Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Margo, Jerry, Madge & A Magical...Marriage?

In a full and varied life it has been my pleasure to attend some pretty spectacular parties. Boy George’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Summer Solstice’ themed birthday in 1995; I went as Titania Fairy Queen and danced with the kaftan-clad birthday boy. The 1997 opening of the Calvin Klein Collection boutique in Paris where the man himself took quite a shine to me and sent me home with free, autographed smalls. The backstage bash at a Finsbury Park music festival in ’99 where a kids TV presenter and I made creative use of the luxury portaloos (and I earned my second Blue Peter badge). The night at Dirty Dishes where the mirrorball came down (for which I may have been partially responsible…) The soap awards after-party where I challenged Lionel Blair to a dance-off - and won. And yes, my very own ‘Studio 54 Meets Disco Bloodbath’ Hallowe’en 2006 extravaganza where TWBD transformed my bachelor pad into a blood red Eighties New York discotheque and Patrick Batemans and Morticia Addamses thronged the Clapham Road. None of these however come close to matching the sheer style, glamour, excitement, emotion and beauty of one of the happiest days of my life – Margo and Jerry’s wedding.

Even writing those words has brought a lump to my throat as I think back to the day just three weeks ago. Let’s get one thing out of the way before I begin the recollections though. Although the invitations said ‘Civil Partnership’, I and most of the other guests quickly came to refer to the occasion as the ‘wedding’ and I’m sticking with that. While one or two people I’ve spoken to baulk at calling a gay union (any gay union that is, not just Margo and Jerry’s) a ‘wedding’, for my money a ‘wedding’ as opposed to a ‘marriage’ is the whole shebang of ceremony, reception, evening do, speeches, confetti, drunk uncles, tearful aunties and fat bridesmaids getting fingered behind the marquee. Admittedly M & J’s wedding was far too classy to have the last of these (there was no marquee for a start) but a wedding it most certainly was and anyone who wants to say otherwise frankly wouldn’t have been invited. To my mind the terms ‘marriage’ or ‘civil partnership’ (or indeed, ‘civil marriage’) apply only to the mechanism via which the relationship becomes official in law; everything else is semantics.

So, down off my soapbox and on to the big day. Actually let’s start a few nights before when we - the grooms, the overseas visitors (Brick, Adam and Matty aka The Americans and Claire Mac, The Sicilian Widow), OLoC and myself – kicked off the festivities at where else but VauxhallVille. There we found the gang were in celebratory mood too, it being their first birthday. They’d gone for a Wild West theme, always one of my favourite dress-up choices, and entertainment was provided by the sublime Tina C who dedicated many a song to the happy couple. Timberlina, who I’m still just a little bit stalker-ish about, made sure our party was the centre of attention and although I think we may have pissed off the gorgeous Nathaniel De Ville by storming the stage for his line dancing finale it was the perfect way to start off the wedding weekend. Margo – under the influence of three bottles of Cava not to mention the caipirinhas we’d necked at Anne Frank’s House before leaving – fell on top of Sam the Wedding Planner, nearly knocking her out and resulting in not only a golf ball-sized lump on his left temple but also a black bruise to the tongue which he was lucky not to bite clean through. Which would certainly have made saying his vows somewhat tricky…

After a Friday spent recovering, Saturday saw me running a few errands for the boys and making the finishing touches to my outfit, before joining M & J, the Hollogays, The Americans, The Sicilian Widow and a huge contingent of their recently-arrived families for a long, boozy dinner at the local Italian. What was beautiful about that part of the celebrations was the realisation that this wasn’t just a wedding of two people who love each other deeply, but of their loved ones too; their friends and families, siblings and ex-lovers, colleagues, employers, employees, all brought together by the common bond of their love for one, the other or both of this gorgeous couple.

Sunday morning dawned and with it, The Big Day. The ceremony was due to start at 3.00 so I could afford a lie in even though – having been given the honour of being Master of Ceremonies – I had to be at the Prince of Wales Theatre, their chosen venue, at 2.00. I was up in good time but on looking in the mirror saw that a few late nights (and long days) had taken their toll on my usually flawless complexion and I looked pasty, puffy and – aaargh! – spotty. So, I put out a Facialist 911 call and within half an hour had a fully-trained expert on my doorstep armed with the finest products and strict orders to make me a supermodel. The results were nothing short of miraculous and I was dressed, groomed and out the door within the hour and got me to the ‘church’ just about on time.

What followed was nothing short of dreamlike.

After a walk through of the venue and timings with Sam the Wedding Planner (who’d made a good recovery from Thursday night’s near-fatal Margo-tumbling accident) the ushers (among them, The Agony Uncles) and I took our places to receive the guests as they arrived, and what a glamorous bunch they were. The hats, gowns, suits, corsages, fascinators, cravats, ties, jewellery and general sparkle with which everyone had adorned themselves made for a picture–perfect colourful congregation, led by an immaculately attired groom and groom; Margo in a beautiful checked two-piece, Jerry in a more sober, sharply tailored navy number. Their make-up artiste had worked miracles on Margo’s golf ball, rendering it all but invisible, and the swelling to his tongue had subsided enough for him to get his ‘I will’ out when the moment came.

That moment was at the near-climax of a truly beautiful ceremony which combined the very considered – thoughtful, literary readings expressing what love means to them – and the high camp – a choral rendition of a classically re-arranged ‘Crazy For You’ in honour of the boys’ own goddess, Mrs Ritchie. Taking place on the stage of the theatre, decorated with nothing more elaborate than huge hyacinths in monolithic glass vases, the ceremony was touching, honest, sincere and devotional. Only two things distracted from the emotion of it all. One was the registrar’s inability to pronounce the word ‘ask’, instead saying ‘arks’, bringing to mind Catherine Tate’s ‘Am I bovvered?’ schoolgirl Lauren. The other was, well, you’ve probably guessed – me, sobbing uncontrollably having been completely overwhelmed with emotion before I’d even arrived. I’d managed to hold it together long enough to announce the guests as they’d arrived and usher them into the auditorium but then totally lost it as the vows were read.

Still, I was able to get something of a grip and moved on to the champagne reception in the theatre’s main room, a fabulous art deco space overlooking Leicester Square, complete with sweeping staircase designed – and of course used – for grand entrances. Glenda and ActiveWill, the buffest boys anyone knows, had been talked into taking the role of Champagne Charlies and had spent many extra hours in the gym and many fewer hours eating to ensure that they were at the peak of their musculature for the occasion. Stripped to the waist of their skin-tight white jeans and sprinkled in gold body glitter, the boys toured the room filling guests’ flutes from Methuselahs of Perrier-Jouet and Laurent-Perrier, ensuring that by the time the cake – a glorious, just-shy-of-over-the-top pink iced confection – was ready to be cut, the majority of those in attendance were half cut themselves.

After a few group photos it was time for food, and a delicious, Cornucopian fork buffet had been set up in an adjoining, equally splendid room. Rosé – the boys’ favourite wine – flowed freely, rather too freely in my case considering my duties were not yet over, guests mingled, conversation flourished and love was all around.

Moving downstairs to a function room, transformed for the evening by who else but TWBD into a fantasy disco, the evening part of the bash got into full swing and more guests poured in. The drinks went down, the volume up, and revellers of every age, size and persuasion took to the dancefloor to throw their best shapes to the DJ’s sounds. The floor was cleared for the grooms to have their first dance, to the wonderfully personal choice of ‘Nothing Fails’ (more Madonna) and choreographed to a sufficient extent to impress without a trace of showing off (though God knows if you can’t show off at your own wedding, when can you?) Entertainment was provided by scene legend Dave Lynn, who had most people in stitches with the notable (and vocal) exception of a rather intoxicated distant relative of Jerry’s who was swiftly evicted by his mother.

Finally came the speeches and although five may sound excessive it was anything but, as each of the two best men, Margo’s brother and father and the boys themselves delivered very different but equally moving orations which between them managed to thank, involve, welcome and embrace everyone in the room, and beyond that those who weren’t there: the ‘absent friends’. Touchingly, the boys handed out gifts – beautiful, thoughtful, individually chosen gifts – to those of us who had had duties; I will cherish mine, a paperweight bearing the words ‘A Crown Of Life’ always. And as far as the formalities went, that was pretty much that and it was time to party.

