Friday, 27 April 2007

End of An Era

As readers will know, he who I call my best friend and my business partner, he who once said that I was like a brother; a member of the family, has found himself a boyfriend and is busy playing house. While it seems normal that his attention should be focused on this new development in his life , I find myself feeling the cold. This is not the first time that this happens; I am pretty sure I blogged about this at the time but I can locate the post for some reason.

I visited the happy couple's new place last week. I felt so out of place. Not because I felt unwelcome but because I was struck by the sudden difference between our two lives.

For the time we have known each other (almost 4 years now I think), we seemed to be more or less on a par: both more or less loners living in a room without much focus on where we were headed. The difference being that I was being my usual self while he was recovering from some rather disturbing and unsettling events in his life. Being there, in that rather nice flat, looking at the space and being told about the details of the furniture and their plans to arrange the place, it felt like he had moved into adulthood and I was stuck in a different world of outdated adolescence.

Where we used to be constantly in contact either by phone or the internet and met several times a week, we are now barely in contact once a week and meet about every two weeks. When we meet now we don't seem to have much to say to each other and usually stick strictly to "business" matters. He tells about people coming to visit the new flat, and has house parties and barbecues and I can't help (probably irrationally) that I am being kept away from this. Not of course that I am owed everything. Perhaps, for some reason, the boyfriend has put an embargo on me, I don't know. In any case, it seems that something has been broken but I am not even sure that he realises that.

This is clearly the end of an era but unfortunately this doesn't seem to be marking a new beginning for every one involved and I am find it heard to adjust to the new situation.

In the past few months, I have met several (3/4) guys on the Internet with whom I thought I could become friends. We got along nicely online and when we met in the "real world", things were fine too. This would have (and has, to a very limited extent,) provided some affective balance. These connections however didn't go further than that first meeting (there was possibly a second one in some cases) and this is the part I don't quite understand.

I would not really be bothered by this if I was not aware that this has been a recurring pattern throughout my life. Sooner or later (and it is usually sooner rather than later), people seem to loose interest in me, whether on the net or in real life. Even people who initiate contacts (and this is mostly the case) don't seem to be willing to pursue things very far.

I have a long and almost continuous history of exclusive friendships, both with boys and girls, and this has provided me with an affective balance that made things bearable or hid the obvious disfunction. All have waned after a few years however.

With the people mentioned above, I had made it clear in advance that I was not interested in anything sexual with them (this was not always done in so many words but I think the message as always been clear). There can therefore not be any disappointment of expectations in this area.

Random people regularly tell me that I look sad or miserable but that is probably because they rarely get a chance to see me interacting with other people and I don't see how one can be lively and smiling when not doing that.

To compound the above my not having worked for the past year means that I spend all my time at home in a tiny room. I probably go out on average 3 times a week (once for food shopping, once for rehearsal with the Chorus, some weeks, there is not third times). My contacts with the external world are limited to this and a few barren words exchanged with strangers online.

I usually warn people when I first meet them that they will soon loose interest. They protest that it is not likely but (and it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy) they always end up taking their distances. I would very much like to understand what I am doing wrong here to then try and correct the situation. I have thought on the problem for years now, included other people in my musings but to no avail.

I am so used to the situation that am not even really depressed or even sad about all of the above, simply frustrated at not being able to understand what is going on or able to do something about it.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Not a Good Day

I was caught in a bus accident on Tuesday afternoon.

I was in Mornington Crescent, on the side of Koko (formerly known as the Camden Palace), on my way back from a meeting in North London. At this point where Bayham Street and Crowndale Road converge into a one way street. The bus I was on was coming from the right and was starting to move to the left of the newly formed double lane to do a left at the end of the street towards Euston.

I was sitting upstairs on the left hand side, towards the back of the bus, listening to the radio and looking out of the window. I saw a white council-type mobility van coming very quickly (visibly too quickly) towards us from the left.

The corner of the bus caught the van. As far as I can remember, there was some noise but we did not feel much. I saw the end of the van starting to tip under the shock of the impact. Fortunately, a providential lampost was there to prevent it from tumbling on the pavement.

Stoically, the passengers got up, got off the bus and walked to the nearby bus stop to wait for the next bus. I followed, noting as I was getting out of the bus that the van's driver, who had escaped being hit by the corner of the bus by about a metre was taking pictures of the damages with his cameraphone. The bus driver was fetching his bus' side view mirror.

I was not feeling well that day. A short bout of fever, like I get from time to time (this may be the subject of another post soon), was brewing in my bones. I was aching for my bed and I almost broke into tear with I was turned away from the crammed bus that came next. My journey home probably took twice as long as it should have.

I went straight to bed and dozed until the next day when things were back to their normal uneventfulness.

Missed

I missed a couple of fairly important anniversaries this week. Saturday marked the first anniversary of the end of my four year stint at "the council" (I had resigned on 30 March, another missed anniversary) and yesterday was the first anniversary of my official start as a partner for Design for Diversity.

Since then I have also help with the creation of Live.Play.Ride. and I have become (quite recently) the administrator for the LGBT History Month website (No need to rush there quite yet, I haven't made any blindingly apparent changes there).

The others venture, despite some interesting leads are also still very much still in the planning process but there is hope. Still.



Sunday, 22 April 2007

First Turn of the French Presidential Elections

Official logo of the French Republic

While London is running and the English are getting ready to celebrate St George's Day; accross the Channel, a different type of patriotic festival is taking place. Today sees the first turn of the presidential elections in France. From 8am this morning until 8pm tonight, polling stations across the country will welcome people and invite them to decide which two candidates will run for the second turn of the election, in two weeks time.

