Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Doll Soup is back

Several years ago I used to write an online soap opera with dolls in it called Doll Soup. The original episodes are lost forever - wiped from my hard-drive by accident, and not even available on those web-crawler archives.

After a long rest - Doll Soup is back.

And we're starting right at the beginning, with ingenue Pam moving into the Doll House and encountering all those nasty city folk. The dolls might be new (the old ones met a horrible fate), but their problems are just the same...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gladiators... READY!

I spent Christmas in a farmhouse somewhere remote in Cumbria - there was no mobile reception - you couldn't even get a tv ariel signal. However, the owners had kindly installed Sky in several rooms in the house. I gave up on paying extra for satellite channels a few years ago, realising that most of the best stuff was on Freeview anyway (and increasingly on Iplayer), so it was interesting to scroll through hundreds of channels of absolute nonsense. The typical Sky channel seems to consist of a young woman with a "common accent", a below average IQ, blonde hair and large breasts, standing in a poorly decorated tv studio, attempting to sell something, while badly composed text messages and random numbers whizz across the bottom of the screen.

Sky One retains its spot as purveyor of high-quality trash though. My 5 year old nephew was particularly taken with the relaunched Gladiators, which is as silly, addictive and glitzy as I remember it in the mid-1990s. My nephew is just getting to that stage where anything to do with girls is seen as naff, so he was initially unimpressed by the female gladiators. However, as kitsch and shameless as Gladiators might be - there is a (post-)feminist message in there - women can be just as tough (and still have beautiful hair and nails).

In the episode we saw, the original Gladiators had returned to battle it out with the younger, more pert ones. There were rather cruel flashbacks to the old series, as we saw the likes of Wolf, Hunter, Lightening and Panther as they were in their glory days (although with that said - Wolf was always old. Now he looks a bit like Peter Tatchell on steroids.) I was rather concerned about the old Gladiators - while they had a lot of spirit and pluck, they were now in their 40s and 50s, and bodies aren't as bendy as they used to be. One of the poor lady Gladiators ended up on crutches after she went over on her foot.

My favourite new Gladiator (who has taken the mantle of villain from Wolf), is Oblivion. Charlie Brooker has recently said that the new male Gladiators all sound like gay nightclubs (he's right - there's a gay club called Oblivion about 20 miles from my house).

When Oblivion is not being Oblivion, he is Nick Aldis, a wrestler from Docking in Norfolk. And he is 21. Sigh.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The woman who almost became Vice President...

Sarah Palin's 2009 calendar has recently become available. I haven't seen the pictures inside, but the cover picture here made me do a double-take - it looks like a parody - as if someone who really really hated Sarah Palin and everything that she stood for decided to do a little Photoshopping. Either that, or the calendar has fallen through a wormhole from an eerie alternative univerise, where there is a nuclear war and Palin ends up presiding over a post-apocalyptic nightmare world.

However, considering Palin's Thanksgiving video - being interviewed in front of a machine that literally killed turkeys, this picture looks pretty restrained. Can you imagine what she'll do for Easter? I suspect it'll involve some sort of cruxifiction tableaux....

The American flag + Palin daffily smiling while carrying a rifle is liable to cause ideology overload no matter what your political views are. Palin makes George W Bush look subtle. It's no surprise that Tina Fey, Palin's impersonator, has won Entertainer of the Year. However, I think the award should have actually gone to Palin herself. She continues to entertain - and horrify, in equal measures.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Polari magazine launch

Me and gay magazines don't have a very good history. About eight years ago I worked briefly for a magazine in London until I was sacked for having a bad attitude (to be fair, they were right - I do). The main problem was that I wanted to make the magazine all thought-provoking and intelligent, whereas it was supposed to be soft-porn with adverts to be picked up while out clubbing. The two pieces of advice I received were "write as if your reader is drunk" and "write as if your reader stacks shelves in a supermarket".

So I'm pleased to note that the first issue of Polari magazine, an online gay magazine has gone online. The magazine's mission is to provide intelligent, thought-provoking and humorous content for gay men and lesbians, without making everything be about sex or getting you to buy stuff. It's exactly the sort of magazine that I wanted to create eight years ago.

The html version is at There's also a fancy flash version and a forum.

The name Polari comes from a now almost-dead form of gay language use - something which I carried out research on (there's a small article by me in the first issue). I wish them lots of success.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It is now officially Christmas

I love Christmas but I hate how town centres start putting up their Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year. This year Lancaster town centre put its lights up at the end of October - before Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. I wrote a sarcastic note to Lancaster County Council suggesting that they just save themselves the trouble and leave the lights up all year round. As I've reported previously, Marks and Spencer raised the height of all its shelves in October and have whole aisles devoted to mince pies and Christmas puddings. Sadly - people have been buying them. And I know that they're not just saving them up until Chrismtas - but they'll be getting home and eating all 6 mince pies in one go. People have been asking me if I have started my Christmas shopping yet for weeks now.

So I was very pleased last week at the Student Union shop on campus, when one of the staff their turned off the tape recorder that was blaring out Christmas music, consfiscated it and said to the other stunned shop assistants "You can have it back on December 1st". I wanted to applaud.

However, as tomorrow is December 1st, I can properly get into the spirit of things. I love putting up the Christmas tree. I remember about 10 years I went to a Christmas party in a well-heeled bit of Los Angeles. The host had the most gorgeous tree I'd ever seen and I was so impressed that I congratulated him on how nice it was "It must have taken you ages to put it up!" It was a bit odd really, because he wasn't really a very Christmassy sort of person.
It's only recently dawned on me that of course he didn't put the tree up - he'd just paid some firm to do it all for him and that's why it was so perfect. And I think that's about the most depressing thing I can think of. Either - put up the tree yourself and enjoy it, or don't bother. But if you have to pay someone to do it - then you're kind of missing the point.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lubin Odana = Ken Barlow

I've been online for about 15 years now, and sometimes get quite surprised if I come across something I wrote a long time ago and is still floating around. It's kind of a shock to see how the preoccupations you had are now things you have little interest in, or would be embarrassed to admit to. This blog used to be called Trash Addict. I don't think that really applies any more. While I can still enjoy Switchblade Sisters or Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, it's not something that I'd define myself by any more. Camp has been phased out, and in its place is... Current Affairs. I've been secretly getting The Economist delivered for a few months now. And I like it. I read sensible websites like the BBC news, Pink News and Towleroad. I've stopped watching Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives because they get on my nerves. I'm turning into Ken Barlow.

