Thursday, December 29, 2005

An update on accents

In my post on Schott's Almanac, I listed the ten most liked and ten least liked celebrity accents.

Today, in this article titled 'Regional accents bad for trade', the BBC reports that an overseas accent is better for success in commercial life than an English regional one.

The survey found 77% of business people thought a Home Counties accent was a sign of success in business followed by 73% favouring an American accent, 63% a Scottish accent, 52% continental European and 25% believing Indian or Asian accents were successful.

However 64% of business people regarded those with a Liverpudlian accent unsuccessful, closely followed by a Birmingham or West Midlands accent, 63%, Cockney, 52% and Geordie or West Country 48%.


Unfortunately, I can't tell you where South African accents appear in that pecking order.

Update on my Christmas card

It seems that the festive snowman was a correct prediction even though it wasn't intended as such. Snow started to fall on Boxing Day and there have been flurries of snow ever since. Not really being used to the stuff, it still excites me as it would excite a child. Everything looks so clean and beautiful and there is a special silence that descends, muffling the usual sounds of the city. So far, I've had to stop myself from sprawling face first on the pavement three times. I don't need any more facial scars so let's hope that I continue to avoid kissing the pavement.

As for the hanging of Glitter in Vietnam, it appears that that 'prediction' didn't come true. The BBC reports that he paid $2000 to each of the families of the two girls he is accused of sexually abusing. Both families have since written to the authorities asking them to drop child rape charges, which they have done.

Last Thursday of 2005

Since leaving work on Friday last week, I've completed ignored the blogosphere. In the real world, however, things rushed headlong into various states of oblivion but things weren't quite as debauched as they have been of late.

Friday: D popped round before we met Michelle at the Broadway cinema. We then went to Lord Roberts where we bumped into A before we all went clubbing at NG1. Michelle and I did lots of suggestive dancing while D had something sucked in the toilets. D spent the night with me.

Saturday: D returned later that day bearing a bottle of gin and brandishing a bottle of tonic. We went out again. He stayed over.

Sunday: The kids rang from Cape Town and made me sad for not being there. I went to Michelle's for lunch. R and MovieBuff joined us later that evening. R fell asleep while we watched Dr Who but re-joined us a couple of hours later. I was home by 10.30pm and went to bed. Alone.

Monday: A quiet day at home mostly spent sleeping. Was meant to meet R and Moviebuff for drinks but lethargy prevented that from happening. D arrived and spent the night.

Tuesday: Made my version of a 'roast dinner', ie roast chicken and trimmings, for D and me. I think he may have been taken aback by the amount of garlic and chilli. After lunch, we went out for a walk in the snow. It snowed while we walked - freezing but beautiful! We popped into Lord Roberts for a pint at about 5pm. D got chatted up by someone and went off home with him and I got chatting to JP who arrived at some point. Later, we were joined by A and we eventually found ourselves at the Central. I went home with a fresh chicken that I've known for over a year but not in that way before.

Wednesday: Quiet day at home. Quiet night but not early enough.

All in all, if I go over my list of things to remember for the weekend, I was pretty good even if not perfect.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas card

horny snowmanOne and a half shopping days to go until Christmas! Thank God for that! I don't have much shopping to do but I've still got some left.

Since a lot of you only tend to blog-surf while at work, you may not be passing this way until after Christmas. In which case, I'd better wish you a Merry Christmas now.

I hope you have a great time eating and drinking too much and get all the presents you wished for.

christmas fairyMy Christmas gift to you is a joke that is doing the rounds at the moment - apologies if you've already heard it.

Child: Mommy (Mummy if it's an English child), do they celebrate Christmas in Vietnam?

Mother: Not usually, darling, but they're hanging Glitter this year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Schott's Almanac

Now that I have Schott’s Almanac, I’ve been able to dip in and out of it quite a bit. Here are two items, one from the ‘Establishment & Faith’ section, the other from ‘Media & Celebrities’ that you may enjoy.

The Cut (Establishment & Faith)
To ‘cut’ is to affect not to know someone when passing or meeting them. An Edwardian dandy (or ‘knut’) would have recognised four different forms of cut:

The Cut Direct
To look an acquaintance straight in the face and pretend not to know him.

The Cut Indirect
To glance another way and pretend not to see an acquaintance.

The Cut Sublime
To admire some object or distant scene until the acquaintance has passed.

The Cut Infernal
To stop and attend to your shoes until the acquaintance has walked by.

There may not be too many Edwardian dandies about these days but all of you gay boys who have prolific sex lives on the gay scene, not something I know much about of course, must find this all a bit familiar.

Someone needs to update that list to apply to the modern gay scene. Any takers?

Accents (Media & Celebrities)
In 2005 ,the BBC carried out a survey to discover the British public’s attitude to regional accents. As part of the project the 5000 people questioned were asked to identify the celebrity voices they found most and least pleasant. The results were:

The Ten Most Pleasant Voices
Sean Connery (one of the sexiest men alive)
Trevor McDonald
Terry Wogan
Hugh Grant
Moira Stewart
The Queen
Billy Connolly
Ewan McGregor
Joanna Lumley (unwittingly dined with a child porn addict)
Pierce Brosnan

The Ten Least Pleasant Voices
Ian Paisley
Billy Connolly
Cilla Black
Paul O’ Grady – Lily Savage
Jasper Carrott
Janet Street-Porter
David Beckham
The Queen
Frank Skinner
Tony Blair

It seems that the British like 'posh' voices and Scottish and Irish accents. Personally, I can't understand how Billy Connolly landed up in the top 10 but I'm gratified that he also appeared in the bottom 10. One often hears that the Brummie accent is the 'worst' regional accent but Mike once told me that when Americans were polled to give their verdict on British regional accents, it came near or at the top. What do Americans know anyway? :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

London Pink Eye

london eye lit up pink for breakthroughMass outbreak of conjunctivitis in London?