Contrary to the UK, French elections always take place on Sundays. This may be a way to remind the Catholic Church that the business of the Republique is at least as important as that of god. More likely it is a way to incite people to go and vote without having to miss time at work or letting other engagements get in the way. I am not certain how things happen in towns and cities but in the small village where I was raised, election day is traditionally a family business. I don't think it is that different for the rest of the country. Each familly unit comes to together for the occasion. A special meal is organised and everyone goes and vote, en famille.

As stipulated by the Law, the campaign officially stopped on Friday, to give the voters the respite, quiet and reflection of a full day without electoral message. Similarly no new opinion poll could be published yesterday. The last one reported that a third of the voters still had not made up their minds.

There are twelve candidates this year, although I understand that there were quite a few more originally. The others probably did not manage to get the 500 signatures of mayors required to be allowed to stand. Of those, there are three I have never heard of: Olivier Besancenot (far left), Frédéric Nihous (the Countryside Alliance goes political. His party is called Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Tradition), Gérard Schivardi (far left: candidates of some mayors and the Workers Party). Then come more familiar names: José Bové made himself famous globally a few years back as an anti-globalisation activist,
Marie-George Buffet (communist) is a former minister for sports, Philippe de Villiers (UKIP with a Catholic and aristocratic twist) and Dominique Voynet (Green). The last two have taken part in this election before.

The leaders of the pack are in ascending order of favour (according to the polls): Jean-Marie Le Pen (far right), François Bayrou (center right, Christian democrat), Ségolène Royal (socialist) and Nicolas Sarkozy (right).

Last but by no mean least: Arlette Laguiller (Trotskist). In 1974, the year I was born, she became the first woman to stand at the presidential election in France. She has been standing every time since and now holds the record of candidatures at this election (6 to her name. She declared in 2005 that this one would probably be her last). Her communist credentials are slightly marred by the fact that she spent all her working life employed by a bank (she is now retired) but her name itself is a caricature of a French working class name. Where other candidates will call the electors "concitoyens" (fellow citizens), she calls them "travailleurs, travailleuses" (workers - male and female). She never managed to get over 6% of the votes but no presidential election would be quite complete without her taking part. A bit like the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in the UK.

During the last elections, in 2002, Jacques Chirac was elected with a score that would have made the president of a banana republic proud. This was in reaction to the fact that electors from the left failed to mobilised and vote during the first turn and Jean-Maire Le Pen got through to the second turn.

This time round, there seems to be a record number of young people of immigrant origin registered on the electoral lists this time round. This, of course, follows the riots that took place about 18 months ago. A collective called ACLEFEU (sounds like Assez le Feu: Enough with the Fire) was create to incite those youths to register and vote, with some success apparently. This will probably help prevent Le Pen's reappearance in the second turn. There is however concern that François Bayrou might undermine sufficiently the appeal of the traditional right and left mainstream parties (represented by "Sarko" and "Ségo" as they are known) and split the votes sufficiently to give Le Pen's score more importance in the results.

Whatever the result of this round, French television viewers can expect to know who the two contenders are for the second turn at 8pm tonight, as soon as journalists are allowed to divulge their estimates once the polling stations have closed. The final, official results should be known by tomorrow.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Paris

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

11 February 2002

Boy, am I tired today! The weekend, on the whole, went quite well; too well even sometimes. There were also a few more straining moments, which was to be expected considering the situation.

As planned, I took the train on Friday evening straight after work and was in Paris around nine. PFM was slightly late as she did not expect the train to be on time (and she works for the SNCF!!!)

She guided me to her office were we met some of her colleagues and we took the metro to Les Halles and Le Marais where we found a small bar listed in the L section of some free leaflet we found in another bar. Strangely enough it was called the Adonis Bar and featured several reproduction statues of Michael Angelo’s David.

After while PFM beckoned to a girl who was sitting on her own to join us. We started to chat away merrily but later on as we were on our way to the L club PFM had decided to drag me to, we found ourselves rather relieved that she should decide not to join us and go home. She turned out to be rather immature and slightly paranoid which made her reply aggressively to some of our jokes (when she understood them, that is). We took a cab from Gare du Nord to the club somewhere on the rive gauche which gives it its name.

Once there, we rang at the door which was opened by a heavy who, as I had more or less expected it, refused me access, stating that this was a club for women. He then asked us if we knew where we were and what sort of club this was. We had to assure him that we knew and that neither of us was straight before he went back in, presumably to ask if he could let me in.

When he came back he said an exception could be made and let us in. An exception it was indeed: I was one of only two male customers and it remained so till much later when two guys came in.

Although no one paid much attention to me, I felt very conspicuous and ended up seated on a sofa in a corner from most of the evening.

PFM danced a bit but was feeling rather downcast, as the place (and customers) was obviously not what she had expected. I then had to tell her about my experience of clubbing on the G scene; the always disappointed expectations, not finding someone you fancy, not being looked at, the fact that everyone there is virtually a possibility, the low moral on coming back home alone, yet again. All things that she had seen me experienced but had not really understood until now.

Around 5, I think, we decided to take a cab back to the station and drive back to her place, which took a while as she lives miles away in the countryside.

In the morning (woke up at 11) we had a long, sometimes tearful chat about what was happening to her and what she was to do and all the usual stuff in these circumstances. I also gave a call to D. and we decided to meet at 8 the same evening and go to a restaurant neat Les Halles and then probably to a club.

On our way there, we went to PFM’s sister’s and then for a bit of shopping at Auchan!

Apparently, the situation has brought PFM and sister closer together which is quite nice. We were three quarters of an hour late to meet D. as it took us almost half an hour to travel down Rue de la Chapelle.

We went to an Italian restaurant on Rue de la Grande Truanderie and were joined later on by one of PFM’s female colleagues whom I had met earlier and her best friend. They went their separate ways once we had left the restaurant. PFM, D. and I decided to go to Queen on the Champs Elysées.

