Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interview questions for Saddle Up

The interview meme shows little sign of dying.

This is my fifth interview and there are another two in the pipeline. And, after commenting on how I only seemed to be interviewing straight women, this interview will even the score between straight women versus gay men. The next interview will be another straight woman, the one after that, my first interview of a lesbian. Although this blog isn’t only about sexuality and I’m beyond redemption when it comes to PC-ness, I wonder where the straight men and transgendered volunteers are?

saddle upSaddle Up is my next victim. I hope that he won’t be a case of ‘sloppy seconds’ as he was probed by Gay Banker very recently.

We’ve all heard how women accuse most men of not being able to think further than their dicks. In Saddle Up’s case, there’s no doubting the truth of that accusation as not only is his main blog mostly sexual in nature but he has another that is devoted to his ever-increasing number of piercings, including his PA. But since ‘He’s a man who thinks with and about his dick all the time’ could apply to many men, that’s not really a good enough description of him. Fortunately, although he’s not been blogging for long, his blogs give us enough detail from which to form a mental image of him:

Saddle Up is a gay man in his early 30’s who lives in East Anglia with his two cats and his partner whom he refers to as ‘Fella’. He talks of having a good job that he’s good at and liking the environment and people that work there even though it isn’t as fulfilling as he’d like it to be. The work seems to involve a lot of meetings, telephone calls and emails but he doesn’t actually say what it is. Since he appears to have a good knowledge of HTML, as shown by his blog design, I’d hazard a guess that it’s IT-related.

Saddle Up and Fella have been together for a few years (I’m unable to work out how many). He’s always fancied older men and Fella is sixteen years older than he is. Although they both love each other, they no longer have sex, something that he regrets. He gives no reason for this but he suspects that Fella may be put off by his piercings. In the meantime, he has an active sex life that Fella has no idea about. This has been going on since before they stopped having sex.

Incidentally, his dick is referred to as ‘little fella’. I don’t think ‘little’ is meant to be taken literally and I don’t think you’re meant to read anything into the fact that he calls his partner a dick. :-)


And now for the questions…

Question 1:
‘I was never a sporty person really - I hated rugby - and my dad thought it was cool that I was in the school team so I guess I went along with it, for him more than me.’

Although you haven’t been blogging for that long, this is the only time you mention your father. You don’t even mention him as part of your ‘coming-out’ story. Should I read any significance into this?

Question 2:
Your first sexual encounter, with your married gym teacher, ‘Mr Wales’, lasted for 3 years while you were still at school. You say that he taught you many things, both sexually and mentally, and that most of your partners/boyfriends since then who’ve had any significant impact on your life have had common attributes to Mr Wales. Because you were entirely willing and there was no element of coercion, you don’t regard the affair as abuse. I have a very vivid recollection of myself as a young teenager being in a similar situation with an adult where I was more than willing to get sexually involved with him but I was too nervous and he wasn’t persistent and/or was unable to read my willingness. Nothing happened. Had something happened between us, I probably would not have thought of it as abuse either. The law, of course, would view it as abuse. But the law tends to look at things in black and white with little room for flexibility. However, as an adult, possibly influenced by the fact that I’m the father of a teenage son, I side with the law as many teenagers, especially those who are gay, are very vulnerable emotionally and sexually, and sexual contact with a much older person, particularly someone in a position of authority, could be very damaging. In your case, there appears to have been no damage. And, neatly reversing the accepted maxim that child abuse perpetuates itself by making abusers out of the abused, you’re more interested in older men than younger men.

This is meant to be a question not an essay, right? Ok, so here’s my question: What are your thoughts on sex with boys who are deemed under-age by the law?

Question 3:
I’m unable to tell if you work in a gay-friendly environment or not but you don’t seem averse to cruising guys in your work environment. Have you ever had sex with anyone from work at work? If so, isn’t this something to avoid à la the proverbial ‘don’t shit on your own doorstep’?

Question 4:
For someone who says he cries too rarely, you mention crying several times. Talking about James, the love of your life, reduces you to tears and listening to REM’s ‘You are the Everything’ always makes you feel like crying. Do you think you should cry more? Why? Are there any other songs that make you feel that way?

