Britain, Music & Dance, TV & Radio

Cilla Black, RIP

The inimitable Cilla Black has just died at the young age of 72 at her home in Spain. It’s a sad day. I grew up with Cilla (née Priscilla White) from her glory days as Britain’s premier power balladeer in the Swinging Sixties to her reign as undisputed queen of Saturday night TV in the Eighties with programmes like Blind Date. So I do hope when Cilla pitched up at the Pearly Gates, St Peter asked:

What’s your name and where do you come from?

I think Our Cilla would have liked that.

BBC, Bigots, Britain, Eurovision, LGBT, Music & Dance, TV & Radio

Sing, Little Birdie

Liam hyperventilated at the prospect of watching Eurovision’s Greatest Hits, an extravaganza beamed across Europe by the BBC  to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the travelling camp fest. I slipped a little something in his Rioja to calm him down. Compered by Graham Norton in his newly acquired hipster whiskers and the posh-frocked Swede, Petra Mede, the show featured some of the contest’s most iconic/dire/fabulous/dreadful (delete according to taste) songs from times past – Brotherhood of Man, Johnny Logan, Lordi, Nicole, Bobby Socks (who?) to name but a few. Sadly, ABBA didn’t reform for the celebration but the BBC did chuck in Riverdance to get the feet tapping (an interval act that was one of the best things to ever emerge from the competition).

Eurovision 2015

Eurovision has come a long way since Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson represented Le Royaume-Uni in 1959 with Sing, Little Birdie. Now we have the transgender Dana International (winner for Israel in 1998) and Conchita Wurst, the bearded lady (winner for Austria 2014) singing a duet holding hands. Way to go, sisters – changing the world one sequin at a time and really pissing off the bigots.

Britain, Crime, Equalities, Films, LGBT, Overheard, Politics

Pardon Me!

Joel Grey1Grey gays are in the news right now. For a start, Joel Grey, the actor who found fame as the camp Emcee from Cabaret, came out publicly at the grand old age of 82. His revelation prompted a conversation about the point of coming out so late in life, as if sexuality only preoccupies the young. For me, coming out at any age is better than never coming out at all. I guess that’s easy for me to say but I’m saying it anyway. A story I recently heard on the radio illustrates my point. A carer used to visit an elderly man. One day he unburdened his ‘dark secret’ and confessed to her that he was gay – but his shame stopped him from ever acting on his feelings. He died as he had lived. Alone.

And then there’s the Royal Pardon granted to Alan Turing. This was the man who cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats in World War Two and who many historians believe shortened the conflict by two years. Alan Turing was gay. Shortly after the war, he was convicted of gross indecency (a crime that only applied to gay men) and was chemically castrated. A fine reward from a grateful nation. He committed suicide soon after.

Imitation Game1

Following a determined campaign by his family, Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013, nine years after the offence of gross indecency was itself finally repealed. Last year, a film about his life was released, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the mathematical genius. And now, the success of the Imitation Game has encouraged a new campaign, this time to pardon all 49,000 men convicted of gross indecency. Most of these men would have had their lives torn apart by this nasty little law. Some will be still be alive. Benedict Cumberbatch, the lovely lovey with the glorious name, has signed an open letter to the British Government in support of the campaign. There’s a petition. Please sign it if you can. I think it’s the least we can do.

The Petition

I’ll finish off with my own little story about coming out in old age. Liam and I were having a bottle of red in our local when we overheard a conversation by a couple of old codgers standing next to us at the bar. It went something like this:

Frank and Stanley

 

You’re never too old for a cuddle. I wonder what the happened in the end?

Britain, East Anglia, Food & Drink, Norwich, TV & Radio, Weather

In the Bleak Midwinter

East Anglia tends to get to best of the weather – it’s often drier and warmer than other parts of these wet little islands. During the bleak winter weeks, when low damp clouds cloak the rest of the nation and drive half the population into Thomas Cook to thumb through the glossy travel brochures, we often enjoy clear skies and bright sunshine. But in the last twenty-four hours, we’ve gone from this:Sunset Over Norwich

To this…

…as an Artic snap blew down from the North Pole closing roads, runways, schools and A&E Departments. Brrr…

So today, I thought better of my routine (a stroll to the gym – like I need an excuse to step off the treadmill – followed by a steaming americano and a trawl through the free papers). Instead,  I slipped on my fluffy mules, whacked up the heat and tuned into daytime TV.  Let’s hope the weather turns by tomorrow. At my age, a diet of soporific trash on the box could easily become habit forming.