And I'm actually wearing exactly the same jumper as he is in that picture.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Are you a sociopath?

Mark Easton of the BBC had a recent blog entry about sociopaths and how to spot one. A sociopath is someone with no conscience, and according to some estimates they account for 1 in 25 of us. There are a lot of articles on the web about them, and they mostly say the same sort of thing. They tend to be written from the perspective of a "normal" person, they tend to assume you either are, or are not a sociopath, and the advice they give is to avoid interactions with sociopaths wherever possible. Recalling a few experiences from my past, I'm not so sure that sociopathy is a binary state - I think it's more of a gradient. It's also a bit of an easy label to give people who you don't like. When I started trying to count likely candidates for sociopathy, I got (worryingly), a lot. Either I tend to attract them, or there are more than 4% of them out there, or I'm over-diagnosing. Let's hope the latter.

20 again for 7 hours

I was invited to give a talk at Cambridge University earlier in the week. I hadn't been before and thought it might be interesting to see what all the fuss was about. Would it confirm the stereotypes of insanely privileged, out-of-touch public school toffs?

Cambridge itself is flat, low-rise, old and quaint. It reminded me a bit of Bath, York, Gloucester and Durham. But better. Like Cambridge was the original and those places were copies. There were a lot of book-shops and people on bikes. The bookshop where I bought my newspaper from had an "honesty box". It almost felt like Utopia.

The students were a bit on the geeky side - I saw a lot of young Woody Allens (both male and female). This was unlike when I lived in Bristol where the students tend to look like Abercrombie and Fitch models. Manchester students on the other hand are all a bit on the Amy Winehouse side.

This was the room they put me up in for the night. It had its own kitchen and bathroom. It was bigger than the room that I gave my talk in.

After the talk, I got taken to a "High Table dinner". This involves a kind of school-dinners affair in a grand room from the set of a Harry Potter film. Various old men in gowns mumble in Latin at the beginning and end, and you have to stand up in silence. I was on a lower-down table with the students (who sniggered a bit while this was going on). There was a drinking game, whereby if someone puts a penny in your wine glass you have to drink the glass in one go. I couldn't work out if this was a tradition or a recent binge drinking thing.

Being now well into my mid-30s, I don't really socialise with students any more, so the evening was eye-opening. I would be having a perfectly nice conversation with one of them, talking about the effect that Clause 28 had on me coming out to my parents, when they'd say something like "Oh, I was born in that year".

Still, I was impressed with how socially competent they were (almost but not quite reaching American levels of confidence). They also seemed to take their studies very seriously (and the poor things seemed to have the double the workloads of other students I've talked to). Still, they will be running the country in about 20 years so I guess they should get used to it. I was pleased to hear a wide range of accents - not just the posh ones, but a very strong Scouse one, a Lancashire one and a Manchester one. About seven of them were going to a club and persuaded me to go along. When we got thereI barely knew any of the songs that were played. I had a sudden flashback to 1992 - when I was 20 and used to go clubbing 4 nights a week. For a few months we had a mature student called Christine move into our shared house - she was a social worker from London in her mid-late 30s. We took her clubbing one night and she left by 12pm, exhausted and out of it. After she'd gone, the rest of us laughed at her awful dance moves. So this whole evening seemed to be set up as a karmic punishment so that I could experience what it was like to be Christine. Anyway, I managed to hold out until 2pm when everyone went home. If they laughed, they at least had the grace to do it behind my back. I got back to my palatial quarters and looked at my tired face in the mirror - noting the increasing numbers of lines around my eyes, and thought for a moment how at least I didn't have acne. But their acne will clear up. And my lines will only get deeper and longer...

Friday, November 07, 2008


Have you been celebrating the Obama victory? I had a glass of champagne last night. If so, spare a thought for the poor McCain supporters - and those who are so right-wing that they wouldn't ever vote Republican. At Stormfront - the site for people who are proudly racist, there were unprecedented numbers of people watching their "election" bulletin board. I suspect that these were not sympathisers, but people who simply enjoyed gloating as the Stormfronters became increasingly depressed as the evening wore on. They started off hopeful, commenting that "it's not over until it's over" but once Obama took Iowa, it clearly was all over and the regulars started posting pictures of upside down American flags and talking about making sure that they took their guns with them on car journeys that night (I'm not kidding!) In their anger, some of them lashed out at Fox News (that's how right-wing they are), and mentioned secession (if only!)

What do racists look like? In the "ladies" forum there's a very long thread where people have posted up pictures of themselves and their families. Some of the slightly more self-conscious stormfronters have mentioned that this might not be a very good idea, but still the pictures come. Needless to say, there's a lot of bad fashion (black bomber jackets, long Viking hair or skinheads seem to be what the chic Stormfronter is wearing these days) and quite a bit of obesity (I guess that hating everyone who's different from yourself must be hungry work!). It makes me sad to see children in these pictures. But I firmly believe that good will ultimately always triumph over evil, love will win over hate and good taste will win over bad - because negative things are ultimately self-destructive, whereas postive emotions give you more strength. People will fight a lot harder and a lot longer because they love someone or something, than if they hate it. Hating is ultimately very tiring... Which is why I try not to hate even racists, feeling sorry for them (and wishing they'd eat fewer pies and use hair conditioner) is less work.

One thing that the stormfronters did turn me on to in one of their crazy discussions was the possibility of a British Obama. They posted up a picture of Adam Afriyie who is currently an MP for Windsor. Here's a picture of him.

Goodness, he's rather handsome isn't he.

Here's another picture.

Ironically though, he's a Conservative MP. What a pity. I don't think I'll move to Windsor after all.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What will I do without Sarah Palin impersonations?

I stayed up until about 3.30 to watch the American election results unfolding. When Ohio went Democrat I thought it was safe to go to sleep. I did feel slightly sorry for the Republicans, although looking at some of the states which remained red, it does make you wonder about where whole communities are getting their information from (bonkers right-wing preachers springs to mind). From looking at the voting demographics, it is notable that Obama had made huge impacts with black and Latino voters, young voters and first time voters. If voting was compulsory, I wonder if the Republicans (as we currently know and love them) would ever get in again.

But what will happen to Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey for that matter?) At least she's said she'll give all her clothes to charity. It would be funny to see homeless men wandering around Alaska dressed in her blood-red power suits.

