Friday, 28 November 2008

Looking like a true survivor

Feeling like a little kid: Galashiela's 'phoned this evening, four times without leaving a message, at 10.16, 10.17, 10.18 and 10.23; it feels exciting but a little scary having her trapped in my 'phone, like when I was 5 and caught a bee in a jar. It hummed furiously until I was sure I could feel the glass vibrating with its anger and I started to worry that, when I let it out again, it'd exact a painful revenge upon me. Galashiela in my 'phone feels like that...

So far, I'm loving Survivors, to the extent that I'm considering getting hold of a boxed set of the original series (it was a little before my time) for comparison. It's exactly the kind of slightly down-at-heel British apocalypse I like, what Brian Aldiss (in a spot of SF authorial bitchslapping of John Wyndham) termed "cosy catastrophe".

I like the cosiness - and occasionally clunky dialogue, the hint of twee (even Dexter, this week's gun-toting New Warlord is basically a minor Mad Max baddy in zip-up Fred Perry), the hovering spectres of Tom and Barbara Good. I quite like the fact that the lesbian doctor isn't out about being a lesbian or a doctor. I'm even tolerating the Lost-like tendency of this particular bunch of survivors to maintain immaculate make-up and/or clean-shavenness weeks after the catastrophe itself.

The only thing that's annoying me is the repeated montage of Alim and Najif unconvincingly "bonding" over football and chickens. Let's hope the sentimentalised Irresponsible Playboy Redeemed By Lovable Orphan (which, let's face it, began and ended with Annie) doesn't become a weekly fixture...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Band of gold

Bit of a panic today when, arriving at work, I realised my wedding ring (the word "wedding" sets my teeth on edge a bit in this context but "civil partnership ring" sounds more wrong somehow) was no longer on my finger.

A little over two years ago, shortly after we got hitched, I wrote the following:

Jewellery. Possibly more of an issue for men than women, but that's largely speculation and may be bollocks. I'm sitting here twirling the civil partnership (okay, wedding) ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. It's a simple band of white gold, slightly convex. Most of the time, I'm acutely aware of its presence: I feel like my finger sweats more underneath it and, in the shower, I worry that the little band of skin underneath won't get properly soaped/cleaned.

I'd love to put a psychological spin on this - ambivalence about partnership, fear of committment, etc - but I think it's largely about feeling uncomfortable with stuff on my body. When I sleep, I have to take everything off - clothes, watch, any jewellery - and the wear-it-alwaysness of my civ... wedding ring is still impinging upon my consciousness. I was hoping that, as with cats and their collars, I wouldn't notice it after a while. It's been a week, and I'm still acutely aware of it. It cost so much, though, that I daren't take it off; I know I'd lose it.

In the intervening time, I've got used to it to the extent that I feel acutely conscious of its absence. I wear it in my sleep. When my hands are cold, it seems looser (possibly it's the micro-stickiness of sweat that holds it in place) and can rattle up and down, sometimes slipping over the knuckle. When it's like that, I keep my fingers slightly crooked to stop it dropping off - but I worried today that it'd happened without me noticing.

The other possibility was that I'd forgotten to put it on again after this morning's shower. Heading out the door, I 'phoned TSB and asked him to check the bathroom... then promptly found it inside one of my gloves. I'd pulled it off my finger when I'd removed it.


Knee deep in the hoopla

Hmmm. You can tell it's been a good (or at least an alcohol-soaked) Duckie when it takes me several days to pen the comedown post.

Me and TSB undoubtedly drink more than the somewhat arbitrary Government-set Recommended Maximum Number Of Units. We went through a period not so long ago of not drinking at all during the week: this was all well and good but, come Friday, we were practically bursting forth from our respective workplaces like Bart Simpson on his skateboard, hurtling o'er bridge and under tunnel for Soho. Set the controls for the heart of the pub!

