One thing we confirmed during our cheery jolly to Shrewsbury is that, according to Salopians (as Shropshire folk are called), it’s pronounced Shroosbury, as in ‘Taming of the…’. We also discovered that it’s tranquil, polite and stuffed with interest – from amazing ‘olde worlde’ architecture along Dickensian streets with quirky names to match to an embarrassment of watering holes and eateries to suit all tastes and pockets. And rain didn’t stop play – well this was the wet West Country (or rather the West Midlands as pointed out by an old friend – you know who you are). It’s west of East Anglia so that’s good enough for me. In fact, the number of Welsh accents we heard almost convinced us we were actually in Wales.
After a good old gander round the narrow streets and little lanes, we happened upon ‘The Nag’s Head’, a bijou pub on Wyle Cop (yes, that’s the name of the street) to be welcomed by an old codger at the bar supping Guinness. He said…
I knew you were comin’ so I put ABBA on.
‘Dancing Queen’ was followed in quick succession by Freddie Mercury, Elton John and George Michael. As Liam slurped his large Merlot, I googled ‘gay bars in Shrewsbury’ and guess what came up? Yep, The Nags Head.
Britain’s longest river, the Severn, wraps around Shrewsbury like a leafy boa (very much like Norwich’s Wensum) which presumably provided an effective defence against the marauding Welsh way back when. These days the calm waters provide a pleasant riverside stroll and opportunities for a tipple or two on sunny days.
Day two was spent in lovely Ludlow, a genteel medieval, Tudor and Georgian assortment sitting on top of a hill overlooking rolling Shropshire countryside. Poet Laureate John Betjeman described Ludlow as ‘probably the loveliest town in England’ and we could see why. The sun poked through the clouds for market day and judging by the posh merchandise on offer, we knew Ludlow was a notch or two above. The town is famous for food so, after a good look around, we settled on delicious Thai for lunch provided by an Anglo-Thai gay couple. We seem to have a nose for the gay thang.
So that was Shrewsbury and Ludlow. Are they on the leader board for our dotage? Shrewsbury certainly, Ludlow less so. Lovely as it is, I don’t think we’re nearly posh or genteel enough.
Liam and I are taking a little jolly to Shrewsbury (pronounced Shrowsbury or Shroosbury – we’ve not sure which) and Ludlow (definitely pronounced Ludlow) to see if west country living might fit the bill for our dotage. Knaresborough in North Yorkshire is still at the top of the leader board but it pays to shop around. It’ll be a quick gander round the streets before retiring to a local hostelry to compare notes and house prices. In the meantime, by way of an intermission, I give you a few snaps of our Norwich life taken as we went about our business. I spy Roving Jay at one of our occasional boozy bloggers’ conventions. Enjoy!
I was a huge Elton John fan as a teenager. I had all the albums, lots of the singles and a large poster of Elton in over-sized star-shaped glasses on my bedroom wall. So it was with great anticipation that we saw ‘Rocketman’, the new EJ biopic. So what’s it like? Well, in summary, the beginning (child protégé to blossoming musical genius) is heart-wrenching. The middle bit (meteoric rise to global super-stardom and descent into rock star excess) is, well, middling. And the finale (reformed addict to legendary national treasure) is foot-tapping joy. Elton’s no-holes-barred lifestyle and multiple neuroses are laid bare – delivered by ingenious scene-stealing fantasy sequences set to his best-known songs. And, there’s no ‘straight-washing’ either to placate the censors in less enlightened lands. It’s all out there in sequin-studded, piano-beating, coke-snorting, vodka-swilling, bed-hopping glorious Technicolor.
Taron Egerton as the Rocket Man is perfect, capturing, though not caricaturing, Elton’s mannerisms, shyness, petulance, sulkiness and explosive presence – both on and off stage. And his voice ain’t bad either. The film is good, rather than great, entertaining rather than profound. My only real criticism is, while Elton’s pain is front and centre – honestly told – it’s a tad self-absorbed with little insight into the hurt and mayhem caused to others by the swirling emotional tornado that is Elton Hercules John. But, I’m still a fan.
We’re all doomed according to those in the know. Global warming is melting the ice caps, sea levels are rising and, sooner rather than later, Britannia will sink beneath the waves along with much of the rest of the world. Mother Earth will likely survive – thrive even – but without us to muck it up again. And it probably serves us right. Still, while we wait for the next biblical flood, I do my bit, recycling-wise. This might seem like pissing in the wind but I do it anyway, separating this from that. These days about three quarters of what we chuck is tossed into the communal recycling bin, though it’s fair to say much of that consists of glass bottles of the wine kind. Our rubbish has always rattled.
My temperature is raised by some of our neighbours who seem incapable of following simple recycling guidelines or, more likely, are too idle to be arsed. But I get really heated by the vast quantity of soft plastic film that wraps pretty much everything these days. This can’t be recycled. Gawd knows why. So off it goes with the peelings and scraps to the incinerator to cause even more global warming or to end up swimming about in the oceans. I can almost hear the dolphins scream.
One lesbian is murdered by a cowardly nationalist sniper while another becomes the Democratic Unionist Party’s first ever openly gay councillor. Journalist and tireless LGBT campaigner, Lyra McKee, was shot dead during rioting in Derry/Londonderry. The response was universal revulsion from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland. Alison Bennington was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council as a member of the shamelessly anti-gay DUP. Her election met with horror by some party bigots. Could it be that these two events – just weeks apart – will bring real change? God, I really hope so.
Football, as we all know, is filthy rich – a huge multi-billion pound global business and a not altogether honest one, with bungs and bribes flying about like confetti. While the beautiful game is not my cup of char, there’s no denying the considerable passion it stirs. After a few difficult years in the shade, the Norwich City Football Team – known as the Canaries – have just been promoted to the English Premier League, the richest of them all, I’m told. The city threw a party to celebrate and thousands of devoted fans pitched up to cheer the team on as the boys in yellow and green paraded through the streets in an open-top bus. It was impossible not to be swept along by the enthusiasm, lighting up a very dull day. The boost to the club’s coffers – not to mention the players’ wages – and the local economy as a whole should be substantial. Well done, lads.
Regular pansyfans may recall that Springtime Books (that’s me and my partners in crime) are working on an anthology of expat stories about Turkey. A huge thank you to those who’ve contributed so far – the book is building very nicely. We’ve already got a fabulous, diverse selection of personal tales and reflections – from Istanbul to Gaziantep, from ‘Chickens in a Buick’ to ’Finding My Tribe in Turkey’, some humorous, some touching and all capturing a personal snapshot. All this means there’s a unique book in the making.
So do keep your contributions coming in (see Turkey Anthology – What’s Your Story? for more info.) We’re about halfway there. I know many of you have some amazing personal stories to tell and, as this book is a ‘thank you to Turkey from expats past and present’, it would be particularly good to have some up-close-and-personal accounts of how Turkey and its people have affected you, touched you. Don’t worry if your idea isn’t fully-formed, just get something down on ‘paper’ and we can finesse it later.
The book is still untitled but to help visualise what it might eventually look like, I’ve got our designer to knock up a mock-up. It’s just an idea at this stage to be taken lightly but does hint at the kind of look and feel we’ll be going for.