By about 11 o’clock, I had been on the go for nine hours or so and been drinking for much of that. Coupled with my greatly heightened emotional state – partly due to the occasion and my love for Margo who I love like the brother I never had, and partly due to self-pity for my own recent break up from a relationship I’d invested so much hope in – and having rather upset Jerry with an ill-placed ‘joke’ that strayed the wrong side of politically incorrect, I realised that I was in no fit state to stay a second longer and left without saying goodbyes. I think if I had attempted to I would only have started crying again and no-one wanted to see that, frankly. I disappeared into the night and thankfully made it safely home; I woke the next morning still holding my button-hole where I’d gone to sleep clutching it like a precious keepsake (which it is).

I really couldn’t pick a favourite moment of the day. It was so perfect, so personal, so inclusive, so stylish, so sincere, so real, so fantastical, so fucking special from even before the start until well after the finish, that to try to pick one moment would be folly. I’ll remember it for many years to come, how much fun it was, how honoured I was to have been involved, and how when I saw two such devoted and loving people, who I love so very much, commit themselves to each other for life I actually thought my heart would burst out of my chest. So here’s to you Margo and Jerry. You pulled it off – the best party of my life. Thank you for giving me the honour of being your MC and sorry if I let you down by being a drunk. Thank you for the lovely gift which as I type I can see out of the corner of my eye in the spot where I now keep it, proudly on display. But thank you most of all being there for each other and for making the promises you did in front of us all on that wonderful day. I’ll never forget it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

A Play, A Perjuror, Performance Art & A Party

Blogging, by its very nature, is a highly self-indulgent pastime. While some bloggers have achieved a sufficient level of interest in their musings to make a living out of it (Perez Hilton, take a bow) I can claim no more noble motivation than that I love writing and enjoy the catharsis of getting my often disjointed thoughts on this that and the other into some sort of order. Writing is my therapy (always has been – at university I wrote a column for the college paper; before that, I’d dabble in poetry which whilst uniformly flowery and pretentious, at least served to soothe an often addled and over-active mind) and so the act is its own reward. That said, it’s always gratifying if and when someone else finds some pleasure in what one has written, so I’m naturally pleased that my last couple of posts have sparked a fair bit of interest from my small-but-loyal readership.

The piece about honesty seemed to strike a chord with many people and it was interesting to see its central theme borne out in a couple of recent events. The first was a trip to the wonderful Oval House Theatre – my local hub of gay culture – to see a brilliant new play, ‘Twisted’. Loosely based on the events leading up to the death, in mysterious circumstances, of Stuart Lubbock in Michael Barrymore’s swimming pool, the play followed the unfolding events of a weekend of drug-fuelled debauchery in the Manchester home of a dysfunctional gay couple whose house guests, both invited and uninvited, number a sexually voracious but, for the ‘sake of his career’ closeted, famous actor friend; a hard-as-nails, naturally straight-acting but defiantly out scally, and his sister’s boyfriend and, it transpires, own sometime bed partner, whose confused sexuality may be due to denial, ignorance or immaturity, we cannot be sure. In addition to their varying degrees of comfortableness in their sexuality, a further layer of complexity is added by the inter-relationships that develop between them and the extent to which dishonesty about their true feelings for each other – both positive and negative – affects their ability to interact functionally. The overarching lesson to be drawn from the play’s eventual tragic and all too sadly avoidable outcome is that a great deal of pain can be caused by our concealment of truths we are too scared to reveal.

Exactly that lesson was shown to be worth learning by the likewise all too sadly avoidable fall from grace of Lord Browne, nicknamed ‘The Sun King’ and toppled from his throne as chairman of BP for having lied to a court of law about the circumstances in which he met his ex-lover. This latter, by all accounts a spiteful and vindictive little bitch who, the relationship having ended and with it the high life, went running to the tabloids, happened to be a man. What was interesting was that none of the reporting of his sudden resignation that I saw seemed to attach any significance to this fact. The media also avoided finding any titillation in the allegation of which the mendacious denial caused Lord Browne to have to resign, namely that the men had met via a gay escort website. No, the only indiscretion for which Lord Browne ultimately had to fall on his sword was that he told in court a bare-faced lie in order to conceal a truth that he chose to dislike, and he got caught out.

I have nothing but contempt for the nasty, vengeful little trollop who repays four years of apparently unrestrained generosity by running to the Mail on Sunday. It follows that I abhor that publication and all who run it for being so archaically prurient and debased as to fund said treacherous bastard’s story-telling. I’ve wondered whether the story would have piqued their interest quite so much if the lover had been a woman and the escort agency had been a ‘straight’ one, and arrived at the conclusion that it probably wouldn’t have, so there’s some extra dislike and residual anger at this latent but nonetheless nasty homophobia. But why, why WHY did a man of Lord Browne’s immense power, wealth and influence think he would get away with lying in court? And what could he have been so afraid of that he felt the need to conceal it? His mother, an Auschwitz survivor to whom he was said to be devoted, is dead and therefore beyond embarrassment. Professionally, one can’t really get much higher than chairman of a multi-billion pound global corporation and a salary in excess of £3 million. And among his peers, after 41 years with the company and ten years at BP’s helm I imagine Browne must know at least as much if not more dirt on others as to be able to silence any board room sniggering. A couple of years ago, when the Mark Oaten/Simon Hughes revelations overshadowed the Lib Dem leadership contest, I wrote (for the currently moth-balled but hopefully soon-to-re-launch Coo-ee that, “these scandals have nothing to do with homophobia; they are the fruit only of foolishness and disingenuousness in men we expected to be a great deal wiser.” It really is sad to see that the same holds true this time around.

The other piece that chimed with readers was the most recent in which I reminisced about clubbing days gone by and my new ‘home’ on the scene, Vauxhallville. Some agreed wholeheartedly that London was long overdue somewhere genuinely new, while others felt that my report of the scene’s death was, perhaps, premature. Either way, it certainly seemed to generate some interest in giving the night a try and so it was that about eight of us headed on down a couple of weeks back for Madonna night. I went as H&M Madonna, faithfully recreating a look from one of the posters for that collection in trenchcoat, sunglasses, heels and uncannily realistic Madonna wig. ActiveWill dressed in top-to-toe denim and spiral curls to be Ray of Light Madonna; but it was Margo who carried off the prize for best outfit with his take on Malawi Madonna, in a vest top, sarong and Panama hat, all accessorised with his pièce de resistance – baby David Banda, or at least a doll thereof, bought for the occasion from East Street Market. The entertainment and activities that night were as eclectic as ever and had us all hooting with laughter. Le Gateau Chocolat, an enormous black opera singer, performed Frozen, backed by two dancing cats; Scales of The Unexpected, a barber shop choir, treated us to their Madonna Medley; Bearlesque (it does exactly what it says on the tin) vogued for all they were worth (clothes were removed; I swooned – they’re a seriously hot bunch of boys) and the hosts, Nathaniel De Ville and Timberlina (upon whom I have the most ridiculous crush) invited one and all to be part of their DIY Sex book. Margo and I went head-to-head in the quiz and as with the costume competition he pipped me at the post in that too, but deservedly so given his lifelong devotion to Her Madgesty.

The week before that had been Moulin Rouge – I went for a loose interpretation of the theme and dressed all in rouge, right down to socks and smalls – which involved the Bearlesque boys doing the can-can, Nathaniel’s revival of the tableau vivant (Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe starring the gorgeous Fred Bear) and the hands-free cocktail shaking skills of Ophelia Bitz. This Thursday just gone was the May Fayre, and although I rolled up rather late and alone (confident that I would cease to be alone the second I walked through the door, a confidence that was duly repaid many times over) I was still in time to catch the home-made placard-waving May Day march round the block, a one-off short set from the unbelievably talented performance artist Taylor Mac, and most fun of all, the dance around the May Pole. That I ended up snogging someone totally random who I didn’t fancy one bit, while dressed as a deconstructed May Pole, only added to the inherent entertainment value of another wonderful, original, enriching evening.

