Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ramblings: No Ho Ho

I’ve lived through too many festive seasons to mention and for those of you without a wise older (and slightly forthright and occasionally downright rude) relative to guide them here’s my top tips for festive survival. Forget the zombie apocalypse; this one is more dangerous than you can even begin to imagine:

1)      Don’t Spend it Hung-over: During my drinking days, I’ve spent many a bleary day retching over the stench of softly dissolving Brussels over-boiling in a steamy kitchen and clutching my head whilst weeping softly. Do: Avoid the demon drink the night before or better still, stay drunk. No one minds at Christmas time. You’re not classed as an alcoholic unless the bender stretches on till at least mid January. Just check that your insurance is enough to cover rehab. Being drunk might even make Noel Edmonds seem bearable...well...maybe not. That would need Class A’s.

(Seriously people: look after your liver and sanity by avoiding excessive alcohol and Mr Edmonds).

2)     Don’t Spend it With Your Family: Unless you come from Walton Mountain or are working on keeping enough goodwill going to seal an inheritance, then these people are best avoided. They’ll only grate on your nerves and remind you of something embarrassing you did when you were six. You’ll be wincing at the fact you share genes with these people by the time the Queen’s Speech is on and demanding that they tell you that you were adopted. Do: Spend time with your chosen family: your friends. They say blood is thicker than water but unless you’re like one of those creeps from those pappy “Twilight” films, then blood isn’t as refreshing to drink.

3)     Don’t Break Up With Anyone: I got dumped once at 6pm on Christmas Eve and it wasn’t pleasant: for anyone. I sobbed through Christmas Dinner, drank my way through a bottle of wine during a Disney Pixar film whilst proclaiming what a tragic story it was and then collapsed in a heap. The next day, I was fine again, if a little embarrassed. He was a knob anyway. Do: Keep some perspective. It’s not easy to remember this with a million advertising images of joyous plastic families and smiling couples everywhere, but not everyone is happy on Christmas Day. It would be a true miracle if they were. It is after all, just a day and like any other, it passes: slowly, but it passes. Lots of people are alone, unwell, bereaved or heartbroken. Huge arrays of people are working too. If you want cheering up then look up the stats on the darker side of the season. I’m not giving the plot away if I reveal that your chances of breaking up or down and running up crippling debts are significantly increased by Yuletide efforts.

4)     Don’t Spend One Final Christmas With Someone You’re About to Split Up From: I tried this once as a misguided emotional gesture and ended up with a scenario akin to that of a bad Christmas soap plot. I ended up with a plateful of turkey in my face and actually got smacked with a Christmas tree and had a mild concussion. Luckily the gravy washed out of my good clothes. Fact: Soap operas may be fun to watch but not so thrilling to enact. Do: Escape well before December even rears its ugly head. It’s infinitely better to be single than in a bad relationship. I just wish I’d known this when I was younger. Get yourself out of there and on the market again or spend time recovering. It’ll be more fun than picking pine needles out of your scalp.

5)     Don’t Feel That It’s Compulsory: You do have a choice. If people disapprove of what you want to do on the 25th of December then that’s their problem. It’s your life: assert yourself. Do: Try to enjoy whatever you do with your time off and if you’re working, then feel smug that you’re missing out on all that bickering over the TV remote and enforced games of drunken Charades.

As for me, I’ll be the one hiding in an old Anderson Shelter, slowly sucking a vintage Valium and waiting for it all to be over, before emerging, triumphant, and slimmer in late December. Enjoy!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ramblings: The Twelve gays of Christmas

I wrote this article for last week's column at and it seems to have gone down well. Unusually festive for me, being a Christmas phobic, but a gay has to write what a gay has to write...and besides, it enabled me to subvert an irritating little song into something vaguely funny.
"The festive season can be a perilous time for the single gay man. I’ve navigated the dating circuit from time to time and have had more relationships than the late Liz Taylor, so thought I’d share the benefits of my experience on the pros and cons of the festive gays.

12 Drummers Drumming: (A.K.A.) New Age Gay. This is the man who owns his own set of bongos and can navigate a chakra or two. He’s kind and thoughtful, good with his healing hands, but won’t buy you a present as he’s totally against consumerism. Unless you want to spend Christmas Day munching on tofu and chanting with an absolute lack of television then these gays aren’t for you. The sound of those tribal drums will have you reaching for your Valium long before Winter Solstice is over.

11 Pipers Piping: (A.K.A. Home-maker Gay) He’ll be waiting in the immaculately ordered kitchen, piping bag in hand. This is the man who owns a full set of Martha Stewart cook books, has watched every episode of “Great British Bake-Off “ twice and has hand made his own decorations. Avoid him if you don’t want to gain three stone and receive hand embroidered gifts.

10 Lords a Leaping: (A.K.A. Camp Gay) Can you control this boy’s excitement? He’s had the tinsel up since November, Kylie is on a loop singing “Santa Baby” and you’ll spend the festive season learning Steps routines in matching outfits. This could be exhausting and may lead to a potential massacre before Yule is out.

