Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, May 31, 2002

I have now watched Star Wars Episode II - Attack Of The Clones 5 times. And I still can't follow the plot. Maybe I'll watch it over the weekend again and take notes this time!
This is a test posting using the new beta mail-to-blogger feature in
Blogger Pro. I hadn't realised it had been activated until I happened to
be roaming around the http://pro.blogger.com site just now and came
across it.

All I need to do to use it is send an e-mail in plain text to
overyourhead.(my secret word)@blogger.com and the post automagically
appears on my blog. This is even better than using WAP as it won't
require me to logon first. What's more it'll allow me to blog from any
e-mail terminal (even the free ones in the streets on merry old London
village) as well as from my phone. Coolio.

It also opens up the idea of subscribing a blog posting address to a
mailing list. Thereby creating an automatically generating blog from an
e-mail list.
Dead Duck Decoys...
Why this struck me as funny, I'm not quite sure. I guess it's just the thought of someone purchasing and placing a plastic version of a deceased member of the water fowl family on their lawn. The idea is to scare off the live version, thus keeping your precious garden in tip-top shape and free of duck or goose shit. Never mind the morbid means to the end. The makers note that they are effective deterrents for golf courses, parks and office complexes. What a lovely image that would be when you're out for a casual stroll or entertaining that big account at your company headquarters. Oh and they float too.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam...
Does Spam really annoy you? It does me. And a certain Jonathan Land - who has done something about it. He writes back. And his reply letters are hilarious. Go read some.

He explains:-
I can't remember why I started writing back....
Was I mad as hell and not taking it anymore? Did my insatiable mean streak miss a feeding? Did I see an opportunity to generate a few cheap laughs?
These all seem like viable reasons... but are writing ridiculous letters to mostly dead addresses and trying to lure the authors behind the functional ones into an increasingly absurd dialog justifiable?
I don't know. While I'm sorting out the ethics involved, you can read these.
P.S. If there's one entertaining thing to come out of this site, it's the fact that when spammers have their tools scraping as many email addresses as they can find from the web they'll hit this site and have tons of email that'll just bounce right back at them.

[Thanks to the Guardian and Marky for the heads up]
Bye, bye...
Trainee barrister Sunita will leave the Big Brother house at 1900 BST on Thursday, and will be replaced by a new contestant. When she leaves after only seven days of the competition, the 25-year-old from London will be the first person to walk out of a UK Big Brother house of their own accord. Good riddance you boring fart!
Football crazy...
Tomorrow will see the start of one of the world's most popular sporting competitions. The World Cup. Football is played from the Vatican to the Himalayas, it crosses boundaries of race, class and culture, and it is the de facto national sport of more countries than any other.

The first match will be played between France and Senegal in Seoul. The full match schedule is here.

England's first match will be against Sweden on this Sunday at 10:30 (London time) in Saitama. We are holding a breakfast party that morning for Ben, Sarah, Drew, Luke, Colin, Marky and me. That is if I get out of bed in time after Purple In The Park.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

More money than sense...
*N Sync's Lance Bass is hoping to be blasted off into space. But only if his tour finishes on schedule. Oh, and if his mum let's him stay out that late.
All change...
Would you like a job, Darling?
Sour note...
David and I went to a different Pop Quiz last night in Kilburn at the Zd Bar. We teamed up with Frances Spencer Fraser and Chris. Ian joined us later too. We won £20 and a stupid Guinness pen each. But I don't think we'll be going back. I missed my last train home too so I had to go all the way into town and out again which meant it took an hour to get home rather than 20 minutes. Pah!

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Big Brother 3 - The split (again)...
The wonderful Darren has some fantastic pictures from the BB web site before it went live demonstrating what the split will look like.
Big Brother 3 - The split...
The Big Brother house is to be split in two - a similar trick being used in the Dutch version last year. Plastic bars will come down to split the house in two, with those in the rich part given £400 housekeeping money and access to better living conditions. The losers would have to live on basic provisions and use an outside toilet. Contestants will be able to earn a place in the luxury section by doing well in a task.

And in related news: You can't watch BB for free now on the web. £9.99 is charged per month by Channel Four to see the streaming content. Last year the streaming of live action from the BB house was free. In one report C4 claimed that charging would actually improve the service on offer. But this has already been disputed by some who've coughed up their cash and found that they are unable to access any live content. A common complaint is to see 'Link outdated' on every connection attempt.
Purple In The Park…
This weekend is the Golden Jubilee Weekend. Kicking the four days of fun will be Purple In The Park on Saturday 1st June - a big gay dance festival in Brockwell Park, South London. There are going to dance tents to suit all tastes and a main stage featuring Grace Jones and Kim Mazelle amongst others. Should be fun.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

The Eurovision Song Contest 2002...
Tonight is the big night. The flags are out, the stage is set and the irony is lost on no-one. Croatia are hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest and parties are being held all over Europe by way of (mock) celebration. Almost every single gay man that I know is going to be watching it and jeering, sneering and cheering as the 24 counties parade their 'finest' song writing talent to an audience of trillions. I don't if that the fact that all my gay friends are watching it says something about the demographic of the event's appeal or the fact that I just know a lot of camp gay men but what the heck. It'll be fun. We're going to a big bash up in North London. I've made up CDs of all the songs along with lyric sheets so we can all sing along with the best (and worst) of them. Should be a riot.

If you want to hear or see any of the 24 entries you can do so here.

