Monday, 30 April 2012

London 30 April 2006

A box of books unpacked today revealed a journal.

The writer tells us on the opening page :

"Today I have bought this journal. I'm learning the english language and I hope this daily appointement help me."

The journal runs from 24 April 2006 - 14 May 2007.

I have no idea who wrote it, but I hope it helped.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Duck A L'Orange

There are few moral justifications for parting with one's hard borrowed cash in a Tesco Express but tonight I found one.

Visiting the sick in a wealthier part of London than I am accustomed to, I was asked to obtain a copy of 'The Sun on Sunday', some 'Galaxy' chocolate and some Ribena. (My friend is very ill).

In St John's Wood there is a dearth of corner shops of the kind I patronise in Bethnal Green, and not wishing to add to the anxiety of the patient, I crossed the evil threshold and purchased items I would never normally buy, from an emporium I would normally avoid.

En passant, I spotted the item above. Reduced from £6.95 to £3.95 on the grounds of date, it was further reduced to £1.95 because.... The corner of the packaging was dented. Shock horror.

I dined well tonight, but that's St John's Wood for you.

Oh and, if you are so inclined, please pray for Nick. He and I would appreciate that. He is, as I say, very sick.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Switching over

I am most grateful to my friend Jon who came round to scan my television following the disappearance of all my channels recently. 

My numerous attempts came to nought and the cat was getting fed up of dodging the remote control being hurled around the room in frustration.

One would have thought that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were too busy subverting the basic principles of democratic accountability to interfere with my devices but apparently not.

Still, all is now well. My television is scanned and I can once again exercse my right to choose not to watch it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Bleeding cows

I dined tonight with a friend.

'Twas the Feast of His Nativity.

My choice was rump steak cooked to rare perfection at home.

His was to dine in style in Soho.

The rump is in the freezer and the finest Steak Tatare is in my stomach.

Not difficult to guess whose argument won sway.

Either way, another victory over the forces of vegetable-tarianism.

And for that, we may all be thankful.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Butch Manual

Amongst the books that came into stock today was 'The Butch Manual' by Clark Henley published in 1982.

I learn that :

"The key to dressing Butch is to enhance what Butch spent a great deal of effort developing in the gym. In no way should Butch's greater attributes ever be obscured by clothing."


"It is rude to go into a bar feeling depressed. After all, other people have taken their time and their drugs to feel UP. To feel UP, enter the bar slowly. You are Gary Cooper. Your eyes scan the bar looking for someone to shoot.

The bar freezes, drinks poised in mid-air, pinkies reaching for ceiling. Slowly walk through the bar, disappearing into the bathroom, and relieve yourself. "

This evening I went to the Duchess Theatre to see a play about the translation of the King James Bible.

It has been day of historical documents.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Was Jesus gay?

I've no idea.

Clifford Longley has form though.

The wonderful website

awarded him this certificate in 2010.

Judging from his efforts on Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' this morning, he must be in the running again.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Skate cheeks

We lunched at The Watch House today employing the principles of Senaca.

1. Pay no attention at all to the table and how it looks.

2. Pay little attention to the preparation of food. Fresh and simply cooked is best.

3. Pay a great deal of attention to your companions.

I learned much today.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Dirty Books

I am grateful to BBC Scotland whose eye catching headline drew my attention to this story.

Using a densitometer researchers at St Andrew's have been measuring the dirt on pages of medieval manuscripts.

They concluded, that from the amount of dirt from fingers on the page, one of the most widely read contained a prayer to Saint Sebastian.

His arrow wounds were said to have resembled the sores caused by bubonic plague. This enhanced his reputation as an early intercessory vaccine.

Whilst a densitometer would be a useful addition to the bookshop I'm fairly certain I don't want one anywhere near my personal collection of dirty books.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Synchronised Swimming

Today's trip to Zaha Hadid's fabulous Aquatics Centre to watch day four of the qualifying heats for the London 2012 Synchronised Swimming was in no way wasted.

Not only did I get to wander around the Olympic Park, see inside the amazing venue with its famous lighting and wave top roof and admire several glittery bikini tops, I learned a very valuable thing.

Watching paint dry isn't the most pointless activity known to man.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Joy unbounded and bundled

"Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts"
Charles Lamb

There are few days of the year unmarked by the liturgical calendar that have the annual capacity to inspire in me feelings of joy unencumbered by guilt.

One such is the day I eat the first english asparagus of the season. Today is that day.

I must have been about eleven when my father brought in the first spears from the asparagus bed it had taken him years to establish. Forty seasons on I still recall the astonishment I felt that anything, never mind a vegetable, could be as wonderful.

Last year's season was woefully short - about three weeks. This year the current April showers should ensure it's nearer the eight to which I feel oddly entitled.

You will know from the gentleness (or otherwise) of thoughts expressed here whether that is so.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sins of the Church


Like many of us the Church of England often falls into sin.

Today, I am mostly exercised by the sin that requires parishes to submit an Annual Return to the Diocese in a different format to the Annual Accounts demanded less than a month ago.

This takes up valuable time that could be productively spent sinning elsewhere.

This anomaly won't affect many of you, but it drives me to distraction every bleedin' year.

