Thursday, 18 November 2004

Civil Partnership Bill - Victory!

Got this from Stonewall this morning. Only have to find a hubby, now!!! easy stuff!!!!

Time to celebrate!!
The Civil Partnership Bill was passed by the House of Lords tonight!!

It's wonderful news and we wanted you to be the first to know.

It could be another year before the first civil partnerships can take place while registration systems are set up across the country. We'll be in touch soon to let you know how it is going to work.

The Bill represents a historic step forward for lesbian and gay people in Britain.

A huge thank you for all your support and encouragement over the past few months - we couldn't have got here without you.

Ben Summerskill,
Chief Executive

Tuesday, 16 November 2004


First I have to declare my interest in this: I am non-smoker and I don't like cigarette smoke.

When I was about five (I am not sure of the exact age, but I was quite young), one of my slightly older neighbour friend offered me a cigarette (a Marlborough, I remember that much!) on which I drew one puff only to immediately cough my lungs out. I have never been tempted to go near a cigarette since. This incident is probably not the only reason why I have never smoked (I could cite the fact that no one smokes in my family, or simply my total disregard for dependence on anything other than books (!)) but I am sure it helped.

It seems that after long debates on the subject in the media, the government has finally come up with something and is planning, within the next two to three years (!), to ban smoking in England (and Wales?) in public places serving prepared food (restaurant, cafes and some pubs) and in workplaces (see the BBC's website). This raises the questions of what pubs not serving food and clubs are for people working there, if not their workplace? And what is "prepared food" anyway?

While, like campaigning associations, I rejoice in this; I do also think that this is not going far enough. Effectively the ban should reach about 80 to 90% of public places. That leaves a lot of pubs out. These are traditionally the hangouts of the poorer members of society, who are also the ones who smoke the most (I know I am generalising there), have lesser access to health care and information and generally are the more in need of help and incitement to stop smoking. I heard smokers say that a ban would be an incitement for them to stop smoking. Let's not forget the many smokers are dependent on their cancer lollies and, although they want to, are finding it very hard to quit.

People like Frank Dobson, Former Labour health secretary, hope that pubs outside the ban will soon join the rank and apply a voluntary ban. If we look at what is happening in Ireland (where there has been a total ban on smoking for over a year now), we see that profits made by pubs have fallen as a result of the ban. Why should a landlord take the risk of making less money if he doesn't have to by law? This scepticism on the pub owners' part could be reinforced by actions from the powerful tobacco industry. Why should they not start using the restriction on the ban attached to food sales to put pressure on pub owners and landlords to stop selling food and therefore allow smoking?

Apart from a few life long smokers, I don't think anybody contests the fact that smoking is dangerous. Even the cigarette manufacturers have relented, I believe. Pro-smoking people therefore brandish the flag of their undermined civil liberties to justify their opposition to the ban. First they still have the liberty of smoking at home or of blowing their smoke in our faces when outdoors. More importantly and unsurprisingly, they are blithely forgetting about the civil liberties of none smokers. A fundamental point in the definition of liberties (set out in the 1789 French Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen - article 4) is that the person creating the disruption is the one to be penalised and forced to restrain themselves, not the victims of the disruption (one's liberty stops where that of others starts). I don't care if smokers have decided to ruin their health and die early. What I don't want is to have their cigarette smoke forced on me. I have no choice in that. And don't tell me I should just go somewhere else: why should I have to? What about my liberty to be and go where I want to without being molested? If I started walking around with a radio playing loud music (which people would have no other choice but to listen to), I would be accused of disturbing the peace and would be forced to stop. And the lasty time I checked music was not dangerous for people's health...

The Tories, who oppose an outright ban (or any sort of ban for that matter), have clearly decided to use this contentious issue for their political gain. As often, their arguments are specious: they agree that is bad in public places but are ready to bow to the rich industry lobby groups. Their method of "voluntary agreement" means a lack of uniformity in the access to no smoking establishments. We also know what smokers can be like: they have no respect for non-smokers and always try to have their way: this is why we need an intervention from what they call the "nanny state". However sad this is, it is a fact that most people are lost if they don't have a nanny to wipe their bottom and tell them what to do! They also argue that if prevented to do so at the pub, smokers will stay home and smoke in front of their children and damage their health. Do they really think smokers will wait for a ban to smoke in front of their children?! Is it better to endanger stranger's health rather than your children's? what kind of argument it that?

