Saturday, 31 December 2005

Catching Up - Part 2

Catching Up - Part 1

On 21 December, I, together with 10 other "Queers A Singing" made my appearance in QX magazine as part of their 12 day of Christmas feature. We had got together in Trafalgar Square a couple of weeks ago for a quick photo session.

After all the exersions at Selfridges, my voice was starting to feel a bit ropy and tired. That did not stop me however to attend two civil partnership celebration, as previously announced. It was interesting to see how the style of the ceremonies reflected the personnalities of the people involved. One was quite pragmatic and straight to the point while the other involved poetry reading and music. You can read what my usual sidekick has to say about it here. The lesson of this day where just under 1000 couples got united is that, contrary to what we were told, society is still standing and the sky hasn't collapsed.

I didn't have the time to attend the parties after the ceremonies however as I had to rush to prepare for the first of our two Barbican gigs.

Barbican Hall - 18 December 2004

It is always quite something to perform in big venues in London. This is most definitely our home crowd and the simple fact of us getting on stage usually gets them into a frenzy. The house was filled to about 80% of it's capacity on both nights but it was interesting to see that when they were asked during the audience participation bit, that few people had actually seen us last year. I am pleased to be able to say that this can not have anything to do with the quality of the performance as people, even if they can sometimes be intimidated by the slightly unfashionable image (read boring and naff) of choral singing in the first place, are usually quite enthusiastic when they see us. I agree with Slightly, that it probably has to do with the way the show was promoted. The name of the show was the same, the pictures used were those of last year's gig and people can be forgiven to think that they were presented with the same fare as last year. While some elements were similar, there was a lot of new material and as ever a few surprises. Both gigs went quite well and were probably some of our strongest performances ever. what the "other chorine" had to say about those two gigs, from Dallas where he is visiting his partner's family. Comments from an unknown member of our audience.

Commercial Break:
A recording of our Christmas material (and our other CDs) are available from the Chorus' online shop.


It was nice to see that, Rula Lenska, our hostess, although she perhaps protested a bit much of her "straightness" in her speeches on stage, was very enthusiastic throughout the whole process. To her credit, she not only hosted the show but also danced and sang in two numbers. She must have been very bored when not on stage in Birmingham and created a sort of card in the shape of a big dayglow mouth with little stars stuck aphazadly on it; telling us how wonderful she thought the Chorus was. She also wrote us a poem once the shows were finished, again emphasising how much fun she had working with us.

On both nights, I walked home for the Barbican enjoying the solitude of the crisp winter night and trying to burn out the high of adrenaline you usually get after a gig.

Another event which, like Selfridges, seems on the verge of becoming a Christmas tradition for the Chorus, is our carolling session under the Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in support of the RNIB. this took place this year on 23 December for us and it was a very nice and (mostly) relaxed way to wound down our season. After the gig (which raised over £750), we adjourned to a nearby gay pub for a drink and to exchange Christmas wishes before a short break.

Commercial Break:
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As I have mentioned before, there is guy in Chorus whom I rather like even if I can't get near him for some reason. I have decided that I would try my best and ignore him; stop staring at him and that sort of thing. While things haven't change between the two of us (ie NOTHING is happening), I have been getting some confusing and contradictory signals from him during this round of performances. I sometimes catch him looking at me, but not that often and he doesn't seem to do it when it would seem the most natural.

There was an interesting episod in Birmingham. We were sharing the same dressing room (I never cease from wondering at the importance of toilets, locker rooms and other such public spaces in the lives of gay men's). As I was topless, I am pretty sure I saw him checking me out, just like I had just checked him out. Nothing else happened; I finished getting dressed and went to sit outside to eat my sandwich where I was joined by another chorine. A few minutes later it was his turn to come out of the dressing room and after a visible short hesitation, he came to sit next to me to have his own sandwich and chit-chat with us.

On the coach back to Brighton, he was seated a few rows in front of me on the other side and he did look at me a few times.

I am all too aware, from past experience, that it is all too easy to twist and blow things out of proportion when you really want to read something into circumstances so I will keep on trying not to think about him or check him out too much; be nice if he talks to me but not seek contact with him as the evidence point to the fact that he is most probably not interested. In the past week I have met someone, who, while I don't think either of us are expecting anything very deep for our association, is helping me taking my head off the reluctant chorine.

With the end of the siging season, and after this very intensive last few days, withdrawal started to kick in. A feel not alleviated in any way but my having to go back to work on the 28th. Christmas had been quite. On the 25th, last most years it seems, I made my way (I walked the 5 odd miles return this year, when I cycled them last year) to a French friend's place (we actually come from the same area in France and new each other before he moved to this country about 10 years ago) where we had a typically French Christmas lunch in the company of my friend's new boyfriend; as sweet guy from Mauritius. I must confess to a little pang of jealousy at see them exchanges gestures of tenderness.

This is the last post of the year for me, so let me wish you all a very happy, safe and prosperous new year. Thanks to all those who take the time to read my ramblings.


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Up on THAT Mountain

For the past few months the blogsphere has been a-buzz with an incredible hype which had been building up more or less all year. Last night I succombed to the hype and found myself one of the first people in the UK to see the already award winning film, Brokeback Mountain.

Brokeback Mountain - poster

I am, of course, not the only one not to resist the hype. Comparatively (it is only showing in a limited number of cinemas in the US), the film is one of the best sellers of the year, even beating block busters like King Kong and the promoters have had to accelerate the pace of the release, such is the demand. All the critics love the film and it is typed for the Oscars. The far right is obviously up in arms. The cinema was packed something quite unusually I would imagine for a 4.45pm screening on a Friday afternoon. From what I could tell, the audience was fairly mixed; lots of gay guys (including the ubiquitous Chorus member!) but also straight couples.

The film is based on Annie Proulx's short story by the same name originally published in the New Yorker in 1997. The making of the film has been a long (about 7 years, I think) and complicated process with directors and actors dropping out repeatedly and film industry magnates predicted it would be the end of the career of the two promising leads. All of this, of course because of the gay content of the film which tells the story of two ranch hands who meet one summer on the eponymous Brokeback Mountain while herding sheep and would fall in love with each other. We then follow them for a good twenty years as they try to grapple with this love and social pressures; having families and meeting only a few days each year.

