I’ve been in the land of cheese and novelty dildos, a land where a man in a Paisley cotton frock and cardigan can get on a tram, put a plastic colander on his head and attract no attention whatsoever . This is Amsterdam – where anything goes and frequently does. On my first night I go to Drag Central to play Deal or No Deal in a bar. Noel Edmunds is played by a he/she called Amy Housewine. The banker is played by Deirdre Barlow in a peach velour tracksuit complete with some very dodgy padding in the back AND front bottom areas. She’s obviously going for the prolapsed womb look which, I think is quite pioneering in the world of drag actery. Anyway, we play the game for a while and I win some suspicious looking unguent, following which, for no reason whatsoever, I join with a pocket-sized Asian gentleman to sing ‘Climb every mountain’. I’m here to celebrate E’s birthday. He’s got a house full. One small friend, a mother of three, has flown in from Majorca, another, a recently retired trolly dolly (also quite small), has jetted in from Minneapolis and we’ve got a law lecturer lady (of normal size) from Bury St Edmunds to boot. We are very pan-global. Unfortunately, with five people and only one bedroom, we are having to be creative in our sleeping arrangements. We stick the trolley dolly in the big bed while the girls hunker down on the put-me-up. There’s some talk of lying sideways on which means we can toss and turn without losing anyone over the edge but unfortunately, my legs are way too long so we agree to keep all wriggling to a minimum and snuggle up for the tightest night’s sleep ever. Our host offers us the choice of two teddies but we have to say no – like Jesus, there is simply no room in the inn. By contrast, at a recent jazz night in a Brighton basement, there is plenty of room. The night outside is Siberian raw and the performance is by a bunch of wannabees. Consequently, only a handful of peeps have made it to the gig. In the dim light, we huddle around our cups of cocoa while a girl with bed hair scats, ‘dooby, dooby, doo, wah, wah, wah’, accompanied on the double bass by a man in socks and sandals – very impractical footwear considering the weather I think. There’s a woman on a piano freestyling like a good ‘un but her solos seemingly have no end and the languid lady in a mini-dress who’s taken over the mike doesn’t know where to come in. Thankfully, a man from the back comes looking for the sugar bowl and somewhere in the midst of the ensuing kerfuffle, another man with a saxophone jumps on stage and starts hooting. I can’t write anymore, otherwise I will have to kill myself.
Archive for the ‘weather’ Category
After a fun packed summer of deflated air beds, vicious stinging nettle injuries and a very wet bottom sustained while listening to moanie musicians on harps, I’ve got that back to school feeling; keep getting the urge to polish my shoes and cover my books with nasty wallpaper. I’m also scanning the local press for stimulating courses like felt making or bongo for beginners. Of course, it’s vegetable city at my place at the moment. And where there’s a glut, there’s a chutney to be made. What else to do with courgettes the size of truncheons? Of late, there’s been a bit of heat in my back yard (not a euphemism) but evenings are turning a little chilly. In fact, my good friend E tells me his inverted nipple was out for five hours yesterday so I know it’s time to bring out the woollies. Oh, and I’ve heard the ‘C’ word twice already and Asda is selling crackers. Actually, forget the bongo and felt making; I need something more dynamic – maybe Meditation for people who want to kill during Chhrrrrr….. See, can’t even say it.
It’s not often that you get to use the word ‘treacherous’ but I’ve used it several times recently to describe conditions outside my front door. I ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ when the first flurries appeared and gaily laughed at the children shoving snow down each other’s pants on their way to school. But then my road became a death trap. ‘Aaaaarrrggghhhh’, ‘wooohhhhhhh’ I cried as the ice rink conditions sent me hurtling head long into a neighbour’s bush. My low point was getting stuck in the middle of the road and having to get down on all fours and crawl home from the pub. On a lighter note, I’ve discovered that the wildlife in my back garden does not like chocolate and chestnut terrine but does like rough puff pastry.
If God was still alive he’d have done a Reggie Perrin yesterday, such was the mayhem of Brighton seafront. I challenge anyone to enjoy a game of volleyball when, a. Concorde 2 is playing host to a thrash metal screamathon involving bats, babies and quite possibly lesbian vampires, b. there’s a hairy bikers’ convention in full throttle, and, c. said hairy bikers’ are all experiencing a simultaneous mid life crisis and think they’re Dennis Hopper, giving the world the finger from the comfort of their own low-arsed, ‘sit up and beg’ motorbike that looks more like a commercial lawn mower. All that, and there was a force 10 gale and intermittent showers causing our ball to go anywhere but inside the court. This meant, every now and again, one of our ultra clean and perfectly manicured Men’s Health readers had to go and retrieve the ball from amidst the melee of greasy ponytails and bandanas, thereby risking being weed on in an act of ritual humiliation. Phew, what a day.
I swam; I ate; I read Madame Bovary; I watched a chameleon scale a lemon tree while listening to the ex-pat alsatians barking for their Winalot. Well what else is there to do in the Algarve? I wanted to go down to the local bar but couldn’t face the strip lighting and linoleum clad interiors. Ed and I did go off on an adventure to the ambitiously-named ‘Deserted Island’ which, of course, wasn’t deserted at all but had an air of Dungeness about it (without the charm of Derek Jarman’s garden). We wandered up the beach and met a Portuguese Man Friday type with ginger chest hair and a rather too tight pair of Speedos who invited us to shoot the breeze under his beach bivvy. He reminded me of a French man who I once shared a house with when grape picking, who had a suitcase full of tins of sardines, and a nasty habit of weeing in the vines – so I said no. The only other highlight for me that day was, following a lovely swim in the sea, I got dumped on by a set of crashing waves. It left me with a gusset full of shingle – which, I have to say doesn’t look or feel too good – although I suppose you could say my inner thighs got a cheap and rather brisk exfoliation.
