So this is it - the last hour of 2002. The last hour also of December, and especially of Dec 31, my most feared day. The one I spend the other 364 days dreading. Yet - once again - it's all but done. Conquered, survived and soon to be one whole long year away.
Long year? What am I talking about! A year these days lasts roughly five minutes, mas o menos. And when you think that within the next twenty it's odds on I'll kick the bucket, well that comes down to 20 times 5 minutes, and you don't need me to do the maths. O glory. Who would have thought it would end like this?
But it wasn't always thus, my dear reader. Long, long time ago this day was quite special for one little boy. Birthday cards to be opened... see which ones have money in them!! Presents too, although like all near-Christmas kiddies, there sometimes aren't too many.
And then in the evening the birthday cake. A family tradition. Rich, heavy fruitcake, smothered in thick almond paste. My mother would bake it in November usually and then it would be put in a big, round tin to mature. Baking the cake was an event. Icing the cake was an event. But the biggest event of all was the cutting, which was always my job. Bar Mitzvah boy, in all but name.
"Happy Birthday!" they would all sing. "Happy Birthday dear Peter!" And I would blush, modestly, not sure whether I could cut a proper slice or not.
Then there was the tasting... for all the world like the man from Del Monte. "Yes - it's good this year," my mother would say, looking anxiously at dad for approval. "Not bad," he would agree - and me, I couldn't care less to be honest. Just so long as they could get through the day without fighting for once.
Put to bed nice and early then, so the adults could "bring in the New Year".
And that was how it continued - year after year. Decade after decade, even - until the cake and the damn song brought rage and embarrassment to my ageing ears.
I cut it off eventually. Stopped visiting for Christmas and New Year... left them to themselves, my sister having fled to foreign parts too. I felt I had to show I had a life. Independent. Grown up, even. But it was mostly sham.
And then, six years ago, I got a phone call from my sister, via satellite from Timbuktoo or some such place.
"Are you sitting down?" she said. "Our mother is dead," she said. And yes - it was on this day, December 31. Within an hour of my birth. At cake-cutting time.
So please forgive the unpleasant little post below. It's what we call in the North East "a nasty trick". My writing mostly is done for you, but sometimes, just sometimes I have to do a little something for myself and for the memories.
Just watched American Beauty, for the first time, and I'm confused. "Fistful of Oscars," bleats The Guardian, but I find myself asking, "Why?"
The characters were (with exceptions we'll come to later) cartoon clichés - the production was too big, too lavish for the smallness of the portrayed lives, the red herrings were as scarlet as the ever-present roses - and yet I found myself glued to it throughout.
But I think I know the reason. Wes Bentley, an actor so reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix I spent the entire film thinking it actually was JP. What a tosser.
Ah well, that's where the internet comes good. Anyway, Mr Bentley was superb - a Russell Crowe for the new millennium.
Oh - and his girl, Thora Birch, wasn't bad either. It seems a shame, a pity, that we spend so much of the film watching derivative plop, waiting only for those sublimely original moments with Bentley and Birch. Unlike the excesses of, say, Wild At Heart, this romance gets bigger the less that is shown.
But fistful of Oscars? What am I missing here?
Now - a truly magnificent film was screened the day before, on Channel Four. A small film, independent I imagine, and one which won't garner as many viewers in its entire existence as will have seen American Beauty in one day - despite having Ian Holm and Rutger Hauer. It was Simon Magus, a thrillingly acted and told yarn about Jews and Gentiles co-existing in "Middle Europe" last century. A fairy tale. A morality tale. One to watch out for when it comes your way.
From my postbag
Lubin Odana writes to introduce his blog Trash Addict. Lubin and I go back a couple of years, cyber-speaking, and I recommend it to you.
Post of the week
I know most of you who drop by here also take in Here Inside. It's like Naked Blog but more sensible. Shit - now that I think about it - it's not remotely like Naked Blog, except that Charlie and I are (a) both gay, and (b) both over 40. (Forty percent over in my case. Aren't numbers startling?) Well, Charlie's pulled out the big one with this post. Don't miss it, even if it's the only thing you read today.
(Blog gossip is even more important than pub news nowadays.)
Hi there! How are you doing? Looking forward to the New Year celebrations? And why not? Me, I hate them, but that's just me. They're soon over and done with, and then it's on to glorious January, my favourite month - after the summer, that is.
