Friday, 8 December 2006

Creamy Faces, Hand Jobs & A Taste of Ginger

Along with the usual run-of-the-mill stuff - raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, that sort of shit - grooming products, wealthy men and free stuff are right up there on my list of favourite things. So, imagine my delight when I was invited by The Canadian to join him last night at a ‘men-only’ evening at Molton Brown in Chelsea. Spending a couple of hours ostensibly perusing the latest gunk pour homme from the gay Boots, with a glass of Asti and a mince pie, in the elevated environs of SW3, had ‘cruising potential’ written all over it, and given that the last time I popped into a Molton Brown I took home a lot more than Vitamin Lip Saver, I rather fancied my chances.

We met up for coffee beforehand to catch up; despite it only being a week since we had last seen each other, The Canadian’s sex life is so dizzyingly active that I knew there would be tales to tell, and sure enough an hour and a half went by before he’d finished bringing me up to speed. It’s hardly surprising that he gets so much action. TC is an implausibly chiselled, tanned, toned, doe-eyed, deep-voiced hunk of gorgeousness blessed not only with Abercrombie-model good looks but also a razor-sharp mind and deeply kind heart. Since coming out in his twenties, TC had been the poster boy for serial monogamy; his first relationship lasted four years, the next eight, the one after that a ‘mere’ nine months, with nary a pause for breath in between. Finding himself single after the last relationship – an intense, emotional-rollercoaster of a half-year with a fiercely intelligent and terribly pretty Turkish student – abruptly ended, TC has since given himself over to the pleasures of clubbing, networking and online-dating, all of which has resulted in his having a seemingly inexhaustible line of suitors beating down his door.

Satisfied that I had been fully apprised of all current inamorati – one American, one German, one Mexican, one Brazilian, one British, a veritable United Nations of anal – off we trotted to the King’s Road for what I hoped would be an evening of, to steal from the play, Shopping and Fucking. Sadly the latter was not to be, for imagine our surprise and disappointment that we were the only people there! Maybe it was the tornado hitting north London (good aim, God), perhaps the miserable drizzle, or just that Chelsea queers are far too well off to want a free facial, whatever the cause we were all alone with just five shop-girls and a roomful of products for company.

And OH how much fun that turned out to be! Complimentary drinks and nibbles; a full facial with amino eye treatment; a hand and arm massage (I was *amazed* at the difference); laughs with the ladies all of whom fell completely under our spell; and to top it all off a goodie bag packed to the rope handles with handy size oddments, including enough of my favourite shower gel to see me through Christmas, a bar of Green & Blacks Ginger (everyone should have a taste of ginger once in a while as I like to tell the boys) and – bizarrely – a golf ball, which made us both feel terribly rugged and macho. Inasmuch as one can be ‘terribly rugged and macho’ mincing arm-in-arm down the King’s Road swinging a Molton Brown bag and pointing at boys screaming ‘Oooh he’s GAWGEOUS!’

Next week TC is taking me to my first gay wedding which should provide fertile ground for getting some rectal pleasure; if it doesn’t I might as well hang up my lube pump and admit defeat. Watch this space!

Annual Report 2006

Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of my becoming single (thirty followed later, and I’ve always been fabulous) and I invariably got to reflecting on those twelve months of bachelorhood and what being single, after so long of being otherwise, had meant to me. It wasn’t a melancholy kind of reflection – I know now as I did then, with absolute certainty, that the divorce was the right thing – but nor was I celebrating my ‘freedom’ or anything tacky like that; I simply gave myself time and space to take stock and produce a mental ‘annual report’ on my year of singledom, and realised contentedly that it’s been a pretty fun year.

For the first few months after D-I-V-O-R-C-E Day, I might as well have checked into a monastery. I had no sexual urges whatsoever (astonishing considering I’d had them pretty much non-stop for the preceding 29-and-a-half years), I felt unsociable and, ironically given my problems with the demon drink in recent months, I was very wary of drinking lest I slip into the same spiral of self-neglect and self-harm as I had after Divorce #1. Christmas and New Year came and went in a blur, and as 2006 began I settled into a blissful domesticity of sorts, sharing Big Sister’s flat while half-heartedly looking for one of my own. Most evenings not spent with her or one or more of The Inner Circle would be spent in front of the TV with a sofa supper and a bottle of red (or two), which whilst being healing for the heart and soul was hardly conducive to finding cock and bum fun. I contented myself with the odd visit to The American, to whom my newly-single status was the green light he’d been waiting for, his own marital status being for his conscience not mine.