When we arrived there the “physionomiste”, told us that they did not let women in before 1 in the morning, so we went back some way to the George V café and waited there until closing time. We tried our luck once more and were admitted this time.

The venue is of good size and rather well adapted to its purpose. It is located in the basement of the building it is a part of, on two levels. The lower level comprises the dance floor, VIP enclosure and the bar, and there is a gallery, which runs around the whole place where people can look at the dancers from above.

I had a very good time I have to say, like I have not had for quite some time. D. seemed pleased too and PFM contrived to do what she had failed to do the night before, i.e. meet a girl. This is rather ironic, as there were not that many girls there.

At one point, D. and I went to the bar to have our free drink and were discussing the merits of one of the barmen and of the crowd around us on general. We noticed very close to us a tanned tallish blond guy dressed in black standing sideways to us. He was really beautiful, the sort of beauty you can not help but to acknowledge but seems to be at the same time too perfect and hence leaves you rather cold. We then noticed him talking to what we took to be a girl but was in fact a boy (there is hardly any other word to describe him). They were obviously boyfriends.

PFM who was standing a bit further had seen the dreamboat herself and had showed him to us. D. and I then went back to chat about this and that. A few minutes later, PFM came towards us and introduced us to Ka, a girl she had just met, and to the two guys we had been looking at a moment before. We all kissed. A., the boy is of the hyperactive type whereas O. seems much more poised.

O., who was by then standing next to me, asked me whose sister Pascale was, to which I answered that she was in fact my best friend and that was the end of our exchange for the night. D. and I went back to the dance floor and we left PFM with the other three.

Around half past five I was growing slightly weary and stopped dancing. By that time, almost every one had taken their top off on the dance floor and the air, which was very hot, was getting clammy. D. decided it was time to take his leave as metros were running again. Once we had said goodbye, I went in search of PFM whom I found upstairs with Ka. She said we would be leaving soon, A. and O. then joined us and after the four of them had done a bit of kissing, we made our way to the exit.

There, as I was leafing through some of the literature on offer regarding the club’s scheduled nights, I realises that this had actually been the residency of Trade from London! Which, albeit being very ironic, was good news as it meant I would be able to go there regularly and possibly enjoy myself as much as on that night.

We said a quick goodbye on the pavement outside the club and, Ka coming with us, we made our way back to PFM’s place. We arrived there at 7 in the morning and had to leave again at 11 to deliver Ka to her train in Gare de l’Est for 1. Which we did.

By that time, PFM, who had told me back in the club that she liked and fancied her conquest, had had time to change her mind.

I, personally, had realised that I kept on thinking about O.. A guy I had seen about 5 min in my life, who was in a relationship with someone that did not remotely look like me, who smoked and lived miles away from London and whom, even more importantly, I would probably never see again. He had not even particularly moved me, when I was in his presence. This is rather puzzling, to say the least.

After delivering our charge, we turned our looks towards Eaubonne where we were to have lunch with PFM’s sister. We went to a Chinese restaurant and then went back to the sister’s place for tea. Very soon, it was time to make our way to the station again for me to take my train.

In the train, I was sitting next to a German guy in his late 30’s whose first trip it was on the Eurostar. We had a nice on and off chat during the journey and I enjoyed that. He was obviously not gay and neither was he fancy-able; just a nice guy to talk to. This and other moment during the weekend has made me realise how much more confident I am with talking to strangers.


Wednesday, 18 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Expectation

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

08 February 2002

This is the big day. I have eventually warmed up to the idea of this trip and am now rather excited about it. Today at work is going to be a long day I am sure, especially as there does not seem to be too much to do. I am a bit weary though, as PFM seems to be planning to drag me to a lesbian club. I do not know if she realises that they might not let me in. And even if they do, I might not be the most welcomed punter of the club.

Saturday evening seems to be coming along nicely though. Although nothing has been definitely organised yet, the broad picture seems to be a restaurant with D. and J. (Pascale’s colleague) and then a club. This should be rather nice.

On the home front, my cyber-conversations with P. aka sw2swimmer are going quite well it seems. Last night’s edition, saw him, more involved than usual it seemed. He gave a title to his message and even asked a personal question. For my part, I took another look at his profile…and his picture. What is available to the eye of the beholder is, I must say, quite interesting. I would not mind if we really got friends and, depending on his brains and face, more than just friends. He has a good body, is tall, does not smoke, seems intelligent and has not run away yet. This is very promising.

Well, we have only been exchanging e-mails for a week and have never met (I don’t even know what he looks like) so no need to hold one’s breath yet, really. Perhaps I should brush the subject of ICQ, which would make things a bit more lively and intense if he was willing to submit himself to it.


Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The Silly Tests Series

Which European nationality should I be?

I scored as Belgian.

Belgian

75%

British

63%

Turkish

50%

French

50%

Italian

50%

Dutch

50%

Danish

50%

Polish

38%

German

38%

Molvanian

38%

Swiss

25%

Russian

25%

Irish

13%

Spanish

13%

Which European nationality should you have
created with QuizFarm.com



The Touch Typed Diary - Voyage

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

07 February 2002

I am still feeling quite tired from my week-end; although the fatigue I feel is probably only in part due to this.

The bad news is that it is not going to improve just yet. I had a voice message from PFM on my machine on Tuesday when I came back home from work, asking me to call her back as she was feeling down.

She has (finally) split up with her girlfriend who has moved out. They had been together for a year and a half but had already bought a house and a car together; this in spite of the fact that the relationship had always been rather shaky and had grown even more so lately. They had actually started to beat each other up.

Apparently, for the last three weeks, things had gone even worst and finally came to a head last week-end when PFM found out that K. had been unfaithful.

