A second chance to see the beginning of the New (Cathode) World Order. How little we then did realise, with our twelve black and white inches!
Today at school Miss Bennett made me stand in front of the class and tell them about the new television. I am the only person in the class that's got one. It's got two knobs on the front, one called volume and one called brilliance. The volume knob turns it on and off. After you turn it on you have to wait five minutes till it warms up. Then the picture comes on. It's VERY BAD to turn the volume up till the picture comes on. That can break the valves.
Me mam says it's a twelve inch tube. That's big, she says. Some people have just got a nine inch tube. It cost seventy-three pounds which is more money than I ever heard of before. If the tube goes that's very expensive to get it fixed. Yesterday I saw Childrens Television which was an old woman playing the piano and singing. Well, more like screeching. Miss Bennett is a better singer. While she was singing, a horse puppet was dancing on top of the piano but it was stupid and you could see all the strings. Me mam said it was Muffin the Mule and me dad laughed.
You have to get a thing called Radio Times to find out what's on the television which is stupid as well. Everybody on the television talks really, really funny and they all got funny names. Plus they smoke even more cigarettes than me mam and me dad. Me Nana says it'll never catch on. After the Coronation that'll be the end of it she says. But me mam shouted at her and called her old-fashioned.
Having enjoyed a recent, brief celebrity as something of a matrix-guru, I thought now might be the time to comment on the real, non-Hollywood version of The Matrix. Although, when you read what I have to say, you'll definitely wonder why Hollywood never thought of it...
For the first year of your life you are totally dependent on your parents. You will be given life-changing medical treatments without your knowledge or consent. You will shit into paper nappies, destroying forests, as your mother is too busy to wash the cotton type. Plus they're constantly on the television. You too will learn to love television, the instrument of control which will stay with you for your entire life. You'll naturally begin with Teletubbies, and then progress. You will see a constant stream of advertisements designed to make you unhappy over what you haven't got.
At five you will begin school. OK - there is an alternative, but it's not widely known. At school you will learn obedience to authority. You will be graded, assessed, and trained to work for the enrichment of others. You will also be taught to consume. Your teachers will not have the wit to question the life-models they are made to pass on to you.
On completing your "education" you will begin to work, a practice necessary for full social acceptance. You will spend your wages on advertised products, again for the enrichment of others. You will be encouraged to "borrow" in order to buy even more goods and services, this time for the enrichment of bankers.
Your sole purpose in The Matrix is to work, earn, borrow and spend. Without those you are useless to the rapidly-developing World Government. When no longer able to look after yourself, you end your days much as you began, in a home, dependent on others, and watching the television. They say the Teletubbies are a firm favourite with the elderly.
A second chance to see this piece from my mental archives. More tomorrow. Climaxing on Monday, the fiftieth anniversary of the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
At school today Miss Bennett was telling us about the Coronation next month. She said the Queen is the richest woman in the world, even though she's only young like my mam. She's going to wear the most expensive dress in the world, covered in jewels. And a long purple robe that takes six girls to lift it off the ground and stop it getting dirty.
Plus she's going to put on a big heavy CROWN, which is the most expensive one in the world. Miss Bennett went to the cupboard and brought out a crown. I was that excited, but she said it wasn't the real one, just a model. Then she said we were all going to make a crown ourselves. She gave us yellow card for the gold parts and purple paper for the cloth parts. Then she gave us bits of coloured paper to cut out for the jewels. Everybody got different colours but she said it didn't matter. Me and Norman Ryan were making a crown together and it took all of the morning.
When it was dinner time we had to put our crowns in a line to look at, but ours wasn't very much like the real one. The best ones were made by girls and I didn't understand that. I'm the best reader in my class. And speller. And best at sums. Miss Bennett always praises me. She says if everybody was as clever as Peter her job would be a lot easier. I like it when she says that. Plus it makes my mam nice to me for a bit.
Most of the kids in my class have got brothers and sisters but I haven't got one. Sometimes I dream about having a little brother. Don't think I would want a sister though. I've got two cousins in my street called Margaret and John. Margaret is 12 and John is 7. John sometimes bullies me and me mam gets mad and goes to his house and shouts at Auntie Jean. They live at number 50 in a house on top of a factory. Nana and Grandad live at number 46 which is next to my grandad's furniture shop. I like playing in the shop and it's got a funny smell. It's that big you can run races in it. We live in number 48 in a house on top of the shop, but me mam says we need a proper house. Also I've got 4 cousins in Nottingham called Dorothy, May, Billy and Malcolm. Billy and Malcolm are twins and that means they look exactly the same.
Nottingham is in the south which means they talk funny and they've had television for a long time. It takes a whole day on the bus to get there. Here they had to build a special television mast in time for the Coronation. It's called Pontop Pike. Everybody's always talking about Pontop Pike, and last night my dad drove grandad and me to see it. I was a bit disappointed cos I thought you would see the television pictures coming out of it. But it was just black with big flashing lights on it, high in the air. That's to stop aeroplanes hitting it, my dad said. I asked dad where the pictures were and he said you couldn't see them without an aerial.
Suddenly the dark sky went a bright red colour and I was scared. That's Consett Ironworks, my grandad told me. He said it was the biggest one in the world and I was proud. When we got home I got put straight to bed cos there was a frightening programme on. It was called 1984 and there was Big Brother in it. Everybody's been talking about Big Brother this week but I don't understand it. Lots of kids have got big brothers.
Tomorrow Mam and Nana are going to put the Coronation flags out.
Hmmm. The jury's still out on this one. Me, I found it crushingly disappointing after the original Matrix. (Post below.) Too many effects, too much fighting, a well done car chase, but however well done that doesn't alter the fact.
From my researches this morning, it appears that The Matrix has spawned a whole philosophical school. So maybe yesterday's interpretation will be but one of many. There's no such thing as a unique idea. Is there?
However, all NB commentaries are original works, not even remotely inspired by others.
I was pleased by The Matrix, however much it owed to Brave New World, Men in Black and so on, ad infinitum. Reloaded seems little more than a wham-bam aimed squarely at those still in single figures. (Intellectually, if not necessarily physically.)
Guardian Quiz:Do you understand The Matrix? Not one for boasting, but I scored 10 out of 10. So read on - if you haven't done so - and despair, my innocent chickadees...
(As I really have little to say about Reloaded, you might wish to try this Guardian Weblog Special. Loads of Matrix linky-lurve.)
Well - I've finished it (orginal Matrix) at last, and what food for thought! You'd think in a world of trans-human powers that mere guns would be unnecessary, but the damn things pop up all over the shop. "Bang, bang! I shot you down." But let's face it - guns have to be sold, and they're a lot more profitable than cinematic effects. But enough about money. Let's do religion.
In the movie, Neo is one of a group of visionaries intent on defending a place called Zion. Protecting it from the evil Sentinels.
In the (real) USA, Neoconservatives are a group of Zionist advisers to President Bush, who are determined to defend Israel against the Axis of Evil.
In the film, a Sentinel says that Morpheus, the leader of the Zionist protectors, literally stinks. In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock asks, "If you prick me, do I not bleed?" One of the defenders is called Trinity (obvious symbolism), but she's less powerful than Neo. "Trinity - Zion's more important than you, or me, or even Morpheus," a character says.
Neo's surname is Anderson - or "other son". Our Lord was a "son", and of course a Jew. Neo, the other son, gets killed near the end. But Trinity falls in love with him.
Trinity to Neo: "The oracle told me that I would fall in love with a dead man. So you can't be dead, because I love you." Hmmm. Now where have I heard that before?
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Oh how the old do witter on! They should all be put in a home.
