Friday, October 20, 2017
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
We were collected early from our Merida hotel by the ever-charming Pablo who drove us for the best part of six hours from the wonderful yellow city of Izamal, through to the deep watery sinkholes of Dzitnup Cenote, on to the white sandy beaches of the Mayan Riviera. Quite a daytrip.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Monday, October 16, 2017
We departed Mexico City and headed to the airport (which was modern, efficient and welcoming) for our trip to the Mayan Reiiera and the ancient city of Merida.
The flight was a little bumpy (a small leftover hurricane maybe) but as we disembarked from the plane the heat hit us, Pow! Right in the kisser (as Peter Griffin might say). 33 degrees in the shade. Roasting hot in the sun.
Our guide Pablo was there to greet us and as the sweat poured down our faces he explained that we had a day to explore and acclimatise to the city before our touring started properly. And talking one look at our pale skin said we'd probably need buckets of sunscreen, big hats, and plenty of water.
Our Hotel Hacienda Merida was beautiful and cool with a pool to boot.
Once settled we wandered through bright painted houses and the dusty streets towards the city centre where we picked a traditional Mexican restaurant to dine. Weird and delicious we noshed our way through the feast trying to avoid the hottest of the hot chillies.
We then headed back to our hotel to swim and relax.
A calm day before the adventures (and heat!) to come.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Our first full day in Mexico City was a bit of a whistlestop tour.
The city seems to have functioned for centuries until its rather sudden collapse, possibly in the 7th century. The place was called Teotihuacan, by Nahuatl speakers, several centuries after the city's fall, but its original name, the language or languages spoken there, and the ethnic groups who built the city are still a mystery. There is prominent sign on display to reassure the idiots - "this place was built by man, not aliens." Ha, ha.
The pyramids of the sun and moon here are said to rival those of Giza in Egypt, and at the city's peak of power, between AD 350-650, it had many influences over other now ancient sites throughout Mexico and Guatemala, especially in relation to the pottery, sculpture and architecture.
The pyramids were certainly amazing and worth the trip to Mexico alone.
There are a lot of cars in Mexico City. And that is possibly the biggest understatement of the year. Traffic jams, pollution and crazy driving is a way of life here it seems. A car journey might take 30 minutes or 300 minutes - you have no idea until you hit the road. We spent many an hour sitting in traffic with our tour guide looking at other cars.
They have tried various schemes here to control the congestion; free bike hire, car-free days, only allowing cars whose number plates end in certain numbers etc. but nothing seems to work.
As the greater Mexico City population is 21 million people and with such high car ownership I can't see it being solved any time soon.
Still, with all the extra time in the car our guide got to tell us about a darker side on Mexico City life...
Police, local officials, government officials, traffic cops, state politicians... You name it, we heard dozens of hair-raising stories of either bribery, fraud, corruption, intimidation, threats or death. Kick-backs, back-handers, brides, suitcases of cash, the stories we heard varied from simply turning a blind eye to having someone (or their family) killed if they didn't comply.
There is a lot of street crime in Mexico City. When an area is described as 'safe' that word has a lot of positive connotations to it. People live in such and such area because it is 'safe'. They walk along that street because it is 'safe'. You only eat in 'safe' areas. In ‘unsafe’ areas like the lawless shanty areas cars get stripped to their chassis if left unattended. Knife crime and gun crime is rife. But for me hearing of the widespread corruption was the most alarming. Street crime can be addressed. Corruption destroys a country from within. And it seems everyone is at it.
So sad to hear.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Stuart and I pitched up at Heathrow T5 nice and early on Thursday to take advantage of the free food, drink and spa treatments in the Concorde Lounge. Having collected enough air miles to stun an ox and with a BA companion voucher to boot we'd booked ourselves a First Class return flight to Mexico for a couple of weeks.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Premise: Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner film, the story depicts a replicant blade runner named K, who discovers the remains of a once-pregnant replicant. To prevent a possible war between species, K is secretly tasked with finding the child and destroying all evidence related to it, leading him to discover that the child bears a connection to missing blade runner Rick Deckard...
Good points: I liked it. The fact that a sequel to Blade Runner even exists and it's good. It looks great. It sounds fantastic. Ryan Gosling is great. Harrison Ford is good. Nice to see 'Pan Am' back. The plot is fine - albeit with a bit of a lame twist - but we've been there before with I Robot, Metropolis, Demon Seed, etc.
