Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

It is the national day for us Welshies - the feast of St David, patron saint of leeks and daffodils, or something-or-other.

Who better to lead the celebrations than our very own Patron Saint, Dame Shirley Bassey?! She is what she is, after all...

And here (with sound effects that sound a bit like she's singing from space) is her version of the Welsh National Anthem! All together, now...

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r heniaith barhau.

Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd;
Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i'm golwg sydd hardd
Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si
Ei nentydd, afonydd, i fi.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r heniaith barhau.

Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad dan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r heniaith barhau.

All about St David's Day.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Thought for the Day

In Latin American countries (and across the world) today is Mardi Gras, a time for feathers, foof and faff and a gloriously camp carnival atmosphere...

...while in Britain, we have Pancake Day.

Still, any excuse to eat unhealthy food has to be a good thing, I say!

Monday, 27 February 2017

What IS this thing called, love?

I am just not ready to start yet another week in the benighted office - I feel like I need "more weekend"...

Hey ho. These things are sent to try us. It pays the bills.

To lift the mood a little on this Tacky Music Monday, here's today's birthday girl the magnificent Elisabeth Welch, in the company of musical theatre aficionados Karen Morrow, David Kernan and [Alan Jay Lerner's widow] Liz Robertson, with a medley of Cole Porter numbers: What is This Thing Called Love?, Nobody's Chasing Me and Friendship.

That cheered me up! Have a good week, dear reader...

Elisabeth Margaret Welch (27th February 1904 – 15th July 2003)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Queeropolis, that fabled city - and a ginger bombshell!

Rounding-off what has proved to be an absolutely hectic week - not only my first one back in work after our holiday (with all that entails), but also Objects of Desire at the Petrie Museum, the open meeting of the organisers of Gay Pride in London 2017 and Polari LGBTHM special at the Southbank Centre on consecutive nights - Madame Arcati, Hils, History Boy, John-John and I trolled off to the quaintly old-fashioned Conway Hall last night for the traditional (almost) "end-of-term-party" for Camden & Islington LGBT History Month, the "Queeropolis" Ball!!

Sadly competing directly against the much-vaunted Winter Pride event that saw the one-night-only "revival" of London's legendary Popstarz alternative gay club night at The Scala in King's Cross, the crowd was admittedly smaller than one would have hoped-for - but we made our best efforts to get the party going! Always an excuse for dressing-up, this year's theme was "Legal and Civic Society" and "high court judge, an officer of the law, ancient Roman Senator or just ‘as you were’" were the suggestions. We opted to just go the latter, and go "smart'n'blingy", although Crog did say he'd modelled his "look" on Columbo, and Hils had a wig that could pass for a barrister's, so lots of fun was had with that...

DJs Jason Prince and Alexander Price certainly helped get us in the mood with their (largely) 80s and Disco playlist, and got everyone (including the lovely eccentric hostess-with-the-mostest at the aforementioned Petrie Museum Helen Pike) up and dancing. However, things really started shaking (literally, where her sexy dancing boys were concerned!) when the evening's Mistress of Ceremonies Lana Pillay took to the stage to perform her hit Pistol in My Pocket!

The evening's programme opened with a serious introduction by Camden LGBT Forum Trustee Natacha Kennedy, who reminded everyone of the importance of LGBT History Month and how some of the lessons learned from some of the darker chapters of our history were frighteningly close to being repeated today (particularly where Trans rights are concerned). After that we went for a fag and then to the bar, so missed both the poetry of Trudy Howson and the (very loud - we could hear it in the lobby) performance by former Adam Ant guitarist David Ryder Prangley.

However, on our return, there was a whirlwind on stage - "The Beyonce Experience". Not being a fan of "Queen Bey" nor her music, this was nevertheless surprisingly entertaining - just watching him/her and his/her backing dancers cavorting all over the stage was exhausting stuff, and brilliantly done.

After a special appearance from former creative director of Harvey Nichols (she was directly responsible to the store's prominent repeated presence in AbFab), reality television star (Mary, Queen of Shops) and proud lesbian mother (she was the first celeb to marry her partner once equal marriage became law in the UK) Mary Portas, it was time for the moment we had all been waiting for - our headliner, a veteran of Stock Aitken & Waterman, Eurovision and even the Lily Savage Show, SONIA!

For the uninitiated, the effervescent and diminutive ginger-haired diva was immensely popular in the late 80s and early 90s, with 11 UK Top 30 hits, before trying her hand at comedy acting and panto. Never one to take herself seriously, she charmed even the cynics among us with her infectious laugh, and was never to be seen without a smile. And she hasn't changed a bit! She still has that powerhouse singing voice, and she had the audience absolutely in the palm of her hand, everyone singing along and waving their arms as if the 1990s had never gone away.