There is now beside me at my desk a brand new Nokia 3100 phone, replete with prdctv txt, games, and more menus than MacDonalds. I can even feel some slight "brain-sizzle" as this gadget scans the very airwaves for my share of cosmic data. Did you know that a mobile contains more computing power than was on board the first moon expedition? I can just imagine it...
"That's one small step... RING! RING!... Fuck off, why don't you - I'm just making the most outside broadcast there's ever been!!... MR ARMSTRONG YOU HAVE (pause) TWO (pause) MESSAGES."
Fat chance of anything that exciting for me... although Scott has already texted me from Australia. How global is that? The terrifying thing is I haven't even owned the damn phone for 24 hours, and already used 98 pence credit.
Texting is a bugger. The keys are very small, the letters hard to read for the over-fifty eyesight, and sometimes the predictions are way off the mark. The only reason you get so much Naked Guff here is that - as a fast and accurate touch-typist - I can do it (literally) with my eyes shut. My keyboard is my instrument, my pieces are my passion.
Ah well - at least we're back in the modern world. It's amazing how simply by standing still you get so far behind.
Thanks to Dean yesterday for his tireless help and patient advice. Without him I'd still be scouring the tariffs. And apologies to Babs, about whose private life I suggested a little too much yesterday. Now removed. Here at NB our only aim is to please. Without your fascinating lives we would be as naught.
Now, why doesn't that effing phone ring?
I'm half way through Matrix now, and it's making a little sense this time. My, what ham acting from all concerned! I'd never realised just how wooden Fishburne can be. Later today it's Matrix Reloaded. At the cinema. I'll have to switch my mobile off!
Fun and games in yuppieville yesterday, as Babs, Dean and I took Mary, the owner of the world-famous Port o Leith Bar, to check out this month's newest, hottest spot - The Lighthouse. Oh how they do come and go, these places.
Minimalist to the point of bare, with whiter than white decor, it reminded me of nothing so much as a futuristic Sci Fi movie. Gattaca, in fact. My own interest was quite detached, as the joint had young plastered all over it. Young and moneyed judging from the prices. Well, if they're to be found anywhere, I guess right across the river from the Scottish Executive and IT Alley should be the place.
Mary and Babs left, so Dean and I strolled down to the Malmaison Hotel for a drink in genuine luxury. An hour of decor to die for, at just £2.90 a pint. "You'll be looking forward to the MTV awards in November," Dean said to the waitress. "Nah - Camden trash!" she replied. "I come from Camden and they're all trash."
Then she launched into a tirade about how she didn't like working there anyway, and with living in Newington it was too far to travel, and... "Honey!" I exclaimed, in a Karen voice. "Who the hell asked for your life story?" (Well, I didn't, of course - but the thought was there!)
PS Just noticed we're Google 16 and 17 for Lighthouse Leith bar restaurant, and I haven't even written about it yet! Talk about indexing!
Worth a Guinea a Box
Dean and I are going uptown today to buy me a mobile phone. What's the use of being a radio star if I can't even text my co-presenter, Gwen? I ask you. (She's a txt addict!) As I almost never buy anything at all, the odd time I do so the excitement is palpable! We're thinking pay as you go, maybe Vodaphone, as this new instrument will be mainly ornamental. Suggestions will, as always, be welcomed. You have until about 2pm.
So then I gets home, don't I, and slips on a copy of Matrix, to get up to speed for Matrix Reloaded tomorrow with Babs.
But it was incomprehensible. No - I mean really incomprehensible, as the screen was pure snow. More snow than the south face of Qomolangma. Desperately I banged in another video to check the machine, and ditto.
My video's fucked, I thought. Bang goes the new mobile, as I can't possibly afford two things in one month. If you have tears, etc. etc. But then, after an hour's despondency and contemplation of life sans TV (remember, I work evenings - the vid machine is essential), I tried one last time and there was the ghostly presence of Miss Reeves camping it up in the snow. It was a tracking thing. Somehow the ex-rental Matrix had sent it ballistic. Eeh bah gum.
This is getting interesting! Yesterday I issued 1000 new shares in Naked Blog. Snapped up. And so did the share price. "Hey - this is fun!" I thought, and promptly issued 2000. Snapped up. And so did the share price. So I issued another 2000 and went to bed. Net result - NB share price rises from $2.07 to $10.71 in the space of one day.
But that's not all! What should I find in my email this morning but a gift certificate of 2000 NB shares! How kind, I thought, for a moment. But just for a moment, as it sank in that he almost certainly expects something in return. And let's face it - it isn't my body.
Today I can issue 10,000 shares! Should I do it? And should I tell him when I've done it? Or would that be cheating? Insider trading, I think they call it. Oh - and someone's sold their virtual Blogshare fortune for 100 real dollars!
PS Prize of 500 NB shares for anyone who can understand the "Guinea a Box" subheader.
I love trains. Trainophile, me. It started as young as I can ever remember, with a totally British institution called the Sunday School Trip.
Sunday School (for my overseas readers) is a class run by your local church on Sunday afternoons. The overt purpose is to dispense Christianity lite, with lots of stables and wise men from the east. (But low on socialism and the iniquity of acquisition. And nothing even remotely Marian for us Protestant kids - the poor woman hardly got a look in.)
The unspoken agenda though, is more prosaic. It was to get the kids out of the house so mam and dad can enjoy a nice Sunday shag. Let's face it, after working hard all week, a couple deserve a bit of Sunday nookie, doncha think? "Just leave those dishes in the sink, honey..."
"Come along, Peter!" my mam would say. "It's time for Sunday School. Make sure you've washed your face." She would inspect said face carefully, checking it was presentable to God. And any dodgy bits would get a wee scrub with spit on a hanky.
We each had our Attendance Book, where the teacher would stick a large and colourful Jesus stamp each time you turned up. Absent weeks were left with a bare rectangle glaring back at you. Too many of those was your passport to hell. And - more importantly - not allowed on the trip. Christianity by stamp-book!
Oh - how we looked forward to that glorious day! But the highlight wasn't the seaside - usually Roker, Seaburn or Whitley Bay - but the train journeys, which were ecstatic.
LNER, it would say on the carriages. (London - North Eastern Railway.) Third class. There were compartments for eight, with no corridor or toilets. Behind the seats were mirrors, and above them a parcel rack. It was essential to get in a compartment with the correct friends, as you'd be stuck with them for over an hour.
You know, for a five-year-old it was simply wondrous... especially the smell of the ancient upholstery, and the sulphur from the steam-engine. Faster than fairies. You could hang out of the window, quickly dodging back in when the line curved and all the smoke went in your face! How we never lost an eye to the flicking foliage - or even our heads - still amazes me.
It's diesel now, of course. Doors and windows sealed for high-speed safety. But still I love them... love to watch the world go by, knowing that I have nothing - absolutely nothing - to do for a few hours. Even if I wanted to, which I usually don't.
At work yesterday one of my colleagues was enthusing about his new laptop. "Now I can watch DVD's on the train!" he declared. "Great!" was the reply, but not from me. My own DVD plays outside the speeding window, and there's no repeat or pause. Catch it while you can.
Death to the mobile phone! Woe betide portable "entertainment"! What is a man if he can't enjoy what's there in free abundance?
Didn't watch it. Neither know nor care who won. Gay Cup Final, one newspaper called it - writing us all off as post-modern, retro-kitsch airheads in one well-chosen phrase! (And who can really blame them... can you imagine Norton or Cameron ever discussing anything more profound than a frock?)
However, for those more inclusive in their cultural repertoire, I'm quite sure that this and this will satisfy all your needs.
