Saturday, 3 October 2009

Don't know when I'll be back again

Bit of a maverick blog entry this, 2.30am and all the drunken sentimentality that entails. I apologise for none of this.

A couple of weeks ago, I made it along to my very first Bar Wotever. It's moved to Vauxhall now, so convenient for me for a drink on the way home and an early evening of Joe Poppism. I'd never met Joe Pop but had seen his very lovely photos. The man himself lived up to them in every sense, a beardy tattooed music meister, comin' atcha though the cornflakes!

Highlight of the night, for me, was Mr Pop's evocation of Mary Travers, the human-and-recognisable third of Peter, Paul & Mary. Joe P played Leaving On A Jet Plane, which is so wonderful and poignant it just has to be linked here:

I had a very pleasant discussion that night about the significance of Mary in terms of my early childhood. I was born in 1970, to parents who were, to some extent, limited by being the first in their respective families to aspire to a university education, and having both ventured outside the UK to practise their teaching.

I think they were confident professionally but less so in other areas of their lives. They'd have liked to have been hippies, but were too responsible to be properly bohemian. They made an effort, though. I grew up amid brown-painted walls, cane furniture, ostrich and peacock feathers (although this was a fairly brief trend) and my mother wafting around in maxi-dresses, sometimes risking the faintest hint of patchouli. Musically, my abiding memory of long car journeys is a mixed bag: Carpenters, Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Boney M...

Mary Travers' was the voice of my early life. I described it as a "female Oliver Postgate", and I stand by this. Postgate's was the voice of Bagpuss, the narrator of the Clangers. Hers was a profoundly reassuring tone, somehow pure and airy. And she was such a fabulously good Liberal, her voice seemed imbued humanist values. It really does come with a host of happy associations.

So... nice Wotever, but that's all for now. Later.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

It got colder, that's where it ends

Haven't posted here for months. All sorts of reasons and, simultaneously, no reason at all. It happens or it doesn't. Many's the time I've started writing a post and it's never come to fruition. That's just the way it goes.

There've been all sorts of lovely and important cultural events since I last posted. Maybe I'll get round to talking about them, maybe I won't.

I'm not long back, this evening, from a standard (I'm thinking of it as equivalent to Classic Coke) Duckie in terms of both Readers Wifes being present and correct. Amazing music, played in just the right order, some of it having gradually accreted danceable fabulousness over time (MGMT's Kids) and a good dollop of old favourite loveliness.

Amy commented on there being a "Back To School" vibe and, although my own work is constant through spring, summer, autumn and winter, I can see where she's coming from. I agree with Chelsea Kelsey about the crappiness of autumn creeping in and infecting everything. At the same time, I rather like the fact that it's chillier and we can start wearing different clothing. I've always liked coats; I suspect Echo and the Bunnymen scarred me.

The whole BAK TO SKOOL thing used to majorly hack me off as a child and teenager. I remember raging (in a middle class way) to my parents about the fact that shops placed huge placards outside their doors at this time of year ("why do they have to remind us our holiday's almost over?") and they assumed the most stupid, appalling spelling. If any sentient felines exist, I imagine they feel similarly about the lolcat phenomenon.

Forever Autumn has always linked, in my mind, with the War of the Worlds soundtrack. I can't listen to it without worrying - albeit distantly - about FUCK! ALIEN INVASION!!

(Possibly going to see District 9 tomorrow...)

It was an unusually quiet Duckie in terms of numbers. Rapunzel was there, as was my friend Justin. Amy made popcorn (which I smelled immediately upon entering the Tavern and) which troubled my dodgy teeth for a while and got irritated by the audience's apparent refusal to engage/click with her. I think they were actually distracted by Lazlo Pearlman's final reveal:

Sexy fucker.

The other act was a rather endearing punk-pop duo (or trio, counting their keyboard) Jean Genet, beautifully accessorised with eyeliner, black electrical tape and not much else. Sang a song about a fatal accident caused by Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time ("She's evil") and didn't take themselves at all seriously. Very cute.

Melanie Griffiths and Sal Solo were both present in our audience, or at least their lookalikes were. It was definitely a slightly autumnal, bittersweet Duckie. If it were me DJing, I would've played California Dreaming at some point. The whole thing that makes Duckie work, however, is the fact that the Readers Wifes aren't me. They're smarter than me, infinitely better at delving through past and present mehness to find the gems. That's what they're good at.

This is it, then, really. Lots of stuff since my last update and God knows when there'll be another. But hey ho.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

On such a winter's day

Gawd, it's been bloody aaages, hasn't it? Months. There's been reasons for my falling out of the habit of updating this blog but they're mostly a bit boring so I won't go into them right this minute. Here's a post I started writing on The Day It Snowed and never quite finished. Better late than never (and the photos are quite nice). Expect more catch-up over the next few days...


