Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tunisian tales

I’m back at home after the Tunisian Mini Break. White John and I had planned this trip as a battery recharge before the Christmas Season. Originally we were going to find a little spa somewhere in the English countryside but after a little research we discovered that it was actually cheaper to fly south for three hours and stay half board in a four star hotel. We checked online and the reviews of the hotel were favourable. We booked. Everyone said they were very jealous and wished they were coming too. Everyone, apart from Rob Clark, who gasped in horror and said that his Tunisian holiday had been the worst ever, “ Darlings, you may be on the coast of North of North Africa, but it will be freezing cold, and most likely raining. Do not, whatever you do go on the organised trip. I booked a tour because the weather had been so bad I was the youngest person on the bus by about 20 years. We arrived at the great ruins, the largest amphitheatre outside Rome. It has been carved from enormous slabs of marble. As I said it had been raining and no sooner had the elders disembarked a scream was heard. Marjory had walked to the edge of the stairs leading down into the arena. Her Dr Scholls had little grip, she slipped on the wet marble and plummeted down the steep incline. Forty Five minutes later she was being stretchered from the arena and into the back of a waiting ambulance. We all reboarded the bus and headed for the vast salt flats. They are huge; the great, dry lakes stretch as far as the eye can see in every direction. The salt formations are amazing, and soon everyone had piled off the bus again and was examining the crystalline structures at close quarters. Apart from Marjory’s friend Vera. She was sitting in the minibus grumbling that the trip had not been abandoned after the Coliseum incident. We tried to get her to come and see for herself, but Vera was adamant. The rest of the party were fascinated by the salt forms, but were distracted by the bellowing of a distant horn. We looked at the horizon and could just about make out a desert train in the distance. A desert train is basically a huge juggernaut pulling three or four more containers. They rumble across the sand flats carrying supplies to distant outposts. They are huge. The horn sounded again and the lorry rumbled closer, and closer. We watched as the gigantic vehicle approached the place where our minibus was parked. It was at this very moment that Vera underwent a change of heart and decided that she would come and join us on the salt flats. She opened the door of the bus and stepped down right into the path of the desert van. Completely obliterated. The tour guide accompanied Vera’s husband to the morgue and everyone else got back on the coach. The final part of the tour was to supposed to be a camel ride. No one was much in the mood for it, but then one of the old ladies piped up and said they shouldn’t wallow, and that a camel ride would raise everyone spirits.” Rob rolled his eyes, and sighed, “I should have known better. We got to the camel station and I got on first. While the handler was helping the others to climb on, my camel saw a chance for freedom and made a run for it. Camels can reach speeds of upto 40 miles and hour and all I could do was hold on as this thing set off across the Sahara. 2 hours later it had reached and oasis and there I sat for a further four hours until they finally found me. No, Tunisia I do not recommend.”

Sent off...

So poor old George Best finally got the red card. The BBC had been prepared for weeks and instantly screened an obituary show. I was cooking some food and half-watching, I have no interest in football, especially since the shorts got so long. However seeing the old footage of him in the 70’s reminded me how in playground discussions I used to cite George Best as my favourite player. I realise with retrospect it probably was probably based more on his looks and the fact that he was dating Miss World, Mary Stavin than his football skills. He was really sexy and no amount of nylon shirting could detract from that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


My father collected me from the station in what is by far the swishiest car our family has owned. It’s what I guess, you would call champagne coloured and has a computer that tells you if your seat belt is undone, the temperature outside and inside, a camera to show you the view when reversing and a soothing lady’s voice that tells you where to turn off for Mutley Plain. I am not sure it’s my favourite family car. I loved being able to ride in the boot of the orange estate car, imagining myself to be some kind of pedigree dog and I always felt super cool in the sporty two door turquoise number with black interior. Incidentally growing up I never had a problem being in the back seat of a two door car but as I have matured (Who snickered?) I have become increasingly claustrophobic, and now spend journeys worrying about being able to escape through the small rear windows in the event the car should be involved in an accident.

My mother greeted me at the front door with the words, “Terry, his hair has grown, he looks like Jesus.” I took this to be a complement as my mother always has some comment to make on my appearance, and I know in her books Jesus isn’t half bad. I think she is still reliving the time I came home with a nose stud and a chin piercing. That time she opened the door and gasped, ushering me quickly into the house with the words, “Did the neighbours see you? What have you done to yourself?” I managed to string them along for an hour before removing the magnetic studs, they were not as amused as I had anticipated.