No, but London’s Eye was lit up pink last night. Well, that’s what I heard from G (of the G&M partnership that gets legalised in spring next year) via a text message last night. What a lovely gesture, I thought. They’re celebrating the fact that the first Civil Partnerships in England and Wales will be registered today. But in doing a google on ‘pink London eye’ this morning, I came across this site. Oh dear, it’s just a cynical marketing exercise as the Eye will be available for ‘gay weddings’. But that same search threw up evidence of a previous pink eye when it was lit up pink in support of the Breakthrough breast cancer charity. Ok, maybe I’m overly cynical.

Well, whether it was an advertising gimmick or a celebratory gesture, it must have looked very pretty in pink.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mutilating Barbie

barbie in pinkYou've got to feel sorry for girls - they really get the raw end of the deal when it comes to toys!

Have you ever been up and down the aisles of a toy shop and noticed how enticing the boys toys are then been faced by the rows and rows of dolls and doll paraphernalia that make up the girls' section? And dominating that section is the pink bordello, a monument to kitsch, reserved for Barbie and her pink accoutrements.

Buying toys for my son was always a great pleasure but until my daughter began to be fashion conscious, buying anything for her was a chore. She never went through a classic doll phase ('Dad, I don't like them, they stare at me.') but like most young girls she went through a phase of being Barbie-obsessed. Fortunately, especially to my wallet, the phase didn't last long and her vast collection of Barbies and their bits and pieces got assigned to a box at the bottom of a cupboard before making the final move out of the home.

So, it's no surprise to read yesterday's TimesOnline to discover research has found that Barbie is routinely tortured by young girls.

The methods of mutilation are varied and creative, ranging from scalping to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving, according to academics from the University of Bath.

“You might expect little girls to love their Barbie and expect an imaginary love in return. Instead girls feel violence and hatred towards their Barbie,” Agnes Nairn, one of the researchers, said.

“The children never talked of one single, special Barbie. The girls almost always talked about having a box full of Barbies. So to them Barbie has come to symbolise excess. Barbies are not special; they are disposable, and are thrown away and rejected,” Dr Nairn said.


And now, one of Barbie's lesser known films. Be warned, it may offend sensitive viewers .



Let me know if the clip doesn't play.

Scarface - Part 3

healed head woundIn discussing the new depths plumbed this past weekend, I neglected to mention that I added another chapter to chapters one and two of my Scarface saga.

At some point during the night after I’d returned to the flat with A, I managed to trip over something in the bedroom and hit my temple on the bedside table. Fortunately, the ‘wound’ is under my hairline so isn’t visible to all and sundry but, as usual, there was profuse bleeding. Enough bleeding to make me wash all the bedclothes the following day. Although the area is still very tender and swollen, I don’t think that there will be much scarring once it’s healed.

Yep, I certainly need to get a grip on things. So that list of things to remember for this coming weekend is rather important, I’d have thought.

Things to remember for this weekend

I know that it's a bit early to be thinking about the weekend but it's probably a good idea to drum these things into my head now:
  • do NOT drink a bottle of red wine before going out
  • do NOT double-drop anything
  • do NOT take anyone home if I'm not going to remember in the morning
  • DO finish reading the Saturday papers on Saturday and the Sunday papers on Sunday
  • do NOT only eat starches
  • DO ring friends and family, whether on Christmas day or another day
  • do NOT get depressed about not being with the kids on Christmas
  • DO get out of the flat during the day to do more than just go to the corner shop
  • DO consider staying in at least one of the nights
  • DO think of other things I should do or shouldn't do

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shooting down the flag

mozambique flag
The BBC reports today: Mozambique's parliament has rejected an opposition attempt to get the image of a gun removed from the national flag.

The gun represents the AK47 that was used in the wars of independence against the Portuguese after which a Marxist regime was installed. That was dumped years ago and the 1990 constitution brought in a multi-party, market-orientated government. But, to this day, relics of the communist past remain which are quite quaint in their way. Many of the main streets in Maputo, the capital, are named after leading lights in communist history, many of them almost forgotten: Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Engels, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung, Julius Nyerere, Salvadore Allende, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Ze Dong, etc.

As far as I know, there is no talk of renaming these streets. Keeping streets named after African liberation heroes (eg Julius Nyerere) may make sense but the foreign communist names make no sense at all.

And thus endeth today's history and geography lesson.

Update: More Information about the Mozambiquan flag
Since one of my readers has requested more information about the flag, I found some more information here:

Mozambique Flag Meaning:
The red stripe represents Mozambique's struggle for independence. The green symbolizes the land. The black represents the African continent and yellow stands for the mineral wealth of the nation. The yellow star represents the socialist beliefs of the country. The book represents education and the hoe represents the peasants and agriculture. The rifle represents the nation's determination to defend its freedom.

Mozambique Flag History:
The Mozambique flag was adopted on May 1, 1983. Mozambique gained independence from Portugal on June 25, 1975. The current Mozambique flag is based on the flag of Frelimo (the Mozambique Liberation Front), the organization which led the campaign for independence. The Frelimo flag was virtually the same as the current Mozambique flag but without the emblem on it. It was used briefly as the transitional flag when the leader of Frelimo became the first president of an independent Mozambique in 1975.

Interesting Mozambique Flag Facts:
The flag of Mozambique is the only one in the world to feature a rifle, as it has an AK47 on it.

A contest was held to design a new flag of Mozambique in September 1999 and 119 entries were received. A winner was picked, but a new Mozambique flag has never materialized.

In another article found here, there is mention of the fact that some people wanted to change the yellow star owing to its association with communism. "If Mozambique's single star were to symbolize Communism, Joaquim Chissano, the nation's president for 19 years, said, the Stars and Stripes would place the United States among the world's most leftist nations." He seems to ignore the fact that in flag symbolism, there is a vast difference between stars of different colours! Anyhow, it seems that the star is no longer an issue so it seems bound to remain in the new flag whenever it finally gets unveiled.

