The world may be going to Hell in a handcart but the Pansies keep on blooming – year in, year out. I keep them fed and watered and I’m grateful to those who pass by to admire the display. As the New Year dawns and more dark clouds lurk on the horizon, it’s a good time to look back at the pansies that perked the most in 2018. Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum, romped home by a mile. Who knew a drag show in a circus tent could strike such a chord?
As for the also-rans, it’s the usual eclectic bunch – as befits my random rants and ramblings from daily life: cowboys, cross-dressers, the curse of modern parlance, movie misses, gym bunnies, Hellenic heaven, and stories old and new from the Land of the Sunrise.
Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum | Can I Get, Like, a Coffee? | My Brokeback Mountain Moment | Heal Thyself | Pretty in Pink | Do You Have a Tale to Tell? | Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? | A Hard Act to Follow | Old Money, No Money | Postcards from Crete
There’s No Place Like Home was the most shared. Similarly, in 2017, it was Home Sweet Home. So I guess there really is no place like it.
And what was the most popular post from years past? For the second year running it’s that 2012 camp classic, Gran Canaria, Sex Emporium. It’s the title that won it. Shame on you.
With 2018 all wrapped up, we’re off to the Ivy for some posh nosh and to see in the New Year. Wishing everyone peace and prosperity for 2019.
On the second day of our London jolly, we were planning to take in the view from the Shard, until we realised it was thirty quid a piece. So it was enough to see the tallest building in the European Union (not for much longer, of course) from the window of our hotel room. Instead we opted for a slow stroll through the City to the Museum of London. Well, it was free.
Along the way we crossed the Millennium Bridge, skirted around the magnificent St Paul’s, walked beneath Temple Bar and took a snap of Channel Four’s First Dates restaurant.
The Square Mile may be a throbbing epicentre of money and modernity, but the street plan is distinctly medieval and there was a surprise up every alley.
The Museum of London is one of my favourites – quirky, informative and well worth the free entrance!
After a couple of hours travelling from pre-history to the filthy lucre, the West End beckoned and we jumped on a bus to Soho, our spiritual home.
Late lunch was a bowl of Thai at the Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar on Old Compton Street – delicious and still ridiculously cheap – followed by a happy hour or two with the brethren outside the Duke of Wellington. As the warming sun began to set, we headed back to Bankside for an early evening cuddle.
And so ended a glorious few days in the big metropolis. As writer and clergyman Donald Lupton said of London in 1632,
‘…she swarms with all ages, natures, sexes, callings… she seems to be a glutton, for she desires always to be full.’
Amen to that.
It was high time for a little naughty fun in the smoke – a chance to spend a boozy afternoon with the London landlady of our Turkey years and an old mucker of mine from way back when. First stop was the French House, an iconic Soho watering hole popular with arty types. It’s a…
…fabulous and entertaining spot to raise a glass in London, the French House truly deserves its reputation as the best known pub in the world’s naughtiest square mile. It’s no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones rule makes it a haven for conversationalists and a firm favourite among some of the best known names in show business.
Even if they do say so themselves.
And converse we did through four bottles of their finest house plonk. Sadly, the clientele was a bit light on thespians and there was nobody famous to gawp at.
Next up was a Thai vegan restaurant. Imagine me doing vegan? Not when I’m sober. It was tasty enough but a bit of pricey for a plate of rice and veg sprinkled with a few cashew nuts and not at all fit for soaking up the Devil’s brew.
Finally, we fell into The Admiral Duncan, a gay bar made famous by a nail bomb which, in 1999, killed three and maimed many others. It was good to see the old place still thriving after all these years despite the advent of ‘dating’ apps which have killed off many a clip joint. It’s the Amazon effect. Why bother with the faff and expense of propping up the bar hoping for a chance liaison when you can order in with free delivery?
Our former landlady popped to the loo to spend a penny and got more than she bargained for. Liam asked if she was alright.
Not really, no. There’s a transsexual masturbating in the ladies.
I had no words.
Of late, boozy gigs with ancient comrades from old London Town have been as rare as ginger imams. Somehow life just gets in the way. So, one evening I fired off a text.
“Boys. It’s high time we had a coven.”
After a flurry of replies, it was game on.
I always get down to the big city a tad early – to imbibe the vibe and cast my spell over the Soho boys. I know, hopelessly deluded. Gay scene wise, Soho isn’t quite what it was. Online ‘dating’ has seen to that. Nevertheless, a few old haunts stumble on, attracting the after-school crowd. I wandered into the Duke of Wellington (or the Welly as it’s affectionately known, my spiritual home back in the day). As I headed for the bar, I spied a former squeeze in the corner of my eye. By the time I’d been served, the hairy old crow had taken flight, leaving half his pint behind. Clearly, my magic wand has lost its vigour. I wouldn’t mind but it’s over twenty years since we stepped out.