Firstly - thanks to all who've offered to sponsor a finalist in the Top Ten Great Gay Britons Vote. I'll contact you tomorrow for definite. Thanks too to everyone who's emailed and commented about various matters... I'm not quite able to reply personally atm, but your kind wishes are much appreciated. I mean that. As I say - there'll hopefully be a small window midst the morass tomorrow.
First with all the news department
1. Bloggies I don't know if you remember a few days ago I was mentioning The Bloggies awards? Bemoaning that there was no mention of them on Google for 2003? Well, who should write to me just the very next day but Nikolai Nolan the organiser. (Isn't that a fab name, btw? An exotic blend of Russki and Oirish, begorrah.) Nikolai tells me that the Bloggies are very much on the go next year, but he doesn't release details until January 1. How organised. After that, it's all happening on www.bloggies.com
Do give them a whirl. I know that literally squillions of you are "fresh on the streets" this winter, but the Bloggies are a must. Basically they work on nominations and votes, and there's no judging panel at all. Even Tom likes them. Last year we were nominated for about six categories, but didn't get onto any shortlists. Since then, however, we've gone quite ballistic, so who knows? Now if only they had a category for Best Senior. (Hint.)
Remember - they're meant to be FUN! (Plus Will Wheaton wins practically everything.)
2. Pepys Diaries A lively feature of Naked Blog is the tagboard to your right. Here a dedicated team of time-wasters chat the weekday mornings away, swapping gossip and other essential matters. To be honest, it's sometimes more interesting than the main posts!
Anyway - what should happen on December 20 but this conversation.... (it's about 3 windows back, should you doubt my continuing veracity...)
Peter: It's taken over an hour, including downloading a whole FTP client and learning how to work it, just to lighten that damn picture up. Pepys never had these problems.
Darren: Yeah but he had stoopid hair and questionable pastimes.
Darren: And had London not caught light he may not have been known at all. Sounds suspicious to me actually. It was probably a publicity stunt!
Peter: Really? I never knew that. Narrow English education, you see.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a hammer, as my late mother used to say, when what should I chance upon on plasticbag than this plug for The Pepys Diaries. Starts January 1, in real time. Brilliant idea.
"And the finalists are... " (Clears throat and rips open expensive envelope.)
(In alphabetical order)
Noel Coward, Quentin Crisp, Stephen Fry, Boy George, Sir Elton John, Sir Ian McKellen, Freddie Mercury, Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf
By any measure, that is a towering list.
Next - if there's enough interest in continuing - I need someone to promote each finalist. You should do it on your own site, if you have one, and I'll link to you. If not, I'll consider publishing your appreciation here on nakedblog.com. Email me if you want to do that.
Well, you'll be wanting to know how I celebrated. It was quite bizarre. There I was, alone in bed, as always. But yet not quite alone either, for just three short hours after the Blessed Moment (1.14 am - see yesterday's post), what should come upon me but an almighty resurrection. Total, complete, and lasting for ever.
I was astonished, I can tell you. No matter which way I turned, this seasonal affective stonker would befriend each bit of the bedding. Sleep was out of the question. Why in heaven or on earth was this long-forgotten thing happening?
And then the amazing truth dawned. For what is a man's love-poker if not the most obvious and apparent sign of his well-being? Could it be that the sheer mental relief of passing the Winter Solstice had lifted the low-grade anxiety I'd toiled under for weeks, releasing the mind-body back to something resembling health? In as little as three hours? There are more questions than answers. And I do hope this tale of elderly flesh doesn't put you off your Sunday dinner.
Out and About in The New Year
It occurs to me that I've recently slagged off everyone from Murdoch journalists to anyone who even dares mention Christmas in their blogs. Sorry for that. It was the voices. And we're not out of the woods yet. Traditionally NB closes from now until mid-January to allow for extreme neurosis and feeling sorry for myself. But this time there are things in progress. Tomorrow I'll release (even if it half-kills me) the 100 and 10 Greatest Gay Britons, and then the final stage can begin.
Special thanks to Darren and Paulo for their tagboard presence throughout Friday morning, talking me through a quite severe anxiety period.
In January 2002, The Bloggies began, followed shortly by the Anti-bloggies. They were both a load of fun, but Google seems to show no indications of 2003 awards. I even sponsored an Anti-bloggie award, (click that link), in the category "Most obsessed with Radiohead". The generous prize was ABBA Gold - The Greatest Hits. But the winner never got in touch.