The question of course is: does the film live up to the hype? According to a friend of mine, who could not resist anymore than I could, it does; and I tend to agree with him on the whole. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal - wallpaperThe filmography (and the landscapes) is beautiful, the actors very good and Annie Proulx' story is fantastic. The film has this slow moving epic quality Oscar winners have (I heard someone say after the screening that at the beginning they were worried it would be boring). At the end of the film (during the credits actually), I was reduced to a blubbering mass of weeping nonsense. My only problem with the film is, I think, the fact that we do not get a very good sense of the passing of time, either during the two cowboys' first summer together or during the next twenty odd years.

Most of the hype attached to the film, in addition to its filmic qualities, has to do with the fact that almost for the first time, a main stream film has gay storyline. This of course is not of the liking of the right wingers in the US who are so scared by the success of the film that they are actually speaking out against it (something they don't normally do; they apparently usually prefer to remain silent against films they do not approve of). The slight problem is that, when you go and see the film, the fact that the protagonist have gay sex is not quite relevant. Note that I do not say that they are gay or homosexual. Only one of the the characters (Jack Twist, played by Gyllenhaal) could I think be considered to be homosexual (certainly not gay) in that he actively seeks other same sex encounters whereas the other character (Ennis Del Mar played by Ledger) is clearly not interested in other men. There are a couple of scenes of gay sex in the film but there is just as much straight sex, all of it very tasteful and demure.

This is not a gay love story in the way that Beautiful Thing or Maurice are. Althgugh the film depicts the divastating consequences of social homophobia on the life of those involved, it is before anything else a story of swarted love which will resonate with both gay and straight audiences. It is interesting to notice that not of the principal parties in the making of the film (director, leads, writer) are gay; as if a certain of amount of distance unattainable by someone too deeply involved in the story was required to highlight the universality of a love story between too men.

There is I think little doubt now that this low budget film (only $14M) will be big mainstream success, which would only be made bigger if its promises of Oscar nominations and awards are fulfilled. The gay coyboys filmThis in turn is likely to have a huge impact on the perception of gay people in society at large. Not only will the story get unprecedented exposure to mainstream audiences for a story with gay characters, these audiences will empathise with these characters and realise that there is perhaps after all not that much difference between us all. Just like the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK, simply from the fact that people will now have to talk about them (interestingly often referring to them as "gay weddings") on a practical and matter of fact fashion, will make the thing become common and will eventually bring larger acceptance of gay relationships and people.

Another possible advantage arising from a true mainstream success of the film would be that producers will, as they do, jump on the bandwagon and we could be on the threshold of a new cinematographic era where films with gay storylines become quite common on our screens; furthering the level of habituation and acceptance even more. Of course, the downside to this is that not all of these copycats will be of the quality of Brokeback Mountain. Then again, very few films are.

The film is to be released officially in this country on 06/01/06.
Official website.
Read the short story online.
This is the story as originally published in the New Yorker. It was reworked slighlty by the author for book publication.

You can read other posts of mine on the film here and here.

A few more pictures:

Ready to dive Tender moment in the mountains Ang Lee, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal Ang Lee and his Venice Film Festival Golden Lion




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Friday, 30 December 2005

Catching Up - Part 1

I know I have been very bad in the past two weeks or so. I was on leave and that usually means I don't get the time to blog. This was even more true this time round.

With the Christmas season, several months of hard work with the Chorus finally came to fruition as we embarked on our series of Christmas shows.



It started on 14 December when we were whisked away to Birmingham and back on a coach. The first performance of this year's version of Make the Yuletide Gay was taking place at the Symphony Hall; one of the best concert halls in the world. The venue did not disappoint. The accoustic was truely fantastic even though the decoration with 1950's diner look was a bit too much perhaps. A shame that we managed to fill so few seats. We had already performed in Birmingham in 2003 at the Adrian Boult Hall at The Birmingham Conservatoire. A much humbler venue but there again we had had trouble filling it. I suppose our profile is not that high up there.

The Chorus was not in charge of the promotion of the show this time round however and even though our promoters are one of the biggest in the country (they put on about 600 shows a year) and they do have the financial means we haven't to buy advertising, I am not sure they did as good a job as they could have done. Then again, they did not keep us informed of what they were doing, so we can't really know.

The show went reasonably well however and it was a good start to the series of concerts.You can read the account of the show by another blogging chorine here. Comments from an unknown member of our audience.

On the way to the concert, we passed the site of the massive explosion which was felt all the way to the Netherland and France a few days before in Hemel Hempstead. Considering the force of the blow, the amount of smoke we saw in London and the few pictures I saw on the net (I still do not have a TV), we all wondered as we drove by if this was really the place where so much had happened. The site seemed much smaller than what could have been expected since there had been mention of 20 giant petrol tanks. The fire had just been extinguished and the only signs of what had happened were a the gaping and blackened remains of one oil tank and the missing facade of a warehouse building a few metres away.

On the next day I had hoped to be called for an interview for a new job I had applied to: Marketing Officer with a community based theatre company. A position I would have liked and thrived in. I was quite hope but although I was sure I had all the required skills and experience (developped and tested with the Chorus) and had demonstrated it in my statement, I did not hear a peep. As usual! So I am stuck with another round in my current job.

The next stop of our mini tour, took us to the Brighton Dome on 17 December. Again we got driven there and back by coach. The report from the "other chorine" is here. Lots of people seem to have issues with accoustics in the venue (a convertion of the Prince Regent's stables near the famous Royal Pavillion, boasting a 1930's Grade 1 listed interior) but I actually rather liked it; perhaps because, for once, we were able to ear ourselves singing. There had been changes to the running order of the show to make it shorter (it was apparently too long) and to give it more pace in the first part. Again the performance went well albeit for some sound problems we could do nothing about. The audience was bigger but again not a sell out; this was perhaps due to the fact that we could not find any poster for the show anywhere...

