Highly respected and influential Destination Blogger comes back from a blogmeet and posts almost nothing for two weeks; world keeps turning SHOCKAH.

So, explain this to me.

I’ve been weighing myself every weekday morning for about six weeks now. Frustratingly, and despite making a conscious effort to watch what I eat (K’s got me on starvation rations), my weight continues to oscillate between two fixed points: 11:4 and 11:8. (That’s stones and pounds; can’t be arsed to do metric conversions.)

Indeed, the only time I’ve ever dipped below 11:4 was over the weekend of the Secret London Gathering Of Extremely Nervous People With Weblogs, where a combination of a) forgetting to eat anything more than railway sandwiches and b) a heightened state of anxiety at Facing One’s Peers sent me briefly plummeting to 11:3 and a bit.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a large cooked FREE! lunch at Broadway cinema (the third occasion where blogging has earnt me a free lunch, but we’ll come to that another time), before chowing down on another large cooked FREE! supper at The Dragon. (Part office social, part colleague’s leaving do; see you around, A.)

I then proceeded to sit on my fat arse in the same pub for the best part of six hours, during the course of which I necked five pints of Adnams bitter. Not what you might call one of my healthiest days, then.

Perhaps this would be a good moment to explain my morning getting-out-of-bed routine, which is precision gauged to deliver optimal results. Whereas in the old Who Gives A F**k If I’m Fat days, I would…

1. Wake up.
2. Drink a pint of water in bed.
3. Have a wee.

…my new routine goes like this…

1. Wake up.
2. Have a wee.
3. Weigh myself.
4. Drink a pint of water.

…because when you’re watching your weight, it helps if you’re as, um, empty as possible. Come on, I’m no fool.

This morning, imagine my astonishment to find myself checking in at 11 stone, TWO AND A HALF POUNDS! A new record! Why, I’m positively sylph-like! I hardly have to breathe in, or anything!

I can only deduce that alcohol-induced dehydration works wonders for the figure.

Good. Better start doing it more often, then.

(I am SO hitting NG1 after tonight’s Broadcast gig. They’ll have to beat them off me with a shitty stick.)

The Dong with a Luminous Nose.

Sunday, late afternoon. Mike is sitting on the bench at the far end of the long lawn, back to the street, newspaper in hand. K approaches, bearing two cups of Earl Grey. Mike looks up.

M: The tip of your nose is all shiny and orange.

K: Oh, I think I know how that happened. Shit!

M: What did you do?

K: This is so embarrassing…

M: Come on, tell me.

K: I was, er, sniffing the day lilies. You know, while I was dead-heading them. I must have stuck my nose in a bit too far.

M: Eurgh, lily crap!

K: Awful stuff. Has it gone yet?

M: No, you need to give it more of a wipe. Try wetting your finger. Almost. Yep, all gone.

K: Oh dear, that’s just so…

M: Don’t worry. It’s a commonly observed condition.

K: What’s that, then?

M: Ponce-nez.

K: Hahahahaha!

M: Hahahahaha!

K: That would make a good little vignette on your blog. Are you going to write it up?

M: I’ll think about it.

K: Ponce-nez! Hahahahaha!

Unintentional mini-hiatus.

I dare say that some of you might be wondering where I have been. Well, it has been a funny old week.

First and foremost, there was the Work Thing. All of a sudden, what had seemed like a comfortable and achievable deadline became very imminent, very risky, scarily dependent on other random factors outside of my control, and absolutely, one hundred percent, on-pain-of-death (my death, not anyone else’s) unmissable. So, I’ve had to pull the stops out a bit. Head down, fingers flying, phones a-ringing, e-mails a-pinging, poor little brain a-spinning, push push push nag nag nag questions questions questions politics politics politics…

…and we made it. Lunchtime today, everybody happy, no egg on face, no money down the drain, no wasted flights next week, pats on backs all round.

You know the really scary thing? I actually rather enjoyed the experience. Arbeit macht frei, or something. Also, despite the pressure, I have remained weirdly calm throughout. Well, it’s not as if I could afford the luxury of panic.

None of this was helped by my streaming head cold, which kicked in last Sunday and has been ravaging my system ever since. (It did seem like rather a disproportionate hangover, especially after the second day.) I’ve also had problems sleeping for the past week – something from which I almost never suffer.

Added to this, my evenings have been unusually full, with little or no time between leaving work and commencing the evening’s activity: a concert, a meal, and a major re-organisation of the Nottingham house (we’ve just had the decorators in).

So… blogging? Pah! Leave it out! Basically, I’ve had neither the time, the energy nor the headspace. Hell, I’ve barely even been reading them, let alone writing them. Normally, I’d be looking forward to catching up over the weekend – but we’ve got a Nuclear Family coming to stay (Mum, Dad, two little smashers) from tonight until Sunday. Charming people, but the prospect of playing the Perky Host all weekend feels a little daunting right now. Never has the tantalising mirage of couch, wine and crap Friday night telly seemed more alluring.

I wasn’t put on this earth to toil and to suffer. Normality (and articulacy) should return next week. Have a nice weekend!

Inner voices.

Something occurred to me earlier today.

A lot of my favourite weblogs are what you might call “personality based”, ie. where the unique, distinct personality of the blogger is clearly discernible in the writing style.

When reading these blogs, I will often imagine that they are being read out loud by their author. Consequently, a little “performance” voice will switch itself on in my head, as I start to dramatise the reading to myself: accents, cadences, pauses, the lot. (It must be the repressed thesp in me.) This phenomenon is particularly evident when I have either never met the blogger in question, or else have no tangible memory of their speaking voice.

Right now, I’m particularly proud of my Guyana-Gyal: a blog which absolutely reads to me as if it were the script for a series of filmed monologues.

Does anyone else ever do this? Have you ever done this while reading this site? And if so, then did my podcasts make any difference to your interpretation? (I ask this because my Naked Blog voice has shifted somewhat, after hearing Peter recite some of his posts.)

This is torture!

I would love to tell you which celebrity K is talking to right now, even as I type – but the information is, as they say, “embargoed”. All I can safely say is this: she has been on the front cover of Heat, Hello and OK, and her level of celebrity was sufficient to send K into a MAJOR Outfit Tizz yesterday evening.