We've lost a number of readers during 2002, and that's a shame, but gained a whole load also. NB has changed quite radically over this year, and one man's meat is another's treat. (Did I just say that?) Change is progress. Stagnation is death.
Close now - so close you can almost touch it. But I won't go on about tomorrow, for fear of becoming a "solstice-bore" the way, quite frankly, the internet is fast becoming a "Christmas-bore". I know that traditionally you can't pick up a newspaper or switch on the telly at this time of year without being hit by an explosion of reindeer and robins, but now the internet, or at least the blog part of it, is becoming just the same. Like a cross (oops - see how They usurp the language) between OK and Bella magazines.
Now, don't think I'm getting at you. I'm not. They're (almost) all at it. And I wouldn't mind if these people had showed even the slightest indications of Christianity at other times of the year. But of course they don't. People "do" Christmas because (a) it's expected, and (b) everyone else does it.
Scrooge and humbug. Take a step back, and think of the hypocrisy you're perpetuating by your refusal to question what you're doing. Or - once questioned - not having the spherical requirements to act upon your doubts. Me, I think it's time I joined the Humanists. Or the Secular Society. But maybe most appropriate of all would be Pantheist People. Merry Christmas.
PS. Do reindeer have another name, btw? Or are they for ever to be known purely by their job? Even a dray-horse has a breed name.
The sunpic there is a bit theoretical, as the awesome orb has yet to lift its sleepy head above the rooftops and chimney-pots. But the sky is clear, and the ground and grass are thick with frost today. However, my beady little weather eye spots a heavy bank of cloud to the north, possibly a frontal system, and that could spell the end of the brightness.
The moon too rose in the north yesterday tea-time, with that pale near-translucence it shows when the sun has not yet fully gone. You could see it wasn't quite full. Fullness promises to be today and tomorrow, which in turn offers an interesting congruence of the lunar phase and the winter solstice. Loonies v Saddo's. Watch this space.
The Port was like a tinderbox yesterday, as various acted out their neuroses and pre-hysterias. One woman - let's call her Bernice - was determined to play a few mind games with me. "Why can't I be Hunk of the Week?" she kept tediously pleading. "Because it's for men," I politely demurred. "And you're manifestly not one."
But that didn't stop her. On and on she droned. A more fitting, if less gentlemanly, reply would have been, "How big's yer cock, honey? Come back when it's reached six inches." Next time I'll try that. Really can't be doing with others' play-acting right now.
There's a feeling, almost palpable, of waiting for the moment, that brief second when the earth hangs at its maximum inclination to the sun, then starts to rein in again. Last year it was 8pm-ish on the twenty-first. This year I haven't ascertained yet.
Yorkshire Chris was much more fun, regaling with tales of the Sunday Times Great Curry Dinner. (Couple of posts below.) It appears that the curry didn't turn up, so Mary's guests had had to dine on crisps and mini-cheddars. He reminded me of what I'd said when the first of the journalists had swished past us into the gents. "Get yourself in there now, Chris," I'd hissed at him. "Wave yer big dick at the guy then say it's twenty quid for half an hour!" (Prostitution by proxy.)
"Mair like eighty!" chimed Mark, clearly more au fait with the going rate. (All of this I'd forgotten, due to a subtle blend of mental illness and alcoholic excess.) So Chris explained that he'd gone into the gents, and stood beside the guy pissing and laughing his head off. And the stranger was so disturbed by this performance that he didn't dare come out of the closet for ten minutes. How I laughed at this tale!
He's very nice, is Chris. Hyper-masculine, and straight as a die, of course. I should explain also that I've no idea of the size of his progenitive poker, but the term "your big dick" is not usually offensive to a man. My lady readers will understand that one too. If not, then the words are well worth rolling your tongue around.
The anticlyclone continues, so today is another automatic walk. There is no alternative. This lady's not for turning. Minus four overnight, so the ground and the river will be deliciously frosty!
Yesterday's walk was quite the biz, all the way to Slateford along the Water of Leith. It's wonderful to see what little sun there is, arrayed in all its glory. From Dawn til Dusk. Unfortunately the apres-walk was something of a disaster, as you can read, if you wish, in yesterday's extended edition. It's a long time since I had to struggle so hard not to make a complete scene, and probably get myself barred to boot.