After talking some time on the phone, going over the situation, PFM telling me how K. had deprived her of any social life and how she now felt even more lonely than it is usually the case in those circumstances, we decided that I would go to Paris to see her this week-end and that she would come to London next week-end.

Yesterday, I booked my £163.00 Eurostar tickets. PFM says she will pay for it but I can not really see why. I am leaving on Friday at 17.15 after work and will be back on Sunday around 1900.

This means I am going to miss the meeting of the reading group for the first time since its creation! I must say I am quite sad about that. The irony lies in the fact that I am the one who chose the book that will be discussed. I think it is a rather good book and I hope someone will be kind enough to fill me up on what has been said. We also had to discuss changing the day of the meetings to a weekday, which would allow us to accept the offer of Jim from Gay's the Word to use the shop as a venue. The guy I met at the book launch the other day was meant to come too, although somehow I doubt he will show up. And there are new members to welcome with perhaps a dream boat amongst them, you never know…

In Paris, PFM wants us to go out twice. This is not going to help me have some rest! She is determined to meet someone else as soon as possible to help her forget about K.. Probably not such a good idea but PFM would not stop at that sort of irrelevance, would she?

The interesting detail is that she says she is not interested by men any more, she who used to say she could never go out with a girl, as there would be something missing.

She also wants me to meet someone; to kill two birds as it were. But I do not want to meet someone in France. Having a relationship over two countries is not really my idea of simplicity.

In a previous phone call, she had told me about one of her colleagues who, in addition to being musclely, apparently shares the same views as I on love and relationships. I told her yesterday that it would be fun to meet him if it was possible for her to organise that but I expect, I think I even hope, that nothing will come out of that meeting if it ever takes place.

There is also a plan to have her meet D. who, in addition to being a very nice guy, knows a lot of people and will hopefully be able to introduce some of them to PFM as she is in serious need of friends. I have arranged to phone him on Saturday and we will then be meeting in the evening for dinner and will probably go clubbing together too.

Next week, PFM will be coming on Thursday night; I have taken my Friday off. No specific plan as been laid yet except that we will probably go to the London Eye on Sunday with J. and a friend of hers. And some retail therapy obviously.

More on Monday I expect. If I am still alive that is!

On a completely different (?) subject, I have met this guy the other day (was it on Sunday?) on the Internet and we have started to chat be E-mail. There is a nice picture of a torso on his profile but it was the profile itself that caught me eye. It strangely went more or less along the same lines as mine. The spooky detail is that he is French too.

Anyway, we have been exchanging views on the scene and the general behaviour of our “sisters”, he has advised me to read books by Yves Navarre and so on… I do not know where this is going; hopefully to a nice friendship. He seems to be slightly non-committing though, so he might finally just decide to pull the plug, which would be a shame. Well, que sera sera!

"Star" Gazing

I don't go out much about town these days so the opportunities to spot c'lebs is quite diminished. However:

On Saturday, just before that memorable moment at Duckie, I spotted the author Paul Burston.

Yesterday, as I was making my way to deepest sarf London to visit Slightly's new abode, I am pretty sure I saw Patrik-Ian Polk, the creator that great US TV series Noah's ARC. The series is I think coming to the UK very soon. This may be related. I was on the top deck of a bus. He was on the street at the north end of the Old Kent Road.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Sarah Waters

In October last year, I wrote on this blog about my communications with Sarah Waters' publishers when I contacted them to invite Sarah to attend a meeting of my reading group and discuss her latest book, The Night Watch.

Well today was the big day. The group has been going this June 2001 and we now boast over 100 members. Most of the time however, only about 7 or 8 people turn up at a meeting. Such was Sarah's attraction that we broke all our records of attendance with 19 people turning up to first discuss the book and then meet it author.

Sarah was as nice as she is recognised to be and she stayed an hour and a half with us explaining the genesis of the story and the book. We asked questions made comments and we all had a great time. Hopefully she had too.

She also told us that the BBC had optioned the rights to The Night Watch, making it the third of her four published books to be adapted for TV.

Sarah is the fifth author to attend one of our meetings. The others were Laurence Brown, Marion Husband, Alan Sheridan and VG Lee. Interestingly and for unknown reasons, a majority of female authors. Are their more lesbian authors in the UK than their are gay ones?

The backstory:
* Sarah Waters' Publishers
* Sarah Waters' Publishers - Again

Puta Pissing On Stage at Duckie

Last night a young friend of mine dragged me to my second ever visit to Duckie, a night club at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern catering for the gay middle-class bohemia. That was my friend's first visit. The night of my own first time there, they had contemporary dancing as a show which was quite accelerating to see in the context of what is effectively a gay pub.

Last night proved however quite different. A performer calling himself Puta was there in very bad drag (skinny floral dress, stringy black wig over a painted balaklava and topped with a douche bag). He was hiding behind a meter high bit of cardboard which he was pushing around the stage. All along his act, he was chanting first in German then in English to an electronic track. After a while, he cut out holes in the cardboard with a knife before stripping and sticking his legs in the holes (showing his own hole in the process to the whole audience (yes that's a lot of 'oles). He then tried to climb a ladder in that unpractical posture.

The second act was someone from Tokyo, stipped down to in his boxers, covered in glitter with a digital camera around his neck. He chatted a bit to the audience, not making much sense before treating us (!) to a rather bad and very loud rendition of My Way.

The third act saw the return of "Puta" together with his ladder. Still chanting, he got up on his ladder, squeezing himself between the top rung and the ceiling of the room, stripped again and then started to piss on stage to the amused horror of the audience. People on the front row moved back but most people laughed and applauded.

I am not sure my friend will want to go back. I was actually quite unshocked, which led me to think of how being gay (in effect being pushed to the fringe of society but society itself) has exposed me and allowed me to get used to all sorts of things that the rest of society would very much disapprove of and use a basis for further austracism. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.