Round about Easter time, Spring having sprung and my libido reborn with it, I got back into the saddle in spectacular style with a threesome that lasted thirty-six hours (including rest-breaks for cigarettes and ice-packs) which was fitting as that had been how I’d got over the last big break up; there must be something about being the guest star that appeals to my raging ego. Then a drunken trip to Pleasuredrome (my pores were looking like they needed a cleansing and I couldn’t afford a facial) led to my meeting a big burly Scotsman who in a moment of madness I exchanged numbers with; while that led to a very pleasurable few days of exchanging frankly filthy video messages, we never made it as far as actually meeting up so he got deleted and purged (though I confess I kept the messages.)

Then followed (in no particular order because to be honest loves I don’t remember) Daniel The Actor, who was absolutely beautiful but with whom I didn’t swap numbers, a fact I kicked myself over for days afterwards; Essex Boy, the very epitome of ‘straight-acting’ with whom I had a very successful date one, a disappointing date two and hence no date three; Mr Fashion, an astonishingly handsome (in fact pretty much Aryan) magazine editor who was great on paper (and between the sheets) but I think in reality I’d have felt in competition with; The Kid From Molton Brown, a 21-year old chunky monkey who I flirted with outrageously over the Warming Eucalyptus Bath & Shower Therapy and thus ended up bedding, certainly the best free gift with purchase I’ve ever had; The Brazilian Munchkin, who picked me up in the street walking home from The Hoist and dropped me home the next morning still in full leather regalia; The Deranged Irishman – about whom the less said the better; The Midget Spanish Hairdresser; and the one with the most longevity, Asda Boy, the closeted son of Sarf London, Irish Catholic gangster parents, youngest of six (one of whom had died of alcoholism) and with a scar on his back from a stab wound, who still makes an appearance from time to time and is very much my protégé.

Then along came Kit.

Until I met Kit I was, inwardly and I think visibly, happily single. But within just a few days of meeting him, a time during which we were all but inseparable, I let down my defences for the first time since the split and, while I wouldn’t say I was planning the wedding, I certainly allowed myself to open up to the possibility that it could turn into something more. When that didn’t happen – Kit suddenly and still, to my mind, inexplicably, got cold feet – I was amazed at how disappointed I felt, the disappointment being totally disproportionate to the length of time we’d known each other. I guess, as the song goes, a taste of honey’s worse than none at all.

BUT – I’m always one to bounce back, and after a couple of months of licking my Kit-inflicted wounds that’s what I have done. One year on and I’m happily thirty, happily single and, happily, fabulous. I’m looking good, feeling great, The Ex is high up on the ‘best friends’ list, the drinking’s under control and frankly, this boy is back in business.

Gentlemen and ladies this is my annual report and I commend it to the house!

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Testing My Sobriety

After three full weeks of not drinking – not one single drop, sip or taste – I gave myself permission last weekend to start again, with a view to putting to the test whether, having proved to my satisfaction that I could go totally without, I could drink and keep it under control. During the week I’d had a long and enlightening conversation with Bubble, my Stateside friend who is in AA and has been sober now for 13 months. He – like all of the Inner Circle – has been incredibly supportive of my efforts and gave me some surprising but common sense advice: that the only way to be sure if I had a problem was not to abstain, but to drink.

The rationale behind this is that alcoholism, like all addictions, comes in many guises. Some people are alcohol-dependent; that is, they physically cannot get through a day, an hour or a minute without being drunk. For others, the drinking is the symptom, not the problem; they drink to mask or anaesthetise immediate or deeply-rooted emotional or psychological pain, so while they may not drink all the time, when they do, they do it to excess. Others still – and this is the category Bubble falls into – are alcohol-allergic; one drink, just one, triggers a reaction in the brain which removes the ability to stop, leading them to drink to oblivion for no other reason than that they cannot do otherwise.

Of these three types of alcoholism – and the list is by no means exhaustive – I felt by day 21 that I’d successfully discounted the first (cravings, whilst they occurred, were very few and far between and swiftly passed with a bit of self-coaching and a family-size mint Aero.) I took, several times, a good hard impassive look at my life to see if the second applied and decided that it did not; for all that I have, and have had, trouble in my life, I genuinely could not equate my drinking with being symptomatic of it. That left the third option, the alcohol allergy, and there was only one way to put that to the test. So it was that on Saturday last I tentatively took my first drink in three weeks.

