Life and Death in Paradise

Life and Death in Paradise

I hear bees are becoming an endangered species and if we don’t do something about it, we’re stuffed too – that is if Mother Nature doesn’t wipe us out with a nasty virus first. And who could blame her? To do my bit to placate the gods I bought a bee bomb – a collection of wildflower seeds which, when in bloom, attract bees and a host of other pollinators. I scattered the seeds over a raised bed, watered them in and forgot about it. Come June, to my delight and astonishment, the bomb had exploded into a riot of daisies, cornflowers, poppies, marigolds and many others this city boy has never heard of and couldn’t pick out in a line up. The tangled bouquet is strafed daily by squadrons of flying bugs while ants and ladybirds harvest the abundance of juicy aphids from the forest of matted stems.

Elsewhere on the farm, a curious mole poked his head above ground before thankfully moving on to greener pastures and a hedgehog emerged from the undergrowth next door to feed, oblivious to the pair of wood pigeons shagging on a gate. The love birds enjoyed it so much they came back the following afternoon for seconds. Meanwhile, larger fauna basked in the warm sunshine feeding on pink gin.

Our Independence Day

Our Independence Day

The fourth of July was independence day for boozers in England. For the first time since lockdown in March, pubs threw open their doors with staff waiting anxiously at the pumps. We were like rats out of a trap. First stop for a cheeky bottle of blush, the White Horse, transformed into a virus-free sanctuary (as much as anything can be) by the jolly landlord, Simon Peck, and his trusty staff. 

The pandemic revealed an entirely different side to Simon as a bumbling and uncannily accurate BoJo impersonator as you can see in this tongue firmly in cheek performance.

Simon even made it on to Look East, our regional BBC news programme. If you’re on Facebook, give the video a like if you would. Simon would be chuffed.

Next stop was the Swan for a couple and then the King’s Head for a final snifter. We didn’t quite make it up to the Angel. That’s on the menu for next time. Too early for opening time? I’m no expert so I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls to speculate. What I do know is each establishment did their bit to keep people safe and all the punters behaved. Was it worth it? You bet! We got totally tiddlypooped.

My Boob Job

Apart from clacking about in my mother’s heels when I was six (and who hasn’t done that?) I’ve only cross-dressed once – dragging up as Mary Hopkins at a fancy dress Eurovision Song Contest party back in the day. I picked up a dodgy blonde wig and cheap black dress on the Roman Road Market in London’s East End. In DMs and black eyeliner, my Mary looked like a gothed-up pantomime dame. I made sure all the photos were destroyed.

With my drag days long behind me, imagine my surprise to get this delivered from dependable ol’ Marks and Spencer, the cornerstone of the beleagued British High Street.

Not so dependable, after all. Right name, right address, wrong order. We wanted fitted sheets. We got fitted bras. And not any old bras, oh no. These were M&S bras, sumptuously soft with full cups in 36B. Still, it made us giggle on a slow day.

Here’s the real Mary doing her thing on Eurovision back when the UK had a fighting chance of winning. Not that Mary did win. Despite being red-hot favourite, she came second to Ireland’s Dana, a sweet-voiced chanteuse with fire and brimstone views.   

The Seven Sisters

Who knows what life will be like once we’re released from house arrest? What will the so-called new normal look like? What’s certain is we’re all Zooming, streaming and buying online like never before. This was already the direction of travel and it just got turbo-charged. How many bricks and mortar businesses will survive is anyone’s guess.

And then there are the most ancient of games – cruising, coupling and canoodling – and the arenas where these rituals are played out. From an LGBT perspective, swiping right had already forced many a gay boozer to call time for good. Why bother with the faff and expense of propping up a bar hoping for a chance liaison when you can order in with free delivery? But these places aren’t just about a Saturday night takeaway, they also provide a community hub and a safe haven from a sometimes hostile world.

An old friend sent me – via WhatsApp, ironically – these amazing images of some of London’s most iconic gay pubs, venues with long and infamous pedigrees. I don’t know who took the pictures so they can’t be credited but they brought back a flood of memories of my gloriously misspent past.

Ladies and gents and all those in between, I give you the seven sisters. As the old saying goes, use them or lose them.

Living Angels

Sitting pretty on the edge of our little village in a green and pleasant corner of old England lulled us into a false sense of security. Despite the chronicle of death on the nightly news, we thought the COVID-19 pandemic would simply pass us by. That was until we got the awful news that one of our nearest and dearest was struck down by it. It really was a close run thing for a while but he survived. And his message of thanks to his living angels got him on the radio.