Nice collection plate though.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Before email

Before email became the irritation it is now, people used to send interesting postcards.

In 1993 this one arrived with the news that the sender had ridden on the Paris and Tyne and Wear Metro's on the same day.

It also contained news that he'd obtained top grade in 'A' Level Geography.

I like getting interesting postcards.

Books v. cigarettes

George Orwell has crossed my path twice this week.

On Friday I learned that the Christmas he spent in jail was in fact spent in Bethnal Green Police Station.

I've never spent Christmas there, but I do recall taking toothbrushes and pyjamas to friends who, for whatever reason, felt that stealing money, thumping policemen and settling disputed games of Monopoly with a kitchen knife were the only options available.

 Today I've been reading his essays.

I've learned that visitors to bookshops do not change.

In 1936 he wrote

"In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money."

In 1946 he wrote

"The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent."

I propose to read more Orwell.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

An 8am 'phone call (on a bloody Sunday...) took me off to Hampstead and the Royal Free Hospital to visit an old friend of whom I am deeply fond.

The four years since we last met vanished in an instant and despite his being very poorly we were both much up cheered.

Me, by being useful - he'd not had a visitor wheel him out for a cigarette for a while and he, by being wheeled.

Afterwards, it being a sunny day I wandered the Heath. Only slightly disoriented by being there in daylight, I saw lots and lots of Hyacinthoides non-scripta in full bloom.

As I walked back to the station a text message arrived from a friend who escapes London at weekends to enjoy the Kent countryside.

"Still no bluebells" it said.

Ha! I thought.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Career News

Viking Blond.  £1.00 stake. 125/1 each way.  In touch when fell at the first. (Thorn Fence).

Organised Confusion.  £1.00 stake. 20/1 each way. In touch, blundered and unseated rider at the eighth. (Canal Turn).

Tharawaat. £1.00 stake.  200/1 to win. Chased leaders to 10th, behind at 13th, badly hampered 21st.(Becher's Brook), Kept on from last. Unplaced.

Career as a professional gambler - placed on hold.

In other news - customer who lingered in the shop to listen to the race with me spent £4.00.

Career as bookseller - to be continued.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Great Bus Controversy

I've been too busy selling books today to follow the Great Bus Controversy as closely as I might.

A cursory glance (whilst my dinner cooks) tells me there has been a furore.

I'm reminded that long before Margaret Thatcher appropriated the quote, poet Brian Howard told us that,

“Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”.

Anglican Mainstream, Boris Johnson, several commentators (with the unwitting help of Stonewall), have between them demonstrated that attempting to place illegal adverts on buses brings deeply unpleasant sentiments to a far wider audience than money can buy or the law allows.

Lesson of the day. Ignore silly people.

(That was a hostage to fortune if ever I wrote one.)

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Adrella, (Peter Searle) has died.

Here she is on the stage of the White Swan with a rather good looking chap in ill fitting jeans. Circa 1993.

I don't recall why I agreed to enter a comedy karaoke competition, but I do recall I didn't win.

There was something about drag back then that forged the identity of many a gay man.

The gratitude I feel to Adrella, Lily Savage, Regina Fong et al isn't confined to appreciating the bloody good entertainment they provided.

They affirmed us all, when few others did. They made the 'gay scene' a less threatening place. They helped build a community during the darkest days of the epidemic which was killing so many us.

Paul O'Grady spoke at Regina's funeral. I wonder if Lily Savage might show up at Adrella's.

Just for old times sake.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

From my doorstep this evening

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride,
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Fifty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me twenty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Twenty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A.E. Housman (almost)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


When I worked at Stonewall, the kindest thing Angela Mason ever said to me was that I was "very good" at talking to peers.

She had in mind the occasion we'd sat in a bar with Earl Russell, the late son of Bertrand, (or "Conrad" as she called him).

I don't recall whether we were discussing the age of consent, the repeal of section 28 or some other long forgotten bill we wanted to get passed in the Upper House.

Whatever it was, it had to do with buggery.

Here is Lady Fitzwalter, of Goodenstone Park, Kent in whose garden I spent the afternoon of Easter Day.

It is a truly delightful garden, full of surprises and imaginative planting and has a tea room  that offers genuine hospitality.

I enjoyed Lady Fitzwalter's conversation, the cinnamon and ginger cake and, as I grow older, I find myself more drawn to borders than buggery.

One shouldn't have to choose of course.

But needs must.

Monday, 9 April 2012

11.00am. Easter Monday. Margate.

Wet weather. Empty beach. Turner Contemporary a noisy art appreciation exercise for the miserable offspring of the middle class.

"But Daddy, anyone could have done that" said the ten year old.

I went to the Nayland shelter.

 'On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
  TS Eliot.

The only other man there is drinking whisky. I am smoking. I give him the cigarette he asks for and suggest nothing in return. It isn't kindness. I doubt his personal cleanliness.

Home now. Mea culpa. There is no whisky here.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Jardin de Gethsamenie

As Holy Week begins I give you a Carte Postale depicting the 'Jardin de Gethsamenie"

It dates from 1919.

I am going off now to Canterbury for a week and leaving my laptop behind.

Whilst I am gone, might I suggest you take my grandfather's lead and do what he did almost a century ago.

Any garden will do.