Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A Boxing Day walk

I have had many lovely Boxing Day walks in my time and today’s was no exception.

Perhaps not as pretty as the frozen water meadow at Wadenhoe or as wild as the river at Glenluce (two of the more memorable), but revelatory nevertheless.

On Wednesday last week I was selected as a candidate to contest Bunhill ward in May’s local election. I know the area well but I have never set off to walk the boundary before. And so today, I did.

What an extraordinary corner of the planet it is.

On the grand scale we are home to Moorfields, global player in ophthalmic medicine. We have LSO St Luke’s, familiar to listeners of Radio 3’s Lunchtime Concerts. To the south we have Bunhill Fields, where lie the mortal remains of some of our greatest voices of dissent, William Blake, John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe. And of course, to the west we have The Charterhouse, within whose walls the history of England has been made, on more than one occasion.

But of course, “the grand scale” tells only one story. Walking around a place with new purpose lends it new eyes. Here in the south of Islington where we abutt the City, Shoreditch, Brick Lane and the river, it really does feel as though much of human life is here.

Yes, we are mostly white, and yes we are mostly male. We are mostly in good health and in Islington, only Clerkenwell and Highbury East wards score lower than us in the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Most of us here are “ok”.

But that is by no means the whole story. Yes, we have obscene wealth, and yes we have the obscenity of poverty which is it’s consequence. A ward councillor, in a minority party is not going to be able to do much about that. But as I walked around with new purpose and new eyes I saw shabby, neglected social housing. I saw stupid and dangerous road layouts. Ridiculous, expensive and unnecessary “street furniture” which costs money and takes up space where trees could be.

Whatever the outcome in May, these next few months of campaigning, knocking on doors and talking to people in Bunhill and the wider borough will do me the power of good. Whether it will do anybody else any good..... well, that will be decided by secret ballot in May.

Not here, or in any other "blog", or "tweet", or "post".

Friday, 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas, everybody,

Whether you enjoy it, or whether you endure it.

Whether you are with the people you love, or whether you are with your family. (Or indeed, with a happy combination of both.)

Whether you are at home, or if you have no home,

whether you are feasting or whether you are fasting.

Whether you have or whether you have not.

My limited understanding of the christian theology of these coming days, is that they contain a message of hope. Not a misplaced or naive optimism, but hope.

That conviction, contained within ourselves, that it doesn't have to be like this.

Our present days are dark.

But "brexit" and "austerity" are only words. And we can choose what they mean.

I look at the fortitude of my brother. If words meant what he was told they meant in August, he would be dead. He is not.

Accept nothing. Challenge everything. And stir yourself to change.

(Doing so of course, does quite wear one out.

And that my dears, is why we have holidays.)

Once again,

Merry Christmas,

Love Seb x

Monday, 19 June 2017

PrEP Sex

I had my first PrEP sex just before I left Brighton about eighteen months ago.

For the first time in thirty years of sexual encounters no decision or choice about who did (or didn't) put what where was informed by either of our HIV status and whether one of us might be about to harm the other.

It was a glorious and liberating experience. As sex can sometimes be.

The length of time, and money it is taking to get it made available to people who need it is one of the lesser well known scandals of the current crop of scandals.

However, beyond playing a part in getting Green Party policy amended (!) I have done little campaigning on the subject outside my bedroom (and occasionally on Hampstead Heath).

So it was a delight to spend this evening with the sassy, sexy people who are. We were at an Elton John Foundation funded roadshow in east London. I felt I'd gone back to the early days of GMFA. Sitting in a pub, having a cuddle, laughing and joking, informing and challenging, building community and changing the world.

As we left, we were asked to tell two of our friends about PrEP. I've just done that, and if you've read this far then you have to too.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Lib Dem Wittering

Lib Dems have been wittering all over my timeline today.

Seems they chose the wrong leader. Oh, get over yourselves. You're not the first and you won't be the last.

Glad to read they're thinking about a co-leadership arrangement with Jo Somebody or Other and "Strong and Cable" though. Wonder where they got that idea from?

Don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are LibDems. I cut my political teeth in the 1974 General Elections telling at Polling Stations for the Liberals. As a party they are attractive and they have fantastic councillors up and down the country doing amazing things.

But, and it's a big but. Until their national election strategists disavow deceit, misinformation and lying to voters as legitimate local campaign tools I'll stay where I am thanks.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Strong and Stable. Election Reflections.

Here I am. Strong and stable.

It's 1am. I'm in County Clare. Celebrating the lawful marriage of two men.

One of whom is a Roman Catholic priest.

It's all a bit weird and very, very lovely. And indeed, drink had been taken.

This was in March.

Life was going swimmingly.

I was employed and everything.

And then this happened

Bloody woman.

And then this happened

Wonderful woman

And then this happened

Somebody tell me this.

What the fuck does "strong and stable" mean ?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Marina Piccinini

This virtuoso is amazing.

The UK premiere this evening of Aaron Jay Kernis' Flute Concerto (2015) at the Royal Festival Hall blew my mind.

I'd spent the afternoon knocking on doors and troubling Highbury residents with some facts about air pollution.

Appropriate really.

The programme notes tell us that,

"the movements are united... by their tendency to spiral out of control from calm beginnings".

BTW. She played it wearing a fabulous gold, shimmering frock.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

LGBT History

The last time I met Stik was in the bookshop. He remembered my story about refusing to sell a nineteenth century flower book to a woman I believed would cut it up to make collages.

We met again tonight at the Hackney Museum to mark the beginning of LGBT History Month.