This was the start of a singing marathon for me. On the next day I reported to the security desk of Selfridges on Oxford Street for the first of twelve half an hour performances with a small delegation of the Chorus over the following three days (at the rate of four gigs per day). I had already taken part in the same gig last year although the 12 gigs I did had been spread over the five days (and 20 gigs) we did that time. In another difference to last year, we were not located at the bottom of the central escalator, near the cafe (where people could actually stop and listen to us) but we were on a small balcony hanging from the third floor over the escalator pit. In any case, this is great fun to do. You get to interact (not too much thought) with the crowds passing by which includes checking out the hunky guys. There seems to be a inordinate number of people working in Selfridges payed only to go up and down the escalators. Apparently last year Mrs Beckham enjoyed one of our performances; this year, on my way to the gigs, I spotted a very tanned Gary Linecker outside the shop. Someone told me they had seen Rowan Atkinson on the way in. Looks like the "stars" go shopping in the morning. They both missed us though!

Continued...


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Sunday, 18 December 2005

Currently Reading - Best Gay Love Stories 2005

Best Gay Love Stories 2005 - Nick Street (Ed.)
Best Gay Love Stories 2005, edited by Nick Street


Probably not the best choice considering my current state of mind... Enjoyable though.


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Thursday, 15 December 2005

Win Gay CDs

Click to enter the competition
The competition closes on December 25th.


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Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Currently Reading - Kingdom Swann

Kingdom Swann - Miles Gibson
Kingdom Swann by Miles Gibson.

This book was recommended to me by Slightly. I have almost finished it and I can't say I would recommend it to any one. It is mildly entertaining and apparently was the basis for the script of a film (which Slighltly enjoyed). On the whole, I don't think it is very well written and is certainly not memorable...


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3.6 Million of Us

The Observer reported this week-end on figures published by the Department of Trade and Industry assessing the impact of the new Civil Partnership and the anti-discrimination laws recently passed. The article focuses mostly on those major companies finally smelling the coffee and trying to woo the pink pound but the more important piece of news there has probably to do with the fact that we now have an official and seemingly reliable estimate of the gay and lesbian population in the UK. That's 3.6 million people; roughly 6% of the total population.

And there are no reasons to believe that these figures can not apply to the world population too...

Being a good gay boy and healthily refocusing the story onto my precious little self (*cough*), the news that there are about 1.7M gay men in this country (several hundred thousands of which are porbably located in London) maked me once again wonder what I am doing wrong...

Read the full DTI report (pdf).



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Friday, 9 December 2005

The End of The Route

Today marks the official end of the route for an iconic player of London life. The Routemaster which have been serving Londoners faithfully for so many decades and can now be found all over the world, has gone into retirement.

It had already been become a rare site on the streets of London in the past few months with decomissioning starting about a year ago. I used to hop on number 12 every to go to and back from work before the route was fitted with bendy buses (which have much fewer seats!).

Last night I witnessed part of the buses' swan song and I observed in surprise perhaps 5 or 6 routemasters of all areas on route 159 in Piccadilly Circus.

Thankfully, we will still have a chance to hope on a Routemaster from time to time as they will remain in service on Routes 9 and 15 as heritage routes for tourists.

The main reason for the decomissioning of the bus is it lack of accessibility for disabled people, which has long made me wonder why newer routemasters could not be design including accessible door and the famous and so practical open platform at the back. I am happy to say that others have had the same thought. Let's hope they are heard!



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Another Defection

Sainsbury's and Woolworth's are not the only major companies pandering to the intolerant right. Ford (together with its subsidiaries, which include Jaguar and Volvo) have decided under pressure for the right wing group American Family Association to stop advertising in the LGBT media and to stop supporting LGBT events. Wells Fargo, under pressure from Focus on the Family, declined to cave in; just like Kraft earlier this year.

The original story is here

You can read a lot more on this (including posts on the relation between the two Ford executives who brockered the deal AFA and the Bush administration or on Henry Ford's anti-semitic writings) on AmericaBlog.

Finally, you can express your discontent to Ford here.



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Jerry Springer, Again

From Equity (the British Actors' Union):
You may have read in the press that both Sainsbury’s and Woolworths have withdrawn from sale DVDs of Jerry Springer - The Opera after receiving complaints from the public. This is the same production of Jerry Springer - The Opera which was subject to protests when the BBC screened it.

When Equity approached the two companies, Sainsbury's press office said that they had received around 20 complaints but Woolworths would not reveal the number of complaints it had received other than to say it was "substantial".

Equity is very concerned about the action of the two companies and General Secretary Christine Payne has issued the following statement:

"Equity is opposed to the action which Woolworths and Sainsbury's have taken on two grounds. Firstly, Equity strongly supports artistic freedom and equally strong opposes censorship in all its forms, however offended any individual may feel themselves to be by a particular piece of dramatic art.

“Secondly, Equity members derive income from the sales of recorded material, including DVDs, and so stand to lose income from actions such as these.

"Equity is inviting all of its members to make their views known to Sainsbury’s and Woolworths about these acts of censorship."

If you wish to contact Sainsbury's with your views you can visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/contactus and complete an e-mailable form or call their general enquiry line on 0800 636 262.

If you wish to contact Woolworths you can send an e-mail to customer.relations@woolworths.co.uk or call the company's headquarters on 020 7262 1222.

Or you can wirte to the CEO of Sainsbury's:
Justin King
c/o Sainsbury’s
33 Holborn
London EC1N 2HT

A few email addresses:

justin.king@sainsburys.co.uk (CEO) but his emails are handled by a Contact Centre
philip.hampton@sainsburys.co.uk (Chairman)
gwyn.burr@sainsburys.co.uk (Director of Customer Marketing)
penny.peale@sainsburys.co.uk (Head of General Merchandising i.e. non-food)
mike.coupe@sainsburys.co.uk (Director of Trading)
sarah.trowbridge@sainsburys.co.uk (Head of Customer Service)

(Thanks to Liam for the names.)

Update:
from a friend of mine:.

I have just called Sainsbury's. A civilised guy told me that they had been inundated with calls protesting about their decision.