The results were far from dramatic. It didn’t go ‘straight to my head’ as I’d thought it might, nor did it make me feel at all ill, as I’d feared it might. I felt neither relief nor pleasure; my overwhelming feeling was, if anything, of confusion. Confusion, because after so long abstaining, I’d unconsciously come to dissociate drinking alcohol from being a part of my routine, and so almost like a computer detecting rogue software, my brain struggled to comprehend what exactly a glass of wine was doing in my hands. I finished the glass very slowly, and shortly after went on to a 40th birthday party and from there, on to that classy Sarf London venue Los Dos Brewos, and not a drop further passed my lips. Experiment or no experiment, I just didn’t want to drink! Sure I was getting bored senseless of juice, Red Bull and water, but I wasn’t even tempted to vary it with something hard. (Although I was certainly gagging for something ‘hard’ but failed to find it – two weeks into not drinking, I mentioned to Glenda that on a stone-cold sober visit to Barcode, I’d been amazed at how few guys I’d found attractive without my trusty beer goggles of old. He chuckled and replied with his typical brevity and perceptiveness, “Sobriety is a harsh judge,” and how bloody right he was!)

Thinking it over the next day, I cautiously allowed myself to take the previous night’s abstinence as a good sign. But then I got to wondering, maybe I didn’t want more of the wine because it just wasn’t very nice wine? What would happen if I were to crack open a really good bottle; would I finish the lot? I needed to test this theory so later, invited to Margo and Jerry’s for lunch along with The Agony Uncles and Our Lady of Chappelle, I took with me a corker of a Cab Sauv and when the beef was served let Margo pour me a small glass. I sipped as I ate – interspersing each delicious mouthful with one of Pellegrino – and found that the one glass lasted me through the meal and indeed dessert. Cometh the cheese board, cometh the port, and I partook of a thimbleful; again, I savoured it, enjoyed it, finished it – but felt no urge at all to refill it. I still felt somehow guilty that after three weeks (sounds like nothing, doesn’t it?) I was ‘back on the bottle’ again, but I reassured myself that it was for research purposes and felt a lot better for that.

So where am I with it now? Well, I think it’s too early to say that I’ve got it fully under control. Sure, I managed to stop at one glass of wine; but I have yet to try that test on one beer, one cocktail or – my real Nemesis – one vodka. And try it I will; I need to know that I can control my drinking, as opposed to my non-drinking, for myself, and if I can’t, I need to think again about what I’m going to do about it.

So far, so damn good – I feel great, everyone says I look great, for the best part of a month I’ve not done or said a single thing I’m ashamed of, and as a very pleasant side-effect my money’s going a hell of a lot further. The support I’ve had from the Inner Circle has been, if not surprising, amazing and affirming. From regular words of encouragement and expressions of their pride, to the more subtle gestures such as inviting me for ‘a juice’ after work, the gang have accepted and respected my need to not drink and made sticking to it so much easier. Drinking responsibly though is, I think, likely to be a greater challenge yet than not drinking has been. Watch, as ever, this space!

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Answer me this...?

I knew I’d need something to replace the booze and sure enough I have a new addiction – Yahoo Answers. I signed up a week ago and have already answered nine questions, ranging from one word (‘Campanology’ since you’re asking) to several paragraphs, and have now twice had my answer chosen as the best answer by the asker! The idea’s quite simple; you go on the site, look for open questions - or you can pick a category to browse – and if you know, or even think you know, the answer, you type it in and get points in return. If you want to ask a question, you pay with points to do so and just sit back and wait for the answers to start rolling in. The idea is that the bank of resolved questions will build up into a kind of searchable online oracle (or Orac for the Blakes 7 fans amongst you) covering everything from bell-ringing to bell-ends.

Some of the more straightforward questions I’ve answered so far include,
‘What are gay saunas all about?’ (God knows I should know enough about that particular topic) and ‘Where can I buy mens Prada shoes in a size 12?’ (ditto: I have five pairs) One of the more esoteric was, ‘I’ve been seeing a psychic and she told me my mate Scott’s gay. Should I tell him?’ (I said, in so many words, mind your own business; that got me best answer!) There’s a certain pleasure in sharing ones knowledge with complete strangers, as well as an arrogant satisfaction in thinking that you have the answer to someone’s dilemma, be that about shagging or shoes. I’m trying to limit myself to ten minutes or so a day, but as your points start accruing it gets like Nectar – you’ll never actually use the points, the fun is watching them build up. The more points you earn, the higher your level – I’m still a level 1 but believe you me I’m aiming for the top – and as you move up the levels you can rate other people’s answers, post comments…all too much fun for words.

It’s silly, it’s time consuming, but boy do I love it, and it’s a hell of a lot better seeking life’s answers online than at the bottom of a bottle of vodka!

Monday, 13 November 2006

I'm drying out

At midnight on Saturday, standing (or rather, bobbing along to the music) in Barcode Vauxhall, I looked at the can of Red Bull in my hand and secretly toasted what for me was a major personal success. No, I hadn’t pulled the cute lad in the polo shirt (though heaven knows I’d have liked to) nor had I been snapped for the fashion pages of the gay press (though God knows I deserved to – I was looking fabulous). No, this success was altogether more meaningful than that – at midnight Saturday became Sunday and that meant I had gone a whole seven days without alcohol.

