Bars & Restaurants, Family & Friends, Food & Drink, LGBT, Norwich, TV & Radio



Norwich life is enriched by regular soirees of beer and banter with a well-preserved couple who have been together since God was a toddler. They will remain nameless to spare their blushes. We’re the same generation and witter on endlessly about the good-old, bad-old days, the state of the nation and who will change our nappies during the bewildered years. It’s a fun and fruity gig.

Last time we met, we all fell into conversation with the pot man collecting a forest of empty glasses from our table. It turned out he was a student at the University of East Anglia working his way through a PhD in Medieval History. He was also gay, clever and quick witted. The young buck took one look at the four old codgers and quipped,

God, it’s like staring at my future. An episode of Vicious.*

Well that put us in our place. You’ve got to love the young.

*Vicious is a recent high camp, hit-and-miss TV sitcom featuring a couple of elderly theatrical types starring a couple of old thespians, Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen.


Review of Turkey Street: Jack and Liam Move to Bodrum by Jack Scott

Jack Scott:

Once in a while, an extraordinary review comes along that makes it all worth the effort. This is such a time…

Originally posted on Author Ingrid Hall:



Jack Scott was born on a British army base in Canterbury, England in 1960 and spent part of his childhood in Malaysia as a ‘forces brat.’ A fondness for men in uniforms quickly developed. At the age of eighteen and determined to dodge further education, he became a shop boy on London’s trendy King’s Road: ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles were the best probation for a young gay man about town’. After two carefree years, Jack swapped sales for security and got a proper job with a pension attached. In his late forties, passionately dissatisfied with suburban life and middle management, he and his husband abandoned the sanctuary of liberal London for an uncertain future in Turkey.

Turkey Street, by Jack Scott is at once a charming travel memoir and a smart, sassy commentary on how a small community of expatriates…

View original 416 more words

Bars & Restaurants, Cats & Dogs, Family & Friends, Food & Drink, Norwich, Visitors

Man About the House

We’re always grateful when old friends spend their hard-earned cash on a pilgrimage to their country cousins, particularly as this invariably means the expense of a hotel stay. Cute as it is, the micro-loft is way too micro for topping and tailing, especially for those in their midriff years who prefer private douching facilities for those intimate moments. Just recently, we’ve had an embarrassment of callers. First on the Norwich trail were a couple of old drinking partners from the Smoke who last graced the city with their designer wear in April. As future exiles to Catalonia, we knew they were partial to a tapas or two, so when a new tapas restaurant called East Twenty Six opened to rave reviews we thought we’d give it spin. The setting was impressive but, sadly, the food was not. We drowned our sorrows in a nearby late night boozer, a place that was once Norwich’s only Irish-themed pub. Delaney’s has now been gutted and relaunched as St Andrew’s Brew House. Whereas Delaney’s oozed fake Oirish ambience with a landlady from Hell, the Brew House now boasts an über-trendy micro-brewery and has been branded to within an inch of its life. Very Shoreditch, apparently.

The next day, like ships that pass in the night, the old reprobates from London exchanged brief pleasantries with our next callers who had driven up from the coiffured hills of Sussex. Jacqueline and Angus have been friends of mine for donkey’s years and brought with them their coffee-coloured Labrador for a spot of dog-walking around the city. After an exhaustive saunter and with Ruby safely tucked up in the loft with an assortment of dog biscuits, dinner was courtesy of Jamie’s Italian. It was delicious. But really Jamie, that much for a bit of pasta?

Angus is a hands-on DIYer with an impressive collection of tools and when I mentioned we were having a bit of bother with a sticking flush, he was at it like a rat up a drain pipe.

A little WD40 will soon sort that out.

And it did. It was good to have a man about the house.

Censorship, Religion, Social Media

God Works in Mysterious Ways

AtheistsA short while ago I shared this image on Facebook. It was a whimsical tease about the sartorial obsession the religious establishment have with funny hats, as if a silly head covering confers gravitas and wisdom. The idea being that if atheists could come up a millinery gimmick to get them in the papers, they might get taken more seriously. It was a joke, obviously. Not so to someone. A couple of days later, the picture and associated comments disappeared quicker than a South American political activist. Where did it go? Why did it go? Who knows? But then, a few days on, the post miraculously re-appeared. I know it was probably some Faceache anorak in hipster whiskers and top knot but I like to think it was divine intervention.

Arts & Theatre, Bars & Restaurants, Ireland & Irish, LGBT, London

Déjà Vu

I’m sure I’ve been here before.

So said my mother after she took a sip of her brandy and coke and looked around the large smoke-filled room. It was 1980 and I was stepping out with Bernie, a salesman from Somerset. We were treating my mother to a night of slap, sequins and perversion at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, South London’s premier drag pub. As it turned out, her feelings of déjà vu were spot on. In the Swinging Sixties, she and my soldier dad had slipped out from the barracks on the other side of the river to catch an act or two.

Bernie was a close friend of Pat, the jovial landlord. Against all the odds, bent-as-a-nine-bob-note Bernie and straight-as-a-die Pat had consummated their bromance at the horses, shelling out a king’s ransom at the Cheltenham Gold Cup every year.


Pat was Irish. Digging roads or running pubs were the standard professions for the Irish back in the day. Just a few months before, Pat had been the manager of the Colherne, the grand old queen of gay bars in West London.  But Pat had ambitions to rise above the ranks and saved his pennies. When the tenancy of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern came up, he grabbed it with both hands, moved in his wife and kids and spent a small fortune reconfiguring the original three bars into one large single space. It was a masterstroke that saw the till ka-chinging for years.

