British Pride

British Pride

Norwich Pride has come of age with a huge rainbow flourish as sparkling as the weather. A marcher held up a placard that read ‘The First Pride was a Riot’ – a nod to the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. This year’s march was led by the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, the pride organisers, coppers sporting rainbow epaulettes and the Lord Mayor waving a rainbow flag. We’ve come a long way.

A lone dissenter held up a large cross and urged the crowd to repent. Onward Christian soldiers smiled at him benignly as they passed by.

Young and old marched together. An older guy caught my eye. He was riding a mobility scooter emblazoned with pride motifs and sipping a glass of white wine. Now that’s the way to travel. The loud and proud procession took about an hour to pass and was brought up the rear by an enormous rainbow ‘river’ held aloft by revellers.

Pride in the park was packed with a rainbow of people of every gender, size, age, persuasion, ability and garb. We roamed about soaking up the merriment and watched a few of the acts doing their thing on the main stage. When the youthful crowd started singing along to a cover version of S Club 7’s ‘Reach’, my heart melted. A young lady emerged from the audience and asked us if we were gay. She couldn’t have been more than 16. “Yes”, we replied.  “I’m so proud of you,” she said. “I’ve just come out”. We hugged and wished her well.

It made me cry with pride.

That was Norwich Pride…

A celebration of the LGBT community for everyone.

Russian Pride

Russian Pride

Yesterday, Norwich Pride reached the grand old age of 10 and the streets of the city throbbed to the fabulous in their multi-coloured glory. We came, we saw, we partied along with the mums, dads, kids and grandparents. Summer is Pride season and rainbow flags have been flying across the realm. Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim Mayor, danced across a giant flag during London Pride and even the sleepy Suffolk town of Beccles flew one from the Town Hall. It’s about inclusion, right?

Not in Russia it’s not. In Russia the rainbow flag is subversive gay propaganda opening the floodgates to kiddie-fiddlers, making ladies of the lads, lads of the ladies and bringing Mother Russia to her knees. Waving it can land you in the clink, or worse. The term ‘Russian bear’ doesn’t refer to a hairy mary bopping round a bum-bag to Abba’s Dancing Queen, and it takes a brave soul to be out and proud. And so a band of rainbow comrades employed a little cunning to get their point across at the recent World Cup. Big respect to Norwich’s very own Di Cunningham, chair of Pride in Football, who rolled out the Three Lions Pride flag at England games. I’ve read Di and her team got a bit of low-level hassle from the authorities, but as the flag was endorsed by the English Football Association and supported by the UK Government, the Ruskies let it go. No one was going to provoke an international incident at Putin’s big showcase.

More subtle was a group of activists from Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia who roamed the streets, squares and subways of Moscow wearing their national kits which just happened to make up – you guessed it – the rainbow flag. Now that’s what I call a result.

Images courtesy of The Hidden Flag #thehiddenflag

 

Can I Get, Like, a Coffee?

Can I Get, Like, a Coffee?

It’s often said that the strength of the English Language is its extraordinary ability to absorb, evolve and invent. All fine and dandy. Otherwise we’d still be grunting like Beowulf. But being old and increasingly resistant to change, there are some modern verbal twists that make me want to scream – literally.

Here are a few of my least favourite things.

Like

I like ‘like’. It’s a likeable little word with an ancient pedigree – Old Norse – handy for many a sentence. Handy that is except when it’s repeated ad nauseum by some reality TV nobody in terracotta tan and Brazilian.

“She was like, ‘you aren’t using that word correctly’, and I was like, ‘yes I am’. That’s, like, so unfair.”

No it’s not, like, so unfair. It just makes you sound, like, a bit thick.

Can I get…

Strictly speaking, it should be “may I have…” or “I’d like…” but I’m not that much of a purist. I’m okay with “can I have…” even though it’s actually a question not a request, but “can I get…”? No, no, no, it’s just ugly.

Awesome

These days everything is awesome. No it’s not. The Niagara Falls are awesome. The annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti is awesome. A meal at Nandos is just chicken.

So…

So, it seems anyone explaining something or telling a story – from learnéd professors on the Ten O’Clock News to the trendy young things on Graham Norton’s big red chair – begin with ‘so’. So, literally everyone’s at it. So, even Mr Norton’s TV company is called ‘So Television’.

And when asked how they feel about something, the response invariably starts with…

You know what?

No, I don’t. That’s why I’m asking, stupid.

Or they’ll say…

I can’t lie.

Which, of course, is a lie.

And then there’s ‘myself’, ‘ourselves’ and ‘yourself’. Why have people suddenly started speaking like a copper trying to talk posh in the witness box? What the hell is wrong with ‘me’, ‘us’ and ‘you’?

Postcode Lottery

A phrase used to describe the variable quality of services across the realm, used over and over again by lazy journalists. Frankly, I’m only interested in the actual postcode lottery and only then if I’ve won the twenty-five grand.