Yet, there’s one exclusive, invitation-only ‘club’ in Vauxhall that tops even Vauxhallville for sheer fun and glamour, and that’s my home sweet home. This Sunday just gone I celebrated one year in my much-loved bachelor pad with a (for me) fairly low-key cocktail soiree to which I’d invited thirty or so of my favourite people, of whom twenty or so turned up. Of the six or seven hours it went on for, the last couple – including a fairly brief visit to the Brewers – are less a blur than completely obscured, but from the substantial chunks I do remember I’d be very hard pushed to choose a single favourite moment. I loved that Dolly had joined me early to help perfect the night’s signature cocktail, the Peach Cobbler; I delighted to see Glenda and Princess Timmy, newly enfianced, arrive hand-in-hand bearing Malibu and pineapple; I was thrilled when ActiveWill arrived bringing not just a new friend but also a lovely bottle of bubbly, and doubly thrilled when The South African arrived with the same (well, the bubbly at least.) I was delighted that The Second Favourite Lesbian and her Lady Love made it along, especially as until that point the gathering had been all male (not that I mind that per se but one does like to embrace diversity); I loved that my Gay Neighbours dropped by from across the garden square (I couldn’t help feeling that that had something of an Alan Hollinghurst novel about it) and oh, God, I loved that every single glass, cup and vessel got used and re-used and yet the bar never ran dry, the music never stopped and not a cross word passed anyone’s lips. I even loved waking on Monday morning (not alone, but discretion prevents me from naming him) not knowing what kind of carnage might greet me upon entering the living area from the bedroom (as it happens hardly any, bar a few crumbs and my party shirt, buttonless having been physically ripped from me in the throes of passion.)

Thirty, Single and Fabulous might sound like a terribly self-aggrandising title for a blog, but reading back on what I’ve written here I think it's a fairly accurate definition of the life I'm lucky enough to be living right now. I lead, as far as I can, an honest life, awkward as that may sometimes be. I’ve found a truly wonderful night out that really lifts me up and have like-minded friends old and new to share it with. I have a safe and secure home in an area I love, to the extent that I would want to celebrate a year of living there; and when I choose to do just that, I get to share that celebration with the most amazing, eclectic, vibrant group of people you could hope to bring together. I don’t take any of it for granted; God knows I’ve seen enough change in my relatively short life already to know that nothing lasts forever and that people and things we assume will be with us all our natural lives can leave you in the blink of an eye. In just a few weeks I’ll cease to be thirty (though I’ll have nine years yet of being ‘thirtysomething’!) and although I’m happy to stay single for now, increasingly I’m coming round to the idea that one day I may want to settle down again. But for now, while things are as they are, that ‘fabulous’ stands and I defy anyone to convince me otherwise.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Vauxhall the fuss?

Lately I’ve been far, far away; not geographically, but to somewhere that’s been compared to another country – the past. My absence from you these past few weeks has been due in no small part to an extended trip down memory lane…so do indulge me as I share my holiday memories with you.

It all began with a hugely positive experience – my discovery, thanks to Margo, of Vauxhallville, quite the most amazing thing to happen to the gay scene for years. Vauxhallville almost defies description, not being easily pigeon-holed (and nor would it want to be) but one could loosely describe it as a weekly extravaganza of film, music, cabaret, dance, arts, craft, drag, fancy-dress, competitions and performance, with scope for dinner, drinking and dancing the night away. From the moment I entered that first night I was hooked. There was a tangible though indescribable excitement hanging in the air that intoxicated and excited me; the feeling that yes, at last, here was somewhere totally new and fresh on the scene (no, not ‘on’ the scene - in addition to it) where I felt at home in a way I hadn’t since…well, since Dirty Dishes circa 2000.

I got to discussing this idea of one’s having a ‘home’ on the scene with Margo and Jerry over Sunday lunch (Jerry’s killer chilli-tuna salad washed down with rosé) and it quickly transpired that both Margo and I – two men to whom the term ‘shrinking violet’ could never be applied – had felt for a long time now that the scene, such as it is, held no appeal for us. Gone were the days when every weekend was a blur of danceanddrinkanddrugsanddicksanddowners and Margo wondered aloud if, given that the opportunity for such weekends still more than existed, and in fact was far from confined to weekends, we were missing out on something by not indulging. No, I answered; we don’t club like we used to because the clubs aren’t like they used to be. Sure there are a million and one nights to choose from under myriad names alluding to their promised extremeness (Later/Beyond/Gravity...) each offering something more than the others (Better lasers! Bigger sound! Hotter go-gos (though why one would want to see Belinda Carlisle sweating is beyond me)! Open later/earlier/forever!) But therein lies the total non-appeal; the scene, bar a few once-edgy-now-mainstream nights like Popstarz and Nag Nag Nag, has become totally homogenised, with one spread of saucer-eyed muscle-boys under a mirrorball in Boyz being totally indistinguishable from the next, and the next and the next…

Our – OK, my – clubbing hey-day was from about 2001-2004, beginning with my move to the then-nascent gay Mecca of Vauxhall and ending fairly abruptly when I met The (then narcotic-unfriendly) Ex. Back then, the idea of an after-hours club under a railway line was totally new; I remember still the excitement I felt being handed, as I left DTPM, a flier for something called ‘Orange’ at ‘The Viaduct, South Lambeth Road’. We piled into a taxi, headed home (conveniently just off said South Lambeth Road) for more vodka and a line or two, then made our way to what we had established was the rebranded Dungeon Club to see what this Orange thing was all about. What we found was an arch, just the one, its walls - bare but for a few cheaply-made UV banners – dripping with condensation, a few green lasers cutting through dry ice and pounding hard-house from a not-bad sound system. This was being danced, swayed, raved and monged to by a totally mashed-up crowd of pretty gay boys, grotty stray boys, black girls, crack girls, she-males and don’t knows, fuelled by God-knows-what cocktail of pills, powders and liquor, all of it being indiscriminately poured, popped and snorted along the length of a bar staffed by a couple of boys who appeared to be the most out of it of us all.

Of course, we fucking loved it.

Nothing else quite came close to replicating the excitement of those early-days-of-Orange until Action came along in the early noughties. Here was a club – no, a super-club – with sound, visuals, publicity, venue and most importantly, crowd unlike anything we’d ever experienced, here or abroad (I make the distinction as even Home in Sydney failed to come close) and for the few short years that it thrived it was to us the ne plus ultra of Saturday night excess. Being held only fortnightly, you'd start looking forward to the next event pretty much the second you embarked on the walk of shame home. But, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Action was bound to beget others and as we all now know, the result was that within a few short years every last damn railway arch in SW8 had been taken over, gutted, made over and relit to become an only-extremely-subtle variation on a no-longer novel theme. Over Good Friday brunch Glenda quipped that a so-minded entrepreneur could simply ‘knock Vauxhall through’ into one sprawling, laser-lit, muscled behemoth of a club and be done with it; we laughed but inwardly I think all wondered if just such an all-conquering act could be all that far off.

Nostalgia for a smaller scene, with less choice and whole fortnights between parties might seem absurd; minimalism may work for interiors but surely when it comes to nightlife, more is more, right? Not for me. I miss those heady days and the almost unbearable anticipation. I miss the thrill of being handed a flyer for somewhere ‘new’ that really was new, in concept as much as in name. I miss those 3AM taxi rides from EC1 to SW8 and the walk of shame home; hell I even miss the dripping walls of The Viaduct. But we grow, and we learn, and we take those precious memories and put them in a box until, as happened to me as I walked into Vauxhallville, something triggers in us the same rush, the same excitement, the same sense of being there as something so new and fabulous and you emerges blinking into the sunlight and seizes the Zeitgeist by the throat.

I’d like to say that these fond reminiscences are all that’s been exercising my thoughts of late, but on the contrary; as far as the trip down memory lane goes we’re not even at the corner by the lamp-post yet. But, much as I wouldn’t show you all my holiday snaps at once lest you get bored, I’ll save some of the story for another time. For now, I’m off home – it’s Vauxhallville tonight, and I’m planning on making a whole load of memories for the future.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


A couple of Saturdays back, I had the rare pleasure of having Little Agony Uncle all to myself for a whole afternoon. LAU had scored a pair of free tickets for ‘La Dolce Vita’, an exhibition devoted to all things Italian at Kensington Olympia, and correctly thought that I would be interested in joining him for a couple of hours of free wine and hot boys in SW5. After a few laps of the hall in hunt of Pinot and penis, all we’d come across were a few perma-tanned gentlemen-of-a-certain-age flogging Tuscan villas and hordes of bridge-and-tunnellers queuing – queuing! – for the thimble-sized free samples of gut-rot Chianti, a depth to which even I was not prepared to sink. So, with the great honesty that true friendship enables, I told LAU that I’d had basta of this and we buggered off to The Coleherne to put the world to rights over a few lagers and chuckle about ‘La Dodgy Vita’ as we soon re-christened it.