This weekday/weekend distinction's been relaxed a little and we sometimes break open the wine or G&T of an evening. We've yet to completely lose the Friday pub-scramble, though. We likes our booze, we does.

After the exotica of Liverpool Is Burning and last week's more cabaretastic pleasures, we were hankering for a chunk of ye olde original Readers Wifes. Kim Phaggs awol this week but Chelsea Kelsey ably assisted by Jock (with both Cloths on the door plus Amy and Simon, making a healthy five out of six) did the business, tickling our aural G-spots to perfection.

There's usually something visually engaging playing onstage at Duckie before the cabaret starts. We found ourselves increasingly engrossed in an evocative little black-and-white film about two apparently deaf-and-mute grafters in a grotty bedsit in 1950s London. The industrial landscape was all-encompassing, making both me and Mel (sporting the black version of her teardrop necklace) think of a host of Smiths songs. It occurred to me that the basic message of many (most?) of this kind of British drama of the period was Life Is Grim, Don't Get Ideas Above Your Station. In this case, there was a "moral" dimension too, as one of our hapless deaf-mutes canoodles, post-pub, with a young woman who's clearly No Better Than She Should Be - and subsequently dies, pushed off a wall into a canal by some feral children. With horrible irony, his friend passes by but doesn't see him and can't hear his cries. So he dies. The End. Life's a bummer. Don't Have Sex (With Tarts-With-Hearts).

We were all, including Gareth, briefly traumatised by this abrupt and rather shockingly downbeat ending. TSB later discovered the film is called Together and features the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (designer of the Tottenham Court Road Tube mosaic!) as the surviving main character.

Amy was working a vaguely '80s silver-and-black look, including a chunky pendant fashioned from what appeared to be a tea strainer.

Starting cabaret act was the first of two turns by Probe, a duo who performed a Fred 'n' Gingeresque dance in vintage evening dress. Very swish. As Theo, the handsome male half, stood at the front of the stage at the beginning, a voice to my left said thoughtfully and appreciatively, "quite big bulge" and we all tittered like big ol' gays.

They made it all look sooo easy.

Their second act was a more contemporary piece that took the piss out of po-faced contemporary dance ("and then I did this... and suddenly the gap between here and here became significant"). Quite a few Duckie virgins around (I'd found myself becoming Mr Crankypants Thirtysomething around them, particularly when they squawkily invaded the stage between acts and I felt compelled to tidy away a pint glass that seemed permanently on the verge of being knocked into the audience) and their attention seemed to drift a little during this part.

At one point, Antonia, the female Probe, put a foot wrong and fell backwards off the stage. There was an audible gasp of maybe half a second but she was caught in the arms of someone standing in the front row and sprang immediately back onstage as if on elastic. Impressive.

Final act was Marawa, hula hoop artiste extraordinaire. I've seen her before at Duckie (I think - Amy seems to have a particular love of hula hoopery and there've been a few hula girls over the years) and was excellent this time too, really working the crowd. Her calypso outfit, moves and some of her expressions (exaggerated by enormous fake eyelashes) reminded me of the bit at the beginning of Belleville Rendezvouz featuring the Josephine Baker caricature.

(Armwavey pint of beverage not photographer's own.)

'Twas a bit of an odd night for me, as I kept glimpsing an ex-colleague of mine in the middle of a moderately rowdy group of people (one of several birthdays in the RVT that night) and wondering if I should go over and say hello. At one point, I turned around to find him directly behind, looking right at me without a hint of recognition. I said (shouted) hello. Still no recognition. After a minute or two, I was reminded that my ex-colleague had a twin brother; it was he I was talking to. Heh.

Another in-house arts installation thingy, this time "being photographed taking poppers for free" (as Amy put it) in the Tavern's upstairs bathroom. At 1.30am, the results were projected onto the onstage screen and I was moderately glad I hadn't taken part.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Motherfuckers gonna drop the pressure

Saw Oedipus at the National Theatre this evening, starring dear dear old Ralphie Fiennes as the titular (and, frankly, tit-u-titter-at) Theban boy who loved his mother.