(It took a good hour, several jackets, most of his smart trousers, and his entire shoe collection – but the Paul Smith suit we eventually selected combined vet-friendly brown corduroy with a sharp, celebrity-compatible cut. I could charge for this sort of work, you know.)

The trouble is: I hate having to keep secrets. One of life’s blabbermouths, that’s me. Mainly because I can never quite see the point of secrets, even when the need for them is screamingly obvious to anyone else with half a brain. There’s just something about the whole concept of secrecy which bothers me; a hangover from the whole “coming out” process, no doubt. For once you’ve broken free from a secret as major as your sexual orientation, it is tempting to view all “lesser” secrets as not worth keeping. It’s a strange kind of naïve adolescent idealism, which I’ve never fully grown out of.

I am also burdened with a more childlike desire: to be The One Who Breaks The Big Story. There is something delicious and irresistable about watching people react to a juicy piece of news which I HAVE TOLD THEM; it makes me feel all Important and Special, rather like that awful gossipy elephant in Dumbo. Combine these two factors, stir in my abilities as a Good Listener (providing you’ve got some good dirt to dish, that is) – and you’re left with a dangerously unmanageable personality trait, which has got me into some awful trouble over the years.

Perhaps I should have gone into journalism years ago.

STOP PRESS: The embargo has been LIFTED!

Tell you what: let’s play Name That Celebrity Twenty Questions in the comments box. One question per person please, and your question should be phrased so as to expect either a “Yes” or a “No” answer.

Readers of the Brighton Argus – and I’m sure there are many – will be able to discover the answer for themselves in Friday’s edition.

Off you go!

Note 1: As this celebrity is not widely known outside the UK, overseas readers will be operating with a fairly massive handicap.

Note 2: Alan, Dymbel, Mish and JP are forbidden from participating. Well, breaking the embargo to carefully selected confidantes is no crime, is it? Quod erat demonstrandum, I guess.

1980s “New Pop” – my personal top 50.

Because it has been far too long since I posted one of my meaningless music-geek lists – and in honour of Pitchfork magazine’s noble effort, which appeared earlier this week (not at all bad for a bunch of Americans!) – here’s a list of my favourite singles from the so-called “New Pop” era, as championed by the likes of Paul Morley in the NME during the early 1980s.

The rules for inclusion are: one track per act, singles only, UK artists only, nothing before Buggles or after Band Aid.

1 – Poison Arrow – ABC
2 – Party Fears Two – the Associates
3 – The “Sweetest Girl” – Scritti Politti
4 – Duel – Propaganda
5 – Love Action – Human League
6 – Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
7 – Temptation – New Order
8 – Ghosts – Japan
9 – Poor Old Soul – Orange Juice
10 – Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
11 – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – Soft Cell
12 – Time (Clock Of The Heart) – Culture Club
13 – Our Lips Are Sealed – Fun Boy 3
14 – It’s Going To Happen! – The Undertones
15 – Candyskin – Fire Engines
16 – Promised You A Miracle – Simple Minds
17 – Videotheque – Dollar
18 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing – Heaven 17
19 – Cambodia – Kim Wilde
20 – Souvenir – OMD
21 – C30 C60 C90 Go! – Bow Wow Wow
22 – Video Killed The Radio Star – Buggles
23 – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) – Haircut 100
24 – Sorry For Laughing – Josef K
25 – My Camera Never Lies – Bucks Fizz
26 – Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
27 – Wham Rap – Wham!
28 – Stop That Girl – Vic Godard & The Subway Sect
29 – Baby It’s True – Mari Wilson
30 – Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant
31 – Save It For Later – The Beat
32 – The Story Of The Blues – Wah!
33 – Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
34 – Fade To Grey – Visage
35 – Ever So Lonely – Monsoon
36 – Buffalo Gals – Malcom McClaren
37 – Forbidden Colours – Sylvian/Sakamoto
38 – Ghost Town – the Specials
39 – Snobbery And Decay – Act
40 – Chant No. 1 – Spandau Ballet
41 – Dog Eat Dog – Adam and the Ants
42 – Beat Box – the Art of Noise
43 – Our House – Madness
44 – Only You – Yazoo
45 – Am I Normal? – David
46 – Don’t Talk To Me About Love – Altered Images
47 – Cruel Summer – Bananarama
48 – A Song From Under The Floorboards – Magazine
49 – Uncertain Smile – The The
50 – I’m In Love With A German Film Star – The Passions

What would you have added to the list?

Countdown to civil partnership: making plans for that special day, with Mike and K.

– Did you get your web access back at work today?

– Yes, we did.

– So have you got round to reading the final part of my “wedding” series yet?

– Oh, didn’t you see my comment?

– Well, there wasn’t one at ten to six…

– Hmm, the screen did go a bit funny after I pressed the Submit button. It must have got lost.

– What did it say?

– I’ll type it in again, shall I?


– OK, it’s done. Do you want to swap places?

– Where is it? Oh, you’ve closed the window. Ah, got it. Yes, haha, very good.

– Thank you.


– You know, this is a very post-modern way for a couple to discuss these issues. Most people would just have an actual conversation.

– Pfft, who wants to do that?

From the Women & Equality Unit of the DTI: Civil Partnership Act 2004 – Frequently Asked Questions.

“A civil partnership will be registered once the couple has signed the civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses. The exact format of this document is still being finalised. There will be words printed on the document which the couple will be able to say at the time of signing the document, though the exact words are still to be confirmed.”

Two witnesses, eh? People are just going to have to form an orderly queue.

Also, I do hope there’s going to be none of that “With my body I do thee worship” business. Most unseemly. Especially at our time of life.

Creative writing assignment, satire module #1: How would you word such a document? Let’s have some vows that today’s modern same-sex couples could really use! Answers in the comments, please.

Full information from the DTI, including a downloadable version of the official Civil Partnership booklet (released today), can be found here.

Update: My colleague JP has just downloaded the booklet, and has printed off two copies: one for him and his intended, and one for me and mine. This is so COSY! All of a sudden, we’re turning into those irritating people in the office who keep discussing their wedding plans! (Sorry, S. You KNOW I don’t mean you.) Yay for equality! Are you collecting for your bottom drawer?

