Friday, 27 February 2009

Guest Blog #4 - Andrew writes about what to write about

This is by my latest guest blogger. This entry is by Andrew, a Scot living and working in England. He has taken the unusual approach of blogging about what he decided not to blog about. Confused?! Read on!

Welcome to my guest blog entry. This is the first time I’ve done this and it is now almost 3 months since Stephen suggested it. I think I’ve finally got over my writer’s block now, so here goes...

It’s ironic that I should have had such a problem given that I write for a living. As a Paraplanner I produce reports and analysis for a Financial Adviser. Of course, what I write is rarely read by the intended recipients (indeed, I’m not sure how often my boss reads it either). Perhaps on a subconscious level the idea that this would actually have an audience is what caused me to struggle so much.

That’s not to say I haven’t had ideas. Topics have presented themselves and dismissed. Some great sentences have been drafted and forgotten. Deadlines have come and gone. In part, I’ve wondered how appropriate my thoughts have been for this forum and the carte blanche given to me stubbornly remained blank.

My initial idea, was inspired by a visit to the National Gallery of Scotland: a piece on sponsorship of the arts by the troubled banking groups. Both RBS and HBOS (as was) are huge investors in the arts, particularly in Scotland, and I thought to argue the merits of continued involvement even given the large public stakes taken by the Government. Inevitably there will be cutbacks but we need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Bound up with this was the recent campaign to raise £50 million to ensure that the Titian painting Diana and Actaeon remained in Britain. After some 200 years hanging in London and Edinburgh, the, the Duke of Sutherland – had decided to sell it and offered the National Galleries of Scotland first dibs... for £50 million... with 3 months notice... at the start of a recession.

Much has been made of the scramble to raise the funds with huge donations by the Scottish Government, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Gallery and various arts funding bodies at a time when many people are experiencing the pinch. The truth is that this Italian painting of a Roman myth is part of our cultural heritage. Saving it has secured a guarantee that the rest of the Bridgwater collection will remain on loan for at least 21 years. There is now also the option to purchase a sister painting: Diana and Callisto, for a similar sum in four years time. The timing may have been lousy but in the long run this nation will be richer for it.

The next idea, and by this point it was almost 2009, was to discuss New Year resolutions. Now doesn’t seem the time to raise these… or perhaps it is. Did you make any? How many have you kept? Is Lent really an exercise at giving people a second bite of the cherry? (Perhaps, unless cherry biting is what’s being given up…)

And so we reached February – after being giving a reprieve January – and still inspiration wasn’t striking. Stephen suggested I complete a “gay questionnaire” circular he had been sent, but that’s not really me. I mean, I am gay, but I don’t feel it’s central to who I am. Yes I have Dusty Springfield and Erasure CDs but that’s because I like the music – Streisand and Garland are absent from my collection. I’ve read Alan Hollinghurst's “The Line of Beauty” but that is because I like contemporary novels. My Facebook says I’m “Interested in Men” but I’ve not added any of the “I’m gay” applications. I’ve even given up on publications targeted at the “Pink Pound”. (As an aside, one in particular often leads with interviews with the tag line “their only gay interview” – what is that about? How can an interview be described as gay? Unless you mangle the language like Chris Moyles.)

So here we have it - many words on what I decided not to write about. A process of writing that never really got beyond a few aborted ideas. Perhaps I needed to be given a subject. Perhaps I should have written about the use of trusts for Inheritance Tax planning. Perhaps you’re wondering why I bothered at all. Whatever you feel – whether you would have liked longer pieces on any of the above topics or you will just be really glad that Stephen will be back writing the next entry – thank you for reading. I believe it’s customary to leave comments below. Be nice though, it was, after all, my first time.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

'The Chain' returns to the BBC

After 12 years of watching Formula 1 racing on commercial TV here in the UK, it is set to return to the BBC. This is great news as it's one of those sports where adverts just cant fit it and it will be a pleasure to watch Lewis Hamilton defend his title. Another reason to celebrate is that the BBC is to use the old theme tune - 'The Chain' by Fleetwood Mac.

