You could have knocked me over with a feather boa when, in 2013, it was a Conservative government that introduced the law to legalise same sex marriage. Let’s face it, those dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue Tories aren’t exactly noted for their enlightened social policies or support for civil liberties. The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act through Parliament was far from smooth; lots of hysterical talk from barren barons and men in frocks about the end of the world and the divine sanctity of wedlock. But the legislation was passed, God didn’t lift a finger and the lights stayed on. Hallelujah.
Marriage is a devolved affair in the UK so the 2013 Act only applied to England and Wales. It didn’t take long for the winds of change to blow through these damp little islands. The Scottish Parliament legalised same sex marriage in 2014 followed by the Isle of Man this year. The Channel Islands will bring up the rear in 2017. So who’s letting the side down? Those hell and damnation Presbyterians in Northern Ireland, that’s who. Last November the Northern Ireland Assembly voted narrowly in favour of marriage equality but the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed the motion by using something called a ‘petition of concern’, a mechanism established by the Northern Irish peace settlement to protect the rights of minorities. Ironic, don’t you think? A shameful abuse of power, I call it.
Those dour old dinosaurs really need to step out of their orange lodges and into the light. Public opinion in Northern Ireland is firmly behind reform and who would have thought only a few years ago the people of the Irish Republic would have voted so convincingly for marriage equality? But then, they are no longer held in the medieval grip of the Catholic Church, thank the Lord.
Liam and I formed a Civil Partnership in 2008 and then converted to marriage as soon as we legally could. My mother is Northern Irish and proudly so. I have family connections across the province. We now have the ludicrous situation where our marriage is, or soon will be, legally recognised throughout these islands except for one small corner, all because of a band of crusty old bigots in orange sashes on the wrong side of history. As if the people of Ulster haven’t suffered enough.
Change will eventually come. The writing’s on the wall. I invite you to help it along by signing the latest petition here.
What better way to celebrate our ‘salt’ wedding anniversary than a trip to the seaside for a dirty weekend? We were chauffeured to Gorleston-on-sea in decadent style by a pair of old Norwich rascals (you know who you are), necking fizz all the way in the back of their Mercedes Benz. Our luxurious room with a sea view came courtesy of my sister and the celebratory bottle of red on the Cliff Hotel terrace came courtesy of Liam.
Just a little bit
Just a little bit more
And a little bit more
Mother Nature, a contrary old bag round these parts, was in a bright mood for a change so we were all set for fun on the sand and frolics in the boudoir. The rest I leave to your vivid imagination.
Gorleston Beach from the Cliff Hotel
The North Sea at Gorleston
Liam Brennan at Gorleston
Jack Scott on Gorleston Beach
Alas, we were four months too late to catch a performance of ‘Sindaz’ the adult panto, giving a whole new meaning to the line, ‘he’s behind you’.
So we squandered a few quid in the penny arcade instead. And what did we get for our coppers? A cuddly toy, obviously. We called him Gallstone.
My mother (an old wife with a tale for every occasion), told me if I noticed a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, I would marry a sailor. But I if saw a sparrow, I would marry a poor man, but be very happy. If I spotted a goldfinch, my beau to be would be filthy rich. For my considerable sins, I spied vultures circling.
Only joking, obviously!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Liam
It’s been a stonker of a year. In partnership with Summertime Publishing, I launched Springtime Books to provide a publishing platform for expat writers and in May, I wrapped up the saga of our emigrey days with the release of Turkey Street. The book birthing was particularly painful. Eighteen months later than planned, I fretted my comeback would be as welcome as another Spice Girls reunion, but the pain eased as the reviews dropped onto the mat. Against the blogging odds, Perking the Pansies continues to trip along nicely with a bevy of fans old and new. Somehow or other, I’ve just exceeded my 1,000th post and 10,000th comment. Not bad, I suppose, for some silly old nonsense. For all these things, I’m nothing if not grateful.
Here are the top of the pansy pops for 2015 – a fine diet of gay pride; righting an old wrong; butts of steel; relationship highs and Turkish lows; murderous intent and loose ends finally tied; the dreaded curse of middle England; bad tempered café society; and a little cottage industry to keep us out of the workhouse.
London Pride | Pardon Me | Catching Crabs | Istanbul Pride, Turkey Shame | Death Duties | Turkey Street Uncovered | Happy Anniversary, Liam | Whinging Brits | Give Us a Quiche | Springtime Has Sprung
London Pride 2015
Istanbul Pride, Turkey Shame
Turkey Street Uncovered
Happy Anniversary, Liam
Springtime Has Sprung
Give Us a Quiche
As for the most popular image of 2015? Typical!
Here’s looking ahead to more pansy adventures in 2016. Happy New Year to one and all.
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states and America joined a select group of nations that have introduced marriage equality. The map I’ve featured from Freedom to Marry illustrates the situation around the world before the Yankee vote. In these damp little islands of ours, only Northern Ireland is holding back the tide, Canute-like. The fire and brimstone lot who dominate the Northern Ireland Assembly are in good company – kiddie fiddling priests, the British National Party, Ex-Soviet republics and religious fundamentalists of all persuasions who fine, flog and hang. The dusty old Ulstermen will lose the fight in the end. It’s inevitable. Reason and sanity are against them. Today, the streets of London are paved with gold sequins. It’s London Pride, a grand celebration of everything that’s been achieved. Doubtless, black cab drivers will cuss and bemused tourists will think they’ve landed in Oz. Sadly, we can’t be there to join the party.
The annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival is in full swing right now, an eclectic mix of the performing arts in venues right across the city. One of the more original festival venues is the Adnams Speigeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, a replica Edwardian erection with a handy on-site beer garden to quench the thirst. Last night, we enjoyed a night at the big top with Panti Bliss, the Irish drag queen who’s become a bit of a national treasure in Ireland since her famous exposition of homophobia last year. I wrote a post about Panti’s eloquent speech and remarked at the time that it would change minds. And it has. Panti was no less eloquent last night as she revealed funny, absurd and touching titbits from her extraordinary life. Her social commentary was razor-sharp and the copious consumption of gin did nothing to blunt the edge.
Naturally, Panti has been a dedicated supporter of marriage equality in the Irish Republic. In fact, there’s a national referendum on that very subject today. Let’s hope our friends over the water do the right thing. I’m optimistic. It will mean that across these wind-swept islands, only Northern Ireland* will be holding back the tide of social progress. And a yes vote in the Republic might just shame those dusty old Presbyterians into some positive action. But did Panti get back to Dublin in time to cast her vote?
*In fact, there is no marriage equality in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands either. Except in matters of tax evasion, these off-shore tax havens always have be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era.