"It's a bad time of year for me, too," I said to Pam the barmaid, as we glared at each other over some slight or other. "But I can't just put lippy on to cheer myself up." (I know she also suffers from the dark.)
"Here - have some!" she offered. "What shade do you want? I've got four types." We laughed.
Bright today. Out today. Really just can't hang about today.
If my little home-made campics aren't quite frequent enough for you, then you can see Edinburgh in all its glory here. Complete with imitation London Eye.
Yesterday mike's fabulous shirt off my back project finally emptied the laundry basket, and a winner was declared. And if that wasn't enough, mike waxes all thoughtful about blognature. Always fun when he does that.
Various of you are coming down with Seasonal Affective Disorder, including my madwoman downstairs. Well, here at Naked Blog we practically invented the damn thing - or at least brought it to its present prominence, as you can read here. Me, I'm having a ball this time, the mantra being, "not long now". You could try that. Or you could try the daylight bulbs which I'm using, as recommended by Lyle of Destruction For Dummies. At two pounds seventy a kick they're not cheap, but then neither is a pint of lager at much the same price. Get them. Ditch the lampshades and let the blueness run free.
Yesterday's cannabis programme was pretty useless. It said five things...
A lot of people start smoking cannabis in their early teens, and become heavy users
There are more cannabis users in south London than in all of Holland
Modern cannabis is up to thirty times more potent than that available in the sixties
A number of people have a genetic loading towards cannabis-induced psychosis
South London has so much psychosis that the mental health services are in a mess.
Well, that lot took one minute max, leaving the remaining 59 to fill with pictures of white, well-scrubbed, middle-class, still-lucid, late-teen youths sitting about having a blast on their bong. Gruesome. An advert for the filthy stuff in all but name. Shouldn't be allowed, if you ask me, but then what do I know?
Much more fun was the programme following, "I Dismember Mama", about a man who froze his dying mother and cut off her head, but wouldn't reveal the location of the chilled-out cranium. He planned to bring her back to life. They planned to do him for murder, but it didn't stick. Now that's what I call cool.
PS Hot new competition at Troubled Diva!! Answer a bunch (56) of blog-related questions correctly, and win some CD's. (It's just like the posh newspapers' 2002 quizzes, but about blogs, rather than Blair and Bush. Much more important.)
Well, there I was - after my walk - all ready for a quiet pint in the Port, when what should happen but a load of Sunday Times journalists came in. Twenty-five, not that I was counting - there for an Indian meal. "I feel like a caged baboon," Yorkshire Chris said to me. "They're just here to gawp at the locals."
"I know," I said. "We should all start dealing drugs and shooting up. Knife each other in a controlled environment."
But Mary, the proprietrix, was all prepared. Disco, Christmas crackers - you name it.
My horror increased by the minute, as Mark reminded me about Mr Blair going cap in hand to Australia to court the media supremo. "It's not like he said, 'See you in Italy, or somewhere,'" Mark declaimed. "Blair had to go all the way to fucking Australia."
Mr Murdoch stinks, and his journalists are prostitutes from the lowest scummy pond. One more pint and I would have told the whole twenty-five of them that. Hopefully Chris and Robert and Mark will do the biz on them. They won't be back soon, I bet.
Because I was around when the holocaust came, you see. Not the Spielberg holocaust, doubtless so close to his roots, but another holocaust, much closer to my own. I'm talking 1981, when the infective horror became a reality, and we started to topple like ninepins. I was there then, watching, waiting, as always, as I realised that my life was changed for ever and ever - even though by some ghastly mistake I myself appeared to be "spared".
And do you know what made things even worse? Well I can tell you. It was The Sun. And the News of the World. And - flagship of all - the fucking Sunday Times. That's why gay men of my generation exercise the only boycott they can. They don't ever give their money to Murdoch. Not to the papers. Not to Sky televison. Nor to Sky Movies. Nada. Any other decision is a wanton betrayal of those who have died. Can't say it any plainer than that.
And that's why I left the pub tonight, rather than make a scene. Forgive me. These things are far from pleasant - but we should never forget.
Oh well - dark a lot, light a bit, dark a lot. We got chatting about cannabis in the Port tonight (well, this afternoon, really - but it seems like night). How I hate that smelly thing. Used to smoke it quite a lot - got me into no end of trouble, as it turned out.
But now it's so harmless, apparently. Class C.