While I'm happy that Obama got in, there's also quite a bit of sadness that another vote - the notorious Proposition 8 in California looks likely to have passed. This proposition defines marriage as between a man and woman only and effectively bans gay marriage in that state. Enormous amounts of money have been flung at campaigning both for and against the proposition. Mormons are particularly in favour of it. And while the Democrats mobilised large numbers of black people to vote, it seems as if they liked Obama, but didn't like gay marriage. This is a shame. Obama himself has fudged the issue - he said Proposition 8 wasn't needed, but said he didn't support gay marriage. He did refer to gay people in his Triumph Speech though, which was nice to see. However, if I was a gay Californian (and I know quite a few of them), I'd be feeling pretty let down. Maybe they should all just go on strike. Think of all the bad haircuts, naff interior decorating, poorly planned parties and hideous fashions which they could inflict on California if they wanted to (I know, I'm evoking stereotypes.) On the other hand, they could pack up their stuff and move to Massachusetts or Connecticut which do allow gay marriage.

Or they could just wait.. Because, change is a funny thing - it can go back and forth for a little bit - and sometimes in our impatience, we can get annoyed that it is not moving fast enough, or seems to be going in the wrong direction. But it's started. You can either do it in the incredibly slow and quiet way that Britain does change - so we'll have civil partnerships for perhaps a couple of decades, and then one day this will get changed to gay marriage and hardly anyone will notice or care. Or you can do it in the more violent tug-of-war way that America does things. But ultimately, both countries will get there in the end. For the moment though - I wouldn't like to be a Californian Republican going for a hair-cut. Because there's nothing like a bitter queen with a pair of scissors in her hands...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

I love Kristen Wiig

I've kind of gotten myself addicted to Saturday Night Live recently, which is a pity because it doesn't even get shown in the UK, so I'm having to get my fixes from the internet.

Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin is eerily accurate and funny. There's a lot of comedy potential in Palin's persona - Fey didn't even need to do much new writing but simply quoted actual lines from Palin's own interviews verbatim, suggesting a new low in Republican politics.

Palin went on the show herself last week to show what "a good sport" she was. Either she has the thickest skin in the world, or she is a dolt. I suspect that to be a good Republican both of these are a requirement.

However, Tina Fey isn't my favourite SNLer. That award goes to the exotically named Kristen Wiig (who kind of reminds me of Jennifer Saunders). Kristen can talk really fast and does a speciality in crazed characters who bewilder you with
their twisted worldviews. Here she is as nervous news reporter Judy "just kidding" Grimes. I don't know how she manages to memorise this insane monologue - maybe she has a really fast autocue?

Here's Kristen's take on the crazy lady at the McCain rally who thinks Obama is an Arab. I love how she wanders in and out of the set:

The premise behind this character (Sue) is that she loves surprises. No, she REALLY loves surprises. Hold on to your hat.

And finally, my favourite Kristen Wiig character of all time - Penelope. Penelope's deal is that whatever you've done, she's done it more and better. We all know someone like this. However, Penelope goes one step further and her boasts become increasingly outlandish and surreal as the sketches progress.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chips and wine

I went to a wine tasting last night. Unlike 99% of the UK I'm not a big alcohol drinker - I was teetotal for 10 years and only started drinking again last year. And when it comes to wine I can never tell them apart - when people start going on about bouquets and whiffs of hollyhocks, I fall asleeep. Anyway, I was invited along, and my fella likes wine, so I thought I'd be a dutiful partner and go with. Everyone there looked really middle-class. I got into a conversation about house prices at one point and thought "Oh god, I'm at a wine tasting evening talking about house prices - I'm the most middle-class person in the world."

And despite trying not to drink all the wine, we ended up a bit drunk. We did taste about 26 different types (flavours?), although by the end they'd all merged into each other and it was difficult to remember which ones were nice and which ones tasted like cat wee. We bought six bottles anyway (which I thought was a lot, but seemed to be quite restrained in comparison to some people who were loading up crates in trolleys). We had to get the bus home, and I was suddenly very hungry so ended up getting chips. So somehow, by the end of the night we'd morphed from Middle-classes to a couple of working-Class louts eating chips at a bus stop. Oh well.

Alcohol interferes with my sleep, so I woke up at 4 in the morning with a headache and that was it. Note to self - don't schedule a 9 o'clock meeting the next day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's only September and my local Marks and Spencer has already put up its Christmas products, driving the Lancaster pensioners from social classes ABC1 into a frenzy - getting up to speeds of a tenth of a mile an hour as they tear round the shop getting tins of biscuits with Santa on them. It's like that song "I wish it could be Christmas every day" has been taken a little bit too much to heart. Forget it if you want to buy Halloween or Bonfire Night stuff - that's over! Over!

I am going to write the following letter to my branch:

"Dear M&S,

I came into your shop this morning fully intending to start my Easter 2009 shopping. I have grand-children that are not yet born and may require Easter eggs next year. You can imagine my horror to find that you had not anticipated my needs and instead have Chrismtas stuff everywhere - don't you realise that the Christmas season now starts in JULY!!!! September is for Easter shopping. Please sack someone.

Yours, Dotty Hinge (Mrs)"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Let's party like it's 1929

I was in hospital most of the day with a relative and had nothing much to do but watch tv - something that I don't do very much these days. I was glad that I did though - it's been a twilight zone of a day.

BBC1's morning line-up was a bizarre set of programmes themed around making money by buying houses, tarting them up and then selling them on at a profit, or finding bits of old tat in your house and selling it at a profit. This is the line-up. What does it tell us about the sort of society we have become?

10:00 am Homes Under the Hammer
11:00 am Open House
11:30 am Cash in the Attic
12:15 pm Bargain Hunt

In the middle of all this the news came on and announced that mortgage lending in August was only 5% of July. That's not 5% less than last month - it's 5% in total of last month. There is more money swishing around in this week's lottery winnings than we borrowed in August. While we're all blaming irresponsible bankers and their fat bonuses - I think the media also need to take some share of the blame, as do we. These "tart it up sell it on" tv shows are toxic - and there are so many of them on tv. If you listen to them, you hear the words "profit" and "money" again and again. Somehow - all the BBC tv presenters turned into covetous Fergenis.

It's like Daytime tv has no ethics at all. When you think about the BBC's original mission to educate, inform and entertain, you realise how far it has strayed. Now it's just about how to make money.