And here, for your delectation, is a double-bill of her greatest hits:

She was Great. Sophisticated. Mersey.

We (literally) had a Ball!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Gay Vikings, the Papal curse, thirty-year-old fake news, a Fascist purge and New York resilience

The tail-end of Storm Doris may have subsided, but it would appear that the weather may have been a factor that prevented many of our regulars at Polari from attending on Friday - I went on my own and, apart from our host Paul Burston and one of our readers Suzi Feay, I only recognised among the literati the gorgeous Max Wallis, Polari stalwart Chris Chalmers, and sexy Lexi (with whom I shared a table) at the LGBT History Month 2017 special of "London's peerless gay literary salon"...

Regardless, this was - as ever - and evening of top-notch entertaining and thought-provoking literature.

Our opening reader was a case in point. With a confidence and erudition that belied her youthful looks, Leon Craig (Leonora Craig Cohen) - who has a postgraduate degree in Medieval Studies - read for us a fabulous short story all about the convoluted relationships of two Viking families, the husbands in which were evidently (and quite publicly) enjoying a gay relationship. Told in the first person position of the wife in one of the couples, it was both wryly funny and beautifully evocative of a lost world of savage feuds, intrigues and the privations of trying to eke out a living in bleak climes. Unfortunately, the story itself is not online, but another of Ms Craig's witty pieces is. Here's How to tell if you are in a Viking Saga:
  • You have started a bloody multi-generational feud by stealing cheese.
  • You have gone away to Constantinople and left your dashing blond brother to manage all your property. You are confident nothing can go wrong.
  • Everyone around you is named Thorolf, except for Thorstein Cod-Biter, who lives over in the next valley. Many say he is part-troll. But they have learnt not to say it to his face.
  • The current feud in which you are embroiled seems likely to be resolved by prodding a blindfolded horse off a cliff with poles. This horse is known for its malice.
  • You have a very muted reaction to losing your limbs.
  • As the house burns down around you, your elderly father reflects that fostering his enemy’s son was probably a mistake.
  • Your survival hinges on the arrangement of poorly-maintained paths through a remote swamp. You will not survive.
  • Your limp has provided you with the opportunity to become an expert in the convoluted Icelandic legal system. Small, seemingly insignificant comments allow you to manipulate justice for years after your untimely death.
  • You have enraged a family of Sami wizards, who like to stand on your roof and sing all night.
  • An elderly woman, known for her second-sight, gives you specific instructions to avoid being murdered. You ignore her.
  • You think a summer of raiding and mercenary warfare will curb the violent tendencies of your young relative.
  • Someone has accused you of being an arse-wizard and for this they will pay.
  • Your enemy has made a miniature wood-carving of you being sodomized and nobody asks him why.
  • You are a distant ancestor of Snorri Sturluson.
  • Your main concerns about Christianity are the bans on infant exposure and the ritualised eating of horseflesh.
  • You went to bed with Queen Gunnhildr and she has cursed you with a penis so large it cannot be used.
  • Your mother is a kidnapped Irish princess, but didn’t think to mention this for years.
  • At the age of three, you were already composing skaldic verse and outdrinking grown men. Your grandparents are very proud of you.
  • Everyone you have ever loved, been related to, or looked at flirtatiously during the summer parliament has died in a feud. You are raising your sons to continue the feud.
  • Most of your problems can be explained with the phrase ‘cold are the counsels of women.’
  • You once exiled someone from Norway using a severed horse head on a stick.
  • Greenland is horrible, but you have persuaded people to move there with false advertising.
  • You may have died in an unusually horrible manner, but at least this rocky outcrop is named after you.
  • If you can compose a sufficiently good poem praising the king, you’re off the hook for killing his infant son.
  • You and your cousins once beat a man to death over a piece of driftwood.
  • Everyone agrees you have the eyes of a thief.
  • No man in Iceland was your equal, so you became a zombie-killing nun instead.

Suzi Feay is a long-term Polari-ite, former journalist, book reviewer and grande dame of the literary events world - and a bloody good poet, too, it seems! Overcoming her "nerves", she read for us several of her (as yet unpublished) works. My favourite of these was Save it for the Pope in Rome, a pithy paean to the Eternal City and its effects on the lives and loves of people who pass through its hallowed environs. Again, unfortunately, no online evidence exists; however the following (completely unrelated) clip of a much younger Suzi amused me so much I just had to feature it here - as she tries to keep a straight face while modelling fetish clothing courtesy of Skin Two emporium:

Dr Sebastian Buckle is another whose fresh-faced prettiness masks the astonishing depth of knowledge and historical investigation that underpins his new work The Way Out: A History of Homosexuality in Modern Britain, from which he read us a segment that examined a familiar era for many in the audience, the 80s. As he said:
Rather than ushering in a new period of increased acceptance, 1967 had instead paved the way for a new political hostility and backlash, which was replicated in negative stereotypes played out with increased vitriol throughout the 1980s... [with] prosecutions for indecency, sodomy, soliciting and procuring at an all-time high.
Played out in salacious and outrageously homophobic terms in the newspapers of the day, the consensus of those influential right-wing media moguls in the midst of the "AIDS panic" was that “homosexuality is abnormal, unnatural, a bit evil because it’s wrong.” Such was the power of the press, Dr Buckle provided many examples where, during the key debates that ultimately led to the vilified Section 28, many Tory MPs directly quoted from newspaper opinion-pieces as if they were fact (or representative of public opinion) in the House of Commons. Chilling times. I remember them well.