Harmless, my browneye! How many times have I seen the scenario.... "Hey man, take some of this, just in from Morocco, totally awesome, have a toke, listen to Jeff Beck, expand your mind, don't be a loser...."
Because then - sometimes years later - I see the wife rushing in to the bar, clad only in the flimsiest of nighties, having just been thoroughly smacked in the chops by her man. "Oh - what happened to my so-stylish husband" they howl. "I thought we had it all sussed!" For ever and ever, amen...
Peace, Love, Tranquillity, Psychosis. There's a programme about this very matter tonight - and I can hardly contain my indifference. No such thing as a free altered state, my chickadees! Get real, at least a wee bit. Screw the nut. Are you sure you're so tense you have to poison yourself every night?
My good friend Rex has done a like totally cool take on the Port o Leith Bar today. Get it while it lasts - before the flak starts. (PS - you might not understand a thing. WTF cares?)
Hangover. I'd forgotten what they're like. But you don't need me to tell you, I'm sure.
The party was good. (I can't believe I just wrote that.) I had a load of fun.
Fun? I hear you gasp. Naked Blog isn't about fun - it's about watching, waiting, recording, analyzing.
Analyze yourself. I was only there five minutes before a couple of lesbian women dressed as fairies had me done up to a T. Christmas tree tinsel round my head in a kind of tarnished halo. Bug antennae with flashing lights atop the cranium. And the piece de resistance was a pair of fairy wings strung manfully across my broad shoulders. No grandeur or hauteur there. It were fucking ace.
Oh hell, and I even danced. Not well, you understand - never did have any body rhythm - but after some sort of fashion. The thing is, when you're my age and you do anything at all they just lap it up. But I got sensible and left when I started fancying one of my managers. At twenty-one he's young enough to be my grandson. "I'd love to meet your girlfriend," I said to him - which is a euphemism for, "Ditch the bitch and get into bed with me, quick."
But hangovers are no fun. To think I used to live like this all the time.
(Staff party hosted by The Village, South Fort Street. Quite excellent. Still a few December dates available.)
Out and About in the Projects.
Mike's Shirt Off My Back thing ploughs full steam ahead, seemingly without end. Or do my sensors detect some subtle hints of an end game approaching?
Meg's Mayfly Project has re-started, in which you sum up your 2002 in twenty words or less. This was mine...
"I said this year I was going to get a shag, even if I had to pay for it. Didn't."
Nice ambiguity, I thought.
100 Greatest Gay Britons seems to have finished the first round, more or less, so early next week I'll reveal the Top 100, and Top Ten, but not in order. Then it's up to you, dear reader, to sponsor one of the Ten, and State Your Case therefor. Then one more vote and it's done. Heavens, you've done a lot of voting.
Christmas party tonight for me an me workmates. It's at the Village. Sadly, about half of us have to work the evening, which means we won't get there until 9.30 at the earliest. And I like to go to bed at ten. (This is the exciting, thrill-packed life of a leading bingo-caller and international blogstar.)
Parties are an avoidable nuisance, so I avoid them. Much as I love conversation, this is not normally a feature of such gatherings, rather the proceedings are dominated by that modern abomination called a "disco" - a contraption specifically and precisely designed to prevent human discourse. How terrified modern people must be of their thoughts and the risk of silence.
"Well, that's it then - there's no escape now!" English Peter said, grinning. He was describing the latest generation mobile phones, which not only take pictures, but have a zoom lens, apparently. "When your wife phones to ask where you are, she can demand to see it."
"I know," I said, agreeing. "And just think of all those security cameras we're on, all the time."
But Tony my IT manager was unphased. "It shouldn't matter," he said. "People should be more honest with each other about their movements, anyway. Bosses have to learn that workers have extended lunches. Wives should accept that their husbands have a pint in the pub."
"What you're talking about is the end of privacy," I suggested, not at all convinced. Although I could visualise some ideal world of full and open communication, that's all it was - a vision.
"Take wanking," Tony pressed on. "Every man does it, yet no-one ever owns up to it."
"But would you do it in public?" English Peter asked. "Go on - I dare you, have a wank right now." (We were in the Port o Leith Bar.)
"You could do it on your videophone," I suggested, miming the process. "Full disclosure."
We laughed, but before we moved on to the next topic, I asked Tony, who is a moderate blog-reader, what he thought of the blogging movement. "Is it a step towards greater honesty?" I asked him, "or just people pretending to be open while taking care to reveal only and exactly as much as they want? To calculatingly paint themselves in a favourable light?"
