Sunday, 2 November 2008

Crushed by the wheels

Here we are again, the by-now-traditional post-Duckie blog entry! TSB was remarking the other day on how easily we seem to have slipped into the habit of going along there every Saturday night. It's true: we always thought of it as Our Local but it's also become the backbone of our weekend socialising. Which is quite nice, really. I enjoy the familiarity of being a Duckie regular, our habitual place at the activity island (it would feel slightly strange now if we had to stand in another part of the club), the mix of old faces and new... There's a sort of shared sensibility there.

As I edge toward 40, I find I'm developing all sorts of comfortable routines. Saturdays, for example: usually, we'll have been out after work, come back and watched the telly with a bottle of wine (this week, the harrowing/moving finale of Dead Set), so the day begins gently for me. In contrast to TSB , who heads gymwards, I either luxuriate in bed, get up and head out to the Post Office if I've got parcels to collect (this week, my spangly shirt arrived for Liverpool Is Burning - hooray!) or, if in a self-indulgent mood, trek to New Covent Garden Flower Market. Even if I'm not planning on buying plants or flowers, just looking around the place is exhilarating. If one gets exhilarated by that sort of thing, which I do.

Next, I'll meet TSB in town for lunch. Again, we've drifted into a routine of Saturday lunchtime in Balans - but only if there's a table in the front section, as near the window as possible. More than half the attraction of Balans is watching the world go by. Yesterday, Novice Theory wandered past, looking attractively rainswept. Balans bills tend to mount up but watching The Restaurant (poor Owlboy and Muscleboy wuz robbed, robbed I tell you!) has been instructive in this regard. We now know the real money-spinners are cocktails, side-dishes, bread and desserts, so we tend to avoid those (apart from dessert; I regularly succumb to their sticky toffee pudding). Not completely in the spirit of le craquement de crédit but there y'go.

Sometimes haircuts or a geekular visit to Gosh! Comics then home to cocoon, notching up at least a couple of hours' sleep prior to Duckie.

So... that's the standard Saturday chez QueerRoyale and TheSpectacledBear. This week, we were half-thinking of heading out to the ICA's Hallowe'en party. TSB had been away in Scotland, though, and had only just returned, so a night in seemed nicer. Had my costume all planned too! Here's me as Rorschach from Watchmen:

Blurriness intentional (*koff*). Let's call it "arty".

Wonderful having TSB back: even a short period of separation is enough to remind me how much I love, want and need him (yes yes, sickbags under your chairs). An afternoon snooze and we were up and ready for the "Boxing Day of Hallowe'en" (copyright, Kim Phaggs) Duckie. Was vaguely thinking of attempting a cravat this week, having previously envied Father Cloth's natty neckwear but, as I was wearing a black shirt, it was difficult to contrive anything that wasn't unpleasantly reminiscent of Russell Brand. Topical, but not a good look for me. In the end I went without but did take along the Good Camera this time, in part because I want to take it along to Liverpool Is Burning next week and reckoned I needed practice handling it on a dancefloor. It was less problematic than expected, really, not much more hassle than dancing with a drink in one's hand. I dropped the lens cap on the floor a couple of times but managed to drop my glasses once, too; I was Mr Butterfingers generally. But actually dancing with it was okay: slung across my shoulder, I could curl one hand protectively around it; it jutted from my right hip like a stubby, anatomically misplaced erection but didn't seem to get in anyone's way. Mmm... Freudian...

Amy was red, white and blue and a large star-spangled banner was draped above the activity island, where a ballot box was available for one to vote in a Duckie special election for US president. Unsurprisingly, there was an Obamatastic 54-vote majority but five people would've voted for McCain. Amy diplomatically commented that "we will hunt you down and kill you". You betcha!

Also wandering around the floor was a large cardboard box on legs, with a handle:

This contained Roy Kerr, one of the evening's acts. When his door was opened, he'd act the part of a concerned neighbour, apologising for taking up one's time and engaging one in a doorstep conversation. When I obligingly grasped his knob, he talked about wanting to organise a neighbourhood protest against a family of "dwarfs" who'd moved in. Could he count on my support? Don't want no short people round here. NIMBY. Enjoyable nonsense.