Britain, Civil Partnership, Equalities, Gay Marriage, Marriage, Norwich

Out and Proud

On the 19th March 2014, same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales. But for those in a civil partnership, converting their union to a marriage wasn’t legally possible until today. The wheels of State turn ever so slowly and I think someone forgot to order the right stamp. Liam and I got hitched in 2008. We treated it like our wedding and splashed out on a once in a lifetime full production number with our nearest and dearest. Everyone had a splendid time (naturally, the free bar helped). Here’s a few snaps of that momentous day.

Legally, we were civil partners, something that sounded like a firm of solicitors. But whatever the Law said, we always thought of ourselves as married. Now mind and state have converged. Today, on the first day possible, Liam made an honest man of me and me of him by legally converting our union at Norwich Register Office. We didn’t bang a gong beforehand or make a big song and dance out of it. There were no generous presents, smart suits, free-flowing bubbly or tearful speeches; just the same old shoes and an impromptu meal with a couple of old muckers. We’ve already had the big day. There’s no need to do that all over again. That would be greedy. We weren’t the very first to convert. Two other north folk of Norfolk beat us to the chequered flag. But a bronze medal suits us just fine.

WP_20141210_18_56_27_Pro

I’ve always been out but now I’m really proud.

Britain, Interest Rates

Roll Up, Roll Up

payday loans

Wonga, Britain’s largest payday lender is getting a lot of bad press at the moment. Good. According to Wonga’s own website (as at 12/11/2014), the interest they charge on a representative loan of £150 over 18 days is 365%. This equates to an APR (annual percentage rate) of 5853%. I read in The Week (my favourite weekly news digest) that:

“Borrowing £400 from Wonga at its standard rate for seven years would leave you owing more than Britain’s national debt.”

This Week Issue 990

The financial authorities have finally stepped in to call time on the money lenders. By January 2015, the interest rate on payday loans will be limited to 0.8% per day and they will be a fairer cap on penalties for late payment. And about time too. Let’s hope that these legalised loan sharks preying on the poor and the desperate (and sometimes the feckless) will soon go the way of the dodo – and that  investors will lose their Saville Row shirts. Now, what to do about the fat cat tax cheats stashing away their shillings in the Cayman Islands?

Bars & Restaurants, Britain, East Anglia, Norwich, Shopping

The Great British High Street

Jack Scott:

Congratulations to Norwich Lanes for being awarded first place in the City Category of the Great British High Street Competition. Sadly, Belly Button, the shop I used in my original post is no longer trading – a victim of hard times, perhaps. I should have checked first. Consider my busy wrist well and truly slapped.

Originally posted on perking the Pansies:

High_StreetNorwich Lanes, a hotchpotch of mostly medieval streets and alleys and home to over 300 independent retailers, cafés and bars, has been nominated for the Great British High Street Awards 2014. Let’s face it, these days, the British high street needs all the help it can get to survive the relentless onslaught of samey out of town retail parks and the likes of Amazon. So far, the Lanes have managed to buck the depressing trend and are holding their own by offering something unique and quirky to please the punters. Well, who wouldn’t love a shop called Belly Button? So if you’re an East Anglian (and even if you’re not), why not show a little support? Visit the Norwich Lanes website for more info.

Belly Button

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Britain, London

War and Remembrance

2014 marks the centenary of the start of the Great War. We Brits love to wallow in the past. Needless to say there have been commemorations all year – books, exhibitions, documentaries and the like. Mercifully, few have been sullied with jingoism. The First World War started as a glorified pissing contest between the European Great Powers (‘My dreadnought’s bigger than your dreadnought’) and ended with the slaughter of nine million combatants and seven million civilians. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Fat chance. Man’s appetite for killing has remained stubbornly undiminished. Sometimes, though, something makes you stop and think. Such is the field of 888, 246 blood red poppies pouring out of a gun port at the Tower of London, each one representing a fallen British, Dominion or Empire soldier. The display has caused quite a stir – for and against. It’s just so much hot air, signifying nothing (to badly paraphrase the Bard). What is certain is that the flood of ceramic poppies has become one of the most visited exhibitions ever. Anything that reminds us all of the general futility of war is fine with me.