Question 5:
Soon after I stopped having sex with my wife (we’d been having it very infrequently before then), I recall reading an article in a women’s magazine on the reasons for the lack of sex in a relationship. The article’s rather simplistic analysis ascribed the problem to three reasons. He’s having an affair. There’s a physical/heatlh reason (tiredness, stress, impotence, etc). He’s gay. No prizes for guessing which of those reasons applied to me! In applying that analysis to the fact that you and your partner no longer have sex, one has to ‘homosexualise’ the reasons. I seriously doubt that he’s straight so only two of them are potentially applicable. Would you agree? And, although a good sex life with him may not prevent you from seeking sex from others, do you think you’d strive to be more monogamous if you two were still having sex? I am, of course, assuming that he’s the one no longer wanting a sex life between the two of you.

The Official Interview Game Rules:
  • If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying, "interview me".
  • I will respond by asking you five questions - each persons will be different.
  • You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
  • You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
  • When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
UPDATE: Gay Banker has posted a great set of answers to his interview questions.

UPDATE: Saddle Up has posted a the answers to his interview questions. They make for really interesting and informative reading.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Poor Jacob Zuma

I've decided to avoid cheap jokes about Zuma since I think the poor man has suffered enough already. Although he's innocent of rape the stigma sticks.

But I was on my way home recently and (typically) came to a dead halt in traffic but it was much worse than normal.

After a while, I noticed a policeman and asked him what the hold up was.

He said "It's Jacob Zuma sir, he's depressed. He's stopped his car and is threatening to douse himself with petrol and set himself on fire. He is protesting that nobody believes him - that 50% still think he was guilty of rape, that he's being pre-judged in the media about the corruption allegations and that people are making fun of him for having a shower after sex with an HIV positive woman to lessen the risk of becoming infected.

"He doesn't understand why so many people think he's unsuitable to become President...so, we're taking up a collection for him"

Thoughtfully, I asked "How much have you collected so far?" The policeman said: "About forty gallons sir, but a lot of people are still syphoning."

Why would someone do something like that?

I’ve always thought it a bit strange how, on not answering my phone or doorbell, a particular person managed to get through the locked door at street level. He’d always say that it had been left unlocked, something that happens on occasion.

I believed him.

I had no reason not to believe him but it happened enough times for me to wonder if he’d somehow got hold of my door code.

It’s been several months since he last arrived outside my door without my having let him in downstairs. In fact, it’s been many months since he’s been inside my flat at all – I’ve deliberately kept him away. I’d almost forgotten that I’d thought he may have my door code.

Now I know he has it.

I’ve never given it to him. It’s never been written down somewhere for him to chance upon it. There’s no one else he could have got it from. There’s only one way he could have got it - he watched me enter it when he accompanied me to my flat one day and noted it down.

Why would someone do something like that?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Crescent moon watch

I've been meaning to watch out for the crescent moon for the past few days but have been thwarted so far. I went and saw a film (The Proposition) at the Screenroom last night and came out after sunset. Tonight, it's been cloudy so no chance of sighting it as it emerged just after sunset.

Why would I want to do this? Here's why:

Scan the western horizon close to where the Sun set. If you can see the Moon, let us know by entering your observation and location in our report form. We need to know the date and time of your observation, what the crescent looked like, where it was in the sky relative to the position on the horizon where the Sun set and something about the weather conditions and you, the observer. Even if the weather is clear and you cannot see the Moon, let us know. A negative observation will help us!

Over time, we will process your observations and try to improve the models we use to predict the first sighting of the new crescent moon. Currently, these predictions produce a classification for a particular date and location ranging from A (crescent easily visible) through to F (crescent impossible to see).

This site allows observers to look at the global visibility of the next new moon, to check their observations of the last new moon, to report their observations and to receive e-mail reminders of the next new moon.

Savage Garden - To The Moon and Back

Friday, May 26, 2006

Misleading words

Today was the first day I’ve had to use an umbrella since arriving in Nottingham two and a half years ago. Yes, I know it’s England and it rains all the time but my working and travel circumstances have meant that I could go without one. In fact, until six or so months ago, I didn’t even own one but Michelle (*) had a surfeit of them and gave me one.

It’s large and very yellow.

