There's this Spike Lee movie.
I say that like I'm familiar with the man's work. I'm not. I've seen half a movie, once. I was lying on a bed in South Vietnam, watching the endless rotation of the fan above me, and sweating profusely, fevered and unable to sleep. Below me in the streets, slim pretty women sped by, sidesaddle on mopeds. Spike Lee movie, late at night on some forsaken movie channel.
"Do The Right Thing". The action takes place over the course of a single day. And, as the haze of the heat ripples across the screen, temperatures and tempers rise.
This is all blurred through warm memories. I wasn't drunk, I remember that. But my stomach ached. I thought that I might die, but at the same time, I couldn't face that idea, so I decided that this was just a phase, and it would pass. Outside, a siren wailed.
Heat, oppressive and clammy, weighs down upon us, freezes us into immobility. Tensions build, everyone wanting that explosion to happen, something to validate them, to free them from the heat-induced lethargy. There is a need for release, for relief. For something.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Similarly, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a school teacher in possession of a copy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, must be in want of a good slapping. After all, how is Austen relevant to the modern student, or even the modern world? It's a book presented to school children to scare them, to breed into them a fear of reading, of literature. Eat your peas, children, or Jane Austen will come and get you.
I dare say that things have changed since I was a young'un, though. I dare say that these days children aren't faced with a reading list, to be followed up by a series of comprehension exercises. After all, one should aim to intimidate students, rather than entice them. It's two hundred years old, for goodness' sake. Why do we need to read it?
We don't need to read it. We don't want to read it. We're not going to read it. Blah blah blah end of civilisation as we know it.
Jane Austen needs a little introduction. Teachers know her history - students don't. Students look at the book as a two hundred year old heap of words rather than a literary masterpiece. Faced with Austen, teenagers don't think 'oh great, a challenge', they think 'oh bugger this, I'm off down the pub.' They're not going to read the book, get sucked in, and become entranced by its charms. That's not how their brains are wired. In other words, they need context. And so, as a public service, here is the one paragraph guide to why Jane Austen is worth reading.
Jane Austen is a complete bitch. Under a veneer of politeness, she paints a world full of grotesques, and places at the centre a flawed character who you like because she is incredibly sarcastic. She writes about her time, naturally, but she's writing about the hell of families, and how awful parents are. It's writing about the nineteenth century - but it's not a historic document, it's a very thinly disguised piss-take. Remember that as you read it.
Last night, Thornton's Restaurant in Portobello, Dublin closed its doors for the last time. Reputed to be the best restaurant in Dublin, and boasting two Michelin stars, it was the end of an era. Mr Twinky and I were there.
With a restaurant with that sort of reputation, you want to be able to leave yourselves in the hands of the chef, to get his recommendation. So we went for the fixed price surprise menu. Different for every table. You've got to love that. None of your 'we're catering for 400 so that's 400 individual steak and onion pies' nonsense. Our menu chosen for us. Now, blogger ate my original post about this, with individual comments on the individual courses. Let's just say that it was fantastic. This is what we ate.
Perhaps it was because it was their last night, they were cleaning out a fridge full of leftovers or something.
Clearly, though, this was a world class restaurant. I just hope it keeps its character when it reopens in a more central location in a month's time.
The thing that's making me nervous at the moment is the idea that an actor, perhaps Colin Farrell, is wandering around our apartment, endorsing a major multinational company. Perhaps he's sitting on our toilet, while a tow-headed boy asks him why his skin is so soft. Or his headache is miraculously clearing up. Or maybe he's demonstrating how he can run, jump, and play tennis - no matter what time of the month it is, and no matter how much blue tinted water he pours over napkins.
It's taking them all day to do two shots - maybe seven seconds of screen time. In this, our apartment will be virtually unrecognisable. It'll be our furniture - but re-covered. Our table, sitting on a rug that we don't own. Our wall, with a painting we don't own hanging on it, our bathroom with a shower curtain that we neither have nor need. And when I return home, everything is supposed to be sorted out and fine. We'll see. Oh yes, we'll see.
Don't blink. You might miss something.