Singers I can remember on Eurovision
Cliff Richard (became a Christian)
Sandy Shaw (became a mistress)
Matt Munro (became an alkie)
Lulu (became even younger)
Presenters I can remember on Eurovision
Katie Boyle (spoke French - a miracle in those days)
Angela Rippon (wore earrings)
Terry Wogan (pretended insouciant indifference)
No - I abandoned all such glitter in favour of an extended programme about Sir Edmund Hillary, and his ascent of Qomolangma in 1953. (I was more alive then.) You might be more familiar with the Earth's highest mountain known by another name, but I've long decried the imperialism of this. And it seems I'm not alone. Ignorance and arrogance.
So - get your crampons on and your ice axe polished... I predict there'll be a fair few days of Everest Qomolangma stuff ahead. Everest Online. (BBCi)
(They did the same in Scotland, btw. The English based Ordnance Survey, that is. Anglicised the Gaelic placenames they couldn't pronounce, and misspelled many of those they could. Rule Britannia.)
BEFORE A FALL
Naked Blog is losing Google-rankings big time, and simply not being indexed any more.
Where we were (famously) in the top thirty for "blog", you'll now find us at about 75. At the local end of the scale, for "Leith Festival" we just don't exist, even though I've written twice about it in recent weeks. In the previous regime a front page would have been practically guaranteed, as has happened to Richard's mention. (Bloomfield.me.uk - currently at number three.)
Maybe they didn't care for my autobiography. But it's OK. Rejection is my middle name. (I did read somewhere about pressure being put on them to mark down blogs per se.)
I'll just have to get used to my original three readers again.
Yes - it's true! All your kind words about my fabby voice (1.2Mb) and radiant personality have eventually paid off, and we've accepted a slot on the upcoming Leith FM Festival Radio Station!
Drive Time with Gwen and Pete. (Although you may come up with something better...)
It's June 8 to June 14, and you can hear us on 87.7FM. Or - if you're outside the transmission range, which will be just about everyone - then you can bask in our wit and charm on Live365. (Free, easy registration).
This is a weekday 5 - 7pm slot, with traffic news, features, festival gossip, etc. Your ideas, as always, will be more than welcome! More on Leith Festival 2003.
Naturally all the info will be repeated nearer the time!
Continuing our love-hate relationship with footie this week, I can now exclusively reveal David Beckham's (the thinking queen's tottie) new hairdo. Doubtless this one, unlike the previous somewhat unkempt look, will have hairdressers crying all the way to their next Lamborghini. If I were but forty years younger, I'd be there, I can tell you.
Should you wish to see a preview of DOOM3, then it's here. (36Mb) But you'll need a faster processor than my 333MHz to enjoy it fully. Thanks to Tony.
STAR WARS KID
While I've spent much of this week wittering on about my schooldays, the currently most famous pupil on the planet is Ghyslain from Quebec, Canada. Young Ghyslain (15) made a home video of himself playing Star Wars, with golf club light-sabre, sound effects, and so on. All well and good, but it's the next bit that's the killer.
His classmates found the video lying around, and unkindly uploaded it to KaZaa, from whence it went ballistic. Over three-quarters of a million viewings so far, at its peak outgrossing XM2 and Matrix reloaded put together. Someone overdubbed it with music and better sound effects, and even turned his club into a real light sabre.
But some of the internet comments were less than complimentary about the lad's fuller figure. So a fund was started on waxy.org which has raised over four thousand dollars, to compensate him for hurt feelings. You couldn't make it up.
Download. The main story is on waxy.org (May 21 and below.) Unfortunately they've removed the streaming video I was able to use only yesterday, so now the only way to see the original and the remix appears to be by BitTorrent, a kind of cascading download creation. Up to you. NY Times article
Ha! That fooled you! Never thought you'd see anything as common as football in these refined columns, now didya?
Yes, I watched it - but only because Babs made me, and you know what a spineless weakling I am. (For those who haven't a clue what I'm on about, last night was the UEFA cup.) Don't ask me what UEFA stands for, as I neither know nor care. It was in Seville, that most orange of places, which was ironic for Celtic with its greenery.
Those outside these parts should know that our local version of the Arab/Israeli split hangs on the colours green and orange. It's to do with Catholicism and the alternative. Bigoted twats. We watched the match in the Village, which had installed a giant medium sized screen for the event. Alastair the owner kindly dispensed free Tesco tortilla chips, (ole!) but they seemed a bit stale. And it was the first football match I've sat through since England beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup. Doesn't time fly? I can see it just like it was yesterday.
The Portuguese team did seem to be hamming it up a lot. Someone suggested they should get an Oscar. I myself saw one Hispanic hunk fall on the floor in apparent agony, even though no-one was anywhere near him. Definitely a queen, I would say. Hurt at being ignored.
And that, dear reader, is that - for today. The sky's overcast, but the forecast is bright! I need R and R. This week has been exhilarating but draining. Adios!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your kind and encouraging comments and letters this week. Why I'm doing this I haven't the faintest idea. They say that inside everyone there's a book, and it should usually stay there. Well, I seem to be breaking that one, bigtime.
Obviously this writing doesn't come without pain. My home life was genuinely awful, yet although both my parents are dead, there still remains a duty of love not to sully their memories. It would be very easy to thrash about in a mire of "what a bad deal l got", but what use would that be? The truth is I got a very good deal indeed - intellectually and creatively. I was always housed and fed, and my parents never asked for a penny in "keep". The only deficit was in emotional development, which still remains.
But I'm almost old now, and have got this far quite well - although others have done much better, materially. Soon in the story I move to London, where my sex-life really begins. I don't know how much of that I want to "confess" in this so-public medium. We'll see. Thank you again.
Much of my education was spent alongside older pupils. It was the easy solution. Top of the class? Move him up a year. While this might have some temporary academic advantage, it could be personally quite disruptive. It meant always being the "baby" in class, which led to teasing from the girls and bullying by the boys. This was in Junior School. Children are truly appalling to each other, aren't they? I always say that if you can survive school, then you can sail through anything the adult world throws up.
High School is an institution which, uniquely, you enter as a child, and leave as (almost) an adult. Fine if everybody developed at the same rate, but nature isn't that accommodating. (Compare the middle row right with bottom row left, in my class photo a couple of posts below.) Me, I was about in the middle, physically. You (literally) looked up to some, typically what my US readers would call "Jocks", and down on others. All very comfortable for me. Middle is a good place to be. And although I wasn't aware of it, that was the last possible time at which a heterosexual adjustment could have happened.
But later that week, four of us were marched up to the Headmaster's office, to be told, amid much smiling and fagsmoke, that he'd selected us to be moved up to the class above - in one fell swoop to be babies once again. But at a much more disruptive stage than ever in Junior School.
Three topics dominated my new, larger classmates' conversation - girls, football and The Shadows, a local pop group. Me, I failed miserably on all three. It was horrible. And - as ever - the gym was the biggest nightmare. Football my nemesis. I can still see that green strip over white shorts, worn outside the shorts for maximum fashionability. But then they started calling me Baby Doll. (A brand of girl's nightie, apparently.) "Why do you call me Baby Doll?" I demanded of one particular fan. "Cos you look like one with that shirt on," he answered. Then, "Give us a feel of yer bum, Baby Doll."
Baby Doll, or just "Babies", stuck for the next two years, when after another class change I was able to get rid of it. I hated that. How's a boy supposed to become a man when he's known to the world as Baby Doll? I ask you. (And stop sniggering, all you queens at the back.) So I learned to mince. Learned some repartee. Hit them where it hurt, which was their own still-vulnerable masculinity. And my isolation was now complete - both intellectual and physical. Daydreaming and music the only escapes from my fellows.