I could bore you to death about how much I think of Fleetwood Mac (yep, I'm showing my age), so all I will say is that The Chain is a classic song and should be heard all the way through as the Formula 1 theme only uses the closing section of the song. The track appears on Rumours, their mega-selling 1977 album (that everyone should own) and was never a single. It was unusual in that the group wrote it together - something they never did before or since. It even gets its own Wikipedia entry

Here's the opening of the programme from 1990...

Monday, 23 February 2009

100 facts about me - 31 to 40

Here is the next part of the "100 facts about me" list - previous entries can be found here:

31. I cook a mean Lasagne, even if I say so myself.
32. I don’t class myself as superstitious, but I still won’t walk under a ladder.
33. I once owned a
Jukebox that played 7 inch singles, but sadly sold it due to a lack of space (that's a young me in the picture).
34. Coming out to my parents was scariest thing I have done.
35. Coming out to my parents was the biggest anti-climax I have experienced.
36. The last time I paid for a haircut was in the 20th century.
37. I subscribe to at least 20
38. I put my wide tastes in music down to my parents and two older brother playing lots of different kinds of music when I was growing up.
39. The Gherkin (i.e. 30 St Mary Axe) is my favourite building in London.
40. The Burj Al Arab in Dubai (which I have been inside) is my favourite building outside of the UK.

The links on 39 and 40 are my own pictures.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Three little words... I am gay

A couple of days ago, a new person started at work. He was joining me in a meeting on Tuesday and so, as I was driving and due to where he lives, it made sense for him to meet me at my house. When we were leaving, the conversation went something like:

Him: "Are you married?"
Me: "Virtually... as good as"
Him: "What does your other half do?"
Me: "Financial services – travelling around a bit"

I then changed the subject.

I had done something that I used to do and had stopped long ago... I dodged the gay topic and purposefully omitted the word “he”. I should, and would normally have said:

Him: "Are you married?"
Me: "Virtually... as good as – but it's a civil partnership for the likes of us"
Him: "What does your other half do?"
Me: "He works in financial services – travelling around a bit."

I would usually have done this, making it easy for them to see the situation and being honest with myself - so why did I not come clean?

As background: I worked on coming out for a long time. I was comfortable with my sexuality and didn't want to live a lie, so I dealt with it – telling friends and family in a well planned assault! It was a huge weight off my shoulders (if you want the full story, I can bore you with it one day). I cant say that I have ever been that confident in life and saying “I am gay” has never been easy, but I dealt with it. So why do I seem to be struggling with those 3 words again? I thought I had got over it.

I was "out" in my last job and had no problems and it made life so much easier. In fact, considering the number of 20something lads I worked with, me being gay was surprisingly never an issue. I was aided by my fellow gay boys JJ and Andrew which made it a bit easier I suppose. I am not your average gay guy - I don't like Kylie (that's Pete's job), I drink beer and I like football. I don't think I am an easy one to spot! Maybe that's part of the problem and I should camp it up a bit!!!

In my defence, I wasn't planning to come out at work - it's a very big organisation and I don't work closely with many people. I haven't needed to come out and with a few homophobic "jokes" at team meetings, I figured that I would avoid the subject for an easy life. My decision appears to have been a mistake as those people I do work with on a regular basis don't know the real me - a lie is a lie.

I've never been good at bringing "it" up in conversation, but recently telling people I am gay seems to be more difficult. Nothing has changed in my life, so why this mental block? I have no intention of going back to the days of living in the closet as being "out" is far far easier to handle (there is a enough crap to deal with being gay and living in the closet is just one extra piece of stress). So, after thinking that I had dealt with coming out long ago, here I am again having to face up to my own inadequacies. I need make a positive change here, so watch this space... I have a plan to sort this!

I would like to hear your views - so please add a comment. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking on the options on the right of the screen. If you like a particular blog entry, dont forget that you can 'mark' it as a goody on various sites - some of which are shown at the bottom of each blog entry, where you just click on the logo.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I'm The Only Gay Eskimo

Many years ago, Pete and I saw a comedian at Glastonbury and then at a local comedy night called Phil Nichol. He's an award winning Canadian funny man living in the UK - but a few years ago he was in a comedy group called Corky & The Juice Pigs. This is one of their songs (that Phil also did when we saw him) and it's called I'm The Only Gay Eskimo. It makes me laugh every time I see or hear it (it's on my ipod!).

and if that wasn't enough, here's one of those literal videos that's doing the rounds - it's A-Ha and there's also a very funny one featuring Tears 4 Fears here:

Monday, 16 February 2009


It was a fun weekend at my parents but a very dull day at work today - I really don't like going into the office to work any more. I am extremely tired and as there is not much to report, here are a couple of pictures I took at the weekend.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Ha, Ha, Shock, Wow

Four random items for your pleasure and entertainment...


