When Liam planned our ‘jolly’ down memory lane, he wasn’t to know it would be the hottest May Day holiday on record. The Sun puts a smile on everyone’s face, doesn’t it? And we smiled our way round Bankside, my favourite district of London. Back when the first Elizabeth was on the throne, old Southwark was a riot of licentiousness – playhouses, brothels and taverns – beyond the jurisdiction of the City of London’s buttoned-up elders who wagged their fingers from the other side of the Thames. This is where Will Shakespeare plied his trade among the players, the prostitutes and the drunks. That’s my kind of town.
Not that there are many ne’er-do-wells milling around these days. The area has cleaned up its act and is now home to over-priced flats, over-priced eateries, over-priced bars, world-class modern art and a working replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It certainly pulls in the crowds.
I went all thespian and began to recite the only lines I could remember from my part in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream circa 1976…
You, ladies, you, whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor,
May now perchance both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.
And roar I did, when Snug the Joiner became the lion in a rabbit costume smelling of mothballs and accessorised with an improvised mane. Times were hard in the seventies.
Liam decided my hammy Shakespeare was putting off the tourists and bundled me onto a riverboat and took me to a different kind of theatrical show – a little fairy dusting of trad drag.
It was an eventful afternoon made all the more eventful by the delightful boys from the Abbey Rugby Club in Reading. They were on a ‘Monopoly board tour’ and had landed on Trafalgar Square for a queer beer. Well fancy that. And I did.
2014 has been quite a year for us and our brethren…
Okay, okay, I tried to make it scan to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ but failed miserably. Liam’s the musical one, not me. With such a helter-skelter year, I guess it’s it’s no wonder I didn’t get the second book out in time for the festive rush. The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view) is that it’s with my publisher and will be out in the new year. Liam is hyperventilating at the prospect – my fiercest critic seems to like it. The blog’s done brisk business too with over ninety posts. Here are the top ten hits for 2014 – the usual diet of Turkish delights, smut, divine retribution, emigrey nonsense, men in women’s clothes, internet curios, fine guides and the love that dare not speak its name. I’m nothing if not predictable.
On a recent trip down to the Smoke, Liam and I decided on a post-matinee snifter. We headed towards Trafalgar Square to the stage of our inaugural meeting, a chilly evening in the spring of 2006. The chance encounter is best described in my first book:
The rest, as they say, really is history.
As we hurried past the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, we were confronted by the biggest cock I’ve ever seen, glowing bright blue in the late afternoon sunshine. It caused quite a stir, I can tell you.
The puffed up rooster, by German sculptor, Katharina Fritsch, is the latest temporary exhibit on the empty corner plinth of the Square. The work is intended to poke fun at the vainglorious imperial statues of puffed-up men (Nelson, George IV, and generals Havelock and Napier) that surround it. There have been many fleeting displays on the podium down the years, from the daft to the inspirational, the profound to the whimsical. The reason there is no permanent statue has been an open secret for years. The plinth is reserved for an effigy of Her Maj after she drops off her throne. Given her mother’s longevity (the last Empress of India lived until she was 101), the chances are they’ll be a more temporary erections to come.
Back in Norwich, the cock of the coop theme continued.
Personally, I’d rather win a week in the Maldives but then, this is Norfolk, the nation’s bread basket and home to Bernard Matthews, king of the gobblers. It’s a funny old world.