (of course), was emotional for other reasons. She spied some douchebag (there you go) in the front row texting throughout the second half. Afterwards, in the bar, she told me, “If I could have found a way to mention sending a text in a play set in 1986 I would have. I was livid.”

The run ends soon, as will summer, and I will be filling my nights watching my box set of Luther (seasons 1-3 now available from BBC Worldwide, I’ll have you know). Although it’s not so much Idris Elba who’s gripping the nation right now (but he will – check out the Mandela trailer), more Alan Partridge, in Alpha Papa.

Thanks to the mostly lukewarm reviews, I had supremely low expectations for the movie even though I love the Partridge, but my Orange Wednesday screening was packed to the rafters with eager hipsters, and I giggled from start to finish. (Sadly, it’s not slated for a US release yet but hey, we’re not getting Blue Jasmine til the end of Sept, so that sort of evens things out).

My companion for the screening was playwright Bettina Gracias, and because she’s more high-brow than me (and writes plays for Radio 4) told me she was dreading it. But later, over noodles and Tiger beer in some nefarious Chinatown eaterie she told me she thought it was totally awesome.

A-haaaaaa!

Make the most of me while I’m in London! If you want your event to be featured in “Back to Jack” or suggestions about what I should review or where I should go, contact lisamarksmedia@gmail.com. No guarantees but if there’s food and drink on offer, I’ll be your friend forever. Follow me @lisamarks

BACK TO JACK: FROM LONDON TO LA AND BACK AGAIN

August 6th, 2013 No comments

Here’s my first column for Brits in LA and the British Weekly newspaper in California, about how it feels to be an expat who has returned to the motherland for a while. It’s amazing how you see life through a different lense after you’ve lived abroad for so long. I love the UK but I’m also really missing LA, and can’t wait to get back there. In the meantime, life continues to be one big adventure only in this time zone I walk a lot more.

I was in Wholefoods in Camden recently, wasting time before a movie but also pretending to be in the Wholefoods on Lincoln and Rose (and failing miserably because the aisles were so narrow), when I heard a familiar drawl: two elderly American tourists were walking through condiments looking worried. “Can you see the Graaaaam crackers, Donald? Marcie needs them for the soup.”

Donald wasn’t losing his marbles – he couldn’t see them because no-one knows what a Graham cracker is this side of the pond. I felt their pain. It was like trying to find a Pot Noodle at a Ralphs. I stepped in and guided them to what I felt might be their next best option, Jacobs Cream Crackers or Carrs Table Water biscuits. They seemed happy enough with this frankly less than satisfactory substitute, and went on their merry way. Hopefully the mysterious Marcie was also okay with this.

So much for my good deed for the day (adjust halo) but going from London to LA – and then back again after six years – has been an interesting transition. I feel armed with all sorts of useless knowledge about the DMV, where to buy the best burritos (Hugos, in Atwater) and where to park on Speedway on a public holiday (not telling) but rusty about where the Northern Line meets the Victoria Line (and I’m a Londoner so I should know better).

Don’t know if you heard though – but there was a Royal birth. Post-push, I interviewed Kay Burley from Sky News, who was part of the media pack outside the Lindo Wing, waiting for news of Prince George’s arrival. Unfazed by the mammoth amount of waffle it took to fill the best part of 11 hours, she told me that she was proud to have a ringside seat at this historic event.

Across town another birth was happening: Jane Bussmann has shot a test pilot for her new sit-com “Distinguished Ladies” about a writer for a celebrity magazine who really wants to be a worthy war reporter. Her Kate Middleton upskirt storyline was inadvertently topical, and very funny. Another some-time Brit in LA and performer, author and comedy writer for Smack The Pony, Brass Eye and South Park, Jane told the gathered crowd the Sway Bar in Holborn, to leave if they were easily offended. Of course no-one did and the most offensive jokes got the biggest laughs. I hope a wise producer picks it up soon.

Dodging tourists on ‘Boris bikes’ I spent the day at the David Bowie exhibition at theV&A. If you’re visiting London before August 11th, do go – get into the queue by 10.30am and you’re almost guaranteed to get a day ticket. His teeny tiny stage costumes need to be seen to be believed. Bowie is one of our best exports and so achingly creative and inspirational, there was nothing left to do but buy a giant slab of cheesecake at the museum’s cafe.

This is not America – no Graaaaam crackers required.

This is the first in a series of blogs from Blighty. If you want your event to be featured in “Back to Jack” or suggestions about what I should review or where I should visit, contact lisamarksmedia@gmail.com. No guarantees but if there’s food and drink on offer, I’ll be your friend forever. Follow me @lisamarks

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BACK TO JACK: THE DANDY HIGHWAYMAN COMES TO LA!