To sum up: smoking is dangerous and is an imposition on none-smokers. It should therefore be totally banned in public places. This current proposition is not good enough! If we push the argument to it's bitter end; tobbaco should be banned altogether, like other drugs. However, as I said I am happy for people to do what they want with their lives as long as they don't impinge on mine. Is that fair?

Finally, I would say that yes, a ban is an important step but just as important is the need for making it harder for people to start smoking, for educating people and for providing help for smokers to give up on their sad habit.

For more information on the subject:

And for the "arguments" in support of smoking:

Monday, 15 November 2004

And they think it is funny!

In an unprecedented (and let's face it, short lived) attempt at fairness and balance on this blog, and after posting a link where US people said sorry about the results of the election, here is the link put together by the Republicans to basically tell the world to fuck off, which what they seem to be doing best, really!

Those two lads in Hastings

My fellow traveller has now read the entry to this blog relating our trip to Hastings. He was particularly interested it seems by the appearance in my blog of the two lads from the caf.. As I remember, he completely ingnored and dismissed them as soon as they showed up. They sat right behind him which meant he could not see them, while they were in my field of vision all the time. They were, I assume, in their late teens, reasonably goodlooking (although I would say "sexy", I think, to qualify them), wearing shellsuit bottoms and polo shirts in blue-ish/grey colours. Very much conforming to the stereotype of the "scally". So much of a stereotype in fact that they lost all individuality and depth for my friend. As I was watching them interact, being easily intimate and companionable, I suppose I started to project things on what I was seeing and what I imagined to be their story. I do agree that as individuals they are indeed probably quite average and insignificant (not a nice thing to say, I know) but it seems to me that these young men usually live in packs where they have to play a social role and they don't get to relate that much on a one to one basis, if at all. In that case, it felt like they had let their guards fall and were being genuine, thinking themselves unobserved. They were actually quite touching. The fact that they looked so much alike probably re-enforced the impression of closeness. They seemed to be in some sort of bubble, although I thought I felt some sort of tension external to their pair directed towards the young waitresses. I think what attracted me there was the mundanity of the situation and some sort of yearning for an (almost arcadian) simplicity which I can only look for in my social interactions. Who knew I could be such a romantic!!!

Friday, 12 November 2004

It is all about nuances

"Moral values" you say?
Mmmm, maybe... What is it you call "moral values" anyway?

A fucking interesting link

The language doesn't add much to the argument but this is an interesting point with some even more interesting statistics...

Adventures in the English countryside.

Last Sunday I found myself in a friend's 2CV on the way to the south coast. We went down to Hastings, spend half the day there wandering around and buying second hand books (I just can't stop myself! and neither can he!) before moving to Beachy Head, a huge cliff overhanging the ocean, and finally to Brighton before heading back to the lights of civilisation. Photos available here.

I have been living in London for about four and a half years now and have had few opportunities to leave the place during that time. Not that I am complaining, mind you. I was brought in a small village of 700 odd inhabitants. If I have decided to move to a big city like London there is a good reason; trust me! I am a true city boy these days.

Driving through the woods and the fields (with the soundtrack of the Rocky Horror Picture Show competing, not always successfully, with the racket of the engine), I found myself in very well known territory. Even though my eyes had never set foot in those regions before, the north east of France is not that different to the Kent and Sussex countryside that I did not recognise in what situation I found myself.

Perhaps it is because it was November, perhaps it is the usual state of things; Hastings can hardly be described as a hub of animation and excitement. From what I was told the place is roughly divided into an old and a new town (new as in "because of WW2") and is spreading itself in the folds of a tortuous valley without ever really managing to reach the top of the hills. On the sea front you find what seem to be the staple offerings of a small English sea-side resort: a mini golf, a games arcade, a pier and a pebble beach... oh! and fish and chip shops gallore!

After having wandered about all morning, having taken a few pictures, visited a couple of antiques shops and bookshops (fondling a welcoming pussycat in one of them: that was a real treat!), we thought it was time to have something to eat. Up and down and up and down the streets we went, not able to settle on any particular place as is our wont (in London the dilemma is usually solved by a trip to Wong Key, the infamous Chinese restaurant).

