Thursday, 12 December 2019

Gwapple Me Gwapenuts!

And so, farewell to yet another part of my childhood - with the sad news that David Bellamy, one of British television's more memorable "characters" and eminent naturalist, has died aged 86.


Among the many programmes that made him a household name, including the amazingly popular Don't Ask Me [in which he and Professor Magnus Pyke pereptually vied for the crown of "most eccentric boffin presenter"] and Bellamy's Backyard Safari, was this one...

  • As a child he wanted to be a ballet dancer, but it soon became evident that his lumbering frame was probably unsuitable for the art.
  • His first exposure to the limelight was as an environmental scientific adviser in the clean-up operation after the Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster in 1967.
  • So distinctive was his voice - he famously had difficulty pronouncing his "R"s - he became a target for comedy impressionists such as Lenny Henry, who even released the novelty song "The Bellamy Wap" [based around the catchphrase "Gwapple Me Gwapenuts!"]. He found himself as much in demand for voice-overs and audiobooks for kids as he was for his passion for botany and nature.
  • Several conservation awards and a lectures programme have been inaugurated in his honour.

RIP David James Bellamy OBE (18th January 1933 – 11th December 2019)

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Xmas shopping

"Take five with this revolutionary cocoon-like pillow that helps block out light for an immersive napping experience at your desk."

It's amazing what one can find on eBay.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

A walking Terry O'Neill photograph, a Yorkshire harridan, dirty deeds in Berlin and a house full of sinister secrets

Just two short weeks since we were enthralled by Mr Russell T Davies for the Polari twelfth anniversary, John-John and I took our seats in the Fifth Floor Function Room at the Royal Festival Hall (at one of the "special tables" for a change) for the last outing of the season for "London's peerless gay literary salon" - a Very Polari Xmas! More treats in store for good little boys'n'girls (and anything in-between) and, as always, our genial host Paul Burston (resplendent in silver shoes, Bowie t-shirt and "bibberty-bobberty hat") was there to welcome them...

With a perfect show-opener, Carolyn Robertson, esteemed author of several children's books about gay parents and adoption [and none other than Will Young read one of hers in a LGBT+ milestone for the CBeebies Bedtime Stories show], treated us to one of her short stories aimed at adults - the tale of a young lesbian couple's seemingly doomed attempt at a "dirty weekend" over Xmas in York. Having had a screaming row with the evidently homophobic middle-aged harridan at the city's tourist accommodation bureau, and facing the prospect of trying to "do an all-nighter" without a hotel room to go to, the couple was fortuitously "adopted" by a gay waiter who let them crash in his room at his auntie's house. But guess who turned out to be the aunt...

It was hilarious, and really broke the ice - with resounding applause from the audience in that packed-out room.

Next up was a familiar face at Polari Ben Fergusson, reading from An Honest Man; the third in his trilogy of Berlin tales [he read from the first, The Spring of Kasper Meier, way back in November 2014]. A typically sinister tale of intrigues, mistrust and secret surveillance in the paranoid world of Berlin in 1989, just months before the wall came down, it followed the budding relationship between young closeted Fritz and a strange individual who seemed to be stalking one of his neighbours. Mr Fergusson's evocation of a very strange and claustrophobic era, and the obviously looming trouble afoot for our naive "hero", held us glued to our seats - and it is no surprise that this novel has featured on multiple "Best Books of 2019" lists...

Like a walking evocation of THAT photo of David Bowie in his Diamond Dogs phase, Professor Will Brooker took to the stage. Here's a man so dedicated to his work he actually spent a year trying to live as Bowie. Now Will has consigned to published form his intellectual analysis of the great man in Why Bowie Matters, his new book, from which he read some passages.

How does one address the apparent contradictions and convolutions of Bowie's sexuality and gender-bending? Many have criticised the man for "playing with" homosexuality/bisexuality merely to sell records; as a way of enhancing one of his multi-faceted personas, only to ditch it all when the next career move, tour or record deal beckoned. Yet, as our Professor argues, are we equally guilty of taking things David said or did out of the context of their time and applying a critique based on our more modern perspectives? Merely because definitions of "sexuality", "gender" and "fluidity" have newer connotations, can any of this be used to define a man who challenged established norms with extreme make-up, dresses and flame-red hair almost half-a-century ago?