Does this show get shown in America or Australia?
Big Brother 3 - Those First Impressions...
Spencer - cute
Alison - great fun
Alex - great looker
Jade - annoying to the point of sympathy
The rest - made very little impresssion on me so far

We started a £30 sweepstake for the winner and got to pick two contestants each at random. I got Spencer and Alison. Whoopee!

Friday, May 24, 2002

World Cup...
This is absolutely fab. It's 704k but well, well worth it! (Safe to view in the office too)
Send this link to someone in your office you want to embarrass. (Warning: it's not rude but do turn the volume low when you open it!)

Jonce is 63% gay!
Careful! You're not a gay cliche yet, but are well on your way. Bet all the girlie girls just adore you!

How gay are you?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…




There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic.

The separatist movement, under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku, has made it difficult for the limited number of Jedi Knights to maintain peace and order in the galaxy.

Senator Amidala, the former Queen of Naboo, is returning to the Galactic Senate to vote on the critical issue of creating an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC to assist the overwhelmed Jedi…

So begins Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones which we went to see it last Sunday. I had high hopes for it as I’d heard it had echoes of The Empire Strikes Back (my favourite Star Wars film). Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations although overall I was fairly impressed.

The film was basically more of the same i.e. it picked up where The Phantom Menace left off (no surprise there) albeit 10 years or so later. The film had a stronger emotive narrative than its predecessor but fewer surprises (let’s face it, we all know how it turns out). There was more politics, some love interest and buckets of ‘special’ effects. When I say ‘special’ what I really mean is lots of CGI ships, landscapes and aliens. Something which is rather par for the course in sci-fi films these days. And therein lies one of my criticisms of the film (apart for the fact it was too long and fairly humourless). The CGI space ships were all incredibly shiny and had lots of silvery reflections. Quite out of keeping to the normal Star Wars universe. Surely one of the appealing things about Star Wars is that everything is dusty and dirty and slightly beaten up. I think ‘realistic’ is the word I’m trying to use here - but it’s hard to talk about realism when you’re talking about a fantasy film.

Would I recommend you go and see it? Yes. But only if you like the other films in the series. It will make no new converts I fear. The net copies I've seen are fairly poor so I'd wait to rent or buy the video or tape when it comes out.
Have I Got News For You...
Tonight's show should be a corker. After the host, Angus Deayton was revealed to have had sex with a prostitute and sniffed cocaine. Below is reveiw that the BBC wrote about last night's recording (beware possible joke spoilers).

Deayton admits: 'I'm this week's loser'
Angus Deayton admitted he was a "loser" and faced merciless ridicule from his Have I Got News For You co-stars when it was filmed on Thursday. The host of the satirical news quiz looked clearly uncomfortable during his first show since a Sunday newspaper claimed he had sex with a prostitute and snorted cocaine in front of her. Team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton both brandished copies of the newspaper and left Deayton keeping 'score' on how many jokes each made at his expense. Guests Ken Livingstone and comedian Dave Gorman also made quips about Deayton, who has a baby with long-term partner, Lise Meyer.
'Smug git'
Deayton attempted to pre-empt the inevitable gags when he introduced the quiz by saying: "Welcome to the show. This week's loser is ... presenting it." He continued: "The words pot, kettle, smug, git, good and kicking all come to mind." Hislop and Merton were not to be outdone though, making sure their colleague's discomfort continued throughout filming. At one stage, Merton unveiled a T-shirt featuring the front page of the newspaper. And as the host tried to ask the first questions Merton interrupted, saying: "The story I'm interested in Angus, you and this prostitute, how did you get away without paying her?" Hislop then pulled out a copy of the News of the World and started reading it out. "'He made me groan all night.' What were you doing, reading the autocue?"
'Bad news'
As Deayton continued to squirm Merton told him: "I am surprised you had the nerve to turn up, you knew what it would be like." The host replied: "I did, because of you two." London Mayor Ken Livingstone joined in with the comment: "This is a day that Stephen Byers could have leaked more bad news." Deayton added: "All week."
Italian escape
The News of the World said Deayton did not realise the woman, Caroline Martin, was a prostitute and had simply "chatted her up". I think he got properly set up and he obviously feels a bit of a fool Matthew Freud
In an interview with the newspaper Ms Martin claimed she had a "two-night affair" with the star. She said she did not realise Deayton had a long-term partner and claimed they had swapped telephone numbers before meeting up at a hotel in Manchester and then again in London. She described their encounter in detail, alleging Deayton used cocaine in front of her. Following the revelations, Deayton and his partner flew off to Italy to escape the publicity, but he vowed he would go ahead with the show as usual.
'Set up'
Publicist Matthew Freud told BBC News Online his client dreaded filming Friday's edition of the quiz. "He's expecting a pretty rough ride," Mr Freud said, adding that Deayton's mood was "remorseful". "I think he got properly set up and he obviously feels a bit of a fool." Deayton has hosted the programme, alongside regular team captains, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and comic Paul Merton, since it began in 1990. It is now in its 23rd series.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

What a carry on...
The day carry on stars invaded earth.
[Thanks to Kit for the link]
The leg cramps that have been keeping me awake at night haven't been too bad recently but just in case I picked up my prescription for clonazepam today. And on the label were those dreaded words "avoid alcoholic drink". Eeeks!
What a lovely evening...
Yesterday Marky finished his final project for this year. He's now half way through studying for his Master of Arts. Go Marky! And what with me feeling a bit better about worky things we decided to go out last night and do something. Film? Sauna? Restaurant? Well, no, we decided to go up to Hampstead and have a drink at the King William IV. I hadn't been there in ages and it just seemed like a nice change. We sat in the garden and debriefed ourselves with what had been going on in our days. Very nice.

