Imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, married, middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country. I chronicled our exploits with the mad, the bad, the sad and the glad in a blog for the whole world to ignore. Then came the book which became a critically acclaimed best seller. Its success opened out a whole new career for me, firstly as an author, and now as a publisher. Who'd have thought it? Certainly not me.
In June 2012, we ended our Anatolian affair and paddled back to Britain on the evening tide, washing up in Norwich, a surprising city in eastern England, then to the wilds of Norfolk as the only gays in the village. I’m sometimes nostalgic for our encounters with the hopeless, the hapless and, yes, the happy go lucky. They gave me an unexpected tale to tell and for this I thank them.
We’re currently living next to a building site. A local developer is chucking up a few more bungalows, like the world really needs a few more bungalows – affordable housing for the cash-strapped, yes, more well-appointed dwellings with double garages for the well-heeled, no. It’s a lost cause and we’re resigned to it.
While a big, butch workman swinging an even butcher mechanical digger was busy excavating a trench for a new drain, he ripped out an underground communications cable, cutting phone and broadband lines to every house in the street.
This is during a pandemic with people trying to earn an honest crust working from home, doing their bit to keep themselves and the economy afloat. Head-scratching all round by shuffling workers in hard hats and a ‘wasn’t me, gov’ vacant look on their red faces.
Engineers from Openreach* armed with tools and sensors rode to the rescue, plugging us back in the very next day. I call that a result. It’s a temporary fix, though. The cable can’t be re-buried until the new drain is finished. So the builders have protected it from further damage with a tatty old upturned wheelbarrow. Very hi-tech. What are the chances?
And for my next trick – no water and no electricity?
* For the uninitiated, Openreach is the company that manages much of the UK’s fixed-line telecoms infrastructure.
That flicker of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel is getting brighter. Our days in the sun (or beer garden) will soon return. Meanwhile, we continue to do what we can to stay safe and sane. I hear sales of jigsaws have gone off like a rocket. It’s not the sport for us. We have neither the patience nor the table space in the micro-cottage. No, we spend our days playing hide the sausage and naked twister – sometimes at the same time.
You’ll be relieved to know there are no images of either for me to share. We don’t want to frighten the horses (or pheasants, pigeons, blackbirds, robins, doves, ducks and tits great and small). There is, however, this little vid of my favourite lockdown pastime. It’s not me (obvs) but you get my drift.
This cocktail of winter and lockdown blues gets so boring. Then something comes along to turn the blues to a sunny shade of pink and make me realise that there are worse things in life than being a bit bored.
A virtual performance by The Pink Singers of the 80’s synthpop classic ‘Together in Electric Dreams’. Featuring over 130 LGBT+ singers and musicians from around the world, the second lockdown video from the Pink Singers aims to bring a little bit of queer joy in these challenging times and show that even when people are ‘miles and miles away… love never ends’.
I got the call, booked my slot, rode the bus to the next-door village of Poringland and joined the orderly queue at the COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Community Centre. Friendly, fast and efficient, I was in, jabbed and out within five minutes – no messin’. The NHS really know how to run this kind of thing. Some people who get the Oxford AstraZeneca shot report flu-like symptoms for a while. Not me, I just got a slightly sore arm and a bit of swelling. Roll on jab number two – and freedom. A shot in the arm is just what we all need right now.
So far, February has delivered freezing Russian snow and an icy blast from the past on Channel Four. Storm Darcy brought two-foot snowdrifts, abandoned cars and our resident pheasant pecking about for frozen morsels. But it was Russell T Davies’ AIDS-era drama, ‘It’s a Sin’, that really chilled us to the bone. Brilliant as it is, the series made for tough (though compulsive) viewing especially for those, like me, who survived the worst of times, ducking the Grim Reaper’s scythe by the skin of the teeth. By episode three I was ripping open the wine box to squeeze the last drop from the plastic bag.
Many have binge-watched the series on-demand. That wasn’t for us. There’s not enough wine in the box for that. So we took it as it came, broadcast-wise. Last night’s brutal and uncompromising finale was the bitter pill that had us fighting over the Kleenex. The irony of screening the series during another health crisis was not lost on us. I hear it’s gone down a storm with the current cohort of young gay boys putting it about town, leading to a record uptake in HIV testing. Good job, Russell.