New depths

I wish I was referring to hidden depths recently found. Quite the contrary, however.

As usual, I went out on Friday night. As usual, I drank too much. As usual, I landed up at the club. As usual....

I woke up late morning on Saturday with a rather fuzzy head and went to make myself some coffee. Two teabags in the sink puzzled me a bit as I hardly ever drink tea let alone two cups in a row. And then I remembered making tea for someone during the night. Someone who was no longer in the flat and of whom I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever.

Last night I made dinner for A partly for having lost a bet and partly to thank him for having bought me Schott's Almanac. We went out afterwards and did the whole local gay circuit thing. He came home with me.

That was a very bad idea as having sex with him can only lead to complications of a sort I do not need. We had a brief fling months ago but he still has very strong feelings for me. I don't want anything more than friendship from our relationship so going to bed with him again really isn't clever.

New depths? I have plumbed them and really need to get a grip.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

For all you werewolves out there

full moonIt's full moon tonight. Not only is it full moon, but it's a rather special one.

The December full moon is known for mimicking the path of the sun in June. The June sun travels its northernmost path across the sky during the day. Likewise, the full moon in December is, generally, the northernmost full moon of the year. That means the December full moon rides high tonight as seen from the northern hemisphere, and low as seen from the southern hemisphere.

Tonight's full moon will be travelling across the sky on an even more northern path than usual. It's the northernmost full moon until December of the year 2023. That's because we're entering into what's called a major lunar standstill cycle, a cycle that repeats every 18.6 years. A lunar standstill is similar to a solstice, when the sun travels its most northern or southern path.

Because it's near a major lunar standstill, the moon in 2006 will go farther north and south each month than the sun ever does.

Exciting stuff, don't you think? Just remember to hide when you hear wailing later tonight.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Friday night had to be a good one

It had been a long week - all those early mornings are tough on a night owl - so I was ready to let my hair down. H was popping round to drop off some 'smarties' and it was going to be one of those rare Friday nights when Mike would be out.

In some strange celebration of the night that was yet to be, I finished most of a bottle of red wine with my meal. Never a clever thing to do but sometimes these things happen.

Just before I left the flat, D rang to find out what I'd be doing. I didn't really feel like seeing him right away so I made some excuses but told him I'd be out and about much later on and that he should contact me then if he still wanted to meet up. I met A at the Lord Roberts and we had a few pints of Stella before Mike arrived, quite a bit earlier than expected.

We eventually went to the club.

I remember arriving there and I remember spending time talking to Mike and A. I also remember talking to several other friends but there's a huge chunk of the night that's a complete blank. Although I later discovered that the smarties weren't very strong, 'double-dropping' them on top of all that alcohol had a predictable effect.

I don't remember leaving the club.

So waking up at about 10 the next morning with my arm around a man was all a bit of a surprise. He was turned away from me so I couldn't see his face which would have helped the recollection process. I must have met up with D after all.

Being horny, I began to run my hand over him.

He stirred slightly but there wasn't much life in him. My befuddled brain noticed something was different - he didn't feel as lean and defined as I was used to. My hand went lower and before long there was life in his groin even if none anywhere else. That's odd, he feels smaller than I remember. Not massively smaller but definitely smaller! Jeez, my brain is playing tricks on me! Or maybe it played tricks on me before?

Although very eager for it, I gave up trying to get a proper response from him. I carried on lying there with my arm around him thinking about how one's brain is an odd, deceitful organ. I kept trying to remember when I'd met up with D and how we'd got back to my place without my having any knowledge of it.

Yes, I know what you're thinking but hold that thought.

What I've neglected to mention so far is that D is black. I don't know too many black men here in Nottingham and the man in my bed was black. In fact, I only know one, D. I eventually got up to go to the toilet. On my return, I saw my bed-partner's face for the first time.

It wasn't D!

He wasn't a total stranger either. I'd met J before, about 2 year's ago in London where he lives and spent the night with him (an interesting night!) and seen him twice since then in Nottingham as he has a house here that he rents out. Once I'd realised who it was, chunks of the night began to return. I still don't remember seeing him at the club or arriving at my flat with him.

But many of the best parts of the night definitely returned!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hints work!

Seems like this hinting thing works after all. I didn't get my ticket to Cape Town but A (he who donates ashtrays to a worthy cause) has bought me Schott's Almanac. So, now that I've got one present bagged, it may be time to throw about a few more hints.
  • ticket to Cape Town
  • digital camera
  • DVD of 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?'
  • watch this space for more hints

I've never seen that Joan Crawford / Bette Davis classic and every self-respecting gay man needs to have seen it at least once it's said. And since it incorporates drama, thriller and horror, I'm bound to love it.

Only 14 days left before Christmas....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

All I want for Christmas....Part 3

If you read part 1, you'd know that what I want is to be in Cape Town and that I'm rubbing my face in with the fact that I won't be by trawling the net for great pictures of Cape Town. Since then, there's also been a part 2.

Today, you have some scenes from the V&A (that is Victoria and Alfred - yes, Alfred, not Albert) Waterfront. I don't really like to spend too much time there as it's a real tourist trap but beautiful, nevertheless.

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Location: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Photographer: Herwiga Peters
'Stolen' from here: fotocommunity

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Location: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Photographer: Christiaan Amemering
'Stolen' from here: fotocommunity

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Location: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
Photographer: Gerhard Kespohl
'Stolen' from here: fotocommunity

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why Martha! Your Sunday chapel dress!

who's afraid of virgina woolf?For a number of reasons, my fag-credibility factor is a bit lower than it should be to be a fully-fledged member of the card-carrying faggaratti. For instance, I loathe shopping (although I do like fucking). And I’m definitely not trend-driven nor overtly style-conscious even though I appreciate good design and take a detached interest in it. I only ever own one bottle (if that) of cologne at a time and I’ve never used moisturiser. Also, I’ve never been a great fan of the traditional gay icons like Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, etc, etc. That’s not to say that I dislike most or any of them, I just can’t get wildly excited about them as so many of the faggaratti do.