About half an hour later David joined us and then an hour after that Ian came too. We chatted and caught up with each other's news. Then at 9:30 the Pub Quiz started. Just for a laugh we thought we'd join in. £2 each mind you so it wasn't cheap.

The first part of the quiz was very Family Fortunes. "We asked a hundred people to name..." kind of thing. The questions were things like "a fruit that begins with P", "a musical instrument made of wood" and we had to guess the most popular answers. Extra points were available if you got the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most popular answers too. We didn't do very well scoring just 31 out of 72 the winners got 40. We obviously don't have our collective fingers on the common pulse.

The second part of the quiz was more our thing. Rounds were about general knowledge, memory test, TV related, London related etc. We only got 4 wrong out of 40 so securing first place. Our prize? £64 to share between us. Go Webmonkeys!

Thank you Marky, David and Ian for helping me shift my fug.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Blogger Pro down...
Thank you to David for alerting me that despite pro.blogger.com being down today I could use tps.blogger.com instead. Now if only I had got the letters round the right way it might have worked! tps not tsp. D'oh!

BlogBack went tits up on me too. I hit my template code with a very large hammer and it's working again too now. The comments windows are now resizable and there is a friendly space in between the post time and the comments link which wasn't there before too. Hurray for my team and the age old technique of trial-and-error.

At least it's taken my mind of work problems.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

On to nicer things....
My brother Simon and his wife Dawn are expecting their first baby (together) this Friday. My brother is as proud as punch. So am I. They don't know whether it's going to be a boy or a girl yet. I think they want a girl as they say it'll give them less grief than a boy. Now that's a matter of opinion!

Simon told me if it turns out to be gay they want Marky and I to be involved with part of the parenting to make sure it has two positive gay role models. I was touched. Unless of course he's just fishing for a free baby-sitter! :)
My work problems: the gory details...
I *think* I know what the issue is with this guy that attacked me (but haven't had the courage to face my 'accuser' yet to confirm). I run the London office. Last month I found out that without my permission some of our London users accounts were being moved randomly about in the company's computer system, some service accounts were being locked out and others had their details altered. All by some remote admin guy at Head Office. When I found out what was going on I blocked the ability to make any further user changes from anyone but our office until I found out who was making these stupid rogue changes and why. When Head Office found out I had blocked them (just last weekend) they stupidly went ballistic without first asking me why I had locked them out. The main guy there (quite high up the IT ladder I might add) chose to say some rather critical things ("abusing my permissions", "dangerous", "I must be stopped"). As the e-mail travelled it's way to higher and higher people in the company some others took the opportunity to stick the boot in too and add their comments (I guess those people just plain don’t like me). Soon the accusations of "abusing my permissions" were taken as truth and I was called in to see my MD to explain myself. I tried to explain to him but he seemed less than convinced that they wasn't something in the accusations. He was a bit 'no smoke without fire'. To my knowledge I was (a) only doing my job (either I am allowed to do my job or I'm not) and (b) what's the big deal anyway I unblocked them when asked, didn't I? Even after all this mess my boss wants me to put the remote block back on! I told him to put it in writing!

Well I'm now left with the feeling that mud sticks. I've been accused of being unprofessional and 'dangerous'. It's untrue and potential damaging to my career. And for me the attack was very personal. I take great pride in my work. And the attack is eating me up. I'm off my food and wanting to crawl under a rock and die.

What does the panel think? Get some thicker skin or have a showdown with those that dare to criticise the Great Green One?

BTW Thanks for all the e-mails and messages of support today. It really helps. [big grin].

UPDATE: This afternoon my boss has sent off his defence of me and what I did. As have I. We await the replies (if any).
Uncomfortably numb...
The professional personal attack yesterday at work has left me really numb. I feel that someone hates me and it's eating me up. Talking to people at work about it helps a little but at the end of the day I'm not going to really get the bottom of it all until I speak to the guy involved directly. I'm just not sure I want to hear what he's got to say.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Defamation verging on libel...
Over the weekend I received an e-mail from someone at our head office. It was CC'ed to my MD and other people high up in the company. It came out of the blue.

"He has continued to abuse the permissions given to him on (company wide systems) and if he continues like this one day he will create a disaster in the London (office). Please try to put a stop this, otherwise his permissions will be revoke or reduced to stop him from doing any damage."

When I read it I was in shock. I couldn't believe it. Not only is there no truth in what they suggest but it is an e-mail sent out of spite and fear. From someone (high up in head office IT) who I thought I got on with really well with. Then I started trembling with rage. How could he lie like that? Was there something else that I didn't know about (i.e. paranoia)? I couldn't concentrate on anything else I had to do today. By lunchtime I was sick with anger. I couldn't eat. My MD asked to see me early this afternoon to explain the e-mail. I couldn't. I tried to tell him that I didn't know why someone would have said these things about me. He looked concerned but unconvinced. When things like this get into print others can start to believe it's true. Mud sticks of course. I sat in my office drafting and redrafting possible replies trying to defend my position, sheepishly appeasing my accuser or just plain venting my ire. Personal attacks are not easy to cope with. Unjustified ones even more so. I take criticism very badly, and when I think it is not deserved in sends me into a state of fear and depression. I just want to die.