9 Ladies Dancing: (A.K.A. Disco Bunny Gay) Toned and topless, he’ll make your winter paunch look positively hideous by comparison, as he spends December gyrating in a series of darkened nightclubs with no shirt on. By the time you’re done trying to keep up with this one, you’ll have an assortment of blisters and a sweat rash from skin tight Lycra. Do yourself a favour and favour the sofa instead.

8 Maids a Milking: (A.K.A. Sauna Gay) Wondering why he has such clean pores? It’s because he’s milking for all he’s worth in the saunas day and night. Unless you want to join him and that’s your thing, then steer clean or you may have to cope with a serious case of verrucas and an over-developed right arm, amongst other things.

7 Swans a Swimming: (A.K.A. Sporty Gay) He’ll be up and at it by 6am every day, hitting the pool, doing his lunges and cycling around the park. He’s got a great torso and thighs that could crack a festive walnut but beware: he may want you to join in. Be prepared for early starts, no booze and a lot of muscle pain. Be prepared and buy in a stock of anti-inflammatory pills.

6 Geese a Laying: (A.K.A. Sex-Addict Gay) The short days are so tiring. If you’re anything like me then you’re too tired and nippy to be putting out every five minutes. If, however, you can manage it five times a day, have a handy supply of Savlon and don’t mind his occasional forays into Grindr sex meets whilst you’re out buying the turkey, then this man is for you. He’ll certainly keep you busy.

5 Gold Rings: (A.K.A. Pierced Gay) This man has more holes than a colander and a huge sex toy collection. If it moves he’s pierced it. O.K., he’s easy to buy for but watch those nice wool jumpers, one wrong move and you’ll be covered in snags. On the plus side: it’s somewhere to hang your spare baubles and the after dinner party games could involve more fun than you’d have with charades.

4 Colly Birds: (A.K.A. Technology-addict Gay) He’s on Twitter and is tweeting like a bird with an egg jammed up its lady pipes. Be prepared to be ignored as he Instagrams all his food, photographs all his gifts,  captures your special “ooh, what a lovely gift” face and is sending it all out for everyone to see. He’s tweeting every 2 seconds and in between is Skyping, messaging, texting and talking on his mobile. Be prepared to be lonely this Christmas and totally lacking in privacy.

3 French Hens: (A.K.A. Euro-gay) He’s sleek and stylish and his mother is called Collette and is never without an Hermes scarf. He opens doors, has an accent that melts your underwear and is utterly charming. Just be prepared for the disdain. He won’t understand our tedious English Christmas food rituals and will affect the kind of face you want to slap as he repeatedly fails to see the joys of that Iceland Prawn Ring, the Yule Log and the pickled cabbage which you queued for hours to get.

2 Turtle Doves: (A.K.A. Grumpy Gay) Like a turtle, he hides in his shell and avoids anything festive. He’ll drain all the joy from any gathering, refuses to leave the house from mid November and will be holed up with a set of DVDs, a bottle of Cognac and a pile of books. (This describes me, by the way). Avoid him, unless you’re a kindred spirit and also think that Santa is just an anagram of Satan.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: (A.K.A. The Keeper) This gay man is right where you need him: in his nest. He’s loyal, homely, faithful and kind. He’s also a rarity but worth searching for. I always say a gay in the home is worth two in a bush. If you haven’t found him yet, then don’t give up. He’s out there somewhere.

 Whichever type of homosexual male you choose to spend your Yule with or whether you choose to spend it alone, at work, with good friends or with family (brave, but I understand that some intrepid people do this), then have a good one."

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Ramblings: The Ugly Truth

There are certain facts about me which I know aren’t actually true, yet a small part of me still believes them, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

1)    I can still fit in miniscule clothing: I was way too thin in my teenage years and throughout my twenties. I had to buy tiny belts from children’s wear shops to hold my trousers up and tops in small or extra small were the size of choice. My bones would hurt when I sat on hard seats as I had not an ounce of excess fat as a cushion. Thanks to a combination of walking hours a day to and from work and with my dog and working in a heavy physical job (nursing on a geriatric ward), I remained emaciated.

Fact: I still forget that I’m more average in my size now and still occasionally buy clothes which whilst fine whilst standing up, will burst buttons if I ever sit down. I’m no longer dangerously thin.

2)     My hair isn’t going thin on top: I have a double crown. For those who don’t know what this means, it means that I have two of the whirly bits of hair where it grows outwards on the top of the head. Naturally that’s why when I have those hideous moments where I catch sight of the back of my head on a CCTV camera or in a changing room, it looks like my hair is getting very thin at the back. Baldness runs in families. All the males in my line had great heads of hair. It can’t be that I’m losing my hair

Fact: I’m losing my hair.

3)     I’m not very tall: This stems from teenage insecurity and inferiority. On an intellectual level I knew I wasn’t short. In terms of logistics I could see that I towered over a lot of people. It’s just that in my own mind I felt small and vulnerable. My inner voice told me that I was petite and weak. It’s not so bad now that I’m older and more confident but I still get moments where I feel tiny and frail.

