As we all know, Twitter is the social media platform of choice for ranters of every persuasion – from Tango’d ex-presidents to assorted nerds, nutters, non-entities and ne’er-do-wells. We now live in a society where public discourse is reduced to 240 characters or less and everyone’s opinion, no matter how stupid, is of equal value. Let the Twitter storm commence.
Twitter is also awash with explicit porn, from cheeky tweets from sex workers flogging their assets on OnlyFans – though maybe not for much longer – to swingers and show-offs looking for hook-ups or titillation. It’s paradise for voyeurs and exhibitionists alike and must have been quite handy during lockdown. I only tweet for business, but hardly a week goes by when I’m not followed by someone from God knows where waving his willy at me like it’s a calling card. Obviously, I try hard not to look.
We’ve put Amazon Prime on trial. The retail juggernaut offers Prime free for a month. The jury’s out whether we’ll carry on once the trial is over. Not because it’s rubbish. It isn’t. But because Amazon has got too big for its boots. Just saying.
The trial did give us the chance to check out Prime Video and a couple of movies that took our fancy – ‘Dating Amber’ and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. We’d not heard of the former but we’d seen the stage version of the latter beamed from the West End before the pandemic turned off the glitter ball.
Set in Ireland during the mid-90s, ‘Dating Amber’ tells the story of Eddie and Amber, two gay teens who decide to fake a romance to stop the kids at school from banging on about their sexuality. It’s a funny, sweet and touching coming out tale, and perfect for warming a cool autumnal evening.
The musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ was a surprise West End hit, inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. The show follows the eponymous teenager as he beats the bullies and the bigots to slip on the high heels, sequined frock and big hair as a wannabe drag queen.
The show’s back on in the West End now and Prime recently premiered the film version. We liked the stage show but we loved the movie – gutsy, exuberant and courageous with a sparkling cast, including Max Harwood as Jamie.
And what do these two films have in common (apart from the bleedin’ obvious)? None other than fabulous Irish actress, writer and comedian Sharon Horgan who plays Eddie’s doting mother and Jamie’s tight-arsed teacher. Sharon Horgan’s all over our screens right now, making career hay while the TV sun shines. And who came blame her?
It is said that if you hang around Piccadilly Circus for long enough, the entire world will pass you by. In my day, working the Dilly was popular with rent boys, so hanging around could get you arrested. When we passed by it was a convenient place to convene for those taking part in the Extinction Rebellion demonstration that coincided with our visit. At the time, the circus was ringed by brightly painted lions. This animal trail malarky has really got out of hand. Apparently the King of the Jungle on his Tusk Lion Trail can be spotted all over town.
Our last night in London was a Soho pub crawl reminiscent of the good old days. Thank God we were staying local so we only needed to stagger back to our pit. Next day, headache’d and hungover, we rode the bus to Liverpool Street Station for our train back to Norwich. The Tube would have been quicker, but nothing can beat the top deck of a London bus for a bit of sightseeing. We got to the station early, so it was a spot of overpriced lunch and a hair of the dog in nearby Spitalfields. The area is graced with a series of bronze statues, mostly of cutesy baby elephants – the Herd of Hope – to highlight the plight of orphaned calves in the wild.
But the most evocative sculpture on display is of a boatload of refugees. It’s intended to reflect the history of Spitalfields as a haven for migrants down the centuries. Ironic really. These days the area is mostly given over to plush offices and fancy eateries – not a damp slum, cold-water tenement or raggéd refugee in sight. Any remaining housing is some of the most expensive on the planet.
No trip to old London Town is complete without taking in a show. At last the curtain has gone up all over the West End after a very tough time. Our musical treat was Come From Away at the aptly named Phoenix Theatre. The show tells the remarkable true story of what happened when, following 9/11, thirty-eight civilian planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small Newfoundland town of Gander. With North American airspace cleared, 7,000 ‘plane people’ were stranded for the duration. The residents of Gander and surrounding towns rose to the considerable challenge, freely providing board and lodgings and a warm welcome. Funny, inventive and moving, it’s a show for our times. Here’s a taste.
To be able to take our seats we had to show our NHS app and prove we were double jabbed. For the moment, so-called ‘COVID passports’ won’t be mandatory in England and I know some fools think they are an affront to their civil liberties. Tough. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. It’s called civilisation. Stopping at a red light, wearing a seat belt and smoking restrictions are there to protect us all, including the foolish.
We spent three days in London, staying close to Soho’s Berwick Street Market. How things have moved on since I was a likely lad about town. The traditional stalls flogging fruit and veg, cheap knickers, household tat and knock-off have been supplanted by international street food, and the old Wimpy burger bar at the top of the street is now a trendy restaurant.
We lunched in Old Compton Street, Soho’s main drag, picking a table at an open window so we could people watch. Sat in front of us at a pavement table were a couple of well-heeled young ladies getting well-oiled – all flicky hair, painted pouts and posh frocks – necking upmarket cocktails. When they weren’t checking their iPhones, they chatted loudly and expressively in what I thought might be Farsi. There was a lot of gesticulating going on. It reminded me so much of our Turkey days watching po-faced Turkish princesses bitch and gossip.
Sitting quietly in the corner of the restaurant was their minder, watching and sipping coffee. Without warning, they signalled they were done and he whisked them and their fancy handbags off, presumably back to the Ritz or some other top-drawer dormitory for the filthy rich.
If anything positive has come out of this terrible pandemic, it has to be the explosion in café culture and al fresco dining. Come 5pm, up go the road barriers, out come the tables and Soho floods with punters. Well, if it’s good enough for Paris.