Ageing, Bugs, Norwich

Suck It and See

MosquitoBeing four floors up a converted Victorian warehouse means, with the exception of the occasional determined housefly or misguided bee, we’re rarely troubled by high-flying bugs. But the other day a lone mosquito came into land just inches from my line of sight. We eyed each other up for while to see who would blink first. The feeble little Brit-bug had no idea who he was dealing with. During our Turkish days, squadrons of stealthy mozzies dive-bombed dinner parties and bled us dry during our sleep. But gradually over four years, our leathery old hides developed welt-resisting immunity. The ugly sucker staring back at me was no match for its voracious Aegean cousins. So I extended my arm and said,

Go on then, suck it and see.

Now bug off.

Films

Absolutely Fabulous – the Movie

Was it? Well… yes and no. Naturally, we had to see it and naturally it was accompanied by a glass of fizz (that would be Prosecco – our austerity-era budget doesn’t quite stretch to Bolli). The history of transferring much-revered TV sitcoms to the big screen is littered with ignoble defeat. For me, the Ab Fab experience was more of an inconclusive skirmish. The plot was paper thin, just a flimsy device for the outrageous antics of Edina and Patsy. But then, the strength of Ab Fab was always in the characters rather than the storyline. I did find the endless rollcall of celebrity cameos a bit wearing and the humour, though funny in parts, more miss than hit.

Absolutely Fabulous

But I couldn’t help empathising with poor Eddy, way past her dump-by date and hopelessly floundering in a multi-media world she no longer understood. Maybe she should have sold the big house in Holland Park and retired to a converted cowshed in the French hills? A few years in Provence? There’s no story in that, is there?

LGBT, Norwich, Politics

Norwich Pride, Bigger, Better, Prouder

…finest Pride in the finest city.

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Marion Maxwell

Everyone is welcome here today and that is the spirit of Pride.

Chloe Smith, MP Norwich North

Norwich, I love you. You make me proud. Proud to be the MP for your city. Proud to drape this city in colours of the rainbow.

Clive Lewis, MP Norwich South

I couldn’t put it better myself.

The people of Norwich did us proud. And let’s not forget all those dedicated people who made it all happen. So I’d like to give a big hand to the #NorwichPride organisers. And thank you for the beer tent. You made an old lush very happy.

Images and video courtesy of everyone!

Bars & Restaurants, Driving, East Anglia, Family & Friends, Food & Drink, Springtime Books, Transport

Oh, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Wells-next-the-Sea was the venue for this year’s works outing with Jo Parfitt, my partner in crime and the force of nature who is Summertime Publishing. We love a day out at the seaside when the weather’s set fair. Getting there was a bit of adventure in itself. The first stage was a stately railway journey through the ripe fields, reedy wetlands and sleepy hamlets of North Norfolk. My sedation was only interrupted when I spotted the large station sign at Gunton. Well, it didn’t look like a G to me. The two-carriage train deposited us at Sheringham, a bucket and spade resort where undertakers and vets never go out of fashion. Then onto a little bus for a white knuckle ride along the curvy coast, through flint and stone villages with impossibly narrow streets called ‘Old Woman’s Lane’ and the like. There was little time to admire the view. I held on for dear life, wishing I’d worn Pampers.

Well-heeled Wells is a gorgeous little resort and working port surrounded by pine forests, sandbanks and saltmarshes. We lunched aboard the Albatros, a genuine Dutch cargo ship serving up fake Dutch pancakes. They were delicious. The tide must’ve been out because the boat had a distinct starboard list; I felt quite tipsy even before a drop had passed my lips. Happily, I managed to regain my sea legs after half a bottle or so. We didn’t make it down the agenda to the 2016/17 marketing strategy. We got stuck on gossip. Can’t think why.

The train back to Norwich was packed with sunburnt kiddies and lively country cousins out on the lash. The painted ladies opposite shared shots of raspberry liqueur and a Bottecelli babe squeezed into the aisle next to me. As the crowd nudged past, the shapely Norfolk broad fell off her heels and tipped her ample rack into my face.

‘My, my,’ I said. ‘A total eclipse.’ How she laughed.

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.