A week ago Sunday I woke up, for about the fifth consecutive Sunday, feeling as if I had gone ten rounds in a boxing ring, against a particularly vicious opponent. Pounding head? Check. Nausea? Check. Cold sweat, shakes, mouth as dry as a nomad’s flip-flop? Check, check and check. Worst of all, I realised to my horror that my liver was throbbing. Not figuratively, but actually, throbbing. Attaining some sort of consciousness, I began to scan my memory banks for details of the previous night, and almost instantly wished I hadn’t, for far from having blanks in my memory, I remembered far too well just how drunk I had been the night, and indeed day, before and just how terribly I had behaved. Why this particular occasion should have been the watershed I don’t know, but I realised there and then that something had to give.

For a couple of hours I sat (or rather, slumped) on the sofa, asking myself if I had a drink problem, and eventually the answer came back ‘Yes’. I went so far as to look in the Yellow Pages for my nearest Alcoholics Anonymous group; I wasn’t labelling myself an alcoholic but felt so unsure right then that I figured going along to a meeting might help me find clarity. After some more soul searching I decided that, no, AA was a step too far; I didn’t want to make more of this than I needed to. I resolved instead that I was going to try an experiment – to stop drinking, for a week, to see if I could do it. On the basis of my success or otherwise, I would then decide what action to take from there.

You know of course that I succeeded – and I even succeeded to keep off the bottle for another day, to make a proper week, having decided that Sunday last couldn’t really count as a) I’d been drinking into the wee small hours so had technically had alcohol on that day and b) it doesn’t really count as abstaining when the only reason for doing so is because you can’t keep anything down, liquor or otherwise. So now that I’ve done it, what’s the verdict? Do I still have a problem? The honest answer remains ‘Yes’. I base this on just how much of a challenge it was to not have a single drink – or even sip – of booze. Sunday was fine – as I’ve said, I felt so ill I couldn’t have even contemplated boozing. Monday - usually a booze free day anyway – was fine, and Tuesday likewise, having dinner round at Big Sister’s where booze is usually available but never pressed upon one.

Wednesday however was when the demons descended. By about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I’d started to fancy a drink – red wine to be precise. In the same way as I can tell when I’m craving a cigarette, I could tell that I was craving a drink. I was thinking about how it would smell and taste; how it would make me feel. The warm glow, the slight squiffiness…I could already feel it. Like a Tom & Jerry cartoon I had good and evil over respective shoulders, the one telling me that I’d gone three days so one drink wouldn’t hurt, the other saying no, you said a week and a week it shall be. The wrestling went on well into the evening but I made it through the evening without buckling. Thursday saw me giving a talk in Cambridge (no memory stick disasters this time, thank God) and although afterwards I was tempted to reward myself with a quarter bottle of Rioja for a job well done, I was able to resist and rewarded my self with a nice cup of tea and a family size mint Aero when I got home.

Friday was always going to be tricky – a long-standing invitation to dinner where I knew wine, and good wine at that, would flow freely. I had two choices; go, try to tough it out and not beat myself up too badly if I failed, or cancel so as not to put temptation in my path. The latter striking me as being terrifically self-indulgent, and knowing how much my hosts were looking forward to my company, I went for the former, but warned them in advance that I was off the sauce and would be grateful if they were to not even try to tempt me otherwise. It was certainly a test of will-power (something I have never had in spades) especially when the other invitee arrived bringing with him a very good Sirah which I could smell and even, vicariously, taste as it was poured. It would have been so easy to give in; I knew for a fact that my hosts, and certainly the other guest who I’d only just met, would certainly think no evil of me if I were to throw up my arms and say, ‘Oh sod it, I’ll have a glass with you.’ But I didn’t, I saw it through, and I travelled home feeling the most amazing sense of achievement.

Saturday came and, knowing this was Day 7, I was resolute in my determination to make it through the day dry. Even a bigger than expected attendance at mine for X-Factor, where I watched soberly but jealously as the boys got steadily drunker and drunker, didn’t break my resolve (although I nearly took a sip of vodka and tonic when I mistook it for my glass of water but smelled it in time before it hit my lips!) And after that, off we went to BCV, the boys all promising to not let me go to the bar lest I get tempted, and to not pressure me into staying should the temptation to drink get too strong and I want to leave. Which brings us full circle back to where I started – midnight, and the completion of my first 100% dry week since as long as I can remember.

Where I go from here, I don’t know. Week 1 felt so good that I’m going to try for week 2. I won’t be joining AA, or seeing my GP, or checking into rehab just yet. I’m going to take it one week, one day, one drink at a time, not forever, but until I can be sure that I’ve got it under control.

