Americans, Armed Forces, Bars & Restaurants, Bigots, Equalities, Istanbul, LGBT, London, Norwich, Politics, Religion, Turkey & Turkish

Pride 2016

The marching season is in full mince and after the slaughter in an Orlando gay club, Pride has a special resonance this year. Cutting through the noise, it now seems the carnage was the work of a closet case whose religious beliefs fried his brain. He happened to be a fundamentalist Muslim with shameful stirrings but could just as easily have been a fundamentalist Christian with the same sense of self-loathing. That’s the trouble with blind faith, those who fall from grace sometimes lose the plot. Ironically, some from the religious right don’t know who to condemn more, the man or his victims. And, the Second Amendment is a godsend to the trigger happy. Jesus wept.

My beautiful picture

On this side of the pond, London Pride was heralded by a flypast from the RAF’s Red Arrows and a rainbow flag flew over Parliament. It’s hard to imagine that happening in many capitals around the world.

Predictably, Istanbul Pride was banned again this year. To avoid the brutal oppression of 2015 when everyone was swept from the streets by tear gas and water cannon, Istanbul’s Governor gave plenty of notice. Last year, the holy month of Ramadan was the excuse. This year it was the threat from ultra-nationalist groups. Or maybe the powers that be just didn’t like it. Come the day, a few brave souls turned up anyway and were met by riot police and…well, you can guess the rest. And that was followed a couple of weeks later by an attempted military coup to ‘protect’ human rights and ‘preserve’ Turkish democracy. Since when was democracy ever preserved by soldiers in tanks? Was the coup real or not? Conspiracy theories abound but it was real enough for those who died as a result. Whatever the truth, you can bet your bottom lira life will start getting tougher and rougher for those who won’t or can’t toe the party line. Get thee to a mosque and to Hell with human rights.

Norwich Pride is on the 30th July and the only aggro expected is from a few nutters whispering hell and damnation from the wings. Even the zealous are painfully polite in these parts (as befits the ‘second kindest’ place in the kingdom, according to YouGov research). We’ll be there to wave our rainbow flags accompanied by a couple of old reprobates from the Smoke. We’re praying for a bit of sun – minus the fire and brimstone. I hear we’re to have a beer tent this year, thank the Lord: a first for Norwich Pride and a major step forward in my humble opinion. Cheers!

A happy pride season to one and all, whoever you get down on your knees for.

Photo courtesy of UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Arts & Theatre, Films, Norwich

Ladies in Lavender

I’m a sucker for an old dame, particularly those two old Dames Judi and Maggie. They light up my screen.  My all-time fave is Tea with Mussolini, a regular winter warmer on a chilly night. But any film with them in will do. I’m not fussy.

Ladies in Lavender PosterA less well-known screen outing for the pair was Ladies in Lavender, a tender tale of two elderly sisters living quietly in a Cornish fishing village during the thirties who scoop up a handsome young Pole from the beach after he was swept overboard during a storm. They nurse him to health, causing a stir among the locals – and the stirring of long repressed feelings for sister Ursula, played by Judi. The whole thing is a joy to watch, a moral tale of a rescue without hesitation or fear of an economic migrant washed up on a foreign shore. Rather relevant today, don’t you think? And there’s a real Billy Elliot moment at the end that gets me every time. So, when the stage version of the film came to Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre, we just had to see it (even though neither Dame was in it, obviously).

It was a sterling effort from the cast with the best lines reserved for the housekeeper and delivered with great comic timing. The performance got an enthusiastic hand at the end but I couldn’t help wondering if the message was lost on the mostly elderly audience with their curls, pearls and comfy lives. I hope I’m wrong.

Arts & Theatre, Music & Dance, Norwich

Dancing in the Rain

What better way to raise our spirits after the misery of Brexit and the rise of the loony right than a street party? Thank the Lord Mayor for his big day. Last year, we sizzled under a cloudless sky. This year sunshine and showers were on the menu, but this didn’t dampen our ardour or the enthusiasm of the performers. From ballerinas to buskers, breakdance to bangra, choristers to elderly brass bandeliers, the mad mix of turns – on the stages, on the streets and on the floats – proved Norwich folk are truly bonkers. Amen to that!

Despite sinking one sherry too many, we made it to the fireworks finale – just. Sadly, the next day we didn’t manage to roll out of our pit in time to cheer on the dressed-up waterfowl in the annual duck race.

For pure foot tapping joy, you can’t beat a bit of Bollywood. It brought the proverbial house down. To end this madness, I give you bangra and bangs…

Family & Friends, Marriage, Music & Dance

To Have and to Hold

The bells rang out for a family wedding so we brushed down our mothballed suits and headed across country to Hertfordshire, one of the well-manicured counties ringing London. We dropped off our man bags at the Old Bull in tidy Royston, jumped in a cab and were chauffeured at alarming speed along twisting lanes (our driver was Turkish) to the little hamlet of Shingay cum Wendy. Apparently there are quite a few cums in Hertfordshire.

The matrimonial venue was South Farm, a working farm with a sumptuous events venue attached (or the other way round – I couldn’t quite tell). Either way, it was picture-perfect handsome, a riot of iridescent green and precision planting that wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The pigs and chickens shared a well-groomed paddock and they made for an amusing distraction as we sipped the free-flowing fizz. Being a devoted townie, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to rural life.