I rang Wooolworths and got the security man! so will contact them tomorrow.


Second Update
From another friend, an email from Sainsbury's in response to his complaint (emphasis added):


------ Forwarded Message
From:
Date: 8 Dec 2005 20:51:34 +0000
To: [...]
Subject: RE: Other Questions

Dear S,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I am very sorry that you are unhappy with our decision to stop selling Jerry Springer, The Opera on DVD.

Please let me assure you that we would never wish to cause offence to any of our customers. As a retailer, we feel we should offer our customers a choice of what to buy. We monitor all feedback about the products on sale in our stores and I can confirm that we are no longer selling Jerry Springer, The Opera.
Thank you again for letting us know how you feel. We are committed to getting things right for our customers and I do hope I have been able to offer you some assurance.

Kind regards,

SR
Sainsbury's Customer Services
.


Third Update
From Woolworth's in (rather irrelevant) response to my complaint ("I am not impressed by your decision to pander to an extremist minority but deciding to stop stock DVDs of Jerry Springer the Opera. I like to be regarded as a responsible individual who can make his own decision and choices. Why should you and these people do that for me?
Another decision has been forced upon me in this occasion: that of taking my custom elsewhere..."):

Dear Sir / Madam

Woolworths is guided by legislation and regulatory bodies on what it can and cannot sell in its stores.

Our decisions to sell products are based on customer demand.

The product is not currently available in stores, however should a customer wish to purchase it, it is available from our website - www.woolworths.co.uk.

Regards,

Woolworths Plc





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Thursday, 8 December 2005

The Colour of Melancholy

Two unrelated snippets give its colour to this post.

Yesterday I received an email from my mother. She was telling me about a tree in my parents' garden. As far as I can remember, I have been told that this Walnut tree had been planted when I was born. For many years it had languished in the front yard of the house in a darkish place with not enough earth for it to develop properly. Probably about 15 years ago, my father moved it to the garden at the back of the house.

The house is built on some sort of slope, which means that the garden is level with the first floor of the house. There is, however, a courtyard at the back of the house, level with the groundfloor and of a width of about 4 or 5 metres. A dry stone wall keeps the garden where it should be.

For some unknown reason, my father who knows about trees (he is a retired joiner) decided to replant the tree almost at the top of the stairs leading from the courtyard to the garden. In the past 15 years or so, the tree has grown a lot, as walnut trees tend to do, obscuring most of the garden with its dense cold foliage and threatening to to push down the wall sustaining the garden with its roots.

My parents are now quite old (both in their mid 70's) and seem to have ingaged in the process of tidying the house and their lives before they die. A few weeks ago my mother informed me that they were thinking about cutting the walnut tree down; asking for my opinion on this. This gave me some sort of a pang. In this strange sentimental and romantic way we have with objects in my family, and although I have never attached much importance to that tree, I find myself almost superstitiously linked to this tree.

I replied to her that it was their decision.

Yesterday, my mother sent me this rather melodramatic email:
Le pauvre noyer est tombé jeudi dernier après avoir été martyrisé par ton père pendant plusieurs jours : les branches ont été coupées petit à petit, et c’était bien triste de voir l’arbre pleurer à grosses gouttes de sève.
The poor walnut tree went down last Thursday after having been put through martyrdom [an expression she likes] by your father over several days: the boughs had been progressively cut off and it was quite a sad sight to see the tree weep big drops of sap.

The other tidbit comes from my traffic monitor for this page. It appears someone found this blog by googling "gay cruising london blackwells bookshop".

I hope their story finishes better than mine.



Currently Reading - The Boy I Love

The Boy I Love - Marion Husband
The Boy I Love by Marion Husband.

The last book (Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess) took me a while finish but it was worth it. this book is the next one for my reading group. Visit our website for more details about the group and the book.



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Monday, 5 December 2005

Historic Day

From today, same sex couples in the UK can register to form a Civil Partnership. The first ceremonies (except for a few exceptions in Scotland and Ireland, I think) will take place in 21 December. This will give people rights almost similar to those of straight married couples. This is of course not ideal but it is a huge step forward.

While most people are busy celebrating, a few discordant voices can be heard complaining about the fact that the new law will apparently disadvantage the poorer members of the LGBT community. It seems that because the possibility of the partnership now exists, "unofficial" couples who were, until now, receiving benefits will not be eligible for these benefits any more. My instinctive answer to this is: form a partnership. I understand that another part of the argument is that these couples find themselves forced into patnerships. I am not sure I understand the rationale behind this; or perhaps I understand it only too well.

Since entering a partnership will probably give these people more protection than they currently enjoy, my impression is that the disappearance of the benefits is only a smoke screen for the real issue; one which is recurrent in our modern western society. Until now those people were happy to receive money from the state without accepting any of the responsibilities that it would seem fair to expect them to shoulder in exchange for the support provided. Now they find themselves having to reciprocate (in some tiny way I think) the favour; and they don't like that.

A similar argument can, I think, be raised against their alleging at being forced into a partnership. This change in the law is about giving LGBT people the SAME rights as their straight counterparts. This is about equality; not, selfishly, about the advantages of some of the members of a particular minority section of the community. How can we expect to be listened to if we ask for equality but are not ready to be treated in exactly the same way as other groups? Whether this is good or (only slightly) bad for us. I also think this change will bring much more important advantages (that includes the degree of acceptance of LGBT people by the wider community) than the few bits and bobs we can possibly lose.

I am proud and happy to say that, on 21st of December, I will be attending the civil partnerships of two pairs of friends as well of course as celebrating this historic step towards full equality.



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Friday, 2 December 2005

Storm in a Teacup

As I clarevoyantly predicted last week, the hype surrounding the introduction of the new licensing laws was much ado nothing. I haven't heard anything about it on Radio 4 since it happens and certainly the report of doomsday forecast by so many people. Having kickly googled the subject to find some information, I can report that nothing special happened in Devon, Buckinghamshire or Manchester (although we are warned that the "real test" will take place over Christmas). It was such a none event in London that it seems the Evening Standard has not published one single article on the subject!