The conversation took in many themes but the one that really got my cogs whirring was that old problem page staple of coming out to one’s parents. Over their years in the job, both Big and Little Agony Uncles have advised dozens, perhaps even hundreds of gay, bi and uncertain boys on this particular and, to my mind, by far scariest aspect of the coming out process. Go into any gay bar, club or gym, anywhere in London – hell, anywhere in the UK – and I will guarantee that there is at least one person in there whose coming out to mom and or pop was facilitated either directly or indirectly by the culture of possibility inspired by these two caring and wise men. But here’s a thing – neither one of them is actually out to their respective extant parent, nor in one case to his siblings.

Both has his reasons - broadly, religion and old age – for believing that the degree of distress an admission to being gay would cause the parent is disproportionate to that which the concealment causes him personally, and therefore keeps schtum. Day-in, day-out this causes few problems; the parents live miles away, both Agony Uncles are young enough to not yet attract speculation as to why they’ve not ‘met the right girl yet’, and familial visits are arranged sufficiently in advance for them to have plenty of time to make up the spare bedroom into a passable facsimile of one’s wholly-discrete-from-the-other’s sleeping quarters and hide all the toys. But what worries me, and I admit it’s a rather macabre worry but it really does exercise me, is what would happen if God forbid one of them died? What then? It was bad enough that each had to go through the loss and interment of a parent in recent memory without the other by their side, but what, I asked LAU, would one do if he had to bury the other all the time pretending to be just his housemate, his friend?

I don’t seek for a second to advise them – physician, heal thyself as Luke would put it – but I did share the view that in my experience there is far more to be gained from the telling of an inconvenient truth than from concealing it, be that through honest silence or actual deception. It certainly got me to thinking whether, in fact, ‘honesty is the best policy’.

That maxim has existed in one form or another for over two millennia and is found, with little if anything lost in translation, in most world languages. There are hundreds of other time-worn quotes, proverbs and anecdotes about honesty (indeed, the moral education of every American schoolchild is founded on the example of George Washington’s inability to lie) of which my personal favourite has always been Mark Twain’s assertion that, “If you tell the truth, you will never have to remember anything.” It’s a rather beautiful point if you think about it: when we lie, or otherwise conceal the truth, we create an alternative reality which becomes someone else’s truth. They will then share that with others, to each of whom we may have told the truth, part of the truth, or an untruth, or from whom we may have concealed the truth completely by our silence. This then creates stress and confusion for us as we struggle over time to recall who knows what about what and which version of events, all of which will sooner or later come back to bite us, as Twain may also have put it, on the ass. Tell the truth on the other hand, however unpalatable it may be, and you can carry on with life not having to remember a darn thing because everyone knows what’s what and once it’s out there it can’t hurt you.

I base this view on recent experience, some of my own, some of others. I’ve certainly benefited enormously these last few months from being honest with myself. First of course, there was the drinking. Admitting to myself that there could be a problem led to a major overhaul of behaviour that was damaging me physically and emotionally. I’ve still not got it licked; Saturday just gone saw me slip back into very bad old habits at a birthday party and I awoke Sunday morning on the hosts’ sofa not recalling any invitation to stay. [I should mention that my behaviour at said party was no worse than many others; Glenda called me on Sunday morning to ask if I had any idea how he’d got home, and Princess Timmy threw up in a carrier bag.] I am, now, reflecting on how I feel about that lapse and whether I should act on it, all the way being honest with myself; that’s a big change from just a few months ago when I’d have been laughing it off on the outside while ripping myself to shreds on the inside, and I’m thankful for that.

The other truth I’m thankful for having told myself of late has been my finally – finally, after years of denial – facing up to the dreadful mess I was in financially and doing something about it. Years of living, wilfully, beyond my means and a reckless belief that there would always be a Peter to rob in order to pay the many and various Pauls, led me to the edge of a frankly terrifying abyss that someone of my age and earning the kind of salary I do should never have to stare into. In the same way as I faced up to my drinking being out of control, I faced up to the need to marry what’s going out rather more closely with what comes in. Now, thanks to some hard-nosed negotiation, learning to say, ‘No, I can’t afford it’ – to myself as much as to others, and crucially, the support of friends generally and one friend in particular, in just a couple more months I’ll have the kind of disposable income that I would always have done had it not all been owed to the banks. I can’t begin to describe how much less anxious, depressed and out of control I feel having dealt with the truth of my monetary quagmire than I did all the while I was living the lie.

Others are feeling the benefits of tacking unpalatable realities too. Since my last post, the two boys who were settling have, quite sensibly, parted, having realised that they were not being true to themselves and that it would come to naught. Without a trace of animosity or recrimination each has reverted comfortably to the role of friend and to see them together is to see two chaps each blessed with the priceless gift of a true and life-long friend in place of a transitory and expedient partner for partnership’s sake. Another couple also went their separate ways, through rather less mutual a decision process but for the similar reason that, for one partner at least, the truth of the matter was that it just wasn’t what he wanted or what was right for him, and to have hidden that truth only to spare the other’s feelings would with time have only hurt them both.

Without exception everyone involved in these events has found that the consequences of their honesty have been far less severe than they feared. I think sometimes, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson in that electric scene in A Few Good Men, we hide the truth from others because we say they can’t handle it, while all the time the reality is that it’s we that can’t, through fear, or insecurity, or lack of support. After speaking with LAU that afternoon I cast my mind back to the months before I came out to my mother; the angst I went through, the fear I experienced, the best- and worst-case scenarios I played over and over in my head before finally, one evening, knocking back a bottle of Beaujolais and coming out with it, only for the news to be greeted with an “Oh!” and an offer to open another bottle. Sure, that wasn’t the end of it; mum struggled to accept that my homosexuality – which she never sought to criticise or deny – was simply a state of being without any scientific, sociological or philosophical explanation, and over the course of the next couple of weeks she came up with all manner of crackpot theories which I diffused as gently and patiently as I could. The one thing that helped us both through the process of coming to terms with my coming out was, you’ve guessed it, honesty, talking openly about our feelings and fears and taking the consequences of doing so.

I’m conscious that this is starting to sound very holier-than-thou and that I may be coming across as an evangelical know-it-all who holds himself out to be a paragon of virtue. Far from it. I may have faced up to a few harsh truths of late but I’m still not as honest as I’d like to be. I hide things from people. I make things up. I sometimes pretend to like people I don’t, and to not like people as much as I do (usually to conceal that I fancy the pants off them.) I’m not immune to telling a little white lie if it will help me get what I want, or a great big stinking black one if it’s something I really want. But I do think, pretty much, I’ve stopped the worst dishonesty of all and that of course is being dishonest with myself. I know and like who I am and that makes me happier than I think I have ever been.

And that’s the truth.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Belated Blogging, Boyfriends & Butterflies

OK, OK, first things first, an apology – it’s almost a month since I last posted and it must look as if I’ve got bored of blogging and disappeared into the sunset. One group of readers – they call themselves ‘The Gays’, which hardly narrows it down – has at semi-regular intervals been prompting me to put fingers to keys and share some more of my exploits, and I assure you – and them – that I’ve been meaning to, really I have, I’ve just not got round to it. Or rather, I’ve just not had the urge to do it, until now. The thing is – as you may have noticed – I don’t just write about all the fabulous things that happen in my life the moment that they happen; not to brag but I get up to so damn much that to have the time to write about all the wonderful parties, shows, meals, dates and journeys that I am blessed enough to enjoy from day-to-day I’d need to give up the day job which, I’m afraid, is what pays for it all. This as I’m sure you’ll appreciate would be rather self-defeating. Saying that, for every fabulous moment, there is an equal and opposite mundane one – thirty, single and fabulous I may be but I still have to clean the oven from time-to-time – which does not make for interesting reading. So it is that I go through my really quite wonderful life having experience after experience, reflecting on and processing it all, until along comes an event, or person, or moment, or thought, that I actually think others (including, bless ‘em, The Gays) would care to hear about, or that I really want to share, and then a post emerges.