Since both my parents have retired the diner conversation no longer is peppered with anecdotes about the boat building industry or the demise of Plymouth’s fashion retail industry. Certainly on my first night it seemed to be a catalogue of their friends’ ailments and treatments. As we ingested our Four Cheese Ravioli I listened politely to the discussion of Dennis’ triple bypass operation, Jan’s grandson’s cleft palate operation, and Davy’s lung cancer diagnosis. However, I had to stop Pat when she began to go into details about her hairdresser’s husband’s problems. He had cancer of the penis and because the surgery was so complicated he had to be taken up to Bristol hospital where there was a specialist. There had been complications, and not only had the surgeon been forced to remove half his penis, but he had to remove lymph glands resulting in a loss of feeling from thigh to waist and a build up of fluid. However he felt the aftercare in Bristol was so poor, he had discharged himself and had returned to Plymouth. By now I was starting to gag, I am not used to my mother use the word penis quite so liberally, and the cheese sauce was starting to feel thick and gloopy in my mouth. However, the tale was not finished and Pat began to describe how the two consultants the poor man had been seeing argued over the merits of childhood circumcision. One had said that he had never treated a circumcised man for that form of cancer the other (apparently the wife of the first consultant) said that was “poppycock!” My mother explained that it was fortunate in this case that the man had not been cut a t birth because the clever surgeon had been able to use part of the foresk… “Stop, stop, stop!” I exclaimed, by now I was not only about to vomit at the table but my mothers sudden liberal ease at discussing male genitalia had caused my father and I to flush bright red. “Please, can we not discuss this any further at the dinner table?”
My mother looked shocked, “Well, I never knew you were so sensitive about things.”
I explained “How would you feel it we suddenly started talking about labia at the table?”
“If it was in context, I wouldn’t mind.”
My father coughed quietly. I don’t think he had ever imagined he would have to be confronted by foreskin and labia at his own dining table.

The following day, the weather was beautiful and so we walked along the coastal footpath, watching the ships and yachts sail in and out of Plymouth harbour. It was as calm as a millpond and we all recollected on the times I had spent hurtling around in a Mirror dinghy with little control of direction or speed. We laughed about the time I managed to get caught in a tidal current and got stuck behind the harbour wall for an hour and a half and had to be towed back by our instructor ( in a canoe). Then there was the occasion where we had being doing capsize drill in the harbour and I had managed to right the boat but because of the weight of water in my clothes, my plump teenage build and the awkward life jacket I was unable to climb back aboard and had to swim back to shore towing the dinghy. No one talked about genitals the whole day.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The journey home

I went to see the physical theatre company DV8 last night. Their shows are always visually stunning, and this latest one, “Just For Show” was amazing. Without a real plot, the show tells a series of short stories. My highlights were; the boy dancing with his hazy reflection in a full length mirror, then stepping through the apparently solid mirror accompanied by a collective audience gasp. The elegant, real-life mannequin, manipulated by suited dancers, while she extended greetings in several languages to the audience. I loved the shadowy gay club, where the lone illuminated dancer was partnered both in dance and sexual acts by shadowy forms, whilst an ever-changing web of colour morphed across the front of the stage. It was once again a performance that had everyone chatting animatedly as they left the theatre, discussing exactly what they had just seen. There is a documentary on television this evening about the former boyband Take That, by coincidence I found myself standing next to Jason Orange during the interval. For once I can report that time has been kind!

I am on the train en route from London to Plymouth. I managed to catch the fast train which takes about three hours. However we have been delayed so far by a swan on the line at Newbury and by a defunct level crossing at Corsham. I love the way that they can stop a train to escort a swan of the tracks but still plough through a woman and child. I don’t really feel cynical as it’s a beautiful day and the journey takes you through such gorgeous countryside, and although I have missed the best of the autumnal colours, it has been so mild that there is still much to admire.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weird Saturday

It’s always the same. You have a couple of days off work and you get sick. Fortunately it’s just a head cold, but it has meant I have not been on the best form.