Saturday, 14 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Party

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

04 February 2002

Once again I have been very bad this weekend. I have not been able to go running again. Perhaps though I can be redeemed by the fact that I had to take a long walk at a rather good pace in the middle of the night of Saturday to Sunday.

It all started on Tuesday, with MPB asking me to accompany her to this birthday party, as she felt nervous about going there on her own. On Friday night, we talked on the phone and decided to meet at Waterloo station around 4.20pm, which would allow us to be in Sidcup around 5.

On the day, of course, MPB was late which meant it was 17.40 when E., the husband of J., the birthday “girl”, picked us up from the station at New Eltham. I was now well and truly on my way to what was to be the worst party I have ever been to.

It all started well enough and in the most mundane way possible. Greetings, handing out of the presents, Can I take your coat?, introduction to the other guests; the usual.

The hosts had apparently just moved in to this place and they were duly congratulated. J. was turning 40 or 41 that night (that night, officially, anyway) I am not quite sure.

She is a tallish woman dressed in black with dark red dyed hair. Her face is like her body: round and without grace. And like MPB is of Polish origin like most of the guest would be that night.

In fact apart from one Ukrainian (the husband), one Brit. and one Turk, I was the only none Polish of the ten-strong group. I was being introduced to a new culture!!! with its strange rites and allegiances.

MPB had warned me, beforehand and several times, about the ways of your average Polish host. The man of the house is in charge of the party and must make sure that each and every guest is entertained and has enough to drink and to eat. This, apparently, can lead to your glass being refilled more often than you might reasonably wish; hence the French expression “soul comme un polonais”, I suppose.

Another important trait of the Polish partygoer is his thirst for gossip and his unashamed and persistent quest for it.

I was soon to discover how true this was.

As soon as MPB set foot in the living room where the guests were gathered, she was assailed by questions of a rather intimate and insistent kind. These were soon extended to me has I was assumed to be MPB’s boyfriend.

The interrogation was lead by Jh, someone in his 40’s, rather ugly, and the happy owner of the most tactless self-assurance I have ever seen. The guy just poisoned the atmosphere of the whole party and it was not until he had left that things started to really lighten up.

In Poland, it is apparently considered as humour to try and get your own back at the other guests of a party and to practice what can only be called back-stabbing to entertain yourself. People will be rude to each other, husbands will discuss their former conquest in front of their wives, total strangers will be asked about their sentimental (or even sexual) life.

The other major characteristic of the party seems to be that everything has to revolve around sex. This is how, as I was engage in conversation (or should I say lecture?) by my Ukrainian host about his early political conscience of the downfalls of communism, that he ended up informing me of his view that the only important things in life are the sexual intercourses you get to experience with women (the more, the better, obviously).

I will not talk of all the rubbing that took place between almost anyone present under pretence of dancing.

Still according to MPB’s information, people are not to remain single; they are expected to marry and have children. In order to ensure that this happens parties are occasions to set eligible bachelors up in the hope that some happy conclusion will take place.

MPB, although still technically married, is obviously regarded as single and was therefore duly introduced to a single man who had been invited for the purpose. This person, not withstanding my presence (I was the boyfriend apparent, remember?), proceeded to assiduously pursuing MPB the whole evening and eventually asking her, if she was at least up for a shag.

MPB and I had decided that we would be back in Central London for 11pm, but time went on (almost!) unnoticed and it was 1am when MPB realised, with some difficulty, that she could not go back home. She had intended on asking for a lift from one of the other guests, but all those who remained had decided to spend the night. There were half-hearted talks of taxis but nothing happened.

Since, for some unknown reason, I could not face spending the night there and feeling almost panicky at the idea, I enquired about night buses and decided to take my chance.

After waiting for about an hour (during which 2 buses should have come and gone), I decided to start walking towards a point on the bus route where buses became more frequent, though hoping I would manage to catch one on the way.

I was unfortunately not that lucky and had to trail along about 6km of mostly deserted residential streets with only the sporadic help of bus stop maps to guide me. I reached Eltham around 3am and finally got a bus to Lewisham were I had to wait again, for N47 this time. It was 4pm when I went to bed.

When I woke up I was obviously quite still tired after the night’s events and my legs felt stiff and ached. I managed to drag myself to B&Q though where I bough insulating rubber to put around my bedroom door (to fend off the cigarette smell coming form next door) and a plant, a spatyphilum, which I baptised Julie. From my experience, I know they are quite resilient and seem to be OK with having little daylight; which is convenient as my room faces north and is therefore quite dark.

During the following afternoon, MPB rang me and we had a three hour long conversation about our ordeal in godforsaken Sidcup, Kent (and related matters).

Tonight is my third rehearsal with the chorus. I brought on ad for the reading group, which I will try to post on one of the notice boards available where we rehearse.

Friday, 13 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Career

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

01 February 2002

Is this really the First of February Two Thousand and Two???

I remember when I was younger, I used to compute how old I would be in the year 2000 and imagine what I would be doing then. It all seemed soooo far away. This year I will be 28 and as much as I used to like the idea of growing up and getting older, the figures on the paper now seem to have run along too quick and not to be related with me and who I am. I feel like I am still 22 or 23.

Although things have changes immensely since I was that age, I feel that my situation in life is still as precarious. No stable job or financial security of any kind. And like then, I still do not know what I will be doing, what my life will be like in a couple of months from now. Oh, well, I should just get used to this state of things, take it in my stride and make the best of it.

