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of consent was reduced (first to 18 then to 16), the armed forces ban was lifted, the offence of gross indecency was repealed, Section 28* was abolished, gender re-assignment was recognised, fostering and adoption laws were liberalised, employment protection secured, civil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.

Out and Proud

On the 19th March 2014, same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales. But for those in a civil partnership, converting their union to a marriage wasn’t legally possible until today. The wheels of State turn ever so slowly and I think someone forgot to order the right stamp. Liam and I got hitched in 2008. We treated it like our wedding and splashed out on a once in a lifetime full production number with our nearest and dearest. Everyone had a splendid time (naturally, the free bar helped). Here’s a few snaps of that momentous day.

Legally, we were civil partners, something that sounded like a firm of solicitors. But whatever the Law said, we always thought of ourselves as married. Now mind and state have converged. Today, on the first day possible, Liam made an honest man of me and me of him by legally converting our union at Norwich Register Office. We didn’t bang a gong beforehand or make a big song and dance out of it. There were no generous presents, smart suits, free-flowing bubbly or tearful speeches; just the same old shoes and an impromptu meal with a couple of old muckers. We’ve already had the big day. There’s no need to do that all over again. That would be greedy. We weren’t the very first to convert. Two other north folk of Norfolk beat us to the chequered flag. But a bronze medal suits us just fine.

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I’ve always been out but now I’m really proud.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

Over the cold winter on the sofa nights, ITV, Britain’s main commercial broadcaster, ran a documentary series featuring the activities of the City of Westminster’s Register Office where births, deaths and marriages are recorded. It was a distracting little show, a  funny and touching fly-on-the-wall human interest fest for a chilly midwinter’s evening that helped the digestion and wasn’t too taxing on the brain. There is something rather dignified and valiant about the ordinary people – the hatch, match and dispatch squad – who deal daily with the relentless cycle of life that we must all face and the relentless cycle of emotion that goes with it. Veteran registrar of 28 years, Patricia Gordon, confessed that she was none too comfortable with the notion of civil partnerships. But, through friendship and by example, fellow registrar Tommy helped her see the light; now she can’t wait for him to find his own soul mate so she can do the honours. And guess what? Patricia officiated at our Civil Partnership in 2008. Here is she doing the business:

Thank you for changing your mind, Patricia. 

The Love Letter

Just after Liam left for work, I rolled out of bed, staggered down the treacherous winding stairs of the old Weaver’s Cottage and wandered into the kitchen to make my morning cuppa. I flicked on the kettle and opened the fridge to retrieve the milk, only to find this little note taped to the carton:

The Love LetterBrought a little tear to my cynical eye.

2013 in Review

Perking the Pansies recovered from a difficult birth at the murderous hands of the Turkish censors, thrived through the terrible twos and survived the transitional threes, ending the year with 60,000 hits for the last twelve months. Thank you to everyone and anyone who’s passed by and glanced at my random witterings. Most blogs burn out after two years so I must be living on borrowed time.

As the sun sets on 2013, in the best Hogmanay tradition, I give you the year’s top ten – a pick ‘n’mix treat of bum cleavage, Turks at the barricades, a shot in the arm, a tender coming out story, a sexy rugger bugger, a book to send you to sleep, an old-time boozer, an olive tree planted in a foreign field and a scratched itch.

Plumber’s Bum

It was the picture wot won it.

Turkey Troubles

A revolution in the making?

Tom Daley: Something I Want to Say

Saying it before someone said it for him.

Gareth Thomas, Dancing on Ice Drama

Who said ice-prancing rugger buggers can’t read?

Life in the Old Blog Yet

With thanks to the nice people at WordPress who featured me on one of their big hitting sites.

Turkey, Surviving the Expats – Out Now!

Keeping me out the workhouse.

God Save the Queen’s Head

A Chelsea classic and old watering hole of mine.

From Little Acorns...

A small corner of Turkey that is forever John.

Seven Year Itch

A soppy tale from Liam.

Turkey, Who Will Blink First?

And we all know who did in the end, don’t we?

For some inexplicable reason, this was the most popular image of 2013, featured in Let’s Hear it for the Brides.

Nine Elms
The Thames at Nine Elms

And I shouldn’t forget the perennial favourites from previous years that keep coming back again and again like a bad case of thrush.

Gran Canaria Sex Emporium

Proving that ‘sex’ really is the most searched for word on Google.