Bit groggy this afternoon, following an entire night on Internet Relay Chat. (Dinnae start - I don't want to know what you think.) Sleeplessness was courtesy of a molecule too much of a popular yet prohibited stimulant.
NB-fans will be delighted to learn that we've abandoned such childish practices this year.
Tomorrow is the Bingo Staff Christmas "Do", and I confess I'm dreading it. Never been a party person, as you can possibly detect. And I've just noticed it's Friday 13th. Mardi gras. Not that I'm superstitious, you understand, but it doesn't do to take chances.
Feeling quite pleased with myself right now, as yesterday, for a change, I set out to do something and actually achieved it! OK, it was only going for a (totally pleasant) walk, which many wouldn't feel was such a burden. And it isn't, of course. But then neither is sitting at my desk playing Freecell and watching the sun drop ever closer to the built-up city horizon and knowing with despair I was wasting what little light there is.
Yay me. Today I'll do it again.
In other news...
Mrs Blair seems to have landed herself in summat of a pickle. "I am not Superwoman," she began her speech. Fabulous honey, and neither am I. Just you've got the dosh and this one hasn't. My one niggling concern is, why does she have to be a judge? Surely to bountiful goodness they can't need the money. Hubby is just one election-loss away from six-figure bucks over book deals and lecture tours, and - like his predecessor but one - he's got the US market at his feet also. Some going for a labour PM and the most right-wing Pressy the living world has seen.
Registration of same-sex relationships has arrived. This is quite wonderful for those it is quite wonderful for. Me, I'm waiting for the first "gay divorce". Irreconcilable hanging around bath-houses? (Not you, Mike - I'm tarting up this post as I go along.) But more seriously, and less cynically, there is a knock-on effect even for the terminally unlovable - the recognition by the Law of our existence, and the social and moral neutrality of that.
Heavens how far we've come! But this is always the case with progress - there are whole sectors for whom it is too late. Me, I was done with "relationships" of the sort so many of you have (or would seek) by the age of 25. Tick, done it, got the wasted years.
Quentin, as usual, hit the nail on the head when he said, "If you're actually stuck with someone, then I suppose you'd better get on with it."
It does sometimes cross my mind just how very different most of you are from myself. Educated, middle-class, high-earning, partnered - and that's just your parents. Me, I'm just trash with a vocabulary. We were chatting in the pub yesterday about the Great Gay Britons survey, when Evergreen Norma asked, "How far back do you go with this poll?" To which the answer was, "All the way, darling. To the moment the first bacterium crawled out of the Australian sea wearing a pink outfit." We laughed. Time passed.
"All this brilliant sunshine is wearing me out. If I see one more picture-postcard riverside, with frosted grassy banks, and the sunbeams filtering down through the light evaporative mist, then I swear I will explode. But you gotta do it. The imperative is OUT."
Reading all that brings it back like just yesterday. Beautiful. If only I'd had my camera for you.
Oh Danny Boyle
My nose got the better of me yesterday. Remember a couple of posts ago I said I thought I'd definitely maybe been chatting to Danny Boyle? The maker of Shallow Grave, Trainspotting et al?
Well, we're not great ones for name-dropping here, so I deliberately omitted a key point. As Danny (for that is his name), was leaving - after chatting to Al and me for an hour - I said to him, "You're Danny Boyle, the famous film-maker, AREN'T YOU?" He looked flustered to the extreme, and then replied, "Yes."
So yesterday I gets out my Google Image search, and checks out his puss. And yes, I can say with 95 percent certainty, that it was he. Except his hair is a bit greyer than in this pic. Damn. I might have got a part. In these little ways does fame for ever elude me.
It's bright outside today - the brightest for a long time. Today I must, really must get out of the house before 12. Before 11 if humanly possible. Nothing, absolutely nothing should stop this, not even the fellowship of the tagboard.
There was a massive anticyclone over Scotland, with brilliant sun and freezing temperatures, day after day. And I was walking. A lot. Which I must revive today, as the alternative is ever more fatness and decline...
"Big Straight Al was moaning that his lady regularly calls him a poof. "Look at you!" she would say to him. "Your hair, your tattoos, your head-square!" Al was grinning while he shared these domestic snippets. "What do you think about that, boys?" he beseeched us. Read more...