First time I've actually seen a Greek tragedy performed, and possibly the last. Not a great many laughs - not intentional, anyway - and little suspense. I spent much of the play thinking "oh for fuck's sake, how many hints do you need?" in response to Oedipus's phenomenal slowness on the uptake. Mind you, the clue's in the name, innit? I might as well criticise Shakespeare for being full of clichés.

The set was beautiful, a big, slowly revolving disc of tarnished bronze with an enormous set of double doors in the same verdigris. The all-male chorus was good too, vaguely reminiscent of a Welsh male voice choir when they burst into song. I liked the way the three shepherds (well, two shepherds and a messenger) echoed the three ages of Man, the answer to Oedipus's earlier answering of the Sphinx's riddle.

Ralphie himself was okay, possibly a touch hammy. For some reason, I've always found it difficult to warm to him as an actor and bits of Oedipus seemed overdone to the point where the audience was giggling. He had a tendency to leave odd ac-torly gaps in his phrasing and the bit at the end where he crawled around, blinded, seemed to go on forever. Clare Higgins as Jocasta was subtler in her mumsy grief; I found myself watching her quieter but somehow more expressive gestures. Mind you, she'll always stick in my mind as Julia, the blood-smeared yuppie from Hellraiser.

Our homeward Tube was stuck in a tunnel for maybe fifteen, twenty minutes because the driver of a train in front had felt unwell then collapsed. Considerate of him to do it in a station. A substitute driver had to be called. I twiddled my thumbs, while TSB commented loudly on which colours of nail polish might suit me rather than the coppery apricot I sported for Liverpool Is Burning.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sunday girl

It's Galashiela again, Sunday evening 10.02pm:

"Leanna, 'phone the shop and get off the house 'phone. Bye."

The plot thickens. No way am I 'phoning back and explaining it's a wrong number. That'd put an end to future voyeurdrama.

Relaxed Sunday, which is euphemism for Did Nothing Constructive Sunday. TSB and I react to boozy nights in completely different ways: I sleep late; he wakens early and wants to do stuff. Him still being on the current gym kick, he heads uptown, goes through his routine of cycling and rowing and sweating and showering, then 'phones me to plan lunch. I'm usually still dozing (this morning, I was phasing in and out of an alarming dream set in an exaggeratedly brown ITV version of the 1970s, in which I'd survived some kind of event that had turned almost everyone else into monsters-to-be-avoided but, I told myself within the dream, not zombies). I used to feel really guilty at my relative lack of exercise but, over time, that wash of guilt has faded to the merest twinge.

Leaving Duckie last night, we noticed that a Kennington hostelry, The Oval Lounge, seemed to be doing a special promotion for frequenters of the RVT (presumably because so many gayers schlep up and down Clapham/Kennington Park Road on their way to and from Vauxhall) so we decided to head there for Sunday lunch. Here's a pic from their Facebook group:

We found ourselves seated near a couple of appealingly camp black guys loudly discussing sexual technique (that all-important relaxing of the sphincter muscles) and a pair of vaguely Sloaney twentysomething women who were, bizarrely (because they really didn't seem the type), talking about the Bible. We decided one was inducting (indoctrinating?) the other into some sort of religious cult. I reckoned it was a cult with weird dietary restrictions because both of them were stick-thin and had been toying with glasses of water since we arrived - but they surprised us again by suddenly ordering the same main course that we'd plumped for, a towering roast-beef-and-veg based creation in an enormous soup bowl, drenched in red winey-tasting gravy and topped with a Yorkshire pud. A bulimic break, perhaps.

Anyway, lunch was delicious and there was plenty of it. We were just finishing up when the sound system - which had hitherto been playing inoffensive background muzak that sounded a bit like Air - started playing Return To Oz and we both went a bit melty. It was always my favourite Scissor Sisters track but never a single and they only rarely played it live. Realised I hadn't listened to it - or indeed, much of the first album - for aaages.