Royal Vauxhall Tavern Charity Night

Charity night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern with the late Diana Dors flanked by the Trollettes. That’s Pat the landlord (top row, third from the left. Next to him in the bow tie is someone everyone knew as Terry ‘Allcock’ – can’t think why we called him that.

Image courtesy of the RVT Community.

Time marched on, of course. Pat and his missus retired back to Ireland many moons ago and, sadly, I lost touch with Bernie in about 2006.  The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, however, continued to thrive, standing firm against the constantly changing rainbow landscape as a venue for drag and alternative cabaret.  Arguably, the venue’s most famous turn was Lily Savage, Paul O’Grady’s theatrical alter-ego before he hung up the blond wig and became every housewife’s favourite.

And then the iconic building was bought by an Austrian property development company. There’s a vast building boom going on in Vauxhall and Battersea these days, with a tube line extension, the redevelopment of Nine Elms, Battersea Power Station and a new state of the art American embassy. The future of the pub was looking bleak. That was until some punters swung into action and applied for listed building status. And guess what? They got it. Historic England (the organisation responsible for such things) decided…

…the building has historic and cultural significance as one of the best known and longstanding LGB&T venues…

It’s the first time any building has been listed on this basis. While the new status protects the building for posterity, it doesn’t mean that the venue will survive in its present form but it’s a start, a great start.

Books, Crime, Istanbul, Turkey & Turkish, Writing

Land of the Blind

Land of the Blind 3dIf you’re looking for a masterclass in how to open a thriller, I suggest you read the first two pages of Barbara Nadel’s latest book, Land of the Blind. It’s the start of a rich and taut mystery, expertly crafted and atmospherically set in the extraordinary city of Istanbul. Following the discovery of a woman’s body in the hidden depths of the ancient Hippodrome, dog-eared, chain-smoking, Inspector Çetin İkmen, leads the reader to the achingly satisfying reveal. İkmen is eminently likeable. He puffs and shuffles his way through the politically charged streets of the city like a Turkish Columbo. Nadel’s writing is fluid, crisp and crystal clear. As the clever plot weaves its way, she deftly lifts the veil on the contradictions of contemporary Turkey: the clash between secularism and Islamism, freedom and conformity. But this is no personal polemic against the direction of modern Turkey, more an astute observation seen through the eyes of the cleverly cast characters, from Inspector Süleyman and his controversial liaison with a feisty gypsy in the hills, to Ahmet Oden, a despised and despicable property mogul. Add into the mix the riots at Gezi Park and you end up with a compelling and electrifying read. In some ways, the city is as much a protagonist as the canny sleuth. A brilliant seventeenth book in the Çetin İkmen series.

Bars & Restaurants, Food & Drink, Norwich

Elvis Has Entered the Building

The Sir Garnet public house is a well-placed Norwich watering hole overlooking the multi-coloured market. Originally called the Baron of Beef, the pub was renamed in 1874 in honour of Sir Garnet Wolseley, one of those Victorian thugs who terrorised the natives in far flung lands for imperial glory, a trunk-load of military bling and a title from a grateful old Queen. These days, the trendy hostelry dishes up superior pub-grub sourced whenever possible from market traders. Particular favourites of ours are the chef’s plump sausage rolls. Moist and morish, they’re a tasty way to soak up the alcohol of a liquid lunch. You can feel your arteries harden with every bite. Our visits to the Sir Garnet are usually pleasantly uneventful. That was until we were entertained by a pantomime of supping Elvis impersonators in every shape, size, age and sex, all dressed as the King during his hamburger years. I’ve never understood the enduring appeal of Mr Presley or his trick hips but it made for an amusing afternoon. Now, what is the collective noun for group of Elvis lookalikes on a piss-up? A thrust? A bell bottom? A graceland maybe? Or my personal favourite, a pelvis of Elvis’?

Anatolia, Books, Turkey & Turkish, Writing

Exploring Turkish Landscapes

Confirmed Turkophile, Lisa Morrow, hails from Oz and first visited Turkey in 1990. A three month stay in the village of Göreme set among the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, changed the course of her life and eventually led her to settle in Turkey full time. Now based in Istanbul, Lisa writes about her observations of Turkish life in her blog and her books and I recently had the opportunity to read Lisa’s second book, ‘Exploring Turkish Landscapes, Crossing Inner Boundaries’. This is my tuppence worth.

Exploring Turkish Landscapes‘Exploring Turkish Landscapes’ is a collection of essays which the author, Lisa Morrow, uses to illustrate her journey through the cultural kaleidoscope of a country she fell head over her designer heels with a quarter of a century ago. Vividly described, each essay is an evocative narrative about an aspect of contemporary Turkish life. Taken as whole, the book shines a light on the traditions and tensions of a society that is ‘less western than eastern, yet at times both and something more’, as the author herself puts it. Her observations of family life with its time-worn rituals and rigid social etiquette – both stifling and comforting at the same time –  are particularly illuminating. The book confirms my own experience that it’s hard for a Turk to be different in Turkey, whatever that difference might be.  The author writes about Turkey with huge affection but if I have one small niggle it’s that I wanted to learn a bit more about Lisa Morrow, the person, and how she felt about what she saw. Nevertheless, ‘Exploring Turkish Landscapes’ is a worthy companion for anyone wishing to discover the genuine article beyond the well-trodden tourist trails, bargain-bucket resorts and sanitised all-inclusives.

Check out Lisa’s blog and her books.