“You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.” (Dorothy Parker)

As any seasoned blog-surfer will tell you from bitter experience, it really isn’t a great idea to leave comments on other people’s sites when you’ve, um, had a few. This is a lesson which I forget at my peril.

Last Wednesday, Gert of Mad Musings put out a call for questions from her readers. Knowing what a huge opera fan she is, I dived straight into her comments box:

Maybe it’s because I’m a big classic soul fan – but when it comes to opera, I can’t get beyond those ridiculous artificial warbly voices. (To my mind, at least.) Assuming there is one (and I understand from yours and many other people’s reactions that there must be), how do you begin to access the emotional dimension?

Rambling, over-parenthesised (even by my standards), pretentious and needlessly provocative: yup, I was pissed all right. “Access the emotional dimension”, indeed. Even Uri Geller would have blushed at that one.

To make matters worse, the previous commenter had already asked the same question, but nicely. But you don’t notice these things when the blood has rushed to your head and your fingers are in full, fevered flow. (Use of alliteration, hem hem.)

Posted yesterday, Gert’s lengthy reply provides a useful insight into the mystifying world of the Opera Buff, her response to my “ridiculous artificial warbly voices” charge being particularly well made. Then, towards the end of the post, she says the following:

It also annoys me when people say “Opera bores me” and I quiz them about what they have seen, and it turns out they haven’t seen any. Not one, zilch. Not even on the TV.

On this score at least, I can claim to have made an effort – not once, not twice, but on three wretched, soul-sapping evenings which I’ll never get back in this lifetime. Let me take you through them, starting with the most recent.

2002: The Soldier’s Tale (Stravinsky), Buxton Opera House.

Older readers will have read about this before. For now, suffice it to say that I was fast asleep for most of the first half, before being sharply reprimanded by the man in front of me for jiggling my right leg up and down all the way through the second half, in an attempt to maintain alertness.

1989: La Traviata (Verdi), Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg.

Displaying all the sophisticated production values of the Harpenden Light Operatic Society’s 1978 staging of The Merry Widow (which I have excluded from this list on the grounds of Lightness), this stiff, stilted piece of souped-up Am Dram provided a good clue as to why the Mariinsky Theatre – home of the world-famous Kirov Ballet – has not been equally celebrated for its opera.

Once again, with an all too rare consistency that borders on the admirable, I was fast asleep for most of the first half. There was certainly nothing happening on stage which could possibly have roused me from my slumbers.

Perestroika still being in its infancy, there was no bar on the premises. Instead, the audience amused themselves during the interval by slowly pacing round and round the edges of a sizeable ante-room, in orderly rows of three or four abreast (strictly one direction only, no overtaking), occasionally waving graciously across the room at people they recognised. The whole thing had something of the flavour of a Regency period “promenade” to it, with the crinolines replaced by badly fitting crimplene. Sadly, this proved to be the most stimulating feature of the whole evening.

1981: Tosca (Puccini), some posh theatre in Portsmouth. Or was it Southampton?

The real reason I went to this: it would give me a chance to sit next to the guy I’d sort-of had sex with a couple of months earlier, so that we could play Ooh Is That Your Thigh I’m Rubbing Against Oh Well Never Mind games all the way through the performance.

(He was a shallow, shameless, sexually ambiguous tease who liked the attention but wouldn’t commit; I was 19, almost wholly inexperienced in matters of the heart, emotionally over my head, and basically totally f***ing desperate. But we’re here to talk about opera. Oh yes we are. No, I think you’ll find we are.)

However, not even the ready proximity of the betrousered limbs of my Dearest Him-bo was enough to keep me from slipping into the arms of Morpheus during the first half, such was the unremitting Sheer Bloody Tedium of the spectacle on offer. Call me ADD, but when it comes to dramatic entertaiment, I like it best when things actually, you know, happen. (I have the same problem with Beckett.)

As I say, consistency. Maybe it’s Pavlovian.

I’ve saved the most damning episode to last.

With the lead soprano indisposed due to illness, one of the great doyennes of the Welsh Opera had graciously offered to stand in at the eleventh hour. For the clued-up buffs in the audience, it must have been a great treat to witness her reprising one of her greatest roles, after all those years.

After all those many, many years.

Years in which – how can I put this delicately? – her physical charms had shifted from “sylph-like” to “ample”.

Now, there was one fact, and one fact only, which I knew in advance about Puccini’s Tosca: that, at the end of the final act, the heartbroken heroine would commit suicide by flinging herself off a high parapet.

As the Great Doyenne launched herself off the specially constructed tower and sailed towards the stage, her skirts billowing about her, I suddenly remembered the apocryphal tale, as told to me by my old German master, of The Tosca Who Bounced.

At which point, I got the giggles. Big time.

To the extent that people as far as two rows in front of me turned round and glared at the spotty youth who had single-handedly wrecked the tragic denouement of the entire evening.

I didn’t even get a snog out of him on the way home.

A few weeks ago, I struck a deal with an acquaintance of mine in Nottingham, who is passionate about the medium. He’ll take me to the opera, and I’ll approach it with an open mind – so long as he commits to seeing a live band with me at The Rescue Rooms, under the same conditions. There’s no hurry; he would prefer to wait until something really good comes to town.

He’s thinking that maybe something by Benjamin Britten might crack me open. As I once sang the lead soprano role in a Britten children’s opera and enjoyed it immensely (The Golden Vanity, prep school gym, 1974, didn’t see that one coming right?), he might be on the right track.

I’ll let you know in due course. Who knows, it might even be the start of a wonderful new chapter in my cultural life.

Then again, it might pay to sprinkle a precautionary gram of whizz into my Red Bull beforehand. Better safe than sorry, and all that. After all, I’d hate to be an embarrassment.

That new Guardian “Berliner” format, then.

Plus points:

  • Unlike the Times and the Independent (both tabloids), there are still plenty of stories on the front page. Although these are mostly just short summaries, they are also complete within themselves, i.e. you don’t have to turn to an inside page mid-sentence. Each summary also points to a full article on an inside page, in a visually clear, easy to follow manner.
  • Not only is there colour on each page, but the colour reproduction quality is immeasurably improved. No more smudgy Steve Bells!
  • The new “Egyptian” font is attractive and easy to read.
  • The “Media” pull-out section looks much better in its new, larger size.
  • The TV listings have been expanded to give equal weight to BBC3 and BBC4.
  • The full colour centre-spread photograph has a real impact.
  • The smaller page size promotes marital harmony. On those rare occasions where our carefully constructed morning routines fall apart – meaning that, horror of horrors, we are forced to have breakfast together – we can now read the separate sections in comfort, without fighting for table space.