Here's a rather good fan video:

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Keep keep bleeding

After last weekend's jaunt up to Liverpool, me and TSB were all up for taking it easy this weekend: not straying too much from the pleasantly familiar routine of lunch, alcohol, Duckie, bed, lunch, alcohol, bed. In that order, obvieusement.

Saturday evening, though, we paid a flying pre-RVT visit to the Bread & Roses in Clapham, for our friend S's 30th birthday drinks. Getting off the Tube surrounded by slightly braying white boys in shirtsleeves, I was reminded of that tendency of straight people to band together in large, loud, underdressed packs the better to wander the High Streets of Britain. Hadn't seen S for ages and he'd put on weight but in the right way: always a looker, he now has an appealing upper body solidity. Yum. He'd been in the pub since 5pm but amazingly wasn't trashed. I remembered turning thirty and actually feeling quite good about the whole thing - like suddenly the pressure was off me to pay lip service to fashion or know what was Number 1 or whatever. I was free to indulge my incipient fogeyness.

Got to Duckie a little after 10. Only two of the Six there, Amy and Simon, making us somewhat apprehensive. Simon lovely as ever, though (his Movember 'tache noticeably bushier), chatting to us about Liverpool Is Burning and asking after the "beautiful woman" who'd accompanied me there, ho ho. Later, Amy acknowledged us from the stage as "hardcore" for having trekked up north and back. We felt duly smug. Our hostess was looking particularly good, in a long floaty blue-and-white ensemble, the Virgin Amy:

DJ Lush was standing in for the Wifes. I've said it before but it's true enough to bear repetition: the Readers Wifes really have spoiled us for other DJs. Lush is better than most and, if I'd never heard Kim Phaggs and Chelsea Kelsey, I'd probably be an enthusiastic, committed fan. She plays pretty decent stuff really, last night's selection a distinct improvement on the last time she DJed at Duckie, but her timing was wrong, somehow. With the Wifes, there's a sense of momentum steadily building throughout the evening - some songs are unfamiliar but consistent within the whole - whereas DJ Lush's choices seemed more random and, at times, misjudged. She played Starman really early in the evening and it was wasted on a not-yet-drunk-enough-to-sing-along audience. Ditto The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. There was a tendency toward recent indie rather than the from-any-era oddities characteristic of the Wifes, and she had a greater tolerance for longer, atmosphere-sapping tracks like Siouxsie & the Banshees' Monitor, which seemed to go on for a thousand years. I wouldn't even have known what it was if Gareth hadn't cheated by using Shazam. Suffice to say the pacing didn't really work for me.

I dunno, it feels a bit unfair to criticise a DJ for not being the same as the Wifes. On the other hand, Gareth left early and we followed shortly afterwards, around 1.15, only the second time ever we've left Duckie before the end. It just wasn't happening with the music and the crowd was an unusual one, too. A brace of scary blonde women had dumped their coats on the activity island (the new cloakroom?), a group of directionally-hairdoed Baby Gays were crowding us from the direction of the stage (for reasons which will become apparent in a moment) and the throng seemed more difficult than usual to push through to bar or toilet.

But! But but but! The cabaret was really rather good, with a thematic consistency uncommon to Duckie, that theme being mess. Ick. Gunk. Stickiness. Eww.

First up, one John Joseph Bibby, auburn-tressed beauty in an intricate frock apparently made entirely of paper. White paper had been taped over the whole stage, too (some tit spilt their drink on it earlier and several sheets had to be replaced with fresh ones).

Bibby began to sing, while an attractively monobrowed Frieda Kahlo lookalike daubed him with various colours of poster paint.

She finished up by tipping whole pots over him. By this time, we were being pinned against the activity island by the cowering Baby Gays. Paint is a nightmare to get out of one's Abercrombie & Fitch.