Now, I'm probably not allowed to mention this, but I haven't signed anything to say otherwise. We're pimping out our flat to a major multinational company. Tomorrow, they're bringing a few stray actors, and a camera or two, and they're making themselves at home in our flat. By the miracle of modern technology, within a brief space of time, this will mean a small amount of cash for ourselves, and that our flat will be visible all over Ireland. People will look at the Indian throws that we use to disguise the threadbare bits of our suite and go 'That doesn't really go with the sideboard, does it?' People will look at the floor in the bathroom and go 'Tish,' and people will want to buy the product because they aspire to having attractive pieces of art on their walls like what we do.
This film has been in development hell for what seems like an age. It's the clash of two great American icons.
Superman, the man of Steel, is a man of action, a man who although he is not American fights the great American fight. Batman is almost his opposite, a dark knight, a man with no super powers, a detective. Night and day, one might say. Indeed, it's been played that way in a number of comics where the duo appear together. Theirs is a typical Grudging Mutual Respect story.
Transferring this to celuloid might be seen as a no-brainer, given the box-office attraction. But, who should be cast? Obviously, not Americans.
The current rumour is that Englishman Jude Law will be the square-jawed Superman, while Dublin boy Colin Farrell will play Batman.
It's a funny phenomenon, really. Everybody has one. The embarrassing uncle. The one who did a party turn fifteen years ago when he was pissed, and everyone thought it was funny at the time, and made the mistake of laughing. Maybe once or twice you asked him to do it again. And now, every time he has as much as a half of shandy there he is, standing on the table telling that joke about the rabbi, the rabbit and Hayden Christiansen's nipple, or whatever the party trick happened to be. It's awful. The joke isn't funny any more - it's too close to home, too near the bone, and besides you've heard it so many times before. And the uncle - he used to be well liked and respected within the family. Now he's just a joke. A victim of his own success. Well - I hope you're proud of yourself.
So last night, I went to see Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine in concert. The setting was - well, it was a dark smoky room, full of people and alcohol and heat. A warm snug of a place, which also happens to be five minutes walk from our flat.
Boo Hewerdine opened. He's not well known, which is a real shame. His group, The Bible, had a couple of hits in the late eighties, both of which he performed. I was slightly surprised to find myself singing along. These days I know him better as someone who writes &/or co-writes a lot of Eddi Reader's material, and who performs with her. Nonetheless, it was good to see him on his own.
About ten, Eddi herself arrived on the tiny stage, and launched into her set. Now, in 1989, she was huge. Her band, Fairground Attraction, was at number one for ages with the annoying (and I mean truly annoying, in the sense of me saying that I loathed it) Perfect, now a stalwart of Karaoke and the occasional advert. Of course, they couldn't follow it up, and there was something of an implosion. Fairground Attraction disappeared from public view, and a few years later, Eddi appeared as a solo artist. Her mainstream career had a couple of false starts, and never really took off in the way that it deserved. She built a loyal fan base, had a couple of minor hits, and eventually parted company with major record labels, and became an independent artist - a move which she says really suits her. She's overcome that awful stigma that hits many bands after they have a huge hit, that they can't top, and she's found her niche, and she's damn comfortable there.
All of which meant that rather than playing to huge stadiums where you wouldn't catch me dead, I could see her in my local pub. The gig had a wonderful impromptu air to it; it didn't seem to be planned, and they seemed quite happy to perform more or less anything from Eddi's repertoire based on shouts from the audience. Two vocalists (Eddi and Boo), three guitarists (Eddi, Boo and Colin Reid), and an audience enthralled.
And, about ninety minutes into her set, Eddi introduced the song that for her is the 'Embarrassing Uncle' - the one huge success that could never be followed up. "Perfect", blues style. And the place went wild. Far from embarrassing, far from loathsome. Fantastic.
Nineteen Ninety Something.
In my humble riverside flat, I am working late, listening to the radio. It is the time of Love, Sex and Intelligence, of Ebenezer Good, and 1000%. And then... The Pale.
They were a dog with no tail, no sense of direction, slightly derailed but staying for breakfast. Far too rich to eat, these manic Irishmen suddenly lapsed into French half way through a song. They had one hit single, one album "Here's one we made earlier" and then they vanished. I wonder where they are now...
Similarly, Fairground Attraction, who had to be perfect, or The Bible who would never see Graceland. I know what happened to them, though. Their lead singers, Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine are playing in Whelan's tonight. And assuming that I'm back from Brussels, I'll be there.