Bad points: Over long. Sexist. Very long. Slightly compromised plot. Too long. Takes 1h 45m before Harrison Ford shows up. Did I mention how long it is? Why is Jared Leto even in it? Long.
Overall impression: Relief that it's not terrible. I don't think I'll rush to watch it again anytime soon. Rather like Dune I think I'll catch it on a wet Saturday afternoon in three years time and think, "Oh I quite liked that".
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Starring the wonderful Ben Whishaw as Luke - a tech billionaire and a man who now hears the word of God - the play was pretty underwhelming to be honest. Great performances from the excellent cast on stage but the central conceit of a man singly charged with curing violence in a violent world seemed a bit of stretch. If the story had the power of its convictions it would have perhaps had stronger religious themes - twelve modern disciples, a doubting Thomas, a traitor, a death... But the uneven tone, the meandering plot, the three hour running time, and the lack of any resolution seemed more like a play that was underwritten or badly edited than one making a point about there being no cure to violence.
Quite a few people left at the interval too (something I really don’t agree with BTW.)
Monday, October 09, 2017
Did we have any quiet nights in? Did we bog-roll! Beers aplenty at Lux, an Argentine meal, bar Soho, dancing at Club Nasty(!), and then back to Lux.
On the Sunday we had a quieter one and met up with Claire and Ian for a coffee.
Lovely weekend all round.
Saturday, October 07, 2017
Friday, October 06, 2017
A brave schoolboy’s fight with a rare brain tumour, diabetes and other health problems has inspired one of his teachers to run a half marathon for charity this weekend.
Thursday, October 05, 2017
A big thank you to Matt Lucas as he has helped the Gay Gooners story get published/re-published around the world in English, French and Spanish in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Malaysia, USA, Ecuador, France, UK… so far!
The item has also been picked up and covered by the BBC here
Matt Lucas: First openly gay footballers will be superstars
Wednesday, October 04, 2017
I simply loved it. I had tears in my eyes for a few of the songs. I love his new album of 1960s covers Shadows and Reflections which he is currently promoting so I guess I was bound to love the show from the get-go. But having a 20-piece orchestra on stage (including a full complement of backing singers) to fully recreate that dramatic exuberance of the songs was just the icing on the cake.
The songs on the album are pure gold written by the likes of Burt Bacharach, The Action, The Yardbirds, Bobby Darlin, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury and the Young Rascals. Marc had thrown in a couple of self-penned songs too - Embers and No One to Say Goodnight To - that actually stand up quite well to comparison to the standards.
Marc was on good form on stage, a little nervous at times perhaps being the first night, but when he soared boy did he soar. Hey, he even hit some of the right notes (joke!)
The first half was largely recreating the new Shadows and Reflections album plus a few other orchestral versions of favourites tacked on the end including The London Boys, The Days of Pearly Spencer, Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart and closing with I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten.
After a brief pause Marc was back to revisit more of his back catalogue and the full-on orchestral versions were a joy to hear.
He performed songs from the Heart On Snow album including The Storks (now renamed The Cranes), The Sun Will Rise, What Makes a Man a Man, Child Star, If You Go Away, Adored and Explored, My Hand Over My Heart, Jacky, Torch, A Kind of Love, and a glorious mashup finale of Tainted Love and The VelVets' I'm Gotta Find Me Somebody.
Tuesday, October 03, 2017
Here were my answers...
Live in: Highbury, London
Type of Membership: Gold
Why are you an Arsenal fan?
My local team. Destiny!
First Arsenal game?
My mate Paul took me to a League Cup home game to watch Charlton. We won (I think!) I was too fascinated being at Highbury for the first time
Favourite Arsenal game?
When we beat Barcelona - "the best team in the world" at the height of their powers - by scoring two in the final 12 minutes. It was that day that I was convinced about fans being the twelfth man. The roar of the crowd willed the ball into the back of the net.
Favourite place to eat before a game?
Favourite place to hang out before kick-off?
Meet up with the Gay Gooners.
How do you feel when you approach the ground?
Wonderfully happy. I genuinely believe we are going to win every single game we play. Naïve fool or born optimist? You decide.
Where’s the best place in the stadium to watch a game from?
Block 6. Brilliant atmos. Best for chanting.
Where’s the furthest you’ve travelled to watch Arsenal play?
Favourite away ground and why?