I wonder how much longer these shows can last? There was a rather "end of days" feel about "Open House" this morning. Camp and over-dressed presenter Kristian Digby had on a very ordinary couple who were wanting £355,000 for their very ordinary three bedroom home. Bearing in mind that the median wage in the UK is about £26,000 that'd mean you'd need to borrow about 14 times your salary to get that. Anyway, Christian got the couple to move all their clutter into storage, put in a downstairs toilet and get rid of "heavy dark furniture". After they held an "open house", they got one offer of £325,000. The couple refused the offer saying it was too low. Kristian kept talking about the "nervous market" and the screen kept flashing up the usefully contextualising information that this all happened back in May. I wonder whether the couple managed to sell - or whether they've now had it revalued? I wonder if Kristian will even have a job this time next month? As the programmes seem to have been made a few months ago, it will be interesting to see how increasingly desperate these sellers get - and the lengths that Kristian will have to resort to in order to get a sale. I also suspect that the natty sweaters and nice suits might end up being replaced by a shell-suit from Oxfam.

Kristian love - if I were you, I'd be getting your agent to see if you could present an "economising" show - you know, the sort of thing where they tell you how to rip out all your decking and plant potatoes in your garden instead. And rather than fussing over the latest Prada, you should get yourself a needle and thread and make your own clothes out of a pair of curtains.

I turned over to Channel 4 to watch a weird 1950s matinee called "Lost" about a kidnapped baby. Eerily there was an upbeat advert for Bradford and Bingley - they must have paid for the advertising space weeks ago.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Deborah Orr on George Michael. She's not homophobic but she wants to talk about our "proclivities" and the behaviour we "indulge" in

Deborah Orr in the Independent has commented on the fact that George Michael has been found in public toilets (again) with drugs. The whole article is here.

On the surface she makes what look like some fair points. However, dig a little deeper and the article starts to come off just a bit bigoted. She talks about Michael's "sexual proclivities" ("proclivities" is a very loaded word - almost always used to refer to negative cases). She claims that gay men can get married. Er no. We can have "civil partnerships". This is not the same as marriage by a long way. She talks about gay men as people who "have a weird dispensation for al fresco sex in public places." Is it really that weird? She claims also that "there appears to be no decline in clandestine activity" - although doesn't seem to have any evidence to back this up. And at one point she uses the verb "indulge" - as with "proclivities" this is a very loaded word - it tends to be used when we want to signify how much we disapprove of someone's behaviour.

It does seem like a very odd article to go in the Independent - it looks much more suited to the Daily Mail. It's telling that Ms Orr doesn't complain about heterosexual "dogging". And that she assumes that it is "gay men" who "indulge" in alfresco sex. She's probably never heard of the term MSM before. Most gay men don't need to go cruising in parks - they have other options. It tends to be the men who don't consider themselves gay at all who have to take that as an option.

And sadly, even though Ms Orr claims to be "all for equality" - I'm sure that won't apply to all of her readers. Gay men are still classed as what sociologists call a "vulnerable group". And rightly so. Some nutter planted a bomb in a gay pub (The Admiral Duncan) only a few years ago. In the 2006 British Social Attitudes Survey, almost 20% of people said that they agreed with the statement "homosexual relationships are always wrong" and 30% of people neither agreed nor disagreed. The remaining 50% disagreed. The word "gay" is routinely used to mean "lame" in playgrounds and is used in the same way by some television and radio presenters. We still live in a society where being gay is seen by a significant number of people as problematic - and it doesn't take much for these people to get riled up.

So whatever our feelings about cruising/cottaging/dogging, I don't think that it's helpful for articles like this to be published in national newspapers - I think they will do more damage than good. Complaining about gay people cruising is unlikely to stop people from doing it - although it is more likely to increase homophobia, which will prevent people from coming out, which ironically will lead to more furtive sex in parks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

No gays... please is one of those advertising sites where you can put up an advert for a flatshare. I've noticed, however, that there are quite a few adverts on it which stipulate "no gays".

There's this one in London "a perfect loction" (sic) which says "No Gays please". He also doesn't want any females:

And this one in Bristol:

She's looking for a "friendly, happy and tidy professional person" but warns "No students, gays, couples, housing benefit or miserable people please!"

There's this one, which boasts that it is close to Asda (believe me, you don't need to stipulate "no gays" - we only shop in Waitrose and Marks and Spencer anyway)

And there's this one, who says that he "don't tolerate drug takers, alcoholics and dont want to live with gays for some reasons."

The list goes on. It's a bit like those signs outside boarding houses in the 1950s that used to say "No Irish, blacks or dogs." That would be unthinkable now. And even on Gumtree, I wasn't able to find any "no blacks" adverts. At least that's one form of discrimination which society seems to be getting rid of.

But "no gays"? I've complained about the adverts to Gumtree, and written to them asking what their policy on these sorts of adverts is - did they slip through the net, or do Gumtree not see it as a problem? I'll let you know if they reply.

As yet, I don't think there are any laws against these sorts of adverts. There are laws against discrimination in the workplace, but not on who you can rent out a room to.

These adverts make me sad - sad that these people manage to live in the same society as me, yet somehow, the cultural values that I associate with being civilised and British: equality, tolerance, fair play and respect have zipped right over their heads (and in London too - not some backwater, but our capital city - supposedly a big multicultural rainbow of a place where everyone celebrates diversity). The fact that people can still be so audacious as to broadcast their own homophobia on the internet - sometimes giving out their own mobile phone numbers and contact details is also pretty staggering.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The (Easy)Jet-Set

I arrived in Nice for a last-minute summer break yesterday, hoping that the weather would be less glum than in the UK. So far it has been disgustingly sunny here. Some things about France that are different to the UK:

  • They don't pick up their dog poo. It's everywhere here.
  • Young (heterosexual) people openly canoodling on the street. Their lack of inhibitions and expressiveness make me sick and jealous.
  • Smoking. They do seem to like it.
  • Zebra crossings - they seem to be suggestions about where pedestrians might want to consider crossing - motorists don't seem to be that keen on stopping at them though.
  • Sunday closing - they still have it. It's like the 1980s.
  • Fewer rules - in most British hotels there is someone there in the morning to ask your room number and show you to your seat for breakfast. In all the French hotels I've stayed in, you just go downstairs and nobody checks you. I always get the impression that in the UK, everyone is terrified that someone might actually get something for free so extra people have to be employed to stop this. I get the impression that in France, people don't care as much.