Quentin Crisp once said that whatever you are, you should strive to be as much of that thing as possible. My thing was "different". The lesson sank in, which almost every young gay man has to face, that if you can't beat them physically then you learn to hurt with words. The other lesson is the one which every potential comic understands, that they don't hit you if you can make them laugh. Month by painstaking month I worked on my inner script - entertaining if you're nice to me, deadly if you're not. And it paid off.
Within a year I'd built new friendships with my classmates whom I now saw as interesting and much more mature than the bunch I'd left behind. Baby Doll maybe, but not a Baby to be dissed. Oh, and I was top of the class again, after an interlude of "catching up" on the missed year's work. They might like you if you entertain them, but they adore you if you lend them your homework to copy.
O-levels came and went... maths, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, German, Latin, English Language. I failed English Literature, but the set books were really awful. Merchant of Venice, Henry IV Part 1, The History of Mr Polly, and fifty - yes fifty bloody poems, including the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is half a damn book in itself.
And then - almost beyond belief - it was the Sixth Form, with all the attendant privileges. The subjects were Pure maths, Applied maths and Physics. I became quite Newtonian. By this time even the teachers looked up to us. We ruled, big-time.
The Beatles and the Stones came along. Six-Five Special gave way to Ready, Steady Go, and then the evergreen Top of The Pops. The "real" sixties were about to begin!
County Durham is, or perhaps I should say was a very class-conscious place. In the posh corner you have Durham City, with its Cathedral, University and social aspirations. But all around the city were the mining communities, universally and dismissively known as pit villages. And in one of those was where you would find my first eighteen years.
I've written earlier about my mother's family feeling themselves "a cut above" the local mining people - but when it came to the city kids I was now mixing with at school, there was simply no contest. Although it shames me to say it today, I was then ashamed of my home. Others from the village felt similarly. We used to discuss how awful the place was... bleak, despairing, and with dirt and coal dust everywhere. Yet the Durham City kids lived on owner-occupier "estates", with big windows, central heating, showers and indoor toilets. How many times my face must have burned scarlet when one of my posh new visitors would ask to use our toilet. And I had to say it was down the yard.
These are not pleasant memories. I've since learned to mix with commoners and kings. So - please remember I was only about fourteen then - a time of maximum sensitivity to matters personal. That's the only excuse I can offer for such unacceptable emotions. Later, in my twenties, I would learn to take people home without such social feelings, and I can only hope my parents realised that change. Plus we had an indoor lavvy by then!
We were pretty desperately poor at home. Dad's career as travelling salesman cum commercial traveller cum representative had faltered due to "financial irregularites", and he now was working in a factory. He became a "union man", and would spout off at a moment's notice about the "bloody bosses leeching off the workers' labour". "There's thirty workers in that place," he would say. "And it's our efforts that pay those posh buggers' wages." I would go to my room and play the violin for a bit. I think you get the picture.
For days on end we would barely speak, even though we were in the same house. He worked shifts, and would get up, eat and go to work at odd hours - hours I would conspire to spend in my room doing homework. It wasn't - really wasn't - that I felt in any way "better" than him, just that we had absolutely nothing in common. My school had cleft a crevasse between us. Neither of us would make that bridging move, and I still hold, to this day, that it was his place to do that. He was the adult - I still a lost and confused child.
Schoolwork moved on apace. That was my job... family figurehead. At fourteen myself and three other boys got moved up a year, in their fast-breeding programme for later Oxbridge entrance. This was quite a thing... I still could feel some pride in my own achievements. I can't remember what dad said about that - almost certainly something nice. Mother was over the moon, as usual. In fact she was high as a kite practically all the time, on one medication after another. Depression, originally - but now it was simple addiction. The place was a tinderbox of melodrama. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (her heroines supreme) wouldn't have stood a chance.
Me, I went to my room. That was my sanctuary... to meditate and to masturbate. To plan a nice, secure middle-class life for me, my wife and kids. What instrument would I start them on, I would ponder. Violin? Cello? Piano? I saw myself principally as a university professor - something safe and sociable. Away from this horrible house and dysfunctional, screaming family, and into a pleasant, different life - the life I'd glimpsed around me at school. The life my intellectual endowment would provide. Wouldn't it?
In my new class, the older boys were older indeed. Fourteen to fifteen is a big developmental step, and one or two even had hairy chests! This was lovely to look at. Oh, and guess who they wanted for their new hot bitch?
Naked Blog: Dateline: 11 May "Eminem spotted drinking with Peter in Port o' Leith Bar!"
Scotland on Sunday: Dateline: 18 May "Then there are the bad boys of rock and hip hop, complete with surly demeanour and posse of hangers-on. But would Liam Gallagher or Eminem really stand a chance if they looked at a regular in the Port o' Leith the wrong way?" Read more...
(Coincidence? I hardly think so. I wouldn't mind if the bastards would give me an occasional column.)
A fine photomontage installation. Highly original webart. I watched it for hours, partly because I'd had a referral from there. Couldn't spot the referral, though.
And finally... (hopefully not)
It's farewell to the exquisitely gifted David of Swish Cottage, who's taking a wee break. Haste ye back. The world needs you.
And now... another raunchy episode in my world-famous saga of confused adolescence! Read on...
Losing the company of girls so young was no big deal. In the last year of Junior School I'd noticed changes in many of them... breasts appearing from nowhere, and talk about boyfriends. Yet whenever I asked a girl if she would "be my girlfriend", there was nothing but hilarity. Looking back now, it's all quite clear. But then I was just left hurt and confused.
The reason given for the single-sex Grammar School system was that study would then be less distracting. However, in later decades it's emerged that this was a government lie. The truth was that girls out-performed boys so markedly at eleven-plus, that had places been awarded on pure merit, then the Grammar Schools would have been three-quarters female. So then, as still now, a woman had to be more exceptional than a guy to get on.
My world became quite male. Anatomy lessons were the school gym showers - communal, with steam and sawn-off blocks of red smelly soap. There was the irresistible glancing around at others' endowments... check, check, check oh my god! look at the size of that one! I remember his name, that young shower-king, but of course I daren't even hint. Over the years we shared endless hours, and even went up to the same University. But that day it wasn't his intellect on display! I kid you not - the entire class gathered round to see him wash his banana and grapefruits. He loved it. Fine athlete too, unlike moi.
The teachers too were food for thought. Naturally some were dinosaurs, but there were saplings also - young bucks probably still in their twenties. One of them, English and RE, even went so far as to sport a fashionable hairdo. "He's a Ted," we would comment. "Wish I was in his class." (Ted: fifties slang for Teddy Boy, then the height of daring. Think early Cliff Richard. You can just about make out the style in a couple of the boys in yesterday's class picture.)
Mr C, the science teacher, was a special favourite. Strapping, athletic, he played football for some local semi-professional team. And me, I sat and basked over the bunsen burners. Got 100 percent in every test - but that was easy anyway. You know, looking back, I wonder how much those geezers ever guessed! Half my friends were proto-screamers, my sensors can now detect.
Time passed, voices broke, balls dropped. After a couple of years I got a bit bored with lessons, as being constantly at or near the top of the class had lost its surprise. Academic things were already conquered. Art was, and remains, a mystery - and sport was another planet. (Except for the showers.) Singing eluded me, and still does. But something more aesthetic was needed for the maturing personality. Is that all there is? So I took up the violin - initially through cultural snobbery, but later to escalate into genuine passion. It was brain versus balls, big-time.
Coming soon. Moved up a year, I stumble on a schoolboy rent ring!
Another thing which divided my father and me was education. I had more. Lots more.