Now That’s What I Call Old

A humble little post about a spectacular discovery in eastern Turkey that just keeps on giving while the archaeologists keep on digging  – 8,000 hits and climbing. Who would have thought?

Expat Glossary

Oft quoted and oft plagiarised (and not always with a credit, tut tut)

Goodbye to the Turkish Living Forum

The few spoiling it for the many. A real shame.

Turkey Street RecliningAnd what of 2014? All I know is that Turkey Street, Jack and Liam move to Bodrum will be out early in the year. Will it be as successful as the first one? Who knows? Not me. Whatever happens, come rain or shine, a happy and prosperous year to all my pansy fans. Thank you for staying the course and for your remarkable support. I’m touched but then, I have been for years.

Downtown

Downtown

Petula ClarkUnlike many of the stately old homos of my generation, I never quite developed a taste for the torch-song trilogy of Garland, Minnelli or Bassey. And I can take or leave the new old girls on the block – the fallen Madonna, nip and tuck Cher or crazy Diana (Ross not Spencer). But, my spot is very soft for a classy dame from Surrey, a woman who first hit the streets in the year war broke out. Then, she was performing with an orchestra in the entrance hall of a Kingston-upon-Thames department store for a tin of toffee and a gold wristwatch. She was seven. Seventy four years on, she is still going strong and is currently on national tour. I am, of course, referring to the iridescent and timeless Petula Clark – child protégé, forces favourite, Hollywood starlet, Sixties pop princess, chanteuse Française and West End superstar.

Autumn was fashionably late this year but made quite an entrance when it did eventually arrive. We were battered by brolly-snapping weather as we wandered the windy streets of Ipswich in search of the Regent Theatre, East Anglia’s largest.  We had a stiff double at the bar while we dried off. The drench did nothing to dampen our spirits and as we took our third row seats in the auditorium, the crowd buzzed with anticipation. Miss Clark has been treading the boards for a very long time and this was no better illustrated than by the giddy silver-haired fans who surrounded us. Every care home in Suffolk must have been drained that night. I swear I spotted a St John’s Ambulance crew on standby just in case the excitement got too much; mercifully, we were spared a medical emergency. Still, our Pet raised the blood pressure with a superb performance, giving those X Factor wannabees, a fraction of her age and a fraction of her talent a marathon for their money. From Gershwin to Lennon via Elvis and Gharls Barkley, Miss Clark stepped through her set with style, humour and remarkable agility. Naturally, ‘Downtown’ got the biggest cheer but, for me, it was ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love’ that got me all dewy-eyed. You see, I’d chosen it as the soundtrack to the champagne reception at our Civil Partnership (“Ah,” I hear to cry in unison).

Come the finale of the two-hour gig, the wrinkly congregation got to their feet for the much-deserved standing ovation (though, in truth, it was more of a slow stagger than a youthful leap). Even a wheelchair-bound man in a turban found his legs, Twas a miracle from the lady who famously played Maria Von Trapp’s favourite singing nun. Hallelujah, sister.

Get your hankies ready…

Let’s Hear it for the Brides

Let’s Hear it for the Brides

The sun shone, the bride and bride kissed, the pansexual crowd whooped, the fizz popped and the waters trickled by in approval. After the nuptials in Islington, the wedding party was delivered via double decker to Blackfriars Pier where we joined them, all suited and booted (well, I’ve got to get some wear out of the two piece I bought for the funeral of my celebrated uncle). What started as a boozy cruise down Old Father Thames ended with a slow smooch on a riverside dancefloor and two very happy ladies. Liam caught up with old colleagues from his waged days and I got to flirt with a bone fide fire fighter. The hettie-man didn’t seem to mind any of my obvious batty-man gags about sliding down his greasy pole and playing with his enormous hose. The running buffet, bottomless barrel and limitless goodwill helped ensure our first lesbian wedding was a rip roaring success. We felt honoured to witness it.

The only blot on the landscape was our uncomfortable room at the Comfort Inn, Vauxhall, with its thin duvets, wonky fittings and tiny shower cupboard with a loo barely big enough for a five year old. Still, we were three sheets to the wind thanks to our generous hosts so we hardly noticed.

The wedding album isn’t out yet so here’s the view from the pier at the Westminster Boating Base in Pimlico where the reception was held. Liam said I scrubbed up rather well and who am I to argue?