Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Even my sex life is middle-class

So, I whiled away Bank Holiday Monday in a local Italian. He was rather charming, and at some point I got around to asking his name and what he did for a living.

It turned out he was a costume designer in the theatre. As he described the painstaking, passionate nature of his work I got the oddest sense of familiarity.

"Haven't I heard you on the radio?" I asked.

"Why yes! Everyone says this - it was Midweek with Libby Purves."

"Oh my god! Of course!" I gasped, "Tell me - What's Libby really like? I'm so excited!"

He glanced down. "Clearly."

Oh Libby, I'm so sorry.

Edinburgh update

So, we're taking a play up to Edinburgh this year. We've got a script, a director, a great venue and a lovely timeslot.

The one thing we're missing (and have been for a while) is an actor. We're aiming for a famous one - sadly our budget stretches to a nice hotel room, but no pay. This proves unsurprisingly off-putting.

Typical of this is the answering machine message my producer's just been left from one of the country's top board-treaders:

"Hello there, it's XXX XXX here. You've very kindly sent me a great script. I can't do it, and here's why - I'm getting divorced, it's the unhappiest year of my life, and apart from that I'm being clobbered for an enormous amount of alimony at the moment... And that's the only reason why I can't be in Edinburgh with you, but I'd love to. Many apologies... unless you can come up with a busload of money."

Plan B was that one of us would play the part of David Niven. Sadly, the best person for that turns out to be our director, Kate.

What I love about ebay...

Waking up to an email that says "You Won: Firebreathing Fortress."

My Lego mania isn't exactly abating.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Wedding Guest, he beat his breast

You can tell a lot about a wedding from the quality of the hangover. I woke up on Sunday without one, drenched instead in relief.

The most notable event had to do with the groom's, ah, financial sharpness. After the wedding we were treated to drinks and photos in a lovely nearby London park before moving on to a restaurant. Rick, the best man, was left behind to help the caterers (actually, the groom's Polish cleaners) pack up and get a taxi.

So, we stood around, in a park. Four of us, with some Poles and a lot of champagne.

And then the police turned up. Turns out, the groom hadn't got a permit, and we were hosting an illegal unlicensed outdoor festival. The Poles were alarmed, but Rick turned on the charm.

The rest of the wedding went without a hitch, really. Typical small talk with vague strangers about mortgages and so on.

Most useful fact I learned: What makes milk go off are the "impurities". This turns out to be a fancy term for skin flakes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Too old for it.

Went out with the fabulous Lee last night. We haven't been out for ages. They'd turfed over Trafalgar Square so we went down for a look (weird, oddly creepy, but rather lovely and full of bright young things picnicing).

After that, we went out for a sneer at all things gay. I've not done Gay Soho properly for ages, and we were delighted at the chance to try out "Profile", the Gaydar gaybar. We lasted less than a minute. It was full of pretty people with no personal space, and the music was so loud that people were just nodding at each other and smiling.

Lee and I tried just nodding and smiling at each other, but Lee doesn't smile. So we left.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Went to a marvellous comedy benefit. It was for a good cause (legal teams for Guantanamo detainees), and the acts were marvellous (Bill Bailey, Marks Thomas and Steel, and a bitchy Iranian woman).

And yet... it was £30 a head, the acts were performing for free... but Reprieve, the charity wouldn't leave us alone. If they weren't up on stage asking for money, they were passing buckets around. Or shaking them at the bar. Or outside while you had a cigarette.

Frankly, all a bit tiresome. I blame Bob Geldof.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Power Lunching

One of the great things about London is that you can really use your lunch hour. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I got to help a handsome young shop assistant with stock-taking in the basement.

"Are you sure your boss doesn't mind?" I asked, as we hurled around the changing room.

"Oh, he's out at the moment - and he's fine about this."

I noticed from the boxes that we burst open that this was a shoe shop. He explained that he was a cobbler by trade, and spent most of his time hammering leather in their warehouse, but helped out in the shop on an occasional basis. When we'd finished, I went upstairs, and his boss was back (one of those gently moustached Elder Gays).

"Ah," he said, "You must be Chris's lunch."

It was then that I looked around the shop properly. As well as a lot of boots, it contained rather more harnesses and corsets than your average shoe shop. A cabinet reassured me that I was in a rather unique antique sex shop. The cabinet contained a fetching display of "Victorian Urethral Expanders".