Minus points:

  • With more pages to flick through, browsing inevitably takes longer. As I don’t allow myself much time at the breakfast table, this raises Time Management issues. (In later life, it might also raise RSI issues. Hypochondriac, moi?)
  • The headlines look more like large size text than proper headlines; there’s a lack of immediate impact.
  • Now that the old “G2” tabloid has been shrunk to a “half-Berliner” size, it looks awfully diddy and inconsequential.
  • The TV picks of the day have been dropped, along with full listings for the Sky movie channels. At the same time, the programme descriptions in the main listings have been shrunk to almost nothing.
  • Almost every article now finishes with a URL for the relevant section of Guardian Unlimited. However, as those of us whose URLs have appeared in print can testify, almost nobody will ever bother to type them into a browser. So it’s a bit of a waste of space.
  • Those irritatingly ego-gratifying little photos of all the columnists, which all newspapers insist on having these days: they’ve been re-shot in colour, but I don’t think they’ve been shrunk to fit the new page size. This makes them even more intrusive than before. (Also, there is at least one previously fanciable columnist who doesn’t look half as good in his new photo. This disappoints me. No, I’m not saying who.)
  • Where’s Doonesbury?
    Update: It’s returning, by public demand. (via Pete in the comments)

Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 5.

And so, a couple of months short of Ron and Yvonne’s tenth wedding anniversary, K and I find ourselves contemplating our first return to that same registry office on Shakespeare Street. A decade ago, with the Conservative government into its seventeenth consecutive year in power, the prospect of legally binding same-sex civil partnership registrations – in this country, within our lifetimes – would have been dismissed as laughable. From December 5th 2005, it will be a reality.

Over in the USA, insofar as I have been following the situation (which admittedly isn’t all that closely), the whole debate has been about “gay marriage”. It is to my immense relief that here in the UK, we have gone down a different route. Less controversial (and therefore less politically dangerous to introduce) – but also infinitely more acceptable to my (our) way of thinking.

We’ve never wanted a “gay wedding”. We’ve never wanted to make those kind of public vows, using somebody else’s state-sanctioned words, in such a standardised, ritualised, sentimentalised manner. For many reasons – not the least being that, as people who have always stood outside the major heterosexual paradigms, one of the great strengths of gay relationships is that we can shape them for ourselves. Not pret-a-porter, but couture, darlings.

So why are we even bothering? The clue is in the wording. We’re registering our partnership with the state – for solid, pragmatic reasons. Exemption from inheritance tax, for one thing. More importantly, we’ll have full next-of-kin status, including hospital visitation rights.

But also – and I might just be speaking for myself here – I will value the full, above-the-board legitimacy that civil partnership will confer. When I’m applying for a job, or sorting my finances out, or meeting someone in a formal capacity, then my relationship status can be calmly, smoothly, confidently expressed. All those lingering “outsider” issues – that telling someone you’re in a gay relationship within the first few seconds of meeting them is somehow over-sharing, “inappropriate for the situation”, or dangerously “political” – they will all melt away. Instantly, and for ever. Call me a bourgeois assimiliationist lackey as much as you like – remind me that, yes, it’s all very well for you, in your cosy, oh-so-perfect little relationship, but how does that change anything for single people – but I’m telling you straight: that prospect feels wonderful.

Right, so how are we going to approach the registration day itself? Ever since the day I got down on my knees (ironically) and popped the question (although it scarcely needed asking), K and I have shared the same running joke.

I want a marquee! I want a string quartet! I want matching white suits! I want us to read poetry to each other! I want two weeks in the Seychelles! I want f***ing turtle doves!

Our nightmare scenario, for sure. But if not that, then what? Do we really just grab a couple of witnesses, turn up at the pre-appointed time, sign the bits of paper, then go back to work as if nothing had happened? There’s a logic to that approach – but isn’t it a rather cold, hard logic? No sense of celebration at all? More worryingly: wouldn’t we be in danger of perpetuating our marginalised status on some level? Oh, we’re gay, so we’re not really worth it?

If there’s a happy medium, then we need to start looking for it. At the very least, it should be a good excuse for buying nice new outfits. Perhaps we could invite a few people along – a few, mind. Mish has already vowed to ambush us outside with confetti, whether we like it or not.

Incidentally, there’s at least a 50% chance that Mish’s friend and former colleague k.f. will be officiating at the registry office. Two people in central Nottingham are about to receive special training for the same-sex registrations, and he’s one of them. When I call in to place our names on the queue, I have been instructed to ask for him by name. Indeed, we’ve already shared several giddy, tipsy conversations down at The Central.

“Oh darling, I’m so THRILLED that you’ll be MARRYING us!”

“Oh darling, it will be such an HONOUR!”

Actually, I think we might be the ones passing him the freshly laundered linen handkerchief.

So if we’re inviting a few people along, then we can’t really send them straight back home again, can we? So maybe we should all go out for a nice meal afterwards? Possibly in one of the small-ish private dining rooms, in one of the good restaurants in town? You know, just to maintain the sense of occasion?

There’s also the thorny issue of our families to consider. This may astonish you, but in the whole twenty years of our relationship, my mother has never met any members of K’s family. (I know, I know. Another post, for another day.) Elephant in the room, or what?

Perhaps this would be the ideal time to get everyone together at last. My mother and sister, if she’s in the country; K’s parents and sister; and a select number of well-established friends. Yes, that could all be very jolly. K might not think so, but if I begin my campaign of attrition right now

Ooh, slippery slope. Thin end of the wedge. We’ll be up to our necks in tangerine watered silk, weeping aunties and rotisserie sets before we know it. But we’re navigating uncharted water here. Maybe we need an instruction manual?

Oh dear. But I’ll bet you that some enterprising queen is pitching the idea to his agent right now.Colin & Justin‘s How To Get Hitched, anybody?