This time around, the thing that’s been on my mind is relationships. Don’t worry, I’m not about to surrender my singledom, although things are going rather nicely with the gorgeous guy I met when I went to help Andrea Bianco choose new specs a few weeks back and have had a couple of dates with since, so watch this space. Rather, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to relationships in general and a couple in particular, and gotten to wondering just what all the fuss is about.

I had a conversation a couple of days ago with one of my very dearest friends in which he broke the news to me that he and a mutual friend of ours had got together as a couple. This kind of event is usually greeted with much whooping and cheering and downing of cocktails, but this time the news was delivered without so much as a smile and if anything more than a trace of a frown. You see, these two had not got together out of sheer love for each other (although there is certainly reciprocal, if imbalanced, affection) or even as the result of a mutual attraction that had deepened over time. Rather, they had decided to give being boyfriends a whirl for the sake of not being alone any more, to soothe the ache of their mutual loneliness and because they had grown to believe, after years of waiting and hoping for ‘The One’ to come along, that ‘The One’, like Godot, was never going to show. Now I could perhaps understand it if these guys were in their sixties, or fifties, even in their late forties although God knows I have friends in all of these age brackets who live as full if not fuller a life than ever they did in their teens. But these guys are my age, or at least in the same tick box as I on a survey form. And the survey question has to be, “Since when did our thirties become the cut-off point for finding lasting love?”

I must admit that when I was younger – I should say ‘even younger’ of course – I craved a lasting relationship. For the first few years after coming out I was very promiscuous, and not just closeted-country-boy-moves-to-the-big-city-and-hits-the-scene-with-a-vengeance promiscuous, but rampantly, insatiably, by-the-time-I-was-twenty-I’d-lost-count promiscuous. But underlying it all was not so much a voracious appetite for sex (though that played a part) but the perhaps misguided and certainly naïve hope that if I slept with enough frogs I would be sure to find my prince. I thought I’d found him a couple of times too; I was absolutely besotted with my first ever boyfriend – are not we all? – and with the benefit of hindsight and a little psychotherapy I can see now that the man who I thought was and would ever be my one true love was in fact a substitute for the father I had lost just a few weeks before our meeting. Then of course came the two big relationships, with The Ex and The Other Ex (God these pseudonyms are imaginative, aren’t they?) both of whom I loved – and still do love, each in their way – and both of whom I thought, in the early stages of our relationships at least, might be ‘The One’, until it transpired otherwise.

(I’m going to go off on something of a tangent here but mentioning my father triggers memories of his and my mother’s relationship. Meeting at the ages of 31 and 34 respectively, and both having had several prior partners, it was, as mum tells it, love at first sight; they were married within the year, Big Sis followed almost nine months to the day later, I came along three years after that, and they enjoyed twenty-odd almost uniformly joyful years of marriage until death quite literally they did part. Just food for thought.)

Since becoming single last time – well over a year ago now – I have embraced bachelorhood and all the benefits it has brought. This is not triumphalism nor is it in any way meant to denigrate the several good and happy years I had with The Ex, but is a simple statement of fact. Certainly since my own break-up I will admit to having been, if not instrumental, then at least facilitative in a few others, through on the one hand my championing of being on one’s own, and on the other, through my firm and unwavering belief that it is better to have no relationship at all than to be stuck in one that is less than perfect. I am lucky enough to be able to say that I have not one but many boyfriends, and indeed girlfriends, in the shape of my many and wonderful friends, from whom collectively I receive easily as much and probably more love than I ever got from one man alone. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t one day like to meet Mr Right and be so swept off my feet that the ‘Single’ in Thirty, Single and Fabulous becomes obsolete; but would I ever crave companionship so much that I would let convenience outstrip desire? Could I give up the search for Mr Right and settle for Mr Right Now?

To be honest it’s impossible to say and indeed it would be reckless to do so with any degree of certainty. I mean, if in a few decades time you and I are still here and this is ‘Seventy, Single and Fabulous’ then yeah, ask me again if I want a relationship and the answer will still come back ‘No’. But what if it’s ‘Seventy, Single and So Bitter About It That I Might As Well Be Dead’? Will I be so sure then that those two boys who got together through one’s loneliness and dwindling self-esteem and the other’s besottedness and dogged persistence were really doing anything all that unreasonable? I wish I could lay claim to having come up with what I still believe to be the perfect assessment of why people enter or don’t enter into relationships, but Carrie Bradshaw gets the credit for this: ‘Some people are settling down; some people are settling, and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.’ Those two boys may be settling, and that may make me profoundly sad, but thinking about it, only they know what’s best for them and if settling is what’s best for them right now – and if given a few months, that moves on to settling down - then all to the good.

Me, here and now, I’m sticking to butterfly hunting.

Friday, 9 February 2007


As regular readers (all five of you) will know, I had a rather humiliating work-related experience late last year. This week, it was someone else’s turn to blush puce, but yet again yours truly was to blame.

Barely fifteen minutes after yesterday’s post went online, I picked up a voicemail from the young man mentioned in the second paragraph asking that I call him as a matter of some urgency. Now naturally I was delighted that he should have made contact, and doubly so that he should want me to do so straight away – he’s keen! thought I. Then alarm bells rang. In his message he had quoted verbatim my description of him…but I hadn’t told him about the blog’s existence, so how on Earth had he come to read it? I immediately returned his call and listened in horror as he explained that in their PR office they have some sort of tracker, sweeping cyberspace 24/7 for any reference to [insert name of designer here!] which had landed upon thirtysingleandfabulous and my albeit flattering reference to the young man in question. This in turn had been read by his boss (not the boss, the famous one, although that would surely have added comedy value) who had in turn alerted him to his new-found online notoriety.

Profuse apologies offered and accepted, and having established that whilst painfully embarrassed, the beautiful boy had suffered no lasting professional harm, we parted as friends and I hope to see him in the not-too-distant future, platonically or otherwise. Afterwards though I got to thinking – selfishly I admit – how bloody exciting I found the idea that just by including a couple of words in the body of a post I could expand my reach to such glamorous new pastures! Call me naïve (hell, I’ve been called everything else) but I had no idea that such technology existed; whilst I know dear readers that you may marvel slack-jawed at the aesthetic beauty and literary superiority of the present blog, my technological know-how is right down there with my understanding of vehicle maintenance and female genitalia in the paucity stakes. All the pretty dots and shapes and colours and photos you see here require no more than a little cutting, pasting, dragging and dropping; one final click-to-publish and my work is done and ready for my literally ones of readers to enjoy. So you can imagine how surprised I was to learn that in addition to its regular readership, thirtysingleandfabulous could also be being viewed by businesses the world over, ever-alert to the possibility that they might be getting a mention in amongst all the tosh about drinking, eating and shagging.

So Dior Homme, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel! Mont Blanc, Smythson, Mulberry, Alexander McQueen! Come one, come all, and join in the fun; just don’t let your staff sleep with me, or there could be some sniggering at the water cooler to deal with…

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Thirty ONE, Single and Fabulous...?

There are some invitations which only death or alien abduction should prevent one from accepting; a Buckingham Palace garden party; front row at Chanel couture; dinner at Le Pont de la Tour with Best Straight Lady Friend. The last of these having metaphorically dropped on my virtual mat this week, and being neither dead (although not yet fully over the laryngitis) or away being anally probed by E.T. somewhere, I joyfully accepted. Whilst the biggest draw of course was the prospect of a few hours in BSLF’s always sparkling company, I also wanted to see for myself whether – having never been much of a fan of Conran restaurants – Le Pont de la Tour lived up to its reputation as being the jewel in the crown of Sir Terence’s gastro-empire. So it was that on Tuesday evening, wrapped-up and medicated, I trotted off to Butler’s Wharf and settled down to the important business of catching up and chowing down.

[This would not to be the first time I had chowed down on a Conran offering this week, as on Sunday, lured to The Brewers by ActiveWill and knowing I had Monday off to recover, I took home a 25 year old, 6’4”, skinny and extremely pretty employee of Sir Terence’s son Jasper and enjoyed a full ‘three courses plus coffee’. Numbers were exchanged, so watch this space.]