    And Nice is unlike any beach resort I've been to before. For a start, I haven't seen any poor people. My terms of reference are Morecambe, Blackpool, Weston-Super-Mare and Scarborough, which are usually full of the cast of Shameless getting drunk and misbehaving. Nice has jazz festivals and a Matisse Musuem, and it's only a few miles to Monte Carol and St Tropez. People swan around in white outfits like they've stepped out of GQ magazine. All the men are toned and have coiffed hairstyles rather than looking like lardy, pasty, balding Phil Mitchell from EastEnders (which is what most of the men in the UK look like).

    Maybe I'll just stay here.
  • Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Take lots of deep breaths - it's another American Election

    I don't do very well in election years (especially British or American ones). I tend to take it all very personally, get too involved, and usually end up boiling over in frustration on results day. So I am trying to ration my engagement with the latest American election, particularly because I think I am going to be disappointed for the third time in a row.

    I hope I'm wrong. But consider the facts. Americans voted in George Bush twice. The first time it was a close call, and some would say that quite a bit of cheating went on with complicated ballot papers, and Fox News calling it too soon. The second time - Bush got in with an even wider margin. Fortunately for the Republicans he can't stand again, so there's a kind of reset button being pushed and the Republicans can now happily distance themselves from that moron and put all their hope in McCain and Palin. But even if they put a sack of potatoes up, I think the Republicans would get in.

    Obama is already trailing in the polls by up to 5 points, and while the Republicans have been criticised for choosing Karen from Will and Grace as their 2nd in command, she seems to have attracted female voters who were disappointed that Hilary Clinton didn't get to run.

    Sarah Palin - the next vice-president of America?

    Conservatives and Christians have controlled the discourse of American politics for the past decade or so - typical Democrat concerns - things like the formalisation of gay relationships or gun control are rarely mentioned by Obama or other important Democrats. And if you want to get anywhere in American politics you have to profess to be very religious. So really, there's not that much to choose between McCain and Obama anyway. places them both squarely in the authoritarian/right wing quadrant (the same holds for Labour and Conservative for that matter).

    So I doubt Obama stands any chance of winning. And perhaps even more depressingly, I don't think it'll make that much difference even if he did. In America, a single ideology has already triumphed. It's one based around rejection of rationality, glorification of greed and inequality, and distrust of "alternative lifestyles". To paraphrase Orwell, if you want to imagine the future of America, it's a boot stamping on the face of a gay man. Forever.

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Cliff comes out, sort of

    On the way back from Sheffield on Thursday I couldn't face having lunch at dreary Bolton motorway services so took a detour and went to Carluccios at the Trafford Centre. I noticed a big queue of people snaking around WH Smiths. They were all clutching a copy of Cliff Richard's autobiography - and it turned out he was in the shop, signing autographs and meeting his fans. I was amazed at how many people were in the queue - you wouldn't think that Cliff would inspire so much devotion. I'm afraid I wasn't very nice, and laughed at them.

    But then again, in 1981 my own mother told my father than if Cliff Richard ever asked her to run away with him, she would. She has been a Cliff Fan all her life. My father didn't seem too bothered by this revelation. And it turns out he had no need to be. Because in Cliff's new book, he talks about his "male companion", Father John McElynn who he met in 2001. They have lived together for the past seven years, and the former priest "spends most of his time looking after Cliff's properties" (which is the cutest euphemism I've ever heard for gay sex).

    However, like many gay men of a certain age, unfortunately Cliff isn't able to shake off a deeply ingrained internalised homophobia, which characterises itself as annoyance that anyone would ever dare to wonder about his sexuality: "I am sick to death of the media's speculation about it. What business is it of anyone else's what any of us are as individuals? I don't think my fans would care either way."

    I've heard this little lament trotted out again and again - and while on the surface it seems perfectly reasonable, I would point out that we live in a deeply homophobic world and that homphobia thrives on attitudes like the one Cliff is espousing - keep it a secret, it's nobody's business, nobody needs to know. That way gay people continue to feel that their sexuality is part of their "private life" and must be kept apart from every other aspect of their lives, utterly compartmentalised. Now if heterosexual people did the same thing, then that would be (slighty) better. But they don't. Bump into a heterosexual person and notice the ease and readiness with which they mention their husband, wife, children or liking for an opposite-sex celebrity. Heterosexual people don't need to keep their sexuality private - it's fully integrated into every aspect of their identity.

    So if Cliff were to say "Look, I'm in a gay relationship," he's saying "I'm not ashamed, I'm proud." He would then help to make homosexuality just that little bit more acceptable, rather than a secret. As a celebrity, Cliff's "coming out" would make a difference - particularly as his fans are not probably from what we'd call the most radical slice of society.

    I guess Cliff can't be blamed. He's a product of the society he was born in. He's over 30 years older than me - he lived through the scary pre-Wolfenden period and he's spent a long time in the public eye - for most of his early career, his assumed heterosexuality was essential to his continued success. But I hope that his half-hearted coming out is the swansong for this sort of thing. And that given 10 or so years, the whole business can be conducted with more integrity and confidence.

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    The Party's Over

    Here's Valeriya, known as Russia's answer to Madonna (I think she's more like Geri Halliwell), making what is an eerily prescient and probably co-incidental statement about Russia's relations with the rest of world. (I think Dmitry Medved actually appears in it as a vampire at one point).

    Queenly perennial Marco da Silva (on loan from La Kylie) provides additional kitsch. (Imagine Bob Fosse with muscles after an accident with a sunbed.)

    It's as over-produced as hell (yet looks curiously low-budget - apart from one brief shot there are only four people in it), with about a million costume changes and a kind of homage to the golden age of movies. There is probably a competition on a Russian website somewhere where if you name all the movies you get a gold-plate bust of Stalin. Or a loaf.

    Know this: if you like this, then you are a camp gay man - even if you are a woman.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    This blog isn't just about homophobic murders and higher tax rates - here's a post to show I can be as shallow as the next gay man.

    While all the other gay bloggers out there are posting up-to-the-minute pictures of Olympic athletes with bulges in their leotards, I must admit to being unfashionably in love with Brendan Fraser, who I have bizarrely seen in 3 films over the last couple of weeks (The Mummy 3, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Bedazzled). On paper he sounds hideous - huge moon face, big froggy eyes, horrible centre parting "curtains" haircut, verging on obese with an enormous backside, strange strangulated deep-yet-whiny voice. To quote from Boys in the Band - "Who could love someone like that? You could and I could that's who." When we went to see Journey to the Centre of the Earth, we didn't realise we needed 3D glasses, so I had to get out of my seat to find some when the film started. However, it was dark and I was carrying coffee, and I stumbled and fell right on my knees at the front of the auditorium. My fella bitchily said that it looked like I was genuflecting in front of Brendan Fraser.

