All men convicted of homosexual offences no longer illegal have now received a royal pardon. The general pardon (so-called Turing’s Law) is modelled on the 2013 pardon granted to Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who broke the German Enigma codes during World War Two and shortened the war, saving thousands. In return, he was convicted by an ungrateful nation of gross indecency, chose chemical castration over incarceration and killed himself in 1954 at the age of 41. It’s a story full of shame, none of which was his. For the dead, the pardon is posthumous. Those still alive and mincing (reckoned to be around 15,000) can apply to have their convictions expunged from the record. I could have been one of them. I just didn’t get caught.
Back in 2014, stencilled slogans appeared on the pavements along Gentlemen’s Walk in central Norwich. Highlighting the menace of domestic violence across the realm, there was nothing gentlemanly about the stark facts conveyed by the messages. This year, the initiative has been rebooted with a particular emphasis on rape.
Assuming Britain is no worse than any other country and considerably better than places where rape is legal within marriage or where it is used as as weapon of war, my brain just aches at the grim level of sexual violence across the world. Depressing really.
You need a second mortgage to park in Norwich city centre. When we moved into the micro-loft, we flogged the sexy-arsed Mégane (to my sister) and Liam now rides the bus to work. He no longer risks life and limb on the narrow country lanes with their tail-gating yokels, blind bends, loose livestock and black ice.
Bus travel in Norfolk belongs to a bygone era. People still (mostly) queue at bus stops and drivers apologise for being late. Just imagine that! It’s the kind of civilised behaviour long since abandoned in London, a place where the law of the urban jungle prevails and it’s survival of the fittest. The last time I visited the Smoke, a bright red double decker actually yelled at me. Over and over it screamed…
This bus is under attack. Call 999!
I’m delighted to confirm it was a slip of the driver’s wrist. Still, it was enough to wake the dead and give nervy tourists on-the-spot seizures. The hapless driver was frantically trying to switch off the announcement as the bus cruised slowly by. After events in Paris, Beirut, Turkey and elsewhere, I felt his pain.
If you’re looking for a masterclass in how to open a thriller, I suggest you read the first two pages of Barbara Nadel’s latest book, Land of the Blind. It’s the start of a rich and taut mystery, expertly crafted and atmospherically set in the extraordinary city of Istanbul. Following the discovery of a woman’s body in the hidden depths of the ancient Hippodrome, dog-eared, chain-smoking Inspector Çetin İkmen, leads the reader to the achingly satisfying reveal. İkmen is eminently likeable. He puffs and shuffles his way through the politically charged streets of the city like a Turkish Columbo. Nadel’s writing is fluid, crisp and crystal clear. As the clever plot weaves its way, she deftly lifts the veil on the contradictions of contemporary Turkey: the clash between secularism and Islamism, freedom and conformity. But this is no personal polemic against the direction of modern Turkey, more an astute observation seen through the eyes of the cleverly cast characters, from Inspector Süleyman and his controversial liaison with a feisty gypsy in the hills, to Ahmet Oden, a despised and despicable property mogul. Add into the mix the riots at Gezi Park and you end up with a compelling and electrifying read. In some ways, the city is as much a protagonist as the canny sleuth. A brilliant seventeenth book in the Çetin İkmen series.
Norwich is blessed with a wealth of hostelries to quench the thirst and chew the cud, but few are as famous as the Gardener’s Arms on Timberhill, one of the last family-owned pubs in the city. Partly dating back to the Seventeenth Century, the traditional ale house is stuffed with oldee worldee nooks and crannies, knotty oak beams and exposed brickwork. Its fame derives from an infamous past. The Gardener’s Arms might be the pub’s licensed name but, for years, it’s been known locally as the Murderers. Why? Because after closing time one late night in 1895, Frank Miles battered his estranged wife with a hammer and left poor Mildred for dead. Handy Frankie should have swung for his dastardly deed but the case attracted huge public sympathy and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. What had the luckless Millie done to deserve such a sticky end? Apparently, she was seen with another man. Oh, that’s alright then.
If you’re passing Timberhill, be sure to pop in for a pint of real ale and admire the murder theme posted on every wall (Dr Crippin, Lizzie Borden, Bonnie and Clyde, Ruth Ellis to name but a few). I’d avoid the big screen soccer nights, though. The beautiful game murders civilised conversation.
Maybe, just maybe, something positive will emerge from this.
I never had the pleasure of meeting you Özgecan. I never had the chance to hear you laugh with your friends or sing along to your favorite tune. No I did not know you at all but I know you now. Your name will forever be etched into my heart and into the hearts of millions of others here in Turkey and around the world who woke on Valentine’s Day, the day of romance, to the sickening news of your death at the hands of a monster. We are shocked beyond words hearing of your suffering and of knowing that the simple task of stepping on a bus is no longer safe here in Mersin.
What happened to you happens to other women every day, all over the world. Whether it is in New Delhi or Melbourne monsters can be found everywhere. But with your death comes the news that tens of thousands…
View original post 329 more words
Grey gays are in the news right now. For a start, Joel Grey, the actor who found fame as the camp Emcee from Cabaret, came out publicly at the grand old age of 82. His revelation prompted a conversation about the point of coming out so late in life, as if sexuality only preoccupies the young. For me, coming out at any age is better than never coming out at all. I guess that’s easy for me to say but I’m saying it anyway. A story I recently heard on the radio illustrates my point. A carer used to visit an elderly man. One day he unburdened his ‘dark secret’ and confessed to her that he was gay – but his shame stopped him from ever acting on his feelings. He died as he had lived. Alone.
And then there’s the Royal Pardon granted to Alan Turing. This was the man who cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats in World War Two and who many historians believe shortened the conflict by two years. Alan Turing was gay. Shortly after the war, he was convicted of gross indecency (a crime that only applied to gay men) and was chemically castrated. A fine reward from a grateful nation. He committed suicide soon after.
Following a determined campaign by his family, Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013, nine years after the offence of gross indecency was itself finally repealed. Last year, a film about his life was released, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the mathematical genius. And now, the success of the Imitation Game has encouraged a new campaign, this time to pardon all 49,000 men convicted of gross indecency. Most of these men would have had their lives torn apart by this nasty little law. Some will be still be alive. Benedict Cumberbatch, the lovely lovey with the glorious name, has signed an open letter to the British Government in support of the campaign. There’s a petition. Please sign it if you can. I think it’s the least we can do.
I’ll finish off with my own little story about coming out in old age. Liam and I were having a bottle of red in our local when we overheard a conversation by a couple of old codgers standing next to us at the bar. It went something like this:
You’re never too old for a cuddle. I wonder what the happened in the end?