You smashed it/you nailed it/you made it your own/you blew the roof off.

The mindless verdicts delivered by talentless talent show judges to some wannabee who’s just butchered a Whitney Houston classic. Someone really should tell the tele-fodder that their pop career will be shorter than the life cycle of a fruit fly and that the only one really nailing it is Simon Cowell.

Do you want a bag at all? Do you have a Nectar card at all? Do you want a receipt at all?

What’s the ‘at all’ about? All of what? Yes, of course I want a bloody receipt – all of it. How else can I bring something back?

Calling out

Where once we used to challenge, expose, question, examine and probe, now we ‘call out’. Even Maybot (our current prime minister who may not be in Number 10 by the time this nonsense goes out) says it. And her a grammar school girl too. I blame Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the neanderthals who’ve been ‘called out’ with their knickers down.

I’ll give it 250%

Er, no you won’t. You literally can’t.

In politics, optics trump metrics

I think I first heard this techno-babble on the BBC’s Newsnight. Apparently it translates as ‘belief overcomes fact’. Nothing new there – religion has been playing that trick ever since Adam and Eve uttered the words ‘where do we come from?’ In my day, metrics were all about metres and litres and an optic was a device for measuring the hard stuff in a pub. Can I get, like, a double?

 

And last, my most disliked…

Literally

So, everyone’s gone literally crazy. It’s literally this and literally that.

“I literally jumped out of my skin.”

No you didn’t otherwise you’d be in the morgue with your vital organs hanging out – literally.

So, I’m, like, calling out this dreary repetition and misuse of, like, certain words which are, like, literally sending me, like, bonkers.

“Can I get, like, a crappafrappaccino?”

I don’t know, can you?

Here endeth the lesson from a fully paid-up member of the grumpy old farts club.

The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour

There’s been a flurry of historical war films lately and more to come, I’m sure. It’s not surprising, given the various centenaries involving the Great War of 1914-18 and the knock-on remembrance of other major conflicts. As a general rule, I don’t do war movies. I’d much rather watch Maggie Smith in bustle and bodice than endure the blood, sweat and tears of the trenches. One exception was the cinematic tour de force, Dunkirk  – a masterpiece. Then came The Darkest Hour, a fictionalised account of the first few weeks of Winston Churchill’s premiership during the Second World War; France is finished, the Brits are trapped, the Americans are hedging their bets and Churchill must decide whether to parley with Hitler. The days don’t get any darker than that. We were drawn in by reports of Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston and his Churchillian prosthetic transformation.

I’ve liked Gary Oldman ever since he played Joe Orton, the controversial and irrepressibly gay sixties playwright, in the deliciously naughty but tragic biopic Prick Up Your Ears.  In The Darkest Hour, neither Gary nor the prosthetics disappoint – both are superb. And what of the film in general? It’s a witty script that doesn’t whitewash Churchill’s considerable flaws, ruthless streak or periods of mental paralysis. But it’s the performance that makes it. Expect a few gongs for Oldman and the clever people in the rubber department.

We also recently saw the latest Star Wars blockbuster – The Last Jedi. The critics loved it, the fans less so. I’m with the fans.

Gay Britannia

Gay Britannia

If you are LGBT, 16 or over and living in the UK, Her Maj’s Government wants to know about your experiences of living in our always green but not always pleasant land. The National LGBT Survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. It’s a bit tick-boxy but you won’t be identified and you can add comments at the end. This was my two-penneth worth…

I’m one of the lucky ones. I came out in the seventies when only the few came out. I was fine with it, my family were (mostly) fine with it and I’ve faced surprisingly little direct or obvious discrimination. But then, I grew up in London so I was hardly the only gay in the village and worked in sectors that were accepting or at least tolerant. I stuck two fingers up at the bigots and the hypocrites and did what I wanted because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Ironically, I do wonder what will happen should I need to go into care towards the end of my life. Will I be forced to shuffle back into the closet?

Our voices must be heard because, despite the enormous progress of recent decades, bigots still feed at the bottom of the pond. As an example, take the reporting of this year’s Norwich Pride by our local rag, the Eastern Daily Press. The coverage was full of hope and celebration. Some of the reactions to it from anonymous trolls hiding behind their silly handles were not. I was particularly taken by the observation from some Nazi called thefastestfox1…

Degenerate, selfish behavior from a small minority with no thought for the long term existence of the human race not to mention the waste of tax payer’s hard earned money.

Don’t degenerates pay tax then? Nobody told me. Can I get a rebate? For my sins, I was going to spit back but someone called Silver Machine got there before me.

But enough about you, this is meant to be a discussion about the article, do keep up.

Ridicule is the perfect response.