But, having said that, I love ascerbic wit and clever, bitchy put-downs, something that so many of the gay icons of cinematic history excel at. So I knew that I’d love reading the entries on Joe's blog when he called for contributions to a list called Gay Men's 100 All Time Favorite Movie Quotes.

Even to me with my bad memory for such things, some of them are as common to me as lines of poetry would have been to a 19th century public schoolboy. But ask me to recall where they came from or who actually said them and I’m usually stumped. However, the one line I recalled perfectly was one of the many classic put-downs from the film of the play of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’:

elizabeth taylor’Why Martha! Your Sunday chapel dress!’ – George to Martha after she appears in an outfit that is too tight for her.

That reminded me how harrowing (and brilliant) that film was so I decided to google for some more quotes. And here they are:

Martha: I swear to GOD George, if you even EXISTED I'd divorce you.

Honey: I dance like the wind.

Martha: Look, sweetheart, I can drink you under any godd*mn table you want, so don't worry about me.

Honey: Oh, I don't know, a little brandy maybe. "Never mix, never worry!"
George: Martha? Rubbing alcohol for you?
Martha: Sure! "Never mix, never worry!"

[Martha has changed into an embarrassingly tight and revealing outfit]
George: Why Martha! Your Sunday chapel dress!

Martha: I hope that was an empty bottle, George! You can't afford to waste good liquor, not on YOUR salary!

George: All I said was that our son, the apple of our three eyes, Martha being a cyclops, our son is a beanbag, and you get testy!

Honey: They dance like they've danced before.
George: It's a familiar dance, monkey nipples, they both know it.

Martha: You make me puke.
George: That wasn't a very nice thing to say, Martha.

George: Martha, in my mind you're buried in cement right up to the neck. No, up to the nose, it's much quieter.

Nick: To you, everybody's a flop. Your husband's a flop, I'm a flop.
Martha: You're all flops. I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops.

Nick: I'm tired, I've been drinking since nine o'clock, my wife is vomiting, there's been a lot of screaming going on around here!

George: So you get testy, naturally, don't worry about it! Anybody who comes here ends up getting testy, it's expected. Don't be upset.
Nick: I'm not upset.
George: You're testy.
Nick: Yes.

George: Martha is 108... years old. She weighs somewhat more than that.

Nick: Who did the painting?
George: Some Greek with a moustache that Martha attacked one night.

George: Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?

George: Vanish!

Martha: I disgust me. You know, there's only been one man in my whole life who's ever made me happy. Do you know that?
[pause]
Martha: George, my husband... George, who is out somewhere there in the dark, who is good to me - whom I revile, who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha: Sad, sad, sad. Whom I will not forgive for having come to rest; for having seen me and having said: yes, this will do.

George: You take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on the principles of... of principle. You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose. Then, all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? Up yours.

George: I'm very impressed.
Martha: You're d*mn right.
George: I said I was impressed. I'm beside myself with jealousy. What do you want me to do, throw up?

Martha: [derogatorily, to George] Hey, swamp! Hey swampy!
George: Yes, Martha? Can I get you something?
Martha: Ah, well, sure. You can, um, light my cigarette, if you're of a mind to.
George: No. There are limits. I mean, a man can put up with only so much without he descends a rung or two on the old evolutionary ladder, which is up your line. Now, I will hold your hand when it's dark and you're afraid of the boogeyman and I will tote your gin bottles out after midnight so no one can see but I will not light your cigarette. And that, as they say, is that.
Martha: Jesus.

Martha: Well, you're going bald.
George: So are you.

Nick: [to Honey] We'll go in a little while.
George: Oh no. No, you mustn't. Martha is changing, and Martha is not changing for me, Martha hasn't changed for me in years. If Martha is changing, that means we're going to be here for days. You're being accorded an honor, and you mustn't forget that Martha is the daughter of our beloved boss. She is his right... arm. I was going to use another word, but we'll leave that sort of talk to Martha.

[George takes a corner far too fast, tossing everyone in the car from side to side. Pause]
Martha: Aren't you going to apologize?
George: Not my fault, the road should've been straight.
Martha: No, aren't you going to apologize for making Honey throw up?
George: I didn't make her throw up.
Martha: What, you think it was handsome there? You think he made his own wife throw up?
George: Well, you make me throw up.
Martha: That's different.

Martha: Hey!
George: Hark! Jungle sounds.
Martha: Hey!
George: Animal noises.

George: You're a monster - You are.
Martha: I'm loud and I'm vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody's got to, but I am not a monster. I'm not.
George: You're a spoiled, self-indulgent, willful, dirty-minded, liquor-ridden...
Martha: SNAP! It went SNAP! I'm not gonna try to get through to you any more. There was a second back there, yeah, there was a second, just a second when I could have gotten through to you, when maybe we could have cut through all this, this CRAP. But it's past, and I'm not gonna try.

Martha: I looked at you tonight and you weren't there... And I'm gonna howl it out, and I'm not gonna give a d*mn what I do and I'm gonna make the biggest god-d*mn explosion you've ever heard.
George: Try and I'll beat you at your own game.
Martha: Is that a threat George, huh?
George: It's a threat, Martha.
Martha: You're gonna get it, baby.
George: Be careful Martha. I'll rip you to pieces.
Martha: You're not man enough. You haven't the guts.
George: Total war.
Martha: Total.

elizabeth taylor and richard burtonGeorge: I used to drink brandy.
Martha: You used to drink bergen, too.

George: Do you really think I'm going to kill you, Martha?
Martha: You? Kill me? That's a laugh.
George: Well, now, I might... some day.
Martha: Fat chance.

George: And that's how you play "Get the Guests".

George: Good. Better. Best. Bested.

