Saturday, October 31, 2009


There are people who'll say turning up to the candelit vigil for Ian Baynham was the wrong thing to do. You know - it won't achieve much; it's easy to make an empty gesture without having to engage messily with the real issues; you'll have to listen to the London Gay Men's Chorus. But sometimes you just do stuff anyway.

And I'm glad we did. To start with, it looked like an utter wash-out. Joe and I turned up to Trafalgar Square at 7pm and there were a couple of hundred gays and some candles. It looked like any Ikea on a Saturday morning.

But we had a nice seat on a fountain, and we waited. An hour later, you couldn't move. Trafalgar Square was filled. It's rare that you see that - just the sheer number of thousands of people just standing there with twinkling candles, filling every corner and all the way up the steps of the National Gallery. It's just impressive.

Especially as it went on for two and a half hours. The best speech was from Ian's friends who told us all the proper human things about the man - that he was a terrible cook and liked old films and that made him a little bit less of a symbol and a little bit more of a man who really didn't deserve to be kicked to death in Trafalgar Square.

And then there were endless speeches from, oh let's make it up, the Co-Chair Of London Lesbi-Gay-Trandgender-Equal-Diversitas. You know, "I'd just like to agree with everything that's been said before and to agree that, in addition, we should all unite and stand together against..." bliddy blah. We are standing together, comrade. There's ten thousand of us here, right now, with candles and it's sodding cold, so will you shut up so we can all go to a bar before it rains, please?

The candles were a mixed bunch - Ikea had donated a few thousand, we'd bought along some candle-holders, some had improvised theirs out of coffee cups, and a couple next to us had brought along a scented bathroom candle that filled the air with a tang of honey and vanilla.

The two minutes' silence was as tragic and funny as these things always are. We stood there, mute, as a police car on its way somewhere jolly important threw on the sirens and then sat motionless behind a bendy bus. Thanks the police. And also thanks to the speaker who pointed out that the conviction rate for homophobic hate crimes is less than 1 per cent. Which makes you think "well, I'm right to be worried every time I leave a bar alone. And not just because I'm leaving a bar alone."

After the silence came (unexpected joy!) Sue Perkins reading (unexpected horror!) a list of the victims over the last few months. It was a surprisingly long list.

And that was about it, really. Having mocked the appearance of anti-BNP protestors last week, I'm smugly pleased that we were a fucking good looking crowd. I begged Joe to check Grindr on his iPhone, but he said it would explode.

So, instead, we went to a pub. And then, fittingly, on the walk back to the Tube, I got obviously and stunningly cruised. The guy was amazing - not just good-looking but his sheer bold cheek, outside Leicester Square on a Friday night. And I turned, and looked back at him. And he looked back at me, and then with a smile and a wave, vanished into the night.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Doom Watch Watch: Human Time Bomb

Another brilliant episode. This one's about 1970s tower blocks. The developer says they're wonderful, DoomWatch aren't convinced, so they send plucky Dr Fay Chantry to investigate. After six weeks living in a tower block, she's utterly crackers.

DoomWatch's initial reaction is "pull yourself together, silly woman", but then, after a few scotches, they look into it and realise that the building itself is driving the residents mad... and Faye will be next. Or, as Dr Quist puts it when dictating his report on the way home: "Why, when birds are caged together it's necessary to cut off their beaks to prevent them from tearing each other apart... Birds... Fay!" before rushing off to stop her beating a handyman to death with a hammer.

It's a drab and distressing story of how what looks like an enormous conspiracy is actually just a sad matter of people being driven very gently crazy by small windows, bad lifts and flimsy cupboards. It's easy enough to laugh at the general datedness of the episode, but the contrast between Fay in her tiny box and Dr Quist swanning around posh London clubs is telling indeed.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Well, you know, I rather enjoyed that. Nick Griffin turned up on Question Time, there was a lot of social outrage, some wilful misreporting in the press, and a lot of sadly-dressed protestors outside the BBC (seriously - can there not be some kind of makeover show for these people? If even the BNP are smart enough to stick suits on in order to be taken more seriously you'd think that... oh... never mind).

The show itself was curious and yet marvellous, sickening and yet heart-warming. I'm not going to talk about the politics of the whole thing, as everyone knows I'm far to stupid to really get the whole thing, and by the time the show started I was about a bottle of wine down, but I am going to risk talking about the overall feel.

For one thing - Bonnie Greer. New favourite thing, clearly holding a doctorate in dismissively direct engagement without looking at her opponent once. Watching her and Nick Griffin sit next to each other was like watching The X Files after you realised that Duchovny and Anderson loathed each other. Painful yet brilliant.