About 15 minutes ago my boss came to see me. I'd sent him one of my draft replies to proof-read. I wasn't sure what my boss's reaction was going to be. I needn't have worried. He said, "in 32 years of working with IT professionals I have never worked with anybody as outstanding as you. You are head and shoulders above anyone else I have had the pleasure of working with. If as a result (of this e-mail) you even consider leaving this company the loss to me personally, the London office or the company as a whole would be incalculable. These accusations are defamation verging on libel. I am very angry. I will defend you in print." He went back to his office to draft his own reply. Let's hope he doesn't make things worse! Nice of him to give me 110% support though. My professional confidence has taken a bit of a knocking today.
V Graham Norton...
If you watch Graham Norton's show tonight @ 11:05 of Channel Four you should see me being mentioned and a photo I sent him being shown.
Fish anyone?...
The Flying Dutchman...

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Friday, Saturday, Sunday...
David and I popped out for a quick pint on Friday night. Little did we know who we would meet, what we would do to them and where we would end up. Starting at Comptons (Hi Guy!), then The Yard (Hi Neil! Hi Phillip! Hi Dave!), then a thai restaurant (thanks Neil!) and finally CXR79 (Hi Saunders! Hi Peter!) we painted the town a deep shade of red. Apparently we did a spot of match-making too (Hi Ian!).

On Saturday my sister Jo came up and we did a spot of shopping. In the evening I hooked up with David, Marcus and Guy in Comptons before heading to Michael's pad just off Leicester Square for a party. Michael lays on a great do and we had a great time. Michael is currently staying at Alan Cumming's flat with it's two sundecks and jacuzzi. Very swish.

Later on Marky, Sarah, Ben and I went to a house party next door but one to where we live. It all got a bit out of hand so about 4ish we came back home to play some video games.

Up early, today I'm off to see Attack Of The Clones (thanks Darren!), then celebrating Jason's birthday at Comptons (spot the theme here?) and off to the RVT.

Busy, busy, busy :)

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Victims of Nazi persecution and homosexuals are pardoned ...
Germany has pardoned tens of thousands of Nazi-era army deserters and homosexuals who were sent to concentration camps. About 50,000 homosexuals and 22,000 deserters were included in the pardon passed by the lower house in Berlin. It extends a 1998 law that cleared the names of hundreds of thousands of Germans convicted of crimes under the Nazis. The conservative opposition voted against the law, arguing that it sent the wrong message to rehabilitate former soldiers without examining each individual case. Under the previous legislation, both the deserters and homosexuals could only be rehabilitated after individual petitions had been legally approved. "Finally the deserters and homosexuals who were persecuted will receive justice," said Volker Beck, a spokesman for the Greens party, which supported the law. German Justice Minister Hertha Daeubler-Gmelin welcomed the law as long overdue. She said it was humiliating and difficult for victims of Nazi military courts to be expected to produce evidence of their convictions and undergo a review of their case before being cleared. Those convicted under Nazi laws include not only deserters, but also soldiers accused of "cowardice" or "marriage without permission," she said. "We all know that our decisions today are more than 50 years late," she told parliament. "They are necessary nonetheless. We owe it to the victims of wrongful Nazi justice." Of the estimated 50,000 homosexuals convicted by the Nazis, few ever came forward after World War II because of the continuing stigma as well as the fact that the law under which they were convicted remained on the books in West Germany until 1969.
[Thanks to Ananova for the heads up]

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Roger Waters: In The Flesh...
Last Wednesday night I went with Paul, Simon, Pip and Josh to see Roger Waters perform his "In The Flesh" show at Palau St. Jordi in Barcelona. I've always been a Pink Floyd fan (more so in the 70s than now I guess) and have even followed Roger Waters career since he left the band. I was hoping for a 'greatest hits' show and that is exactly what I got. All my favourites were performed live with incredible big screen back-projection and animation to boot. Whatsmore Snowy White and PP Arnold were in the backing band too. We sang, we danced and we marvelled. Paul and I were all but word perfect on every song in the first half and all the old stuff in the second. A great night out. Anyone wanna go June 26/27 at Wembley let me know.

The show started at 9:30pm with...
In The Flesh
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
Southampton Dock
Pigs On The Wing, Part 1
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Welcome To The Machine
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-8)

Having lasted 80 minutes I thought this might be the end of the show, but no, there was a 20 minute interval and then we had a further 80 minutes to go. Fantastic!
Breathe (In The Air)
The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking Part 11 (5:06 a.m. - Every Stranger's Eyes)
Perfect Sense (Parts I and II)
The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
It's A Miracle
Amused To Death
Brain Damage
Comfortably Numb
Flickering Flame

The show finsihed at 12:30am and we had a long trek back to Sitges. Happy though.
Up For Grabs...
Watching Madonna on stage last night was a strange and at times anxious experience. We felt like nervous parents going to see our only daughter perform in an end of term school play. We had butterflies in our stomachs as we took our seats we so wanted it to be good. And like any anxious parents we hung on every word our little treasure spoke and every move she made. We beamed when she reacted to other player’s lines in a suitable manner just like a real actor. We guffawed when she had a funny line to speak herself. We were fiercely proud of her when she did something well and defiantly supportive when she faltered on words or movements. We applauded wildly when she first arrived and stood and cheered when she had finished. Brava. It was a fabulous show, a great performance. How could it be anything else? It was our little girl.