Talking of which, I have decided to spend a bit more of the little money I earn on myself. Yesterday I saw an ad in Hot Ticket for Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House. The ballet; I assume the music will be Prokofiev’s, though the ad did not state this, strangely enough. I will go and see that. I also want to go and see something with molly and clap and house in the title, I can not remember the exact title just now, I am afraid, but it is supposed to be quite good and has been running for some time already. GSJ and me had talked about going together at the time…

There is no point in saving such small amounts of money as I do just now and at the same time let life pass me by. I have been doing this for too long and I can see it is not leading me very far, except to being a miserable, sad git. There will always be time to save when I get a better-paid job, which hopefully will be soon now.

I am actually growing slightly restless on this issue. I feel, perhaps wrongly that I can do much more and better than what I am currently doing, and I just can not wait for it to happen. I have been waiting for quite some time already. It is a waste.

Anyway I am going to stick where I am just now. They seem to be quite happy with my work performance and as this Best Value review thingy moves on, there might be contracts for grab… If not, I think the agency will not take much to find me something else, in the worst of cases, I can always stick with temping a little longer.

Hopefully, CGBureau will finally come up with something. As I said earlier, there is no more certitude in my miserable life than there used to be. This, I am convinced, does not help me to grow (let alone grow up!). To be in a comparatively crap job, definitely badly paid, does not make you feel good about yourself, does it?

Colchester Journal

{photo _title}
Cover of the spring issue of The Journal, the newsletter of the Colchester Gay Switchboard. The picture was taken by myself at the LSE when representatives of the Switchboard presented the Hall Carpenter archives with a set of copies of The Journal.

In the same edition, also appears an account of my recent visit to Colchester, a longer version of which was originally published here.


Past issues of The Journal can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Village People

Bad lipsinging, half naked butch clones dressed as cowboys, cheesy dance routines, homoerotic undertones, heavy disco, I give you:

Skatt Bros. - Life At The Outpost (1979)

That made me laugh no end.


Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Encounters

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

30 January 2002

Thanks to the bus or the tube or whatever, I was late at the gallery where I was supposed to meet MPB and her former mother-in-law at 6.

The paintings, by Henry Moore, apparently a major British artist of whom I had never heard before, did not particularly appeal to me. They reminded me of a painting I know but I can not pinpoint which; perhaps something by Matisse or an early Picasso (a woman holding a baby).

Anyway, I did not really get a chance to look at the paintings as Monika and her friend had already been around the gallery when I joined them.

The mother in law, whom I had already met once when still working at the museum, is Scandinavian and a painter of some sort. Although rather nice she assumes the air of a Grande Dame and seems quite pleased with the sound of her own voice. She also can be rather patronising as MPB pointed out to her at some point, although she does not seem to be aware that this is more due to the way she puts her questions to people rather than from her asking the question at all.

I finally took my leave but after MPB had asked me to accompany her to a party on Saturday, somewhere in Kent, and where she does not know anyone…

I was late too at the book launch and arrived while someone, an American guy in his forties with a moustache and long hair was reading from a book about the military. The storyline seemed rather complicated and understanding was not made easier but the fact that the guy was obviously not a very good reader. An old woman then started to read from another book (heroic fantasy type) about, I think, a hermaphrodite. The reading was much better.

Finally the audience was invited to ask their questions and, that done, the event was declared over. I started to talk to Jim (one of the staff of the shop with whom I had already been I contact regarding the reading group), we talked about the books that had been discussed recently and he offered again the shop as a venue for the meetings. I bought the book for next month’s meeting.

An oldish customer, himself former member of a reading group and a writer, hearing that we were talking about a reading group, joined in and asked for details. While Jim was attending to customers, we then went on talking about books and other more general arty things. When everyone started to leave, he offered to go for a quick drink with a friend of his whom had joined the conversation.

We started to walk rather aimlessly towards Russell Square and then Holborn, chatting away as we went in a most enjoyable fashion. He presented his friend as being involved with filmmaking. It later transpired that the friend has received an Oscar for his work as a decorator for the Indiana Jones films and for Titanic

As we did not seem to come across any bar or café, and after trying to get my phone number for at least the second time (or am I imagining things?), under pretence of wanting to join the group (I told him each time that everything was done through the website), he finally decided to call it a day and after shaking hands we went our own separate ways… Although he did not say anything to that effect, my feeling is that he does not know much about computers let alone own one.

They both said they might come at the next meeting which could prove rather interesting as they are both, or the writer at least, colourful characters who seem to have seen a lot and known many interesting people now part of our history (Peter Wildeblood, Quentin Crisp,…).

They might have been bragging slightly or making things look better than they really are, but you never know.


Tuesday, 10 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Activities

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

29 January 2002

Time for another session of touch-typing. Nothing to do this morning, so I might as well train a little more. I seem to be getting slightly more agile and to be making fewer mistakes although the speed is not really there yet.

As far as life is concerned, things seem to be brightening up slightly. The weekend was quite busy, which makes a very welcome change from the usual.

First there was the Chorus’ Xmas party; slightly delayed because they were celebrating their 10th anniversary over the Xmas period and thus had to postpone the party. It was taking place in a pub in Camden Town (The Black Cap) which had been rented for the occasion. Entertainment included a duo of standing comedian who were really funny and a twisted award ceremony. There were to be some dancing afterwards but the music was really too loud and since I new virtually no one there, I beat an early retreat. I was quite please though to have made the effort to go.

On Sunday, MFS called me to go to the monthly meeting of the Southeast section of her Buddhist association. I had been to the previous one already.

I must say that I am still not convinced by their practice; my strongest reservation being with the chanting bit. I still can not see how the fact of repeating a sentence for hours on end can have an impact on your inner life, let alone your outer one…Anyway, for some reason, I was feeling more relax this time round and rather enjoyed the whole thing. More and more I get the felling that the chanting is like some sort of excuse these people use not to have to take responsibility for their actions; although at the same time they say that it helps them to take responsibility. I do not understand why you would have to chant to know what is the right thing for you or what is the right way to behave. Surely, an ounce of common sense and reason could give the same results? When I listen to what they say and reflect about it, I feel that I am already behaving the way they strive to behave but I manage that by using my own reason which is, I think much more gratifying than to be relying on the expected effects of chanting.

