The Rainbow Tree

The Rainbow Tree

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. No, not teddy bears having a picnic but a rainbow tree adorned with ribbons and messages of hope for troubling times.

Glorious weather brought out flocks of lycra’d cyclists and packs of dog walkers in sensible shoes. Everyone toed the line, distance wise, and we didn’t encounter any pond life thinking the 2 metre rule didn’t apply to them.

By the end of our stroll we’d worked up quite a thirst but, as the pubs are all shut, we made do with a glass or two in the garden afterwards. Life could be worse. We could run out of booze.

Drinking Through the Crisis

I cannot lie. I was so relieved when off licences were added to the list of essential retailers. A dry lockdown would be way beyond the pale ale and, thankfully, local shops are well-stocked with the hard stuff, helping to tranquilise us through the coronavirus crisis.

We’re creatures of habit, Liam and I. And touring the village watering holes for a few bevvies is one of them. We call it doing our bit for the local economy. As they’re all shut up for the time being, we get our fix by cracking open a bottle and joining in the White Horse virtual pub quiz on Facebook every Monday at 8pm. It’s not quite the same as the real thing and it’s too easy to cheat – not that we do, of course – but it’s as good as it gets right now.

Simon, Chedgrave’s very own jolly landlord, is doing his bit to keep community peckers up and the virtual quiz really helps. He also does a nice line in colourful shirts to brighten up the dullest of days – always a talking point. Sartorially, though, he’s got a long way to go before he can compete with the nation’s all-time favourite pub landlady – bottle-blond, chain-smoker, Bet Lynch (AKA Julie Goodyear). Bet’s signature look was leopard skin. She covered everything in it, even her chest exerciser.

Brassy Bet’s tenure behind the bar at the Rovers Return on Coronation Street may be long over but you can catch her glory days weekday afternoons on ITV3. That’s what I do.

The Great British Bake Off

It’s just as well Liam and I get along. Pressure cooker living 24/7 could strain even the most intimate relationship. Our neighbours are also in confinement for the duration and so thin cottage walls means dialling down the dirty pillow talk for a while. I let off steam by swearing at Alexa and trying (unsuccessfully) to get her to swear back. Liam relieves stress by punching the hell out of the dough. The result isn’t half bad. When we’re finally released from house arrest, the Great British Bake Off could be on the menu.

Life in Lockdown

Life in Lockdown

We awake each morning to a cacophony of birdsong and days have merged into one. Life in lockdown passes at a snail’s pace with tasks expanded to fill the time available. Paid work has more or less dried up so domestic chores and essential errands dominate our days. Liam’s very handy with the hoover while I over-dust the knick-knacks. The house has never been so clean. Cabin fever and wall climbing is relieved by long walks along the river Chet and the queue outside our local Co-op store – keeping our distance from others, of course.

Cheers from Gran Canaria

It was the calm before the storm. We flew out just before Storm Ciara barrelled across the flatlands on the Jet2 poofs and pensioners express to Gran Canaria with an all-male crew who minced up and down the aisles dishing up relentless jollity with the booze. We fitted right in and celebrated with fizz.

For our fix of winter sun this year we’d gone a bit more upmarket, staying at the Canary Garden Club, a well-appointed collection of whitewashed bungalows set in lush, beautifully-tended gardens. The sparkling pool was gorgeous though somewhat marred by the assortment of old fossils drying out in the sun. Still, it made us feel young again.

This was intended to be R&R gig and so we only ventured out once to the Yumbo Center – the epicentre of gay nightlife in Playa Del Inglés – with its trashy bars with their trashy boys flaunting their trashy bits. A likely lad emerged from the shadows and offered us Charlie, and I don’t mean my mother’s favourite fragrance from the seventies.

The gay scene has evolved down the years from the small intimate bars of my youth, partially hidden from view so as not to offend the easily offended, to cocktail cafés spilling out everywhere, in-yer-face drag shows banging out the show tunes and brash cruising establishments that do exactly what they say on the signs, and more – Sodom and Gomorrah in sequins and leather. We left it to the wide-eyed and lustful, and were in bed by midnight.

Most days we dined early and watched the sun go down over the Atlantic – just what the doctored ordered after an over-eventful year.

We arrived back at Stansted late – too late to travel back all the way to the middle of nowhere – so we’d pre-booked a budget hotel, or so I’d thought. To my surprise and total delight, Liam had upgraded us for Valentine’s. And on the train back to Norwich the next day, the guard hole-punched our tickets with a heart. Who said romance is dead?

A Cottage Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and we’re stopping home this year to soak up the village vibe. Thank you to Mr Marks and Mr Spencer for the superior festive fare. It’s not that Liam can’t cook – he’s actually rather good (me, on the other hand…) but after a few sherries down the local on Christmas Day, I fear a killing in the kitchen, and not in a good way. So best to minimise the risk with pre-prepared grub. After all, as the slogan goes…

“This is not just food, this is M&S Food.”

And who am I to argue?

God rest ye merry gentlemen, ladies and all those in between.

We’ll Meet Again

We’ll Meet Again

This year, Liam and I jollied in London for our birthdays. A state of the art, hi-tech micro-room in St James’ was the perfect base for our foraging. We arrived on Remembrance Sunday and the centre of town was buzzing with blazers, badges and bling under a canopy of Christmas lights. It was fun being tourists with time on our hands to roam and drink it all in, something we rarely did when we were worker bees on the treadmill.

Talking of drinking it all in, no trip to the West End is quite the same without a jar or two in a local hostelry. As seems to be our habit these days, we ended up at Halfway to Heaven, a gay bar just off Trafalgar Square and the splendid den of iniquity where Liam first caught my roving eye 13 years ago. Quite by chance, we arrived just in time to catch their annual Remembrance Day show.

Image courtesy of Boyz Magazine

The pub was rammed with military veterans – men and women, young and old, straight, gay and everything in between, all in their Sunday best – enjoying a convivial mingle with the regulars.

Halfway to Heaven has become something of a safe and welcoming place for ex-military LGBT people. Who knew? But it was a wonder to behold. When we were at the bar ordering drinks, a middle-aged woman was chatting to the manager.

“Thank you for being so nice to my dad and his husband,”

she said, pointing at two old soldiers in the corner.

It made my heart melt.

Next week: more jolly news