All these years, I’ve been standing on the sidelines, the perennial Detached Observer. Sometimes sneering – sometimes spinning my wheel and muttering my incantations – but most usually dabbing my eyes, raising my glass, Wishing Them Every Happiness, and tearing up the floor at the disco afterwards.

Now it’s my turn.

Trash Boudoir mix, part 1.

In the absence of any “home alone” time in which to construct my usual one-hour speech-and-music podcasts, I thought I’d run with something a little different for the next three weeks – so here’s the first of three CD-length megamixes, in which I conjure up a somewhat idealised approximation of gay nightlife in the 1980s. (All effective Retro is necessarily based on idealised approximations; how else are you going to get caught up in nostalgia for a Vanished Golden Age?)

Imagine, if you will, a rather down-at-heel, scuffed-around-the-edges backstreet disco, whose glory days are well behind it, somewhere between the summers of ’82 and ’89. Think dusty smoked glass, scratched chrome, and tough glittered surfaces, grown dull with age. There are etched Southern Comfort mirrors in the bar area, next to the signed framed photos of The Dooleys, Su Pollard, and Errol Brown from Hot Chocolate. There are still some Saturday Night Fever flashing coloured squares on the dancefloor, but half the bulbs went yonks ago. It’s probably called Arabella’s, or Fifth Avenue, or Crème De La Crème. In six months’ time, it will be shut for good – but for now, it’s mostly kept going by its Thursday nights, which have become something of a word-of-mouth hit.

With xeroxed flyers put together by a couple of design students, and the city’s resident Leigh Bowery wannabe manning the decks, Trash Boudoir is bringing in a healthy mixture of students, fashion victims, radical dykes, gobby working class queens, badge-wearing activists who “hate the commercial scene”, nice friendly middle class straights, and that pair of clones who turn up every week, whirling their fans around in the corner. i-D magazine gave the place a 100-word mention a couple of months ago, and one of S-Express’s backing singers was seen down there only last week.

In Part One, we focus on the sort of stuff you might hear earlier on: the warm-up set, to build you up for the pounding BPMs that lie ahead. So splash on your Kouros, grab your bottle of warm Sol with the little wedge of lime, straighten your bandana, check your cycling shorts for wrinkles, unscrew the Liquid Gold… and step back in time.

Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 4.

However, I wouldn’t want you to get the idea that I have an automatic snooty downer on all wedding ceremonies. Far from it! For as soon as I step through that church or registry office door (provided I’ve been F**KING INVITED IN THE FIRST PLACE, that is), the cynicism falls away from my shoulders like a discarded winter coat. (Use Of Simile hem-hem.)

Oh, I can deny it all I like – but I’m a sentimental old sausage, and a perennial sucker for a happy ending. And if we’re talking happy endings, then there was never any happier than the union of… well, let’s call them Ron and Yvonne.

Yvonne had been our lodger for the thick end of two years, back in the old house in Sherwood, when it was everyone’s favourite after-hours bar and weekend crash pad, and we were the lynchpins of an exponentially expanding social clique. She was single when she moved in, and still smarting from an upsetting, unexpected break-up – and so we watched, and counselled, and encouraged, and plotted, and played Devil’s advocate, or Devil on the shoulder, or gooseberry, or Obviously Gay And Absolutely No Threat At All dancing partner…

…and cautioned, and tutted, and gasped, and passed the tissues, and shook our fists in Men They’re All Bastards outrage, and then pissed ourselves at the sheer viciousness of our wise-after-the-event, laughter-as-therapy character assassinations…

…as Yvonne gamely lurched through a couple of highly unsatisfactory (if mercifully brief) liaisons with a couple of well flaky geezers who were Just Not Worthy Of You, Darling.

Then along came Ron. The secret office crush turned clandestine fling (They Must Never Know), which swiftly turned into something a good deal more serious. Because Ron and Yvonne just fitted. It was so blindingly obvious that it was scarcely worthy of mention. No need for any speculative maybe-he’s-the-one sessions on the sofa, necking cans of Stella from the corner shop in front of The Golden Girls. Besides, Ron was round all the time.

When K and I made an offer on the new, large, stylish house, with the massive knocked-through living area (the PARTIES!), it was a given that Ron and Yvonne would move in and lodge with us. They even came along for the third viewing; for as far as we were concerned, there could be no go-ahead unless they approved.

When K and I came to our senses, and realised that the house was far too big, and in a dodgy area (hookers outside the door, three remand homes round the corner), and that actually it was the whole late-night-speakeasy syndrome that we were trying to escape from, not encourage… and after we made an offer on the much smaller, even more stylish house (beech parquet!) in the posh bit of town… we had to sit the lovebirds down, and break the news gently.

They took it very well. Ron was still living at home, and his parents were retiring back to Jamaica in a few weeks, so they could move in there for a while, then look around for a place of their own. In fact, I like to think that we gently nudged them onto the next stage.

The week we all moved, Yvonne gave us a card. Many thanks to two darling boys who have been like brothers to me, EXCEPT THAT NO BROTHERS WOULD CHUCK THEIR SISTER OUT ON THE STREET, DESTITUTE AND HOMELESS. All my love, Yvonne. xxx Yes, a gentle nudge.

Stretching right back to the all-dayers at Rock City ten years earlier, Yvonne had loved, loved, LOVED her soul/funk: Luther Vandross, Alexander O’Neal, Freddie Jackson, Eugene Wilde, Soul II Soul, En Vogue, The Family Stand, Barry White, Earth Wind & Fire… and Oleta Adams, whose Circle Of One album had soundtracked her courtship with Ron. When she walked down the aisle of the Shakespeare Street registry office, in her stunning Dries Van Noten gown (ivory silk, with a bold yet delicate scarlet floral pattern to one side; had to sweet-talk it out of someone else’s hand, down at Harvey Nicks), there could be only one accompaniment: Oleta’s unashamedly schmaltzy, borderline preposterous, irresistably heart-melting piano-based ballad, Get Here.

You can windsurf into my life, take me up on a carpet ride,
You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon.
You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man,
I don’t care how you get here – just get here if you can.

They put me on ghetto-blaster duty, tape all cued up, with Oleta’s Rhythm Of Life as the exit music for later. Because even if I’m good for nothing else, I can wield a mean Play button.