Snow started falling as I went to bed on Sunday night. Although doubtful that it'd lie, I set the alarm on my new 'phone for extra early o'clock. I woke to an odd light, the bedroom walls gently bathed in soft yellow sodium streetlamp diffused by and reflected off a thick layer of white. Pure white, blanketing everything. The other thing that was noticeable, at first almost subliminally, was the hush, a muffling of the usual distant London traffic roar.

Transport for London was all blue Suspended and Severe delays but my route to work seemed just about doable. So I piled on my heaviest sheepskin jacket, gloves, hat and boots and headed out.

8am South London was as I've never seen it before. My street was near-deserted, only a handful of sets of footprints breaking the ankle-depth white. No cars or buses. The sky was television static grey with a hint of yellow, promising more snow. Walking between half-submerged vehicles, with no-one else around, I got a flash of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and fancied myself sole survivor of a frostbound nuclear winter. Drama queen.

Turning into the more arterial roads, an overcoated businessman handed me his camera ("not as fancy as yours") and posed on a set of snow-coated steps for me to take his photo. In the park, more photos: a couple filming their young kid whooping and gurgling, possibly his first experience of snow. A group of Australians were throwing snow around and laughing; I wondered if it was also their first time. Londoners generally seemed lighter-hearted than usual, smiley and appealingly childlike; Narnia Englishness. I wished it could be Christmas every dayyy.

When I arrived at work, they marvelled at my having got here from South London, saying, "we were just waiting for you to call in" (which immediately made me wish I had called in). Ah well.

Much of the day was a bit of a wash-out. I bunked off and went home early, wandering through a cemetery and various parks and marvelling at the various snowmen. Already, the snow was looking trampled and off-white, and I missed the virginal crispness of the morning.

Here's the inevitable photos:

That last one is a snowy South London homage to Don't Look Now...

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Suddenly you're older

Another Saturday night in, I feel positively middle-aged. Oh well, Duckie next Saturday and both nights of the Big Bexhill Valentine's Weekend. Outfit crises a-brewing.

And it's not like this week has been a solid run of abstemious school nights. Wednesday was the Peter Tatchell fundraiser cabaret event at the Phoenix Artists Club. I'm not quite sure why Tatchell needs funds at the moment - maybe he's saving up to punch the Pope or something - but no-one could argue with the line-up of fabulous gay artistes, many of them familiar from the Axis of Duckie.

Bit of a last minute decision on our part but me and TSB hung around in Soho after work for a few hours before toddling along to the Phoenix, where everything is setting up. Coincidentally, I'd seen the venue only a week earlier when Mel took us there, and I'd liked it so much I'd joined up on the spot. £120 a year isn't bad for a quiet(ish) spot in Soho where one can be guaranteed a seat of a Friday. And I like the general atmosphere, the clutter of theatrical bric-a-brac.

On Wednesday, there was a clutter of theatrical queens. Having lived a while in London, with its large-enough-to-self-segregate gay scene, I don't tend to come across that particular subgroup of Gay Men Of A Certain Age very often. When I lived in Scotland, the scene was much smaller, so bars and clubs and "gay events" were more diverse, in terms of age range. Here, the likes of Duckie (with its "playgroup for the over-30s" vibe) are more varied than most, but one would have to venture to the Quebec to see the sixtysomethings at play.

Chatting with DawnRightNasty, we agreed that it was refreshing to see so many of this older demographic: it bolstered one's confidence that queer social life doesn't end at thirty, or forty, or sixty, or whenever. Lots of nice cashmere coats and a sprinkling of growing-old-disgracefully leather. If I'm as attractively dapper in my sixties as these guys, I'll be very happy indeed.

Oh, speaking of sexy older men, Brian Paddick was there for a little while, looking very fanciable. I think I'm developing a bit of a crush on him...

And so, on with the show! We parked ourselves in the Members Bar at the back and watched the main area become progressively busier. Nathan Evans, David Hoyle and DawnRightNasty were sitting nearby, and were later joined by Fred Bear - all very Vauxhallville. My eye was caught by a rather dashing (and oddly familiar-looking) chap in distinctly Victorian white tie and tails. Turned out he was one of the MCs, Mr Meredith (Luke? I didn't catch his first name). The acts were introduced, the first being Earl Grey reprising his Queen's Speech. Clever, funny stuff, but I rather missed his Vivien Leigh. Caught him afterwards:

I missed a few of the following acts, having become engrossed in conversation with the ever-fascinating TSB. There was a poet called Ernesto Somethingorother, a striking latex geisha Miss Akimbo, QBoy and the very lovely Le Gateau Chocolat. I'd seen the latter (very deservedly) win one of the voguing categories at Liverpool Is Burning but it was a bit of a revelation to hear him sing. I liked his version of The Man That Got Away. Here he is with Miss Akimbo:

I pushed through the crowded main bar to grab a photo of Dickie Beau then retreated to a more comfortable spot to enjoy his extraordinary Judy Garland monologue. Despite having seen it before, this was just as emotionally engaging, holding the audience spellbound. Where I was standing, people were making little gasps at points of particular intensity.

