Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Pink Sauce

Pink Sauce

Several people expressed curiosity about that delicious concoction I invented for my pasta, so here is a little piccie so that said people get a better idea. ok, it looks more orange than pink, here but that's because I didn't put quite enough cream in (it's normally shrimpish pink).

Give it a go... go on, you know you want to.

(for those wondering, the yellow rectangle at the back of the plate is Emmental)

The Pope's Visit in the UK (2010)

It was announced this week that Gordon Brown has officially invited Pope Ratzinger to visit UK. This he will do next year. Already, protests are announced (in Brighton, tomorrow) against the invitation and a Facebook group has been created for longer term action.

Today Tanya Gold has published a damning summary of the Catholic Church's actions in the Guardian.
Ignore the bells and the smells and the lovely Raphaels, the Pope's visit to Britain is nothing to celebrate. Gordon Brown is 'delighted', David Cameron is 'delighted'. I am 'repelled'.
Read the full article here.

In the meantime, the Vatican has come out with a little gem of hypocritical bad faith (!), stating "that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger."

I suppose that makes it ok, then. right?

Saturday, 26 September 2009



(Part of) the view from my window: Palace of Westminster's Victoria Tower in the sunset

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

pink sauce | life, with a pink seasoning

As of tonight, my blog Aimless Ramblings of Zefrog, that "place where I can vent my frustration, express ideas and generally open my big gob without bothering too many people" which will be 6 in a couple of months, becomes Pink Sauce. While the URLs zefrog.blogspot.com and www.zefrog.eu are still valid to access this page, the main URL now becomes www.pinksauce.co.uk.

There is a vague plan to create a proper website for www.zefrog.eu to which the blog would be linked.

Why Pink Sauce, you may ask. It is both simple and complicated. For several years, I have grown out of love for the name of the blog. It felt a bit cumbersome and clumsy. That said, I never really looked into changing it, seriously.

Tonight, for dinner, I had pasta with a special pink sauce of my concoction; single cream and ketchup. I know most people while feel nauseous at the very though of the mixture but trust me, it's gorgeous. Don't knock it till you've tried it.

After having had my platter I boasted on Twitter about my sauce and one of my followers (@nminers) suggested that I should have a website called Pink Sauce. Immediately this seems like the perfect name for my blog. A place where I speak about the minutia of live but, more often than not, with a gay (or pink) twist.

I therefore check that the domain name was available, bought when I found out that it was and fired up photoshop for a spot of design. The result, a couple of hours later is the headmast now topping those pages. I'll probably hate it in the morning but hey, that's life!

I hope that this will not prove to much of a shock for my readers. Please feel free to leave comments about the new look. But please forward any complaints to Mr Miners.

Le blog est mort, vive le blog!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Something Happened on the Way to Oxford Circus

Something extraordinary happened on the way to Oxford Circus yesterday, and in my life. I got there first!

At the end of May, my contract with VisitBritain came to an end (it had been originally a six month contract and had already been extended). Since then the hunt for a new job proved rather unfruitful and sometimes frustrating.

In the first three months, I was only invited to one interview, for a small charity based in Shoreditch. Although the feedback was very positive, I wasn't hired. I had only come second. Not the first time this had happened to me for an interview.

Unusually perhaps, though that was certainly welcomed, I was recommended by this first charity to a second one that was looking for someone in a similar position. I duly submitted my application and was invited to an interview.

This took place on Tuesday. Though that was apparently unplanned but not unforeseen, a second round of interviews had to take place to differentiate between two remaining candidates. And I was one of them.

That second interview was yesterday. We had been asked to do some homework beforehand, designing a webpage from a document provided to us. During the interview, I had to explain my design and the choices I had made before answering further questions. The interview went well. The panel was made up of three women and I seem to be more relaxed interviewing with women.

So once again, it was going to depend on the quality of the performance of the other candidate. Something I really dislike as it means things are totally out of hands. I could foresee another occurrence of the bridesmaid syndrome taking place.

Well, this time, it didn't happen. During the afternoon, as I was walking towards Oxford Circus with my friend Petr, I received the joyful phonecall offering me the position and I accepted the offer. How wonderful!

Literally wonderful. In my nine years in London, this is only the second permanent position I will have held. More than that, it is the first one I will have got all by myself through the interview process (the other one was an internal affair following a restructuring where I was working on contract).

I have a meeting scheduled on Wednesday at the JobCentre to review my job search. I will use this as an opportunity to tell them where to go (not in so many words, of course). No doubt this will generate material for another blog post.

But today, there will be a bit of a celebration. When I left that previous permanent job, over three years ago, I was given a bottle of Champagne. I haven't had a good opportunity to drink it, yet. Thinking that this would be the perfect occasion for it, I put it in the fridge last night and today, I will be surprising Petr with it.

A votre santée!

Friday, 11 September 2009

An Apology is Not Enough, Mr Brown

The following has appeared in PinkNews under the title Comment: Brown's apology to Alan Turing is not good enough.

The readers of this blog, who know how militant and political I can get, may be surprised to hear that I did not sign the widely publicised petition for an official apology to Alan Turing.

Of course this campaign is in many ways a very positive thing. It brought a dark page of the history of the LGBT community to the forefront, making the wider public aware of what some of us (many still alive today, no doubt) have had to endure from their own country.

