Audio from my Air America interview available

Posted in Leatherback Turtles on September 25th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

It was really surreal being in the north of Thailand on my mobile first thing in the morning, talking to animal rights campaigner, Heather Mills, from America, nine at night her time, about my Campaign to stop the Slaughter of Leatherback turtles in Tobago. There I was in the middle of the rice paddies and mountains of the East talking about a tragedy taking place in the West indies, to millions of Americans.
Get your head around that one. Heather Mills, who is tireless in the battle to protect animals, extended an invitation to interview me on a show she was hosting on Air America, about my efforts to stop the atrocities against one of the world’s oldest, most vulnerable and magnificent creatures, the leatherback turtle.
I was after Richard Branson, whose Virgin planes fly to Tobago, and let’s hope that was fortuitous as he could certainly lean on the government there to better enforce the international laws protecting endangered species. You can listen to my rather muffled interview with Heather, and hopefully it will inspire you to visit my turtles webpage and do something, anything, to help save the leatherback turtles.

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British Girls aren’t Beautiful, I’m afraid

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 22nd, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

Fashion week in London and its full of the beautiful people. We expect them to be beautiful, the models as skinny as can be with sulky expressions and swaying walks. The celebrities and designers lining the front rows . The parties full of money and deals. I must say I’m bemused by the idea of beautiful English models, however, because the ones I’ve interviewed have been quirky, yes, red heads, freckled, pale, and maybe even highly intelligent. But beautiful, no. The Spanish, French, South American and certanly Thai girls are striking and stunning, but the English ones are by and large difficult to get excited about, even though Kate Moss appears to have held her own for two decades. I remember taking my daughter, Lara, with me to the model agency to interview Karen Elson, from Oldham, when La was about 11. Small and nervous as she was La still managed to sit there open-mouthed at the big glass table and stare at this girl from up North who was starting her first campaign and had won model of the year at some fashion awards or other. How come she’s a model, mum, she asked later. She’s not pretty! In fact Karen, now an international super model in the rich list, was pale, pink and had rather crooked teeth. But there must have been that inscrutable something because all those designers clearly weren’t wrong. I guess I just don’t associate this country’s girls with beauty. More like getting drunk on pavements, falling out of nightclubs and wearing too little in the icy winter . That other kind of sexy, mesmerising beauty belongs to other nations where the sun shines more.

What it's like to win the lottery

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 18th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

I spent a couple of years interviewing lottery winners up and down the country, some of whom had never had a bank account before they were handed a cheque for £5 or £10 million. It was pretty fascinating, a real departure from interviewing celebs. Suddenly they became the celebrities, everyone wanted to read about how it felt to be a winner, would it bring happiness, what would they do with the money, how had they changed. I was welcomed into winners’ new homes, many furnished in the most hideous fashion, screaming with gold and glitz. A lot of them were very anxious, even a year later, they were plagued by moral issues like how much should I give cousin Tommy or aunty Fran, what do I put in trust for my kids, what if someone tries to kidnap them ? Some wanted to keep their win a secret, fearing a wave of envy and resentment, which meant they couldn’t have that lovely shiny red Ferrari parked outside their house, or the three-month round the world trip, and keep it away from the neighbours.One couple I interviewed sold up and travelled constantly, they’d already been round the world twice, but were starting to wonder what they could do next. Of course, sometimes I wished it was me, gazing at these people in amazement as though they were speckled with stardust, that simply hadn’t settled on me. I used to chug back to London on the train with my tape recorder and notes, knowing there were hours of work ahead writing up another story, in some ways glad to leave their predicament behind and get back to my life. Suddenly becoming very rich because of six plastic balls rolling about and landing on random numbers kind of makes a mockery of a lifetime of hard work and slow achievement. It’s all too sudden, arbitrary and shocking. But today, you know what, I went for a walk in the sunshine musing over my month in Thailand being over, and being back at my desk, a slave to stories. I stopped at the newsagent for some sweets and out of the blue I bought a couple of lottery tickets. There’s always a chance, isn’t there, that some of that stardust could land on me.