Jack Straw - looked incredibly nervous, made a couple of neat points, but then kept on and on and on with bloody statistics. Yawn. It was a night for grand gestures, not for quoting what sounded like the small print on my credit card statement.

Token Liberal Democrat. Was Token Liberal Democrat.

Sayeeda Warsi. Hooray for the Tories finding a female Muslim lawyer. Except for the awkward bit when Dimbleby skewered her on her beliefs about gays and she managed not to let out a surprised yelp followed by a reasonably deft support of all things gay without actually specifically supporting anything gay at all. She. Will. Go. Far.

And finally The Griff. The brilliant thing about hateful death harpie Jan Moir is that she proved to be Nick Griffin's stumbling block. Up until then he had done reasonably. And "reasonably" is a word I'm sticking to. Everyone had come prepared with print-outs of awful things the man had said and he'd deflected each one with a wryly amused shake of the head. He'd not engaged with a single one, just given the impression "well that's wrong and it's sad you bring that up". Which, given that each and every thing he was challenged on was loathsome... well that was about the best you could manage.

Before the Jan Moir Moment there'd been a few utter howlers - like when he admitted he'd shared a platform with someone from the Klu Klux Klan... but from a non-violent sect. And the audience just zomg-ed. Oh, and that bit where he proved he liked Jews because he approved of them bombing seven shades of shit out of Hamas. And a few other equally "oh, oh dear, just... no... i mean... no." But overall there was that slight feeling of "This man is utterly repellant but trying his hardest to cover it up."

And then came Nick Griffin giving his opinion on Jan Moir. And he started off with quite a neat little sidestep:

"I personally believe that in the case of someone like Stephen Gately who's died the old maxim 'say nothing if not good'. So, I think it was wrong."

Which is a fairly neat way of condeming Jan Moir but also hiding a lot of baggage under the phrase "not good". But then up popped Nick Griffin's glorious petard:

"A lot of people find the site of two men kissing in public a bit creepy. I understand that homosexuals don't understand that, but that is how a lot of us feel. A lot of Christians feel that way."

Brilliantly awful. Utterly terrible. And yet it was a Happy Meal of a clanger. Glorious in the moment, but then immediately afterwards came the sickening realisation that this was his vote-winning moment. The point when a few people sat at home went "Oh, you know, he has a point..."

And that made me sad. And then Jan Moir posted a follow-up to last week. Curiously hidden away on the Daily Mail's site, her new article carries no advertising - could it be that no brand wants to be associated with her? Perhaps not even her own newspaper? The interesting thing about her defence (it's not an apology) is that, even if you give her the benefit of the doubt, she's still owning up to be a gloating death harpie. And I know I've used that phrase before, but she's worth it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


"Hmmn," says Mr Oak, my trainer at the gym. "There's something wrong with your posture. Do you work at a desk?"

No. Mostly on a sofa, but sat up nice and straight.

"Typing away at your lappy?" I should explain. Oak is very upbeat, even for an Australian. His girlfriend is "girly", chocolate is "choccy", and his bike is "Madge".

Yes. I am typing away at my lappy.

"Show me."

I show him.

"Right," he says. "You know, there's something wrong. Why is your laptop on your shin? It's too low and too far away and you're reaching over, and that strain is pulling out your shoulders. We're gonna have to work hard to correct that. What's causing that? Can't you move lappy closer? You know, to your lap."

"No," I say. "That's where catty sits."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gay of the Week

It has been a while since I last won the gay lottery. Well, a couple of months, really.

I have avoided writing about this because... okay, I was waiting for him to call. He didn't. I never really expected him to, but you now how it is. Every now and then... Anyway, several men have flowed under bridges since then, and I've decided that he's simply moved back to Australia. But, just in case, I'm avoiding the pub he works in for the rest of my life.

Anyway, he was brilliant. For a start, he didn't just work in a gay bar, but was "Boyz Bar Stud Of The Week". That's right. I was shagging Boyz Bar Stud Of The Week. Read that and weep, 20 year-old me.

He was too good to be true. Eerily so. Apart from being good-looking and Australian, and a post-graduate psychologist, he worked behind a bar, had effort hair and spent about an hour going through my DVD collection giving things marks out of five. Plus his idea of pillow talk was to explain X-Men continuity to me.

And, as I said, sadly, he didn't call.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A normal heart

I went out for a date last week with a thoroughly normal man. We got on fine, but there was no spark there. I am wondering if this is due to his sheer well-adjustedness.