To compensate my lovely readers from the come-down that is this post, here a round-up of the situation by the BBC and one by the Guardian that links to George Orwell's robust take on the now defunct licensing laws as published in his column As I Please in the socialist weekly, The Tribune, in 1944 (scroll down to the entry for August, 18).



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Perspective

Like most morning I was listening to The Today Programme on Radio4 this morning. They had an interview with Chris Martin the lead singer of Coldplay about fair trade and the what is being done against poverty in the "Third World" in reaction to the possible lack of agreement at the end of the upcoming Hong Kong trade summit. Nothing unusual so far. Nothing unusual in most of what Mr Martin said either to be honest. He talked about how is experience of going to Africa and experience the people's poverty there brought all he had read and seen on the subject to reality. He also insisted that being pessimistic is never a good thing. He mentioned how unromantic fair trade was and that made it difficult for him to write songs about it. He had apparently tried but failed. My thoughts at this were that perhaps it took a better writer to do the job or certainly one a little self absorbed.

What was really strange about this interview, was the set of references used by Martin. Describing his experience in Africa, he mentioned his meeting a young farmer there and how this had brought home the difference in access to commodities, goods and education one gets so easily when one is a member of Coldplay. A few seconds later, insisting on people must always remain optimistic, he went on to declare that one might be pushed to number two in the charts by Crazy Frog, just like it happened to him and his band, but that it was important to always remain positive. Obviously the sort of experience everyone can relate to...

Strange.





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Friday, 25 November 2005

I'll Have a Double Standard, Please

This week sees what can arguably be called a historic change in the country’s social habits. The licensing laws around drinking hours have been relaxed after years of governmental promises for all sides. As soon as the change was announced and it looked like it would happen this time, voices could be heard forecasting all sorts of evil fall on the country as a result. Of course, it is probably safer to wait until the week-end to see how things pan out but so far, it is very much a case of a storm in a cup of tea (so to speak). Few establishments have actually applied for the extended hours and the first reports say that the civil war announced has not started yet.

We were also informed that allowing people to drink longer would mean they will drink more. I am not sure how this can happen. First of all, once you are “legless”, as state people already managed to attain under the now defunct system, there is not much you can do to make things even worse. Secondly, there is an economic factor, which seems to have been over looked. Alcohol costs money and people will quickly find themselves limited by the size of their wallet if not by that of their stomach. Thirdly, it was already possible to drunk non-stop, just not in a pub, and those who wanted to indulge around the clock did not wait for the change of law.

Once again, I might be underestimating the allure of the charm of what is after all a national sport in this country, but I don’t think the new law will make much of a difference in a negative direction. It might however allow people to pace themselves a little more and, while drinking as much as before, not feel as much the worst for wear.

Finally I can’t help but drawing a comparison with the row over the smoking ban (about which I have blogged before) although the two issues are slightly different. While I can avoid drunken behaviour and drunk people fairly easily, I can not avoid inhaling smoke in a crowded pub or club. While I think there is call for banning smoking in ALL public places, I do not find it right to restrict people to do something (which most of the time harms only themselves) only at certain times. This smacks of double standards. Another example of this, comes from the Tory calling the smoking ban the actions of the dreaded “Nanny State” while finding perfectly acceptable to tell people when they can have a drink…




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Thursday, 24 November 2005

Shameless

Buy one hereYesterday turned out to be a busy day indeed but an enjoyable one too. I had booked the afternoon off work to attend the pre-launch of LGBT History Month 2006 (which will take place in February next year), before going to a meeting for the Chorus (my third evening this week taken up by that Blooming Chorus, not to mention the whole of last Sunday!).

Thankfully I had brought my own scribe with me which saves me having to toil away telling you about the fun, the momentum (in more ways than one) and the dizzyness of the event. Read it all here.

Once you are done, do not forget to go and buy one of the badges designed by Master Slightly by clicking on the picture above. Thanks.


Sunday, 20 November 2005

Cold Frustration

How frustrating it is not to be able to relate to the people around you; people you know are worth knowing; people who seem to want to know you.

How so much more saddening it is not to be able to relate to someone you fancy, one of the very few people you fancy, and watch other people (who might feel like you but who probably don't) fare much better than you in relating to that person you admire...

Even though you have tried, there is this invisible wall between you and him, between you and them; a wall against which you keep banging your head. This crystalises your feelings of solitude and makes you wonder what you are doing wrong.

Not nice thoughts for a bus ride in the early night of a cold, already festively iluminated, November evening.


Monday, 14 November 2005

Eye Candy

After all those serious posts I have made recently, I thought I would provide a bit of light relief.

For those of you who have never heard of it, the Dieux Du Stade calendars first appeared in 2001. It was made of nude pictures of the Stade Français rugby team and was sold for charity. The concept is still the same by has been extended to French sportsmen in general. Needless to say the calendars have been huge successes, especially in the gay community.

Here is a clip of the making of of the 2005 calendar.



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No Gay Priests for the Vatican

I have blogged about this before when it was only a rumour. I will not repeat my arguments here. It seems this is however getting ever closer to becoming reality although the policy seems as ill-thought and contradictory as it seems when we first heard of it. Of course this is only a report on an Associated Press report of a newspaper report! Hardly first hand information. This means that the information can get diluted and skewed but this article raises more questions than it answers. Why should "men with "passing" homosexual tendencies that were never acted on" be allowed to ordained when "those who support gay culture cannot become priests"? Could they not be themselves supporters of the "gay culture" even if they do not take part in it?

Also, how is the Church going to acertain that "they have overcome [their homosexual tendencies ] for at least three years"?
According to the paper, the document says gay men can't become priests because their lifestyle represents an "obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women."
This short sentence is probably the most outrageous part of the article. It shows the Catholic Church in all its irrational and prejudiced bigotry. Why and How can being homosexual preclude someone from entering a "correct relationship" (whatever that is!) with other human beings? In what way is the homosexual desire more difficult to control than the heterosexual one? This is such a patronising statement and obviously part of the Vatican's campaign to demonise homosexuals and present them as abominations (to quote the Old Testament); immature people with no control over their behaviour.

