It’s All Double Dutch to Me

It’s All Double Dutch to Me

A couple of weeks ago I popped over to the low land of dykes, bikes, canals, tall thin blonds and tall thin buildings. I’ve been to old Amsterdam many, many times before. Back in the day, Amsterdam was a blesséd escape from finger-wagging, buttoned-up Britain, and a place where I could feel totally free. I won’t regale you with ripe tales of how I expressed that freedom – this is a family show, after all. Needless to say, it rarely involved a cultural troll round the marvellous galleries of the Rijks Museum.

Here’s an ancient image of me in the naughty Nineties on one of my gayfests.

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I’m standing on the Homomonument, a memorial to those persecuted for their sexuality. Opened in 1987, the monument takes the form of a large pink triangle jutting out into the Keizersgracht canal. It’s a potent symbol: the pink triangle was the badge of shame gay men were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps during World War Two. And we all know what happened in those places.

This time I was there on business. I was attending the 2016 Families in Global Transition Conference (#FIGT16NL), a gig that brought together people from far flung corners, all concerned with issues affecting global families. The current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East added an extra layer of complexity to this year’s august jamboree.

Why me? You may well ask. I’m neither an expat, nor a family in transition (not anymore anyway). In fact, I was there as part of my work with Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books, specialists in expat titles. And I was asked to lead a social media workshop for writers. It was a bit of a hit, I’m told. I even got to sell signed copies of my books in the FIGT bookshop – and was more than chuffed when they flew off the shelves and soon sold out. Clearly some people like a dash of camp with their esoteric.

Here’s me flapping my hands about in the social media workshop.

FIGT Workshop

And me on the right grinning inanely in the bookshop.

FIGT Bookshop

After a hectic few days navigating through the talkers, walkers, cars, trams and manic cyclists on a mission coming at me from every which way, I landed back at Norwich Airport at ten to nine in the evening. I was home with a large glass of Pinot in hand twenty minutes later. Now that’s the way to travel.

If you’d like to know more about Families in Global Transition and their valuable work, check out their website. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures I took of the pretty city.

The conference pictures are courtesy of FIGT.

Mr Grumpy

Mr Grumpy

It was my birthday recently. I reached the grand old age of 55. I now qualify for Gestapo-controlled sheltered housing, all wipe-down high-back chairs and swirly carpets that stick to the soles of your shoes. En-suite facilities are now essential for those caught short at 3am moments (so much better than a bucket by the side of the bed). Just how did this happen? I remember the days of my deliciously misspent youth when summers of love seemed endless. Now an entire year passes by in a flash and I barely notice. Welcome to the epoch of Mr Grumpy.

I received a birthday card from my sister in law. Maybe she’s trying to tell me something?Twatter

God Works in Mysterious Ways

AtheistsA short while ago I shared this image on Facebook. It was a whimsical tease about the sartorial obsession the religious establishment have with funny hats, as if a silly head covering confers gravitas and wisdom. The idea being that if atheists could come up a millinery gimmick to get them in the papers, they might get taken more seriously. It was a joke, obviously. Not so to someone. A couple of days later, the picture and associated comments disappeared quicker than a South American political activist. Where did it go? Why did it go? Who knows? But then, a few days on, the post miraculously re-appeared. I know it was probably some Faceache anorak in hipster whiskers and top knot but I like to think it was divine intervention.

Springtime has Sprung

Springtime has Sprung

In my last post, I took a meander down memory lane and hinted that change was afoot. Well, my news is that I’m now a publisher, a bone fide purveyor of the written word. No, I haven’t bought out HarperCollins or picked up a Penguin. I’ve gone into partnership with Jo Parfitt, she who is the force of nature behind Summertime Publishing and Jane Dean, a super-talented eagle-eyed editor with a big red pen. The new publishing venture is called Springtime Books, and you’ll see that we have a few books on the books already.

Springtime Books

Summertime Publishing has been the expert in expat books for years. From now on, Summertime will specialise in expatriate families and third culture kids, while Springtime will focus on travel and the expat experience in general. We’ve even got a snazzy little video to promote our new enterprise.

Are you a current or former expat with something fresh to say about expatriate life? If so, it could be your time to shine.

And that’s not all. Today’s also the day Springtime publishes its newest title, Passage of the Stork, Delivering the Soul from the rather wonderful Madeleine Lenagh. Click on the book image to find out more.

Passage 3D

Now, I’d wager you thought that this post was going to be about the weather. You did, didn’t you?

Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage

After small town resort and the tale of Can’t Sing for You, Brighton came a jolly to the big city and time to party. My nephew and namesake, Jack, was celebrating his coming of age with his first legal drink. We helped his nearest and dearest deck out a hired hall in tinsel, balloons and streamers, transforming a working men’s club into a glitzy fairy’s grotto. As we uncovered the party platters, I asked Jack if we were to be the only gays in the village that night. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘there may be a couple of bisexuals popping along for a boogie. No big deal.’ How times have changed since I got the keys to the door. Jack was nervous (he’s a sensitive soul). Would anyone actually turn up to his 18th? He needn’t have worried; the streets of South London were empty that night.

There’s a lot of debate these days about the degenerative condition of Britain’s yoof – you could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve sired a lost generation of lazy, selfish, illiterate, shallow, celebrity obsessed mediocrities. Well there was little evidence of that poor state of affairs at Jack’s bash. Apart from a few very minor skirmishes caused by raging hormones, the trendy young things were polite, respectful, considerate and obliging. Boisterous? Certainly. Feral? Hardly. Mind you, when did eighteen year olds get to look twenty five? The hipster whiskers didn’t help. Naturally, birthday boy got horribly drunk on his first lawful binge, but the care shown by his friends was impressive and rather touching. The next morning, he rose from the dead with not so much as a twinge. Oh, to be eighteen again.

The fragrant Grace, the long term squeeze of Jack’s elder brother, is a bit of a photographer on the side and set up a photo booth for the evening. Here are some of her best shots…

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Marakech

Ray Cole from Kent was recently released early from a Moroccan prison after receiving a four month sentence for ‘homosexual acts’. Mr Cole had struck up an online friendship with a local Moroccan man and popped over to see his new beau in the flesh (as it were). Nobody else’s business, you might think. You’d be wrong. The couple were arrested at a bus stop, after which the Police apparently found incriminating images on Mr Cole’s phone. Like most African and Moslem countries, homosexuality is illegal in Morocco. Mr Cole knew this but went there anyway. After all, Morocco isn’t Saudi Arabia or Iran where execution is de rigeur. It was, I guess, a calculated risk. The North African kingdom has a reputation for a relaxed don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude, particularly for Western foreigners who indulge in the many exotic pleasures that the country has to offer. But discretion is the order of the day. Moroccan life, like so many others around the world, spins on hypocrisy. Why were Mr Cole and his young paramour targeted? Who knows? My suspicion is that they were unlucky. I doubt the Moroccan authorities have any wish to deliberately upset Europe or damage the tourist trade. Mr Cole was released after a concerted legal and PR campaign by his family. A week later, his partner in ‘crime’ was also released. So that’s something, I suppose. There are many lessons in this sorry tale. Keeping the camera out of the bedroom would be the first on my list.

IDAHOT Day 2014

IDAHOTTo help promote and support today’s IDAHOT Day 2014, the marvellous people behind OUT140 invite you to write your own coming out story in 140 characters or less.  Simply tweet your tale to @OUT140, or use the hashtag #OUT140. You never know, it could end up on stage.

You can also follow OUT140 on Faceache, and check out their website here.

This is something I prepared earlier….

OUT140_text_mediumThe Little Book of Coming Out Stories