I didn’t take any snaps of the ceremony, I left that to the official paparazzi, but I can report that the I Do’s were suitably solemn and intimate. The bride, our niece, was as pretty as a picture and clearly head over her white heels. Young love restores my faith in humanity.

It wasn’t exactly flaming June but the sun did pop out for a while, just in time for the photo call. Mother Nature managed to hold her temper until the reception before adding a surreal snap, crackle and pop to the bonhomie in the newly-restored Tudor Barn. Cocks crowed during the speeches and the bride blushed as the groom gushed. Liam and I were placed on the uncles’ and aunties’ table next to the bar. Clearly, our reputation had preceded us.

There were more PhDs in the room than at a Nobel prize-giving and when the party kicked off, classic rock was their soundtrack of choice. By 10:30 pm, sated and two sheets to the wind, we bid our farewells and left the trendy young brains to pogo the night away to Bowie, Oasis and the Boss. Oh, to be in my twenties again – perfect figure, perfect skin, perfect liver. And staying power.

Blogging, Books, Films, Turkey Street

Under the Tuscan Sun – Reprise

With Liam away on family duties and me at a loose end, I made a brew, raided the biscuit barrel, put my feet up and channel-hopped. Mine’s a glamorous life. Quite by chance, I happened across a Sunday matinee of Under the Tuscan Sun. The last time I saw the film was also a Sunday afternoon but that was in 2011 and we lived in Bodrum. And Liam had just returned from family duties. Warming waves of nostalgia rolled over me and my eyes glassed over, not just because of the weepy but also for memories of our Turkish days.

Under the Tuscan Sun

The film even gets a brief mention in Turkey Street and I posted about it back in the day. I think the post holds up surprisingly well…

Under the Tuscan Sun

Films, Politics

Independence Day?

Britain, Politics

I Vote Remain

Let’s face it, the European Union is hard to love – the faceless eurocrats in smart suits who run the show (Jean-Claude who?), the savage treatment of Greece (to keep German banks solvent), the every-man-for-himself response to the migrant crisis (not very communautaire), the expensive nonsense of moving the entire EU Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg just to vote (to keep the French happy), the initial refusal to allow the UK Government to zero-rate sanitary products (only a man would be so stupid). I could go on and on.

EU Ballot Box

Finally, the EU referendum is nearly upon us. Thank the Lord it’s almost over. With every passing week, the arguments on both sides of the campaign have become more hysterical. No, I don’t believe the sky will fall in if the UK leaves the Union. It may get rocky for a while – divorces rarely end sweetly – but common sense will prevail because it’s in everyone’s interests that a deal is done. Yes, I do think high levels of migration to the UK caused by alarming levels of unemployment in some parts of the Eurozone has put pressure on housing and public services. But there are better ways to solve this than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I must confess, I flip-flopped for a while. It’s an incredibly important decision and I’ve tried to weigh up the pros and cons as best as I could. But I cannot in all conscience vote on the same side as the likes of Nigel Farage and his acolytes of little-Englanders blaming migrants for everything that moves or the unsavoury troupe of neo-liberal Tories led by bonkers Boris whose only answer to the funding problems within the health service is to privatise it. And yes, I do believe there is a link between the cowardly murder of Jo Cox by a fascist nutter and some of the more extreme voices in the leave campaign. You don’t have to pull the trigger to load the gun. Just saying.

Books, Health, Springtime Books, Writing

Do you still have cleavage with just one breast?

I rarely mix business with blogging. I prefer to keep my irreverent witterings personal. But  sometimes something comes my way I just can’t let pass. Just recently, Springtime Books published a breast cancer diary called Do you still have cleavage with just one breast? by Sue Lawrence, a Canadian now living in the Netherlands. It’s gritty, brave, straight-talking and inspirational.  Many of us have been or will be affected by the evil that is the big C. Sue met it head on. The title says it all.

Here’s the blurb:

Cleavage LeftOn honeymoon and two months pregnant, Sue discovers a lump in her breast. This is her raw, unpolished diary as she navigates the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Brutally honest, she faces the overwhelming terror of the road ahead – for herself and her unborn daughter.

Her candid diary entries reflect the impact the disease has on her marriage and impending motherhood. It ends with Tips for Cancer Warriors – signposts and guidelines for those following in her footsteps.

This remarkable and compelling memoir will empower others to feel whatever they need to feel as they battle this disease – it’s their cancer.

The book contains so many memorable quotes. Here’s just a few:

Mastectomy bras resemble slingshots in white or beige polyester… they bring out the grandmother in you.

I find the cancer story slips out – like I’m an oozing, emotional slut wanting to share my pain with everyone.

Chemotherapy smells of rubber bands and it still sticks at the back of my nose. I want to retch. My hair fell out this morning… my bowels feel like they’re falling out of my ass.

Mark moments that are important to you. Go on a trip. Light candles. Write a diary. Stay in bed and cry. Ever the drama queen, I sent a photo of my cancerous breast down the Athabasca Falls in Canada and then had a Nipple Party complete with a documentary and book… Find your joy. And do it every day.

Sue’s incredible story is available in print and e-book at the usual places.  Here’s the link to Amazon.