All I want for Christmas...Part 2

If you read part 1, you'd know that what I want is to be in Cape Town and that I'm rubbing my face in with the fact that I won't be by trawling the net for great pictures of Cape Town.

Here is a view of Robben Island taken from Table Mountain. Lion's Head is in the foreground.

robben island

Location: Robben Island, Cape Town
Photographer: John Janson
'Stolen' from here: fotocommunity

Thursday, December 08, 2005

All I want for Christmas....

In an attempt at alleviating my blues at not being in Cape Town this festive season, I’ve decided that I’m going to start a regular post where I bring you the best of Cape Town and surroundings as found in pictures on the web. Yes, I know, it’s probably going to have the reverse effect and probably deepen them instead.

For pictures where no copyright information exists, I may give you a link to where they are. That's if I remember where I found it. Where copyright does exist, I’m going to steal the pictures but I’ll credit the owner and provide a link. Perhaps they’ll forgive me should I get found out. If not, I’ll face that hurdle when I get there.

So, here we go, the first picture and a ‘stolen one at that.

the twelve apostles
Location: The Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay, Cape Town
Photographer: Michael Jaspers
'Stolen' from here: fotocommunity

Christmas facts

Schott's Almanac
Christmas has almost passed me by this year. Sure, I see the decorations in the office, the shops and bars but I’m almost oblivious to the Christmas buzz that invades everything at this time of year. That buzz that fills the air with anticipation for some and loathing for others. There are two reasons for this, one being that I hardly ever walk in the parts of the city where the shopping crowds mill even though I live right in the city centre. So, I’m largely unaware of the shopping frenzy that happens all around me. This reason is being aided and abetted by the other reason, namely that I won’t be in South Africa with friends and family, especially my kids. Like many a jaded cynical adult, I’m not particularly fond of Christmas but knowing how much the kids look forward to it does make it a special occasion. So, since I won’t be there, I’m not out and about looking for presents for them and I don’t have a trip to Cape Town to focus my energies on.

Do I sound a bit down about all this? Too right I am! But there are ways of cheering me up besides buying me a ticket to Cape Town. Presents are always welcome and I have lots of suggestions should someone want to buy me something. For instance, how about Ben Schott’s recently released ‘Schott’s Almanac’? It’s just the sort of book I like – full of arcane and useless facts that can be dipped into at any time and for as long or as short as time as possible. And, it makes perfect toilet-reading. From the Guardian:

Schott's Almanac is ostensibly a record of historic reference, chronicling the past year's important events, but it is punctuated with unpredictably diverting statistics, such as the average number of sexual partners men and women had in the previous year. In between accounts of the general election and the tsunami, there is a list of classical music used in TV adverts, an analysis of the popularity of automobile models according to drivers' names (women called Dorothy, Joyce and Doreen favour the Nissan Micra) and a transcript of the Queen's Christmas broadcast.

You'll have realised that the Almanac is obviously aimed at the British public. But based on the great success of his ‘Schott’s Miscellanies’ series and the expected success of his Almanac, his publishers expect an infinitely renewable Christmas formula that can be extended to any country.

So, like Trivial Pursuit (which the Almanac is), expect an annual ‘Schott’s Almanac’ aimed at the country where you live.

Entertaing stuff, don’t you agree? Here, let me give you a few examples to make my point:

hangman's nooseThe Death Penalty:
While five countries abolished the death penalty in 2004 (Bhutan, Greece, Samoa, Senegal, and Turkey), Amnesty International states that in the same year >3797 were killed in 25 countries, the most for a decade. The worst offending states were:

China >3400
Iran >159
Vietnam >64
USA 59
Saudi Arabia >33
Pakistan >15
Kuwait >9
Bangaldesh >7
Egypt >6

Women are most attracted to:
Surgeons * solicitors/barristers * company directors * journalists * IT professionals * management consultants * architects/designers * bankers/brokers * TV directors * academics

Men are most attracted to:
Journalists * TV directors * human resource workers * designers/architects * property * academics * bankers * advertising * doctors * writers

Some Survey Results of 2005
82% of adults back Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
82% want immigrants screened for HIV, TB, and hepatitis
80% of workers think some of their colleagues underperform
75% think GP surgeries are more important than walk-in centres
75% of Russians fear their own police force
69% of teachers in England & Wales back abortion education
66% agree that voluntary euthanasia should be legal
66% do not want the Queen to abdicate
65% of British Muslims believe clerics should preach in English
63% of Chinese have ‘very bad’ or ‘not very good’ impression of Japan
59% support an independent enquiry into Iraqi war casualties
55% think GB will be at a greater security risk hosting the 2012 Olympics
52% do not think nuclear power should be a future energy source
50% of women prefer to make love in the dark
48% associate the Rotary Club logo with their charity work
46% of adults think Anti-Social Behaviour Orders effective
46% prefer team to individual sports
46% of men prefer brunette women (30% prefer blondes)
44% ‘strongly agreed’ with Bluewater’s policy to ban ‘hoodies’
42% of Americans believe in creationism over evolution
42% of adults find a sea view conducive to relaxation
42% of women think about sex while on the London Underground
38% of British people take pride in Big Ben as a British symbol
33% believe contact with or by the dead is possible
32% of OAPs think means testing social security benefits is ‘demeaning’
30% of Plymouth Hospital staff do not want care in their hospitals
30% of London teenagers are distracted by mobiles when crossing roads
25% think Prince Harry’s Nazi costume was acceptable as any
23% have ‘never trusted Tony Blair’
22% 14-year-old girls have had sex (of whom 65% had unprotected sex)
22% of men think about sex while on the London Underground
21% of 13-19-year-old girls have been hit by their boyfriends
21% of drivers think speeding acceptable if there is little other traffic
18% think the Monarchy should end with the Queen
15% of the Welsh do no housework at all
14% of pensioners regularly feel lonely
14% of badgers found dead by the roadside had tuberculosis
12% of Italians believe that Jews lie about the Holocaust
10% failed to identify Nelson as the British admiral at Trafalgar
10% children (5-16) have a clinically recognisable mental disorder
9% think enough is being done to protect children from sex offenders
8% are interested in the sport of wrestling
6% of women buy jewellery on impulse (1% of men do)
1% of women are happy with their shape
Schott's AlmanacThere are a few more lists (not quite as interesting, in my opinion) to be found on the official website.