I’m sure that I looked like a walking egg yolk but it kept me dry. It has a red logo (a bit like the blood clot you sometimes find in yolks) and some writing that says ‘Central Office of Information’.

Does that phrase also strike you as at odds with the truth?

I think if it just said ‘Office of Information’, I’d not feel uneasy about it. It’s the ‘central’ that causes the problem. There’s something disturbingly Stalinist about it which entirely changes the meaning. Had it said ‘Central Office of Dis-Information’, I’d probably not have given it a second thought.

Sticking to the topic of words, misleading ones in particular, I’ve been trying to find out if there’s a term to describe a word that sounds like the opposite of its meaning. In other words, an ‘anti-onomatopoeia’.

I don’t think there is but it’s needed for a word like ‘pulchritude’. Probably because it sounds a bit like ‘puke’, it seems like the complete opposite of ‘great physical beauty and appeal’.

Can you think of any other words that are anti-onomatopoeias?

(*) It's a great umbrella despite my poking fun at it. Thank you, Michelle

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Interview questions for Gay Banker

gaybankerIn the past few months, I’ve interviewed four people (Xmichra, Caroline, Buddess, PJ) and now it’s time to interview another, Gay Banker. By interviewing him, I’ve gone full circle, so to speak, as my volunteering to be interviewed by him in January resulted in the others volunteering to be interviewed by me (see the official interview game rules below).

Since discovering his blog (I can’t remember how), I’ve become a regular reader of his even though his blog, ‘Things I can’t tell boyfriend no 1’, is very different from the other blogs I read. This is how how he describes himself on his blogspot profile:

I’m a gay man who works for an investment bank in London. When I started blogging back in Feb 2005, this blog was just a record of my encounters away from “Boyfriend number 1”, my boyfriend since 1989. But starting with my blog entry on 13-Jun-2005, this blog has also been a record of problems that have arisen in this long term relationship. I hope we’ll be able to work things out and stay together. A monogamous lifestyle doesn’t suit me, although life would be much simpler if it did.

An incident in New York in 1994, five years into a monogamous relationship, made him realise that he wasn’t any good at monogamy. A year later, he was using the internet to arrange sexual encounters. Since then, he’s had hundreds of sexual encounters which, until relatively recently, were unknown to his boyfriend. You’d be forgiven if you thought his relationship was a charade but he has this to say about his boyfriend:

I absolutely adore him. We still have sex, although nowhere near as frequently as we did when we first met, and I couldn't live without him. But I'm also addicted to meeting other guys for casual sex, which I sometimes think of as just a kind of hobby. The casual sex hobby doesn't provide the companionship I need as well.

In spite of my addiction I would never have an affair like the guy next door did. The core fabric of our relationship is the companionship aspect, and I don't think casual sex damages that at all.


Most of his sexual encounters are one-offs although he occasionally sees someone more than once. There are probably several reasons for this but one of them may be a desire to keep an emotional distance between himself and his casual sex partners. During the course of 2005, however, he took to calling someone he first met in Singapore in 2002, boyfriend number 2. Later on in the year, he met someone in London whom he now refers to as boyfriend number 3. In effect, after more than 10 years of casual encounters, he’s let his guard down and begun having affairs outside of his relationship with boyfriend number 1. It was after spending an entire holiday with boyfriend number 2 that he confesses to boyfriend number 1 about what he’s been up to behind his back.

You’d think that a blog that concentrates almost solely on numerous sexual encounters outside of an established relationship would only be worth reading for prurient reasons. (How prudish that sounds!!) But, in this case, you’d be wrong as there’s much more to Gay Banker’s character than his addiction to sex. He successfully manages to portray himself as an intelligent, articulate, interested and caring person. While he’s capable of completely detached, almost clinical, sexual encounters, he prefers to spend time with his sexual partners after sex so that they can cuddle and get to know a bit more about each other. In so doing, he often has humorous and insightful things to say about the way men interact with each other.