Watch, as ever, this space!

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Attack of the seven-foot phallus

I have had many embarrassing experiences in my life. Being shouted at by Mrs Bradley in front of the whole class to stop running down the school corridor, aged 5. Not realising I had tissue paper stuck to my face whilst attempting to cruise Ian Roberts in a Sydney cocktail bar. Having my mobile go off - 'The Dying Swan' - in a memorial service. But none of these could have prepared me for what happened on Tuesday.

I had been asked to stand in for the Chief Executive at a high-profile national conference, giving a speech to about 150 leaders-of-tomorrow, and went along suited, booted and nose hairs trimmed ready to knock ‘em dead. All had been prepared for me, the organisers said; my biography distributed, the microphones sound-checked, and my PowerPoint presentation loaded onto a laptop. I was impressed – in fact a little awe-struck – by the scale of the hall I was to speak in, the grandeur of the lectern, and the cinema-sized projection screen aforementioned presentation was to be shown on. It was a damn professional set-up, but like every good speaker, I thought I’d just do a quick check before starting, and was glad I did; they’d loaded the wrong presentation!

"No need to panic," said I – "I’ve got it on my memory stick," and pulled it from my bag and handed it over. The organiser plugged it into the laptop, clicked on it from the menu, and up on the laptop screen in front of her eyes came the contents of my memory stick. Not just the PowerPoint presentations, oh no – the photographic contents as well. The shot of my erect cock; the shot of my erect cock held up for comparison next to a beer can (500ml since you’re asking) ; the full frontals – one nude, one in football kit; a veritable pornucopia of images that I had, I confess, forgotten were even on there.

But it gets worse. Remember the enormous screen I mentioned? The one facing a hall slowly filling with delegates? The one the laptop screen is projected on to? Oh yes. The projector was on, and there, in seven-foot glory, was each and every image. I leapt for the ‘Escape’ button quicker than a Heather Mills leaps for a headline and as God is my judge I cleared that screen before too many people can have seen it…but some did, some must have…and I stood there and delivered that presentation – from memory - like a true Chief Executive-in-waiting knowing that somewhere in that darkened hall, there were delegates who a few minutes before had seen a hell of a lot more of me than just the upper part of my Richard James-clad torso that rose above the lectern.

I finished - in forty-five minutes flat - and after an impressive round of applause and questions from the floor (none of them “So, how many inches is that monster?”) I fled from that room and like Lot leaving Sodom didn’t once look back.

Two days later, and the Chief Executive hasn’t called to extend her thanks yet. I am deeply, deeply concerned…

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Hippies, F*** Buddies and Footballers' Wives

Last night was one of those joyous occasions, my monthly-ish diner a deux with Best Straight Lady Friend. Over the last couple of years BSLF and I have noshed at a panoply of London's swankiest venues, and last night was no exception as we revisited one of our past faves, No. 5 Cavendish Square Normally the restaurant in this members club-cum-hotel-cum-nightclub would be way out of our league price-wise (starters average out at about £12, mains at £25) but given that these prices clearly put off any sort of mid-week customer volume, they lure in the hoi polloi with a £20-for-three-courses menu du jour which suited us just fine. Better still, I'd accrued enough toptable points through my prodigious eating out that I was able to cash them in for my share of the food - no such thing as a free meal my big gay ginger arse.

Kicking off with a couple of cocktails in the bar (a Bramble for me, a Flirtini aptly enough for BSLF) we kicked back and caught up on the mundanities of work so as to be able to devote our over-dinner conversation to the salacious details of our sex lives and recent dates. Cocktails duly necked and each having brought the other up to date on our respective successes at work (thrusting young executives both are we, it seems) we sashayed through to the restaurant only to find ourselves the only diners there. All to the good though in our book; neither of us is averse to a private dining room especially when it's as opulent as this one with all its claret damask, oil paintings and gilt-work, lovingly preserved from the building's days as the Spanish Embassy. Solitude also meant that we could speak freely and at volume about the men in our lives and just what we've been getting up to with them.

Fortifying ourselves with some of the delicious bread and fresh salsa (nice touch) I launched into a moan about the Kit situation, namely that despite our speaking on the phone pretty much daily about anything and everything, I had only seen him once since he unilaterally called a halt to our dating and was beginning to get the distinct impression that he was avoiding me. He says that he’s coming to my party on Saturday but I have a sneaky feeling he will - yet again - blow me out. BSLF – looking stunning, for the record, in a very flattering black roll neck and kinky boots - cheered me up no end by launching into her own tale of dating woe: her less-than-successful second date with a Tree Hugger. She explained that, at a recent after-party (in fact for The Other Ex’s birthday party, of which BSLF’s memory is about as patchy as mine) she had got chatting to a bit of a dude - she did tell me his name but it eludes me; let’s call him The Hippy - who impressed her with his planet-saving credentials. He was recently returned from a life-changing walk across the Kalahari (or somesuch madcap venture) and was now living on a budget of a tenner a day. They’d swapped numbers (his rejection of capitalism clearly not extending to the telephone) and arranged to go to the cinema. That date had gone promisingly, and BSLF took it as a good sign that he liked her enough to accept a lift home from her, given that his principles normally required him to boycott gas-guzzling motors (although BSLF’s nippy turquoise Celica could hardly be said to ‘guzzle’.)