First impressions were good; we were taking advantage of a very attractive toptable offer of three courses and a glass of fizz for £30, and as we sat down this latter component appeared swiftly enough for us to enjoy it as we perused the menu. Despite Le Pont’s cuisine being ostensibly modern French, there was a strong Central European edge to the dishes on offer and three very appealing choices for each course. Holding no truck with the burgeoning anti-foie gras movement I opted for it in both my starter and main – the former a foie gras terrine with spiced chutney (I declined the brioche, being off the carbs), the latter roast duck breast with sour cherries and red cabbage served with a slice of the ambrosial organ as a finishing touch. BSLF, allowing herself an evening off from calorie counting (the results to date are impressive) opted for cream of cauliflower soup followed by guinea fowl served with stuffed cabbage and truffled potatoes.

Although the conversation flowed as easily as it always does, and I could report to you at length on recent developments in both my and BSLF’s lives, the most entertaining element of our evening was the human theatre going on around us. The mittel-Europe flavour of the menu was replicated in the staff, which whilst as a general rule aesthetically most pleasing, had a somewhat shaky grasp on the English language. One member however was clearly as French as French can be, namely the over-bearing sommelier who was snooty to the point of caricature. Used no doubt to intimidating the oenologically-unaware Eurotrash or pandering to the expense account suits who appeared to make up the bulk of the clientele, he seemed much taken aback when BSLF and I had the temerity to order, if you please, two glasses of the very same wine we had just been enjoying in the bar before we sat down, thanks very much, and no you may not suggest this or that more expensive alternative.

The table next to us had us transfixed, as a young-ish and clearly moneyed Lebanese-looking guy wined and dined a leggy, honey-blond Slavik girl wearing a permanent look of surprise. If this wasn’t their first date it was certainly early in their relationship (business or personal we couldn’t quite tell…) and the guy ordered expansively and expensively as his companion sat demurely making (surprised) eyes at him across the table. That the tower of fruits de mer which arrived on their table was so tall as to render eye-contact impossible had to be a bad omen, and sure enough BSLF had to kick me under the table to stop me from crying with laughter as a huge dressed crab plunged from atop the platter into the girl’s lap.

Undoubtedly the funniest moment of the evening however came with our desserts, both of us having ordered the (huge, it transpired) crème brulee. Le Pont de la Tour is famed for its spectacular views of, well duh, le pont de la tour, and in the hope of our being allocated a window table, BSLF had fibbed at the time of booking that it was my birthday. Shown to a by all accounts perfectly nice table at the side of the room, we assumed that the ruse had fallen on deaf ears; this was proved not to be the case when our waitress duly served me with my pud, complete with candle, on a plate beautifully iced in melted chocolate with ‘Happy Birthday’, and proceeded to enlist the help of passing colleagues to sing Happy Birthday to fraudulent old me whilst BSLF chuckled into her Chardonnay. Although nearly the end of the meal in any case, I felt so guilty accepting the congratulations that came from neighbouring tables (and the flattery of the big spender who told me that I could pass for 25!) that I hastened our departure to the bar for digestifs.

Over cocktails BSLF and I reflected, in true bar room style, on how fortunate we both are in the great scheme of things. Both young, successful, reasonably solvent and generally emotionally stable, our dinners give us a chance to step out of the daily whirl of work and play and devote time to helping each other stay that way. It’s something I’d like to be able to do with more of my friends, more of the time. Hell, if they all offer to treat me to slap up ‘birthday’ dinners at Le Pont, I even just might do that.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Enjoy The Silence

I’ve lost many things in my time; my mother in a supermarket aged 3; my cherry (to both a boy and a lady); part of my septum; watches, wallets and so many mobile phones in one year that the last time I called to report it the lady at T-Mobile gasped, “Och, not again?” Every loss has pissed me off to a greater or lesser degree but this week I’ve lost something which has upset me so much I just want to scream. Except that I can’t scream because the precious thing I’ve lost this time is my voice. I’m not just a little bit hoarse either – a trip to the doctor’s first thing Wednesday morning, having woken up mute and in excruciating pain, saw me diagnosed with viral laryngitis.

Now, the irony of my having been struck dumb, when normally nothing and no-one can shut me up, has been lost on exactly nobody. While I know any ribbing is good natured, I know too that even my nearest and dearest are probably having a little chuckle that this most talkative and ebullient of men should - for once! – be rendered speechless. I have to rest my voice as much as possible for a week and then, fingers crossed, I should be back to my usual gobby self; for now I can at least talk to you, so let me fill you in on what’s been going on these last couple of weeks.

The most exciting thing I guess is that the silver lining to the cloud of having this bloody virus is the enforced cessation of smoking. I’d be lying if I claimed to have previously given giving up any more than the most tentative of passing thoughts, despite of course being fully aware of everything a pack a day was doing to my body. Unlike the drinking, which was having very tangible – and public – ill-effects, and my promiscuity, which I briefly hated but learned to accept as part of my make-up, smoking was the one vice I never really wanted to give up. It might sound crazy but because the damage smoking does is internal and unpredictable (sure you can get cancer, but you might not, whereas if you drink you will get pissed!) I’d carried on for 15 years with reckless abandon, stopping only twice – once for 48 hours pre- and post-surgery, and then for one stretch of about four weeks when The Ex and I decided to quit together but were lured back on to the weed by his mother, of all people. This time though it’s different as I finally have the impetus and incentive anyone needs to quit. The equation’s a simple one – quit and get voice back, keep smoking and enjoy chronic laryngitis for life. Talk about a no-brainer. Like the drinking, I know kicking the smokes is going to be a challenge so watch this space for progress reports.

Prior to falling ill I’d had a pretty fantastic run of engagements all of which served to show me how blessed I am when it comes to friendships. Thursday I went for drinks and dinner with The Ex and over pizza and Pinot we shared stories of exploits and sexploits that even a couple of months ago we probably wouldn’t have felt able to discuss. There’s certainly been a turning point in our relationship recently and I feel we’ve gone now from being Exes Who Stayed Friends to being, well, friends. The next evening I had a pure Sex and The City moment as Glenda, OLoC, ActiveWill and I descended on Suzie Wong, Soho’s latest swanky eaterie for cocktails and ‘Oriental tapas’. The place is gloriously fitted out in lacquer, paper screens and all manner of Chinoiserie, and staffed by an almost comedic cast of lady-like boys and, well, lady-boys. The food was fantastic, service was friendly if a little slapdash, the cocktails were strong and spirits were sky-high; if only someone had filmed it we could have sold it as a pilot to HBO.

From there OLoC and I travelled on to Brixton for PWdeK and the Duchess of Derbyshire’s joint birthday do at The Manse. I always love these occasions as the whole extended gang comes out to play, and this was no exception with The Other Ex, Best Straight Lady Friend and Big Rob among the revellers I’d not seen for a while. This was a permission-to-drink night so I got stuck into the vodka but managed to hold back from getting absolutely plastered. I may as well have not bothered though, for as the evening wore on, so the party favours came out, and two consonants and a vowel later I was staggering saucer-eyed for the nightbus, fascinated by the lights and the texture of the pavement (which I became better acquainted with at one point and have a cracking bruise on my left hand to show for it.)

Saturday morning came and in spite of the previous night’s excesses I woke up feeling moderately human (still a little wired if truth be told) and awaited the arrival of The South African who was accompanying me to lunch at my Second Favourite Lesbian’s pad up the road. The Saffa, while only my second favourite South African (Charlize Theron tops the chart), is rapidly qualifying as a New Best Friend what with his immense charm, gossipiness and bitchy-as-mine sense of humour. Being drop-dead gorgeous also helps – I do like my friends to be easy on the eye as well you know. He and 2FL, as well as Mrs 2FL and their other gorgeous gay guest, hit it off a treat and as the wine went down and the volume went up it became quickly apparent that we were in for a long afternoon. Sure enough with dessert digested we adjourned to the de facto gay boozer round the corner where, joined by The Saffa’s delightful Straight Lady Friend, we spent an enjoyable if fairly profane few hours until first The Lesbians and then I admitted defeat and headed home to collapse. The Brewers had been mooted but my stamina isn’t what it used to be and when I woke from my ‘disco nap’ at nearly midnight I realised that my Saturday was over.