It worked like this. (Remember we're talking England in the fifties and sixties. Your mileage will differ.) The entire school system operated on selection and rejection. With only limited money and educational resources available then, only the brightest were given access to the best - the Grammar Schools. Others (about three-quarters of the population) went instead to schools called Secondary Modern. Getting a place in a Grammar School was almost an essential for a nicer life. I got one, no bother.
I should say that these school places were beyond price, and beyond address. Entrance was by examination called the Eleven-Plus, (I'm sure it must have had some other name, but that was its universal trademark.) None of the now-familiar going to this Church, or buying an expensive pad in that part of town. It was all down to native ability. The finest young brains were harvested and then re-planted for further development.
Now, although dad showed not the slightest (that I can recall) interest in my early success, or any other aspects of my schooling, my mother - naturally - was in social heaven. Only about eight kids a year from my particular village "made it" to the Grammar School, and that was her cue to go quite ballistic. My God, she was such a snob - with me as her main show-off point! At that time. (But I got my revenge later. But we get out of sequence!)
Me, I just trundled along, doing what was expected of me. Much of formal education depends on simple memory - the ability to read something and regurgitate it as required. And my memory was formidable.
Many of the lessons were genuinely interesting... maths, geography, German, science... soaked 'em up! Others - the ones less memory-dependent, could be more confusing. I'm thinking of Art. And of course - the dread of almost every young proto-faggot - GAMES! (Oh - I forgot something quite key in all of this... Grammar School education was single-sex. My entire adolescence was spent in the exclusive company of the male gender, including all of the teachers.) How healthy.
By now my mother had abandoned those friends whose kids hadn't made it, and she restricted her company entirely to other grammar school parents. On the first day at the school they put us into "streams". A, B, C and D they were called. Imagine her delight when her sweaty, fat little kid was placed in the A stream!
But more, much more was to come! At the end of the first term, who should come top of the A class in the most selective education system known to man? Well - I'll let you guess. Her cup ranneth over. Surely goodness and... Oh fuck, I give up. There I was - the brightest kid in quarter of a county. It's official. And yes - I quite liked it too. Basked in her adoration - like the coiffeured poodle who'd just won a dog show.
Success and talent, even of the mundane academic type, don't come anything like free, however. At that tender age - still only eleven, remember - I realised (nothing to do with my mother, this time), I was irrevocably different from other people. In an environment where examination placings were valued above all else, then the winners walk a lonely road. Those who didn't look on you with awe offered jealousy and hints of retribution to come. More study was the only answer. Without supremacy I would be nothing, as I knew no other mode.
But soon - quite soon, things started to go awry for my keeping-up-appearances mother. It's called puberty. It comes with spots and smells and stains, and at that age it dominates your life. Masturbation is the new priority, and opportunities must constantly be found and made. I loved it. For the first time in my life I was doing something she didn't know about. (I imagined.) Something "bad". Dirty boy.
We all talked about it at school. There was a special "acceptance" once you could boast that your body had joined the man-club. I loved it. We all must have stunk to high heaven, as the hygiene practice then was one bath a week, typically Friday. Showers were barely invented. As neither were deodorants. Changed days!
Smells and swells were one thing - but between the ears changed as much as between the legs. Wild, wilful thoughts streamed in all the time... You're a person. You don't "belong" to her. She doesn't "own" you. She only feeds you. You can escape at eighteen to University. Yes - that's the way to go! And so I did.
PS. I started this piece intending to comment on the growing social divide between my father and myself brought on by a hothouse formal education. And it ended up on wanking. How appropriate. It's National Masturbation Month! Link via Charlie, who I've always had my doubts about :)
But Leith's not all junkies, poofs and working girls! (Post below.) Oh no - lots of (ahem) respectable people live here. They love it. Some were even born here. They're proud of it.
To celebrate all that is Leith, there's an annual festival - this year from June 8 to June 14. See the fabby website, designed by Tony of Wordwrap Web Development. Tune in to LeithFM radio, starting Wednesday coming... it's also on the net! (URL to follow when someone tells me what it is.)
Walks, Talks, Jazz, Folk, History tours, Plays
Mini Science Festival at the Ocean Terminal
Poet-in-residence (Rodney Relax)
Whores and Sores Pub Tour ("Lift a cobble and peer at the seamy underside of Leith")
Reiki and Tarot at The Village (conducted by my friend Stuart - the well-known therapist)
Rocky Horror at the Port o Leith... literally something for everyone.
Naked Blog is proud to support Leith Festival 2003! (But sadly you're not gonna hear me on the radio!)
BUT BACK TO THE BLOG
Just one story to report today, and that's Diamond Geezer's incredible list of twenty ways to avoid boredom. "What's incredible about that?" I hear you asking, and the answer is in the Number One position. To get the intended effect, you have to read them from 20 down to 1, which you do by starting here and scrolling up. It'll take five to ten minutes, but worth every second and more.
Only rarely do I get the urge just to hang up my cursor and pack it all in. After the above was one such moment.
IT PAYS TO BLOGVERTISE?
Something quite new has come into the world - the idea of the weblog. A blog is freely-donated entertainment, sometimes reciprocated, sometimes not. Although free entertainment isn't new, most people are more used to paying for their magazines, newspapers etc. But now they no longer need to.
Advertising, on the other hand, has mostly (but not always) been "paid for" - be it in newspaper, on TV, or wherever.
The advent of the blog means that it's now possible to mention and promote commercial enterprises entirely for free. Should we do it? Or should we just say no?
Forget tedious, overpopulated dumps like London, Paris, Madrid and New York - and let the Olympics come to their natural home - Leith, of course. (We're already getting the MTV European Music Awards later this year!)
Bypass Old Europe completely, with its traffic problems and ethnic diversity (ah cannae understand ye, pal) and settle instead for the shores of Granton by the Gasworks, with uninterrupted views of the world famous Forth Bridge.
A whole new range of sports could be incorporated for the very first time...
Smack and spoon race... see who can complete 100m without spilling any of their next fix!
Spot the cop... see if you can find a policeman on any of Leith's streets, anywhere, at any time of the day or night!
Kerb-crawl Sheriff Park... and see how many times you get propositioned!
Mind that junkie! Run along the artistic corridors and walkways of The Fort without tripping over someone injecting themselves! It's junkie hurdles!
Marathon drinking... Pub-crawl Leith Walk and get totally paralympic!
Shoot the poof! Self-explanatory this one. Bonus points if they're pretending it's their first time!!
Oh - I can just see it. Something to tell my grandchildren about...
How bizarre. I've been writing to you here for more than a couple of years, and nothing much has happened. Oh I left a job, got depressed, so went back to it. Washed up a couple of times. Tidied the house - once, I think. Drank a bit. Chatted a bit. Went on a couple of days camping holiday.
Was happy in the summer and pissed off in winter. Read loads of blogs - got inside lots of people's generous heads. Wondered what dying will be like. (Apropos of that, I'm convinced I have the ideal death personality. I'll be so busy studying what's going on that there'll be no time to get upset about it.) But all in good time for that one. (And of course - what a fab blog it'll make!)
But now - half an hour ago, in fact - I seem to find myself applying for a job. No seem about it - I have done. Something well-paid and potentially enjoyable. Ideally suited to my age and condition. [Note to present employer - this is to supplement, not replace, my existing toil, which you know I'll adore till the day I drop.]
How fascinating. I had to forcibly restrain myself from telling them all about Naked Blog. That's strictly between you and me.
They want something called a CV. What's a CV? I'm tempted to ask you, but no - that would be kidding. Problem is - I haven't a clue. Oh... I have a vauge idea what I've done, but not a scooby doo when each bit started and stopped. Remember - I've been in the "world of work" much longer than you've been exited from your mother.
How astonishing. I'll keep you posted. Up to a point.