We finally chose an interesting looking caf. Nothing unusual in those parts to be sure but something almost exotic in its quaintness for our London minds. It was 3pm by then and only two other customers were there having their Sunday lunch. A bit later two lads came in as well. A nice thing to have a "mate" close enough to have a relaxed Sunday breakfast (that is what they ordered) with. The striking (and possibly the only really interesting) feature of the place and of the whole town it seems, is how everything is cheap compared to London: to give but one example, a POT of tea is £1.50 over there when you can not even buy a cuppa for that price in central London.
Over our (homemade?) cheeseburgers, we decided we had exhausted the charms of the place and made up our minds to go somewhere else. My friend (dare I spill the beans and ruin his reputation?) has lived in the area at some point in his life and suggested we go to Beachy Head, which he had pointed out looming in the distance earlier and which he recommended for interesting pictures and suicide.

Off we therefore went. To get there we had to go through miles of those monotonous rows of similarly-looking houses like only British suburbia can produce. This was very depressing in the already dimming light of a grey Sunday afternoon. I started to thing about what it would be like to be living there, seemingly miles from anything of any cultural interest. I almost saw myself back in my parents' small village and breathed a sigh of relief on thinking that I would be back home in London by the end of the day. Beachy Head, in its rugged, desolate way, proved as depressing as its man made surroundings; not wonder it should be favoured by suicides... Once again the camera went into action. After walking about a bit and raising the concern of my friend who is scared of heights, it was time to make our way home. Rather than going back through Eastbourne, we decided that we would be less likely to get lost if we went via Brighton even though this meant a slightly longer journey. By then the night had fallen completely, aided by a light drizzle.

When we got on the outskirts of Brighton, we decided that since we were there, we might as well stop and perhaps grab something to eat. Brighton is the place in the UK and outside London where I have been the most. To the grand total of three times, actually! I can even find my way round the lanes, to the Royal Pavilion and the west pier now.

Once near the pier, we parked on the seafront. It was ten to six, which prompted us to wait in the car for ten minutes until parking became free. An inspired decision it was too. As we were chatting about music and stuff, a man and a woman appeared accompanied by another (good looking) man wearing a wet suit. They all stopped by the car parked in front of us, putting us in the best seats in the house to enjoy the show which then took place: The man in the wet suit proceeded to divest himself and get changed; stripping to his underpants and, wrapped in a towel, to even less... revealing an altogether rather nice, toned body. Although we were trying not to gawp too much, he must have noticed us and I must say, it took him a inordinate amount of time to get changed, going back and forth between his car and his bag left on the pavement a few feet away, wearing nothing but a pair of white shorts... Eventually, he got dressed (shorts and fleece!) and walked away with his friends. Last year already, the last time I was in Brighton on the last week-end of November, I had seen a (more than) half naked man swimming in the sea (not for very long it must be said). I have the pictures to prove it! The words "madness" and "inbreeding" come to mind...

Needless to say that it was well passed six when we finally left the car and directed our steps towards the west pier! The place was rather deserted and after walking to the very end of it and taking a few pictures, we turned towards the lanes. This is probably the most picturesque part of Brighton; a series of ancient tortuous and narrow alleyways, which have now been invaded by trendy shops. Not very busy at the time to be honest. And only a few metres away from that mad thing which is the Royal Pavilion, where I let my camera loose once more.

It was then time to try and find a place to eat. That same old problem! Few places were open and nothing that really caught our (uncooperative) fancy. We ended up miserably eating cheeseburgers again with the smallest portion of chips on a bench on the pier with the mist moving in from the sea. We were soon joined by a couple a loud roadies and beat a hasty retreat to the car. The drizzle was getting stronger and Brighton's appeal was diminishing fast. It was time to start the uneventful journey back to the capital, thus closing the loop on this rather strange day.

Aaaaaaah! Home Sweet Home!

Rant: Them bloody buses!!!!

As every morning I was on my bus to work this morning, quitely reading a print out of the columns Salam Pax wrote for the Guardian; laughing and welling up at the same time. Very good stuff!

I was on one of those new "bendy bus" number 12s; Fare thee well, good old Routemaster. At some point, I slowly became aware that the bus had stop for longer than usual. I kept on reading but with the thought still at the back of my mind. After a while I suddenly heard a voice saying that the bus was stopping here and what were we waiting for... It was the driver. He had already got out of his cabin and was putting his coat on, ready to leave. How on earth could we guess that the bus was terminating there if he did not tell us?! Ok the doors were wide open and the sign at the front of the bus probably did mention where the bus would stop, but who would notice this? I quickly got out, muttering. The driver did the same and walk away!!!! The doors still wide open, the engine still running, the bus plonked smack in the middle of a bus stop.... As far as I know the bloody thing is still there. Unless someone decided to "borrow" it!


