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

Twitter Ye Not

Erdogan1

If ever there was cast-iron evidence for limiting the number of terms in the top job, it’s the Prime Minister of Turkey’s current spat with Twitter, an unedifying squabble that makes Erdoğan look autocratic and self-serving. Is the Twitter ban on or off? Who knows? Are the tweets about Erdoğan accurate? Who knows? Twitter is in good company. Lazy censorship is the norm in Turkey. A ban on YouTube has been on and off for years. Facebook may be next. Erdoğan doesn’t like selfies. It’s all rather pointless as anyone with a little technical savvy can circumvent the ban with relative ease.

Something dangerous happens to those who sit at the big desk for too long. The seduction of power can be unhinging. Like the absolute monarchs of old, some start to think that they personify and embody the nation they’re supposed to serve and to insult them is also to insult the nation (something that is a crime in Turkey). Erdoğan doesn’t respond well to criticism and uses politically appointed judges to punish those who cross him. And it’s not just Turkey. This imperious tendency can happen even in so-called mature democracies. Think Margaret Thatcher and how she became more regal and dictatorial with every year of her reign. God knows how Her Maj coped with those weekly chit chats. Who was giving an audience to whom?

Wiser heads know when to leave the party. Take Nelson Mandela, a great example of a dignified exit and even the ever-shrewd Tony Blair knew when the game was up. Not so for our power-crazed Erdoğan. In 2011, he won an unprecedented third consecutive election making him the most popular and successful Turkish leader since Atatürk. But there was a problem. The Constitution barred him from serving a fourth term as Prime Minister and that historic victory could have been his swan song. But the wily old Erdoğan wasn’t about to let the small matter of a Constitution pension him off, he simply changed it.

In August, Turks go to the polls to choose a directly elected executive president and guess whose name will be at the top of the ballot paper? The chances are Erdoğan will win, maybe by a smaller margin, but with a majority nonetheless. I don’t expect today’s local elections to upset the political status quo either. I do expect more authoritarianism and more paranoia, a prospect that doesn’t augur well for political pluralism in Turkey. And so back to the Iron Lady. In the end, it was her own who got rid of her, not the electorate. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a lesson here for Erdoğan.

 

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Schmooze It or Loose It

jack-the-hack-_writingtipsJack’s last word on blogging at the Displaced Nation.

FACT: most blogs run out of steam after two years. So, giving your blog legs will keep it in the race for longer. Here’s how.

More…

Tom Daley: Something I Want to Say

tom-daley-speedo

Yesterday, the British champion diver, Tom Daley, posted a simple video message on YouTube to tell the world that he was in a relationship with a man and that he was very happy. Tom was a poster boy for the Olympic Team. His buff, pool-trained torso (naked save for the tiniest and tightest Speedos) was plastered everywhere. Even at the tender age of 19, Tom is clearly well aware of his image and public persona. In our celebrity-obsessed world, I assume that he hopes this will sustain him long after the diving career has dried up. I hope so too. I also assume that this very public confession was his own idea. It was brave but was it also foolish? If his agent/manager/PR team had known in advance, I have no doubt they would have cautioned him against it. The revelation has unleashed a tidal wave of poison from the tweeting pond life. This was to be expected. Personally, I applaud his candour and rather think that his popularity will be enhanced by it.  His disclosure sends out a message of hope to young people everywhere that it’s ok to be gay. And for this, Tom deserves a pot of gold medals.

Tom Daley in his own words…

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Lonely hearts1

I’m used to receiving tons of emails telling me that a little blue pill will put the spring back into my step or I’ve hit the jackpot in the Burkina Faso National Lottery. The spam filter on my account picks up most of them and after they’ve been screened by MI5, I’m only troubled by a trickle. Now Facebook is getting in on the act. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t receive a private message from ladies in faraway lands looking for love and, no doubt, bowled over by my sharp wit, winning smile and Judy Garland vinyls. This is the kind of thing:

“Hello Am linda, i saw your profile today and became interested in you, i will like to know you the more, and i want you to send an email to my mail so that i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am. Here is my email address (xxxxxx{at} yahoo.de) I believe we can move from here. I am waiting for your reply in my mail don’t send it in the site. Remember the distance or color does not matter but love matters allot in life Note!!! that am not always online on facebook, so do not contact me in facebook contact me directly in my email address at (xxxxxx{at} yahoo.de)”

“hello, My name is Alina, I saw your profile here as i was just browsing through facebook, I will be much pleased to have communication with you,I have a very important thing to discuss with you please reply me on my email address:(xxxxxx outlook com) because am not always on facebook but we can communicate through my private email ID, i will send my pictures to you and more details about me. God bless you.”

Spot the similarity? Me too. Whether it is just an attempt to scam me (and a thousand and one others) out of my bank account details or a genuine international mating game for the lost and lonely, you’d think they’d do their homework first before barking up the wrong tree.