In my previous interviews, I’ve been able to rely on a lot of personal information to be able to ask quite probing questions that the interviewees may have been reluctant to answer. This time round, despite Gay Banker having been interviewed twice before (by Sage and PJ), I don’t have much more material to concentrate on besides his sexual encounters. You could argue that knowing so little about him gives me more of an empty canvass to play with but I like my interviews to be based on available information. So, by sticking to a sexual theme, not only am I sticking to the material available but my interview questions are entirely appropriate. How often is one able to say that probing sexual questions are entirely appropriate?

Here are my five questions:

  • Do you post about all your sexual encounters? If not, what makes you leave some of them out?
  • Most (all?) of your sexual encounters are arranged through gaydar (mainly) and gay.com. I’d have thought that your blog could be another source now that you have an established readership. Have any sexual encounters resulted from your blog?
  • You obviously have a good body and have no difficulty in attracting many varied sexual partners based on your gaydar profile. Without giving us your gaydar profile (you can, if you want!), what do you think it is about you that makes you attractive to all these men?
  • In discussing how some Asian men seem very keen on Western men, you make this statement: ‘With me the more I get to know someone like P, the more I care about them, whatever race they are.’ However, on a purely physical level, your experiences may have led you to conclude that some men are more sexually interesting to you than others. So, by race/nationality/age/etc, do you have a preference? Incidentally, have you ever thought of creating a map of the different countries from which the men you’ve had sex with come from (like the map you did of countries visited)?
  • In one of the answers to PJ’s questions you say that you have two completely separate identities, a cruising one and a home/work one, that you don’t mix up. Are they radically different from each other? If they were two different people, would they get on with each other?

Want to play? The Official Interview Game Rules:

  • If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying, "interview me".
  • I will respond by asking you five questions - each persons will be different.
  • You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
  • You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
  • When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
UPDATE: Gay Banker has posted a great set of answers to these questions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My trip to work

Each morning, I rush downstairs to wait outside the Screenroom for my lift who arrives at 6.30am. And, each day, the morning starts like this:

Alan (opening the back door and putting briefcase on backseat):

Morning D.
D (barely audible mumble as I get into the passenger seat):
Morning.

Sometimes, that’s all that’s said until I thank him an hour and 15 minutes later when we arrive in Northampton. Sometimes, there'll be about 5 minute’s worth of conversation initiated by me about the weather.

But, it’s not as if there’s total silence in the car. Radio 4 is on.

Half an hour into the journey, I’ll find that my left eye starts to close. That lasts for a while before the right one does the same. Minutes later, I’ll be in a surreal trance where I’m asleep but fully aware of John Humphrys. If D brakes suddenly, an eye, usually the left one, will open. Breaking really sharply will get both eyes open for a while. At moments like those, I feel like we’re encased in a cocoon that’s edging its way through massed ranks of vehicles. It's the M1 - those ARE massed ranks of vehicles on every side! Sometimes one or both eyes will slowly open without any prompting from the brakes.

That’s when I seem to be hallucinating.

Spaces become shapes; shapes become spaces. The front moves sideways; the left side gets shallower, sometimes deeper. I've felt the hot breath of a truck's exhaust on my cheek and driven up ramps into pantechnicons and trucks in front. I've even seen the faces peering out at me from the caravans to my left and right in front of us. The lines in the road rise up into fences. Too close, really, for comfort, yet strangely comforting.

In the early days of getting my daily lift, I sat there like a motionless mannequin. Apart from the eyes, of course. More like an aged doll, perhaps. But now I lean, listing to the side, or backwards, mostly to the front. I don’t know if I snore (I hope not), but I definitely don’t dribble. Every now and again, my listing exceeds a tipping point (it never seems to be the same) and my neck snaps. Backwards or forwards, never in both directions straight after each other.

That can hurt. It wakes me up for a while.

As I said, not a word gets said until I mumble my thanks when we arrive at the office. Well, not usually. Today, right in the middle of an eye-roll, D commented on the news. I may be in a trance but my mind remains tuned into the radio. I replied, perfectly aware of what he was talking about. At least, I tried to. My lips seemed paralysed until, after a brief pause, they emitted a little explosion. I think it was intelligible but I can't be sure. D didn’t comment.

I was properly awake for quite a while after that.

Travelling back in the evening follows the same pattern with a few differences. We talk for longer but I fall into my trance quicker. Instead of John Humphrys, I have Eddie Mair to tune into.

