Saturday, 31 March 2012

A seminal text

A friend I hadn't seen for the best part of two decades came to the bookshop today.

Clearly the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were right to canonise him all those years ago as he came bearing a box of books, many of which I also hadn't seen in the best part of two decades.

I shall leave others to comment on the importance of Pat Califia's Lesbian S/M Safety Manual but the seminal text illustrated here was the first "gay book" I ever bought.

I'd sent away for it, with a Postal Order. For three weeks I crept out of bed at first light to beat my family to the post. Finally it arrived and I got to it before anyone else and my secret was safe.
Shortly afterwards I shouted my secret from the highest hills, and on occasion, even told the golden daffodils.  Aaron Fricke - thank you.

Friday, 30 March 2012

For Adults Only

A copy of this found its way into the bookshop today.

It brought to mind two stories.

The first takes place one Sunday night in Benjy's nightclub in Mile End in 1983.

I had gone there alone and was lurking in a corner. Before I knew what was what, Miss Diana Fluck approached. Pulled me to my feet, pressed my head between her ample bosoms and we danced the night away.

You may have danced with a boy, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales... But I danced with my head between Diana Dors' tits.

The second story involves a former vicar of St Mark's Swindon.

 He is dead now so I needn't trouble you with his name.

Being a good girl of the parish, Diana Dors had agreed to open the Parish Fete.

"Remember Father", said the Churchwarden. "It's 'Fluck'. Don't, whatever you do, forget the 'L'."

"I won't" said Father. He proceeded to introduce the parish to Miss Diana Clunt.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


This is a picture of my favourite herbaceous border.

It can be found at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

My garden doesn't look like this.

However, after a days labour, mine does look a whole lot better this evening than it did this morning.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Bethnal Green Road

Yesterday evening I walked Bethnal Green Road from east to west admiring the elongation of Venus at dusk.

This evening I walked Bethnal Green Road west to east and felt the warmth of the sun on my back.

These celestial orbs have a great deal to commend them, not least their ability to transform Bethnal Green Road.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Hockney revelations

At the National Portrait Gallery in 1995 I overheard a visitor inform her companion that Celia Birtwell (muse and model for several portraits on display) was "probably Hockney's wife".

Today's eavesdropping at the Royal Academy brings news that "houses in Yorkshire aren't that colour".

We live and learn.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Northern Sri Lanka 1999

Looking back I wonder if it was altogether wise to let these chaps hitch a ride.

Although, not being the driver I don't recall a choice.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Passion Sunday

Today is Passion Sunday. The day on which the Christian church traditionally begins its journey towards the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

To mark it - here is a postcard of the Mohamed Aly Mosque in Cairo.

Vic was my grandfather who you met earlier at a bullfight.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


A by-election has been called in Weavers Ward, where I live.

I'm looking forward to election posters with graphics as beautiful as this one from the 1945 General Election.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Just a couple of African friends

Freddie Mills was a boxer. In 1950 Nicholson & Watson Ltd saw fit to publish his autobiography. This afternoon a copy found its way into the bookshop. Reproduced here are three of the photographs from that volume. First up - some 'African friends'.

 Second up, some 'African beauties' with the Chief who hosted one of his fights.

Lastly, a not at all homoerotic photograph taken prior to one of his fights.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Collaborative Consumption

Despite the impression given by the Old Testament prophets are few and far between. If you are as fortunate as me you might get to meet half a dozen or so in your lifetime. This afternoon I met another. Her name is Rachel Botsman and I urge you to Google her and listen to what she has to say. It's a long time since I heard anybody talk as much sense. The times they are a changing but it's people like Rachel who make that less scary than it might otherwise be.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Circus Tricks

A very enjoyable trip to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for the premiere of Circus Tricks. My friend Adey Grummet wrote the libretto with music by the talented Michael Henry, (who by the by, is drop dead gorgeous...).

A shameless plug this - but do go if you can, not just because they are my friends but because a talented and energetic young cast bring a great new work to life. And as far as I know it's got the only white leather, diamante studded harness in town.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Having spent longer today reading the Thatcher papers than a sane, well adjusted person with better things to do would have done, I am struck by how mundane and ordinary the process of government is. Occasional gems did pop up though and a pertinent one is illustrated here. It records the first occasion when the Prime Minister exercised her right to ignore the declared preference of the Crown Appointments Commission and put forward the name of a political ally to the Sovereign. There was at least one other we know about during Thatcher's tenure. One can only hope that the present PM will not exercise that right.

Friday, 16 March 2012

I have never enjoyed the wilful slaughter of animals as entertainment, but this photograph of my grandfather at a bullfight in Madrid in 1918 depicts a jolly boys outing. I wonder what happened to the boater.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


A short tract called 'Four Witnesses' came my way recently. It is a Lenten offering published in 1947 and gives a precis of each of the four gospel accounts of the events of the Passion and Crucifixion. The preface tells us that the giving up of 'smoking, cinemas, dancing or theatres' would be an over-optimistic way to 'penetrate more deeply the greatness of Christ's sufferings'. This news is a relief to me as I have not resolved to give up any of those things during this penitential season. I am grateful to the illustrator B. de Bezer for this remarkable engraving.

If an understanding of Christ's suffering is what is called for, he seems to enable it more than the avoidance of red wine.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Not a plug

One of the drawbacks of being a busy bookseller is that there is less time than one would like to read books. So many come to my notice that when the pile of the ones I'd put aside to read before I sell them fell over, twice, I gave up. However, thanks to a chance encounter at a party, I found myself running the bookstall at the launch for this one, bought a copy and have been reading it in every spare moment for the last couple of days. It is a dream. An evocative account of the author's mother's marriage to Lawrence Durrell. I am loving it. I tell you this, not to sell you one (though of course I will) but to observe that even my fevered imagination, would struggle to construct the intelligent reader who would not reap ample rewards from the time invested in reading it too.