Walking slowly towards Ron, a few feet away at the registrar’s desk, her sister by her side (in THE! MOST! meringue-y of all puff-sleeved confections ever – but when you’re Downs Syndrome, and you’ve been excited-to-bursting for months, how could anyone possibly deny your heart’s desire?), we all knew she’d cry. Ah, bless. She’ll smudge that make-up before she’s even started.

A few minutes later, as the bride and groom signed the register, more soft music started wafting into the room. At which point, one by one, all of our friends turned to face me: big complicit smiles on their faces, thumbs aloft.

“Nice one, Mike!”

“Huh? What?”

“The music! You cheeky bugger! Brilliant!”

I listened more closely. Blimey, Engelbert Humperdinck.

Please release me, let me go
For I don’t love you anymore
To waste our lives would be a sin
Release me and let me love again

You’d think these sorts of establishments would check such things through, wouldn’t you?

And come on, people: did you really think I’d be that evil? Frankly, I’m a little put out.

More to the point: was there someone that Ron and Yvonne hadn’t invited?

After dinner, two minutes ago.

Mike: (wondering whether to do the dishes, watch telly, listen to the rest of the Seth Lakeman album, read Guyana Gal‘s archives, or carry on with Part 4 of the wedding series) What shall I do? What shall I do?

K: Shit in your hands, and clap them to.

Mike: […..]

K: [gummy grin]

Mike: Where did that come from?

K: Dunno. Just made it up. Worrying, isn’t it?

OK, carry on with Part 4 it is, then. Anything to get away from Little Miss Potty Mouth downstairs, perched on the sofa, pleased as f**king Punch. He’s probably still saying it to himself right now. Probably hugging himself as he does so.

Look, I do the f**king jokes in this relationship. It’s one of the pitifully few life skills I have to offer.

Yes, this is displacement activity.

Yes, more wedding stories. I am well aware of your need.

Anna’s particularly funny today. Go and read her. Slowly. Several times.


Ooh! If I don’t do the dishes right now, they might congeal!

In, um, the dishwasher.


Goodness, is it only an hour and a half till Lost? Well, scarcely worth making a start, then.

Oh, very well. Wedding stories. Sigh. Must they rip the words out of my very soul?

Lazy-ass linking for last thing on a Tuesday.

Two details about today’s big, bizarre, gotta-be-a-movie-one-day UK crime story (“Spy conman put me through hell”) did my head in. Firstly, that the conman in question lived on the same street as the house that I grew up in. Secondly, that one of his victims has the same name as my late father.

Incidentally, I recently learnt that the house I grew up in – which was sold by my step-family in 1999, in a terrible state of repair, for around £180,000 – has recently been sold again, fully renovated, for £1,200,000. Perhaps it’s best that I say no more than that.

On a related note – but such a slight, tangential one that only a very few of you will spot it, and that’s more than OK by me – this post by Eurotrash, an ex-pat Brit journalist in New York, particularly resonated with me today. It’s about hypnotism, mostly. I’ve never been hypnotised. That’s not the connection.

In an unprecedented move (because if he’s ever done it before, then I sure as hell don’t remember it), K e-mailed me with a link today.

“Did you post it on the blog?”, he asked over dinner.

“No, I didn’t”, I answered, firmly. “It would be too much like rubber-necking at an accident. You know, disaster pr0n: Hey everybody, come and have a look at these cool tragic images! Besides, it’s not that sort of blog. They were amazing images, though… the best I’ve seen by a long chalk.”

“Yes, and at times almost… well… beautiful.”

“I know… those peaceful looking shots of Canal Street, with the still water…”

So maybe I should link to them after all. They are by far the best collection of Katrina images I’ve seen – in terms of artistic quality, range of subject matter and sheer poignancy – and from quite an unlikely source, as well: the Financial Times. You don’t have to look at them, anyway. Do as you see fit. We’re all grown-ups here.

Earlier today, and merely by process of elimination, I thought Bloc Party would do it.

Then I thought that, with the field so wide open, this might be the year that the token folk or jazz acts might do it – if for no other reason than to justify their continued inclusion on the shortlists.

Then, during the show itself, I went through a brief phase of wanting Hard-Fi to win it. Because I bloody love Hard-Fi, crap lyrics and all, and I don’t care who knows it. (Hard To Beat: single of the year?)

But then, THEN, Antony & The Johnsons performed that stunning version of Hope There’s Someone– so emotionally direct and powerful that K finally, FINALLY, saw the light and understood what makes him so great – and I thought: there’s only one act who truly deserves to win this.

And then most of the other shortlisted acts were asked who they’d like to win, and most of them said, with big, broad smiles: Antony & The Johnsons.

And then, bugger me sideways, he did win it, and all the other acts gave him the warmest, most sincere of standing ovations, and justice was done, and it all felt rather lovely. So hooray for that, and if you haven’t bought the album, then please do so immediately.

Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 3.

Things I wish I’d known at the age of 21: that one’s best friends at University are not necessarily going to be one’s best friends forever. There’s something subtly homogenising about the shared experiences and the particular circumstances of student life, with all of its self-referential heirarchies and self-contained parochialism. Fresh out of school – your personality still a work in progress, your life choices happily deferred for a few more years – and you’re liable to fall in with whoever you happen to be sitting next to.

Nothing wrong with that, either. Potentially, you’re open to everything and everybody, bound by few limiting pre-conceptions beyond the obvious ones (eg. it’s generally best to give a wide berth to the rugger bugger embezzlers in the residence hall bar). With the campus as a testbed for controlled experiments with your sense of self, it’s an altogether healthy stage of development. However, you should not be too surprised when, two or three years later, the shackles fall from your eyes, and you suddenly find yourself looking at these people as if for the first time, and you suddenly find yourself thinking: why am I even spending time with you?

Never mind all those earnest late night discussions, perched on each other’s beds with instant coffees and soggy spliffs, tying each other up in knots over politics, philosophy, religion, the “superficiality” of modern life, the Death of Culture, or that shit new band that all the “boring” people have suddenly got into. Never mind all those shared secrets, hopes and fears: quietly confided, loyally protected. Never mind all those nights out with the gang, fifteen people round a table, one shared mindset, batting round the in-jokes, trading the who-shagged-whos, the who-dumped-whos, the God-what-is-she-LIKEs. Because one day, you’ll be down for one of your “reunion” weekends, sitting in some crap pub round the corner from whoever you’re staying with, reminiscing about the time when so-and-so did such-and-such and wasn’t it CLASSIC… and you’ll realise, with a start and a shudder, that your shared past is all you’ll ever have, and that, actually, you’re a bit bored with all of this now.