The title of a Stones LP (why should I say album) back in the long-forgotten, black and white Sixties. Mother's Little Helper. Out of Time, My Baby. No others have stood the test. C'est la vie, say the old folks - it goes to show you never can tell.
Aftermath after the last two days here, when I set aside mid-market, glossy nonsense, and wrote - just for a while - from the heart, instead of the calculating, ever-acquisitive head. Prostituting what little talent I have for a mess of silly graphs.
Talk about crisis. Today in the pub was Chris, once candidate for Hunk of The Week, yet he too now was reduced to near-silence, as we glanced at the clock and then the window, urgently hating the darkness outside. We were quiet, together, no hate or competition. No edge or unfinished business. Just the love of God.
Roger Waters came on, "Amused To Death", but it was OK. "It sounds a bit like Telegraph Road," I said to Rod, a sound engineer of exquisite ugliness. "You're right," he said. "Dire Straits stole a lot of chord progressions from Waters." I didn't know that, I said to him. But he gave me no lecture - this time. All were quiet. All waiting. All dreading the coming of the happiest time of the year.
"What're you doing for Christmas?" Chris said to me. "I'm not too sure," I told him. "I've managed to get working on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day - and the twenty-fifth I'll probably spend here. I did that last year - it was fine." He looked relieved. Only sad losers spend Christmas day in the pub, but fortunately there are plenty of us.
Stereophonics came on, "Performance and Cocktails", and I gave them a fair trial. Somehow I'd got them classed with Radiohead as the thinking dude's band. But they were shite. Absolute, utter and indisputable cack. "They sound a bit like Oasis," Chris opined. "Not really," said Rod the roadie. (But they did.) "You can get a good conversation with Noel," he went on, name-dropping like there was no manana. And then he told us about the (one) sentence Bob Dylan had once said to him. "Turn it up," was the divine instruction.
Oh, what glittering company we do keep. Yesterday I think (but I'm not sure) that I was chatting to Danny Boyle, the maker of the film Trainspotting. I think (but I'm not sure) that he was checking out the Port as a location for Irvine Welsh's new book Porno. If so, then you read it here first. Dearie, dear. David Mamet was less mysterious.
It's eleven days from the Winter Solstice. I will survive.
And so they come, those threads and tendrils - poking at my being today. Haha, they say - take that, they say - just you try making it light right now. So I see the sun set ruddy there - wrecked remnants of those streets you've seen - so safe upon your tubes at home. And then I think - way hey, my pal - is that the sun or flames I see - afar, so far it's nowt for me - stuck here, still dark and clinging on.
Met Al, today, straight Al you've loved - and lusted from afar, that man. He knows the beat, he kens the score - we chat and swap how shite it is. Don't take the tablets, I scream at him - they'll make you worse, you'll have to stop - there's no escape, they want your dosh.
We look so close - there's comfort there, across the decades, burning bright. He knows my feel, I know his too - two minds engaged, but never more. His hair, his face, testosterone, my feeble fatness giving naught.
Quite a strange thing happened yesterday teatime. It was at the bingo, waiting for the six o' clock shift to start. I'd turned up about forty-five minutes early to get some tea inside me - tea in the sense of a meal from the buffet - and then some even more welcome crack with the gang.
I love those chats with my colleagues - so fascinating always to listen and learn how the young desport these days. And not just the young - we have a fair spread of ages in the business, a few even ahead of myself in the anno domini stakes. One woman in particular - let's call her Ellen - was widowed just a few months back, and she too now comes along early for the company. Her newly empty home must be more painful than my own.
It's a converted cinema, my bingo. Stairs and winding passages thread everywhere, the veins and arteries of the ghosts of Bette and Joan - fresh in to Leith for a shilling admission. How John and Tom would shoot those pesky Injuns to the ground, for the spread of Western values and the International Community. And Rock and Doris would sneak a kiss between the sheets. But nothing more. We know now why.
They're all there around me, the stars, as I wend my way to some store-room or other, past the metal spiral staircase that I'm sure must lead to the projection room itself. Bang! Bang! I hear, in smoky black and white. Eat lead, motherfucker! - or words more suited to the times. And the thousands of teenage beaux with their belles, now all well past eighty, then desperate to cop an exquisite damp feel in the seductive, dancing dark.
We chat about computer games these days - and naughty websites and recent DVDs. Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks. But the beat goes on. The young wives carrying their second or third child, and the essential Family Credit, that saviour of the less than middle class. My colleagues are the cradle, and their workplace is the grave.