I think that I caused more confusion than I meant to. I certainly attracted more interest than I meant to.
I mean, it's a simple enough mistake to make. You go into a shop, you ask them for a duvet, they say 'certainly sir, how large?', you reply with an answer that is - by most people's definitions - completely wrong, and you go home happy, but with a duvet that fits neither your bed or your bedding. It would, perhaps, cover a small country.
It's an easy enough mistake to make. Looking around the shop, after all, half of the duvets are super king size. This despite the fact that it's almost impossible to buy a super king size bed. Go figure.
So there's a no refund, no replacement policy. I can understand the reasoning behind that, but I've just spend a couple of hundred Euro (because these things aint cheap, you know), on essentially a useless duvet. So we did what anyone sensible would do. We sold it on to a friend, and on Thursday, I bought a new, smaller duvet.
My trip back was a little more exasperating. Buying the wrong size of duvet was easy. Buying one the right size was exasperating, mainly because of the paperwork that the woman in the queue in front of me was going through. It seemed that she'd bought a duvet, got it home, found out it was the wrong size and brought it back, not realising that there was a no-refund policy. Poor soul. But they gave her a refund nonetheles...
It's been a quiet week blog-wise, because it's been a busy week work-wise. Socially, the nearest thing I've done to actual activity was watching another episode of Six Feet Under. It's still getting better and better, maybe five weeks into the first season. It's found its right balance of quirkiness and moralising - and let's not try to hide the fact that it is an intensely preachy show, with every episode contrasting life and death, and the lessons that we learn from death but fail to apply in life. The main characters are all beautifully flawed. Love it, love it, love it.
As is hopefully evident from my description of Saturday night, a quiet life is definitely called for just now. And that's even missing out some of the details - like who is emigrating to the US in a month and therefore left us three bottles of spirits. Or the precise details of the hangover afterwards. But some things are best left to the memory, or the imagination, or forgotten.
The dining room of the St Stephen's Green club was painted a deep red. Three large windows looked out over the green itself, and the sound of street chatter and the lazy rhythm of hoofbeats echoed in through the open windows. We took our places around a polished oak table, and waited for our wine and our dinner to arrive.
The food was quite delicious, and with the lubrication of a plentiful supply of wine, the conversation began to flow more freely.
"So how long have you two been together?"
"Just over three years? How many children do you have?"
"So how long have you identified as a bisexual?"
And so the evening wore on. As one o'clock approached, the evening looked to be winding down. Although by now all six of us were firm friends, John and Stephanie had to go home to let their baby sitter get away, and there was still a healthy amount of wine to be drunk.
So John, Stephanie and Mr Twinky went in the first taxi, with Katharine, Peter and myself following a short while after in a second. We clattered through unfamiliar streets, admiring new landmarks.
And there was more wine, and there was whisky, and while there was no dancing, there was a small game that I played.
As John and Mr Twinky looked on, I walked to the far end of the communal garden, and stood behind a tree. The tree was slender, and dawn was close upon us, so the white of my shirt stood out and made me far from invisible. I waited until I could hear Mr Twinky laugh, and then I moved to hide behind the next tree, and a third. And, fuelled by liquor as we were, this was amusing.
As dawn rose, we spoke of returning home, to sleep in our own bed, and nurse our hangover in familiar surroundings. And around six, we returned. There was nobody there to welcome us, to berate us for the lateness of the hour, to force us to drink large amounts of water. Instead, there was a small amount of sleep, followed by a larger amount of sleep, and happy regrets.
Old Patrick raked the tiny circles of paper together with his hands and let them fall into the plastic-lined hollow of the bin. When the base of the lining was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set about punching holes in more paper, he was forced into the light again by the faint jangling of the front door bell. He was a middle aged man, but old before his time.
"Oh Hello There, Ms O'Connor"
Ms O'Connor strode into the lobby of the Stephen's Green Club, her three gentleman friends walking behind her. She took no notice of the fact that the stucco was peeling near the top of the walls, or the cracks in the glass roof. Nor did she mention to Old Patrick that her name was not O'Connor. This was her second home, it seemed.
After signing in her guests ("I hope you don't mind, but I've put you down as John's wife,"), we were led into the main stair well, and from there through to the back stairs which we took to reach the member's bar on the first floor.