Also, I think I do not want to do as this guy at the meeting told me he had done, which was to start chanting to prove that it did not work (12 years ago). I know that I do not want to be burdened by a compulsory task to perform every day twice a day and if something should happen from that chanting (some many people seem to be convinced that something does happen that you never know), I would feel guilty not to pursue in that direction. And I do not want guilt in my life any more. I think I have reach a point where I feel reasonably comfortable with myself and what I am and do not need moral support; just things to change in my life. That is to say to get a job, interesting and better paid, which would enable me to complete the process of opening up I am currently undergoing. I know that this is what those Buddhist people are in a way offering me as the aim of their practice seem to be very often material well-being… But I also know that I am on my way to where I want to and that if things just now are not very exiting, at least the configuration is right for improvement. It is now only a question of time. I feel like something is going to happen soon. After a very slow period, things seem to be gathering momentum again; so fingers crossed…. There is another meeting on Thursday, for young men only this time; I think I’ll go….

Yesterday I went to my second rehearsal with the chorus. Actually the first complete one I have attended so far. I had missed the warming up session of the previous one. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I like to pieces we are working on and after the rehearsal, as a few members of the chorus were still singing, I got almost emotional. Irrespective of what I think of individuals (what I saw on Saturday, was proof that most of them are no different from your usual poof), I felt proud to belong (well soon!) to an organisation whose aim it is to create beauty. I also felt some sort of tenderness for this group of men, from all walks of life, in mismatched looks, assembled there in front of me, singing their hearts out. This is one of the very few nice things about our condition that it brings people together and more often than not people who would otherwise probably never meet.

We’ll see if these feelings last long. Also there seem to be a few nice people there (although you can never be sure in this type of situations if there is a hidden agenda or not). My enthusiasm was a bit dampened by what I saw when on my way back to the station. I caught up with two (new) members and I realised that one of them had been waiting for the other for some sort of chance encounter…. I had noticed him staring in the direction of the other guy during the mini performance after the rehearsal. Was it jealousy at not having seen anyone I could fancy in the chorus and at seeing that some had been obviously luckier? Probably, but I started to harbour bitter thoughts about the way these people always have to spoil and blemish things with lust.

Tonight I will be leaving work early and am on my way to, first a preview at an art gallery, and them a book launch at Gay is the Word….

Monday, 9 April 2007

Joyeuses Pâques!



Happy Easter...


Saturday, 7 April 2007

Wishes

Slightly's present

It's birthday time for the business partner.

A time of celebration and anticipation. Birthdays are also a time when people take stock, look back and assess how far the have moved (or not). Probably not too much Slightly can regret from the past few years even if there are a few scares.

At 28 (the big three zero is nigh!) though, things are looking good for Master Slightly. He has found himself a new custodian in the shape of a lovely boyfriend soon to become a husband, and in a few days they are moving together to what is apparently a lovely flat in that new hub of sarf London "gayty": Depford.

He even receives email requests from people in Poland who collect "photos with autographs from very important people" (that might only be a delayed April's Fool or a way to get his signature for some identity fraud but that made me laugh). Life is moving on full steam for Slightly.

I can rest and relax; go back to my knitting and forget about the phone ringing several times a day. Happy birthday, Slightly, best wishes. Come and collect your present when you can (try and guess what that might be from the pic above). In a couple of weeks perhaps?

Friday, 6 April 2007

The Touch Typed Diary - Moaning

Some background to what follows can be found here. Other installments are here.

I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

22 January 2002

I am tired, hungry and lonely and, yes, I like to moan! And so what? Nobody is here to suffer from all this moaning so I can not see why I should not carry on like this to my heart’s content. I know it is very bad but I am not getting any more patient these days. Be careful, I am just about to start moaning again!!! I suppose this all comes from the fact that I have so little to be satisfied with in this bloody life of mine. Hopefully, my improved typing speed and the experience I will have gained from this place will allow me to find a real job for once with something to do. Another thing is the fact that they asked me to go to this meeting yesterday. I think there are two possible explanations for this:
First they need to show that the section is committed to the Best Value thingy and that is obviously no good to me.
On the other hand this might be a sign that they really like the way I do my job (when I have something to do, that is) and they have plans for me. I.e. they are considering keeping me here and offer me a real position and a contract. One can dream, can’t one?
I think that, as usual, a good way to alleviate some of the strain I feel in my miserable little life just now would be for me to get more money and also perhaps more things to do when I am at work. More things to do as it would simply make me feel better about myself and money because I would then be able to spend it and do some retail therapy… Anyway I have not heard from the agency that sent my CV for job the other week which means: not now; you still have to wait honey!
I am bored with waiting I have to say; I have been waiting for so many years now. I more and more feel like I have been wasting my life and still am. The major problem then being that I am so used to be passive and to wait for things to happen that I do not really know where to start to stop this vicious circle.
Yesterday at the rehearsal, this guy said that it was a question of meeting the right people and I know that to a certain extent it is true and finding a job is definitely a question of luck, but where and how to meet the right people ? It seems especially complicated for someone like me who is sooooo crap at meeting people.
Anyway I think I should really make the effort of going to this Christmas party on Saturday; it will probably be boring as hell and I will end up in a corner like a plant, as usual but if I do not make some sort of effort, I will get nowhere that’s for sure. At least I would have tried. I will probably not stay long anyway, as people seem to be getting drunk fairly quickly!!!!