Play any good? Yes. Not too original but entertaining enough.
Can Madonna act? No.
Does that matter? No. Like Arnie et al she’s a star not an actor.
Rest of the cast? Universally excellent.
Best actor? Dawn (Sian Thomas)
Cutest actor? Kel (Daniel Pino)
Staging? Simple, effective and appropriate.
Worth the money (£40)? Yes. As star vehicles go it was fine. At no point were we actually embarrassed for her being on stage.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Tonight Marky and I have got tickets to go and see Up For Grabs starring Madonna. I shall promise a non-gushy review tomorrow. Honest.
Pop Quiz…
It was nice to be back at Pop Quiz last night after my continental Grand Tour. David and Darren were there as was Ian who turned up a little later. His fall had obvious shaken him up a bit. Poor lamb.

Post quiz we headed off to Bar Code to catch up on gossip, swap stories and general bond a bit. Needless to say I was far too late home (sorry Marky!)

So, to the quiz proper. It was a dreadful quiz to be honest. Too geeky, too many obscure questions and a dreadful choice of music. To whit, the first 12 questions all relied on The Langley School Music Project. A collection of Canadian school kids doing covers from the 70s who are getting rave reviews (why?!) from the heavy weight music press. Argh! I shall try and recreate the questions but to be honest there is no way I could relate the true awfulness of a choir of school kids murdering the classics.

01. Name any two of the three brothers in the Beach Boys?
02. Who had a hit with Band On The Run? Exact answer only please.
03. Who had a hit with I’m Into Something Good?
04. Who had a hit with Desparado?
05. What album was it from?
06. What year was it from?
07. How many top ten UK hits has Neil Diamond had?
08. Who had a hit with To Know Him Is To Love Him?
09. Who had a hit with Rhiannon?
10. Who wrote it?
11. The Carpenters had a strangely titled hit that started with the words, “In your mind you have capacities you know To telepath messages through the vast unknown Please close your eyes and concentrate With ever thought you think Upon the recitation we’re about to sing” Can you name the song title exactly. (12 words)
12. Was the above song a cover or an original?
13. What is Tweet’s current top ten single called?
14. What is The Hives’ current single called?
15. What is Moby’s current single called?
16. Who has a Eurovision entry with the name Sergio and The Ladies?
17. In what show is Madonna starring in the West End?
18. What is the connection between the Carpenters and Geri Halliwell?
19. What closed after 21 years in the West End on 11th May 2002?
20. Who is the UK entrant in Eurovision this year?
You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye...
It looked like it was going to happen. Now it has. Next!
The Force...
There were loads of police on the streets of London last night. We couldn't work out why. We should have guessed!

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Five cheeses...
I was looking for a present to buy Paul and Simon at Schipol Airport before I flew down to Spain last week. I thought that large wax encased cheeses might be a nice idea.

Now aren't you just asking yourself how they managed to fill a whole blue one? :)
Once upon a time, in a dog-rough gay pub nestling against some railway arches in south London, middle-aged gentlemen used to dress up as ladies and lip-synch to Shirley Bassey records. Out of this scene came one genuine star (Lily Savage, who didn't mime and actually had talent) and a lot of endearing grotesques (Tilly, a four-feet-tall drag queen who mimed to Dusty Springfield while attacking the audience with a dildo).

Then the audiences grew up and moved on, and a new generation started propping up the bar at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, for whom I Am What I Am no longer seemed to be cutting edge. While the rest of the gay world migrated to the chi-chi bars of the newly gay Soho, the Vauxhall crowd remained resolutely lowlife, preferring lager to ketamine and demanding entertainment.

Into this vacuum stepped Duckie, a club night that added a new twist to the old beer-and-drag formula. The average turn at Duckie was absurd, confrontational, piss-taking - a mutant hybrid of pub drag and performance art. Duckie's biggest star, the Divine David, looked like Liza Minnelli after a car crash and delivered streams of obscenities intermixed with insane conceptual riffs. The two DJs, the Readers' Wives, played anything from Slade to the Stooges - anything, that is, except house and techno. And the crowd were refugees from the muscle-and-tan monoculture of the mainstream gay clubs. For "homosexual refuseniks", as the Duckie organisers call them, the Vauxhall Tavern became an oasis of abnormality from an increasingly homogenous world.

[From today's Guardian]
This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.
No trouble at t'mill...
If you're like me after you've been away from work for a break you get butterflies in your stomach as you walk to the office again. What problems have there been while you were away? Has there been a reorganisation? Will you be for the chop? Have you been 'found out'? Are the villagers at your gate with burning torches baying for blood?

And ten minutes after being back in the saddle all the problems are ironed out. All the important e-mails are answered and you're wondering what all the panic was about.

I'm funny like that.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Mad Dogs and Englishmen...
Thinking I'd grab a few last minute rays of sunshine earlier this afternoon I sat down to read my book (see below). Before I'd realised it I'd managed to burn my forehead in the sun. D'oh! Such an English thing to do.
Holiday reading...
While I've been here I've done a lot of reading. I've finished Generation X by Douglas Copeland, The Rotters Club by Jonathan Coe and started The Tiger In The Well by Philip Pullman. I was pleasantly surprised by GenX - I though (for some strange reason) it might be full of techno-babble a la Wired but nothing could be further from the truth. It was very accessible and very readable. Funny too. The Rotters Club was again a great read. Up to his usual standard, Coe manages to make his characters so believable that you can't but sympathize with all of them. It brought back fond memories of the 70s too. The Philip Pullman is, as ever, unputdownable.