It'll be strange living in a world of less-than-full disclosure. Like normal people must do.
One of the advantages of getting older (and - believe me - there aren't many) is that you can be as far behind the times as you want, and no-one raises an eyebrow.
"What's X?" you ask your younger friends, where X can be anything from a pop group to a design house to a software application. And they're only too pleased to enlighten you. "Really?" you reply breathlessly, on receiving this wisdom. "I didn't know that! How fascinating."
This mode carries you through many a conversation, and flatters your companions. "See that Peter," they say to each other. "He's quite switched on for an oldboy. Still wants to learn about life."
This can go too far, however. Blue Velvet, I'm thinking of, which I eventually got round to this week, after a gap of seventeen years apparently. And I must confess I was gobsmacked. But waiting this long has put things right out of sequence. The essence of Blue Velvet is that it preceded Twin Peaks - a sort of pilot episode, if you stretch the definition of episode somewhat. Thus - knowing a little of Twin Peaks (my friend Hamish could practically recite the script), I wasn't unprepared for what Lynch might be serving up.
So I needn't bore you all with my views, as I'm sure you'll have seen it yonks ago. Like very many, my thought at the end was, "What the fuck was that all about?" Such style, of course. Such confabulation.
Hopper and Rossellini were given free rein to max out their union cards, whilst poor Dern and MacLachlan weren't allowed much above the Teletubby. And references, references everywhere! (Like this blog, but financially more rewarding.) So I read all the critics on IMDB external reviews. Noir, they said. A blend of noir and banal. But was it noir? Or gothic horror? Or something uniquely Lynch?
They talked about the candles blowing out. They talked about the teeth above MacLachlan's bed. They compared the ear to a severed hand in some other movie. But nobody asked why in both exterior shots of Arlene's cafe there was the same timber lorry crossing the screen. But I did. Then just a moment ago it struck me. Lumberton, the town was called. Lumberton.
And that, for me, demonstrates the paradox over David Lynch. Master film-maker or empty stylist?
Adam Johnson collected poems. Waterstones, Covent Garden
This by email from my friend Rex...
I was wondering if you'd like to give a mention to an event in two days' time which relates to one of the Great Gay Britons. Adam Johnson died of Aids ten years ago this month at the age of 28, and to mark the anniversary the Carcanet Press (the UK's top publisher of poetry) is bringing out his Collected Poems.
A modest launch event is planned for 7pm to 8pm on Friday at Waterstone's, Garrick Street, Covent Garden, co-hosted by my friend Richard Pyatt and the gay novelist Jeremy Trafford. Wine, readings, reminiscences, the usual recipe, but should be rewarding as Adam was not only a genuinely gifted poet but a memorable man.
We seem to have struck quite a chord with the Seroxat Paxil article a few posts down. Thanks to all who contributed in the comment box. Your honesty spoke volumes. Interactive blogging at its finest and most useful.
Apropos of that, today we set out to assess the mood of the NB-reading nation. I'll be fascinated to see the outcome.
Old Poll Results
How likely do you think it is that you will contract SARS?
Almost certain 11%
Very likely 2%
Even chance 6%
Almost certainly not 56%
Based on 180 votes total. I'll repeat this poll at some future time, if it seems the risk-assessment might have changed. Thanks to all who voted and left comments.
One of the nicest feelings in the world is a cold going away. Getting better. Knowing you've licked it.
Sixty hours down the line with this one, and I woke this morning so much improved... chest no longer hurting, head back to its proper size again. Yay!
Whether or not me larynx will be ready for work by Friday remains to be seen. But wtf cares? Today is sunny and I'll probably get outside once more. Mix with the trees and take in some springtime life force. Prana. Chi.
But that's not the only aftermath right now! Things have been as exciting as old get-out on Naked Blog for a couple of days. (Doubled traffic yesterday, a princely 1379 hits.) Click here and scroll down. Got your coffee and cigs handy? Then let me tell you how it all happened...
Over the last two or three weeks there's been a steady fall in numbers. For a period of about a month before that we were coasting in the high eight hundreds, but then for some reason I couldn't fathom they started to stay away in droves. Sunday gone I was expecting a sub-500 for the first time for ages. Then, around 7pm, I noticed the Nedstat day-prediction had shot up to 850! (Unheard of for a Sunday.)
What was happening? Quickly I clicked on the "How" tag, to see about 56 recent hits from Blogger.com "We're a Blog of Note!" I gasped. "It's taken two damn years, but we've made it at last!"
But no - twas not to be. We remain as unnoteworthy as ever. What had happened was the much more pedestrian matter of the Fresh Blogs (recently updated) list getting frozen. And what should be there frozen on the list but Naked Blog!
Of course I felt guilt. It's the way I was raised. All these lovely people... four a minute, five, even six! But only because of an accident - nothing actually merited or deserved. Then, "Fuck it!" I thought, deep in my mucous distress. "I'm gonna make the best of this while it lasts!" Twenty-two hours, as it turned out.
I got rid of the old strapline, "As featured on CNN, NBC, CSS and even Oprah!" (That was clearly a spam-joke, but not everyone would get it. Might seem like deliberate lying.) I substituted some of the "real" mentions we've accumulated. Tidied up the sidebar a bit. Penned a quick introduction, apologising for the lack of nudity, and dragging in some ethnic Scottishness. Mardi Gras! I'm enjoying this!
And still you kept coming. You wrote emails, comments, and kind greetings on the transient, ephemeral tagboard. Oh boy! Life in the fast lane, not half! This is what blogging's all about, baby. Praise! I love praise!! Gimme all you've got!!!
And then, as quickly as it started, my brief, unearned celebrity was cruelly snatched away, as the Fresh Blogs list kicked in again. Twenty-two hours. I could have stood it for longer!
Time, as she always does, will tell the more lasting tale.
Yes folks, it's true! Clare Short, International Development Secretary, has resigned in protest over the rebuilding of Iraq. But did she go quietly? Did she as 'eck, bah gum.
Known variously as Mrs Anthrax and Dr Germ for her caustic wit and poisonous repartee, Clare was in ebullient mood in the House of Commons this afternoon. "It's them bloody Yanks, isn't eet!" she cried. "Occupying power, aren't they? With our fookin' collusion!"
"And as for that Tony Blair!" she gushed, getting into full stride now. "Well, he's every bit the tyrannical despot as that fookin' Saddam, isn't 'e? Oi'm thinking of asking Bush to send a few tanks here to topple him... ownly way to handle an evil regime lark 'is, if you arsk mey..." She paused to wipe a speck of foam from her economy-lipsticked mouth, then threw her checkered scarf racily across her shoulder.
Weapon of Mass Destruction
"Seven years Oi've given to 'im - seven bleedin' wasted years... and for what?" she demanded, dramatically. "It's all done by bleedin' diktat, isn't eet? Alastair fookin' Campbell. And down't get me started about that flamin' faggot wot yoused to be 'ere..."
Ms Short was led protesting from the Chamber by a dusky security guard, who in the evening light bore more than a passing resemblance to Uday Hussein.
A more realistic, if somewhat pedestrian, account can be seen here. BBCi
Hi if it's your first time here! There's a special introduction in Sunday's post below this one.
BBC PANORAMA SEROXAT PAXIL
A chilling edition of this science programme last night, featuring the viewer responses to an October 2002 feature on Seroxat, the Glaxo Smith Kline anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug.
To make a long story very short, it seems that for a small number of people this drug causes catastrophic mood change, leading to self-harm, suicide and even murder. After eleven tablets in one case, and after only two in another.
It's also said to be addictive, giving grotesque withdrawal symptoms on reduction, including visual disturbance and what two people described as "electric shocks" in the brain. How awful that is can only be imagined. Me, I had enough trouble coming off Saint John's Wort, an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety herb so mild it's available over the counter.