Potter Puppet Pals

A puppet theatre based around the world of Harry Potter. Quite charming.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Stub it out!

I woke up on a sofa in Cardiff this morning, stinking of fags and dessert wine. "I am bloody giving up," I thought.

Sat across from me on the train were two people from an organisation that appeared to be called SmokeFree. They spent the entire journey discussing their strategies for wiping out smoking across the country. They sounded so perversely happy at their plans for limiting smoking areas, removing awnings, and generally giving smokers a hard time. They did it in such glorious detail that I immediately wanted to smoke, at them.

Throughout the journey the man stared at his flowchart with a missionary zeal, while his stick-thin female companion nibbled delicately at a piece of fruit. They looked so smug, so content, that it hurt.

I want to give up. I should give up. The world would be better if I did give up. But something about those two noble folk with their powerpoint plans for clean lungs made me quiver.

And then, perfectly, as we pulled into Paddington, the woman reached into her handbag and rolled herself a cigarette. "Dunno about you," she said to her friend, "But I'm gasping."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Brainwashing is a Crime!"

Brilliant Panorama about Scientology, in which a slightly baffled BBC Journalist ends up pretty much the subject of his own programme, as the Scientologists alternatively love-bomb and disconnect him, follow him around, interrupt interviews, and follow him to the toilet with their own cameracrew. To the extent that he loses it.

Now, the clip of John Sweeney losing it is interesting. The Scientologists publish their own version of it on YouTube, placed within their context:

The full version in the programme, which I encourage you to watch, makes much more sense, as the poor man asks for a moment's peace in the ghoulish museum of death and instead receives yet another needling from the Church's Cruise-a-like spooksman.

It would be nice to embed the BBC's version. The BBC has posted it to YouTube, but disabled embedding. Which means that you can't, for example post the two versions side-by-side. And, as it's the soundbite that people will remember, it's a shame that the Church of Scientology comes across smarter at using t'internet than the world's biggest broadcaster.

PS1: The Cruise-a-like's response to John screaming is bizarre. Completely unfazed, he just mantras "Brainwashing is a crime". Has he had training in this?

PS2: Cycled past the Scientology HQ the other day. There was a total gaylord skipping nimbly around trying to recruit people for a stress test. I was trying to work out if it was a cunning double-bluff.

Gmail adverts

Gmail is a great service - not least because of the constant delight of its contextual adverts, generated from scanning the text of your emails.

I've just used the word "wassock" in an email. Gmail's offered me "More about Chris Moyles?". Delightful coincidence?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My hard drive

I remember being banned from the Uni IT lab when our student magazine was caught plugging in an external hard drive illicitly.

The IT librarian stared at the thing in horror. "It may have a 60 megabyte storage capacity, but that's just the problem - there could be anything on there."

But that SyQuest drive was a lifesaver. Even though it was the size of a small dog, and had an unfortunate habit of losing all information if shaken slightly (oh, the agony of losing an entire issue by cycling over the speed bumps on Walton St).

And after that was the joy of working with ZipDrives. Wow - almost 200 Meg on a cartridge. What wonders.

And then, last year the wonder of Zen. 30 gig for £200 quid - all the music and video I could imagine.

Finally, today I take delivery of my 320 gig harddrive. It's the size of a novel and cost £50. And it just sits there shrieking "I'm enormous! You can't fill me - you are tiny!"

Husband of the Day

Today's husband is called Terry. He's the new foreman who's looking after the Polish Hoardes who've been endlessly repairing my windows for the council.

He turned up this morning, looking like Sean Bean after he'd showered in soot. He placed his hands on his hips and glared at my windows, which, after months of being reglazed, painted and refitted had just had the finishing touches applied to them, which meant that they were cracked, chipped and wouldn't open.

"What the fucking fuck is this?" he demanded, before continuing charming, "Right. Show me your fucking bedroom - it can't possibly be more fucking disgusting than this."

Oh, Terry....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ski Sunday

"What are you writing?"

I looked up from my notebook. Suddenly sat at my table was the impossibly Abercrombie & Fitch guy who'd been at the bar. And he was grinning. "What you writing?" he repeated.