Now you know what to get me for Christmas. But if you want to buy me a ‘worthier’ book, I have quite a long list. And, if you want to splash out a bit more, a digital camera would go down very nicely. And….

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Am I fickle or just hypocritical?

retro ashtray
Lest I get accused of being an outsourcee again, I won’t tell you whom I had dinner and a few drinks with last night. On the way back to my flat I stopped for a drink at the Lord Roberts. Before long, A arrived, he who very kindly gave me an ashtray the other day. It may have been stolen from somewhere but it’s the thought that counts, right? It’s the first ashtray I’ve owned since moving into the flat in April.

For the first few months I used a lemon squeezer. No, I didn’t use it for squeezing lemons once it became an ashtray. I chucked it out when I left there in August for the wilds of Surrey so on returning in October, I had to resort to something else. Since then, until Monday this week, I’ve been using a saucer. All very sordid and just the sort of thing a straight bachelor would do.

While chatting to A, I noticed the cute Macedonian who’s been catching my eye for weeks now. Although D accused him of having the style of a typical Eastern European that hasn’t, for me, downgraded his cuteness factor. We’ve only really had one long conversation before and that was on Saturday night at the club so we’ve done more than just catch each other’s eyes. He came up to me last night and ‘accused’ me of being interesting (mois?) and suggested I join him and his friend at their table. Later we were joined by a Geordie who’d been loitering in the toilet. The conversation roamed everywhere including the non-fact that we’re descended from chimpanzees. Just before I left, Macedonian and Geordie went off to the toilet and I later discovered that there was a very specific reason for their going together. And it had nothing to do with powdering of noses!

You’d be wrong in thinking me a prude and you have every right to think that I may be rather hypocritical but I’ve gone off him now.

Well, that ‘romance’ didn’t last long!

Scarface - Part 2

Scarface - 1983 - Brian de Palma
Go here for part 1.

I found myself just outside Port Alfred staying in a small cottage on a holiday farm after having spent a few days with B in East London. I’d arrived in the early afternoon and was enjoying the solitude of the bush while waiting for B to drive down after work. The African bush can be gentle and harsh, silent and loud, peaceful and hostile, and more. All at the same time. It was peaceful that day, mostly silent except for the cries of the birds in the nearby stream. The cottage, a lovely wood and corrugated iron building, perched on a rocky outcrop and had a stoep (verandah) that projected over some rocks. A thin balustrade of criss-crossed wooden slats protected one from the rocks below. As I looked out towards the distance, my started to drift and I realised that I was missing C. I hadn't seen him for over a week since leaving Cape Town. I decided to give him a ring.

I really have no idea why I decided to lie on the thin balustrade, the top of which could not have been much more than 10 cm wide, but I did. For the next 15 or so minutes, I lay there, balancing myself while talking to C on my mobile.

And then I lost my balance.

I felt myself falling towards the rocks and did my best to twist my body towards the stoep, using both legs to grab the criss-crossed slats to leverage myself away from the drop to the rocks below. It would have worked had the slats not broken. But, they did. I fell two metres on to the rocks below, bruising and scratching myself in several places.

I also gashed open my forehead.

As with the aftermath of flying off the horse, my head started to pumping out blood. By the time I’d rung C to tell him what had happened and that I’d have to continue the conversation another time, I was drenched in the stuff. Leaving a trail of blood all through the cottage, I got into the shower and stayed there until the bleeding slowed, then stopped.

Needless to say, B was a bit more than surprised to see what had happened when he arrived a couple of hours later He suggested going to the hospital as he thought I needed stitches. I did but chose not to go. In the morning my forehead looked angry and swollen and I had a very black eye. After a few days, the black eye was gone. The scar remained.

It’s still there of course but it’s ‘disguised’ by the next scar that happened on the day before the eve of the millennium.

no 1 Loader StreetThe atmosphere in Cape Town’s de Waterkant ‘gay ghetto’ seems particularly happy and abandoned in the weeks running up to New Year and for quite a few beyond. It’s mid-summer so the days are long and the temperatures soar. Everyone seems to be on holiday and the place is full of new faces. Tanned and tipsy people crowd the bars and spill out on to the street. Music blares out from everywhere. It’s a good time of the year.

It was good that year but different. Big millennium parties were being planned while Y2K jitters abounded. I’d spent the past year on Y2K contingency planning and was more than ready to focus on the new year in a different way. I wanted it to be a blast!

I’d seen C on the Friday, the 29th and told him that I’d not be seeing him again until New Year’s Day. I changed my mind the following afternoon when M rang and convinced me that it was a good idea to go play pool at Rosie's (much less of a bears place in those days).I rang C to say that there’d been a change in plan and to get him to join us. His phone went straight to voicemail. I left a message and drove into town to meet M.

M is good at pool. Very good, actually. Apart from very rare flashes of brilliance, I’m rather mediocre at it but love playing nevertheless. The more I drink and lose, the more competitive I get, hoping against all odds that I’ll have a winning streak. We played for hours that afternoon, mostly just against each other but sometimes against others. I rang C several times but I still got his voicemail. Each time I went to the bar for more drinks, I found myself staying there longer, talking to E, the very sexy barman. I may have been drunk but I noticed that his fingers lingered on mine longer than necessary each time I got another drink. By the time C returned the call it was past midnight. By that time I knew that I had to spend the night with E.

‘Sorry I missed your call, ‘he said, ‘are you still at Rosie's?’

‘Yes, still here. I’m rather drunk now,’ I replied.

