For our fifteenth wedding anniversary we were itching for a big city scratch with a difference. Despite my heathen leanings, I do like an impressive church, and few are more impressive than London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s tour de force topped with its heavenly dome. The earlier Gothic pile was torched along with much of the old medieval city in the Great Fire of 1666. It’s reckoned the blaze started in a bakery in the appropriately named Pudding Lane, bringing a whole new meaning to the hallowed phrase ‘give us our daily bread’.
Meandering around the flashy Baroque splendour brought back happy memories of my first pilgrimage – back in my spotty teens when I accompanied my grandmother, who was over from Ireland.
According to the annals, there’s been a church on the same spot since 604 AD, and possibly as far back as the late Roman period, as suggested by a plaque listing the pre-Norman bishops with their glorious tongue-twister names.
In stark contrast to the lavish decor above, the crypt is simply appointed and stuffed with the tombs of kill and cure notables from days long past, from Florence Nightingale and Alexander Fleming – who discovered penicillin quite by chance – to the victors of Trafalgar and Waterloo, Nelson and Wellington. Napoleon must be spinning in his monumental Parisian grave. Wren is there too, of course.
After piety came avarice, with indulgent afternoon tea and bubbles in The Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre followed by mother’s ruin at Halfway to Heaven, the homo watering hole near Nelson’s massive column, where Liam and I first met. They knew we were coming judging by the ultimate gay megamix playing on the jukebox – Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Marc Almond, The Communards, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dead or Alive, Gloria Gaynor and Hazel Dean – with Liza Minnelli’s ‘Love Pains’ bringing up the rear. Liam’s shoulders shimmied to the beat. Perfect.
As a superannuated member of the grumpy grey herd, I still read newspapers, those quaintly old-fashioned printed sheets of paper that leave ink smudges on your fingers. I recently read in one daily rag that renovation, decorating and domestic chores can cause tensions in relationships. Really? Who knew? This month, Liam and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and we decided very early on in our career that the only way to avoid the divorce court was a clear division of labour in the home.
Here’s that newspaper list and how we stay (mostly) harmonious:
Flat-pack furniture: me. I’m a sucker for an Allen key. It makes me come over all butch.
Bathroom cleaning: Liam. Getting my hand round an s-bend is an insertion too far.
Painting and decorating: Liam. I’m no Jack of all trades and he’s handier with a brush.
Loading the dishwasher: both but I reload it when he’s not looking.
Clearing out the shed. Jack’s man cave – keep out! It’s where the smut is stashed.
Laundry: me. I’m happy to rinse through Liam’s knickers. That’s real love for you.
Putting up a shelf: neither. Get a lesbian in.
Cleaning the oven: Liam. Life’s way too short to drop to my knees for a cooker.
And the hardest of all… interior design choices. Have you ever seen two old poofs throw a hissy fit over some scatter cushions in IKEA? It wasn’t us, obviously.
It’s our wedding anniversary today – 14 years (and counting) since we tied the proverbial and Liam slipped his ring on my finger. What adventures we’ve had. I have a feeling in my water there’s many more to come but then that could just be a UTI. According to tradition, ivory is the anniversary theme but it’s not exactly ethical. Of late, Liam has taken up his keyboard once again so I guess we’ll have to make do with ivory tickling instead.
With all the endless doom and gloom swilling around us, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come. It says something incredibly powerful about our society when the three finalists of Strictly Come Dancing – the most popular show on British TV – were a black woman, a deaf actor and a same-sex couple, as voted for by the viewers. As critic Barbara Ellen put it in her Guardian review:
“A ground-breaking Strictly final in step with modern Britain.”
“… Strictly, and the BBC, at its best: everyone welcome, and everything all the better for it.”
Hot on the heels of Strictly came the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, also a public vote. It was won by the child of Chinese-Romanian immigrants with a gay diver bringing up the rear in second place.
And then came the out-of-the-blue and very public marriage proposal on the stage of Norwich’s splendid Theatre Royal at the end of their Christmas panto production of Dick Whittington. When Joe popped the question, the kids went wild. Just as well Luke said yes!
It’s funny how things turn out. At the start of 2019 we were loft-living city-style, happy as pigs in the proverbial. By the end, we’d escaped to the country surrounded by the stuff, all quite by chance. Our best laid plans for a move to God’s own county were consigned to the recycling bin. And, my old girl reached her own milestone – turning 90 and still on the fags.
These twin themes were writ large in Perking the Pansies this year. There’s a lesson there somewhere. Also featuring in the top ten were a couple of fairy films, a fine but imperfect city and steely celebrations by the pansies still perking after all this time. Ladies and gents, please give it up for…
As usual, popular classics were of the more salacious kind. For the third year running, Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium from 2012 was the most read blast from the past. And the most clicked image was those naughty but nice boys with their big oars from Catching Crabs.
Shame on you.
Happy New Year to one and all. All we hope for in 2020 is some sunshine. It’s been pissing down virtually every day since we moved.