"Oh. Someone told me to compile a list of everything I want in life," I explained, mortified. "Apparently it's very revealing."

We both looked down at the list. So far, I'd written the word "Cat" three times.

The American grinned. "If you're asking me, I'd just ask for truth and honesty. I'm Lucas."

Lucas, it turned out, was over here doing a doctorate in wood carving - actually carving wood. He was out on a bender to celebrate it being two months since the love of his life (a nude life model) had left him in Florence. Lucas was half American, half-Swiss, was a ski instructor on the holidays and... oh yes, very drunk.

The great thing about drunk pretty men is that sometimes they talk to us mortals. And it's nice. True, it's also a bit like sitting next to a petrol-soaked toddler playing with matches, but you make allowances if they look exactly like Jake Gyllenhal. Plus the blonde barman was seething.

Actually, Lucas was a very functioning drunk. Witty, sensible and charming, his only problem was occasional wooziness and a slight stagger.

When the pub shut, I walked him to his bus stop and said goodnight, pointedly. It seemed undignified to make a pass at him. Lucas blinked. "Can't I come home with you?"

On the walk home, Lucas threw up with magnificent casualness. Halfway through a complicated sentence about Italian cooking he ducked briefly behind a Vauxhall and continued without even a shrug. "It's a Swiss thing," he explained. "Anyway, the sign of a really good pancetta..."

The pattern continued when we got home. We'd be talking about favourite films and he'd go quiet ("Fellini-"), dash from the room, and return smelling of mouth wash. It even continued in the bedroom, where he curled up in bed wearing his jeans and overcoat. "You're a bit overdressed aren't you?" I asked.

"Er, yeah. Problem is, these are all I'm wearing. Hey - I'm loving the shadows on your wall, they're really dancing! I am Waaaaasted! Ever been to Venice?"

So, I thought, as I settled the bucket down by the bed and climbed in, this is decidedly peculiar. I am sharing a bed with a man of quite startling natural beauty, but he's completely drunk and dressed for orienteering.

Lucas laughed the easy laugh of a beautiful drunk who's forgiven for everything. "Hey! It's really warm under this duvet. Would you mind if I either took it off, or my clothes?"

PS: The sweetest, preppiest thing about Lucas was that at his Happy Finish he cried out "Hell yeah!"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Any Bigots?

Just as "Any Questions" is one of the best shows on radio, Newton would be pleased to know of the equal and opposite which is "Any Answers". On this week's show a caller (female, clipped accent) said:

"Well, 7/7 could have been prevented if, as soon as ricin was discovered, they'd shut down the mosques and interned the muslims..."

It's at this point my trusty radio flew across the bathroom and chipped a tile. But it was worth it for the silence.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A life less complicated

So, as I was having surprising sex with an ex on the sofa his dead flatmate had lain on, and the ex's fiancee was heading into the flat, I swears to you love, I thought two things...

1) "I now have the perfect end for my novel"


2) "I really shouldn't have worn these shoes."

EastEnders does Nirvana Tribute Album

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I pop off to visit my parents. Their motorhome is parked on Cheltenham Racecourse, so I book into a 15th Century Manor House. It's cheap, charming, and I'm staying in a turret a good 100 winding steps up.

These things are good. Even better, the hotel is hosting a 21st birthday party with a superhero theme, so I get to watch braying young posh boys in spandex wandering around.

Cheltenham's gay scene is rubbish (a tiny disco room), so it's a weekend of reading Miss Marple and drinking scotch. What could possibly go wrong?


Later, I'm in my taxi into town. "Lovely place mate," says the driver, "But you're well out of it!"

"Why's that?" I ask.

"It's haunted. Everyone who stays there says so."

"Oh. I'm staying there."

The taxi driver doesn't even blink. "It's a friendly ghost, i've heard. Yeah."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pork or spam?

An email out of the blue invites me to "a scally boy orgy" this weekend. Sadly, I'm going to Cheltenham.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Newport, Newport, so good they named it once.

It would be boring to explain why I ended up spending Wednesday night in a hotel in Newport. The important point is that I did.

If you are going to spend the night in Newport, I recommend you stay in The Walkabout Hotel. It's the only hotel in the centre of town, and yes, it is above The Walkabout, a vibrant chain of pubs celebrating the Australian virtues of loud noise and spilt beer.