Act No.2 was a couple of Duckieites turned performers - according to Amy, a not uncommon trajectory - Justin Sweets and Caramel Miranda. The stage was set with all manner of sugary sprinkles, chews, hundreds & thousands... and a beeyoootiful high-calorie titfer was contrived:

The ickiness? Well, the tower of sundae glasses was glued together with liberal applications of lurid technicolour goo, squeezed from an icing bag. As with Bibby's paint, it went all over her hair. TSB, who's mildly phobic about such things, shuddered by my side.

There were occasional pauses to throw confectionery into the audience. I felt my tummy rumble and my fillings squeal.

"What," teased Amy, "could possibly follow that?"

A genuine(ish) beauty queen, Miss Teen South Carolina:

Apparently this was the burlesque performer Gypsy Wood, doing a word-perfect pisstake of this famous moment in beauty pageant history:

Poor (real) Miss Teen South Carolina...

A quick costume change later, our own Duckie version then proceeded to launch into her own dance interpretation of Whitney Houston's high Glycaemic Index gloopathon, The Greatest Love Of All (before she discovered crack, one assumes):

This in itself would've been funny enough - she managed to hit just the right note of hilarious almost-sincerity, without lapsing into all-out slapstick - but, all of a sudden, the crotch of Miss Teen South Carolina's pristine leotard began to well crimson...

... and blood seeped out and down her legs. This would've been shocking in any context (blood-red on white just is, presumably tapping into some ancient OMGbleedingtodeath reflex) but, happening in a roomful of (mostly) gay males, there was a collective gasp of horror as we were all reminded of womeny bits that bleed. Misogyny? Perhaps, but at least this act made me examine my own instinctive gay male "urgh" and it did so in an amusing way.

Miss Teen South Carolina slopped around in her own menstruum, finishing up blood-streaked and triumphant, Carrie-turned-cheerleader, to huge applause.

I was reminded of Amy's occasional scary headmistress persona, though, when a drunken arsewipe from the back of the room threw a piece of ice up onto the stage. Amy looked daggers into the audience, identifying the culprit; after the act's conclusion, she publicly invited him outside. Barred? Presumably. Throwing stuff at the performers is a definite Duckie no-no. Unless they invite it.

So... yeah. A Duckie where the cabaret was markedly better than the music. Not often that happens.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

All of the boys and the girls

(I started something I couldn't finish - well, not for almost a week. It's the picture-adding that's been particularly time-consuming. Here's my spiel pretty much verbatim, though.)

I'm writing this from the First Class compartment of a Virgin train, speeding back to Euston from Liverpool. I've always had a bit of a weakness for the Weekend First option whereby one can upgrade a Standard ticket and acquire, for the princely sum of 15, additional legroom, attractively Tripodsesque table lighting and unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits. I particularly associate the Weekend First option with Sundays, as during the year TSB and I were apart (2001-02, I think) one of us commuted every weekend - and that 15 upgrade was a real comforter during the depressing Sunday journey away from one's partner and back toward the working week.

I'm sipping my second half-bottle of Hardy's Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2007 and listening to Uptown Top Ranking, part of TSB's gym playlist on a borrowed ipod, the better to drown out a large woman with a larger voice, which is cutting through the privileged calm of Carriage J. Why is it that some people's voices seem to carry, particularly? It's not always about volume. American accents carry but our fellow passenger isn't American. TSB reckons it's about bass notes but I reckon it's about hardness/softness: I've experienced shrill or cut-glass accents that are equally hard to block out.

But! Blocked out she is, and I am enjoying a pleasingly mellow return trip to London Euston after the phantasmogoria that was this weekend's Duckie Grand Vogue Ball side-project, Liverpool Is Burning. A half-hour's scrubbing has (mostly) removed the Rimmel Gold polish from my nails but I'm very aware that I still have glitter in my beard...