(Speaking of guzzling, by this stage of the conversation we had received and shovelled down our starters, a superb black tagliatelle with prawns for me and a goodly plate of Parma ham and figs for her. We had also ceased to be alone, having been joined a few tables away by a glamour couple comprising a suave and clearly loaded footballer or maybe football exec and his perma-tanned size zero moll; we continued the conversation unabated but a few decibels quieter.)

Date two however had been less of a success. It started well; The Hippy offered to come round to hers and cook dinner, and duly arrived (on a yak, presumably) and proceeded to make what BSLF described as an ‘amazingly good’ Bolognese with chopped steak. Sadly it would transpire that that would the only serving of prime meat she would be getting that night. Several bottles of wine and a spliff ‘or two’ later, things turned amorous and all looked good until The Hippy announced that he wanted to be dominated. Resisting the urge to suggest he try North Korea, BSLF – partial to a bit of subjugation herself but on the receiving end – gamely tried to play the dominatrix role but the heady combination of good food, booze and gear (and no doubt patchouli) took over and The Hippy just didn't have it in him; consequently, BSLF didn’t get 'it' in her. There may or may not be a date three…

Airing our respective disappointments led us neatly on to bemoaning our mutual lack of a good, dependable, no-strings, on-call Fuck Buddy. BSLF had no idea that I had been reacquainted with The American just a couple of weeks before our fleeting encounter at The Wolseley so I tantalised her with every salacious detail of our last dirty adulterous romp, whilst also reflecting that whilst I may be on call for him, his availability to me depends wholly on when The American’s Husband is out of the country. There’d also been The VWE Waiter, but he ruined our buddy arrangement by introducing - eek! – feelings into the equation. BSLF reciprocated by expounding on how much she regretted having ever let go of Big Black Frank, who had filled many a crack in the bedroom when a Rabbit just wasn’t enough to get her off.

(Speaking of filling, somewhere around this point we hoovered up our mains, stuffed chicken breast for her, red mullet, mussels and cavolo nero for me, lubed with a bottle of Chablis, all very good apart from the cavolo which had the texture and taste of balsa wood. The Footballers' Wife seemed to keep looking over (hard as is to discern facial movement with that much Botox) so we resolved sotto voce to rectify our lack of a decent FB just as soon as we could; watch, yet again, this space.)

The world put squarely to rights, we sweetened our bitter tongues with a cracking - literally and figuratively - berry mille feuille and a bit of small talk about status handbags (we both want) and wealthy lovers (we both so want) before settling the very reasonable bill (they’d forgotten to include the cocktails, or possibly comped them as thanks from the barman for having ogled BSLF's 34F’s for a full quarter hour) and swishing down the marble staircase and out into Cavendish Square. After a couple of hours with Best Straight Lady Friend, as it always does I felt like all was right with the world and do you know what? I think for the time being it genuinely is.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

The grand-a-head lunch

In yesterday’s Metro, their food critic Marina O’Loughlin (who I just *heart*) wrote about her underwhelming experience of dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay which came in at a prolapse-inducing £460 for two. Well Marina I can top that – because yesterday I experienced the £1000-a-head lunch.

The restaurant was located in leafy Bloomsbury, which whilst pretty and historic is a million miles in terms of prestige from Royal Hospital Road. It had not a single Michelin star, or even AA rosette, to its name. It doesn’t feature in any guidebooks (well, maybe a couple of the dodgier ones) and it will certainly not be racking up any ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ awards any time soon or rather ever. To top it all off, it was self-service.

So what did my companion and I feast on for a grand apiece? Beluga caviar, foie gras, Bresse chicken, white truffles? Did we quaff Petrus and Yquem? Er, no. For starters we had a cold collation of Scotch egg, egg mayonnaise, curried potato salad, cous cous terrine and mixed leaves. For our main course we had beef casserole and coq au vin with roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli. I did manage to shovel down four desserts – tiramisu, chocolate cake, fruit salad and profiteroles, all slathered in thick double cream - but given that this blow out was all washed down with water, and tap water at that, how on earth could a lunch so lowly come in at £2000 for two?