Fact: I’m six feet tall.

4)     I can be anything I want to be: I’m over 40, have spent 25 years smoking too much and am also pretty slow to pick up physical tasks. I can understand concepts and theories easily but give me a simple physical thing to do and I’m very puzzled. A recent example is trying to tie a bowtie.  To me, it’s like the hardest riddle invented. Whilst it may be true that I could re-train for a new career at any age; certain careers (Olympic athlete, world class ballet dancer or Formula One driver) are beyond me. I often see contemporary dance pieces and leave thinking that with a week or two of training I could do that too. I see myself flying around gracefully, in singlet and shorts, wowing audiences worldwide. I then remember that they are probably twenty years my junior and started training soon after vacating the womb

Fact: I’m not 16 still. Some of my potential (if it ever existed) is gone.

5)     I’m still 21: I look at learned media experts, experienced senior doctors at work and government officials and automatically feel younger than them. I’m not. Lots of older people say that they still feel like a teenager inside. I’m not sure that this is true of me as I’ve felt 85 inside since I was about 12. I do however equate authority with age and it comes with a jolt when I realise that I’m older than lots of politicians, police inspectors and hospital consultants.

Fact: I’m officially middle aged.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have a true grip on reality. I think our inner selves will always struggle to keep up with physical reality. For now I’ll go with it: signing off here as a very petite, teenage future ballet star with an amazing head of hair.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Ramblings: Media Shutdown

Socrates’ iconic quotation that “the unexamined life is not worth living” has been ringing in my ears for the past few weeks. I’m sure my ruminations are a long way from his intention when making that statement but they follow a similar path. I feel less examined than usual.

The thing is, I’ve given up social networking. It’s nothing permanent, just a hiatus till the end of December. I’ve grown increasingly sick of seeing adverts on T.V. and billboards, listening to endless dull chatter on the bus and at work and having stuff rammed down my throat about a two day festival which I don’t celebrate and actively hate, for a number of reasons. The bombardment began in October and had reached a frenetic level by November and as Christmas actually approaches and it becomes slightly more appropriate, it can only get worse.

As usual, the T.V. has gone in the cupboard to spare me the hideous sight of fake bonhomie and incinerated poultry corpses and music radio is totally out of the question in case I catch a whisper of Slade, Wizard or any other such annual tortures. Those people should be tried like war criminals in my view. I’m avoiding shops (crowded and full of tat), cafes and restaurants (hastily rustled together food, clueless temporary staff and office parties) and am not even online shopping (lengthy queues at the parcel collection office). Cheers, festivity for knocking the joy out of so many of my usual pleasures.

I was happily using Facebook as usual until October. Around this time, the C word (Christmas, the word “cunt” is fine by me and less horrifying) started to rear its tinselly and tasteless head. By last week the amount of kittens in Santa hats popping up on my news feed was leading to so much nausea that I risked starvation. I decided to suspend my account and stay away till it’s all over and the scary fat man (who exists to advertise a caffeinated drink), has stopped frightening children and greed and rampant consumerism recedes to its usual level.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’m missing it. I find myself thinking up comedy one-liners as I stand in the bus queue. I get caught up in a ludicrous situation and am dying to share it with the world. I buy something and want to photograph it and show it off online. I want to share my views on T.V. and films, wax lyrical about theatre or art I’ve seen or regale people with tales of who I’ve shushed in a cinema.

I found a really beautiful 1950s coffee set in a charity shop at the weekend and my first thought was: “I must put this on Facebook” My second thought was: “What does this say about me as a person?” Am I a terrible show off? Do I fail to value anything unless the rest of the world tells me it’s beautiful too? Am I just generous and want to share the beautiful things I have? It’s probably a combination of all the previous questions. We humans are complicated beings. I will remain restrained though. I won’t tell you anything about what a bargain it was or how handsome it looks in my house. I’ll just enjoy it for me.

I miss the gossip too. Divorces, deaths and trips to Ikea, all get equal billing on Facebook and Twitter. Like my late grandmother, I like to be the first to know and a small part of me worries what I’m missing out on. On second thoughts, its December, people will be posting pictures of tedious parties or animals in fancy dress. I doubt I’m missing anything. I think this temporary separation will do me good.

I’m not entirely succeeding in avoiding all the Christmas crap. I got caught in Oxfam with a tape of festive tunes and the hospital where I work is festooned with enough gaudiness to make Liberace seem like he was an icon of restraint. I also got wished “Merry Christmas” four times so far this week, which is unsettling as its only the start of Advent,

I’ll carry on filling my time with watching DVDs on my laptop, blogging, writing and ploughing my way through a pile of novels. I’ll be back with plenty to say on the F word after the C word has ended. For those of you that are practising Christians, enjoy it. For the rest of you, whatever it is you might be celebrating and for whatever reason you’re doing it, I totally fail to understand you, but hope that you enjoy that too.