So, what’s 15 minutes out of your life? The closing date is the 15th October 2017 so get clicking here. No, you won’t earn Tesco’s Clubcard points or the chance to win a lifetime subscription to Grindr but you just might make a difference. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Generally, I don’t like war films. They tend to be way too violent or jingoistic (or both) for me. I don’t do gore or mindless nationalism. But then we read a five star review of ‘Dunkirk’ which told us to go see it on the biggest screen possible. So we did as we were told and took our seats at the local multiplex. From the opening sequence to the closing credits, we were on the edge of our seats, teeth clenched and knuckles whitened. Utterly mesmerising and amplified by a devastating Hans Zimmer score threaded with Elgar, the film has ‘epic’ stamped all over it. The story of Dunkirk is the stuff of national legend – hundreds of thousands of allied troops trapped on the beach and rescued by a flotilla of hundreds of small civilian boats. But this film isn’t about plucky Brits snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It isn’t about the gung-ho glorification of war or the sins of the enemy – not a single German is seen. It’s about survival by the skin of the teeth. It’s about a miracle. And it’s brilliant.

 

The Day the Rot Set In

The Day the Rot Set In

On this day fifty years ago, the Sexual Offences Act received Royal Assent. The act partially decriminalised male homosexual acts. I say partially because the repeal only applied to rumpy bumpy between men 21 and over in England and Wales. It excluded the rest of the UK and those bastions of red-blooded machismo, the Merchant Navy and the Armed Forces. The ripe phrase ‘rum, bum and the Navy’ must have seemed even more ironic to randy sailors on a long and lonely tour of duty. By contrast, girl on girl action has never been illegal, perhaps because the (almost exclusively male) elite were rather titillated by the thought of it (well, those who weren’t fiddling with the altar boys or servicing the groom, that is). Reform-wise, the Scots didn’t join the party until 1980 and the Northern Irish brought up the rear in 1982. This may explain the over-representation of ginger queens on the pink streets of London during the seventies and eighties.

If the holier-than-thou pulpiteers, tight-arsed little Englanders, mighty-mouths down the pub or queer bashers on the streets thought the 1967 act was the one and only concession to be made, they were in a for a nasty surprise. It was a call to arms. The eighties and nineties brought the darkest days of AIDS and many hoped we’d all sashay back into our closets and die. No such luck. Despite the violence, the ridicule, the outraged press and pushy coppers in rubber gloves, a growing band of brave souls kept the rainbow flag flying higher than ever. Direct action and the outing of mitred hypocrites became rather fashionable. And it worked. One day, the walls came tumbling down and what followed was a bonfire of the prejudices.

The age of consent was reduced (first to 18 then to 16), the armed forces ban was lifted, the offence of gross indecency was repealed, Section 28* was abolished, gender re-assignment was recognised, fostering and adoption laws were liberalised, employment protection secured, civil partnerships were introduced and, by 2014, full marriage equality was realised across Britain. Then came the royal pardon for past deeds no longer illegal and, in time, so too will come the official apology.

On equal marriage, only Northern Ireland is still holding out, with some dour old dinosaurs desperately trying to hold back the tide, Canute-like. Their days in the sun are numbered, despite their last hurrah propping up Chairman May.

Rainbow Copper

The gestation of the 1967 Act was a long one. It was the Wolfenden Report of 1957 that recommended the decriminalisation of certain homosexual offences and concluded:

“…unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law’s business.”

Some still get hot under the collar in matters sex and sin, stoked up by bigots from across the religious divide. The issue even hit the headlines during the recent general election. Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats and a devout Christian, was repeatedly harangued about whether he thinks gay sex is sinful. The poor man squirmed and wriggled presumably because in his heart of hearts, he probably does. After the election, he resigned because of it. I don’t normally feel sorry for politicians but even I thought it was all too much. I’m well-acquainted with oppression by the majority and it smacked of bullying. And I don’t like bullies whatever their persuasion – left, right or centre. Mr Farron’s personal religious beliefs are his own business and, to paraphrase the Virgin Queen, I have no desire to make a window into anyone’s soul. Mr Farron can think whatever he likes as long as he doesn’t move to impose those beliefs on others. And as far as I know, unlike the orange relics and meddlesome priests of the Emerald Isle, he never has.

So I celebrate the day the rot started to set in. It eventually brought the whole edifice of hypocrisy crashing down. Now we can live happily ever after. Or can we? For some in our sceptre’d isle, life is still a little bit shit – bigotry can lurk just beneath the surface and the pendulum never stops swinging. And what of rainbow life beyond our shores? You only have to look around to see how really grim things are for many – the recent roundup and torture of young men in Chechnya is a case in point. And Allah only knows which way the wind will blow now Turks have foolishly voted sweeping presidential powers to an autocrat with a messianic streak. As for Saudi Arabia and Iran, the sword and the noose are kept on standby just case anyone dares poke a toe out of the closet.

*A shameful and largely symbolic law banning the alleged ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, as if sexuality were a choice.