Paul has just lent me Therapy by David Lodge which he says is good. Can you suggest any other books I should pick up at the airport book shop on my way back to the UK tonight? I like to read books that other people recommend.
It must have been something I ate...
Following Simon's birthday meal at Al Fresco last night I started to feel a bit unwell. An hour later I was doubled up over a toilet throwing my guts out. So much for a wild last night in Spain! Oh well, it means I was up earlyish this morning to spend the day with Paul and Simon which is the main reason I came in the first place.
National IQ Test...
Saturday night's National IQ Test on the BBC was great fun. 95,000 people took part. The highest score was 149 by a guy in Surrey. I scored 135. The average of the people who took part was above 100 (i.e. higher than you might expect) because I guess it is mainly people who like (and are good at?) such tests who actually take part. Yes? No?

Why not take the test yourself and let me know how you do?

Sunday, May 12, 2002

The rain in Spain...
Today the sun came out for the first time all week after 5 days of rain. It was actually quite hot. So what did I do? I stayed in bed all day nursing a hangover. Last night's celebration of Simon's birthday was a little... erm... what's the word?... how can I put it it?... WILD! Thank you to Simon himself, Paul, Garry, Neil and later on Jacques, Jean-Paul, Raoul and Frank. And yes I do know what a Basque is. It's a bit like being Welsh, no? :)

Tonight we do it all over again as it's Simon's brthday proper. I just hope I'll get up in time to make my plane tomorrow at 18:55 (!)

Saturday, May 11, 2002

I've spent the day in Barcelona today. Shopping, sauna and more shopping. Mainly for Simon's big day tomorrow. Tonight Garry and his friend Neil are coming over from London and the five of us are planning a big night out in the bars around Sitges. As tomorrow is Simon's birthday lots of locals are joining in on our bar crawl too so in total we're expecting 30-40. Simon knows most of the bar owners quite well (as he is setting up the Gay In Sitges site) and some are laying on food for us which is sweet. We've been making up our own compilation CDs to play in the bars too which I think is quite a nice tradition. Should be a great night out.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Having spent the last few days milling about (a bit of reading, a bit of wandering about Sitges, a bit of bar hopping) Paul and I are going to Fugeres today. The Dali museum is there and as I'm quite a fan it sounds just too tempting an opportunity to miss.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Arsenal win the 'double'...
YEEEEEEES! Last night Arsenal pulled it off. Winning 1-0 away at Old Trafford (of all places) they secured the points to make them uncatchable in the League. As they had won the Cup last Saturday that gives them 'the double'. This is the second time they have done this in four years. Magic!

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Getting to Sitges...
A lazy day yesterday meant I could get up late and meander off to Schipol. The flight to Barcelona was on a cheap and cheerful KLM owned airline but in spite of everything I was quite relaxed. The flight turned out to be smooth and went quite quickly. It was only after I landed I realised quite now lucky I had been. There was torrential rain in Spain and things could have been much worse in the air.

The train to El Prat (sic) and then on to Sitges was easy. As I boarded the second train the opening bars to Singing In The Rain were piped through to the carriages which made me smile. The irony being lost on my fellow passengers despite us all being soaked through from standing in the pouring rain for 15 minutes.

It was great to me Paul and Simon and again. Their new gaff in Sitges is much bigger and nearer town that before. Just a shame the weather is so bloody awful.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Pim Fortuyn...
The assassination of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn was a big shock in Holland. I should know. I was there. There was shouting in the street and the police were deployed in Dam Square.

You may have heard of some of his policies:-
-Halt immigration
-Integrate existing immigrants
-Re-erect Dutch border controls
-Sack 25% of civil servants
-End Dutch system of consensus politics

What you may have not have heard is what a screaming queen he was. Maurice and Lesley filled me in on the gossip as we watched the events of last night unfold. When asked if he would rather be in a Catholic Church or a dark room he said, "A dark room. Every time." He said to a female reporter once who was asking him a tricky question, "Get back to your kitchen and stop these ridiculous questions!" When interviewed about his ex-boyfriend who left him after 9 years he said, "One day I will get my revenge on him!" We asked about the Dutch armed forces he said, "sack them all! Except the marines. I love marines!" And he used to carry two lap dogs with him everywhere.

What a queen!
Monday was a free day. I went shopping for clothes, presents for Paul and Simon and intended to do a bit of blogging and maybe pop into the Cuckoo's Nest (the way you do). Disaster struck when my phone decided to pack up. Worse still it reformatted itself and lost all my names, addresses, numbers etc. I was hoping to meet Maurice and Lesley that night for dinner and now didn't have their contact details. I also didn't have Paul and Simon's details either where I was due to be spending the next week. Yikes!

Marky to the rescue though. I phoned him and asked him to open up my mailbox/contacts and SMS me the important numbers. To do this I obviously had to give him my password - something I might regret at some later date? :))

Now able to contact Maurice we arranged to have dinner. This meant I had to get a ferry out to the island where he lives. In a rather untypical I jumped on the wrong ferry - twice! I had to retrace my steps before I eventually got on the right boat. D'oh!

Dinner was a delight as ever and it was good to catch up with the boys. Unfortunately the events of that night were a little overshadowed by what was going on in the real world.
Getting to Amsterdam (Part II)...
Luckily we didn't have to get up too early on the Sunday as now the gigs were at an end we weren't in a rush to get back to Amsterdam. Being Liberation Day there were lots of celebrations planned - not least one at the Homomonument. I was hoping to hook up with Glenn again but due to the Brussels Half Marathon we missed our train and had to kick our heels around Brussels Midi - and what a dive that place is. When we eventually did get on a train we were stuck in a smoking carriage and after the 3 hour journey I felt like I'd smoked a full pack of Capstan Full Strength. Still it was good to back in A'dam again - even if it was raining.