I felt ill so I went to the doctors.
He told me I had to stop wanking.
I asked why.
He said it's because he's trying to examine me.

I saw this in London at St Pancras International station.
One of the three bunches of flowers in the pot... a bargain at £35!!!!!

Julien Quevenne

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The truth on a bottle of water

Believe it or not, I read something quite witty on the side of a bottle of fancy flavoured water recently...

“If you’ve had to use sick days because you’ve actually been sick then you’re seriously missing out my friends. The trick is to stay perky and use sick days to just, erm, not go in.

Don’t overdo it on the coughing front the day before you want to take a sickie though, big giveaway. Just stick with the ever elusive '24-hour bug' - no one can prove a thing. Just remember not to answer the mobile phone while out shopping when you are supposed to be a spluttering, bedridden wreck.

Please note: taking a 'sickie' is very very naughty."

It's so very true and the answer to that day when you really need some time to yourself and to unwind... while someone else is paying. The text is copyright Vitaminwater of course.

Monday, 9 February 2009


Here in the UK, there has been a TV series on Saturday evenings called Demons - it's a supernatural "drama" set in London . I don't usually watch ITV (as it is dumb down TV I'm afraid), but watched this for 2 reasons: Firstly, it looked like simple easy-to-watch TV and secondly, the lead role was played by the rather sexy Christian Cooke. It's not the highest quality programme, but fun enough with some scary and humourous scenes - there is an interview with Christian about it here.

As I know some of the filming locations well, the thing that annoyed me was that there was a lack of continuity sometimes: he will walk down one street, turn the corner and then jump a mile down the road. OK, I know it's just artistic licence! I also know that Christian's screen mother would need to be a millionaire to live where they do - but never mind.

In the first episode, Pete and I enjoyed the many many shirtless scenes - but in subsequent episodes, the flesh content was almost non existent! So I wrote a complaint email to ITV:

Dear Sirs

I would like to complain in the strongest terms about Demons
as seen on Saturday night on ITV1. After the first episode,
there were NO shirtless scenes of Christian Cooke and I feel
that this was a major oversight by ITV. Please ensure that
the storyline allows for more topless scenes featuring
Christian in future.

Yours faithfully


I didn't get a reply!

Saturday, 7 February 2009


On Friday afternoon, I sent a text to my friend Gavin asking if he fancied a beer "after" work as I knew he was snowed in. Pete and I walked into town and met Gavin and his cousin at one of the many pubs to choose from at around 5.30. The first coincidence of the evening is that Gav's cousin shares a flat with one of the guys from Pete's book group.

We went to another pub afterwards - an Irish place that neither Pete or myself had ever noticed. We met a few other people and chatted/played pool/played on the quiz machine. Then the second coincidence... our neighbours walked in to the pub. Now I have to admit that Pete and I haven't really made the effort to get to know our neighbours, so it was great to spend the next couple of hours chatting with them. They are a really nice couple - apart from thinking we were older than we are! I had drunk FAR too much and getting in past midnight and not having eaten was a bad idea.

Saturday = hangover.

Now you may think this is a bit sad, but I had heard a story about a new steam train that has been built and that it would be travelling through England today down to Kings Cross station in London. That means it had to go on the line close to our house. So, Pete and I took a walk to the local footbridge to take a look. I didn't quite expect a hundred or more people there with the same idea! We waited in the freezing temperatures (though it was sunny) for the train to puff it's way past. Quite an impressive sight! The occasion was so very English.

I watched the Rugby on TV - England versus Italy in the 6 Nations. We played badly in my opinion and leaving out the cute Danny Cipriani was a crime - not because we missed his rugby skills - no, it's just because he is nice to look at! However, the inclusion of Italy's star player, Sergio Parisse, almost made up for it. There's something about him and I think this picture helps demonstrate my views!
I think the rest of the day will be spent eating, watching TV and doing not much else.

