Monday, April 12, 2004

Writing from an "internet cafe" in Newquay, Cornwall, where I am spending Easter. Am currently doing nothing except watch DVDs of I Claudius, walk along cliff-tops, reading (I bought the New Penguin book of Gay Short Stories and it's very good so far) and driving to the usual Tourist Locations. The Eden Project was interesting although a bit too eco-guilt-ridden (everywhere there are signs warning you about replenishing natural resources - by the time I'd got to the end I felt like burning some fossil fuels just for the hell of it) and also quite heteronormative (e.g. pertaining to heterosexuality).

After it I decided to hunt out the "gay scene" in Cornwall. There doesn't seem to be a very big one. Now where I'm from isn't what you'd call a Buzzing Metropolis, but at least it has a gay pub, a switchboard and an active lgb soc at the University. But here! Here it's just nothingness. Or so I thought. After doing some research I found a gay hotel which had "sauna" nights on Sunday and Wednesday. I decided to check it out. It took ages to find, being a terraced house in the Middle of Nowhere. Once inside, the owner, who was wearing a bathrobe and one of those scary waxed moustaches that only gay men who lived through the 1970s still have, showed me the premises. There was a room with 5 ancient old dears sitting in towels, watching porn on an old tv which has encased in an antique cabinet. The rest of the room was full of piles of books, junk, old furniture, paintings, cabinets etc. It was like wandering into a Charles Dickens novel - an odd mixture of high culture and very very low. The toilet was the owner's own bathroom - which had a corner bath, an old screen, huge ancient sink, lots more books and the toilet roll was hung on the arm of a male nude statue. The place had style at least.

The sauna was very small and very cramped - once you got inside it, you couldn't leave without getting everyone else to stand up and go outside too. Everyone else was "local", either morbidly obese or in their 50s or both, and very friendly. As someone who was young and "new", I was the source of some interest, not that I had any intention of doing anything more than having a sauna. At one point, the owner with the waxed moustache held an impromptu game of "Who wants to be a Millionairre?" in the crowded sauna cabin. I'm afraid I didn't do very well - but as most of the questions were about pre-decimalisation money and as they kindly pointed out, I was too young to remember that, it didn't seem to matter. Then talk turned to the Outside World. "Have you been on that Internet?" asked one. "Oh no," said another. "I don't do anything more technical than a calculator." "I hear they have huge saunas up in London," another one said. "And they have parties where you have to wear only your underwear!" There was a respectful silence of a few seconds while the others internalised this concept. "It's absolutely outrageous what goes on!" I told them I was from "Near Manchester" and this got them talking. "What's that famous street? Do you go there?" they asked me. "I said I had been once or twice." I don't know if I found them more exotic than me or vice versa.

After I left, I decided to find a restaurant to eat, but everywhere was closed, so I returned back to the holiday flat and had a bowl of Alpen instead. This is turning into a strange sort of holiday, but I'm glad I'm here, rather than be in some tacky hotel in Gran Caneria.

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