There was a reason for this. His ex-boyfriend had been second-on-the-right-and-straight-on-till-Bat Shit Mental, and his (rather understanding) boss had sent him for therapy. As a result of which he was eerily calm, like a sexy buddha.

As in he's sat on a plane next to a man sobbing "we're all going to die" and he says, "Hey, I know you're feeling some concerns. Would you like to talk them through with me?" while the woman next to him runs down the aisle screaming "terrorist!"

And, as we're sat down in the smoking garden, a girl is temporarily abandoned by her drunk twink. She sighs and Normal Man looks at her, smiling wisely. "I understand your frustrations, but ask yourself if he brings to the friendship more than you're taking away?"

I found him thoroughly marvellous, although it did make me ponder two things:

1) What would he be like in bed? ("I absolutely value your exertions but was wondering if you could...")

2) Perhaps I shouldn't have had that skinhead before going out. It now seems cheap.

Anyway, he's applying for work as a barman. Give him three months and London will be a much better adjusted place.

Friday, October 16, 2009

News: You can die from being gay but not from being a bigot

The Daily Mail's had an interesting fortnight. First they manage an article on the death of Kevin Mcgee that, despite a simperingly sympathetic tone manages, oh so subtly, to say lots of nasty, silly things.

And now, Jan Moir is famous for her article on the death of Stephen Gately, which is best summed up as "He died of Gay".

It's good-old fashioned arms-crossed "well, it was probably drugs. And if not, then he got what he deserved, didn't he?"

Sadly, even the Daily Mail's own version of the the police report contradicts Moir's ravings. Stephen Gately didn't die alone in a sinister "prayer-like position". He and Andrew curled up on the sofa and dozed off after fiddling with the Bulgarian.

Frankly, I can think of worse last evenings than going out with the man you love, pulling an Eastern European stunner, and then falling quietly asleep in your bloke's arms.

Thanks to the comments section on Jan Moir's article, it appears a surprising number of people have had loved ones drop dead in a similar way. By which I mean sudden deathy-fluidy-lungs, rather than after spit-roasting a male model.

The thing the Daily Mail is incensed by is that they were having their cake and eating it. Clearly they were in a functional open relationship - a lot of gays are (and several of them still text, the sweethearts) and if it works for them, then hurrah.

The circumstances of his death - slipping away in his sleep acts against the Mail's drive of "well, it must be some kind of gay disco drug, obviously". When people die from a ketamin/GBH cocktail, it is not a gentle passing into the good night, but more
like Michael Bay remaking the Exorcist in a caravan.

UPDATE: Couldn't follow Charlie Brooker's advice to go on to the PCC on Friday, as it appears 21,000 other people were doing so. But here's what I sent them:


I would like to complain about the above article. As a gay man I believe I am "directly affected" by the cotent of the article. I personally found that

1.i) it portrayed an "inaccurate, misleading or distorted" view of homosexuality,

1.iii) failed to "distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact" by suggesting that Stephen Gately's death was as a result of his lifestyle choices rather than natural causes.

12.1 & ii) it also clearly failed to observe that "Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story" and such references were "prejudicial or pejorative" by saying "it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships", linking his death to the suicide of another gay man, and the use of the words "sleazy" and "ooze".

5.1) Finally, although I am not Stephen Gately's mother, if I was and had read:
"In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively" shortly after reading that "his mother is still insisting that her son died from a previously undetected heart condition that has plagued the family", I believe I would have strong grounds for offence.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

DoomWatch Watch: Flight Into Yesterday

Every now and then an episode of DoomWatch comes along which reminds you why this is a great series, and not just a show about chain-smoking men in turtlenecks and the dolly birds they prey on.

Welcome to Flight Into Yesterday, a creepy, nervy story about jetlag as a tool of industrial sabotage.

It's a very simple idea. Quist nearly loses his job after getting off a flight fro New York clearly hammered. He protests his innocence, but the Minister takes his place on the next flight. And sitting in the seat next to him is a suave PR guy who wonders if he can have a word? And perhaps the Minister would like a glass of brandy?

What transpires is that Suave PR Guy has been flying the world using jetlag for brainwashing, plying his victims with booze and food and not letting them sleep with his constant small talk.

We watch as the Minister drinks and chainsmokes his way across timezones, becoming more and more incoherent and fragile while his tormentor becomes more and more smooth. Perhaps another drink, Minister?

It reaches its shocking conclusion when the plane touches down and the Minister drops from a heart attack. "You overdid it that time," says John Ridge smagly, and goes off to deliver the Minister's speech.

