Films, Music & Dance, Norwich

La La Land

 

Lauded as a return to the great Hollywood musicals of yesteryear, the very thought of ‘La La Land’ made Liam go weak at the knees. Must be the gay gene. Either that or arthritis. So we sank into our comfy seats at Cinema City, big drinks in hand and surrounded by the wealthy wrinklies of the county for a grey hair-raising, foot-tapping, old school show. Sadly, for me, the hype didn’t quite live up to the reality. The plot – a love affair between a failed actress and her down at heel jazz player – was engaging enough. I’m partial to a simple boy meets girl romance (or boy meets boy, girl meets girl for that matter). But the ambitious and much-praised opening danceathon at a traffic jam on a LA freeway was underwhelming and the other song and dance routines peppering the film seemed a bit random. Emma Stone was dazzling in the lead but Ryan Gosling as her beau, while very nice to look at and not at all bad on his feet, was well, flat, acting-wise. The film was atmospheric and partially redeemed by the closing ‘what if?’ scene so I suppose the moral of the story is that love doesn’t always conquer all.

With a full chorus of rave reviews and gongs galore, the film will undoubtedly conquer all at the Oscars so what do I know? And Liam loved it.

Here’s the official trailer. It’s better than the movie.

 

Ageing, Health

The Seven Signs of Ageing

olayI don’t mean Olay Total Effects or any of the other magic potions promising to hold back the ravages of time. No, I mean the seven signs as they apply to a middle-aged ex-pretty boy who knows he’s got fewer years ahead than behind. I was reminded of my impending decrepitude when trying to grab a rogue sock evading capture at the back of the washing machine. The sock nearly won. So there it was, my first sign of ageing – stiff in all the wrong places.

But what of the others? Well, in no order of priority…

The only time I get to wear a suit these days is at funerals. This in itself is no bad thing. If only I didn’t have to replace it every year to keep up with my expanding midriff.

I used to sleep like a Brothers Grimm princess. I even slept through an earthquake in Bodrum once. These days I get caught short mid-slumber. And I’d rather sit to pee than stand.

My memory of yesteryear used to be as sharp as a drag queen’s stiletto. Nowadays, I never forget a face but names often defeat me. And sometimes I go into a room and can’t remember why.

As I grow older, my farts get louder (and more frequent). Thankfully, following through is still as rare as a gay bar in Tehran.

I reached puberty sooner than most and my hirsute legs were a source of great adolescent pride. Now I constantly moult. Sweeping up short and curlies from the bathroom floor has become a daily chore. What’s left is rapidly turning silver.

Liberal tolerance was my mantra for decades and accepting (though not always respecting) differing opinions was the price I paid. Now I shout at the box when some ill-informed twat spouts rubbish. I have become a grumpy old man and I rather enjoy it.

Sound familiar?

Despite stiffness, middle-age spread, nocturnal bladder weakness, fading memory, noisy flatulence, grey pubes and a serious bout of the grumps, I’m content with my lot. Unlike Olay’s fanciful brew, happiness is something you can’t bottle and sell at Boots. But then I’m yet to suffer from the eighth sign of ageing – erectile dysfunction. Now that would burst my bubble.

Christmas & New Year, Family & Friends, London, Music & Dance

He’s Behind You!

Cinderella at the PalladiumI’m a sucker for a good old fashioned Grimm tale. And if it comes triple-wrapped in high camp and topped with flying fairies, then I’m hooked. And they don’t come more camp or more soaring than Cinderella at the London Palladium. Panto’s not for everyone, I know. All that ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no, he isn’t’ slapstick leaves some people baffled. But only the truly sour would sniff at this lavish, no-holes-barred, gags and glitter extravaganza. I haven’t laughed so much in years. With the likes of Julian Clary and Lilly Savage in the cast, the hard core double-entendre was not for the faint hearted but there were no profanities among the lewdness – so that kept the mums and dads happy. Lilly was a tad under-powered so it was left to Julian to steal the show. Seeing him in leathers and feathers flying over the stalls on a Vespa was surreal. And the rest of the cast were pretty sparkling too. Amanda Holden can actually sing. Who knew? There’s something very winter-warming about this peculiarly British theatrical tradition. Oh no there isn’t. Oh yes there is!

Thank you to our very own fairy godmother for getting us to the ball. You’re a star.