We thought this was a superb and intriguing and well-reasoned piece, and look forward to exploring more...

After a break for a pee, a fag and another trip to the bar, it was time to settle down for our headliner, the worldwide best-selling author Miss Lisa Jewell. First off, reading from her eighteenth novel The Family Upstairs - a tangled web of a tale about the intertwined lives of young gay Henry, whose mother has inherited a big spooky house in Chelsea with a mysterious and grisly history, his family, their friends also living there, and another soon-to-be-dominant-in-the-household family (with a pretty son who Henry falls madly in love with) and some very dark secrets indeed. Oh, and lurking out there somewhere, and linked to it all is a woman busking in the South of France. All very enigmatic. We were hooked!

As has become the customary format of Polari, to its benefit in my opinion, Miss Jewell and Mr Burston sat for a more in-depth conversation and audience Q&A that covered topics such as writing styles and genres [Miss Jewell has, like so many female authors, to her annoyance been tarred with the "chick-lit" label on more than one occasion], how characters develop [Henry didn't necessarily start out as a gay boy, she said, he "spoke to her"], whose opinions should be trusted when revisions are suggested to an author's work, and where the inspiration comes from to continue producing successful works of fiction for such a long time. It was a delight to be part of, and the time just flew by.

We wait with bated breath for the 2020 timetable to arrive, but with the customary curtain call, that was indeed it for 2019 - Happy New Year, Polari!

Monday, 9 December 2019

Not a moment in life could be more entrancing

"I think you should take your job seriously, but not yourself - that is the best combination."

Many happy returns today to Dame Judi Dench, who blows out 85 candles on her cake! I won't call her a "national treasure|", as she despises the term, but suffice to say... eveybody loves her.

Despite her many and varied roles over the years, some Shakespearean, some comedic, some deadly serious, some romantic, some dramatic - today is a Tacky Music Monday, so let's settle on something in the Folies Bergère style, shall we?

Le cinema today is in a crisis
Directors are so existentialistes
The movies are not worth their entrance prices
If no one sings a love song when he's kissed

Love cannot be love without le singing
A string, a clarinet, a saxophone
Take a lesson from this old Parisienne
And the finest entertainment she has known

Folies Bergère
Oh, what a showing of color, costume and dancing
Not a moment in life could be more entrancing
Than an evening you spend aux Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
Not a soul in the world could be in despair
When he is glancing at the fabulous stage
Des Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
La musique la danse, leson, la lumiere
Les petits jolies seins des belles bouquetieres
Sur la belle passarelle des Folies Bergère

Pas de mysteres
Le spectacle est tout a fait decouvert
"Et pas trop cher"
Viens ce soir avec moi aux Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
The music, the lights and the laughter
The answer to what you are after
Each night at the Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
By the heavens above you will swear
There is nothing rarer
Than the Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
The stage overflowing and giving
A musical reason for living
Each night at the Folies Bergère

Folies Bergère
To your modern ideas I compare
One derriere
At the Folies Bergère

The answer to what you are after
The music, the lights and the laughter
Of the Folies Bergère

Many happy returns, Ma'am!

Dame Judith Olivia Dench CH DBE FRSA (born 9th December 1934)

Sunday, 8 December 2019

She opened a new door

"She opened a new door for us, for all the singers in the world, a door that had been closed. Behind it was sleeping not only great music but great idea of interpretation. She has given us the chance, those who follow her, to do things that were hardly possible before her." - Montserrat Caballé

We missed celebrating the birthday of "La Divina", Maria Callas - one of the most influential opera divas of the 20th century...

...all hail!

Maria Callas (born Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos, 2nd December 1923 – 16th September 1977)

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Lord knows I'm not a school girl in the flurry of her first affair

Another "ghost from the vaults" has emerged, as I continue my journey of repair and restoration of old blogs. I've almost finished going through 2012, and en route I rediscovered this long-forgotten delight.

Once upon a time, in a drag bar in Brussels, this happened...


Friday, 6 December 2019

Your stomach pulled in, your waist slightly forward; keeping that posture and - reach!

I'm sorry, I thought you said GIN and Tonic...

It's been a long week. Thank Disco It's Friday, peeps!