Shazia’s Week

Nobody does recession like the Americans. Every street corner in New York has neon lights shouting, “Recession Special”. I have never seen so many kebabs on sale. Only the Americans could celebrate a recession with flashing lights and turn it into a marketing opportunity.

And they know how to celebrate. A few hours ago I was walking through Times Square; to mark his victory, people were selling Obama towels, posters, DVDs, books and trainers. But the most inventive that I saw was the Obama condom. People are selling condoms with an image of his head and the slogan: “Yes we can.” I bought five boxes – the audacity of hope. Some bits of history just can’t be missed.

I went to see Liza Minnelli on Broadway a few nights ago. I thought: “I’ve got to see her before she dies.” There are certain people you have to see, because you don’t know how much longer they’re going to live, like Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Barack Obama.

Watching Liza at the Palace Theatre has got to be the gayest thing I have ever seen. There is a recession, but not in the gay world. My gay friends from all over the world came for this momentous occasion, which was akin to the wedding of Charles and Di.

It was like a gay United Nations, and Liza, having married so often, seemed the appropriate compère. At 62, she was jumping and jiving all over the stage like a panther on Ecstasy. On the way out I overheard a woman telling her friend that Liza had had two hip-replacement operations. I can tell you they’ve definitely worked. It was like Lewis Hamilton winning the Grand Prix in Del Boy’s van.

The beggars in New York have gone slightly upmarket since the last time I was here. There is none of this tie-dye, holes-in-shirt, dog-on-a-rope business; these beggars are hot. I have been approached by at least five women in two days who stand on street corners in businesslike suits, black court shoes, red lipstick, nice jewellery and say very politely: “Excuse me, madam, I was wondering if you have any spare money that you could give me?”

I was so shocked, I shouted: “Are you a beggar?” She replied: “I just need a few dollars to get a skinny latte.” These beggars are fussy. They don’t drink any old coffee. It’s very specific.

Friends tell me that these are people who were in good jobs and who have been made redundant, but are still hanging on to their extravagant lifestyle. Begging is the only way to do it. Even in begging, there is a class divide.

I prefer to give my money to people who actually look homeless. A person sleeping in a Safeway trolley with all his or her belongings is a more lucrative advert than a woman in Louboutin heels and nail extensions.

I will be spending Christmas in the seclusion of the village of Castlemartyr, County Cork. I’ll be staying in a small cottage; there is no internet, no transport, no street lights and it is, apparently, freezing cold. In preparation for this I have bought three blankets – 15 tog each – and two fleece quilts. But the main problem I’ve found in segregating myself from society is the purchase of halal meat. I’ve tried every meat shop in the city to see if I can find a halal chicken for Christmas Day, but it seems the demand for halal meat in Cork is not as high as that for reindeer.

I tried to order a chicken from a shop near to the city. When I called up, the woman said: “What’s halal? We only do free range, or we could do you a turkey.” I said: “Can you get me a halal turkey? She replied: “No, but I can get you a large one with skin on.”

So I’m buying one in the East End and transporting it to Cork. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it in the boot so it’s got some room to roam freely. Happy Xmas to you all – turkey or no turkey.