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's go through it all in order. Firstoff, we arrived in Liverpool early afternoon on Saturday, having got up for what felt like an incredibly early Saturday 09.17 King's Cross train. Nice countryside but I'm not used to Saturday before midday and slept through about a third of it. Another intrusive voice on the way there but Liverpool-accented and thus a taster of things to come.

I'm a bit funny with accents. When I first came to London, it took me a while to get over the novelty of hearing accents I'd sort of considered fictional: for a few weeks at least, I felt like I was living in an episode of Eastenders. Same thing this weekend, except Brookside. Or Brooochhsayyyde.

Another stereotype was confirmed for me when the Adelphi Hotel - our accommodation and venue for Liverpool Is Burning - seemed full of people in cheap nylon shellsuits. Harry Enfield's moustachioed Scousers leapt to mind ("caaalm down") but it transpired that these were actually Russian (and/or East European) folk. At one point, a trio of giggly nylon-suited chaps tried, very ineptly, to take my and TSB's photos in the hotel lift, as we headed back to our rooms at a little after 1am. "If you want, we're happy to pose," I offered, slightly bemused at the fact that they were taking our photos when there'd been a wealth of much weirder and more wonderful creatures to goggle at, just a room or two away from Reception.

So... yes, we arrived at the Adelphi (wasn't it in some sort of hotel-based reality series a few years ago - The Hotel or something?), dumped our things in the room (comfortable bed but generally unimpressive for the price - no wi-fi, tacky marble-effect linoleum on the bathroom walls, chewing gum on the ceiling and a general sense of stickiness) and decided to explore Liverpool a little. Bumped into Ms Lame in Reception; she was in search of nail polish.

I liked Liverpool, what I saw of it. I seem instinctively to like or dislike cities and it had a good buzz, although it seemed peculiarly Caucasian (after London, almost everywhere seems jarringly white). We wandered down to the Albert Docks and ate at a rather impressively converted building called The Old Pumphouse (or something similarly faintly innuendo-suggestive). I'd got it into my head that I needed a black silk hanky to complete my outfit (it's all about the details, sweetie) and we couldn't find a pocket square anywhere - but eventually found a shinyish cotton handkerchief in Next.

Back at the Adelphi, things were hotting up. The public areas were much sexier than our bedroom, and we wandered through the grand atrium to the ballroom behind. Duckie's Simon was busy setting up a catwalk and lighting rig (the lighting was one of the best things about the show) but recognised us and took a moment to thank us for coming. Sweetie. He looked very cute later, in top-to-toe white with a Movember 'tache:

Meant to snooze - needed to snooze, really - but too excited about preparations and decided to run a bath and paint my nails. First time I've ever done it, but I think I did an okay job - it's not that different from painting window frames. The hair mascara (Copper and Gold) I'd bought to make my beard glittery was less successful: too subtle by half; I wanted something that'd make my face furniture shine like burnished bullion and it just looked like blonde highlights, not that metallic at all.

(Some odd noises outside our room while we were getting ready: sounded like someone in the corridor making grunting sounds while doing martial arts, or perhaps doing a David Brent style hip hop-inspired dance. Or maybe vogueing. Disconcerting.)

We'd spent aaages planning our outfits for Liverpool Is Burning. TSB had bought a rather lovely gold cocktail dress from Marks & Spencer and had been carb-bashing to fit it (in the event, he popped all three buttons over the the course of the evening). He'd rediscovered a dark bobbed wig we bought for Hallowe'en two years ago (when he was Clarice Starling and I Hannibal Lecter) and I'd bought him a black velvet pillbox hat with veil. His niece had got into the spirit, gifting him some wonderful black opera gloves and he'd decided on a sort of Jackie O vibe, buying a clutch bag, shades and jewellery to match. Make-up being something of an undiscovered country for both of us, he'd only bought lipstick (which became wilder and more Divine David as the night progressed).