The listing and leaning are the same.

Yes, I'm not really a morning person as you may have gathered if you read this post. Or this one.

Murder capitals

In South Africa, I live in Cape Town, the country’s murder capital. In England, I live in Nottingham, the country’s murder capital.

I wonder if there’s any connection?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

99 Red Balloons flags

Well, the suspense is over (yes, I know I'm sad!), 99 and 100 flags have been and gone. The flag counter is on 101 now that someone from Tanzania has visited this blog. I know that the 100th country was Haiti but I'm unable to work out who was 99. However, to celebrate whoever it was that was 99th, I give you four versions of Nena's '99 baloons':

<bgsound src="http://www.geocities.com/alan_mangrove/Nena99Luftballons.mp3" loop="infinite"> <bgsound src="http://www.geocities.com/alan_mangrove/Nena99RedLuftballonsEnglish.mp3" loop="infinite"> <bgsound src="http://www.geocities.com/alan_mangrove/HappyHardcoreAnthems99RedBalloonsRemix.mp3" loop="infinite"> <bgsound src="http://www.geocities.com/alan_mangrove/Goldfinger99RedBalloons.mp3" loop="infinite">
Original versionEnglish versionClub remixGoldfinger version

nena
A little something about Nena:

"99 Luftballons"(one of the best one-hit wonders) was a pretty rare commodity in the early '80s: a song with a conscience. While lighthearted and playful in tone, the song is ultimately one of cold war tension; a war begins when trigger happy generals send planes to intercept a mass of unidentifed objects (balloons) just above the horizon. The conflict escalates as everyone wants a piece of the action, and by the end of the song there is nothing left... no fighters, no balloons, just a world in ruins.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Not so cold facts about the Sugar man

Sugar man, won't you hurry
'Cos I'm tired of these scenes
For a blue coin won't you bring back
All those colors to my dreams.

Sugar man met a false friend
On a lonely dusty road
Lost my heart when I found it
It had turned to dead black coal.
Silver magic ships you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet Mary Jane.

Sugar man you're the answer
That makes my questions disappear
Sugar man 'cos I'm weary
Of those double games l hear.

Listen to 'Sugar man'

S, a good friend of mine, had been looking for 'Cold Fact' by Rodriguez for years (why he didn’t try and buy it when on his frequent trips to South Africa, I don’t know) when he heard 'Sugar man' blaring out in HMV in Dublin where he now lives. It was the same 'Sugar man' but sung by someone else. He rushed over to one of the assistants and asked if they had the original. The assistant pointed him in the direction of another assistant, saying that he’d know.

‘Who’s this singing Sugar man? Do you have Cold Fact by Rodriguez?’

‘That’s Just Jinger, a South African band, it’s their cover version of the original. No, we don’t have any Rodriguez.’

S recognised the South African accent. ‘So you know who I’m talking about?’

‘Of course, I do,’ he said, smiling. ‘Which South African wouldn’t?’ He obviously recognised S’s accent.

cold fact by rodriquezCold Fact came out in South Africa in 1971. The assistant was in his early twenties but he knew about Rodriguez. Just Jinger, now internationally successful, were the most successful South African rock band of the nineties. They cite Rodriguez as one of their major influences.

Despite having been released there in the early seventies ‘Cold Fact’ became a legendary album in South Africa. The music, its lyrics and the abrupt disappearance of Rodriquez ensured that he became a permanent fixture in South African musical folklore. In his profile on Rodriguez, Nils van der Linden has this to say:

By 1971 "Cold Fact" reached South Africa, where Rodriguez's frank songs about drugs, social unrest, political apathy and general disillusionment were embraced by teenagers and national servicemen. "In the deadly South African '70s, his songs of harsh political complaint, of the power of sex and the lure of drugs, awoke something in untold thousands of young (white) breasts. He stoked rebellion and _ who knows _ helped children of suburbia wake up to the need for change in their own country," was how writer Guy Willoughby accounted for the impact of the album that has gone on to achieve platinum status in this country.