Monday, 8 November 2004

Oh, ok then! If you insist.

I know I said the picture in the previous post did not require any comment, but I am afraid I just can't shut up! Sorry.

Ok the picture is a good summary of what seems to be going on at the White House at the moment: i.e. that W is letting his religious beliefs take over when it comes to governing the US. This is why most people who have voted for him did so, it seems. However I sort of object to the choice of Jesus to make that point. I think the pope or an American televangelist (which no one would have recognised outside the US. I take your point!) would probably have been more accurate a representation of W's religious beliefs, since this is what Jesus stands for here.

I guess I should say first that I am not religious. Although I have been brought up as a catholic and have all my certificates, I have given up on religion and religions a while ago now. I find religions scary (simply look at all the bad things which have come out of them) and I certainly do not like religious people shoving their faith in my face. I let them do what they want, let them let me do what I want. Why people feel the need to govern other people's lives is beyond me. Have they got nothing better to do with their boring little lives? Like concentrate a bit more on doing some good around them?

Being brought up as a catholic however is not an armless business; like any other religious upbringing, I suppose, it does not leave you unscathed. In my case what was left behind when the blinding tide of religiosity ebbed away from my hazy little mind was a set of what I would called humanist values, of which I must admit I would be rather proud if pride was not one of the deadly sins (!). I am convinced that Christianity limited to being a philosophy of life could be a good thing (a "force for good"). It is therefore a shame that religious hard liners should want to tinge it with fanaticism and dogma. I think a big problem with Christianity and the reason for some Christian’s schizophrenic outlook on life is the Bible and the presence in it of both the Old and New Testament who are obviously irreconcilable. In one you find a god of wrath and vengeance and in the other a god of love. The latter finds himself overshadowed by the former far too often.

And this is why I am a little uneasy at the choice of Jesus for this picture; even if I understand the need of a recognisable Christian figure; an icon so to speak. I don't really find anything wrong with Jesus and what he has to say. My problem is with all the Bible-wielders all over the world who seem to know their god's will better than himself and forget far too often the basic (and most important) Christian (as in "Jesus Christ", i.e. New Testament) message of loving one's neighbour. Or perhaps they actually know it all too well: after all the second part of this "command" is to love as one loves oneself... and that's "very little", it would seem!

Sunday, 7 November 2004

That explains it.... too

No comments required, I think:

Saturday, 6 November 2004

That explains it.... (on a slightly lighter note)

Now that IS an interesting statistic... Of course there is always the possibilty that this is a hoaks

The aftermath of the election. Although exit polls suggest that one in five gay people voted for W (when even the Log Cabin (the gay republicans group) refused to endorse him), some of us are still lucid (they might find this helpful):

And finally:

More seriously, this map compares the results of the 2000 "election" with those of the one which just took place (although Alaska seems to have been left out for some reason. I seem to remember that W won that state this time round):


Last year, as part of the Tour of the British Isles, organised by the choir I am a member of, we went to London, Wavendon (near Milton Keynes), Dublin, Manchester, Brighton and Belfast. You can look at the pics here. Everybody had told me I would love Dublin and I was quite prepared to do so, but in the end I only found it very provincial and too cute and boring. Belfast was the surprised however. A place with such vibe, very much on the fence between its past and its future. A real sense of anticipation. I have been in the choir for nearly three years now and Belfast was probably the most special gig I had the luck to take part in. It wasn't the most glamourous venue or the biggest crowd by far but something special happened that night. We were there in support of the first Gay Pride for the city. Our audience had to pass a group of 20 odd bigots (Christians Against Sodomy I think they called themselves, which does say a lot about where their minds are), who had decided to demonstrate outside the venue where we were performing. After the show, we all went to a party organised in our honour in one of the local gay pubs (the Crows' Nest, I think). Everyone let their hair down and we all really had a great time. What was so special about performing there, was that in addition to feeling that we were making even more of a difference than usual, we had to realise how easy we had it being gay men in London and how easy it was to forget about that.