My outfit was simpler, as it was defined by TSB's: I'd dressed as a sort of pimptastic companion, in coordinating black and gold. And, er, beige - lacking a white suit and hat, I had to make do with a cream suit and fawn-coloured Borsalino fedora, with my two-tone shoes and a sequined black shirt. Actually, the suit made me look vaguely '70s-seedy (especially with aviator shades), which was good. I pretended that's what I'd meant all along. TSB reckoned I looked like August Darnell (Kid Creole to me and you).

Gussied up to the nines, we moseyed down to Reception and the ballroom itself. It took a while for the place itself to open so we hung about, downed a couple of G&Ts and had our photos taken. When the ballroom opened there was something of a rush but we managed to secure catwalkside seats. This, it turned out, was a mixed blessing. We were excellently placed for maximal posing (especially if I used my camera flash - voguers quickly realised this was a good direction in which to strrrike a pose) but also seemed prime attractors for all manner of detritus from the stage: various grades of glitter, pages from a book (scattered by a most becoming Naked Civil Servant) and, memorably, a jacket kicked by Rikki Beadle-Blair almost directly into TSB's face. I don't think he meant to do this - he disrobed and I think he meant to dramatically dropkick his clothing over our heads into the crowd but, what with being a gay and therefore automatically rubbish at sport, went low - but it was shocking nonetheless. TSB's pillbox/fascinator went flying and had to be retrieved.

Beadle-Blair wasn't bad, actually. I've not really followed his career and tend to associate him with Metrosexuality, which was confusing to the point of unwatchability (although it included some sexy men, especially the motorcycle courier...). He was a good Master of Ceremonies for Liverpool Is Burning, mouthy enough to cover all eventualities.

Amy was leading the panel of judges, and did her job well. Other than Amy, Simon, the Readers Wifes and a few of the performers, I didn't recognise any Duckie regulars - an unusual situation. Amy was as glammed up as ever.

I tried to get a decent photo of the Readers Wifes but 'twas hard to get both looking in the same direction, engrossed as they were with the sound decks.

Vogueing. Other than the Madonna single and what little I'd gleaned about its subject, I knew nothing at all. I mean, I got the gist about it being a dance/performance craze among (mainly poor) black kids in the '80s, co-opted by Lady M. I hadn't realised it had endured, apparently developing and metamorphosing into different forms. I liked the idea of different Houses (very Harry Potter) competing in a number of sub-categories.

What I hadn't bargained for was the sheer bloody fabulousness of it all. Me being the one in charge of the camera, I wanted to photograph all of it. I had several camera crises in the course of the evening, the biggest being when I managed to fill a 1GB chip only around one quarter into the show. 317 high-res photos, me getting a tad snap-happy. I had to retire to the loos and delete a whole load to make space. We were perched down near the front of the wide bit of the catwalk and I soon realised that, in contrast to Duckie where using the flash can distract the performers, our beautiful voguers actively gravitated toward camera flashes, spinning on their heels and giving good face. I felt like a fashionista in the front row of a Paris collection, particularly with bearded Anna Wintour at my side.

TSB was very ladylike, sitting primly with legs together and clapping politely (whereas I, fingers festooned with cheap jewellery, found that, by the end of the night, I'd applauded so vigorously that I'd actually smashed the low-grade metal Gothrings out of shape and had some difficulty pulling them off the knuckles).

I was interested in how weirdly protective I felt of TSB en femme: I bought the drinks all evening and had to fight the impulse to hold doors open for him. Introjected chauvinism.

The show itself was opened by a live act and a performance from the House of Suarez. Even I realised the titular Darren Suarez's choreography was top-notch.

The categories themselves... First was WAGs: a cavalcade of shopping bags, mobile 'phones, tiny dogs and general blinginess. Enjoyable but, after a while, a little samey.

This category was won by the wonderfully exuberant (too much so for a decent pic) Gateau Chocolat.

Next was Retrosexual, any outfit from any period in history. This was a gorgeous section, featuring Wildean and Crispean dandies...

... and what was, for me, the most impressive procession of the evening (and not just because it featured beardy czars in uniform) from the House of Romanov, lead by Rasputin (looking not unlike Alan Moore)...