OK then, here are my questions...
GP-prescribed tablets of this general sort have been around since the sixties. (Valium, Librium) They have done incalculable harm, and damaged many lives, not least my own late mother's. (Basically fried her brain, after several decades use.) Why are they still available for prescription in the surgery/office? It was said last night that doctors were prescribing them after a mere five-minute consultation. They prescribed them to someone as young as 14, even though GSK recommended against this. Could it be related to the fact that Seroxat is GSK's second most profitable anti-depressant?
The people featured in the Panorama programme all seemed intelligent and articulate. What on earth were they doing putting their brains in the "hands" of such medicines, knowing all that has gone before in the history of anti-depressants? Could it be related to the marketing of each new "happy-pill"? That whereas all the old-fashioned ones were bad and dangerous, this latest, greatest potion was totally benign? Sorry, but I've been around so long, and seen so many.
So where lies the main culpability? With the manufacturers, for encouraging inappropriate prescription? With the doctors for over-prescribing, knowing as they must the appalling history of "mood-medication"? Or with the regulatory authorities, who could act, but - according to Panorama - refuse to do so... not even accepting the patients' own submissions?
But wait... there's more! During my researches I found to my astonishment and horror that Seroxat/Paxil is easily available over the internet, without consultation. Mardi Gras! I'll have some of what she's having!!
The world's gone mad. Stark, staring bonkers. Who will stop these people? Is it even possible?
That means, "one hundred thousand welcomes" in Scottish Gaelic. I'm guessing you've just stumbled on this site from Blogger.com Accidents like that usually happen to others - never to me!
Naked Blog is not a nude site. I chose the name at the beginning, thinking it would pull in "one or two", who might like it and later come back. Well - one or two has turned into one or two million, and still they never learn!
What you will find here is comment and some humour. My sidebar also is of the highest quality.
That'll teach me to brag about my health on Friday. Then start feeling unwell on Saturday. Finally phoning in sick on Sunday. (Just five minutes ago.)
I told the secretary it was cold/flu/bronchitis/SARS. (They don't like you to get too precise with your self-diagnoses.) So that covers all the eventualities, and makes it more sensible to stay at home. SARS, when it does get here, will end the bingo business almost overnight, if you think about it. (Forty percent mortality for the over-sixties. What it is for the genuinely elderly doesn't bear thinking about.)
John Simpson, BBC war correspondent, was on Frost on Sunday this morning - talking about his attack by an American missile. It was a requested strike, on a nearby "enemy" tank. But the pilot mixed up the coordinates, and fired on his own side rather than the bad guys. Simpson managed to convey his "dissatisfaction" at this, while not straying from diplomatic language or journalistic professionalism. He said some of the American troops were badly trained and not in control of themselves. Apocalypse Now Once Again?
It's tempting to ask, in view of the plaintive, understated words of Where is Raed?, just what (if anything) is actually planned for Iraq. Although there's no immediate answer, one over-riding thing is now quite clear. The United States, under the present administration at least, will do whatever it wants. In view of that, Mr Blair's "poodle" attitude is precisely the safest to adopt. Others beware. They're even getting a bit sniffy at Canada now. Too many human rights. Not enough surveillance.
EMINEM SPOTTED DRINKING WITH PETER IN PORT O' LEITH BAR
OK - I know it hasn't happened yet. But well it could. The MTV European Music Awards are coming to Leith this year, in the Ocean Terminal, a place often written about in these pages. It's at the end of my street, if you stretch the words "end" and "street" somewhat. How cool we all seem to have become. Slum is just so fashionable. I always knew it would happen.
My bingo is being invaded by the middle classes. After several high-profile staff walk-outs recently, (most notably Natasha from the buffet), we seem now to be attracting the cream of Edinburgh's student intelligentsia to work with us. It's quite bizarre in this line of employment, to introduce yourself to some fresh-faced youngster and have him reply, "Pleased to meet you." Yer what, pal?
One of them is doing a Master's degree in journalism. He's interviewed the cream of Scottish writers. Except me. So far.
Damn! We're blogrolled (at last!) by Scaryduck - the best weblog in the manifest universe. We're number two (ranked by Blog Authority), on Technorati over yesterday's Guardian/Where is Raed Link. Every single share on Blogshares has been eagerly snapped up - and I can't think of a thing to write about. Let's run through the possibilities...
Weather: It's returned to a typical Scottish spring... cold and wet with occasional bursts of sunshine. This after the hottest and driest first quarter since records went vinyl.
Health: *Touches wood* Remains as resilient as ever. Bracing for the upcoming SARS attack with lots of good food (esp. pizza), rest, cigarettes and alcohol. (A happy frame of mind is essential for your immune system to function properly.) A mate of mine just had a cancerous testicle cut off, but as the peak age for testicular cancer is 31, that's not one I lose any sleep over.
Mood: Remains upbeat, despite a recent paternal death and the departure of my closest friend. It's weird having your wellbeing determined more by the month than by actual events. But I'll enjoy it now in Nuts-in-May, as December ever looms.
Blogosphere: Two for you today: Charlie of Here Inside (May 8th) lists a dozen or so towns and cities claiming to have the most pubs per square mile. Next time I'm stuck for a CityBreak I'll have quite a selection! And Mike reports hilariously (intentionally, I'm sure) about having his garden designed by the guy who did Diana's memorial garden! Beat that! How did wealthy queens cope before there was blogging?
The things they say and do: Scene, the Village. The players, Dean and Veronica, both bespectacled. "I love your new specs," says V. Then D leans forward the better for her to read the inscription. "Dolce and Gabbana," he gloats, proudly. Then V leans forward similarly, shoving her own specs at his face. "CK," she intones. At that I snapped. "What are you two like?" I snorted. "How the hell I wish I had my glasses here! Boots, it says on the side!" (It doesn't actually, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.)
Gripes about public services: I'm having an ongoing battle with the Royal Mail over not getting any. Mail, that is. I think my postman is running some sort of vendetta. I hope it's only bills he's binning.
And that's it, folks. As I said - can't think of a thing to write about. Any more topics for my checklist?
Yes, Where is Raed? has returned! More later, after I've thoroughly read it.
Guardian Online. (More edited extracts from the weblog, despite the almost universal opprobrium heaped on them the last time they did this.) Plus there's one entire section which isn't actually in the blog (or this morning's version, at least). Whassgoanon?
The Verdict: An astonishing piece of work, unique in its breadth and scope. Salam Pax retains his gallows humour throughout the accounts, never sinking into melodrama or self-pity, despite having every reason in the universe for doing so. Trust me - this will be read and re-read at the highest levels. (Even by Donald R.)
I have two "if-only's." If only he'd been able to post at the time of writing, and if only he'd written in his native language and had it translated. You get the sense of a 99 percent grasp of English, but that one percent - the bit which elevates to glory - is (understandably) not always there.
Those aside, the work puts almost the entire Western news output in the shade of a sandy dune. It's a gift of enormous value.
This is all - absolutely all - you will ever see on this site about X-Men 2. (For Marc. :)
Pam the barmaid is leaving the Port o Leith Bar. She's going to manage some bar and restaurant at Piershill. It's the end of a (rather small) era.
No way, Galloway
As exclusively predicted here on April 23, George Galloway, the anti-war, pro-Saddam, Labour MP has been suspended for "bringing the Party into disrepute". BBCi Politics is show business for ugly people.
So there I was at the dentist yesterday, in the usual pose, when this came on the radio... "Ten thousand people in China have been quarantined to prevent the spread of SARS." I looked into his eyes, four inches from mine, as the thought passed through both of our heads - if either one of us had SARS, then we're both dead now.