This is both plausible and dated - but in a proper way. This is a world that exploits the businessman's cliche of "work hard and play hard", fertile ground that was reworked in an advert from my chidlhood of a businessman flying to New York into the jaws of the corporate sharks waiting for him. "He's on the Red Eye" they gloat. But, thanks to BA, he arrives fresh as a daisy.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Show me on the dolly..

Good news! I'm not a paedophile! I never thought I was - I can't stand children, which makes the whole thing a non-starter, but this week I got Definite Reassuring Proof that I'm not.

This proof is so good that it overcomes
  • the flat full of lego,
  • the good view of a playground,
  • that tabloid "All Gays Are Paedos" thing.
  • the "would you like to come home and play with the cat?" line which works reasonably well on grown up men. Perhaps, you know, I'm unconsciously honing my technique?

Turns out, no. Not a paedo! The proof being that my friends have a toddler. She's adorable (as much as children can be), she's very intelligent, and we have family evenings together watching EastEnders (aka "Mr Shiny Head House")

But, and here's the good news, now she's up and about and mobile, her balance isn't so good. And she'll grab anything nearby for support. And, as I discovered the other day, this means Anything in the same way that a cat sitting on your lap will sharpen its claws on Anything. So, with my falcon crests in a tottering toddler's vice-like grip, what went through my head? Apart from searing pain, the thought "Well, yes, this is the singularly least erotic experience ever. Excellent."

Of course, the second thought was "How do I gently disentangle her without passing out from agony?".

My third thought was that the English language wasn't made for the sentence "Your daughter is grabbing my balls too hard."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Doom Watch Watch: Web Of Fear

This episode opens with the best shot of anything on television ever:

There. The Minister dictating to his secretary. In the nude! In a sauna! Every business meeting should be like this!

An anticlimax is inevitable. Yellow Fever breaks out on an island health farm. At the same time a maverick scientist is enjoying a second honeymoon on the island. And why have the spiders turned blue?

Turns out Maverick Scientist has a reputation for Not Thinking Things Through. He's made a virus that kills off moths. But the spiders ate the moths which triggered off a latent virus in the spiders which could destroy Penzance. Has the man never heard the song "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly?". Well, perhaps he'll die.

By the half hour mark, the Minister is out of the sauna, everyone's turning yellow, and the Maverick Scientist has gone to look for spiders down an old mine. What could possibly go wrong? Wronger?

Yup. The mine collapses! And it's full of blue spiders! And John Ridge is trapped down there with only a feather duster and sheepskin gloves to protect himself! But the good news is there's going to be a bumper crop of apples on the island this year...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

On no longer learning a language

I have stopped learning Turkish. There we go. I started in 2000, stopped in 2002, and took it up again over the summer. And was really enjoying it - in an intellectually horrible way.

But Tuesday night was the first night of the new term. And, it turns out, new teacher. The old one was perfect - your typical laid-back Turkish bloke. We'd potter through genitives, have a coffee break, do a few more declensions, an anecdote about politics, and then clock off early.

The new tutor was your typical Turkish New Woman. Stunning, vivacious, intelligent, and hard-working. We found ourselves merged into her class from last year. They adored her, talked Turkish throughout, mixed tenses and plurals, referred to lovingly laminated handouts, and made knowing jokes about the possessive genitive. It was nightmarish.

Admittedly, I could have helped. I could have done a bit more preparation, but I've been manically trying to meet a deadline, and the idea of taking an afternoon off for revision seemed a luxury. But the whole thing was intellectually intimidating and not in a nice way.

And here lies the point. If you're learning a language just for fun, perhaps you don't want the neatest, most efficient teacher. You want it to be challenging, but no more so than a wordsearch in Take A Break. I wanted it to be relaxed and fun, but this was agonising and a little humiliating. The three of us from the other class ended the lesson pretty much huddled together with a shared look of fear as the teacher yet again said "But you have not covered the notions of space-owners? Albert will you care to demonstrate this briefly on the blackboard for our new arkadash?"

I stomped out at the end a broken man. It was like the one time I attended an aerobics class and discovered that there was more to it than regular attendance at G-A-Y during the Whigfield era. But, by a stroke of good fortune, the course administrator got in touch. "There's a mistake on your credit card number - can you correct it?"

I explained how I didn't plan on going back. "Oh, her." he said. "Quite understand. Consider your application shredded."

So, I'm suddenly intellectally free on Tuesdays. I have nothing to do. There is a Turkish word for this. It encompases everything from denying the existence of God through to running out of soup. It is "Yok."