Together with his legendary "Cold Fact" album, the reasons for the sudden disappearance became part of South African folklore. Some people claimed that Rodriguez had been burnt to death while performing. Others seemed convinced that he had murdered his wife and was now in jail, while further rumours stated that he had died of a heroin overdose. The most common belief, though, was that he had blown his head off, on stage, after reciting his famous words "Thanks for your time, and you can thank me for mine, and after that's said, forget it!"


Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrant parents, was born in Detroit in 1942. He brought out Cold Fact in 1969 but it sank without a trace in the US and Europe. It achieved some success in Australia and New Zealand before reaching South Africa. Rumours of his death started in the late seventies and he was assumed to be dead when Cold Fact was released as a CD in South Africa in 1991. The reappearance of his second album, ‘After the Fact’ (originally titled ‘Coming from Reality’), in 1996, triggered a worldwide hunt for the missing legend by a few diehard South African fans.

The rumours of his death were unfounded.

rodriguez nowHe was found living a quiet life in Detroit, where he worked as a construction worker. He was completely unaware of his fame in South Africa. In this Guardian report, Steven Segerman, who made it his mission to track down Rodriguez, had this to say:

"Cold Fact was never banned, but it never received any radio play, except on pirate stations like Swazi Radio, which weren't under the censor board. The song I Wonder had this line, 'I wonder how many times you had sex', which for South Africa in those days was about as controversial as it could get. For kids, it was like a joke song, they were like 'listen to this!'. Then they heard the album, and realised there was a lot more in it, it was trippy, it was beautiful, it had a lot of social content. It affected a lot of people in a lot of different ways. The commercial success was unbelievable. If you took a family from South Africa, a normal, middle-class family, and looked through their record collection, you'd find Abbey Road, Neil Young's Harvest and Cold Fact. It was a word-of-mouth success."

I wonder how many times you've been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
I wonder do you know who'll be next
I wonder l wonder wonder I do.

Listen to 'I wonder'

article on rodriquez by riaan malanThe discovery of the missing legend led to a series of South African tours, two documentaries and a platinum disk. An amazing thing to happen to someone who'd been rumoured dead, who gave up his recording career in 1972, whose last concerts had been in Australia in 1981 and who'd never played in his home country. This is how he reacted:

"Oh gee, it blew me away when I found out, it was so good," says Rodriguez. "All these youngbloods came rushing towards the stage. It was crazy. In South Africa, people talked to me about how they ran into the album. It happens all over the place, people coming up to me, into the material."

He played his first UK concerts at the London Forum in October last year.

Had S been trying to find ‘Cold Fact’ now, he’s have had no problem - it's stocked by most of the major music stores and Amazon. He asked to buy the Just Jinger album but HMV in Dublin didn’t stock it. The assistant had recently been home where he’d bought the album and was playing it for his colleagues at HMV.

Most of you won't have heard anything by Rodriguez but, if you have, it will probably have been from ‘Come Get It I Got It’ by DJ and composer David Holmes who composed the soundtrack of Oceans Eleven. From the Guardian again:

"It has that combination of obscurity of quality," says DJ and Ocean's Eleven soundtrack composer David Holmes, who found a copy of Rodriguez's remarkable 1970 psychedelic folk album Cold Fact in a New York second-hand shop in the late 1990s, and went on to include its standout track Sugarman on his mix album Come Get It I Got It. "I'd never heard anything quite like it. It was quite surprising to me to see how many people don't know it."

'Cold Fact' is very typical of sixties folk music with lots of social commentary and I know that I'm probably biased by having grown up with it, but I suspect that many newcomers to his music will want to hear more.

Friday, May 19, 2006

So near yet so far

Just one flag away from 99. Just two away from 100.

The suspense is killing me! Well, maybe not.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Baking up a storm

There's a definite advantage to living on your own when you get a sudden urge to go on a baking spree. Yep, there's no need to cook for the rest of the week. The disadvantage, of course, is getting seriously bored with eating nothing else for days on end.

For some time now, I've had an urge to bake so, weeks ago, I went out and bought the major ingredients and the necessary utensils. Within days of buying the stuff, I made a lemon drizzle cake that kept me fed for the best part of a week but the urge remained. I finally succumbed to the urge again and got to muffin baking this past weekend.

banana and cheese muffins
Banana muffins have always been a favourite at home in Cape Town to such an extent that my son started baking them himself a few years ago. He likes to heat them up and eat them drowned in Woolworths custard (good stuff but Marks & Spencer's is even better). They work rather well like that, almost like a moist sponge pudding. Although they're delicious plain, I like them spread with butter.