I really should write about Saturday night because it was all rather dramatic, but then again some of the people involved read this and it might start everything off again. The Johns had been talking about having a games night for a couple of weeks. On Saturday evening we all went round to Mac’s for an evening of Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary issue. There were 8 of us, Me, Flattie, Bex, The Johns, Big Word Will, Fox and Mac. I may have got a few hackles raised by my request to watch the results of the vote for The X Factor. (Maria was robbed; can you believe that The Conway Sisters are still in the competition?) I also made them sit through the 5 minute DVD of I Just Want to F**king Dance. Then we all got down and started the game. Triv always causes a few heated debates, whether it is about the scoring, the teams or who gets to ask the final question. We were paired up, I was teamed with Bex. The new version has very strange questions, for example; in the Art and Literature category, we were asked,” What would you be buying if the bar code started 649?” The answer was a book. After about an hour of half hearted playing and general whinging from everyone about the standard of questions things started to get tense. Briefly, JW said that he was going home because we weren’t playing properly. JC followed him and brought him back o the room. JW said if we didn’t want to play we should just stop and although the rest of us were prepared to carry on, we decided to stop. I can’t really remember what happened next, I started packing the game away, and JC started getting really aggressive. I didn’t really understand what the problem was, but it seemed like he didn’t like the way I packed the game away. It then all kicked off as I made a comment about the game being made by The Daily Mail. JC went mental, saying that it was my entire fault the evening was a disaster. Bex tried to diffuse the tension, by saying that it wasn’t my entire fault and that JC should apologise. JC looked directly at Bex and said he was sorry. I had moved across the room and pointed at myself, indicating that I think the idea was that the apology be directed at me. JC freaked out, said some mean things and stormed out, with JW in tow. Everyone looked at each other not exactly sure what on earth was going on. Big Word Will thought it might be something to do with them buying the game, Bex thought there might be something going on between the two of them, and Iain thought he had missed something while he was in the kitchen. Flattie and Fox thought that they might have fuelled the flames with some of their remarks. We stayed at Iain’s for a while longer, each choosing a song from his vast CD collection. I chose Mary J Blige, “No More Drama”.

I texted the Johns on Sunday to ask what I had done to make them so cross but it’s Monday and they still haven’t replied. It’s a bit tricky as it’s JW’s birthday this week which means he will be celebrating on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I will not be in town for Thursday, but if we don’t patch things up, should I go on Friday and Saturday? I am also supposed to be going away with JC next week for a bit of a detox in Tunisia! Sharing a room with someone who is not speaking to you? That could be interesting.

Sunday: Cold had kicked in and although it was a beautiful autumn day I didn’t feel like doing much. I spent most of the day in bed. However I managed to make it out to the Tea Rooms on Liverpool Street for Gay Bingo. It was a riot, absolute carnage! I won for the first time, a lovely wand and crown set, called Princes Lucy. We decided not to open it up but to save it for Fox’s friend, Lucy. Johnny Woo did a live action version of Madonna’s new video; he looks great in a leotard. I must admit I do find Johnny really sexy. Eeek! I am top of me. I now have a nice friction burn and a whopper bruise on my arm. Much fun though!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It's karma

I am feeling well pleased with myself as I have managed to configure my flatmates computer to work with our broadband provider, which means he can download porn or cruise Gaydar on his own PC rather than having to borrow my laptop. I also fixed his iPod which seemed to have given up the will to live. Now he owes me, big time!

In the romance stakes I am once again making a total mess of things. I have been on a couple of dates with a new guy. He is a friend of a friend and had a brief fling with one of my very good friends earlier this year. See, already I feel there is too much baggage, but we do get on well and there has always been this simmering thing between us. Anyway, I took him to see Sufjan Stevens (AMAZING!) on Monday and was supposed to see him on Wednesday, which I bailed on because I had to work really late and then on Friday, which I also bailed on, because, and I am really ashamed to admit it, I had a huge zit on the end of my nose. I don't really get them anymore, but this one came up like I was auditioning to be Coco the Clown. The receptionist at our office smiled as I walked past and said cheerily, "You must have been saying really bad things about someone to get a zit that size on your nose!".
I ran into the loos and examined my face in the mirror, it had indeed doubled in size and intensity in the time it had taken to get from Stockwell to Covent Garden.

At lunch I went out to get some food, as I was waiting to cross the road, the office manager walked up to me, "Hi Mark, have you just been into Farmacia (the local drugstore, which happens to be next to the zebra crossing) to get something for that spot?"

I felt like putting a bag over my head for the rest of the day. Anyway, when I called him to say I wasn't coming out that night, he started to get all paranoid and then I was too embarassed to say that actually I was just being childish and vain and worrying about a stupid spot. I sent him an SMS today to apologise and also to fess up. He hasn't replied. He thinks I am a freak.

However do not feel sorry for me, I do deserve it. I have sort of set myself up on a date on Sunday night. It's a guy from Friendster, who miraculously is not from San Francisco and has a very funny line in emails. We are going for a beer. By tomorrow I should be spot free. Knowing my luck as I type this he will be getting a coldsore!

Hope you are having more luck!