Last Saturday night, several people got mugged on the South Bank; all of them were gay and the police still believe at the time I am writing this that the attacks were motivated by homophobia. One of the victims, David Morley later died of his (40!) wounds. The cruel irony is that five years ago he had survived the bomb attack at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho where he was working at the time. Another reminder that things are not as rosy as they may seem. This one quite literally much closer from home: it happened about ten minutes walk from where I live, in a part of London where I regularly find myself alone at night, walking home. Tonight I took part in the vigil organised in Soho to remember Mr Morley. There, with the LGMC and a several hundred people, we tried once again to make a difference through our singing; we tried to make sense of what had happened and of our grief and anger.

As of tonight a total of 7 people have been arrested in relation to this; apparently all of them teenagers. Commentators point out that reported homophobic crimes have very much been on the rise in the past few months citing as a reason for this the increased confidence in the way the police will deal with the victims inciting people to reports attacks more easily rather than an actual increase in the number of attacks. There is probably a good amount of truth in this; after all these people have the figures and studies to support their arguments. However I would like to suggest another possible reason, which I can only support by a few observations I have made in the past few months. I think that it is actually possibly the case that the number of attacks is on the rise, simply because gay people are feeling more confident about affirming who they are these days. Since, say, the beginning of this year, I have notice more and more frequently gay couple holding hands in areas quite remote from the relatively safe haven that is Soho. Is it not possible that the increased visibility of gay people, not supported by education is perceived as a taunt by homophobes, some of whom can not resist it? We also learn that at least two of the persons arrested for Saturday's attack were black. Is it not possible to draw a link with the current campaign led by Outrage! and Peter Tatchell against the so-called "murder music" of a very limited number of jamaican dancehall singers? Bigots getting angered by the good results of the campaign?

Whatever the reasons, and even in London, the struggle is not finished. We have come a long way; we seem to have found most of the silver lining; let's not forget about the cloud just yet!


A last minute piece of news:

On the Evening Standard Website


Friday, 5 November 2004

My first time - draft

Ok, here goes: see how bad that was: the draft I am referring to above:

As the world learn the news that Senator Kerry is about to give up the fight and let Governor W have his way with our destinies for another four year, I am reading the book (the Baghdad Blog) made from a now very famous blog: Where is Raed. A truely inspiring example. A few days ago, although I vaguely new what a blog was, I had never really read one, let alone considered writing one and here I am, at work, trying to find something to say for my first post. Not a good start I would imagine. If I don't have anything to say, why bother? I am sure I will find something. Life, at the moment, seems to be sufficiently frustrating to provide plenty!

The all important first time

How do you start a weblog? What do you put in it? I am clearly not the right person to answer those questions.

It all started last Wednesday, galvanised and inspired by my starting to read the
book made from what is probably the most famous weblog in the world (even though its author would probably hate me for saying that). As the world was learning that W would be having his way with our destinies for another four years, I created my account. Let's make it clear now that, like many people around the world, I was not exactly impressed by the choice the Americans made. The only (very slight and bitter) compensation is that the people who know are predicting that the proverbial is going to hit the fan in the next four years (economically at least; something to do with the huge deficit they are building up thanks to all of Bush's tax cuts (and there are more to come apparently), and with China, Japan and a few others starting to cash in on all the dollars they are currently buying or something like that: sorry, forgot the details): W will therefore be there to clean up his own mess or at least take responsibility of it. The worrying bit (and what makes this bitter) is that if the States are in trouble economically, Europe and the rest of the world will probably suffer too. The rest of the world should have been allowed to vote to, considering how important this election is. Ok, ok, Kerry would probably not have been much different in content but at least his style would have been different and that might have done a huge different in several quarters.

Anyroads, once the account created, I pondered: Why? What have I got to say? I started a draft first posting which was not really satisfying (I might decide to include it here for posterity (!)) and then it was time to leave work to go to a dance rehearsal, thinking I would carry on in the morning.

That did not happen as, on opening my inbox, I found a message from the chairman of the marketing committee of the choir, asking for volunteers to design the programme for our Christmas gigs at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist in Pinner ( that's just outside London in zone 6; Yes, there is one!). I volunteered and that took up most of my day. I am far from finished yet but I think I have finally found inspiration for this. And what a strange thing inspiration is really: here I am on the night between Thursday and Friday (3.30 am!), suddenly waking up and thinking: I know what to write in this blog and having to switch the laptop on and write it down.

If you are still reading (if anybody is reading this at all), you must know but now that the title of this blog is no deception: I will really by ranting aimlessly on here… I hope this can be enjoyable though.
Time to try and post this (see how badly it goes with the URLs) and then back to sleep, hopefully...
Comments and suggestions most welcome...