The Oldest Gays in the Village

rory's boysAside from late starters, rent-a-womb celebrities and the yogurt pot and turkey-baster brigade, most people of a queer bent don’t have any children. The social revolution that enabled many of us to step out of the closet and skip hand-in-hand through the pansies also robbed us of a safety net. Where are the kids to protect us in our dotage?  The irony is not lost on me. Our various nephews and nieces may well be fond of their limp-wristed old uncles but I don’t expect any of them to give up a spare room or change our nappies during our dribbling years.

Care of the old is a hot topic right now and Channel 4 News has been doing its bit to highlight the fate of the oldest gays in the village. I don’t know where Liam and I might end our days but we certainly won’t be stepping back into the closet for the convenience of a born-again carer, whatever the religious persuasion. So what to do?

I’m reading Alan Clark’s ‘Rory’s Boys’ for a bit of a steer (that’s Alan Clark, travel journalist and former mad man, not the late Alan Clark, former philanderer and right-wing diarist). Rory’s Boys is a fictional tale about  Britain’s first retirement home for gay men; a private establishment for the well-endowed. We’re not talking a state-underfunded shit-hole where the inmates are ignored or worse by under-trained, couldn’t-care-less carers on zero-hour contracts. In care homes, as in life, you get what you pay for and it’s all our own fault. Society simply isn’t willing to stump up and pay for the old to shuffle off this mortal coil with their dignity intact. I certainly don’t think the municipal pension coming my way will stretch to private care; maybe assisted suicide will be the answer in the end.

Alan Clark and I have something in common (apart from the shirt lifting thang). Our books were both nominated for the 2012 Polari First Book Prize, made it to the top ten then fell at the last fence. I’m only a few pages into the book but, as the title suggests, I’m guessing Rory’s brave new world of cute orderlies with cut lunches and the Sound of Music on a loop, won’t include any of our lesbian sisters. It’s a sad fact of life that gay men and lesbians often struggle to get along. Activism and the marching season may bring us together now and again but  generally, that’s it.  When sex, romance and parenting are removed from the equation, men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus.

Attack of the Norovirus

The schools are off and a sparkling (but still chilly) early spring day brought the north folk of Norfolk out of hibernation to swarm around the lanes of Norwich in search of a bargain (and there are bargains galore to be had). I watched the throng from a kerbside café. I was out alone in fat jacket and shades to pick up provisions. Liam has been laid low by a nasty bout of gastro-enteritis caused by the norovirus he picked up visiting his mother at the weekend. The virus stalks for prey along the corridors of her care home like the Black Death. As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, my mother-in-law has been struck down and confined to bed along with Liam’s father, brother, sister and nephew. Liam has withdrawn to self-imposed quarantine (except for emergency dashes to the loo) in the vain hope that I won’t be the next casual casualty. I await my fate like a man on death row. We’re rather hoping to drop a few pounds.

FLR-040 NoroVirus Poster FINAL RGB.qxp

The norovirus is particularly perilous for the sick and the old. Does my mother-in-law’s care home have adequate infection controls in place? Your guess is as good as mine but I doubt it. The cynical may see this as a great way to manage turnover. I do know, after working in both adult and children’s social care for many years, that the State’s (and therefore, society’s) willingness to pay for the care of the most vulnerable diminishes as they age. Mark my words, eventually the shit will hit the fan (or the sheet, as in this case).

The good news is that mother-in-law is on the mend and will live to fight another day. We are mightily relieved.