We are a long way off from the official doctrin of "hate the sin, love the sinner".

Thanks.



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Friday, 11 November 2005

A Comment

I have received the comment below from my previous post on the subject of the recent riots in France:
Zefrog,
I enjoyed your article, but it seems to me that there may be an additional problem here,open borders, that is shared by many other countries as well.
Perhaps there are many Frenchmen who do not want "Cheap" labor flooding the country and vying for the same jobs they themselves need. When you add to this the tendency of many of these people to not want to assimilate it creates resentment.In addition,because of the high birth rate of many of these immigrants, and the lower birth rate of the French, it is estimated that France will lose it's national identity in forty years. Personally, I feel if a person does not want to become "French", but instead retain his own ethnic identity, perhaps he should remain in his own country and work to make it better rather than immigrate to another mans country and expect them to accommodate his customs.
I am very sorry to have to say this to a new visitor to my blog and someone who took the trouble to leave of comment, of which I am grateful, but this opinion shows nothing more than a complete lack of knowledge of the current situation in France.

The problem has very little to do with immigration, not the immigration allowed by the Schengen treaty, which is refered to in the above. If immigration has to be included in this equation, one has to go back to 1950's during Les Trente Glorieuses, a period of incredible econimic growth during which France had to resort to a workforce recruited mostly in what was left of its dwindling colonial empire. There was also a strong migratory flow coming from Poland, Italy and Portugual the same time. The country was more than happy of this extra workforce feeding its economic growth. The people forming this wave of immigration on the whole integrated quite nicely. There were after all not economical insecurity to creat social tensions. It is probably fair to say however that the european immigrant probably integrated better than the mostly north african ones. I do not think however that this is due to an unwillingness on the part of these poeple as is suggested in the comment but simply because the cultural differences were far greater and the gap more difficult to bridge.

In any case the people rioting today in the street of France are not immigrants. They are French people, born in France. The third and fourth generations sons and daughters of the 1950's immigrants. Far from expecting other French people "to accommodate [their] customs", the lifestyle of these young men (I assume here, perhaps wrongly, that there are few women involved in the riots) is as european as can be and probably bears very little resemblance to the one their forefathers left behind them when they were invited to France. The problem, as I have stated before does not stem from an unwillingness to integrated but from the fact that, although most of them are citizens of the country, they are still made to feel like foreigners because of their origin. When someone feels rejected, their first instinct is to reject even further in return.

Finally, I am not sure what relevance to I can attach to the demographic argument developped in the comment. It seems to me to be pure and simple xenophobia, which, I think at the root of the crisis. If I understand my reader's position and if it is shared in France as he assumes it is, then surely the rioters should not be the descendant of immigrants who are currently rioting but rather those evanescent and hypothetical "true French" who fear that demoraphic invasion or those "many Frenchmen who do not want "Cheap" labor flooding the country and vying for the same jobs they themselves need". All of them happily forgetting in the process that France had always been a terre d'asile which stemmed from and continuously strived on foreign influences.


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From My New Friend

I had another email from my new friend last tonight. I had posted details of an event on the Chorus' mailing list (a list he had flamboyantly announced a month ago he was unsubscribing from), for people's information. Not commenting and certainly not saying that I would be attending, which I am not going to.

A few hours later, I received this:
I'm tempted to warn anyone about going to a social event with you...

To which I responded (borrowing from Oscar Wilde):
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.



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Thursday, 10 November 2005

Flames in France

A couple of friends have emailed me to ask for my opinion on the current events in France, so I thought I would share my tuppunce worth with the expecting world as well.

One of the cités outside Dijon - May 04After more than 5 years in the UK, I must say I feel rather disconnected with my country of origin. Not only do I sometimes find it difficult to express myself in French, I have very much lost touch with what is happening there. However, I have to say that I am not altogether surprised by what is happening at the moment. There had been (much smaller) outbursts in the past and I think it was only a question of time before a full blown crisis happened. As I am writing, this has been going on for fourteen nights and the State of Emergency has been declared in several cities (including the one where I was born and lived for several year while at Uni: Dijon). Things are finally calming down a little.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been following the events very closely. I got an email from my mother yesterday, listing places and things which routinely get burned (schools, cars and so on) and saying it was all quite frightening. I am not sure the tiny village where she lives is about to make it to the headlines just yet though. The media in the UK have been reporting on the events though and I have caught a couple of things on Radio 4.

It seems everybody is trying to find reasons for what is going on. Some blame it on the apparently increasing antisemitism to be found in the country (saying that the crisis is now Europe wide), others on a terrorist plot. I am not really convinced by either theory. Although a journalist on From Our Own Correspondent reported that this time round the rioters have included islamist rationales to their discourse, I do not think religion is much of an issue in this case.

Others again blame it on the French social model. While I do not think there is one single easy and neat answer to the problem, I thing we are getting warmer with this hypothesis.

Contrary to the UK's multicultural approach, where ethnic and cultural minorities are allowed to live next to each other and retain their identity, the French model expects people to adhere to the French ways and become French themselves. This is an attitude I find myself reproducing naturally; not hanging out with other French people here in London and trying to conform as much as possible to the local ways of doing things. The idea is fine in theory but not really happening in practice. The problem with this is that it should be going both ways. The minorities should make an effort to integrate but the majority needs to be willing to accept them. Radio4 again had a report on the total lack of minority representation in the media and it is notoriously difficult for someone with a non-French name to get a job. Although I don't think there is much overt racism (even though the far right came second at the last presidential elections), people seem to be quite averse to change and difference and xenophobia expresses itself in a more covert but, probably for that very reason, much more effective way. The result is that ethnic minorities (and especially second and third generation immigrants) find themselves ostracised, sitting on the fence between their discarded identity and a society they are refused access to.

Because of this and huge financial difficulties (in a country where unemployment is at 10%, the figures rise to 40% in those "cités"), they end up cooped up together in ghetto like "cités" ("council estates" or "projects") in the suburb of the cities. These places are famously horrible places. The police and firemen, because they have been attacked there so often, refuse to go there; shops have closed down; and violence, drug dealing and idle youths own the place.