The club had an air to it, as though it had only recently discovered the miracle of electricity. A subdued feel, of my youth in my grandparents' house, or perhaps of a writer like Joyce. The air was heavy and brown, and the member's bar was akin to a sitting room, albeit one dominated by the sort of makeshift bar that was common at the time.
Katharine quietly took charge, as John and Stephanie joined our group. Old Patrick was back downstairs, and young Patrick, the barman, was nowhere to be seen.
"I'll get you a gin and tonic," she said, heading back into the body of the club.
There was a dry hush over the room, the sort of hush that one would normally expect to feel through a smoky room, through age-stained flock wallpaper. John and Stephanie and Peter spoke amongst themselves, remeniscing about shared experiences. They were all in the medical fields, it seemed, a far cry perhaps from the worlds of architects and insurance that we inhabit. Even Mr Twinky, often the most conversational of gentlemen seemed quiet and trapped, seeking a way into the free flow of the exchange.
Katharine shook her head. She had returned quietly, and stood in the doorway, framed carefully. It was, she explained, a nightmare. Old Patrick couldn't leave his post, and Young Patrick was nowhere to be found. She had, she continued, half a mind just to slip behind the bar herself. A few minutes later, Old Patrick followed her, wearily pushing open the door.
"Has he been up yet?"
We were served by Old Patrick. Young Patrick arrived later, with our menus and our served us our second round of unmeasured gins.
As we went down to dinner, our conversation remained stilted and stumbling
...to be continued
It was Katharine who introduced the Stephen's Green Club to us. She had a membership courtesy of her father, it seemed. Every time we saw her we'd discuss the place in hushed tones. She was recently made up to a member, she said, and it was held up as - frankly - the place to go, with her friends Peter, John and Stephanie. But when we arranged a visit, dinner if you will, Katharine was forced to cancel, and our spirits were crushed.
Everyone was incredulous when it was reported that the dinner had been rescheduled for last Saturday night. Nonetheless it was true.
A spirit of anticipation diffused itself between us. We had no idea what to expect from the club. Would it be shiny and new, like the American Club in Hong Kong, full of attentive young chinese men, softly spoken and bearing infinite trays of diet cola? Or would it be a last bastion of the Dublin of Joyce, a Dublin glimpsed from time to time, populated by grimy boys and fierce and beautiful girls? It did no harm to anticipate, we thought. The truth of the discovert, I reflected, could not be found by sitting at my desk, skimming through the world on a pallid screen: the truth had to be sought.
Saturday came round at last, and we made up our mind to make something of the day. With Mr Twinky, I planned a day shopping. We started off at Arnotts, where we bought the infinitely large duvet that would sleep four easily, and progressed from there to the cinema, where Mr Twinky bought us in to Scooby Doo.
The first stage of the plot over, we made our way back home, happy and full of anticipation of the evening's excitement. All the branches of the tall trees were gay with little green leaves, and the sunlight slanted through them onto the paving. I was very happy.
When we had been sitting at home, ready, for five or ten minutes, Katharine and Peter arrived. We made a fine group - we three in our suits, and Katharine in her evening gown as we strode through the tourist-packed streets to the Green. We spent a while walking about the streets, watching the working of cranes and engines, and being shouted at by beggars. But as we walked, work and home seemed to recede from us, and their influences upon us seemed to wane. We were going to the Stephen's Green club. At length, we rang the bell and waited for admission to the halls.
...to be continued
Afterwards, with a sigh, she rolls herself across the bed and reaches instinctively for a cigarette. In the dark, she forgets the strangeness of her surroundings until she feels the unfamiliar surface beneath her hand. She pulls the sheet around her, leaving her lover cold but uncomplaining, and tiptoes from the room, as though fearful of waking him.
There must be a fag here somewhere. He's a smoker - she could taste it on his lips. Maybe in his jeans, over by the door, where he stepped out of them, laughing. There's a crushed packet in his back pocket, and a lighter. His wallet's in the front, and she takes it over to the kitchen window, so that she can leaf through it by the light from the street lamp across the road.
She thinks that it's odd that it's only now that she finds out his name - David. Five pieces of plastic tell her that. There's four hundred pounds in here, which she thinks is odd. She takes it nonetheless, before she returns the wallet to his pocket.