July 9th, 2013 No comments

I spoke to Adam Ant, who is about to play his biggest gig in LA for years, about his upcoming US tour and new album. Well, I didn’t speak to him, my 14-year-old teenage self did. Only she babbled a lot. And giggled. But as Adam once said, ‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of,’ and you know what, he was right. Here’s my interview with Adam for Brits in LA and the British Weekly newspaper.

Eighties post-punk legend Adam Ant has sold more than 40 million records worldwide but he’s also spent the last 18 years living out of the limelight. Now back with a new album, “Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter” and a north American tour, the singer talks about playing his old hits live, his acting days in LA and why he’s a fan of Gwen Stefani.

Adam, you’re just about to start on a 44 date tour of the US. Do you enjoy gigging?

I’ve been touring for the past two years. I like to write the songs and record but the best part is going out and playing live. I played all over Europe and it took about a year to put the band together. I wanted to see who would come to the shows before I released the album.

Some artists won’t play old hits but your set list contains a lot of yours, including “Prince Charming” “Stand And Deliver” and “Antmusic”. 

I constantly play my back catalogue and that’s what I’d like if I went to see someone that I’d grown up with. If I was at a Roxy Music show, I’d want to hear “The Strand” or “Virginia Plain”. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do that. To me songs are like your children. You put a lot of care into their production and putting them out there but the challenge is making them sound like the record. I’ve never really played “Prince Charming” live in the States but this version is pared right down. I love seeing the audiences faces when you play those first chords. People go mad, it’s a wonderful kind of energy, an indescribable warmth.

How did you end up living in Tennessee?

It was purely by chance. The idea was that me and my missus were were going to drive from Miami to Vegas to get married in the Elvis chapel (he was married to fashion PR Lorraine Gibson from 1997-1998). We rented a 4×4 and en route stopped off in Tennessee at a small diner for lunch. I always look at the local magazines and saw an A-frame wooden house for sale. We had a little time to spare so we went to have a look. It was very remote and had incredible views over the valley. We thought, “Sod it, we’ll get married here”, and we did, by the sheriff in the town hall.

And you stayed!

Yes, it was a pioneer thing. You see things there that you don’t see in real life. The local rodeo comes to town, and they grow a lot of apples in that part of the States, so you’d be driving behind an Amish wagon. It’s a really stunning place. I didn’t write any music while I was there but all the country stars play the circuit, people like Merle Haggard, so I think subconsciously I absorbed all the country and blues, and that came out on the album.

You’ve described the new album, “The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter”, as a ‘musical autobiography’. Is that what you originally set out to do?

I’d put out a lot of records and stopped to take a break. I took the opportunity to appreciate the music. I think if you put lots of records out you take them for granted but I had an opportunity to miss it. I knew there’d be questions about where I’d been, and so this is the most personal record (Adam has famous battled bipolar disorder). It covers 17 years and because I’ve released it on my own label, it’s been a lot more work. You’ve got to get involved in distribution, manufacturing and PR as well as all the artwork. It’s been a learning curve definitely.

You moved to LA in 1990 to act. What do you remember of those days?

My first job as an actor was in a Joe Orton play in Manchester, and I kept getting offers but wanted to learn the ropes. I went over to LA, enrolled in acting class and was there for about five years. I started as a beginner and auditioned like everyone else. I didn’t go ‘Hey, here I am!’ I had a little house in Silverlake but when I first got there I rented an apartment in Hollywood, right in the middle of everything. It’s a working town so I’d go to bed early and then get up and go on auditions. I had a good experience in LA.

You were the self-proclaimed Dandy Highwayman, and the leader of a post-punk generation. What do you think of music today?

There aren’t a great deal of bands that I listen to, and I think these days, most of the visual work is being done by the girls. You know, people like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani. The women are paving the way and having a go. I was very happy when Gwen Stefani covered “ Stand and Deliver”. It was rock and roll.

 Adam Ant plays Club Nokia on July 20, 2013.

Find more US tour dates at www.adam-ant.com Twitter @AdamAofficial

COVER STORY: SORTA “SINGLE LADY” DENISE VASI

June 25th, 2013 No comments

Have you ever seen an episode of VH1′s Single Ladies? Well you should. It’s like the Real Housewives of Atlanta but more real because it’s properly scripted, and a lot more fun because they’re all very easy on the eye. (The men aren’t bad looking either). Are you keeping up?

So I was delighted when Deluxe Swiss Made magazine asked me to interview one of the show’s breakout stars, Denise Vasi, for their June cover. She plays Raquel but got her big break in the soap, All My Children, after ditching her career as a model.