‘Oh, I see.’ He sounded slightly annoyed. ‘Come to my place when you’re finished.’

‘I think I’d better not. I’ve still got a game to finish and it’s really late and I’ve had too much to drink.’

‘Come on, you don’t have to stay long,’ he said.

‘Not so sure about that, I’ll see. Speak to you later,’

In the next hour, I stopped playing and spent most of the time at the bar with E. Eventually M decided to go home. As people drifted off to the clubs, the place thinned out. E asked me to wait until he could get off. I agreed. In the meantime, my phone kept getting messages and calls from C. I replied to the first few messages but then began to ignore them. By the time E joined me outside for a drink, I’d switched it off.

ManhattansI don’t think we finished our drinks before we decided to go. As soon as we got into my car, our hands were all over each other. Had it not been for the streetlights and the smallish crowd still standing outside Manhattans, we’d probably have had sex there and then. I slowly pulled away from E, removing my hand from his crotch so that I could get the key into the ignition.

The loud thump on the roof of the car and the appearance of C screaming at my window were almost simultaneous. C doesn’t have a car so his being there was totally unexpected. It was also totally unwelcome. Before I had time to react, he’d kicked in my window, covering us with a shower of shards.

‘You fucking bastard, you fucking cunt! You’ve fucked up my life!’ he bellowed.

A piece of glass had lodged itself into my forehead. I felt the familiar feel of blood gushing out of my head. As the hot blood pumped out of my head, I felt a surge of iciness spread through my veins. Suddenly, I was incredibly sober. And incredibly angry.

E left the car without a word and was immediately replaced by a screaming C.

‘Cunt, you fucking cunt!’

At first a screaming match developed and then my iciness took hold and I said, calmly and deliberately, ‘It’s over.’ All the while, the blood was covering my face and drenching my shirt.

I thought of driving off, leaving him there and never seeing him again but I needed to clear up the blood before I went home. While I drove to his flat, I discovered that he’d caught a taxi to find out what I was up to. He’d seen me in the car with someone and he’d seen me lean forwards as if I were about to drive off. That is when he’d sprinted towards the car and, taking a flying leap, he’d landed on top of the roof. It was horribly dented even though I’d tried to push it up and outwards before driving off. By the time we reached his place he was pleading with me not to leave him. I’d lapsed into a stony, angry silence by then.

We went upstairs and I got into his shower. After a few minutes, he got in with me and started stroking my face. Even as the water cascaded over his face, I could see his tears. He started sobbing.

‘Alan, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.’

Even though I was consumed with anger, I could understand why he’d reacted like he’d had. So many thoughts rushed through my mind but I knew that I didn’t want to see him ever again. As understandable as his reaction was, that sort of behaviour was totally unacceptable. He slid down to the floor, looking up at me in despair as the bloody water swirled around him. His hands were on my thighs.

I could feel myself getting aroused.

‘No, no, I can’t do that!’ I thought. That would be totally wrong. So totally wrong! I quickly got out of the shower, dried myself and got dressed. Five minutes later, I was driving home.

Since then, I’ve only had one other major mishap with my head - it was bloody, very bloody, but it didn’t leave me with any more scars. And although my head is tender and slightly swollen at the moment, whatever happened to my head this past weekend doesn’t count – there’ll be no sign of it in a few day’s time.

Go here for part 3.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sleeping better now

For those of you who were concerned about my sleeping patterns of last week, you'll be pleased to know that I've been averaging 5 - 6 hours for the past two nights.

I feel so refreshed!

Scarface - Part 1

Scarface - 1983 - Brian De PalmaWhile showering this morning, I realised that the cut on my forehead still felt very tender. It happened sometime between midnight on Saturday and midday on Sunday. I have absolutely no recollection of how, where or why it happened. The first time I became aware of it was Sunday evening and, since then, I’ve done my very best to do a careful rewind to discover its origin. To no avail – all blurs and blanks! It must have hurt for it to still be tender and slightly inflamed. And it must have bled quite a bit as I’ve had a bit of experience with head wounds and know how much they can bleed.

First there was the time when I insisted on riding Thaba Nchu (*), a mad horse that we used to stable for a mad German woman in Maputo (formerly Lourenco Marques). I was nine at the time. Both she and my mother tried do dissuade me from riding the horse after he’d had a long workout but I was particularly head-strong that day. As soon as I got into the saddle, he bolted. I didn’t have the strength to restrain him as he tore around the paddock, jumping over jumps, oblivious to the shouts of the women as he streaked past. On his third dash past the stables, Daniel, the ‘horse boy’ (forgive the term – another time, another place), was coming down to the stables from the kitchen, banging a bucket, his way of calling the horses for their supper. No amount of screaming from me or shouting from the women had penetrated Thaba Nchu’s brain but that bucket worked wonders. His u-turn was immediate and dramatic. My flying off in the original direction was immediate and dramatic.

I hit the stable wall with my head.

I don’t remember being concussed or knocked out in any way but the amount of blood that gushed out was considerable. By the time we’d got to the house, I was drenched in the stuff. I couldn’t stop wailing, ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die!’ Several hours later I was still alive but part of my head was shaved and I had a strong metal clip embedded in my scalp.

The scar is quite impressive but it’s hidden under a thick head of hair these days.

Next there was skin cancer. I first had a basal cell carcinoma cut out of my nose and top lip when I was in my late twenties, a very young age for that to happen. But, not entirely unexpected when you combine a very fair skin with a childhood in the tropics. I was meant to have my skin checked annual after that and I was quite good for a few years until complacency set in. In 1996, three years after my last check-up, I noticed a slight lump on my nose and went to see the dermatologist again. A week later I was having a large lump cut out of my nose again. A week after that, I underwent the entire procedure again as the surgeon hadn’t managed to get rid of it all the first time. On both occasions, the procedure was done under local anaesthetic – there was no pain but I could feel him digging and tugging. And I could feel the blood trickling down my face and neck.