The Touch Typed Diary

I have been trawling through my old files and found these pages of a kind of diary I kept for a few months. This takes the form of a stream of consciousness rambling about events in my life at the time and the thoughts they elicited. There are 15 entries over a period of four months in early 2002.

As I wrote at the time:
I started this as a way to train at touch typing (hence the title) which I have finally taken up learning more or less seriously. At first I was typing what nonsense came across my mind and deleted it once I had finished. Gradually, it just turned into a diary relating the events (not very numerous) of my life. This has also the advantage of keeping me relatively busy at work when I have nothing else to do which seem to happen rather frequently these days.

When I wrote this, I had been working for a few months as a temp. for a Local Council after a stint in the souvenir shop of one of London's minor museums. There I had made friends with MPB, a polish woman who worked with me at the shop.

Another character appearing here is MFS, a French woman, almost neighbour of mine at the time whom I had met while watching the London Marathon on Evelyn Road, SE8. She was trying to interest me in Japanese Buddhism.

MFP was my best friend and fag hag for several years when I was at Uni. We had met at the student's hall and had spent several years in a very close friendship which had culminated in us living together for a year before I went off to do the National Service. At the time you are meeting her, she had recently moved to Paris. At the same time she had suddenly discovered, to both our surprise, I think, that should she could also be attracted to women and had entered a lesbian relationship.

Other minor characters include J. and B. my live-in landlords of the time. B was/is a musician and they were both trying to launch their own independent music label. T. was a forty-odd year old former banker going through a divorce who moved in the room next to mine for a while. GSJ was already my ex at the time.

At the time when this was written, I was also in the process of joining the London Gay Men's Chorus, after over a year on the waiting list.

I will be publishing this diary over the next few months, trying to keep roughly to the same timescale as that of the writing. Although I will try and keep the thing as unedited as possible, I will change names, correct the spelling and add the missing words.

Enjoy...

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Equus

poster of Equus

As hinted a while back when those pictures appeared, on Tuesday I went to the Gielgud Theatre to see Harry Potter's knob Equus with Daniel Radcliffe. By some strange coincidence, I found myself if not in the same, at least in a neighbouring seat to the one, right up at the back of the gods, I had when I went to see Judy Dench in All Is Well That Ends Well a couple of years ago. As a result of being in the "cheap" seats, I found myself with a peppering of obvious Harry Potter fans in their charity shop finery.

The play is a dark tale of obsession where Radcliffe plays the role of Allan Strang, a 17 year old stable boy who finds himself having to explain to Richard Griffiths, the psychoanalysist Martin Dysart, why, one night, with no apparent reason, he blinded the six horses he was taking care of. Soon we learn about the Strand familly and its idiosyncrasies but also about Dysart's regrets about his own passionless life.

The story, told through Dysart's eyes, is not linear and different time-planes keep intertwining with each other, weaving a dense narrative net. By the end of the play, we know that Dysart has sacrificed his life to his carreer helping children while being trap in a loveless marriage. Today he is not so sure that what he does is right. His encounter with Strand whom he "liberates" from his obsession with the eponymous primival equine spirit, seems to be the catalyst of his realisation that even if it can turn into painful and messy business, giving oneself up to passions is better than evening spent looked at ancient greek art books seated opposed an estranged woman and is ultimately the only way to live.

the facade of the Gieguld Theatre hidden by a giant poster for EquusThis is, I think a very daring and courageous choice for Radcliffe to have made for his debut on the stage. Although he is world famous and has several very successful films under his belt, he has played little else than the one role of Harry Potter and never in front of an audience. Here, not only is he tackling a difficult and heavy subject, he also has to take off his kit and run around stark naked for a good fifteen minutes on stage, even having to enact sexual intercourse with one of his female co-actors.

As the play enfolded, and despite the fact that it is also funny, I started to wonder whether the fans would start leaving in bewilderment, as I had seen Lee Evans' fans leave when I went to see Samuel Beckett's Endgame. I suppose the play was not strange enough and perhaps more in tune with the psyche of fans of wizards and magic than Endgame would have been with fans of slapstick and popular comedy. I didn't notice anyone leaving. This might also have something to do with the high quality of the production and of the acting.

The play has some resonance with how I feel about my own life. My removed position from the stage gave me a detachment that prevented me, fortunately perhaps, from indentifying with and feeling strongly the themes explored by the play. Still my regret is that the play only exposes the problem without giving us an insight into what Shaffer may think to be its solution. That's back to the drawing board for me...

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

TFL sweety

TFL sweety
Human relationships are such an awkward business...

yet it must be nice to have someone to call and come home to after a day at work...

Monday, 2 April 2007

Quick

Wurlitzer organ

Yesterday, I attended part of a concert on the country's biggest Wurlitzer organ. This took place in what is the second biggest cinema ever built in the UK (the biggest one was located in Scotland). The former Gaumont State cinema in Kilburn, north London could sit 4000.

The cinema was opened in 1937 but has now been turned into a bingo hall which was also its life line.

I can't say I was particularly impressed by the music. The organist was obviously very good but the instrument seemed to flatten everything, making the melody almost undistinguishable from the rest of the music. The characteristic sound of the instrument seemed also incredibly melancholy (even when playing up-beat numbers); although this was probably quite appropriate in the corrupted and compromised grandeur of the remnants of the cinema's past glories.

I, of course, took pictures, a selection of which is available here.

After the concert, my companion and I, took advantage of the lovely weather and walked all the way back to Oxford Circus where we said goodbye. I kept on walking across Soho to Covent Garden, crossed the Thames at Waterloo Bridge and meandered throught the back streets to the St George's Circus end of Blackfriars Road. And then home to dinner.

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In completely unrelated news, today marks the first day of the smoking ban in enclosed public places in Wales. Three months to go before the same happens in England!