The receptionist was a fun girl with bunches and her feet up on the desk. She fished an eyeliner out of her handbag for me to sign in with. I asked her about restaurants.

"Oh, I think there's one on top of a hill somewhere," she said.

Up until last night if you'd asked me what bad feet smelled like, I'd have said "um, a bit cheesy". Now, if you asked me, I'd say "Room 12 at the Walkabout Hotel in Newport."

A notice on the wall warned me that there'd be a £40 fine if I smoked in the room. Also if I drank alcohol in there. There was no hot water. A sign near the fire escape warned me "Do not enter on pain of prosecution".

Why, when you're in a strange town looking for a restaurant do you only find the nice ones when it's too late? As it was, I missed the American salad bar, settling for a £4 pizzeria. They brought me a candle for my table. The waiter gestured at my newspaper. "We've got a reader in," he announced to no-one in particular.

There is a gay bar in Newport. It's on a desolate car park, looks like a scout hut, and is open on Thursdays. I stood sadly outside for a bit, and then walked back into town.

I rang Lee for solace. As he picked up the phone I could hear laughter and the clink of glasses. "I'm in Newport-" I began. "Oh. Can this wait?" he said.

Banned from smoking elsewhere, I perched in a shop doorway by a multi-story car park. I felt like a hooker.

For a straight place with nowhere to go, Newport's men all look Rather Gay. Or maybe it's because metropolitan gays now aspire to look like they come from Newport. Whatever.

I smuggled a small bottle of whisky back to the hotel in my jumper and drank it from the teasmade cup. I discovered that The Apprentice is a show where an awful bully shouts at ninnies. I fell asleep.

At midnight The Walkabout Disco began.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Joseph Mystery

A whole lifetime in musical theatre and Andrew Lloyd Webber still hasn't worked something very important out...

"We always thought that the boys would be tougher than the Marias, but they're not."

How did Lord Browne meet his lover?

Who would have thought that where you met your boyfriend would be a career-limiting move?

Poor Lord Browne, resigning after his no-good love rat ex-boyf tells all to the tabloids. The reason he goes? Lord Browne falsely claimed to have met Jeff Chevalier "while exercising in Battersea Park".

Ladies and ladies, we're at the birth of a great new gay euphemisim. A catch-all answer for introducing your new partner to friends without having to explain the horrid truth that you met him at GAY/ accidentally fell on his cock at a meth orgy / won him on ebay.

It's also a brilliant euphemism for a spot of cruising in the bushes. Which can't be what Lord Browne meant at all. I mean, no matter how awkward the truth, you wouldn't come up with that as a white lie. It's like turning up late for a meeting and saying "Sorry I'm late, I was trying on ladies knickers."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Satyagraha: A Night At The Opera

I always wanted to see a Phillip Glass opera before I die. But oh my god! the people you get at the opera.

Let me be plain. I love Phillip Glass. I was thrilled at the idea of sitting through a four hour treatise on nonviolent intervention in Sanskrit. But I've not been to the opera in 10 years. And it's the first time I'd ever been to the ENO.

After an evening with people who think that Radio 3 is dumbed down, I was twitching. Every interval conversation I heard was maddening ("oh, i think the staging is far too simplistic...", "On a tangent between philosophy and history", "goodness, at this rate we won't get home until after 11, and i've so much to do when i get back!"). The man next to Rick breathed loudly and appreciatively throughout (a sharp "ah!" for a moment of beauty, a long "ahhhhhh!" for melancholy, and a snuffling grunt for oxygen processing).

Also, just as the opera teaches about the virtue of shedding your personal wealth, so too does the bar (£10 for two glasses of vile white wine. ouch).

But what of the opera? Well, Ghandi comes on and sings. As does a lady with an umbrella. Tolstoy climbs up to his loft. Behind them hoardes of peasants take their shoes off, read newspapers, build giant fighting monsters out of them, while stars come down from heaven and everyone's coats fly up. It was indescribably beautiful. I started crying about 20 minutes in and then was fine after the first interval. It was the most amazingly staged thing ever. I still don't understand it, and never ever shall. But I'm so glad I saw it.

It was best summed up by Rick. "I'm really cross I missed the giant fish transform into Ganesh."