Or the divisions might be more particular, and more profound. For instance, your old Uni crowd might all be living in Wandsworth, in 1987, working in advertising, buying everything (f**king EVERYTHING!) from Habitat and Next Interiors, braying about the dosh they’re bringing in, assessing everything in life in terms of its cash value (“This jacket cost me A HUNDRED POUNDS!”), all fully mortgaged and paid-up members of the Big Bang Canary Wharf Stripey Shirt And Shoulder Pads If You See Sid, Tell Him Never Had It So Good Speculate To Accumulate Property Boomer generation… while you’ve gone down the Public Sector Hair Shirt There Is Power In A Union Meat Is Murder Say No To The Cuts Benefit Night (£2 or £1 NUS/Unwaged) Barclays Bank Is A Fascist Bank 2-4-6-8 Is That Policeman Really Straight Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out Sanctimonious Self-Righteousness route.

(Or, if you haven’t actually gone down that route per se, then you’re at least gazing longingly down it (aspirationally, even – oh, the irony), and wondering how you’re going to square this aspiration with all the brand new lacquered black ash furniture in your Matt Black Dreamhome.)

Or you might be in a new relationship, and meeting your new partner’s old friends, and trying to find common ground with them, but all the while thinking: what is someone like him doing with people like that? While all the while, your new partner is meeting your old friends, and quietly nursing the same thoughts, in mirror image. Sometimes, it takes the sharp focus of a new relationship to place the accumulated baggage of your life in a bracing new perspective.

Thus it was with K’s old Uni pal, and his new fiancée. Horace #2: the hippy slacker turned stockbroker, his residual stoner chuckle strikingly at odds with the rest of him. Doris #2: the tense, controlling, tight-smiled solicitor, with her John Lewis leisure wear and her series of airy, slightly gauche asides, all too obviously designed to signal her elevated financial status.

The second time they came to stay with us, I made a great play of insisting on dragging everybody off to the Midland Group arts cinema, to see the main attraction of our inaugural Lesbian & Gay Film Festival: a documentary on the life and death of the San Francisco activist and local politician, Harvey Milk. Never mind that the three of them would rather have dressed up and gone out for a few octagonal platefuls of nouvelle cuisine at the smart new eaterie of the day – I had taken it upon myself to Raise Their Consciousness. (K included; he had not long been out of the closet, and I saw it as my duty to improve him.)

It was an arresting, hard-hitting, altogether superb documentary, which could not help but fill you with righteous indignation at Milk’s tragic fate. All four of us left the cinema in a subdued, thoughtful mood. There were flyers being handed out on the door by local activists. Horace #2 and Doris #2 politely took them, and then – to my abject horror – took them out in the straight bar round the corner, in full view of the other patrons, and read them, even as the word GAY seemingly screamed off every corner of every page. Had they no thought for our comfort and safety?

Maybe my consciousness wasn’t quite as advanced as I had thought.

Anyway, it didn’t stop them excluding me from their f**king wedding.

“Maybe they’re having to be tight on numbers”, K suggested. Yeah, you know this bit.

At the reception, K checked the names on the other place settings around his table. Nobody there he knew, worse luck. The place setting opposite him bore an army officer’s rank. The place setting adjacent to the army officer said “Guest of [army officer]”.

They didn’t even know her name. But she wasn’t another bloke, so that was all right then. Nothing to make the great aunts choke on their aperitifs.

The army officer and his “guest” clearly hadn’t known each other for long. Two or three weeks, tops. Done up to the nines, but in a distinctly brassier style than the other guests, she was all simpers and giggles, clearly delighted with the social advancement which the occasion conferred.To think of it! The likes of me, hob-nobbing with stockbrokers, solicitors… and a dashing young army officer by my side! Girl, you’ve arrived!

Her face, when the army officer discreetly came out as gay to her halfway through the meal, was apparently quite a picture.

Back in Nottingham, once again with my spinning wheel and my incantations, I cackled long and hard.

That Christmas, in response to Horace and Doris #2’s jumbo-sized Super Executive Deluxe Pride Of The Mantle Shelf affair (traditional Victorian carriage in the snow: check – extra fly-leaf, in hand-tooled vellum: check – pre-printed address on the inside, with a house name instead of a common little number: check), we chose a card from our local workers-collective alternative bookshop. Sponsored by the Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign, the drawing on its cover depicted, in some detail, innocent people being gunned down in the street by the evil CIA-backed anti-Communist insurgents.

Prop that up against your f**king carriage clock, we tittered, daring each other to seal the envelope.

We never heard from them again.

Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 2.

Unlike some weddings in the 1980s which I could mention… mention… mention…

About two years into our relationship, K received a couple of wedding invitations, separated by no more than a few months. Coincidentally, both brides and both grooms bore the same first names; let’s call them Horace and Doris.

In both cases, K and Horace had been friends for many years. In both cases, I had met the couples on several occasions. Both Horaces, and one of the Dorises, had been overnight guests of ours, more than once. All the Horaces, and all the Dorises, came from fairly prosperous backgrounds, with families who placed a big emphasis on show, and front, and positioning: the executive classes, if you will. They were the sort of people who had their Christmas cards specially printed, in the largest size available, with an extra fly-leaf of paper between the traditional Victorian cover design and the embossed greetings page. Both weddings were therefore going to be full-scale church productions. Waistcoats and cravats for the gents; puffed sleeves and peach-coloured watered silk for the ladies. Lots of great aunts. Lots of hats. Horses and carriages. Meringues and gateaux. The full works.

I think you can guess where this is going.

“Maybe they’re having to be quite tight on numbers”, K suggested, kindly.

“They’re just SCARED of having me there”, I pouted, testily. “Wouldn’t want to RUIN their big day, by having a gay couple OPENLY AND FLAGRANTLY CAVORTING with each other and frightening the horses. Or the great aunts. Didn’t like them anyway. See if I care.”