Well, the restaurant in question was in the Holiday Inn, where the company I work for had booked a suite of rooms, IT services and catering for an event that day – including lunch for four – but had had to cancel at short notice, incurring a 100% cancellation fee of, you’ve guessed it, a cool two grand. Of course we protested at this, but the Holiday Inn people were not to be moved although they did – I’m sure they thought helpfully – inform us that if we liked we could still have our lunch ‘as chef will have bought the food now’. Woo hoo! So cometh the hour, cometh the man and at 12.30 yesterday I took my best-buddy-at-work Annie down the road to the Holiday Inn and we sat down for our thousand pounds per person lunch. I can’t say it was the best meal of my life although it was far from awful; I can’t say it was the most memorable, because I’d forgotten it all by dinner – which amazingly I still ate despite the four puds. But it was, without a shadow of a doubt, and quite possibly forever more will be, the most expensive I have consumed, and will hold a special place in my heart for knowing that.

Marina, don’t feel ripped off by Gordon’s lacklustre menu prestige; compared to my £2K effort you got an absolute bargain!

Monday, 16 October 2006

The Wonderful Wolseley

To The Wolseley on Saturday for lunch with Big Rob, my belated birthday treat to him (and myself to be honest.) We started off with a couple of beverages in Rupert Street, as one does, then strolled in the sunshine along Piccadilly to our destination. Was caught slightly unawares by the sight of The American having drinks in the bar but played it cool and gave him a nonchalant wave as we swept past the reception and into the magnificent main room.

I’d wanted to visit The Wolseley for ages having only ever heard good things – a rarity for London restaurants but perhaps unsurprising for the lovechild of Corbin and King, the genius restaurateurs who owned The Ivy back in the days when it was super-cool. The room – a former car showroom – is absolutely stunning, an extravagant but somehow tasteful riot of gilding, chandeliers, lacquer and crystal designed as an homage to the grand cafes of 19th-centrury middle-Europe. There’s undoubtedly a hierarchy to the seating arrangements, with the best tables corralled within a central square, around the outer perimeter of which are the less desirable tables, superior only to the few crammed into a decidedly lonely mezzanine. No prizes for guessing that we were sat at one of the best tables in the house, as too it transpired was The American and the boyfriend he has so meticulously kept me a secret from the for the last year or so.

We kicked off with a cocktail, Mojito for Rob and a vodka Martini for me (natch), both of which were beautifully mixed and kicked like mules. A nice touch was that my Martini was served in a small elegant glass of the type seen in Golden-Age-Of-Hollywood movies; I came across all Lauren Bacall and felt transported back to a more glamorous age. Not that glamour was in any way lacking; the mostly-male staff looked to have been hand-picked for their movie star good looks! The menu, like the décor, stays faithful to the grand café tradition, offering a wide but unintimidating choice of brunch dishes, plats du jour (braised lamb shank on our visit) and fish and seafood to suit any taste and any time of day.

Rob went for foie gras terrine followed by bratwurst; I plumped for the comfort of two of my all-time favourite dishes and started with potted shrimps then followed with steak tartare. The food was very good – which might sound rather anodyne but is meant as praise indeed. What The Wolseley does so brilliantly is to offer familiar food, cooked (or in the case of my steak tartare, not cooked) to perfection, served to a high standard by fit boys (and some pretty girls) in spectacular surroundings. What’s not to love? Prices are on the steep side but not eye-wateringly so; our two courses, plus cocktails, plus water, a lovely 2004 Petit Chablis, coffee, cover charge and service came to just shy of £120 which for the flawlessness of the whole experience just about qualifies as reasonable.

We stumbled out a little tipsy, very well-fed and feeling thoroughly Lucky Bitches a good couple of hours after we arrived, both in agreement that The Wolseley could well become our new favourite place. Off we staggered back to Rupert Street where continuing the day’s decadent theme we ordered up a bottle of Veuve and proceeded to get absolutely smashed; Rob’s boyfriend Rich came to join us only to find me barely coherent and barely upright, a state in which I remained for the rest of the evening, somehow managing to survive a few hours at The Other Ex’s birthday party – of which my memories, unsurprisingly, are somewhat hazy.

On the Sabbath – I rested.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Miss Adelaide's Trauma

Miss Adelaide is not easily shocked, but I received this missive from him shortly after lunch suggesting that the gay goings on in the steam room at Holmes Place had reached depths even he could not condone:

"Afternoon darlings,

Went t'gym at lunchtime. Only just over my post work out hypoglycaemic slump. But my six quid take out from Starbucks has finally kicked in and I've a news flash....