There's no sign of life from the bedroom, and she doesn't want to be here in the morning. So she starts to get dressed, and leaves the flat as soon as she's decent, fixing her blouse in the cold lift on the way back down to earth. She's never done this before, and the fear and exhilaration keep her awake until the nervous dawn.
From John Pilger's special report in last Sunday's Observer; The great charade:
'In the war against terrorism,' said Bush from his bunker following 11 September, 'we're going to hunt down these evil-doers wherever they are, no matter how long it takes.'
Strictly speaking, it should not take long, as more terrorists are given training and sanctuary in the United States than anywhere on earth.
There's no doubt that this article is biased. There's no doubt that the US is biased. Every fact can be opposed with another fact, every opinion with another.
Scooby Doo is a bit of a laugh, really.
It's incredibly hard to make a live action movie out of a cartoon. After all, why would anyone want to do it? Take a twenty minute piece of throw-away television, rip the heart out of it and try to make it into a huge money spinner? It's a dangerous game. People have fond memories of the original series' of Scooby Doo, and trying to drag them into a live action version is playing with a sacred cow. Or something like that. Regardless, those people who thought that Scooby Doo ought to be a live action movie prevailed, and now we have the CGI-heavy story of four perpetual teenagers and their dog.
Where the movie succeeds, it does so superbly. There's a cameo featuring a flashback to the bad old Scrappy Doo days that cheerfully recognises the special place that the little pup had in the hearts of fans. The action scenes were suitably cartoon-y, and Scooby Doo was - well, by the end of the film he was Scooby Doo. And you can't say much fairer than that.
Those looking for depth and a re-examination of the phenomenon will be disappointed; those looking for clean mindless fun will probably enjoy it.
When I lived among the plainsmen of the Mattah'ri, I was apprenticed for a while to the Mapkeeper.
His name was B!b, incongruously, and he was a wizened walnut of a man in his early thirties. His skill as a mapkeeper was legendary, and he had been rewarded no less than three times with the gift of a k!ta'an - all of these were hung from his ba!na'a and while this made it hard for him to walk sometimes, it in no way interfered with his duties.
My first thought was that his role seemed redundant. After all, the defining feature of the plains of Mattah'ri is their uniformity. Mile after mile of nondescript plain, where a man could wander for many years without passing the same branch of Starbucks twice. In such an environment, I thought, what use would a map be? Surely it would just be a big blank sheet of paper, possibly with a large red cross and the legend 'you are here' in the strange guttural dialect spoken by the Mattah'ri.
I discovered that a map was more than a useful tool for navigation. It's a bargaining tool. The mere existence of a map, and the ownership of it grants power. B!b could click lyrically for hours about the merits of his map, about its clear location of mineral wealth, its depiction of the strength of the tantric ley lines, and about the identification of lost places. He could make other tribes salivate, and on a dry Mattah'ri night, saliva can be a valuable commodity. Usually, they would agree to trades, merely on the strength of an offer of a look at the map. The map was like gold, and B!b was a master of keeping his secrets. No wonder that he had so many k!ta'an in his ba!na'a.
One evening, as we toasted our na'jera around a blazing fire, I asked him if I could see the map. He just turned to me, smiled, and said one word. "Plo!to!"
It was then that I knew that my apprenticeship was at an end.
British Television, I used to proclaim proudly, is the best in the world.
I was stating this from Hong Kong, of course, where I was living in a world of imported programs on Star TV, or TVB Pearl, and commuting to the mass-channel heavens of five star hotels where I could watch all of the HBO that I wanted. I genuinely believed that it was true.
Mind you, I was living in a country where movies were punctuated with adverts at greater frequency the longer the movie went on. Important speeches punctuated by warnings about the fraud frog - or else, the other way around. But it gave me a chance to consider the differences, and the similarities between the two main sources of English language broadcasting.
In the UK, we're exposed to selected, purchased programming from the US. We're exposed to all of the UK programming. On average, we can expect imported television to be of better quality than domestic. In the US, BBC America is insanely popular, but it only shows the best of British shows. It shows Jonathan Creek, or Keeping Up Appearances, rather than something like Gardener's Question Time. In the UK, we get The Simpson's - interminably, and Friends, and Will and Grace. We tend not to get shows like 'Baby Bob' or 'Newhart'. Great US hits like the excrutiating 'The Nanny' are banished to the 4.30 am slot, as well they should be.