    But it looks though that Hollywood has decreed that Brendan is now too old to carry off an action film on his own. In Journey to the Centre of the Earth he is given a smart-alec teenage nephew, while in the Mummy 3 he has a smart-alec son (who looks older than he does). As for his big bum, in the Mummy 3 the wardrobe department have tried to disguise it by making him wear a big belt with saddle bags hanging from the back.

    And that luscious hair?

    Oh dear. Don't worry Brendan. I still love you, froggy eyes, big bum, wig and all.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    New York with the folks

    I have very equivocal relationships with cities - and New York is no exception. I not-so-secretly fantasise about one day buying a little 1 bedroom place in Greenwich Village and taking ultra-long summer holidays here (when the cat dies). But at the same time, all I have to do is switch on the tv or go to a restaurant and I'm filled with fury at how noisy, confident and often insane so many Americans seem to be. I guess it is a sign of a good holiday when you return home feeling refreshed, not regretful, and ready to return to your normal life.

    My parents were here with us for some of the holiday. It is their first (and probably last time in America - my Dad is in his 60s so doesn't like to do long flights). We decided to pull out all the stops for them by paying business class, hiring a limo to take us from the airport, and taking them on a helicopter tour over Manhattan. My Dad said it was the best week of his life. My mother is unable to speak except for making the exclaiming "eeee" noise that Geordie women tend to make. It was kind of stressful having them here - I worried that they would get lost or into trouble. At the Empire State Building, my mother caused an incident at the x-ray detectors when a strange knife-shaped object showed up in her handbag. This caused all the security guards to start barking orders at her, none of which she understood - instead she walked back through the metal detectors while the security guards were screaming "Ma'am, get back! Get back!" I had to intervene and said "She doesn't understand English." It turned out that the offending item was an affro comb with a curved handle. I don't know why she had an affro comb on her. She also had a compass (she likes to know where north is at all times) and five pairs of sunglasses of different strengths (she doesn't like sunlight - she claims it gives her eyes electric shocks). Considering those few facts, it's suprising that I turned out as normal as I did. However, she impressed everyone on the third day by announcing that she was going to Macy's unaccompanied. She managed it, taxis and all. I think she would cope in New York, just another crazy little old lady, walking around and talking to everyone.

    My Father on the other hand was regularly mistaken for Irish (his accent his completely incomprehensible), and every mealtime was a potential ordeal. He likes food. A lot. To say he lives for food is an understatement, and that he is likely one day to die from food is also sadly true. But the Americans like food too, so we thought this would be the one place in the world we could take him where he would not pull a sulky face at the menus and food portions. On the whole he was impressed - although he didn't think much of the breakfasts "Where's the tinned tomato and mushrooms?", and wanted to know where the brown sauce was. He ordered rice pudding for dessert and was mortified when it arrived and was cold rather than warmed up (I swapped him my apple pie). He also moaned that he couldn't get his favourite drink "lemon and lime) (lemonade with a dash of lime cordial in it), but seemed happier when he discovered Mountain Dew (even though they have it in Britain he rarely buys anything that wasn't on sale in 1975). So it was nice to have them around, and to show them around, but it was also a relief to have a few days at the end to recover. I have probably stored up a few good karma points. But in writing this nasty expose, I've probably wasted them all again!

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    I am intensely vexed about people getting filthy rich.

    I've just finished reading "Unjust Rewards: Exposing Greed and Inequality in Britain" by Polly Toynbee and David Walker. The premise of the book is that in Britain over the last 10 years or so, the gap between top earners in the UK and those at the bottom has become wider - which results in a more unequal society - with less chance of social mobility - basically, the first three years of your life are pretty good predictors of where you'll end up.

    The authors argue that the rich should be paying more tax, and that the minimum wage should be raise to a "living wage" - a few pounds more that what it is currently. They want the laws tightened so that the super-rich can't engage in tax avoidance schemes, for more transparency in the amount of tax people pay, and for people who don't pay tax to be denied knighthoods and other gongs, as well as being banned from the House of Lords (a good example is Stelios Haji-Ioannou, owner of the EasyJet companies and many others, who avoids paying any tax in the UK by residing in Monacco - however, he's recently received a knighthood).

    "I have no UK income to be taxed in the UK."

    Some of the information in the book is quite shocking - she conducts focus groups with super-rich bankers and stock-brokers, who tend to believe that they are earning average wages, and completely over-estimate what the average wage in the UK actually is. Even when confronted with the reality of their wealth, most of them come out with Daily Mail arguments about why they shouldn't pay more tax.

    A few "myths" are addressed in the book - the idea that rich people are good for a country because the money tends to trickle down (the authors say it doesn't - it just results in more inequality and house prices going up so that poorer people can't afford them), and that if taxes are raised for the rich then they'll all bugger off and take their money elsewhere (actually unlikely - most of them love living in London and have entrenched social networks there that they don't want to give up). The authors also argue that raising the minimum raise would not fall the economy to collapse, and that there are a number of good schemes already in place (which need more funding) to give poorer people, especially children, chances to fulfil their potential, rather than being held down from the moment they are born. One of the most depressing points in the book is that a child of 3 from a professional family will have a higher vocabulary than an adult from the under-class.

    "We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich."

    Reading this book signals the end of me voting Labour. Unlike many of my friends, I even stuck with the party during the Iraq War, believing that despite everything, they thought they were doing the right thing, even if it was founded in a lie. While they've done things that have been good, their economic and social policies have actually created a less equal, more selfish society. I won't be voting for them unless they radically shift. I won't vote Tory either, so I'm left with not voting, or the Liberals.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    British Media silence about homophobic murder

    On Saturday a slightly built 18 year old gay male called Michael Causer died in hospital in Liverpool after receiving head injuries in what police are calling a homophobic attack. His family noted that he was a small kid who wouldn't hurt a fly.

    The story got coverage in the Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post. I saw it covered on the BBC news website and a few gay websites have reported on it, but oddly it doesn't seem to have been reported by any of the main newspapers. Is a homophobic hate crime not news any more? I'm not the only blogger who thinks so.