... with a massively crinolined Catherine the Great bringing up the rear, skirts sweeping the entire width of the catwalk:

The Retrosexual prize went to the hugely popular Miss High Leg Kick, whose fringe-peeping Diana (complete with camera-flashing paparazzi on tricycles) went down a storm. Gays and the People's Princess, eh? There was a collective rush to the stage, a reaching out to touch Diana's hand, as if she were the real thing. A deserved win.

Duckie performers were pretty well represented, really. Kicking off the Choreography round was a betailed, fandancing (and slightly Martin Degvillesque) Wee Lee.

Johnny Woo's House of Egypt built an impressive pyramid of sphinxes. Sturdy arm muscles on the bottom tier, there:

Femme Realness seems an odd concept to me, given the glorious unreality of the whole shebang generally, but apparently this is an authentic harking-back to the voguing contests of the '80s. To our delight (and despite stiff competition from local girl Beyonce), the prize went to another Duckie face, the lovely, statuesque Maur:

Beadle-Blair worshipped her. And rightfully so.

An honourable mention must go to the effervescent Miss High Leg Kick again, flashing glimpses of the scarily tumescent kapok cock beneath her frock.

I love Miss High Leg Kick. Everything she does has a twist, one in which she subverts expectations/stereotypes. She's effortlessly elegant but absolutely ready to put herself in performance situations which are anything but. After the show itself, she wandered around in little but a wig, heels, a comedy merkin and some alarmingly profuse sproutings of synthetic armpit hair.

The "Scally's Mum" category made me slightly uncomfortable. It's not that I've never laughed at Duckie cabaret acts which poke fun at Teh Working Classes but somehow, when act after act relies on the inherent funniness of badly-dressed "slags", smoking, drinking and smacking their kids up, it all starts to wear a little thin. Which is not to say I didn't enjoy the scrunchietastic winner, making us all duck for cover by whirling her child-on-a-leash in a wide circle over the heads of the audience.

The sexiest member of the judging panel, a Brandoesque Mr Roy, complained that the Fantasia category wasn't fantastic enough, and I'd have to agree. I was hoping for marvellous transhuman creatures aplenty and, in fact, it wasn't much different from Retrosexual. A few high points, though:

After Fantasia, a break then Orphans, a category for those individuals or groups unaffiliated with a particular House. Mr Roy gave a masterful demonstration of catwalking both masculine and feminine...

The Orphans were entertaining enough in a sort of Kids From Fame way. Highlights included a rather tasty piece of acrobatic manflesh close-up...

A suitably jazzhands finale (which was consistent with my general impression that, at least in Liverpool itself, many of those at the forefront of vogueing seem to be young and straight) and it all finally rolled to a stop. We'd been wondering all evening what would happen for the hour or so afterwards: would it switch abruptly to Duckie-at-the-Adelphi? Nope. It wasn't the Readers Wifes who took over but a chap from Horse Meat Disco, who continued in the same vein of (what I assumed to be) more-or-less authentic '70s/'80s New York disco. On the one hand, I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't the Duckie blend I know and love; on the other, the Readers Wifes' usual fare might've jarred after an evening in which the soundtrack was very much secondary to the visuals. That said, it did make me hanker for Duckie Classic choonz to dance (as opposed to vogue) to.

Here's a video of some of the performers preparing

and an excellently shot photo-montage here.

A not-too-horribly-drunken hotel room photo session later and we tumbled into bed. Got up in time to wander through a rainy Armistice Sunday Liverpool. Felt vaguely embarrassed not to be wearing a poppy.

The previous night's images still hanging in my head, there were moments when I'd clock a handsome man in an elaborate uniform and think for a split-second "ooh, he was in the Csar's parade!" before realising he was a bona fide member of today's armed forces...

A fabulous weekend. And, on the way back, no-one came and charged us extra for sitting in First. Hah!