Friday, 24 May 2013

Sunset from the rooftops

London Eye and sunset
It's been a couple of weeks now. Almost every day I see people on the roof of a building I know to be broaded up. And of course, I want to get on that roof too.

I made a first attempt on Sunday but unfortunately couldn't find access. In desperation, I decided to email JB, who specialises in shooting London from the rooftops. Perhaps he would have an idea on how to get there.

I met JB at the meeting of my photo group where he persented his work. I chatted to him afterwards and offered a couple of leads of possible places I could use for future shoots. JB kindly offered to meet up to try and find out a way.

First we went to a nearby building and took a few shots from there before having a walk around the Heygate estate. Finally we managed to find hidden access and found ourselves on the roof just in time for sunset. We weren't alone there. Street artists were at work already and other visitors joined us later. It is clearly a popular spot.

That's how I spent an evening on a rooftop with a (straight) guy admiring the views. Romance... (almost)

The images can be viewed on flickr here, while all my heygate images are gathered here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Another visit to the Heygate

Heygate Estate
The demolition of the Heygate Estate is apparently soon to begin. Technically it already has, with phase 1 of the project, at the far south east of the site, already flattened for some months. I'm talking about the main building, those big looming slabs of concrete that delimit the site. First they will start by the buildings south of Heygate Street. That should happen by the end of this year. Within 3 years, it should all have gone.

In the meantime, street artists are taking over the place with Southwark Council desparately and ineffectively wasting paint and money to try and keep everything a uniform grey. Urban gardeners, photographers and parkour adepts are also at it and the place though decrepit still welcomes a surprising amount of activity.

Goaded by the sight of people on one of the rooftop, I made my third proper visit to the site yesterday. Sadly, I couldn't figure out how to access that rooftop but I got a few nice shots.

Yesterday's images can be viewed on flickr here, while all my heygate images are gathered here.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Going mobile to find him

Gaydar's new Find Him feature
Apps for smart phones have become all the rage, we all know that. You can get one for just about anything. And while they are an effective tool to reach customers for any brand wanting to appear modern, they do present a big problem for developers and to a point for users: The need to comply with whatever rules the owner of the shop/OS carrying your app decides to impose on content and format.

There are also fears that apps could lead to a ghettoisation of the Web, where it is no longer possible to move easily from one platform to another.

From a gay user's perspective, perhaps the most obvious manifestation of those restrictions on content, are the policies on levels of nudity allowed in geolocated "dating" apps; policies, the implementation of which has been known to be patchy and inconsistant, not to mention, for the developer, (no doubt) costly to enforce and police.

It is therefore interesting and perhaps not altogether surprising that Gaydar, the enduring gay dating website, have decided to complement their current offer with a new mobile version of their website. They launched an app a few years ago, no doubt spurred to do so by the inexorable rise of that other big boy of the gay meet with whom they share more than a few letters in their name: Grindr.

Founded in 1999, Gaydar had for years been cruising (pardon the pun) on its position as leader of the market. Having had a (fallow) profile since 2000 when I moved to London, I can recall very little changing in the look of the site for close to a decade, but eventually, it was time to do something and in recent years some visual changes, perhaps not always altogether successful, have been implemented.

This need for change has been made all the more pressing by the popularisation of smart phones, and eventually a more thorough redesign, an app and now a rebrand (away from their original orangey yellow) and this new mobile site were born unto us.

The mobile site comes with a more user-friendly version of the advanced search of the main website, allowing you to refine your geolocated shopping list for Mr Right, Mr Rightnow or Mr Letsbefriends, down to their age, height or even hair colour. This is a level of selectivity that other players on that scene probably don't offer.

I suspect such level of pickiness will however only be effectively possible in Soho Square on a sunny summer day, Vauxhall around midnight on a Saturday or at a concert of the London Gay Men's Chorus, when your phone is at risk of exploding under the pressure of all the possibilities. Forget it though, if you live in the middle of Shropshire, unless you have a touch of the old wanderlust.

For some unknown reason, Gaydar decided to get in touch with me with a bunch of nice goodies prior to launching the site. In my exchange with them, they seemed very confident that this new "Find Him" feature would allow me to meet my Prince Charming in no time. They would say that, I suppose, and I am sure that many of their users will love twiddling those extra new knobs on their screen, but I am personally not holding my breath. I am as bad at online encounters as offline and I am resigned to the fact that for little old me, as Quentin Crisp used to say, there is no great dark man. Don't let that stop you, though.

Gays are often vaunted as trend-setters. We certainly were the first to get on the smart phone "dating" act. Could this move from Gaydar be the first frisson of some online rebellion against the hegemony of the likes of Apple and Google, and a return towards a more open and free mobile web? It would be nice to think so.

As for Gaydar itself, the fact that it recently passed into new hands may herald even further changes.

Disclaimer: I received a 30-day unlimited membership and several goodies from Gaydar.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Very Personally Trained

VPT. Very Personal Trainer. That's how they call personal trainers at Gymbox, a slightly pretentious chain gyms, a branch of which I joined in October after an office move.

They are not cheap and boast inspiration from the club culture for the decoration (they even have resident DJs) but they were the closest to the new office and the equipments are quite good, I have to admit.

I must have been going to gyms for close to 20 years now (with mixed results, as we know) but I've never had a PT, let alone a VPT. I had never really felt the need. Recently however, with my body apparently finally willing to show signs of reacting to what I was doing to it in the weight room, I started to feel the need for some help to get better results faster.

As luck would have it, two weeks ago, a new contingent of VPTs was unleashed on the unsuspecting members of my gym, all smiles and bulging pecs, hungry to build a client list. Within a week, I attracted the attentions of not one but two personable young men, eager to make my acquaintance, it seemed. Not a situation I am familiar with, by a long stretch.

The first one offered a few bits of advice on shoulder exercises and suggested I request his card at reception and contact him. A couple of days later, a colleague of his approached me and offered to take me through a set of arm exercises, after which he offered a free training session for the following week.

Let's hope I am not again the cause of some resentment like I was for another hitherto friendly VPT who decided to blank me after he saw me taking two free sessions with one of his colleagues.

In any case, the free session with my second suitor came and soon we were discussing, programme, diet and fees...

I am now furnished with a PT, sorry, a VPT, for the next four weeks at least.

And while the exercising shouldn't be a problem, I must confess to some difficulties with the diet I have been given to follow. I am apparently required at eat a kilo of meat everyday, spread over 7 meals. This in addition to multiple eggs and protein shakes. Even when disregarding the cost and practicality of such diet, I don't think I will be able to stuff so much food down my gullet.

I am however being guaranteed results. On Friday, I was even measured and photographed topless for a "before" picture... Watch this space...