    Sunday, August 03, 2008

    On reality and toys

    "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

    "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

    "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

    "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

    "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

    "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

    "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

    "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

    Stories like this featured heavily in my early childhood. I didn't have the Velveteen Rabbit but I did have Pinnochio's travaills as he tried to become a real boy, and I was bombarded with Enid Blyton's many stories about toys in the nursery who became real when the children went to bed. There was one series about an unruly doll called Amelia Jane who was the toybox bitch and made the lives of all the toys hell for three whole books, until they finally decided to get revenge. There's something very sentimental about the idea that your toys come to life if you love them enough. I still have my own childhood teddy bear - a very betraggled looking thing from the early 1970s. Embarrassing I know, but I think the world could do with more sentimentality - especially in these cruel times of suicide bombers and selfish capitalism. I defy even the most stony heart to read The Velveteen Rabbit all the way through without crying.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    The snob trap

    Where do you do your grocery shopping? There's probably not a more loaded question about your social class in Britain than that. Because of the credit crunch, more families than ever have moved to supermarkets' own brands or started going to budget supermarkets - namely the holy trinity of cut-price food: Netto, Lidl and Aldi. I've never been in any of them, but that changed on Friday when I paid my first visit to a Netto. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Dickensian images of Victorian poverty perhaps. In fact it was quite nice. I ended up filling a shopping bag and it came to £6.50. The same items would have cost £20 in M&S. Except you can't buy proper vinegar to put on your fish and chips in M&S (unless you like balsamic vinegar on them). Netto reminded me a lot of the 1970s. The slightly harsh lighting was exactly the same as Peterlee's Finefayre, where my mum did all her shopping in the 1970s. And the shelves were stocked full of the same no-nonsense traditional working-class foods that you'd get in there - lots of white bread, apples and oranges, tinned food, no fancy foreign beers, but plenty of Newcastle Brown Ale. In M&S every single item tries to seduce you with distinction - everything is special, organic, fat-free or cosmopolitan in some way. Everything you buy will make you more interesting and special. My fella is a sucker for all of this. When we used to shop at Sainsburys he would always linger in the aisle that sold all those varieties of extra virgin olive oil. "You're in a snob trap," I used to tell him.

    Marks and Spencer though. That's all it is. One big snob trap.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    The nasty party

    I have just finished reading "Hijacking America: How the Secular and Religious Right Changed What Americans Think" by Susan George. I find it hard to think about American politics without getting depressed. In the book George argues that the swing to the right has been expertly managed by business leaders, lobbyists, religious nuts, thinktanks and right-wing intellectuals - they have managed to thwart responses to climate change, ensured that the poor get poorer while the rich get richer, stymied cell stem research, put the knife in gay marriage and got people believing in Creationism. Congratulations to them - they pulled it off, and George shows exactly how they did it - while the progressives rested on their laurels, complacent that their "sharing is good" ideology would win out because it is inherently nicer, the right-wing were planning, waiting and scheming for the last two decades. The only other book I've read that is equally depressing is George Orwell's 1984 - and at least that's fiction.

    Perhaps the most upsetting note in the book is that even if Obama gets elected, it's unlikely to make a huge difference to the direction the country has taken. The damage is done. And it's not just in America, but the shift is happening across the world. lists the current stances of the Conservatives and Labour party as firmly in the authoritarian/right quadrant of their map (although both have shifted slighty towards the centre in the last couple of years). There isn't much in it though, and oddly, if you want a more progressive government, it looks like politicalcompass would advise you vote Tory out of the two.

    I wonder how long all this large-scale selfishness and delusion can go on for?

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    I'm like the smartest non-Asian in year 11

    My new favourite person is Ja'mie King, privileged bitchy girl from the Australian mockumentary series Summer Heights High, shown on BBC3. Coming to a public school from a posh private school for a year's exchange experiment "It's such a random thing to do", Ja'mie has tons of confidence "I'm up to 1000 friends on Myspace and could always do with more" and quickly surrounds herself with a coterie of fans who she later alienates when they discover a poster she has made of them, calling them "povo skanks".

    It's a well-observed piece of comedy writing, made screamingly incongruous that Ja'mie is played by a man and is about 2 ft taller than he should be, which nobody seems to ever comment on.

    Chris Lilley who plays Ja'mie also plays two other roles in SHH (a camp drama teacher and a disobedient Tongan student), but Ja'mie is my favourite.

    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    RIP Video Rentals

    I spent quite a lot of my teenage years and pocket money in video rental stores, which were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The first film I ever rented was The Smurfs and The Magic Flute. OK, I was 10 at the time.

    Last night, I downloaded my first rental video from Itunes (Year of the Dog - a comedy starring Molly Shannon about a woman who gets obsessed with animal welfare to the point of it being a mental illness). It cost £2.49 (about the same as a new video in those days), and could be watched from the moment it started to download.

    I haven't rented a film in years. I was a member of the Blockbusters at Morecambe a few years ago, but visiting it was such a depressing experience that I stopped going (it always smelled of sweat).

    Quietly, all of the video rental shops have started to close down. This little insightful clip from The Onion is already noting how they've become historical sites.

    Historic ├ó��Blockbuster├ó�� Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    "Give us me metal!"

    Although I don't watch much networked television any more, I usually watch the BBC1 news at 6, and then, because I'm too lazy, I hang around for the local news at 6.30. In the northwest it's headed up by Gordon Burns who used to present boring 1970s-1980s gameshow the Krypton Factor (and somehow seems younger now than he did then).

    My favourite presenter though is Tony Livesey, who is often used for outdoors broadcasts. I'm sure he's a very nice man, but even when he's wearing a suit, he still looks like he's just come off heroin.

    The other night, he was reporting on a new crime wave that is sweeping the northwest - it involves criminals stealing metal gratings from the sides of roads in order to sell to scrap metal merchants for cash.

    This is the second time this crime has come to my attention. I remember seeing a documentary programme on BBC1 a few months ago about homeless heroin addicts who were fighting over bits of "found" metal as it was their only funding for their addiction. Anyway, I haven't been able to get a mental picture out of my head, of Tony fighting with some tramps over a shopping trolley containing a metal grate, shouting "Give us me metal!" In fact, the phrase "Give us me metal!" has become a catch-phrase in the Odana Household of late.

    The scruffy facial hair doesn't help. This is what he looked like tonight.

    Gordon, on the other hand is always kitted out in a nice suit.

    I wonder if Gordon secretly wishes that Tony would have a shave and brush his hair?