Friday, 6 February 2009


I have been stuck in the house much of the week due to snow (unusually large amounts for England) . I managed to drive to work on Monday morning for a meeting. It's 35 miles and it took 3 hours, mainly due to the bad traffic on one stretch. The meeting was an assessment and it was pretty tough - basically my boss asked me questions about every part of my job and I had a set time to come up with each answer. It wasn't a yes/no type assessment as I had to explain some quite complex topics in detail (and with a sales twist to keep him happy). Not fun!

That meeting took 2 hours and the drive home was another 2 hours. Overnight there was loads of snow and on Tuesday, I tried to drive to a meeting but had to turn back as I had zero control over the car. I worked from home on Wednesday and on Thursday I didn't even try to move the car as it had snowed and snowed. This morning, I drove about 12 miles to a meeting and turned back as there were accidents all over the place - the round trip took 2 hours. I took this picture while sitting in a traffic jam for most of the time.
So this week has been dull and I'm feeling a bit stir crazy.

Yes, in England we fall apart when there is snow. Some roads had been gritted, but the very wet snow followed by freezing, had left everything like a slushy ice rink.... and it's not over yet.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Only a little bit gay

There is a buzz phrase going around:

Man Crush

It's supposedly when a straight man has a crush on another man, not in a sexual way but kind of idolising him. As one site defines it: "heterosexual man-on-man adoration".

What a load of rot. Since when did straight guys "fancy" other guys on any level - even if it's dressed up as I want to be him?!

This new approach to affection for another men is no different to that schoolboy crush they had on the head boy - but they put that down to a phase at the time. At my school, if you even mentioned in passing that you liked someone you would have been called gay for weeks. The irony can be ignored for this posting.

Admiring another guy is a completely different thing of course - but in the 21st century we like men to be able to appreciate their feminine side and hug friends all the time. If it's simple admiration, then fine, that's what you should define it as. But, don't call it a Man Crush as you are fooling yourself into believing that this infatuation is not tinged with gay feelings! It's probably a new trend by those idiots who use "gay" as an adjective. Bastards.

If the card companies card can create Grandparents Day, it wont be long before Man Crush Day is started. Look out for those Man Crush cards in the shops soon:

I have a crush on you! I want to be you!
But don't want to get into your pants...honest!

I fancy guys and I find it insulting that straight guys suddenly think it's OK to be a little bit gay without acknowledging that there is some homosexual tendency in their actions. Come on, be honest with yourselves - if you are looking at a guy and there are feelings other than admiration, then there's a bit of gayness in you, so admit it.

And to the straight guys: Remember, the next time you are alone in your bed and enjoying some "me time", don't be surprised if your Man Crush creeps into your thoughts! But that's not gay... is it.

I would love to read your comments on this or any blog entry.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Feeling old

Age seems to be a reoccurring conversation theme and it's pretty depressing isn't it!?! I try not to let it bother me, but there are reminders everywhere.

I read that this week was the 20th anniversary of the launch of Sky TV to the mass audience in the UK with movies, news, sports etc (they had just one channel up to that time). I was working for a Cable TV company at the time (I was 18) and it was a major event for us. It feels like a lifetime ago. I am in the middle of this picture - I had hair back then! I have some good memories from those days, but it was a crappy job and I should have left far earlier than I did. We live and learn.

If you can remember when Nevermind by Nirvana was released in 1991, you'll certainly recall the great artwork on the CD/LP. It featured a baby swimming underwater towards a US bank note. Well, that baby is all grown up and has reprised his role. How old do I feel?! The actor was Spencer Eldon and he is now 17 years old - I wonder how much hassle Spencer got at school for this? I have added the Simpson's version too for the fun of it.

And finally... although I wasn't born at the time, I think it's worth mentioning that 40 years ago this week, The Beatles performed live for the last time on the roof of their offices in Saville Row in central London. Some background to the show can be found here - it's a fascinating story as they tried to record a few tracks in a live setting after bickering for weeks. Unfortunately, the police stopped the performance after 40odd minutes. Despite the DVD of the film Let It Be never being released, there are plenty of clips around the net.