On Sunday I enjoyed a new and thoroughly enriching experience – the inaugural Hollogays Learning Day. Adapting an idea given to me by the ever-creative Andrea Bianco, the boys and I had agreed a few weeks ago to assemble for lunch at Glenda’s on this day and each present to the others on a topic, in this case, oceans. ActiveWill kicked off with a very slick and well-researched PowerPoint presentation – as perhaps we should have expected from a man with as specialised a geology masters as he – on the Southern Ocean, complete with illustrations and fascinating facts (we were all agog at the giant kelp!) I followed with my bit on the Pacific; being by far the biggest ocean there’s so much to say about it that I chose to focus on its extremes – the widest this, the deepest that etcetera (I could have been talking about ActiveWill, come to think of it…) and we could all now tell you to the metre the depth of the Mariana Trench. Up next was OLoC who delivered a fantastic freestyle micro-lecture on the Arctic Ocean, about which he’d clearly developed such enthusiasm that it came across in his facial expressions and gestures as he regaled us with the movement of its currents. Glenda took the Indian Ocean from an interesting angle, glossing over the statistics to instead speak extensively and passionately about the socio-politics of the area. Did you know how scandalously Britain had treated the people of Diego Garcia? No neither did I until Sunday but believe me if you did, you’d be angry.

Finally it was Margo’s turn to teach us about the Atlantic and I guess we should have known that he’d do something a little bit off-the-wall. Just how off-the-wall took us all by surprise, despite having known him many years – because for the next half an hour we engaged in an experiential drama workshop, learning about Margo’s ocean through, variously, meditation, improvisation, group machine work, mime and performance. It was bonkers, but amazing, and if we laughed it was only through nervousness at exposing ourselves to each other in a totally new way. We all agreed that the day had been a roaring success and have already set the date and topic for the next Learning Day when I will be hosting the boys, plus Jerry, for The Six Wives of Henry VIII. We rounded off the day with a visit to the Kazbar where, joined by Jerry and his gorgeous mother, and bumping by chance into The Ex along with his New Man, Legally Binding and Mini-Lee, we toasted a thoroughly enjoyable and highly educational new experience.

This week was going to be a veritable social whirlwind, with dates in the diary to see Andrea Bianco for coffee and catch up and dinners with The Other Ex and BSLF, but these have of course had to be cancelled due to my tragic loss. Which takes us rather neatly back to the beginning and my state of silence; as I type this I am sitting, in monastic seclusion, at home where I fully expect to spend the next few days sipping hot drinks, gorging on comfort food (my stop smoking counsellor helpfully warned me that ‘You will put on weight’, at which I softly wept) and watching hour-after-hour of Golden Girls reruns. Which actually sounds rather good fun, so enjoy the silence y’all because that’s what I’m planning on doing!

Monday, 15 January 2007

Drinking, dating and defaults

A couple of posts ago, I promised that I would provide you, dear fans of TS&F, with an update on how the drinking was going. Out with a delightfully broad cross-section of the Gang yesterday afternoon, one of them (Little Agony Uncle since you’re asking) enquired as to why that update had not appeared, and I answered that as yet I didn’t feel that I’d quite worked out what my feelings were. I should have expected nothing less from an experienced agony uncle but was nonetheless still stunned by the simple brilliance of his advice: “Tell it to the blog.” So, here goes…

Since I took the big decision to try quitting for a while, and, following the success of that experiment, the arguably bigger decision to then try drinking again, I have certainly regained - or possibly, just gained – a sense of control about my drinking that was missing. It feels wonderful to be able to say that because, well aware as I was of the physical damage I was doing myself, and the wastefulness of spending entire weekends sleeping off the effects of one night’s drinking, it was the lack of control that had really scared me and finally prompted me to find the stop button. I still don’t feel that I’ve quite got the degree of control that I would like to have however, and as result my relationship with alcohol is still at best ambivalent.

It’s really hard to define what it is that I’m unsure about, but as I’m ‘telling it to the blog’ I’ll let you be the judge of whether what I’m saying makes sense. Since stopping, albeit for just a few weeks, there’s been a paradigm shift in my default drinking mode from drinking almost every day to drinking hardly any days, and from drinking more and faster than pretty much anyone to drinking no more and often much less than everyone. I’ve had a couple or three hangovers but nothing on the scale of ‘the old days’ and I’m satisfied that these have not been because of particularly excessive drinking – my biggest bender having been New Year’s Eve and even that was nothing compared to, say, my Bloodbath party - but because my body’s tolerance of and ability to process alcohol has retuned itself from that of a heavy drinker to that of a moderate one. Most satisfyingly, there have been no blackouts, no memory loss, no stripping naked and leaping into hot tubs (other than stone-cold sober in Chariots but that’s not for here), no turning up at afternoon parties already hammered and terrorising the children…you get the picture.

Yesterday I spent a pretty-much-perfect few hours with the boys in Le Shaz Bar and had just one shandy; last week at dinner with Big Sis I had one beer; on neither occasion did I want any more. So, complete abstinence I can do, and ‘just the one’, I can do; the grey area comes when I allow myself – and it really does feel like allowing myself – to drink, those nights (or days) when I consciously decide that drinking is on the agenda. Friday night and Saturday just gone were both such times, the former Glenda’s birthday drinks, the latter an enjoyable but ultimately unsuccessful date with the sexy Saffa from just after Christmas. On both occasions I followed the ‘old’ (and for most, ‘normal’) pattern of one drink after another and both times reached a point where I didn’t want to have any more; I’d chosen to press the ‘stop’ button.

The difficulty is that to be able to push the button, I have to be able to reach it, and it’s never in the bar or club or party that I’m at. If I stay, I’ll stay drinking – it’s as simple as that. I don’t think this is the ‘alcohol allergy’ that Bubble described; I can and do stop at or very near to the moment of my choosing; I just can’t quite get my head around doing that in whatever my present surroundings might be. Instead I have to do a Cinderella-like flit home, to the security – and sobriety – of home; to the sofa, a cup of tea, some chocolate…sources of comfort other than the bottle. Socially it can make things awkward. On the date, for example, about four hours and five or so pints in, I tried to engineer our going back to mine. Of course that was in part with the ulterior motive of getting a bit closer to the gorgeous hunk o’ spunk (that sadly was not on his agenda, unbelievable as that may be) but primarily because I knew that if we stayed out I would end up plastered and I just didn’t want to be. I guess through giving it so much thought – any thought even – I’ve created for myself a new guilt about drinking whereby anything more than ‘just the one’ triggers a thought process that can become quite self-accusatory.

All this leaves me not quite knowing what to do. I could quit drinking altogether, as not doing something is the only sure-fire way to not feel guilty about doing it, but for a reason I can’t yet grasp I don’t ‘want’ to be teetotal. I enjoy good wines, good whisky, a cocktail, a glass of champagne, and I don’t want to give those up. What I need to get to grips with is how to drink socially, if such a thing even exists. Maybe I’m sweating it all a bit too much; maybe I should just go a bit easier on myself and not beat myself up if I get a bit pissed at the weekend – everyone does, right? Or maybe a bit of self-tough-loving is the key to getting this drinking thing licked. For now, I’m happy, things are good, the future’s bright and I must say, that Agony Uncle gives damn good advice because ‘telling it to the blog’ - and may I thank you for indulging me - has made things a whole lot clearer than they were just 24 hours ago!

Monday, 8 January 2007

Amy, mea culpa

Although it may seem hypocritical given my first ever post, I couldn't help but feel very sad when I read the report about Amy Winehouse's shambolic performance (or more precisely, lack thereof) at G-A-Y on Saturday night. She was clearly off her face on the Friday Night Project the night before, and I doubt she'd even sobered up from that bout of drinking before embarking on the one that saw her so publicly shamed in front of two thousand baying gays. Queuing for Ghetto on Saturday we saw the steps to the stage door at G-A-Y being sluiced down with soapy water and joked that Amy had probably thrown up on the way in; if only we'd known the half of it...

When I wrote that first post, I really was amused - yes, amused is the right word - at how she'd behaved on Char's Show. Thinking it was a one-off, I found it hilarious that anyone could be so downright irresponsible as to get twatted before filming a TV appearance (albeit not a 'live' one as claimed.) I sent my account of that night's events to Holy Moly and it made the headline story, and wasn't I pleased with myself about that? But that of course was before I faced up to my own problems with drink and now, far from finding Amy's crazy-bitch antics entertaining, I find them saddening.