It also served to highlight the way LGBT people have been treated by historians simply because of their unorthodox sexual orientation; how they have been prevented from taking their rightful place in the history books and have instead been firmly kept into the historical closet, regardless of the scope of their achievements.

As the news that Gordon Brown has taken the highly unusual step to actually grant the demanded apology, I can't help but wonder once again, as does Peter Tatchell (in a statement made today on the subject) and no doubt a few others, why Alan Turing should be singled out. Why should he be the only one deserving of an apology for the "utterly unfair" treatment he has received at the hand of the government of the time?

Tatchell, in his lukewarm praise of Brown's apology as "commendable", reminds us that an "estimated 100,000 British men [...] were also convicted of consenting, victimless same-sex relationships during the twentieth century". And then there were the others before that whose lives were destroyed (all too often literally) for who they were and who they loved.

And this brings the next question, that of the worth of an apology. This is not a new debate. It is a particularly heated one, for example, in the black community around the issue of slavery, where it is complicated by the question of financial reparations.

An apology is, of course, a potent symbol, but what is an apology by people who weren't involved to someone who is dead going to achieve? Especially when so many inequalities, humiliations and rebuffs are still visited on LGBT people today around the world. Indeed, at the same time that Brown was apologising to a British citizen for the treatment he received for his homosexuality, another British citizen was being killed in Jamaica for the exact same sorry reason.

Finally, let's not forget, at the risk of seeming ungrateful perhaps, that while the PM may have apologised, Turing is still officially a criminal. He and all the others should be pardoned, not solely apologised to. What are you going to do about Mr Brown? An apology is not enough.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Rare Views of London in the 1930s

Thames House

We all know (or hope) that flea markets will offer hidden treasures. And sometimes they just do.

A lucky find in Deptford market, a couple of years ago, has made me, for the grand old sum of £5, the happy owner of a photo album with some very interesting shots. Although there are virtually no annotations in the album, it seems that the pictures were taken between 1930 and the late 1940's. Some may even be earlier.

Most the pictures are of groups of young people involved in camps and excursions organised by the Crusaders Union but some show views of the Queen Mary and sailing boats, of Stratford Upon Avon and other unnamed places, and of steam trains. Those about London - there are only seven of them recognisably of London itself - can be viewed in the Londonist gallery dedicated to them here.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Up West by Pip Granger - A Review

This is the full-length version of my review for Londonist. Regular readers will also know that this is my first book review.

Imagine looking at a picture of a place you know well in a mirror. Everything you know seems there but somehow it's not quite right, it's not quite the same. This is how it feels reading Up West by Pip Granger.

The street names and the landmarks are all there, though many have also now gone. The busy and diverse crowds are also livening up the streets but the colours have gone and everything has the drab greyness of post-war Britain and its pea-soupers. The smells are different too. Stronger and earthier.

As Granger points out herself, there has been many books about the area, some are general histories, some are focusing on certain communities living there. Many are about the famous "boozy chums" of the author. "At once a history, a memorial and a love story" (p21), Up West is all of these things as it draws on the lives and testimonies of those who lived there in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Granger's father himself lived in Old Compton Street and she spent a lot of time there, as a child.

If you think the West End of London is a busy place today, imagine how it must have been when the fruit and veg market was in full swing in Covent Garden, when all the possible trades in existence (except funeral directors - you had to cross the Big Divide that was Charing Cross Road to Covent Garden for that) were represented in Soho, when the newly invented teenagers, with money in their pockets, decided to go up west and join the other revellers to have a good time.

And imagine the cast of characters: The likes of the Queen, Barbara Windsor, Fred Astaire, Billie Holliday, The Goons, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Keith Richard, and many more, all have a cameo here but there are also local figures like Timothy "Rosie" Cotter or Prince Monolulu, and of course the anonymous legions that lived and worked in the area; the children, the waiters, the costermongers and barrow boys, the small artisans, the buskers and the prostitutes. And Crooky/Ikey the pigeon.

The book covers all the various aspects of life in the West End, its material harshness and its human warmth, in 18 independent chapters. The very detailed index at the end is a very good help to find your way around the book whose scope goes beyond the confine of that relatively small area of London. It eventually describes post-war London as a whole, with its social and existential turmoil in readjusting to everyday civvy life.

A real problem with the book however is its vagueness with locations (often places that have now disappeared). The map at the front is woefully sketchy for anyone who hasn't done the Knowledge. Details of what the various businesses and places mentioned have now become or been replaced with would have been very welcome too.

Such a wide ranging book will, of course, not go without mistakes and I have spotted two. The Theatre Museum, in Covent Garden, has been closed for at least a year now but still appears in the present tense in the book (p146).

Also mentioned is 41-43 Wardour Street, now the site of my favorite chinese restaurant, Wong Kei, but at the time still the workshop of a theatrical wig maker. The author mentions "an arch whose foundation stones were laid by Sarah Bernhardt and John Irving" (p184). In fact there are plaques on each side of the entrance to the building stating that Bernhard laid the foundation stone of the building in 1904, while Irving laid the coping stone in 1905.

And what's with the highly annoying conceit of having "into" spellt in two words throughout the book?

This informative book remains a highly enjoyable and nostalgic walk around one of London's most idiosyncratic villages. The best place to enjoy is it probably in a café in Soho or on the top of a bus where you often only has to take your eyes from the book to see the street you've just been reading about. So close and yet so different.

Up West by Pip Granger is out now from Corgi Books, RRP £6.99 (paperback).