I was engrossed. Had the (hardback) book not been £32 at the Foyles outlet on the night, I definitely would have purchased a copy.

Sarah Day, opening the second half, proudly informed the audience that her debut novel Mussolini's Island, from which she was to read was genuinely "hot off the presses", only having been published this week. And what a debut! Telling the tale of a little-known and sinister episode in Italy's pre-WW2 history, the forced imprisonment of gay men, her extract focused on the doomed attempt by the book's lead character Francesco as he tried to run away from the secret police who had come for him, and was utterly engrossing. Antonia Senior in The Times summarised the tale thus:
They were degenerates. Embarrassments to the new, imperial, fascist Italy. There was no place in Mussolini’s vision for homosexuality. Homosexuals were victimised and persecuted and, in some parts of the country, rounded up and sent into exile.

In 1939 a group of gay men were taken from their homes in Sicily and imprisoned on San Domino, a beautiful, but poor island in the Tremiti archipelago in the Adriatic Sea. Sarah Day has taken this fragment of history and written a fascinating debut, Mussolini’s Island.
I loved it!

Our headliner was Tim Murphy, a New York journalist on LGBT issues, culture and politics, now turned author. His magnum opus Christodora has also only just been published - and it was from it that he read a wonderful passage that evoked perfectly the "partying-in-the-face-of-doom" era of 1980s New York.

He introduced us to one of the book's many intertwined heroes and anti-heroes Issy - on a night out with her gay friends to one of the many "underground" clubs of the day - who gets herself into a rather unwanted situation; a "quickie" in an alleyway with a handsome stranger. Several consequences of this liaison permeate the rest of the novel: Issy herself contracts HIV and becomes an activist, and she also bears a son - who grows up (adopted after her death) in the "Christodora" building that gives the book its title, and around which many of the stories revolve.

It was a wonderful story, and certainly whetted my appetite to read more!

And so, with resounding - and much-deserved - applause for all concerned, the evening drew to a close. Because the next Polari (part of the Southbank's Women of the World festival) next month is completely sold-out already(!), it looks as if we're going to have to wait till summer for another outing [sniff, sniff]! I await details...

I love Polari.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Storm in a teacup

Oh, the British tabloids do love a weather story... And now that the venerable bods at the Met Office have decided to take the Americanised "dumbed-down" approach to forecasting - giving weather fronts Tw*tter-friendly names, and using made-up cod-scientific terms such as "weather-bomb" to describe what is in fact a regular and common occurrence in the UK; rain, sleet and wind in winter - so we witness acres of coverage of the "devastation" (a few fallen trees) and "chaos" (airports postponing a few flights till the cross-winds subside) caused by this "deadly" (one unfortunate woman killed by falling roof tiles) event called Storm Doris.

Yes, Doris.

What better way to welcome in what appears today to be a gorgeous spring-like weekend, methinks, than with a simply faboo remix of an all-time classic choon by its namesake?

Thank Disco Doris Day it's Friday!

Have a great (storm-free) weekend, peeps.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A taste of honey is worse than none at all

The fact that today is the 59th birthday of the beauteous David Sylvian - apart from being a terrifying reminder of how time flies - provides me with an excuse (if any were needed) to wallow in a bit of 1980s fabulousness...

Here's David at his stylish peak, with his band the ultra-cool Japan, and their inimitable take on I Second That Emotion:

Maybe you want to give me kisses sweet
But only for one night with no repeat
Maybe you'll go away and never call
And a taste of honey is worse than none at all
Oh little girl

In that case I don't want no part
I do believe that would only break my heart
So if you feel like loving me
If you've got that notion
I second that emotion
So if you feel like giving me
A life-time of devotion
I second that emotion

Maybe you think that love will tie you down
And you don't seem to like to hang around
Or maybe you think that love was made for fools
So it makes you wise to break the rules

In that case I don't want no part
I do believe that would only break my heart
So if you feel like loving me
If you've got that notion
I second that emotion
So if you feel like giving me
A life-time of devotion
I second that emotion

I second that emotion

Many happy returns, Mr David Alan Batt aka David Sylvian (born 23rd February 1958)