"Ten thousand!" I gasped. "Imagine if that was in the West - it would be a news explosion! But because it's China it gets shoved to the end of the bulletin." We chatted SARS for a bit, and then another idea struck me. "And of course, when it eventually does get here - dentists will have to take a very long holiday indeed." He nodded in agreement. It hadn't occurred to me till then just how risky the dental profession is.
Much amusement about the place over the decision of the Butlins holiday company to update their bingo calling. BBCi. Here are the facts, from the horse's mouth.
The man who dreamt this up has obviously never been anywhere near a modern commercial bingo establishment, where no - that is none at all - rhyming couplets are used. The National Bingo Game (£100,000 a day - double that on Sundays) expressly prohibits their use, and prints out a script - to the very syllable - that the Caller has to use. Eighty eight - all the eights - eighty eight. Ten - one oh - ten. One - on its own - number one. Are you getting the idea?
My bingo ladies would rip the very place apart if they were subjected to the nonsense being bandied about. J-Lo's bum - seventy-one! First of all, outside of places like Nottingham, that doesn't even rhyme - and secondly, what old dear of seventy would have a clue who J-Lo even was? Or care?
However, the Butlin company are not part of the National Bingo group, so are free to call the numbers how they wish. Good luck to them, and eyes down. (We don't say eyes down, either!)
Did you know that more people go to bingo in one week than go to football in a year? (Thanks to Lyle and Junio for the initial story!)
I'll bring again...
Dean, young barman at The Village, and I have decided to go to Amsterdam for a holiday. On a sugardaddy and rentboy basis. (Pretended, of course.) "I don't want to go to any leather SM bars," Dean said. "We could go to one," I suggested. "To see what it's like."
Q: What do you call someone who parties for eight hours on the evening before a dentist's appointment?
We did have a lot of fun though :) It was Mark's (former HOTW) birthday, and he was determined to get the whole pub celebrating. With tequila slammers, of course. Guinness chasers. Coupla lines of toot to ward off that tedious tiredness.
And now, I feel wrecked. Old enough to know better doesn't help.
"It's my birthday!" said Mark to Big Straight Al. (Former HOTW). At that BSA grabbed him in a long and lingering man-to-man embrace. (I stood casually transfixed, feigning indifference.) Mark responded with pelvic thrusts. Shag! Shag! Shag!
"I'm heterosexual!" cried BSA, clearly loving it. "So am I!" shouted Mark. "That's what MAKES IT MORE FUN!!" Integration. You couldn't make it up.
(Cocaine is God's way of telling you you've got too much money, btw.) Oh, and Steve C'est La Vie, the Big Issue poet, was there.
And now, you Monday holiday workshy skivers - read on...
Well, what a daft question that seems to be - so let me explain. (This section might be of more interest to my gay male readers, of whom there are one or two. Others, especially wives, are welcome to browse about the place, gleaning enlightenment as they do so.)
It started with this quotation in a Trash Addict comment box, (May 02) written by Groc, a cyber-acquaintance of some years now.
"In fact heterosexual men when they're not being stupid and annoying or aggressive are becoming not much more than fetish objects. (and I do wish a certain class of gay men would get over this sad delusion -asap.)"
I suspected he might be including myself in this "sadly deluded" class, as later evidenced and replied to in the comment box below Friday's Hunk of the Week.
But the man has a point. It's not that straight men are becoming fetish objects, but that for many gay men they always were. If not fetish, then with some extra "built-in" desirability. That by snatching a man's "gay virginity", you become yourself that bit more irresistible.
But of course it's paradoxical. By definition, a totally masculine man will seek the congress of women. Won't he? Does the fact he's ecstatically moaning those immortal words, "I've never done anything like this before," make him less of a man? And hands up in class anyone who knows not of what I speak!
The man, love-object or trade - call him what you will, will typically be married. He'll simply be looking for a "bit on the side" (or back, or stomach), in a way that most straying married men don't envisage.
It's not an easy life, believe me - precluding as it does any full "relationship". Many's the time I envy my blogging colleagues with their "two queens and a cat" lifestyles, their dual incomes and attendant benefits, and their trips to IKEA and Safeway. But for me, like so many others, this is out of the question. (They never leave their wives. And neither do you want them to.)
The (sensible) gay literature is full of such observations, from Genet with his attraction to young criminals, through Proust (whom I've never read, but heard it's true), to Crisp, with his chilling sentence, "There is no great dark man." Sums it up, dunnit?
(Your own views would be especially appreciated. That's the only reason I wrote the above.)
Yes - it's true! We're actually going to mention pop music today. Well, not so much mention, as link to more knowlegeable others.
We begin with the once-divine Julie Burchill, who follows to a T the advice to write the same thing over and over again. "If people buy cornflakes, they expect cornflakes."
And Julie's at her very best when slagging off fashion or (usually female) celebrities. On Saturday it was the (nineteenth?) turn of the sublimely untalented Madonna, a karaoke singer wot made it big. Cornflakes.
More original is an interview with Meat Loaf, a pop singer of my estimation.
And finally, John Naughton writes in The Observer (fairly interestingly, to me at least), about his family's CD-burning and MP3 downloading.
Jesus Dress Up. Don't go there if you have some imagined, special relationship with this dead guy.
Anorexia - as if
Weighed myself this am, to find - not unsurprisingly - that the three pounds lost during last week's mammoth fast had sensibly reinstated themselves. Thus reducing to absolute bunkum the study featured in Scotland on Sunday. I'm almost tempted to write to the newspaper about this - peddling such potentially dangerous nonsense. I wonder how much taxpayers' money went on that stupidity?
So many kind remarks about my voice were made in the comment box a bit below, that it seems pointless continuing in this silent medium any longer. I'm tempted to abandon Naked Blog altogether, and just phone everyone up instead. Shouldn't take long.
Today's handsome heart-stopper is Bernd - from Germany with love. But only for the ladies, sadly.
Bernd is 37, and has been in Scotland for the last six of those, where he very quickly made himself at home among the Port o Leith and Village jet-sets.
(It's difficult to remain objective here, as - to be honest - the man is sex on legs.)
I mean - look at those hands... and that waist...
He's a joiner by trade, and... oh fuck... I give up. Get your ass up to Sunny Leith and buy this stud a bottle of Schneider Weisse beer. I'm sure you can find some joinery work needs doing. Break something, if necessary.
That's the international distress signal. It means help me.
And it's peeing down! This will
(a) Cool the ardour of the various protestors and rioters.
(b) Bring even more apathy to today's elections, and
(c) Water the plants.
Of these, (c) is the most interesting. I was discussing with Evergreen Norma yesterday how manfully the trees had come into leaf this spring, despite the country rapidly becoming a desert. (Do you know - we had bloody bush fires last week!)
But Norma was in her cups somewhat, and had fallen into the not uncommon trap of underestimating my intelligence. "But trees have big roots," she said. "Much bigger than a little flowering plant." "Thank you for that, Norma," I said, with all the tude I could muster. But I could tell it was wasted.
Babs the chef was on cracking form last night also, after her rave review in The List Restaurant Guide. She's fully booked at The Village. Needs a kitchen porter to do her vegetables. Then she tickled me pink when she referred to a woman she'd recently met as a "pig in knickers".
Now before you all rush to email accusations of misogyny, that was said by a woman about a woman. So take that!
Place an X beside the candidate of your choice
Yes - my global audience! It's voting day here in most of the UK - the country where the one with the most votes gets in!
But worry not - you're not going to lose Saint Tony. For now, at least. Today you can elect the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Local Councils, and last but not least, the English Local Councils.