White Hart Lane. No really. It is like descending into Dante’s Inferno. The noise, the thrill, the excitement, the Gargoyles! With adrenaline pumping, heart racing, we sing our hearts out. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What’s the most obscure piece of Arsenal memorabilia you own?
I had a bar of Arsenal soap once. It just didn’t wash (boom, boom)
What do you wear to games? (A current shirt or a vintage one? Arsenal jacket/hat/scarf/lucky pants?)
Current home shirt and my rainbow laces. Very “on message” me.
Whose name and number do you/would you have on the back of your shirt?
Lacazette. I got it the day he signed but I didn’t know his number so had to go back to the Arsenal shop to get it added later.
Favourite ever Arsenal shirt?
Bruised Banana obviously.
Who is your all-time favourite player and why?
Ian Wright. He loves Arsenal and he lives Arsenal.
Do you have an Arsenal ‘cult hero’ and why?
Micky Thomas after his 1989 League title-winner from Alan Smith’s flick-on. We watched it on telly and rushed out into the street afterwards. It went crazy round our place that day!
What’s the best debut performance you’ve ever seen by a new player?
Most impressive for me was Alexis Sánchez on his first competitive appearance against Man City in the 2014 Community Shield. He didn’t score but we could see he was "the man".
Have you ever met any Arsenal players? If so who, when, where and how?
Freddie Ljungberg. Quite literally bumped into him on Highbury Corner. Only afterwards do you kick yourself for not talking to him.
Which current Arsenal player would you most like to go for dinner with, and why?
Jack Wilshire. I just have a feeling he might tell it how it really is!
If you could erase one Arsenal moment from history, what would it be?
The day Samir Nasri signed for Arsenal.
If you could watch Arsenal play any club side in history, who would it be and why?
I'd love to see a current on form Arsenal team take on one of Fergie's Fledglings late 1990s teams and thrash them.
If you could play in any Arsenal team in history, which would it be and who would you replace (ie, what position would you like to play in)?
I'd replace Thierry Henry in any game where he partnered the wonderful Non-Flying Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp so I could say I played with him. Just once. Bragging rights for life.
What makes you proud to be an Arsenal fan?
Proud that Arsenal work with the community, proud they give their time and money to charity, proud they donate footballs and kit to refugee kids. Proud of their Arsenal For Everyone initiative and proud of their support of LGBT History Month and the Gay Gooners.
Monday, October 02, 2017
Prior to the midday kick-off of Arsenal FC against Brighton and Hove Albion (which we later won 2 - 0) Lea, Chris, Dave, Rosemary, Thierry and I went to the Arsenal Hub to take part in a penalty shootout against the Proud Seagulls (Brighton and Hove Albion's gay supporters group). We didn't score a single goal. Pretty foot work though! Ha! So Arsenal! Jokes all round.
Matt Lucas turned up too which was great so we got to chat with him and take some snaps.
There was some French TV media there as well so being the shy sort of person I am I launched myself at them with my half-baked ideas of how the men's game needs to change to be more welcoming to gay supporters and to look to support any male players should they want to come out. I told them about straight-on-straight homophobic abuse and how that affects gay supporters, how abuse had changed over the years, and bigged up Pride in Football and the Gay Gooners and told them what a great job Arsenal FC did to support us and how Gay Gooners are the biggest and the best gay supporters club in the world. We didn't conduct the interview in French(!) so I'll be intrigued as to how they are going to put French subtitles to some of my Arsenal slang! Oop Ze Arze-nel!
After that a BBC TV crew wanted a go with us all so we chatted to them too. When it came to Lea and my turn we played a bit of a double act being interviewed together. It was very funny and hopefully we got some of our points about homophobia, what the clubs need to do and our passion for the game. After the match the TV crew wanted to do some 'pick up' shots so we walked towards the camera and away from the camera a dozen times together feeling very self-conscious. We joked we should have had people doing our hair, our make-up and maybe even a fluffer(!)
During the game itself Arsenal broadcast on numerous occasions the Arsenal for Everyone pitch-side video banner along with its rainbow ending. Then at half time Matt Lucas was interviewed on the pitch about being a gay fan, his support of the Gay Gooners, and how his autobiography was on sale now(!) Our new Gay Gooners banner was shown a couple of times during the piece and my heart swelled with pride. The club I love, in the stadium I love, was very openly telling me I was accepted as a gay man. This made me very happy. Very.