I can't help but wonder what the fuck the people around her are doing. Sure, Amy's problems are hers alone and the only person who can tell Amy that she has a problem is Amy. A friend with a drink problem, or any kind of addiction, is like the apocryphal elephant in the room; everyone will gladly talk around it but only the very brave will talk about it. But besides her friends, surely Amy's record company, manager, agent, stylist, hairdresser (yes I'm sure she has one, despite appearances), driver and so on who should be asking themselves what the hell they're doing to earn their money if they let Amy go on stage like that. It must have been obvious that she wasn't fit to perform on Charlotte Church, Buzzcocks, Friday Night Project and now G-A-Y and that if she did she would humiliate herself, and yet no-one has seemingly had the guts or, more to the point, the simple human kindness to say, 'No, sorry love. You can't go on tonight. We'll tell 'em you've got flu,' before giving her the mother of all bollockings in the hope that she will admit to herself, as only she can, that something must be done. If they think that by letting her go on stage pissed out of her beehive-topped head every night, she'll sooner or later learn her lesson, then they are being at best naive and at worst downright cruel. More likely is that the more bad press she gets for turning up smashed, the more disillusioned and paranoid Amy will become, fuelling more drinking in search of the - to her - blissful abandonment that liquor in sufficient quantities brings.

I titled that first post 'Amy needs rehab.' I'm not sure it's rehab that Amy needs now, but she sure needs something. Maybe someone really close to be brave enough to tell her she has a problem. Maybe to have that one flash of clarity where one realises for oneself that something is wrong. Maybe she just needs someone to hold her and love her and tell her that everything's going to be alright. Whatever it is Amy Winehouse needs, I hope she gets it before it's too late. From me, she gets an apology for not knowing then what I know now - that there's nothing funny about being a drunk.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Thirty, single, fabulous...and f**king busy!

Yes! It’s me, I’m back! Did you miss me? Good, because I’ve missed you like crazy – it’s true!

The lack of recent entries here on thirtysingleandfabulous is due quite simply to my having been so darned busy. Two nights after the Molton Brown experience I went to the closing night of Bent at the Trafalgar Studios which was as brilliant as it was harrowing, and left us – me, Glenda, Our Lady of Chappelle and Margo and Jerry – rather lost for words, unable to quite express how grateful we newly were for the sexual freedoms we take for granted. The following weekend, at my first gay wedding, I was again reminded of just how bloody fortunate we are. Despite the anodyne surroundings of Brixton Register Office, the unintentional hilarity of the piped music (‘I’m Not In Love’ and ‘Love on The Rocks’, for Christ’s sake!) and the language barrier – one groom was French, the other Brazilian, neither could quite pronounce ‘civil partnership’ – it was beautiful and very moving to witness such a tangible manifestation of gay equality. OK, I’m off the soapbox now; what else have I been up to?

The week before Christmas was a hoot. It started with a moment I’d awaited for the preceding 13 weeks – the crowning of America’s Next Top Model (Danielle in case you missed it; yes I was surprised too but thank GOD it wasn’t Jade) Then on the Wednesday – my last day at work, hurrah! - I spent a typically hilarious evening of cocktails, dinner and dancing with Miss Adelaide and Andrea Bianco (who was half-celebrating, half-commiserating having walked out of his new job of just three weeks, his boss having turned out to be the living incarnation of Miranda Priestley) Having completed my Christmas shopping in one meticulously planned commando raid on W1 on Thursday morning, the evening was spent enjoying drinks, canapés and champagne (vintage, and a gold medal winner at the Decanter awards, Glenda authoritatively informed the hosts upon presenting it) chez Margo and Jerry. Their house is fast becoming quite the most stylish place to see and be seen in the gay village, thanks to the flair with which they entertain, and this particular evening was no exception.

The following evening Mother arrived, ready for the trip up to Big Sister’s on the Saturday, and I was delighted that she was in sufficiently good health (physical and mental) to come with me to Dolly’s Christmas drinks soiree. Chaperoned by TWBD, I took Mother on what would be her first ever trip to Brixton and despite remaining fairly firmly glued to Dolly’s sofa she was nonetheless on great form, managing to polish off three bottles of Sol, a gin and tonic and about a pint of bubbly without any visible signs of drunkenness (like Mother, like son…!) Once I had taken her back to mine and ensured she was medicated, tucked up and sound asleep, I rejoined Dolly and the rest of the partygoers - including in addition to the Hollogays, Hollywood Rob and Princess Timmy – at Barcode VauHo for more bevies and boogying. Wishing to keep up the alliteration I finished off the evening by popping next door for a bit of bum-fun, and what a lovely way to round off the evening that turned out to be

The Saturday saw us depart for Norfolk and Christmas at Big Sister’s, which in a festive nut selection nutshell can be summarised as five days of pure joy; great company, great food (and mountains of it), fabulous presents (I nearly died of shock when Mother gave me two extremely tasteful and perfectly fitting items of clothing!) and a totally chilled atmosphere with not a single raised voice all the time we were there.

Arriving back on the Wednesday and with Mother safely despatched on her homeward journey, I arranged to hit the town with OLoC, Glenda’s planned drinks party having sadly had to be cancelled due to its host having flu. Much as I had had a gorgeous time with the family, as had OLoC with his, I needed to reacquaint myself with civilisation and as we were both in the mood for a warm welcome, cold drinks and hot boys, we headed for Le Bar de Kaz. There we met up with The Canadian who, through the sniffling brought on by his ‘white Christmas’, informed me that he has decided to settle down with one – just one! – of his current beaux. For you dear reader this means fewer tales of The Canadian and his pan-continental sexploits; for me it simply means that our catch-ups will be rather less difficult to follow.

Tipsy (yes, tipsy! You heard right!) and randy we moved on to Los Dos Brewos, and both OLoC and I were successful in finding company for the night – his a very cute scally type who took him back to (where else?) Peckham; mine a rather gorgeous and (thank you baby Jesus) sillily well-endowed South African lad who kept me busy until well into the next afternoon – they don’t call it a ‘job’ for nothing… (On that topic, I’d welcome readers’ suggestions as to new ways to reply to the compliment ‘You give great head’. Currently I either just say ‘Thanks’ or more often ‘Yes, I do,’ but I’d like a wittier riposte. Answers on a saucy postcard please.)

On New Year’s Eve Eve it was back to the Kaz to meet The Ex and a few of his crew (to one of whom, it later transpired, he is newly-enfianced) for Saturday beers, thence to the fully-recovered Glenda’s for copious amounts of fizz and gossip into the night.

My New Year’s Eve party was fabulously fun and unexpectedly well-attended. I’d expected just a handful but was delighted to welcome OLoC, Dolly, Glenda, Princess Timmy and cute ickle friend thereof, KLo and Mr Media (a gay man trapped in a woman’s body going out with a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body, and boy do the gays love ‘em both), The Ex and The Ex’s New Man (who for the record seems very nice), Smurphy, Judders and Dr Az. All came bearing liquor (and quality liquor at that – my friends have class), and I laid on some nibbles, played some cool tunes through the slinky iPod speakers Santa brought me, conversation flowed, merriment was made and 2007 was seen in in an atmosphere of love and laughter that bodes well for the year ahead.

Waking on 01/01/07 with only my second hangover in eight weeks (the first having been the morning after the South African…well I hadn’t had a chance to sleep off the drink!) I gladly accepted an invitation from The Ex to go round to his for the SW19 premier of Sarah Jane Adventures, the teatime Doctor Who spin off ostensibly for kids but which seems much more aimed at the The Gays than at The Brats. (There was some sort of plot involving an aggressively marketed fizzy drink whose shady but superficially altruistic manufacturer seemed set on world domination, which whilst serving as a clever critique of the current state of global capitalism was far less of a draw for me than the fact it had that Harley off Footballer’s Wives in it looking hot.) Smurphy and Judders - both as drunk as it is physiologically possible to be without the liver imploding – having left, I found myself in the very Noughties but less-uncomfortable-than-it-could-have-been position of chilling in front of the TV with The Ex and his new man in what used to be my front room. After a while (and eager to be on the sofa in time for The Vicar of Dibley) I headed home, washed up the glassware and threw out the debris from NYE, and settled down with a curry to see Dawn French tie the knot with him off Robin Hood. I cried, natch.

All of which brings us pretty much bang up to the minute, other than to update you all on how the drinking’s going…but that I think deserves a post of it’s own so watch, as ever, this space.

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Blog Design | 2007 Company Name