But yesterday, for some reason, there was no-one. I ate my bacon, chips and beans and then sat back, sated yet primed for the evening's performance. Quiet. Betty, a customer of 85, was sleeping over her Evening News, and Jean, 72, sat filling in a puzzle book. Me, I lay back across a couple of the comfy blue chairs, and let my half-closed eyes point upwards to the ceiling. I saw the fluorescent lights in their sets of four, with cheap, tarnished fittings, and missing tubes. The nasty white ceiling tiles which are what the company feels their customers deserve, and I heard the background chatter from the buffet round the corner.
It occurred to me then, with ten such lovely minutes before the evening's pleasant toil, just how very lucky I am. I wondered how many men in their fifties have adjusted to the years so well, and yet can still enjoy the hopefulness and liveliness of youth. For that brief time there was a delicious peace, a strange thing for me indoors, which normally means the grotesque over-stress of a music-ridden pub.
Last night I slept like a man of no cares, then couldn't be bothered to rise till there was light behind the curtains. Last night would have been a good time to die.
Yes, folks - it's back! Robert is a thirty-something bachelor with time on his hands between working as a jobbing builder. Warm, sincere, intelligent - the kind of guy you realise immediately is one of life's "good things".
We call him "Wee Robert", not because he's at all diminutive, but in contrast to "Jambo Robert", who is enormous.
(Jambo here means supporter of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Jam Tarts = Hearts. Geddit? But I digress onto the wrong Robert.)
"Isn't he just so cute?" a (nameless) gay friend opined last month apropos Wee Robert. "I just want to parcel him up and take him home."
(He then spent the next several weeks attempting to do just that. Miaow!)
In Other News...
All these polls are exciting enough (post below), but it's important not to neglect the finer things of life. Like gossip. There I was sitting in the Port yesterday, when who should stroll in but Barry, a new kid on the block. (New-ish.) And 26.
I'd adored him from afar for quite some time, watching and evaluating his reactions with the other queens. There are those so brash and pushy that they'll seize on any bit of straight talent they spot, inviegling and insulting to the detriment of the more refined and conservative topers - like me. They queer the pitch.
But yesterday Barry was warm and welcoming, this first time we'd ever sat chatting. They tell me I can be a bit off-putting to strangers - sitting radiating grandeur and hauteur - like a galleon in full sail, as Sam once cheekily put it. But Barry was fine.
With his six feet plus of pure, unadulterated sex-appeal, I was getting a testosterone hit just from the proximity. Stay calm, Peter. Woosh. Breathe deep.
"Do you like Eminem?" Barry says to me. (Of all the stars in all the world, he picks on the one I know something about!) "Oh yes - he's fucking great," I reply. "Would you like to see his film?" my new acquaintance continues, handing me a CD. "Cool, thanks, but I haven't got a DVD." "It's OK - it's a VCD," Barry advised. I'll watch it soon.
We chatted Eminem, swapping lyrics, debating whether it was his father of his mother he hated the most. I really didn't care. My cup was overflowing as it was. We chatted games, the different machines - of hacks and cracks and compression ratios. And the Lord saw that it was good. Barry is a definite prospect for Hunk of The Week, btw, once I get round to broaching the subject.
Or Dezember to give it the more common European spelling - and also the still-lingering Scottish pronunciation.
A strange month - so naturally hostile, yet so packed with event. And emotion. A month where the creatures don't know whether to breed, nest, hibernate or migrate. A twelfth of my life, which still dominates the rest with its dark, icy grip.
A time of gathering and grouping, of candles and other lights to scare the demons of the night. To celebrate so many things...
The end of the natural year and rebirth of the next. Another year distant from the births of Christ and myself. The end of the calendar with its liquid celebrations. The firming and swelling of the buds - readied for springtime glory as soon as the daylight suggests. And another year distant from the death of my mother - the motherless days now becoming the norm.
What other month could contain so much - this great dark prophet of the skies? This holding, this waiting, this certainty that things will soon be changing. A pivotal month - one which should have some great god to its name, rather than simple bland Latin. How dull, how pedantic to call them seven, eight, nine and ten! And even those numbers are wrong, thanks to the vainglory of Julius and Augustus.
So - that's the next project. New names for the last four months. I'm thinking Crispian. I'm thinking Newtontide. Heck - I'm even thinking Nakedbloggia...