Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Swallows and Kafka

The flat is quiet tonight for the first time in weeks. And all is well at the crib. Moments of silence have punctuated my day, allowing reflection.

Twenty five years ago, for many queer people, Christmas was a time when you left behind the people you loved and went to see your family. I am confident that is a truth for fewer queer people these days.

This year my family came to see me. And it was wonderful.

Three days (the fish rule) of good food, good wine, some silly games, familiarity and affection. And of course, love.

Other guests were here too. Families are very like gin. OK neat, but better diluted.

At the Christmas Day table we played a toasting game. Something I learned in Georgia. Person One toasts whatever comes to mind. Everyone repeats. Person Two repeats the first toast, then adds their own. Everyone repeats. Person Three... well you get the picture.

At our table we toasted (and this list is not exhaustive),

The fall of Capitalism; swallows; Kafka; Javier's grandmother; Brexit; the rise of the Radical Left; the downfall of Jeremy Corbyn; Nancy; William Shakespeare and Emily Pankhurst.

The last toast fell to a ten year old confident young woman who in a clear voice toasted "Feminism".

We all concurred and cheerfully toasted.

Except her mother, who leant over and whispered,

"Sweetheart, next time make it the Destruction of Patriarchy".

I love my family, and I love my friends.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A man I once called friend has died. And I am sad. Not sad because he has died, that was timely and proper, but because it's fifteen years since we spoke and when the opportunity to renew our friendship arose a year ago I put it on the "to do" list.  And now it's on the "too late" list. I hate both those lists with equal loathing.

Several years ago in circumstances I can't quite recall Lionel and Jim came to lunch. The Revd Professor Lesley Houlden ( the eminent New Testament scholar whose many achievements in life do not include my mastering of New Testament Greek) was the other guest. It was Easter Sunday and we ate lamb. I was, as is oft the case in reduced circumstances and we ate the lamb off a table in my bedroom. We ate and drank and laughed, laughed a lot as I recall. I expect theology was discussed but I would have been making the gravy at that point, saving everybody the trouble of smiling sweetly as I ostentatiously expressed ill informed opinion. I was young!

Lionel was a love. He made me smile and feel good about myself. His greatest achievement, in my ostentatiously expressed opinion was his mastery of three minutes on the wireless.

Three minutes on the wireless from time to time can change the world.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mother's Day

In the midst of the first wave HIV epidemic we created a home for people living with, battered by and otherwise fucked by that virus.

One of them was Anna. She was married to a Ugandan diplomat but fled that marriage for reasons you may imagine.

She came to live with us in Bethnal Green and filled the house with stinking cheese and a vegetable so noxious my memory has erased its name.

For months she talked about returning to Uganda to claim her daughter and bring her to live with us. We, white gay and lesbian folks, would pat her on the head and say "Yes dear, Of course you will."  We thought that would make her feel better.

One day, and I still have no idea how, she caught a plane to Uganda. Three weeks later we received an airmail letter (for those of you reading this in the digital age - airmail letters are light blue, terribly thin and have stamps stuck on them) telling us which plane we should meet at Heathrow.

A desperately sick Anna emerged from the plane clutching a daughter. Anna was admitted to hospital within 24 hours and we were left with the daughter. She was six years old, flooded the bathroom, spoke no English and, shall we say, challenged our household.

We rose to the challenge, got her into school and somehow persuaded the "authorities" that our home was a safe home for a child.

After a while Anna became well enough to leave hospital and come home. In due course the "authorities" found her a flat in south London and she went there to live with her daughter until she died. She died on the day of Derek Jarman's funeral. I got drunk and was arrested outside Parliament later that night and charged with causing a riot after the House of Commons rejected an equal age of consent. (Not a day to forget.)

The picture you see is her daughter, Claudia, holding her daughter. Claudia, 30,  is now living a successful and happy life in London bringing up her daughter.

The picture you see represents the thing I have done in my life that I am most proud of.

So far.

Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Epidemics, Owen Jones and LGBT suicide

Spent Friday in Bristol at the LGBT Suicide Prevention conference organised by my employers.

Not exactly a laugh a minute day. The statistics are truly grim. Nevertheless good things occurred.

I got to touch and talk to the creature illustrated here. I broke all the rules about never meeting heroes but I can report -  he doesn't disappoint,

Especially when he agrees with me.

There is truly inspirational work going on out there. Good minds and good hearts are engaged in this work.

One thing that became clear during the day is how many of us who had roles tackling the first wave of the HIV epidemic have pitched up tackling the current epidemic of mental distress.

There is learning to be learned.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Poppers and me

On April Fool's Day buying poppers will be illegal.

It was clear to me over a decade ago that this would happen. I saw them for sale in the newsagent on Bethnal Green Road where I would go to purchase my copy of The Lady, a pint of semi-skimmed milk, and a Mars bar. The writing was on the wall.

The current bill is a very real consequence of assimilation.

I first encountered the drug in question when I was seventeen. In a flat in Knightsbridge, just behind Harrods. They came in a glass phial which you had to snap open (pop), inhale and...   The occasion is memorable not just for the amyl nitrate but because the man I was shagging was from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. He had the Blessed Sacrament reserved in his bedroom. First (and to my best recollection) the only time I have fucked with Jesus in the room.

There are other stories.

The man who contrived for me to shag with a porn star whilst he watched. Overcome with excitement and desire, I spilt a bottle on a carpet that cost more than I have ever earned in a year.

The brief fashion for dipping the end of your cigarette in a bottle before lighting it. (It took few conflagrations for that fashion to die out).

Poppers give me a headache. I don't like how my friends and partners use them. I hate how many gay men use them as an 'excuse' to do things they otherwise believe they couldn't.

I have no idea of the economics of their production but I suspect I wouldn't like them if I did.

However, I will be fucked before I sit quietly and let this ridiculous legislation pass.

It is an attack on my story.

Up with that I will not put.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Carnival of the Gays

Joyous and enjoyable pilgrimage to the shrine of Abba this evening. In 1974 on the stage of the Brighton Dome they won Eurovision with Waterloo.

No such triviality tonight. We were given Saint Saens' Carnival of the Animals, some Wagner, a dash of Paganini and an arrangement of Albinoni's Adagio that I had certainly never heard before.

My highlights included the soprano's frock. In other circumstances it would have curtained the Brighton Pavilion (at least twice), and the highlights from HMS Pinafore. My companion, (a musicologist)  hadn't read the programme and it turns out is allergic to Gilbert and Sullivan. He came over quite unnecessary and at one point didn't know whether to sing along or scream in horror. All of which of course added greatly to my enjoyment.

The only fly in the ointment was that the whole thing was performed by a "gay" symphony orchestra and a "gay" chorus.

I had hoped we'd be past such things by now.