Send in the Clones

When, in the late seventies, I took my first tentative steps onto London’s knock-and-enter gay scene, facial hair was all the rage. Walk into any smoky dive bar and you’d be confronted with an ocean of moustaches – the bigger, the bushier the better. It was like a Tom Selleck convention minus the Hawaiian shirts. We called ’em clones – the Frisco Crisco look. Even the limp-wristed tried to butch it up during the clone wars. The entire lookalikee-ness was gloriously sent up by the Village People in their camp 1978 disco classic ‘Macho Man’. I had the 12-inch.

And clones were only attracted to other clones – that was the Clone Law – dancing round each other in some strange narcissistic mating ritual. I couldn’t really grow convincing face furniture, and pretty boys like me didn’t get a look in. Still, it didn’t hold me back.

By the nineties, hirsute was out, supplanted by the clean-shaven and the fully-waxed. Roll on the noughties, and Desperate Dan* wannabees reclaimed the streets with overgrown hipster beards. But now the lumberjack look is old hat and tashes are back among the trendy young things. And so the world turns.

Being older and furrier, I saw this as my last chance to release my inner clone. For about a month, I nurtured my new whiskers with pride; a bit more salt than pepper perhaps, but full-bodied all the same.

Freddie Mercury’s clone phase

But then a young chap accidentally brushed passed me in a crowded Norwich pub. “Really sorry, old man,” he said.

That was the end of my seventies pornstar tash.

*Desperate Dan was a big butch cartoon character from the Dandy comic with a beard so tough he shaved with a blowtorch.

Coast to Coast Ireland Walk

I first posted this way back in February 2020 but then COVID-19 took centre stage and the rest, as they say…

Two years down the line and my brother-in-law will soon be on the road, walking coast to coast across Ireland. He’s bought a stout pair of walking boots, the rucksack’s fit to bursting and he’s ready to roll. I hope he’s packed a bottle of whiskey and a brolly too. He’ll need both. I know times are hard and bills are rising but if you can spare a few pennies, that would be really something. Click the image to find out how.


Sixty is the New Fifty

I reached the grand old age of sixty last year. This year was Liam’s turn and I’d planned a succession of treats – for me as well as for him – in old London Town. First up was a dinner date and gossipy catch up with an old pal in a fancy French restaurant in Chelsea, the trendy part of town where I gladly misspent much of my youth – ‘Days on the tills and nights on the tiles,’ I call it. The King’s Road is my memory lane and Liam joined me on my trip down it.

Next day I whisked Liam off to Covent Garden for a full English followed by a stroll. Once London’s main fruit and veg market with an opera house attached – think Audrey Hepburn as the cockney sparrow flower girl lip-syncing to ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly?’ in My Fair Lady – Covent Garden has long since evolved into a major magnet for tourists. And there were tourists aplenty, finally returning from home and abroad after lockdown.

Here’s the queue for Burberry. All that fuss just for a posh handbag.

We decided to take in some street opera and pavement art instead.

Our Covent Garden jolly continued with a ride around the London Transport Museum. In many ways, the story of London Transport is the story of London itself. The city couldn’t have spread like it has without the constant innovation needed to enable Londoners to go about their business. If trains, tubes, trams and trolley buses are your thing, it’s an Aladdin’s cave. We loved it.

After a brief power nap back at the hotel, we jumped on the Tube for a real indulgence – a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The musical tells of the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the (to me) lesser known American ‘Founding Fathers’, delivered in song and rap. The deliberately delicious twist is that most of the cast – including Alexander himself – is black or mixed heritage. Adorned with every gong going, the show is slick, brilliantly staged and tuneful. The rap is used as dialogue and is lyrical and clever. It’s a masterpiece, a work of genius.

The evening concluded with more posh nosh and a final snifter in our favourite dive bar in busy, buzzy Soho. The long weekend was a whirlwind with the perfect ending. We finally got to meet Fred, our newest great-nephew.

What a Cheek!

You know you’re getting old when the UK’s best-known high street pharmacy chain starts sending you information and advice about erectile disfunction, hair loss and premature ejaculation – or is that premature eJackulation? What a bleedin’ cheek. I’m thinking of handing back my loyalty card in protest. It’s bad enough that I’m up in the night for a sit-down pee. I wonder what Boots the Chemist recommend for this? Oh yes, lighten up on the late night booze.

For the record, I do suffer from one of these three deadly sins. Let’s just say the shampoo lasts a bit longer these days.

Bring Out Your Dead

Before the miracle of modern medicine and universal healthcare, life for most was plagued by illness or the fear of it. People croaked in their beds from mundane diseases that today we pop a pill for. Many a cottage stairwell was too narrow for a coffin so some featured a trap door between floors called a ‘coffin hatch’ (or sometimes a ‘coffin drop’, for obvious reasons). This allowed the dearly departed to be laid out at the end of a bed in their Sunday best for the procession of mourners who came round for tea and sympathy. And it provided a more dignified exit to the graveyard. Much better than bouncing a stiff down the stairs.

Our cottage may no longer be an unsanitary hovel with cholera in every cup, but we’ve still got a coffin hatch, though not an original. It was constructed by the previous owner when he moved the staircase to a different part of the house. This modern hatch is just the thing for hauling up and down the big and the bulky. We’ve even hit on the idea of using the hole for a lift, as and when the stairs get too much. We’re rather taken with the thought of dying in our sleep – from old age we hope.