A few months after having had the operation I was at a work function when a rather obnoxious woman who found herself amusing said, ‘Hey, looks like I’d better not meddle with you.’

The scarring was much more obvious at the time. I just smiled and said, ‘You’ll be ok if you don’t knock over my drink.’

‘So, what happened to you?’

I knew that I was going to embarrass her by my answer and I was only too pleased to. ‘I’ve got cancer.’

Even Cowgirls get the BluesShe looked aghast. The dreaded ‘C-word’ took the wind out of her sails. Her face a deep crimson, she mumbled, apologetically. I let her suffer a while before telling her that it wasn’t life-threatening and I was perfectly healthy.

For a few years, I was very self-conscious about my bumpy, carved-up nose. It reminded me of the ‘cubist nose’ talked about in Tom Robbins’s ‘Even Cowgirls get the Blues’ (the book, not the film!). It settled down ages ago but I now have two different profiles instead of the lovely Roman nose I used to have. I suppose it could be said to lend me a rugged, quirky look that isn’t unpleasant. The scar is obvious enough for me to get away with claiming to have got it in a barroom brawl or in a scrap over a man.

The next scar happened two years later when I did my Agatha Christie interpretation and disappeared for 10 days. No amnesia was involved and I didn’t have the world’s eyes on me but it caused a lot of concern amongst people I know.

Go here for Part 2.

(*) place of Execution in Sotho

Monday, December 05, 2005

'Gay Marriage' in the UK

‘Gay weddings’ come into law in the UK today with the first ceremonies under the Civil Partnerships Act taking place in Northern Ireland on 19 December, followed by Scotland the next day and England and Wales on 21 December. The new law accords people in same-sex relationships the same sort of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples with a few minor differences.

But unlike South Africa, where the law is scheduled to change within a year, civil partnership is not completely synonymous with marriage. There, the existing Marriage Act will be amended to include the words ‘or spouse’ instead of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’.

There are a number of countries that recognise a ‘registered partnership’ for gay couples, Denmark being the first country to institute such recognition in 1989. Until the South African change in the law comes into effect, the only countries where the registered partnership for gay couples can be called marriage are: Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada.

Ghosts from my working past

Sixteen years ago I was working at ICL in Reading. Ten years ago I was at Sanlam in Cape Town. A year ago I spent a few months at Skandia Life in Southampton.

Within days of arriving at this new job in Northampton, I was in a meeting with A whom I’d worked closely with at ICL. A few days later I bumped into R, one of the project managers whom I’d worked with at Sanlam. Today I saw someone who annoyed me intensely at Skandia Life. It’s not that unusual bumping into various past colleagues in the much smaller IT world of Cape Town but bumping into 3 of them in the huge British IT world in a rather insignificant English provincial town does seem unusual.

A looked very much as he did before except that his hair is greying now. He’s a bit too large to be wearing off-white suits – they make him look like a slighter Pavarotti. I asked, tongue-in-cheek, if his kids were still reading Swallows and Amazons having remembered how much he liked reading them those books. He was rather taken aback that I could remember that.

‘Um, no,’ he replied, ‘my daughter has just finished uni and my son is in his second year at uni.’

R was one of those larger than life characters who always seemed to have a new scheme up his sleeve. I think that the conservative management at Sanlam were unsure on how to handle him and he didn’t last that long. At one stage he owned an indoor cart-racing track just off Voortrekker Road and, for a while, he co-owned a nightclub in Long Street. I think that the nightclub got into trouble with the police over some issue or other - I may be wrong but it's the sort of thing that would happen to him.

He looks sleazier than ever – he even has a greasy, greying mullet now – and still walks as if he’s tilting backwards ever so slightly.

‘I’ll be in Cape Town over the festive period.’ he said. ‘You can borrow my Jag if you want.’

This was said in reference to my thinking of buying a car to commute between Nottingham and Northampton. It’s a strange thing to say to someone you don’t really know that well and I’m sure he didn’t mean it. Perhaps it was his way of letting me know that he drives a Jag? There’s been no mention of it again.

The Skandia person irritates me too much to discuss him.

Update: And yet another one! Just bumped into someone who worked with me at Boots in Nottingham last year. Also a bit of an oddball so doubt that we will spend cosy times in the coffee shop reminiscing about old times.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I’m not hungover but, boy, do I feel rough today!

Mike and I exchanged a series of emails yesterday:

Mike: So, where and when tonight? Bearing in mind your new early cycle, I guess we shouldn't stay out too late?

Alan: No, staying out late isn't a good idea as I've been averaging 3 - 3.5 hours a night since Sunday! I hope to be home by 6.30 at the latest so what time suits you? Earlier or later? Happy to meet up anywhere you like.

Mike: As for this evening, let's push things earlier. How about 8:30 in The Newmarket, and a STRICT VOW, breakable ON PAIN OF DEATH, not to go for "just one more" at The Central?

Alan: I'll see you at Newmarket at 8.30 and even if my arm were twisted, I'd not go to the Central. I can honestly say that I've gone off that place now and with later drinking hours elsewhere, there seems to be no reason to go there. So, ON PAIN OF DEATH, no suggestions of *just one more* ANYWHERE!

As planned, we met up at The Newmarket. Then we went to the Lord Roberts where we bumped into A. And then, guess what?

Yep, the three of us went to The Central!

And, as if that were not enough, D arrived. I hadn’t seen or heard from him since Friday night when I was rude to him in the club. He was drunk at the time (just for a change!) and wanted to go home with me but I’d sent him packing telling him to get hold of me when he was sober.

Again, he wasn’t sober. A bit of an altercation developed between him and A that was all a bit silly but heated enough for me to have to keep them apart.

Again, D asked to go home with me. This time he did.

I didn’t drink to excess so that explains the lack of a hangover but I reduced my sleep time to 2 hours. At this rate I’m going to give up sleeping altogether.