In comparing the two products (and products they are) from a position in either market, you're not comparing like with like. Looking at the products from outside - I think I stand by my initial assertion.
May 1 was originally called "GayDay", until that noted homophobe Pope Innocent XXIII changed it to Mayday in 1203. In the Julian Calendar it's still known as GayDay, and so, for that matter, is Julian.
There was an attempt to reverse this change by the next Pope, Agnetha XIV, a flamboyant aesthete. However, there were so many complaints about His Holiness taking late-night confession from choirboys that he was subjected to Inquisition, tortured with lesbian porn, and demoted to Master of the Papal Vestments. Mayday remains unchanged to this day.
Work is keeping me busy at the moment. I spend all day in meetings, in pre-meeting confabs, and in all sorts of activity designed to make me look busy while achieving virtually nil. This means working long hours, merely to achieve the appearance of having done nothing. But that's okay, because I have rediscovered a secret weapon against ennui - Macy Gray.
Every so often, a song comes along that dares you not to sing along, a song that just catches a hook deep in your brain. "Relating to a Psychopath", the opening track on Ms Gray's second album "The Id" just blew me away last night. Words like 'funk' and 'groove' come to mind. It's the sort of song that almost had me singing along while walking along the street. Hot - like hot wings with hot chocolate in hell.
"Well," thought I, as my flight back from Brussels touched down on Friday afternoon. "It's early evening, Mr Twinky's at work, I could make him dinner." And so I hit the grocer's, picking up a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, all ready to make my favourite new dish - salsa (see earlier entries for details). I was also thinking about chicken in a white wine sauce, and some sliced and grilled aubergines. And so I did some prep, and settled down in front of early evening television, awaiting Scott's return. And when he returned, I started to fry off the chicken, and slice the aubergine. Or eggplant, should you prefer.
It was on the final slice of the aubergine that I realised that for whatever reason, I was really holding it pretty badly. Let's just say there was more contact between knife and finger than there should have been, and save the gory details of the flaps of flesh hanging from my digit. Besides, I couldn't see it that well, because of the sudden pumping behind my eyes, and the awful way that it just wouldn't stop bleeding.
"We're going to casualty," said Mr Twinky. And it turned out that he was right. Now this is only the second time that I've been to a casualty department in my life, and the first time where I've been going there for treatment myself. They're called Accident and Emergency these days, and I'd clearly had an accident. This was more than could be said for many of the other couple of dozen people in the room, who were probably there for an evening out. Certainly one guy was only there to watch Coronation Street and Eastenders, and once that was over, he limped back out again, his foot wrapped in a Dunnes bag. Coincidentally we saw him the next day in O'Connell Street, still drunk.
Occasionally, a small nurse would stick her head out of a broom cupboard, and one or other of the new arrivals would be called in for a wee chat and a little bit of sympathy. I was called at around five to eight, just towards the end of Coronation Street. "Look!" I said. "Blood. I am not malingering here. How long will it be before I can see a doctor?" The response - four to six hours - was longer than I had anticipated. But she was such a cheery soul that I couldn't bring myself to be sarcastic. After all, I've seen ER. I know that she has problems with her violent Estonian boyfriend, so I gave her a nice smile and thanked her. And then we settled in on the hard plastic chairs, watching the stream of people come and go.
Treatment is through a secure door. From where we're sitting, it looks like there's a small room through there, perhaps a waiting area. In the first half hour that we're there, nobody is called through this door. Occasionally people arrive and are let through, but there's no sign of any rhyme or reason to it. None of them appear to have had accidents or be emergencies. I am slowly bleeding to death in a hospital of the mad. At last, a woman sticks her head through the door..."Albert Jackson?" There is no Albert Jackson.
"Maybe he's dead already," mutters Mr Twinky, and I have to poke him in the ribs. Since dinner's been put on hold, he's been forced to eat machine-dispensed chocolate, and he is now on a Yorkie-buzz. "Or," he continues, "Maybe Albert's gone to throw himself under a bus so he'll get to see a Doctor more quickly."
And at that moment, I knew that the evening had slipped out of control, and was veering steadily towards the surreal.