After a sherry or two with my London witches, we pitched up at a local brasserie for a bite and a long natter. We wittered on for hours about everything and nothing and by the time we were hoarse, the staff were sweeping up and stacking chairs around us. It was time to mount our broomsticks, and as befits three old sorcerers whose powers to bewitch have all but withered, we were tucked up in our beds by the stroke of midnight.
This is what we looked like twenty years ago before our allure had faded. Obviously, that’s not yer actual Taj Mahal. We were in Blackpool for a dirty weekend. And where better?
And this is what we look like now. No wonder our wands have dropped off.
We recently attended the funeral of David Harries. It was a bittersweet gig, sad but not in the slightest bit depressing. Stripped of dust-to-dust religious delusions, the ceremony was the perfect celebration of an OTT life lived totally in the moment. Never was the old adage ‘live fast, die young’ any more apt. It was a motif David wore on his designer sleeve without apology or regret. Laughter echoed through the chapel. We were celebrants, not mourners.
On the way to the funeral in London, we stopped off for a spot of tiffin at Balans Soho Café. They have an interesting mission statement, something they call their ‘manifesto’. It goes like this:
I know it’s just a corporate mantra but it’s more uplifting and less cynical than most. And I think it’s a sentiment David would have heartily approved of. I know I do. We raised a glass.
David leaves behind my old mucker, Philip, his partner of 21 years. In place of floral tributes to wither and rot, Philip asked people to donate to the Za Foundation, a friend’s charity currently raising money to give a Christmas dinner to children in South Africa who might otherwise go hungry. Few if any reading this will have known David and I know it’s an expensive time of year but if you have any pennies to spare… well, you know the drill. Here’s the link.
If you do donate, please mention it’s in David’s memory. Philip would be really chuffed.
David Harries (1960-2016)
A while back, I took a little trip to the big city to catch up with old friends, a regular gig and a tradition going back years. It’s what we call the witches coven, a time to conspire, bitch and stir the pot without the distractions of coupledom getting in on the act. We leave our significant others at home to do the washing up. I’d like to claim it’s a carnival of sparkling wit and profound insight but the excess tends to dull the repartee.
I waited for the coven to convene in Comptons, a Soho bar of some infamy and a regular haunt of my dance hall days. I was early and ordered a pint. Little has changed at Comptons down the years but bog standard beer has been cynically replaced by premium ales with premium prices to match. Even by Soho’s inflated tariffs, the cost is extortionate; I’ve been on cheaper Ryanair flights. It was ever thus. Having a gay old time has always come at a price.
As ever, the beefy bar staff were useless. Getting served at Comptons is like a game of chance and what little change you get back is shunted towards you in a plastic tray, a kind of begging bowl for the minimally waged. Company policy, I assume. Us Brits tend not to tip bar staff but I suppose the ruse works with unsuspecting tourists. I scooped up my coppers and found a quiet spot to sip my beer, thumb through the gaypers and wait for my fellow witches to arrive. Before long, a young Asian man sidled up next to me and began a nervous conversation. From his awkwardness and stuttering babble, I guessed he was a Soho novice. To the uninitiated, even the oppressed can be oppressive and I knew from experience that being gay and Asian doesn’t always make a great cocktail. I was more than happy to put the young whippersnapper at his ease. As it turned out, he was an air traffic controller at Heathrow. That’s all we need in these paranoid times. A jittery air traffic controller with secrets.
Ian, one of my oldest friends, is the area manager of a gay ‘lifestyle’ chain (AKA licensed sex shops – don’t tell his mother). The filthy smut flies off the shelves as the filthy lucre fills the tills even during these recessionary times. Well, people stay in more and make a meal of it. Despite his status as purveyor of porn to the Grindr generation, Ian is an off-fashioned boy with the Nineties hairdo to prove it. He shuns the modern world of instantaneous communication for a more leisurely discourse – snail-mail rather than e-mail, hand-crafted notes rather than instant messaging. Even his flip-top phone belongs in the Science Museum. He’s particularly scathing about Facebook, seeing it as the work of the Devil. I picked up this postcard and sent it to him. I wrote, “I saw this card and thought of you.”
A couple of days later I received this card in the post. Ian had written, “I saw this card and thought of you.” Touché!