Blogging, Books, Expats, Religion, Turkey & Turkish, Writing

My Life Abroad

Since 2011, the people at Blog Expat have been shining a little light on expatland by interviewing bloggers from city to steppe, temperate to tropical. They’ve assembled quite an archive over the years. So when I heard they were to publish an anthology of their best stories, I thought it was a good idea. And when I heard they were to include me among the chosen, I thought it was a great idea.

My Life Abroad, a Selection of Expat Stories was published in September 2016. All the participants received a complimentary copy of the book which was a generous touch. Mine dropped on the mat a few weeks back and naturally I gave it a good thumbing. No one could question the book’s scale and ambition. There are abridged versions of 55 interviews and all continents apart from Antarctica are represented. Oddly, though, the contributors are kept anonymous, presumably to protect the guilty.

Every piece is prefaced with an jokey illustration. My own story has two men in summer attire framed on one side by a Shia cleric and on the other by a woman in a burka. Of course it could be a bloke in drag. That’s the point of a burka – you can’t tell. Now, most Turks are Sunnis and I’ve seen more Saudi-style full body bags in Harrods. In my interview I wrote…

Some people show breath-taking ignorance of the Islamic world, tarring all Muslim countries with the same negative brush. No, we aren’t subject to Sharia Law. No, gay people aren’t routinely lynched by rabid mobs of mad mullahs. No, women aren’t forced into marriage as soon as they hit puberty and dressed head to toe in black poly-cotton sheets (well, not in Bodrum anyway). Turkey isn’t perfect but it isn’t Iran.

So I’m hoping the cartoon is intended to be ironic.

Despite the potential faux pas, many of the stories are fun, thoughtful and well worth buying a bookmark for.

 

Christmas & New Year, LGBT, Music & Dance, Politics

Praying for Time

Why is it that bad news travels fastest and furthest? Tales of comfort and joy are always way down the bill on the nightly news. I was reminded of this by Julia at Turkey’s for Life when she commented on my recent Good Samaritan post. Despite my usual it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night demeanour, the post was a tad gloomy. And my mood was hardly lifted by the slaughter in an Istanbul nightclub or the death of George Michael. As contemporaries, George and I had more than one or two things in common.

Julia reminded me that 2016 wasn’t all death and destruction, disease and destitution. There were many good news stories that failed to make the headlines. Luckily for us, Future Crunch compiled many of them in a post – 99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year  – which Julia posted on Facebook to add a positive flourish to the end of the year. Many of the ninety-nine celebrate remarkable successes in conservation, ecology and sustainable development. Let’s be hopeful. At the end of the day, this little third rock from the sun is all we have.

Over to George for my favourite track of his – Praying for Time – a real gloomy tune from the master of slash-yer-wrist ditties. It’s all in the words.

RIP, George.

 

 

Ageing, Bodrum, Christmas & New Year, Family & Friends, Health, Holidays, Marriage

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…

A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria  Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown  | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman

And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?

 

 

 

Christmas & New Year, Norwich, Overheard

The Good Samaritan

2016 has provided a bumper crop of depressing man-made disasters: war, terrorism, ISIS, Brexit, Trump, ugly nationalism, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I don’t know about you, but a lurch to the hard right or hard left is not what I signed up for. You could be forgiven for thinking we’re all off to hell in a handcart. But then the smallest of kindnesses can restore your faith in humanity. Recently, Annie of Back to Bodrum reminded me of this when a dolly* driver went the final mile to get her home. Around the same time, I was having my afternoon cuppa in a local café when a man approached a woman sitting at an adjacent table. He smiled.

“Remember me?”

“No,” she said. “I don’t. Sorry.”

“Yesterday. You helped me. Remember?”

“Yes, yes. Now I remember.”

“Well these are for you,” he said, handing her a bunch of flowers.

The man had gone before the startled woman had a chance to respond but it brought the broadest smile to her face, as it did to mine and to everyone around us.

SamaritanThe flower man was elderly, white and local. The woman was elderly too and Asian, perhaps Filipino judging from her Imelda Marcos inflection and fabulous shoes. I mention their ethnicity and age only because I hear petty racism is on the march again, particularly amongst older generations. I never did find out what the good Samaritan had done to help the old man in need. Typically British, I didn’t like to ask. But it gave me a little hope.

Wishing us all a kinder and brighter 2017.

*Dolly is what I called a Dolmuş, a minibus used for public transport in Turkey.