I don’t want to sound like I’ve got an environmental-related OCD but I need to talk about the weather again. Yesterday, I was practically house-bound due to the Monsoon. Thankfully, I had all the comestibles I needed in my cupboard so didn’t need to go out but when it came to jazzing up my roast potatoes I was forced into the deluge in order to pick a sprig of rosemary. Then, later on, as I coursed down the road in my canoe, I got to thinking, as Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City, when is this fucking weather going to stop and when can I get my flip flops out? My winter broad beans have died in the ground, my hardy Agaves, the Ranulph Fiennes of succulents, are drooping and I don’t even want to talk about my onions..
Bloody hell, a flurry of snow and the country goes ga-ga. Is this all it takes for the hermetically-sealed citizens of this country to step out of their front doors and actually speak to each other? When I woke up yesterday morning, I had a Life on Mars moment when I looked out into the street and saw people – not scurrying to work or school, eyes down – but sliding down the road on makeshift sledges and having snowball fights with their neighbours. It felt like a street party but without the jelly. At my local shop, people were queueing for milk rations and laughing with strangers. Bizarre. Meanwhile, further up the road, there were two car crashes and a broken down M&S delivery lorry, a woman had collapsed in the Co-op and a child had cracked his head open on a shop floor swimming with slush. Blimey, it felt like an episode of Casualty. Today, the snow looks to have melted somewhat but even without going outside, I can bet the spirit of the Blitz will have disappeared with it. Shame.
It was Beachdown over the bank holiday weekend at Devil’s Dyke and, as if I haven’t had enough nights under canvas, I decided to pay a visit. I loved it, despite the rain and the lack of sleep and the fact that I didn’t wash for two days (strangely liberating although I could have done with a clean gusset). I found a corner of a field that was forever England – the England of my youth: acid house, jazz funk and reggae. Hosting oldies and goodies galore, the aptly named Beach Bar had sand in it so while swinging my pants I was giving my legs a good work out. I put my hands in the air and shook them like I just didn’t care. There were a lot of others that looked like they just didn’t care but that could have been the proliferation of magic mushrooms around the joint. Just a few matters to clear up: why don’t gay men go to festivals? if you use the ‘poo in a box’ do you then have to carry it to the toilet to dispose of it or keep it by your pillow where you can presumably look at it from time to time? If the Queen came to festivals, no doubt she would take an anti-poo tablet, thereby enabling her to eat curry, drink beer and take copious amounts of drugs without need of a turn-out.�
I am holed up with a sleeping bag and some Kendal mint cake and 90 cans of assorted beans. The perfect storm is hitting the south coast and it’s hell out there. Hairstyles are standing on end; dustbins are taking off and my onions have fallen off the windowsill. Oh yes, plus, I have ‘lost’ a plant pot. I daren’t go out for fear of something falling on my head and killing me. Reminds me of the Blitz – sorry, I mean the 1987 storm when I was in London and went to get the bus to work but the bus stop had blown away. Now that was a storm! Anyway, more India: Tuesday, 12 February. ‘Departure day. I had a tear in my eye as our rickshaw left town and we climbed out of the valley, leaving the rocky landscape behind. And so began our 24 hour journey further south. We caught the sleeper train to Bangalore. I slept on the top bunk, Tim on the bottom (which was brave of him as bottom bunkers often have to share their berth with cockroaches!). As on our last train, we were travelling 3rd class which meant six people to a compartment. There was a couple of chatty businessmen who wanted to talk about cricket and a mother and her boy. It was heads down at 9.30pm although I was awake at 2am, surprise, surprise, wanting the toilet. Clambering off the top bunk, trying not to tread on anyone on the way down reminded me of caravan holidays with mum and dad. The train was all clean and comfortable, even the toilets, which were stainless steel from top to bottom. I’m getting quite adept at positioning myself directly over the hole (although I did have one scare when my wallet containing my credit card and passport almost went the way of my poo as I was pulling my trousers up). We arrived in Bangalore (which felt a bit like Clapham junction without the cappuccino) just in time for rush hour and changed onto another train for Mysore, a breezy, open city of wide boulevards and gardens. We then took a rickshaw to the bus station and got on a local bus (read holes in the under carriage and seats big enough for a Barbie doll) to Madikeiri. We were the only two tourists on it but there were a few Tibetans as there are a number of monasteries in the area. The bus driver was a maniac and I thought we were going to crash several times. Horns are ubiquitous – they have to be. With cows, people, dogs, rickshaws, motorbikes, cycles and other buses fighting for their right of way, it’s chaos. But somehow, it works. Having said that, we did see one crash and one lorry that had come off the road and overturned. The roads are pretty poor with holes, speed bumps and other hazards at every turn but strangely few traffic signals. Consequently, we were pretty shaken up by the time we arrived at our destination. Madekeiri felt like the Wild West and there was little in the way of redeeming qualities. I couldn’t see any temples or interesting architecture, just a sprawl of ugly shops with not even a decent restaurant to eat in. We found a trek organiser and got the hell out of there – 24kms up into the hills and the most blissfully serene and stunningly beautiful place I’ve yet seen in India. Valley Dew is a homestay – 3 plantation style bungalows with verandas surrounded by lush vegetation and flanked by Mt. Kottabetta. To say were were exhausted on arrival would be an understatement. We had dinner on our verandah and retired to our room, a very basic 2 bed affair with a rag rug and a bare light bulb. We soon drifted off to the hum of crickets, filling the night air.’ more to come…..