When there is no hope and nothing to, when the "rule of law" has disappeared, when you have been used to see violence since you are a child, what do you do when you get a chance? You riot...

For years the government has done nothing about all this. It is only in the few years since I have left that proper anti-discrimination laws have been passed. As I said there have been incident before but nothing on such a scale. This is a wake up call. Let's hope the government hears it.

My response to a comment left on this post can be read here.

Further reading:
* C’est l’économie, stupide – the real reason why the cars of Paris burn - Times (08/11/05) [Basically my position although I am slightly surprised by the Schadenfreude in the article]
* The Riots
* More Notes on the Rioting in France
* Why is France Burning?




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Wednesday, 9 November 2005

A Conversation

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my attendance at a show with other Chorus members. It seems that some kindly soul, probably in the interest of reconcilation and peace, has forwarded a link to this post to one of the persons described in it. Tonight I received communication by email from this person and the following exchange ensued (you will need to refer to the original post to understand what this is about):


[Zefrog],

Read your rousing blog about our night out at Hedwig. I was so glad to find out how shallow and 'in love' with you I am. Had I not read about my love interest for you (apparently shared by everyone else who came into contact with you), I might have forgotten that you were there at all.

No, honestly, no hard feelings. The blog was a good source of humor for me and others who read it.

Well, I am off to shop for expensive watches to base my self-worth on,

[SL]
Shallow, Philandering American
xx

I am glad to have been of help. Perhaps I should buy a watch to get closer to reality myself...

All the best,
[Zefrog]

Have one of your adoring fans by [sic] you a watch...

Actually, better not, that "lifestyle" doesn't suit you.

x
SSL

Unfortunately, as you so justly reminded me, my powers of seduction do not extend that far... so yes, like the delusional Cinderella that I was on that night, I will keep away from the "lifestyle"...
[Z]

It seems I have made another friend, I am so good at that... SL and I do not know each other and it looks like we probably never will. It is important however to remember that this episod is not about personalities but about perceptions and assumptions that people make when interacting. Assumptions are unavoidable and necessary. The point is to remaind open-minded and ready to reassess one's assumptions as one progresses; using them as tools and not being imprisoned by them.


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The Silly Tests Series

Close enough (except for the sex bit: Being open-minded in this matter doesn't mean you get lots of it!). The children bit is wrong too but the alternative ending sounds about right.

If we needed confirmation, I am a spinster, aka:

The Bachelor
Deliberate Gentle Sex Master (DGSMm)

Straight-up. Studly. Congratulations, you are The Bachelor.

You're an honest, good-thinking guy, and though you're very sexually active, people don't perceive you as a male-slut or man-whore or guy-dick-putter-inner or whatever. You have a sterling reputation.

You're a careful person, perhaps too much so for your friends' tastes, but guys like that in you. You probably don't kiss & tell. And you definitely don't brag. You know you don't have to prove anything to anyone. It's as if you believe in monogamy, so long as it's with lots of different people.

Our guess is that you've got some kind of word-of-mouth going with the boys out there, and that in the future, your sex partners will get even more plentiful, and more attractive, too.

Your exact opposite:
The Manchild
Random Brutal Love Dreamer

You will settle down eventually, and make an excellent husband. You seem like the type who is into the idea of making copies of yourself, so you'll probably adopt lots of kids. Bear in mind, meanwhile, this can get expensive.

ALTERNATE ENDING: You will die broke and alone. Vermin will feast on your ragged body for five days before the groundskeeper notices. The thing is, when somebody dies in a public restroom, the natural odor of his decomposing flesh is often masked by the feces smell.


ALWAYS AVOID: The Manchild

CONSIDER: The Bachelor, The Backrubber


Take the 32-Type Dating Test.

via

Manual Spam

This is a message to the Polish twat who has been posting (what is probably straight) porn links in the comments of 27 of my posts. Their IP is router.innet.insite.pl.

This is a gay blog. My (few) readers are not interested in your junk. You are wasting your time and mine. You will have noticed that I have restricted comments to registered users and, something you are not aware of, I have reported you to Blogger (the host of this blog).

So just bugger off, will you and give us both a break!



Monday, 7 November 2005

New Blog

I have just added a new blog to my blogroll (on the right hand side). It is an account of the 07/07 Bombings and their aftermath by on of the survivors. It was forwarded to me by Slightly; check it out.

Rachel From North London



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Friday, 4 November 2005

What Sort of Friend is That?

Slightly just sent me an email telling he had just been on the phone with IP, a guy he thought he was interested in and sort of dated for a while. After a few weeks of drama, the guy told Slightly he was sort of back with his ex and then that he was dating someone else.

From what I can gather, there has been a few since then. I met IP once. Slightly had organise a meeting in town. A visiting friend of IP was there too. He didn't leave a great impression in my mind and added to what I know of how attention seeking he seems to be, I can't say I am enamoured with the guy.

The phone call was apparently to moan (read cry) about the ex boyfriend again. It turns out that IP also asked from my phone number and that of another of Slightly's friends because he apprently found both of us cute and wants to take us out for coffee.

And what does Slightly go and do, knowing how desperate I am and how used I am to weirdos? He refuses to give our details and tells the guy to call him "when he gets back to reality"...

Too right!!!!



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Happy Anniversary


A year ago today, I created an account on Blogger and posted my first entry on this blog. A year on, I am still not sure what this blog is about. Readership is growing slowly. I enjoy having a readily accessible soapbox even if it is more or less to the wilderness so I think I'll be there next year...


Thursday, 3 November 2005

The Silly Tests Series

Well, actually surprisingly accurate this time...

ColorQuiz.com

I took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test and was told that I "feel obstructed in my desires and prevented from obtaining the things I regard as essential", which is exactly right.
Click here in you can be bothered to read the rest of the results.

via

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

The Silly Tests Series

tortured conceptual artist
You are a Tortured Conceptual Artist. Your fellow
postmodernists call you an anachronism, but
you've never cared much about the opinions of
others. After all, most of them are far too
simple-minded to appreciate the nuances of your
work. They talk, while you are part of a lived
tradition.