Is hard to find, Perhaps it's the fact that as a result of the superficial banality of Belgium that they have been forced to delve into the realms of beer and chocolate to make their name - still a better cuisine than most of the UK. Perhaps it is the fact that for a civilised young belgian man it is disgusting to have dirt on any part of his body.
Whatever the wonderful thing about Belgians is, it probably isn't the smile on the face of the guy cruising me on the moving walkways that run through the airport. A slender figure, with the affectation of a shaved head and a goatee, the sleeves of his regulation uniform tight against his biceps (airport ground staff, for those of you picturing this). A slight swagger in his hips, his eyes firmly on mine as he approached and passed, like so much robot sushi.
But it could have been just my imagination. Maybe I had spinach in my teeth or something, and he was staring at me out of incredulity, and not lascivity. So I turned to watch him as he sped away from me. And he'd turned too. Very, very nice smile.
Harry Potter And Leopard Walk Up To Dragon is available now - but only in China.
Harry doesn't know how long it will take to wash the sticky cream cake off his face.
For a civilised young man it is disgusting to have dirt on any part of his body. He lies in the high-quality china bathtub, keeps wiping his face, and thinks about Dali's face, which is as fat as the bottom of Aunt Penny.
Today's the fourth of July
another June has gone by
and when they light up our town I just think
what a waste of gunpowder and sky
I'm certain that I am alone
in harbouring thoughts of our home
it's one of my faults that I can't quell my past
I ought to have gotten it gone
Oh, baby, I wonder -
if when you are older -
you'll wake up
and say, 'My God, I should have told her -
what would it take?
But now here I am and the world's gotten colder
and she's got the river down which I sold her.'
So that's today's memory lane
with all the pathos and pain
another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless
and they're always the same
a verse, then a verse, and refrain.
It seems that a lot of sentiment on the web these days is that 'Pride is okay, it's just not for me, really'. I can see where these people are coming from; I'm one of them myself, after all. But there's another side to this that needs to be mentioned. There was a time when Pride was much more relevant, much more about making the 'community' visible, and raising awareness. And that's largely been achieved. Most people know we're here, know we're queer, are used to it, and are slightly bemused by the fact that we feel a need to wave flags and dress up in lame knickers and feather boas just to prove it. And you know what, that's great.
So, it's not that I don't appreciate the fight from those who came before me. I owe them a hell of a lot. It's just that I don't really feel the same need to raise awareness or show solidarity.
The organisers of some of the larger Pride festivals have taken it upon themselves to rebrand and refocus, to become more Mardi Gras than Activism. And that's great, but it seems a recognition of the strange void that Pride is now falling into. And the reason for that...?
I'm going to sum it up by saying that I'm not a good homosexual. I don't go out clubbing every Friday. I don't obsess over looking good in front of people who are never going to judge me on my personality. I don't wear leather, have a pencil moustache, or dress in drag - ever. I don't have feminine affectations, or say 'hark at her' on a regular basis. I allow myself to have friends of all genders and sexual tastes, and I wouldn't tell anyone who identified as bisexual that 'you must be fooling yourself'. Good homosexuals are a narrow band. They're not the majority, but they're louder, and more visible. I grew up through the heyday of pride, and a lot of the legal and social freedoms that I now enjoy are a result of it. But it portrays a biased view of homosexuality, and one that I would be lying if I said I was comfortable with.
And the thing is, I know that I could be wrong entirely. I wasn't there, even to watch. I've avoided these things for so long, that everything could have changed, and it could be as simple as a bunch of people walking along the road. Short people, tall people, thin people, fat people, people who you wouldn't look at twice in the street. Because while it's nice to look at a troop of gym bunnies marching along twirling batons, and wearing nothing but gold hot pants, that ain't me.
Riding in an elevator with four Irish people and an Indian guy made me think about conformity again. About riding in elevators in Mumbai and being the only white face in that crowd - and usually a significantly different physical build. There was a sense of exclusion there, sure, a sense of them having a community to which I could never belong, but they all knew that I was there from head office, I was there to help them or shout at them - and so there was a hint of respect towards me. In some cases they would introduce themselves, show off their sales results, or tell me about their IT initiatives. And I was impressed and they went about their day walking a little taller.