It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry If I Want To

I’m now officially old and young people in shops call me sir. I’d like to say 60 is the new 40 but who am I trying to kid? Gravity is taking its toll, my bald patch is getting bigger and my pubes are turning grey. Looking on the bright side I now get free prescriptions and free eye tests, potentially saving me a queen’s ransom as, health-wise, it’s only downhill from here. I also get 25% knocked off fruit and veg every Tuesday at the local farm shop.

To paraphrase an old saying to bawdy effect…

You’re only as old as the man you feel.

Well, I’m feeling a 59 year old so that really doesn’t help.  

I was born on a Sunday 60 years ago in utilitarian army digs in Canterbury and according to the nursery rhyme…

…the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, merry and gay.

I guess that makes me a handsome, carefree, drunken old poof. Well, if the cap fits…

So there it is, my card was well and truly marked from birth. No wonder I developed a liking for anything dashing in a uniform. Now I’m official past my use by date, I’ve decided to become a grumpy old git and shout loudly at the telly whenever someone says something stupid. That’ll keep me busy.

Spamalot

I’ve been plagued with spam comments ever since I started this blogging malarkey – nearly 370,000 so far. Just like Domestos and germs, my spam filter kills off 99.9% of ’em so I don’t have to. I used to get an eclectic mix of spam – the collective weaknesses, desires, vices and foibles of humanity laid bare, blended with endless machine-generated auto-babble. These days the slut and smut stuff is mostly absent, and I generally just get pseudo-clinical gibberish, all targeted at a single post from way back in 2012. Here’s an example:

Decrease of a stage of hemoglobin at males up to 120g/l, at girls up to 110g/l is possible. This can imply dependence on male breadwinners, abandoned opportunities for paid work, and exhaustion that extracts a physical and psychological toll. The former is shown, for example, in exams for cutaneous sensitization, whereas the latter is proven in impairment of the power to resist infection erectile dysfunction for women Correlation of preoperative depression and somatic percepRecommendation #2: tion scales with postoperative incapacity and quality of life afer Collecting data concerning the preoperative characteristics and lumbar discectomy. In the course of therapy, the following duties are solved in every particular affected person: fi reduction of exacerbation; fi selection of adequate primary remedy; fi reduction of the danger of development of complications; fi decreasing the danger of side effects in the course of the course.

The post in question is Goodbye to the Turkish Living Forum. It caused quite a stir at the time, I’m pleased to say. Has the post been deliberately targeted? Who would do such as thing? Who knows. But anyone searching online for the forum will often find my ancient post on the first page of Google – the sweet spot for any website – just below the entry for the forum itself. Perhaps all these spam attacks are keeping it there? Happy days!

The Seven Sisters

Who knows what life will be like once we’re released from house arrest? What will the so-called new normal look like? What’s certain is we’re all Zooming, streaming and buying online like never before. This was already the direction of travel and it just got turbo-charged. How many bricks and mortar businesses will survive is anyone’s guess.

And then there are the most ancient of games – cruising, coupling and canoodling – and the arenas where these rituals are played out. From an LGBT perspective, swiping right had already forced many a gay boozer to call time for good. Why bother with the faff and expense of propping up a bar hoping for a chance liaison when you can order in with free delivery? But these places aren’t just about a Saturday night takeaway, they also provide a community hub and a safe haven from a sometimes hostile world.

An old friend sent me – via WhatsApp, ironically – these amazing images of some of London’s most iconic gay pubs, venues with long and infamous pedigrees. I don’t know who took the pictures so they can’t be credited but they brought back a flood of memories of my gloriously misspent past.

Ladies and gents and all those in between, I give you the seven sisters. As the old saying goes, use them or lose them.

Petty Prejudices

“Ar ya brothers?”

asked the driver in broad Naarfuk as we clambered into the back of the taxi. Here we go, I thought. We’re gonna have that conversation again.

Cabbies are notorious chatterboxes, aren’t they? I think it’s in the job description. And they’ve usually got a view on absolutely everything, with opinions often slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. I knew where the conversation was heading and I didn’t fancy going round the houses so I cut straight to the chase.

“No, we’re husbands.”

“Oh, reet. Me youngest is gay too.”

It turns out our local yokel is totally unfazed by his son’s sexuality and he told us about it – loudly and proudly all the way.

“’Bin goin’ steady wiv the boyfriend for a couple of year now. I ‘ear weddin’ bells. I might get me a noo ‘at!”

So much for my petty prejudices.

Missing You Already!

I first met Clive Smith a few weeks into our first year of secondary school. My very first memory was him doing a skit of ‘The Fenn Street Gang’ – some of you oldies may remember the seventies sitcom. He was doing all the voices, mostly female I have to say. It was hysterical. I liked him instantly. A theatrical life beckoned.

We travelled together through our teenage years – birds of a feather, you could say. And what adventures we had.

There were the incredible school trips – all the way to Russia by train then back by sea on an old Soviet rust bucket. We shared the boat with a girl’s school from Scarborough and attempted to chat up the lasses – really, who were we trying to kid?

Then, a couple of years later, there was Transylvania – not many people go there. Sadly we never got to see Dracula’s Castle but we did see an awful lot of snow-capped mountains and tedious communist-era architecture. Yes, amazing trips. Not many schools put on that kind of show. How lucky were we? And I’m sure this is where Clive acquired his wanderlust. Who could forget the tale of a young Clive sailing up the Irrawaddy to smoke dubious substances with the locals. Not me; I never let him forget it.

But it was the afternoons in the front room of Clive’s home in South London I remember and treasure the most – gossiping and talking schoolboy sex to a soundtrack of Elton, 10cc, Alice Cooper and Bowie – lots of Bowie – oh, and way too much Roxy Music for my liking.

In the late seventies, Clive came to see me at work in Habitat on Chelsea’s King’s Road. He had something to tell me. ‘I’m gay,’ he announced. He’d come out to me next to a stack of trendy crockery in the middle of the shop floor. ‘No, you’re not,’ I replied. ‘I’d know if you were.’ Shows how little I did know.

For years after, Clive was always my Christmas Day guest of choice. Best thing was, veggie Clive always brought his own nut roast. How we laughed over the Coronation Street board game he brought one year. No we didn’t. It was rubbish.

Clive’s greatest attribute was his loyalty, to me certainly, even when I didn’t always deserve it. Typically, he was the first to visit me and Liam in Turkey – no mean feat out of season – and the first to drop by when we moved to the middle of nowhere in Norfolk, house-warmer in hand. It was a bottle of port. He knew us so well. He always kept in touch through time and distance. That was his talent.

I’d known Clive for nearly half a century and, for nearly half a century, we debated and argued, bitched and joked, fell out and fell in, laughed and cried, shared secrets and naughty thoughts.

We may have bickered for nearly fifty years but for nearly fifty years we also loved, more like brothers than friends. And that’s what counts in the end. So all I can now say is, ‘Missing you already.’

Clive died suddenly and without warning from a cardiac arrest on 16th January 2020. He was 58.