(Younger readers should bear in mind that this was around 1986 or 1987, when the unholy alliance of Thatcherism and the tabloid press was at the height of its spurious triumphalism, and the post-AIDS anti-gay backlash was picking up a serious head of steam. Gays just Weren’t Quite Nice back then. Clause 28 was just around the corner. As was Black Monday on the Stock Exchange. HAHAHA SERVES YOU RIGHT YOU TORY BASTARDS. Oh, I was quite the unreconstructed socialist in those days.)

Just to rub salt in the wound, Horace #1 also asked K to be his best man.

“So I’m just the SHAMEFUL LITTLE SECRET, am I?”, I wailed, in best Cage Aux Folles style – rather enjoying my “victim” status, although I would have died rather than admit it.

“They couldn’t even squeeze me onto Table Z, Seat 99? No, you run along! Don’t mind me! He’s YOUR FRIEND, after all; I’m just YOUR BOYFRIEND.” And so on, and so on. Supportive to the end, me.

Meanwhile, Doris #1 had firm views about how the day should progress, one particular stipulation being repeated almost to the point of obsession.

“K, you’ve got to promise me one thing. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do we want our going-away vehicle messed up with balloons, and shaving foam, and “just married” signs, and tin cans tied to the bumper. It just looks so TATTY, and so CHEAP, and it would RUIN MY DAY if anyone did anything like that.”

Horace #1, in my considered judgement, was frankly a bit of a wimp.

(Hang on, wasn’t there an ELO song about that? Perhaps the pseudonym wasn’t drawn at random after all. The subconscious moves in mysterious ways. Or in my case, utterly predictable Rock And Pop Trivia-related ways.)

On the night before the wedding, he had become such a quivering bag of nerves that, in a novel expansion of the best man’s traditional duties, K found himself obliged to write the entire groom’s speech on his behalf. This he did without complaining, despite the lateness of the hour, the alcohol coursing through his veins, his own pre-match nerves… and, of course, his singular lack of personal empathy with the subject matter at hand. Still, what are friends for?

During the reception, K realised that he had forgotten something rather vital: his own speech, which was still in the groom’s car.

“Horace, can I borrow your keys? I’ve left my speech in your car.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re just looking for an excuse to sneak off and decorate the car.”

“No I’m not. I need that speech.”

“I don’t believe you. You’re not having the key.”

“But I can’t make the speech without my notes.”

“You’re not having the key.”

“Horace, listen. If you don’t let me have my notes, I won’t be making any speech at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“OK, OK. But you can stay here. I’ll go and get the speech for you.”

What a pity that, on retrieving K’s speech, Horace #1 then forgot to lock the car behind him.

What a pity that, trying the car door a while later for no particular reason, K discovered this fact.

What a pity that, by this late stage in the proceedings, K’s normally plentiful supplies of goodwill had been thoroughly exhausted.

What a pity that no photographic record exists of Doris #1’s face, on being confronted with the results of K’s handiwork. (Ably assisted by various other guests, all of them more than willing to lend a hand.)

What a pity that Horace #1 and Doris #1 had seen fit to leave me back in Nottingham, with my spinning wheel and my incantations.

What a shame to read Doris #1’s terse contractual obligation of a courtesy letter, thanking the best man for helping to organise such a lovely day, “with just one exception”. (She couldn’t help herself.)

What a tragedy that the marriage lasted less than a year, before Doris #1 ran off with another man. (She couldn’t help No, too cheap. Too cruel.)

You marginalise me at your peril.

Of seating plans, turtle doves and symphonies in watered silk – Part 1.

From a distance, it looked like a simple floral pattern: a series of large circles, each ringed by a series of smaller circles. Only upon closer inspection did it reveal itself as the seating plan for my colleague’s wedding. We huddled round her desk, marvelling at the precision of it all.

“Was it all very political? Are there people that you’ve got to keep apart at all cost?”

“Yeah, a few. You know, ex-partners…”

God, the flashbacks. I was instantly reminded of the hours that K and I spent, drawing up a seating plan for my 40th birthday party. It was like a very complicated logic puzzle: one false move, and the whole structure would collapse. Ex-partners weren’t even the half of it; there were people in the same room who hadn’t spoken to each other in years. Not just the odd one or two, either; there must have been at least seven or eight potential major flashpoints to defuse. When good cliques go bad, and all that.

We were awfully proud with the finished product. One of my finest ever pieces of Excel-manship, if I may be so bold. OK, so shoving most of the married couples together (with just the one Token Gay, for seasoning) did look a leetle bit crass (*), but we were generally delighted with each table’s carefully weighted balance of common interests, and its finely tuned blend of pre-existing friendships and potential new alliances. Indeed, when speculating upon all the new social connections that might derive from this one luncheon party, we could get quite starry-eyed. Thingy and thingy: they’ve got so much in common! And thingy, two seats away: he’ll have the whole table in stitches!

Which would have been great, if the diameter of each round table hadn’t been about twice as wide as estimated. This meant that, rather in the manner of a formal court banquet, each guest could only comfortably converse with the person immediately next to them. The whole premise of our plan had been that guests could talk freely across the table, with anyone they pleased. Thus restricted, it was now revealed as woefully wide of the mark. All over the room, people were left picking at their meals in silence, as adjacent pairs of old friends went into impenetrable huddles. (Such table etiquette would never have held sway at court, but what can you do?) Alternatively, people who had met maybe once or twice before, maybe in a pub or at a party, were forced to spin out their brief acquaintance into many hours of strained chit-chat, with no reprieve in sight.

Still, at least we knew the names of all our guests, and at least we invited both halves of each couple. Unlike some weddings in the 1980s which I could mention. Ooh, I feel some unresolved bitterness coming on…

(*) Update. Our office bride-to-be, this afternoon:

“I’ve put all the gays together on the same table. Do you reckon that’s all right?”

“Of course it is. Basic rule of social engagement: in any large gathering, ALL the gay people WILL automatically seek each other out, and WILL form an Exclusive Gay Huddle in one area of the room. It’s a sort of natural process of self-ghettoisation. You can’t buck the laws of nature, so why stand in their way? Besides, you want one table to be leading all the whooping during the speeches, don’t you?”

Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding, S. Hope it all goes wonderfully for you.