I briefly chatted to Dickie Beau afterwards and drunkenly gushed at him a bit. As I do.

An angelic-looking David Hoyle was introduced as the last act. I think I liked him; he's so out of the ordinary that sometimes it's hard to tell...

Fred Bear had got togged up in a very cute outfit (I got to feel his scut!) and I was initially disappointed that they'd run out of time for him to perform. David Hoyle brought him up on stage, though.

How does he get his facial hair to look so immaculately handlebartastic? I have moustache envy.

He finished off with a spot of bearbacking:

We drank far too much wine for a school night and indulged in the traditional-but-ill-advised ritual of popping into filthy, seedy ol' 79CXR for a final one for the road. Boozehounds.

Face it, she's Madonna

Well, the tickets arrived in today's post for Morrissey's birthday concert at the Manchester Apollo on the 22nd of May. He'll be fifty. Hopefully the ol' fella won't pull a sickie this time, as he did with his Roundhouse gigs a year or so ago. Predictably, I Have Forgiven Morrissey. Live, when he's good, the cantankerous old bugger is very very good. I do miss the stage invasions of old, though.

He's looking really rather buff on the contttrroversial artwork for the new album:

It strikes me as a sort of cross between an alternative Madonna & Child (Moz wearing the Holy Virgin's blue) and the Michael Jackson's infamous Dangling Blanket Over The Balcony pic. His forthcoming 7-inch is also pretty impressive. I'm throwing my arms around all of them.

Oh, and here's a sample of my Moz-themed attempts at atheist bus sloganeering:

Monday, 26 January 2009

Paved paradise

Home after working late this evening, and still a bit adrenaline-jittery from having been rude to a black cab driver. Sort of. I'm never rude to London cabbies. Generally speaking, I quite like 'em: the stereotypical right wing ones are rarer than one might think and when I do encounter them, they seem almost quaint; clichéd bit players in a panto Life On Mars. Comedy bigots. If the drive through Vauxhall is lightly drizzled with homophobic banter, I ponder whether to out myself as one of those before the end of the journey, watch the backtracking. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Anyway, I decided to indulge myself and catch a cab home. Very much against le craquement de crédit but I felt I'd earned it. Like in Fame but I'd paid in paperwork rather than sweat.

January's not a good time for taxi drivers anyway, and I approach a rank full of cabs but empty of punters. At the head is a burgundy-coloured vehicle with a nondescript Leo Sayer-haired chap up front. I've cabbed it home many times in the past, just south of the river. I confidently tell the driver my destination. He looks at me suspiciously.


I tell him the street name and he shrugs dismissively. I tell him the nearest arterial route. I know from previous cab rides that it's a central element of The Knowledge; all cabbies have heard of it. He makes a "whatevs" gesture. Slightly irked that he's leaving me standing in the wind while he reluctantly considers my fare potential, I glance at the long line of cars behind Burgundy Boy. Any one of them would happily take me, I'm sure. Burgundy Boy purses his lips.

"I'll take you but I'm not going through any estates."

(The same tone one might employ for saying, "I'm not doing scat". And the same expression.)

"Uh, okay. No estates." I said, bemused. And get in.

He pulls away from the taxi rank, starting to explain himself in a manner verging on accusatory:

BB: Thirty years I've been driving and I've been mugged twice. Guess where.

Me: I don't know.

BB: Guess!

Me: Um, South London?

BB: South East London. I'd be happy never to cross a bridge again. I work up here, I never have to go there. It's a loss leader; you can't get a fare back...

He continues to mutter and tut, radiating resentment. He seems to want me to feel ashamed of where I want to travel to, where I live. I start to regret not having made a break for the second taxi in the rank. Or the third. Ruefully, I conclude that we're already far enough away that I'd have to stand around and wait to hail another one if I got out. And there'd be confrontation, a scene; I'm not good at that.

I marvel that a cabbie reportedly of thirty years' standing seems completely unaware of one of the main routes through South London - and wholly unconcerned at his own ignorance. Proud of it, even.

We proceed in silence for a bit, save for the occasional sigh from the front seat. I text. I'm not great with silence and, after a while, I break it.

"Um... did you get mugged recently?"

Wrong question.

"Three years ago, the last time. Shithole. Animals."

Okayy, I think, that's my shithole. Let's try some empathy, though. I make the right noises. Then, recalling the time I was rather ineffectually mugged (once in eight years; not yet sure whether that gives me a better or worse batting average than Burgundy Boy), having made the somewhat unwise decision after a drunken Christmas night out, to take a short cut home across an unlit stretch of parkland in darkest Kennington, I begin telling him about it. BB cuts straight across my anecdote:

"That's what you get for choosing to live there."