What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla.

via.

Monday, 31 October 2005

Laaa-zy

If you want to know what I got up to last night, go to the other side. If you do, please do push the curiosity to read the comments too; there are a few important bits of information added by myself there.




Sunday, 30 October 2005

What a night

It is almost one in the morning and I can’t sleep; I am still high on the energy built up tonight (and perhaps the alcohol too). It all started quite normally with my having dinner at home and getting ready to join someone for the Chorus, SH, who had organised a night out to see the stage version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

On my way to Too2much, the ill-named venue (formerly the infamous Raymond Revue), where the show was to take place, and although I had decided on a different route to try and avoid them, my bus was slowed down by the non-demonstrating cyclists taking part in Critical Mass. I knew Slightly would be one of them and rang him to give him a piece of my mind.

I made it to the cabaret in time however. There were 6 of us in all, 5 of which are Chorus members. We spotted another member in the audience. I had been to Too2much once, and have to say I had not been particularly impressed. The place is expensive and pretencious while at the same time a bit shabby. This time I was a little more impressed. Together with our seats we got a "free" glass of Champagne, a programme and a foam wig. The staff was very polite and on the whole helpful if a bit overwhelmed sometimes. After several reminders that the bar was about to close and that we should stock up on drinks, the show finally began.

A few months ago, I came across a cheap copy of the DVD of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I was aware of it without knowing why and decided to give it a sceptical try. To my utter surprise, the experience turned out to be quite enjoyable indeed. I suppose also that any gay person (especially a gay person) will find things to relate to in this story of someone who has no real roots and is trying to make sense of life. Although the characterisation is a bit two-dimensional, the songs (and the singing) are actually rather good (and I don’t usually like guitary stuff!). One of my favorites numbers of the show, The Origin of Love is the retelling of Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symphosium, which, as well as sounding good, appeals to me intellectually. Both versions of Wicked Little Town will echoe in many a conscienceness.

David Bedella as HedwigThe UK version of the show (it was a show before becoming a film) was created last year I believe for the Pride Festival Fortnight and was staged at Heaven. The lead was taken up by David Bedella, who is better known for his award winning performance as Satan/Warm up Man in Jerry Springer, the Opera. He was Hedwig tonight again, and a very good one too. The show is build like a one-man-show and Bedella, really carry the whole 90 min show. A thoroughly enjoyable performance. My only criticism is that he physically don't quite look the part; he is way to muscly and masculine looking to be a convincing transexual, even a botched one, but there is obviously nothing he can do about this. I have been singing the chorus of one of the songs since I left Too2much and am now listening to them as I write.

At the end of the show, Bedella invited everyone in the audience to join him to the bar upstairs and all six of us went up. This is where the really strange part of the evening started for me.
1.30am - going to bed...


11.30 am.

Hedwig tunes a are again playing in the background. Slightly woke me up an hour ago to tell me about his adventures. Despite a slight lingering headache, it is time now to finish telling mine.

Although we were all members of the Chorus we don't know each other well (most of this people are from the recent new intake) and the group was mostly composed of pairs. JA informed us when his date went to the toilet that the guy (PG) was a "potential". DO and SL, I learned later were in the exploratory stages of a possible relationship as well. Then there was SH and myself, who are just friends. SH, knew JA and myself. I had met JA at a previous such expedition when we went to see Theatre of Blood at the National. DO and I were aware of each other, as he was a member when I joined the Chorus and left soon after.

As we were waiting for the show to start, the conversation went on laboriously, as it usually does between people who don't know each other. As usual, in noisy environment I was rather silent, looking around me and not straining to catch what was being said too much. I did become aware at one point that the conversation had turned to watches. Everyone seemed to agree that they had to be very expensive (SL had had his insured) and a gift from someone. SL informed us that jeans, watches and flowers are the only things one should pay attention to. The guy seem to have more money than sense if you ask me... (when we got upstairs, he gave his credit card to the barman, saying he wanted a refill of his class of wine everytime it got empty and paid for several rounds). All through this, I was aware of or imagined repeated insistent looks in my direction from SL and PG.

When we got upstairs after the show, DO for some reason seemed to attached himself to me. By that time the others were already bound by that ethylic camaradery I never try to reach and SL, DO's "date" was blithly flirting and being touchy feely with everyone in his reach. He even tried it on me at some time! Something nobody usually does.

DO is some sort of voice coach. Earlier in the evening, he asked me the usual questions about how long I had been in London and how I learned English. On the occasion he informed me that although my accent was recognisably French, I also had elements of a London accent in the way I speak. A nice thing to hear. I felt a bit more embivalent however when he suggested that I might want to get myself checked for dyslexia. He said that my problems in noisy places, where I hear the sounds but somehow do not seem to process them to make sense of them is a potential symptom of dyslexia. He then proceeded to give me a short list of numbers, asking me to repeat them in the reverse order. By then, I had had a glass of Champagne and one of white wine; my brains were not as agile as they could be expected to be and I could not manage the asigned task. DO said that using visual means to deal with such request could also be a sign of dyslexia. To be honest I am a little sceptical and to be honest uncertain as to the usefulness of being diagnosed. Dyslexia is not "curable" and if I am indeed affected, it can only be to a light degree.

Just before I decided to leave, PG, with whom I had not exchanged a word during the all evening, took the opportunity of my standing idly alone to come up and tell me I had a very nice... skin. Saying how smooth and soft it was. I asked him if he had a professional interest there (perhaps he was a taxidermist) to which he replied he was a physiotherapist.

Walking out of Too2much, I felt quite elated. As far as my delusional mind could tell, I had awakened the interest of three guys that evening. Something clearly unheard of. Of course they weren't exactly free to do anything about it and neither would I have wanted them to (apart perhaps for PG) but it was a nice feeling anyway. Reflecting on all this now, I also see how disconnected I am with how social interactions work. It seems things go much faster than I think. More on this in another post perhaps, when I have got my head around it.

The interesting thing is that I will probably be seeing most of those poeple again tonight. SH is having a non-halloween party... For now, my headache has grown worth for staring at that screen. I think I'll go for a lie down.




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