We had a lovely chat at her home in Venice, while her dog yapped away in the background (apparently he was barking at the gardeners, not me). She’s worked hard for her success and ironically, is just about to be no longer single. Yep, some lucky guy’s putting a ring on it.

You can find out more about Deluxe Magazine here. And follow Denise on Twitter here.

TRAVEL: THE BARRAQUITO – TENERIFE’S BEST KEPT SECRET

Tenerife holds many sweet secrets, but the most delicious is their speciality coffee, the “Barraquito”.

Next to their many caffeinated offerings – the “leche leche”, “cortado” “cafe con leche” and “cafe solo” – the “Barraquito” is the lesser known punchy, intoxicating sibling, yet often it’s the first choice of the dedicated Canarian barfly.

Despite the throngs of tourists demanding their full English breakfasts and pints of lager, there are still many traditional bars (not as many as there used to be but enough if you look hard enough), where old timers and adventurers can enjoy a plate of tapas, and this exquisite cup of coffee.

The “Barraquito” is traditionally served in La Palma and Tenerife, and bizarrely, none of the other Canary Islands, which include Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

It’s the Tenerife equivalent of an Irish Coffee and is utterly delicious – but if you look online you’ll struggle to find anyone who knows what goes in one, let alone how it’s made.

So here goes…

Take a hearty dollop of thick, sweet condensed milk and pour it into the glass, add the secret ingredient: an invigorating splash of “Licor 43” aka “Cuarenta y Tres.” It’s a south-eastern Spanish citrus based liqueur, and is available in almost every supermarket and bar. Never substitute brandy.

Take a shot of expresso coffee, add steamed milk, and top off this intricate concoction with a layer of milk froth. Finally, add a tiny sliver of lemon peel.

Some bars will sprinkle cinnamon on top of the froth, or add a coffee bean instead of the lemon but in my humble opinion the lemon complements the “43″ and as far as I can tell, is the most traditional send off.

You can enjoy a “Barraquito” without the booze (Ask for “sin liquor”) but to be honest folks, it’s nowhere near as much fun.

This piping hot glass of nectar should be served on a saucer, accompanied by a cinnamon biscuit. Take your tiny spoon, and mix until the layers have combined.

From there on in, it’s cafe society all the way. Take in the views of the Atlantic, eat a slice of tortilla, soak up the year-round sunshine, or if you’re me, pick up that day’s edition of Diario di Avisos and pretend that you can read Spanish.

Repeat daily until it’s time to head to the airport, with a bottle of “43″ stashed in your suitcase to remind you of those lazy, hazy Canarian days of summer.

ARTICLE: IN A STATE OVER ZACH BRAFF

April 29th, 2013 No comments

The multi-millionaire actor/director/writer Zach Braff, has asked his fans for $2 million via Kickstarter to fund his new movie. Some people have an issue with a guy who makes anywhere between $40,000 to $100,000 a week from Scrubs residuals, panhandling for cash.

Of course, it’s up to you if want to hand over your money but here are my arguments against the move for the Guardian Film blog pages. The debate below is lively and thankfully, for a change, not too brutal to the author. But what do you think?

Read the article here.

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COVER STORY: TERESA PALMER & HER CANINE ENTOURAGE

March 26th, 2013 No comments

Teresa Palmer hadn’t bothered my movie radar before Warm Bodies but anyone who shares hospitality with the journos and brings her dogs to interviews is fine by me.

Here’s my interview with her for Sunday Magazine and here’s the trailer for Warm Bodies. If you like zombies and romance, you’ll like this. Yes, it’s a zom-com.

ARTICLE: JENNIFER GARNER’S GOT IT SORTED

February 26th, 2013 No comments

Jennifer Garner has a good memory.

I know this because I interviewed her for Sunday Magazine, for the first time, back in 2007. The second time was three months ago for the same magazine, at the Sunset Luxe Hotel, in Beverly Hills.

Five years is a long time in Hollywood – and she’s had two kids since then – but as soon as I walked into the room she remembered me. And to prove it, she reminded me that my tape recorder had stopped working mid-interview.

Spot on. She immediately offered to reschedule the interview but luckily for her I am a Westminster Press girl, and had taken down the entire exchange in shorthand. (Surely one of the last times in history that sentence will ever be typed). She was impressed.

Our second meeting was for her new movie, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which isn’t exactly my cup of tea but it’s hard being tough on Jennifer. She’s just too damn personable, has a sharp sense of humour, and I absolutely love talking to her.

Here’s Lisa Meets Jennifer Part 2 for Sunday Magazine.