Rrright. Another quick mental calculation of how long it'd take me to get home from here, on foot or waiting to hail another cab. I know TSB has dinner cooking. I stay in the cab, quietly hating the back of BB's head. He seems to be warming to his theme.

"We've had a run of attacks on cabs. They wait at the lights, jump on the bonnet, try to smash through the windscreen. It's not worth my while going south of the river, I'm not paid enough. It's one big shithole. Walworth Road used to be okay in the '70s but not now. Not now."

He seems palpably pissed off now. I wonder why he even took the fare. Feeling faintly disgusted with myself for succumbing to such a classist tack, I try to reassure him that he won't have to stop in any "estates" to get to my Victorian terrace.

"If it's a nice Victorian street, that probably attracts them."

This is all really weird to me. I remember when I first came to London, I'd worried about choosing to live south of the river. Would taxis go there? I've probably discussed this with a dozen or so cabbies over the years and, before BB, they'd all laughed at me. Apparently the no-fares-south thing was true in the moderately distant past but hasn't been for well over a decade. It's passed into the realms of mythology. BB doesn't seem to have got the memo and, as we cross Vauxhall Bridge, he continues to grouse and grump. Over the bridge, he gets into the wrong lane and comes to rest at the traffic lights straddling left and centre. When the lights change, he'll have to nudge left into the traffic stream.

"I'm going to drive very defensively," he informs me, "in case I need to get out in a hurry."

He gestures toward another black cab on his left, next to the pavement.

"I'd be shitting myself if I was him."

Fucking hell, I think, we're at the lights opposite the sodding Hoist. Faintly threatening (in a camp way), possibly, but downtown Gaza it ain't. A third black cab moves across to the right, and BB takes this as validation of his paranoia ("he's got the same idea as me, getting out of here"), a paranoia that's now making me very angry indeed. Okay, I'm sorry he got mugged but, frankly, he's been a rude, sullen arsehole, rolling out sweepingly negative generalisations throughout this journey, making me feel he's doing a colossal favour rather than, y'know, his job. My sympathy is eclipsed by mounting irritation. And I'm almost home.

"I tell you, the Association will soon stop us crossing the river. No point going somewhere you know you're not going to be safe. I don't get paid enough to risk my neck coming here..."

As he finally reaches the end of my (utterly unremarkable) street, I tell him to stop. He does so, peering around fearfully. He keeps the cab door locked until I hand him the money. I'm usually a good tipper but I make an exception for BB. In the course of my journey, he's made me feel shitty, almost apologetic about where I live, a bit of London I love. I hate that he's been able to engender this shittiness. I'm trembling with cold rage.

I pause, before closing the door. As is customary, I thank him, impulsively adding, "and grow a fucking spine."

And speed-walk smartly down my street toward my front door, repeating don'tcomeaftermedon'tcomeafterme. He doesn't come after me.

Big yellow wanker. Tube next time, certainement.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Too many people

After a typically raucous Quiet Drink on Friday (Retro Bar, Phoenix Artist Club - sans Peter Kay - then home for more) it's been a low-key weekend, not just for me and TSB but for most people we know. End of the month, I guess. I've certainly caught up with sleep, to the extent that I got that weird grogginess that comes sometimes from too much shut-eye.

Although feeling generally cheerier, I've been feeling slightly more irritable than usual with my fellow human beings this weekend - the straight, white middle-class London stratum in particular. I'm not entirely sure why, I guess I've just been noticing 'em getting in my way more. We decided to take advantage of the excellent value Sunday roast at the Oval Lounge today. Meal went fine but towards the end, a vast group of thirtysomething couples seemed to descend on our end of the room. They occupied the two large round tables, dumped their square acre of baby/toddler paraphernalia around our little table-for-two and began milling around. One or two (the women, generally) realised they were crowding us and other diners and apologised; the others just carried on. It felt oddly claustrophobic and we paid our bill and scarpered. Heterosexual privilege, eh? I wouldn't mind them so much if they didn't evidently feel an exhibitionistic need to shove their lifestyle in my face...

I remembered feeling crowded earlier in the week, seated on a District Line carriage which filled up at Earls Court. Three blonde women, maybe mid-20s, stood over me, bellowing into each others' faces in the manner of Masterchef's John 'n' Greg, despite being only a couple of feet apart. One was American, the other two slightly braying English. I realised they were talking about their mutual experience as stewards/counselors in some sort of summer camp.

American Woman: You remember that fat girl?

English Woman 1: Yah.

AW: The one with diabetes?

English Woman 2: Yah, what about her?

AW: I hope she's dead now.

What lovely specimens of humanity. Must admit, though, I did titter.