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Obsessed with Nice

    Periodically, I like to think about where I will retire to (even though it is a couple of decades away). Obviously, it's all fantasy - global warming, rising sea levels and nuclear terrorism will probably have obliterated half the world by then or turned various areas into sprawling refugee camps, like something out of a Mad Max film.

    However, at the moment, I think that a nice retirement would be November-March in Nice, April-August in the UK, September-October in Manhattan. I don't want to ever have to step outside and see my breath by the time I'm in my late 50s - cold weather kills off pensioners. It's a fact. All the deaths of elderly people in my family have been in January/February. And when I worked in a nursing home one summer, none of the residents dropped dead. I don't need any more statistical information than that.

    There's only one flaw in my Nice plan - I've never been to Nice before. My whole experience of France is reduced to Paris. And I suspect that capital cities aren't that representative (London is absolutely nothing like the rest of England, being more like a country of its own). Anyway we've booked a holiday to Nice in September (we're staying in the swanky Hotel Negresco), so hopefully I'll like it.

    Otherwise it's back to the drawing board, as happened when I decided Bournemouth would make a good place to retire (I didn't really take to it after visiting). My Eyesight guidebook on the Cote d'Azur came this morning. Unfortunately there were lots of pictures of people sunbathing on a pebble beach, and 80+ Eurotrash millionairres with bad skin and dubious fashion choices. So I should fit right in then.

    If Nice does work out, at least that gives me 20+ years to learn French properly. At the moment all I can say is "Je mapelle Raquel".

    Tuesday, July 08, 2008

    Who's Afraid of the 1980s?

    I watched This is England while I was away in Valencia. Nothing like a bit of gritty northern misery to remind you of home.

    The film is set in a rough bit of the north the early 1980s - the 12 year old protaganist would have been a year older than me.

    I didn't "get" most of the 1980s. About a month of it made sense in 1988 when I think I briefly became the person who Top of the Pops was aimed at, but the rest of it was an incomprehensible blur. I didn't get the fashions or the music. The news didn't make sense. Everyone seemed to take themselves so seriously. I didn't understand why anyone would vote in horrible robotic Mrs Thatcher("she hates notherners" we were told) or why everyone seemed so miserable apart from a handful of "yuppies" in London who seemed to be having a whale of a time. I think I was autistic for the whole decade - utterly left out and with very little way of getting in. Instead, I turned my back on the whole thing and sought solace in my parents' 1970s albums, glamorous 1950s musicals, and images of the Swinging 60s - all decades which I seemed somehow much better suited for.

    The opening credits of This is England encapsulate the whole decade in about 3 minutes. I have a lot of trouble watching this - now it makes too much sense. And it moves me to tears in some parts.

    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    I'm in humid Valencia for a few days - my fella is giving a couple of talks, so I'm along for the ride (I'd make a great Dr Who companion). Anyway, he's gone off to be feted for the day so I'm in the nice hotel room, thinking about trying the spa downstairs.
    We're watching Deadwood at the moment. It's an HBO series set in the Wild West. It ran for three seasons and then they stopped making it, which is about long enough for me really. Because it's HBO it means that everyone swears a lot - and not just the odd "shit". C**ks*ck** seems to be a more frequently used word than "the" or "a".
    My favourite character is Calamity Jane played by Robin Weigert.

    She's normally drunk, completely bonkers and has a way of interacting with others which is both hilarious, bewildering and terrifying. The other characters rather unkindly, refer to her as "the half-woman". Her heart's in the right place though. This clip - where she gives some of her wordly advice to the Cat in the Hat, sums her personality up.

    I just hope they don't give her makeover in the last episode.

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    As I suspected, I'm not very nice

    I'm a O47-C89-E31-A10-N71 Big Five!!

    According to the "Big 5" personality test, I score high on conscientiousness - I'm at the 89th percentile (that's the good news), but am also fairly neurotic (71st percentile), introverted (31%) and especially disagreeable (10%). The only average score I have is for open-mindedness, where I fall into the middle (47%). If I was a Sims character, I'd be sulking in my room, refusing invitations.

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Today we visited Lancaster's slightly famous GB Antiques Centre - it got on the international news a few years ago when a bull from the abbatoir next door broke in and ran around a bit - literally a bull in a China shop.

    We used to go there a lot before we moved to Bristol. In fact, my fella got most of his furniture from there in the early 1990s. However, I suspect that these days, a lot of the good stuff gets put straight to ebay. Here's a selection of some of what I saw:

    This brings back memories. We had a bottle garden just like this in the 1970s. I suppose it was a good thing to have if there were small children around. You don't see them so much nowadays - I wonder why?

    My grandmother had a doll like this on top of the toilet cistern. It was a fancy way of hiding your toilet rolls. I wonder if anyone ever told them though that it was probably more embarrassing to have a tacky doll on top of your toilet. Ah - the working-classes and their odd ways.

    My fella was looking for Wedgewood (it's his latest thing), but bemoaned that there was just "repetitive tat" everywhere instead. I quite liked these though. I could imagine them belonging to a big happy Asian family in the 1970s - perhaps before some terrible tragedy befell them and all their furniture ended up in a job-lot.

    Would you like to own a Sinclair C5? Then come to GB Antiques. This costs £700 and has been here for years. I always visit hoping that someone will have bought it - but like an old friend who nobody else likes much, it is always there to greet me.

    File this under "things I would have in my house if my fella let me".

    Same again. In my mind's eye I have a room which has lots of Tretchikoff pictures, lava lamps, orange chairs and possibly racist statues of "native" people. And this whicker minibar. I would serve blue cocktails from behind it and play "Mambo" on an old record player in the corner. Then everyone would dance. And talk about Foucault. Would you like to come to my party?

    One word: fugly. Do they believe anyone would ever buy these? Even as a joke? I suppose if there was someone at work who you had despised for years and they were leaving, you could get them it as a present. But really! What were they thinking?

    The whole visit was a rather maudlin experience. You pass stall after stall of tat - stuff from "house clearances" after some working-class nanna went into hospital and died shortly afterwards, and the relatives salvaged the nice barometer for themselves or grand-dad's war medals - anything that might fetch a "few bob". The sad thing is, that nanna would have had a lot of this stuff on display in a glass cabinet thing, or would have spent a good proportion of her life dusting it down every Sunday. And for what? To end up in a graveyard of 20th century working class rubbish... Your stuff does not complete you. It doesn't.