I walked in on some *using fingers to create inverted commas, Marjorie Dawes-style* "Ffffat Love" going on in the steam room. The dirty baaaast*ds... I thought for a minute I'd walked into Chariots on an XXL inspired bear night.. Never seen anything like it in all me life. It was blatant!
My swim was a disaster by the way. Poxy goggles kept filling with water and falling off. Meaning I'd straddle the lane constantly, boot some woman in the fanny and surface with a face full of snot at the end of every length. I ended up throwing them across the poolside in a temper much to the lifeguard, Fernando's (or whatever's ) amusement.


I *heart* Miss Adelaide. Can you see why?

Every Cloud...

Having been let down for a third time by Kit, I accepted an invitation (or rather, engineered an invitation) to join The Ex and our mutual chum Legally Binding in The Yard. Not my favourite watering hole it's true but needs must and besides, I was a) pissed off enough to not care where we went and b) already a bottle of Merlot down. Imagine my delight upon arriving to find that The Ex and LB were in the company of a frankly stupidly pretty - but far from prettily stupid young chap called Michael, to whom I took an instant and, apparently, reciprocated, shine.

Readers, I sparkled, I shone, I entertained (and of course, I drank) and before too long aforementioned pretty young thing and I were getting as touch feely as it's decent to do on a Thursday in W1. Things started to go downhill however when LB - struggling under the combined onslaught of a recently broken heart, a current affair with an attached man who shows no signs of leaving his man for LB, and having drunk his own body weight in vodka tonics - left, leaving The Ex alone in the company of A Tongue Sandwich Waiting To Happen. Which, as ineluctably as Victoria Beckham regurgitating her dinner, it did; suddenly, spontaneously and...sadly right in front of my visibly pained ex.

Embarrassed by my insensitivity, I suggested to Michael that now might be an opportune moment to go for a nightcap elsewhere (I say nightcap, I meant snog and a grope clearly) and took the young man off, leaving The Ex with some of his old chums who'd fortuitously arrived just as M and I were getting jiggy. Sweetly, he was cycling home (though the state he was in I was concerned tonight's meeting might be the first and last) so I walked him to Cambridge Circus where his bike was and proceeded to snog, stroke and grope the little stunner for, ooh, about ten minutes, to the cheering - I think it was cheering - of passing cabbies and tourists. When it came to getting on his bike he pointed out that he was being hampered by a not-unimpressive stiffy which was reaching down the leg of his jeans; I took this as an invitation to have a good squeeze, which I duly did, before giving him my number 'so that he could call to let me know he'd got home safely'. Yeah right. See what I did there?

Will this show run and run, like Spamalot outside of which we were making out? Well no to be honest; gorgeous as he is (and boy can the kid kiss) he is but 24 and is, he says, 'smitten' with his boyfriend. I on the other hand am thirty, single and fabulous - how can you compete with that? Readers, watch this space...

Amy Needs Rehab...

Went to see the recording of The Charlotte Church Show last night ('Live from Cardiff' my big gay ginger arse) and Char's musical guest was one Miss Amy Winehouse. All Amy had to do was sit on the sofa between Keith Allen and Rhod Gilbert (no me neither) and read a couple of the pitifully unfunny 'What we learned this week' bits, then disappear to the green room for a couple hours until the grand finale - a duet with La Church of 'Beat It'. Whine-house - already only semi-coherent during the sofa bit - clearly used those couple of hours to partake liberally of the 'fruit and flowers' in her dressing room, because when finally the moment came for CC to announce 'the fabulous Amy Winehouse', aforementioned horse-faced narcotic-Dustbuster walked very, very slowly to the front of the stage, lifted the mic to her contorted mouth to sing and...couldn't form words. She slurred her way through the first take, which Our Lady of Church - taking pity on Amy as one might on a dying animal - cut short.

A couple of minutes later, take two was barely as successful, although Winehouse did at least manage to make Elephant Man-like noises at vaguely the right points in the song - because each time it was her turn to 'sing', Churchy prodded her in the back. No, seriously. Sweetly, at the end of take 2, when Crackhouse was facing away from the camera, Char took the initiative to gently turn her around - a service required on take 3 as well.

By the end of the third take it was clear to all present that there was no way it was going to get any better. If someone at Channel 4 is actually able to edit those three attempts into something even vaguely less car crash than George Best on Wogan, they deserve every award going. My gut feeling is that, barring a re-shoot today (if Char's willing to ever be in the same room as Wino again) we won't actually be seeing our Amy come Friday night (live from Cardiff remember) at all. It was pure, unadulterated, being-there-at-the-dying-moment-of-a-career, genius. To finally summarise just how bad she was in a nutshell: she couldn't even form the words 'Beat It', instead slurring something that sounded a lot like'Beer' at roughly the right moment.

And her with a new single out called 'Rehab'...oh theirony!

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