First stage act was Bourgeois & Maurice, who I'd heard about but never seen. They sang two songs, about self-harm (pushing pins into one's skin) and voting for Bourgeois & Maurice (chorus something about getting on a train, a bus, a 'plane and fucking off because "YOU DON'T MATTER AT ALL!". Or thereabouts). I liked them a lot but felt they suffered from having the first slot, when the crowd's not quite at the optimal level of boozy participation. They were the best act of the night, and I'd have reversed the running order, putting them on last.

Niiice blue leather suit...

... and a pleasing strip to red sequins:

Here they are on YouTube:

The second act, Villain, was a sort of Europunk affair. At least, I think they were; they'd just been performing in Moscow and lived in South London (Peckham and Camberwell) but one of them was Danish. Or something. Their music was catchy enough (including a rather good deconstruction of Madonna's Like A Virgin) but I must admit I was more tickled by their visual presentation. Great make-up:

The last act, Ambrose Martos, was pants. Literally. He came on in a white bathrobe and stripped off maybe a dozen pairs of underpants, periodically flashing to reveal... his cock. Oookay. As Amy said, "potential boyfriend material for someone here".

The memorable element of this particular Duckie, for me, wasn't the cabaret or the music or the interactive stuff, but something that happened on the dancefloor. Just before Amy went onstage, a man in a stripey top came through the crowd asking us to move back. We did, and a man and woman in wheelchairs came through, the crowd (mercifully not a sardine-tin Duckie) pressed back to let them park themselves in front of the activity island to watch the cabaret.

Having shuffled back to allow them to pass, then found myself displaced, my first response was one of irritation. That's our place! They're taking up all that space! I recalled a time when someone had done something similar then, at a certain point in the evening, got up from their wheelchair and danced, absolutely incensing me. These guys didn't pull an Andy Pipkin, seemed to be enjoying the evening and I quickly began feeling ashamed of my initial reaction to their presence in the club. I'm told the only London gay club with full disabled access is XXL. Everywhere else has parts which are difficult or impossible for the non able-bodied. Duckie is frequently packed to capacity (and beyond) and can be tricky to traverse at the best of times. It's not at all well suited to a wheelchair. But should this mean wheelchair users feel obliged to stay away? Obviously not. And the fact that the club, like the vast majority, isn't designed to accommodate their wheelchairs is hardly the fault of the occupants themselves.

Thinking about it further, I wonder whether my initial annoyance was also partly because the people in the chairs were male and female, and I made the assumption that we were being shunted out of our stagefront position by heterosexuals. A lot of assuming going on there and even if I'm correct, I'm not sure to what extent sexuality is of relevance in this situation. If they were straight, would my piqued entitlement be any more valid? I really don't know.


Gareth said...

I have a morbid fear of dropping my specs on the floor of Duckie, I suspect they would not survive.

Is it bad that I've not been to New Covent Garden.

How can anyone with a brain vote for McCain - unless they are big chip fans.

I remember a few years ago that a wheelchair using punter, managed to get her chair on to the stage

Pogonophile said...

I've dropped my specs on the floor on several occasions and, amazingly, they've never been damaged. I do feel a bit Velma-from-Scooby Doo, though, dropping to my hands and knees to hunt for them. "My glasses!"

New Covent Garden's excellent for an early morning visit. I'd have thought you being a bit of a culinary whiz would've checked out the foodie bit for ingredients.

Ha, I love the idea of wheelchairs on stage at Duckie. Was this during the dancing-onstage bit that sometimes happens at the end?

Owen said...

It must be years since I last went to Duckie but activity island (as it came to be called) was the place to be.

Pogonophile said...

For a while when we first started going regularly, we used to sit up at the back. That got a bit boring, though, especially when the acts were on, so we gravitated to the front. Occasionally when it's busy, I'll think, "fuck, we're trying to stand in a major thoroughfare" but, frankly, Duckie is all major thoroughfare...