My Lunch With Patrick Swayze

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 15th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

I interviewed Patrick Swayze many years ago, over lunch at London’s Savoy. He was promoting Dirty Dancing with Jennifer Grey, and came to lunch looking so gorgeous I wanted us to elope. The film really showed off his muscular physique and great dance moves, but sitting opposite him across a white tablecloth at the luxury hotel was a whole lot more powerful. I remember being struck by how unassuming and gracious he was, there to talk about his low-budget movie which was expected to have just a short run. Little did he know it was to become a surprise million dollar hit and worldwide cult favourite. And little did he know that at just 57 he would be dead from pancreatic cancer. Jennifer Grey must be feeling very sombre today as she remembers being swept about in his arms as dance instructor Johnny Castle, the two of them in the bloom of youth looking so fresh and exhilarated. Famous for the line ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner,’ the movie became a phenomenon that Patrick says took his life ‘into insanity’. Women across the globe joined the ‘100-plus’ club marking the number of times they’d seen it. It sent my world into hyperspace, said Patrick. Now he’s gone, into that other hyperspace where no one can reach him, while in that very bizarre way,his image remains, on the big screen, as large as life

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Friday, 11th September, 2009, A Historic Day

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 10th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

Tell me, does everyone feel like this when they come home from a long, exotic, state-of-the art, movie star holiday ? Or is it just me ? I am struggling to remember how to drive a car and make a piece of toast after having everything laid on so seamlessly for four blissful weeks. I’m still slurring and banging into doors from the jet lag and change of climate, and I don’t like the expectation that I spend my days  chained to a desk instead of beside the crashing waves or infinity swimming pool, examining bills and responding to grim phone calls from American Express instead of sipping Mohitos. So frankly, I’ve come up with an idea  to make the Thai euphoria last a bit longer. It’s something akin to Oriental Hotel in Bangkok takes on new Writer in Residence. Well I know I’m not  Somerset Maugham or Noel Coward or even Fay Weldon who lived on the top floor of The Savoy. But how about Journalist in Residence this time, sounds far more 21st century.  Not only could I do my blog from my suite overlooking the Chao Praya river and publicise life at the grand old Oriental from every aspect, but I could swing a newspaper column to enrich readers with tales of life in South East Asia. I think the Alain de Botton idea at Heathrow is terrific,  first ever airport writer-in-residence telling the story of a week at Heathrow. His book will be called A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary, written live in the departures area of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 . Let me know what you think of my hotel plan, I need solid advice, and inspiration. Go to www.sharonfeinstein.co.uk and e mail me or leave comments on the WordPress Site.

Swimming With Sharks

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 8th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

I’d only just jumped into that shimmering turquoise sea, snorkel and flippers on, when I saw it gleaming below. A leopard shark basking on the sea bed about 7 foot long with big black spots over its back. I was right over it, pretty stunned, but not knowing that we are far more dangerous than it is. I later read the leopard shark is used in shark fin soup and Chinese medicine, a terrible practise robbing the sea of 700 million sharks a year who are turned into  flavouring. Get your head round that one. After we’d recovered from the awe of seeing it and carried on swimming amongst all those electric vibrant shoals of Angel fish, parrot fish, nimos, pufferfish, I was the one suddenly encircled by  mother and baby black tipped sharks, and they can become aggressive in the presence of food and have attacked people. No good being frightened as they’re too fast to  think of leaving behind. The baby was swimming right beside its mother and they shot right past me a few times, sort of whirring through the water. It was all pretty special, like watching  Jacques Cousteau on the big screen, but you know what, I was very relieved to be back on the speedboat half an hour later heading for a picnic on Bamboo Island. It’s totally exquisite there, above and below water, the great limestone stacks rising up, warm silky crystal clear water and sun on your back. Thailand is the promised Land.

Afghanistan from 35,000 feet

Posted in SharonSpeak on September 7th, 2009 by Sharon Feinstein

Monday 7th September, 2009

I’ve just got home after a month in Thailand. What a culture shock. There’s so much to say. I want to tell you about the sharks I swam with,  water buffalo I rode, people I met, thoughts I had, rather profound  blessing I received from a Buddhist monk,  and of course the Oriental Hotel.  It will come,. But as a prelude I have to mention flying home over Afghanistan yesterday. The plane seemed so low because it was easy to pick out the scorched earth,  barren terrain and isolated mud villages. Mazar e Sharif,  Kandahar, below, it is  a bleak lunar landscape, a world that time has forgotten. How the West can ever combat their enemy in that totally foreign, unrelenting world beggars belief. We will just get swallowed up into the heat, dust and endless mountains. It was a shock to watch it unfold beneath us, those towns and villages we’ve been reading about for months in war reports suddenly laid out 35,000 feet down below our aircraft as we travelled back from South East Asia into the West. Has President Obama even been there yet, I can’t remember, but this landscape looks as forbidding as the jungles of Vietnam in the 60’s and one fears the war can only go the same way.