Ben and I decided to do a bit more exploring and I made it my mission to make him like the place a bit more. Come 6pm we were in the April bar at Happy Hour. Two beers for one soon took their toll and a littler bit worse for wear we ended up grabbing a bite to eat at La Strada and then off to bed. I'd made a further arrangement to meet Glenn at Trut but unfortunately I slept through my phone alarm and missed our rendezvous :-( Sorry Glenn. Maybe next time. The curse of early evening drinking!

Monday, May 06, 2002

The Brussels gig...
Brussels Ancienne Belgique was the venue for the last show in the Soft Cell European Tour 2002. We waited around outside as Hanko was meeting a friend, Bernard (known to his friends as 'energybiker'), who had his ticket for the gig. When finally he arrived we were all full of excitement and dying to all get in the venue. Despite being the biggest of the venues we had been in that week it was a sell out. Marc was smiling the moment he came on stage too. Could it be because of the rapturous reception he received or was it because it was the last night?

Energybiker and I danced together for the whole gig which made think that Hanko had been lining me up with dancing partners from the start! (If it's true Hanko, thank you!) The usual 80 minute set seemed to fly by and I even sang along to Last Chance which is an event in itself.

Marc threw himself into his dancing and singing like neither of the previous two nights and he was rewarded with the audiences ecstatic reaction throughout. The final encores of Martin and Sex Dwarf were really quite fantastic. Enhanced further still energybiker, Hanko and I were pogoing like lunatics.

After the show we all sat in the bar and chatted and gossiped. It was nice to see Andrea (Hi Andrea!) and Denise (Hi Denise!) there too. Sadly we seemed to lose Ben somewhere along the way who thought we had gone back to the hotel.

After leaving the venue we bumped into Dave Ball just getting into the tour bus. He stayed and chatted with us for about 10 minutes telling us stories of Marc's temperamental nature (changing hotels three times, nearly canceling the A'dam gig etc) and telling some inside information about what he thought of the shows they had done and the ones they were due to do later in the year. He seemed a really genuine guy and sincerely appreciated that we had been following the tour. For me it was a perfect end to a perfect gig.
Belgium Gay Pride...
Once settled in at the hotel Ben and I did a bit of exploring around the town centre and then grabbed a bite to eat. Then we went back to the hotel and hooked up with Hanko. He and I headed off in search of Belgium Gay Pride that was being held that day at the fish market. Unfortunately it was raining, windy and cold and when we got there the place was deserted. The people running the stalls outnumbered the attendees. We took a few pictures and prepared to leave.

Just as we were heading out of the market though we heard some distant drums (rather like Fernando!) and soon a troupe of brightly dressed dykes were heading our way. They were soon followed by floats, marching bands, disco lorries, cars covered in balloons and flag waving leather queens and the obligatory Patsy and Edina drag. We laughed and laughed. It was great. We (almost) forgot the rain and soon got into the spirit. Naturally I took heaps of photos of all the cuties.

Eventually the rain was just a bit too much to bear so Hanko and I went in search of Vincent (a restaurant highly recommenced by David). Unfortunately it was closed so we found the most Belgian looking one we could (don't you just hate those really touristic places!) As luck would have it we stumbled across a place where Hanko had eaten before - we even got served by the same waiter he had before. Over our meal Hanko got to know each other better still and I think we had definitely become firm friends by then.

After we had finished eating (and ogling the boys) we went back to shower and change and get ready for the evening's show.
Getting to Brussels...
On Saturday we had another early start and we (Ben, Hanko and I) were on a train bound for Brussels. Naturally we we sitting in front of some screaming kids. I was all for throwing them out down the carriage at one point! (Yes, I do lose my rag sometimes!)

Charles, Fred, Dave and Thiery were driving instead of taking the train and during the journey Dave texted us the details of the hotel their were all staying at in case we wanted to switch again as we had done in Bremen. As I rechecked our original hotel details I realised that we would have been even further away from the centre than we were going to be in Bremen! Looks like I screwed up again on the hotel front. Minutes later I had called the Metropole and we had a deluxe room waiting for us. So we went from slumming it to going posh in one short phone call. The Metropole is a very swish place. Highly ornate and oozing style. Needless to say we stuck out like sore thumbs!
The Amsterdam gig...
Hanko swung by our hotel about 5:30ish and we headed on over to the Mankind bar where a pre-show party was in full swing. It was nice to meet some other Soft Cell groupies and the atmosphere was great - if not a little flirtatious (!) By the time the doors were due to open we were a little 'merry' and in excellent spirits.

The venue itself (Amsterdam Paradiso) was a great size (not to big, not too small) and the lighting was perfect. The sound was a bit ropey at times though. From the opening number I danced and danced and danced. The beer kept flowing and before long I was playing the role of little Miss Matchmaker Dolly Levi to two of our troupe. Before long cupid's arrow hit home with me too and I was having a snog with Glenn. I blame Hanko for this! He should have stopped me! (Only joking, Hanky Panky!). The combination of beer, dancing, singing and flirting made the show just fantastic for me. Marc seemed to be giving it his all on stage and we were doing the same in the audience.