It was lovely. Met some cool, energetic and exciting young people.

(I was especially delighted by the one wearing real fur. In Hackney.)

They want something from me for the museum.  A wimple perhaps. Or a charge sheet. Or some heels. I don't know.

Anyway, I'm still not reconciled to the perception of me and mine as History, but I'm happy tonight to bask.

After all, tomorrow we all have to get up and make some more.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Forbidden love in Ireland

In the last days of August 1961 I was conceived in forbidden love. In Ireland.

Patience Cooke was 21, "An intelligent and vivacious young woman who is fond of music, reading and all outdoor activities" has returned to Newtownforbes, Co. Longford to nurse her grandmother through serious illness. She had left for London "as soon as she was old enough" several years earlier and joined the Queen Alexandria Nursing Corps. and spent three years abroad. She is "about 5'2" tall with light brown hair with reddish tints" and has "a lovely Irish complexion and blue eyes". And is a Protestant.

Thomas O'Malley is 24. He "left school at the age of eighteen" and is working on his father's farm. He is "tall and well built with blonde hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes". And is a Roman Catholic.

The two had known each other all their lives.

For reasons that are perfectly clear to me, during that summer "they went about together".

Patience's grandmother recovered and in the autumn she returned to London to resume nursing, unaware that another journey had begun.

She was safely delivered of me on the last day of May in the following year.

Circumstances, and there were many,
heart-wrenchingly many, left me at the Coram Foundation from where I was adopted by Mum and Dad on 11 December 1962. Deo Gracias.

In the last days of January 2017 I returned to Ireland for the first time to celebrate another forbidden love.

We celebrated the marriage of  Billy M Desmond Esq and Dr J. Bernard Lynch.

Billy is a Gentleman and Bernard is a priest.

Just pause for a moment. Say nothing.

Wonder though, as I do, how different things are for Gentlemen, Protestants and Priests, (and even Roman Catholics), since that happy day in 1961.

Every thing in quotes, is documented by the Coram Foundation. To whom, my heartfelt thanks.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

On returning from Istanbul

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not "my" problem. In much the same way, Donald J Trump is not "my" problem. Marine Le Pen is not "my" problem and since Saturday Yahya Jammeh is certainly not "my" problem. Even Vladimir Putin is not "my problem".

(Theresa May is my problem of course, but she's doing far more than I ever could to ensure her place as a footnote in history and I'm inclined to leave her to it. As long as I'm an active trade unionist, member of an opposition party, registered voter and occasional blogger then I'm confident the old "hoisting and petard" maxim will come into play.)

As a human being of the white, male, European, housed and well fed kind I am personally well protected against the sort of nonsense deluded, quasi-religious, narcissistic demagogues spout and the harm they can do.

Not immune, but well protected.

Erdogan though. Because I have friendships, attachments and obligations in Istanbul he gets to me more than the others.

Returning this afternoon two things from my latest visit stay with me.

First, I learnt, with sadness, that late last year formal prayers were said in Aya Sophia for the first time since 1935.

Before you shout and scream at me, some context.

Built as a Christian site of worship, this astounding building later served as a mosque.

(Those sixteen words sum up several centuries of wars, empires and carryings on which could, and do, fill several libraries across the globe btw.)

In 1935, the building was nationalised and became a museum and if you will, a temple to the secular nature of the Turkish state. And a very fine museum it is too. The Viking graffitti is great.

However, last year "in retaliation", for Pope Francis' acknowledgment of the Armenian Massacre, Muslim prayers were said there for the first time in seventy years.

Yup, that's right.  Prayers, as retaliation.  Not good.

To be honest, the cat didn't seem bothered but....

The second thing was conversation with liberal, educated, secular friends who are looking for ways out.

People with good jobs, incomes and lives rooted in Istanbul who had never imagined they would leave.

One of them said to me "People in Istanbul are scared to have sex".

(Turkey is one of the few countries in the world where homosexuality has never been proscribed by law btw, and the person who said this is married with a baby. This is not a "gay" thing.)

All of which of course distresses but definitely does not deter me.

If I can help, with the aforementioned protections, (and a British passport) to look after, if not the whole of Constantinople, then at least my friend's guest house for the duration of the present troubles, then I shall.

It's lovely.  Please come too. It really is safe. For us.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sumptuous Framing

I've recently been enjoying Elton's photograph collection that he and David have graciously lent to the Tate for a brief moment in time.

I commend them to you all.

Today, on I think my third or fourth visit, I noticed for the first time, the curatorial note displayed as you enter the exhibition,

"All photographs are displayed in the frames they are displayed in at the home of Sir Elton John and David Furnish".

I like a bit of gilt as much as the next man.

But a curatorial apology?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


A very encouraging afternoon. My appointment as workplace rep for Unite was recently confirmed. In order to introduce myself, and encourage more reps, myself and one of the full time regional officers visited the Mind Head Office in Stratford this afternoon.

We spoke I think, to every member of staff who was at their desk. And we had a fantastic reception from members and non-members alike. I was a little hesitant, uncertain as to whether quite everybody shares my sense of solidarity with comrades in the tube unions but the support was solid.

On a day when mental health is again headline news, when the consequences of "austerity"  within the NHS are writ large it is encouraging to see the management and workforce at a major organisation such as Mind clearly understanding and supporting wide spread trade union membership.

Working where we do, where we enjoy better T and C's than many, it is important that we, as members of the largest trade union in the U.K. stand in solidarity, through our membership, with members in workplaces far less conducive to health and well being, as well as supporting and representing our colleagues.

If you're reading this and are not a member of a union, why not?