Fred (a history teacher, don't you know) is used to shouting above a loud noise and so lead the chanting of "Happy Birthday, Dave" as it was Dave Ball's birthday that night. He (and Marc) seemed to not hear Fred though - but we soon found out why they were ignoring us. Marc had planned his own little Happy Birthday To You singalong a bit later on. And when that time came the whole crowd roared and sang at full volume. Dave is a shy guy and it was great to see him so pleased and smiling.

The audience weren't typical Soft Cell fans particularly. And the reason for this I think is that the night was billed as a kind of I Love The 80's Night and way down the poster it happened to mention that Soft Cell were on (we later found out that when La Almond discovered this he tried to get the gig cancelled as he was so furious). When the band finished the disco started and it turned into a regular club night. We left and headed off to do some bars in town. Needless to say the Eagle was one of them (and all that entails). 'Nuff said.
Getting to Amsterdam (Part I)...
We set off early to Amsterdam having walked to Bremen station. Bremen is actually quite a nice place but we were glad to be on our way to the city of sin. Well I was. Ben had his doubts. The journey was to take us 6 hours (!) mainly due to the fact we had to change trains at Duisberg and there was a long gap between trains. It did mean we managed to have a look around Duisberg though and grab a bite to eat. But for future reference please file under hell hole. We won't be going back.

Hanko (Hi Hanko!) sent me an SMS saying that he would meet us at Amsterdam Centraal Station (bless his little cotton socks) with his friend Glenn (more of him later). They were running a couple of minutes late which gave Ben and I a chance to take in the surroundings. And I don't think Ben was impressed. "Dirty, smelly and threatening" was his first impression (this was to change as time went by I'm pleased to say).

We were staying at the Inntel just across the road from the Cuckoo's Nest - and 15 minutes after arriving at the station I was checked in to the hotel and had a beer in my hand swaggering around the Cuckoo Nest's Cellar Room. No point in wasting time, eh? As it was the first time I had ever meet Hanko (despite chatting on gaydar, e-mail and SMS for some 6 months) we started to get to know one another. And we soon found that we are cut from the same cloth. The same template too. Maybe even made with the same needle and thread. We have a similar relaxed attitude to life, love and sex. Needless to say we got on like a house on fire.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Stranger Things...
Just before the Bremen gig as Charles, Fred, Dave, Thiery, Ben and I were walking to the venue to pick up our tickets a voice called out "JONATHAN!" from behind us. I turned round and didn't see anyone I knew. We kept walking. Another, "JONATHAN!". We turned again and saw a rather cute bleached haired boy striding towards us. "No one I know", I said. We kept walking. Finally he caught up with us and I turned round to face him. "I'm Tomas", he said "I read your web site every day. I saw you were coming to Bremen and recognised your picture from your web site photos." Well, I was almost in shock. I'm walking through a strange road, in a strange city and a strange country and a stranger comes up and says hello. He knows all about me and where I'm going. Amazing! So I have to say Hi Tomas! and I hope you are well and it was great to meet you!

Saturday, May 04, 2002

The Bremen gig...
Soft Cell were preceded at the Bremen Modernes by a group called Surf. They were a sort of electronica/80s trio with odd bits of rap and cheese thrown it. Really quite good fun and it got us in the mood perfectly.

The venue was small and the standing room layered quite steeply so it was easy to get a good line of sight. At 8pm sharp on they came. Marc was sporting an even bigger blonde quiff than I remember and black T shirt, jacket and trousers. The set was more or less the same as we have got used to over the past year since last years Ocean gigs. Just Baby Doll being added I think.

The crowd seemed to enjoy themselves but not as much as I had hoped they would. It took some time for Marc to warm up and I it wasnt until Torch that things really started to get going.

After the gig we waited around for Marc and Dave to appear and got some shots of them when they did. Then it was back to the hotel bar for more beer, gossip and gig post mortem.
Hotels and City Centres...
Hotels that say they are near city centres are lying. Hotels that say they are in city centres are not.

It was a 25 minute cab ride from our intended hotel Golden Tulip to the Bremen city centre. A journey that they describe as "a few minutes". Pah! When we discovered this we swapped to the Hilton which is right in the middle of town. By no coincidence the hotel where Dave, Thiery, Charles and Fred were staying.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Getting to Bremen...
Well, its been a wild 24 hours. Thursday we flew out of Heathrow to Schipol where we were due to pick up a connecting flight to Bremen. KLM did their usual excellent service on the first leg but I should have s,elt a rat when we were put on a shuttle bus at Amsterdam for the second leg. The bus drove us through the airport past all the big shiny jets to a small field where the beat up old two prop rust bucket planes were kept. My heart sank when I saw the titchy plane we were hoping would get us to Bremen. Would it even make it off the ground? Would it stay in the air long enough for the hour long journey? Two other passenger obviously thought the answer to one or both of these questions was "No" and refused to board the plane. Cue ten minutes wait while they tried to find their baggage and remove it from the hold. When I say "the hold" I really mean the little cupboard at the back of the plane. Eventuqlly everyones bags got pulled out and strewn across the field. It must have looked like a plane crash from the air.

Once we were finally ready to go the propellors fired up and to shook, rattled and rolled down the runway. "We may experience some slight turbulence", said the pilot. Light? LIGHT?! It was like being flown in a cocktail shaker. Now I know how a squash ball must feel. To say I was panicy would be the understatement of the year. It was a very unpleasant flight.

When we eventually fell out of the sky at Bremen in a controlled smash landing I was ready to kiss the tarmac. That is also when I noticed the type of plane we had been flying. It was called a FOKKER. How apt.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002