These weren't quite as light as they usually turn out but I think that may have come from using too much banana (I was getting rid of an over-ripe bunch) and not having a proper measuring spoon for the baking powder.

In case you're wondering, this hasn't become a food blog but I told coffee addict that I'd post my banana muffin recipe so she could compare it to hers.

Banana Muffins

4 medium bananas
200 ml sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
80 ml melted butter
375 ml flour
5 ml baking powder
5 ml bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 180 C

Mash the bananas and add the sugar and egg. Mix in the butter. Add mixture to sifted dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.
During the few weeks that I was gripped by the urge to bake muffins, I offered to bake Michelle some as she has been feeling poorly and I thought that a bit of fattening up was in order. Om giving her a choice between banana and cheese muffins, she chose cheese.

So I made them after the banana muffins.

Cheese Muffins

750 ml grated cheese
500 ml flour
20 ml baking powder
10 ml dry mustard
5 ml cayenne pepper
2 eggs
500 ml milk

Pre-heat oven to 200 C.

Add the cheese and dry ingredients to a bowl. Beat the eggs with a fork. Mix into the milk. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients have been mixed in. Spoon into muffin tin. Bake for about 10 minutes.

There is something strangely retro about cheese muffins. Perhaps their being made from cheese reminds me of truly retro cheese dishes like cheese straws and cheese fondue. Whether they're retro or not, the recipe does come from a recipe book produced by the mothers of King David school in the sixties.

retro foodOf course, a lot of that food, even if ironically like bits of cheese and pineapple pierced with a toothpick, has recently come back into fashion. Some of it, like avocado shrimp cocktail made with cheap bottled mayonnaise can stay in the past but some of the recipes are worth resurrecting.

Retro food, Mom's Recipe Book and Slashfood are three good sources of typical recipes from the sixties and seventies.

Incidentally, Michelle never got to see any of those cheese muffins. I ate the last one yesterday.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Another blog award

yawnIt's only been a few months since I won the best overseas South African blog and now I've won another.

According to domkop who's 'proudly mocking the most idiotic South African blogs out there', I top his worst blog list by being the most boring of the lot.

Hurrah!!

Wilfred Brimo

It's time to do a lazy posting again, ie resort to posting snippets found in my meanderings around the web.

Today's meandering took me to a French Aids awareness campaign cartoon done by French director Wilfred Brimo. It's sweet, funny, not really work-safe and aimed at gays. Because I liked it so much, I searched for more by him and came across another Aids awareness campaign. Again, it's sweet, funny and not really work-safe but it's aimed at straights. The third one is a Sims-like clip called Love Games.

Update: You can read an interview with Brimo here.

Gay Aids Awareness:




Straight Aids awareness:



Love Game:

Unfortunately, the YouTube clip of 'Love Game' has gone but it can still be found here.

You can go here to find out more about the 'Love Game'.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A big film in a small space

hoffman as capoteYesterday, I saw a big film in the world’s smallest cinema.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote in the eponymously named film is a truly great performance that fully deserved the Oscar he got earlier on in the year. The film captures the time during which Capote researched the material for his most famous book, ‘In Cold Blood’, the only one of his books that I’ve read. The only other work of his that I know is the film of his novel, ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’. That notwithstanding, I’ve long known who and what he was: a brilliant writer and social butterfly with an ego that would never have wanted to be encountered in the world’s smallest cinema.

Capote was fully aware of how his camp demeanour and high-pitched nasal voice were very off-putting to those who first met him but he was adept at ingratiating himself into the lives of others, particularly those who could advance him in any way. Hoffman produces a totally unsympathetic character who repels and fascinates as he befriends, almost seduces, Perry Smith, one of the killers responsible for the Clutter murders in rural Kansas in 1959. Through his intervention, he manages to get several stays of execution but there appears to be no other motive for this other than having more time to gather material for a book he knows is going to be ground-breaking.

This film isn’t a biography in that it concentrates on a particular episode of Capote’s life but it manages to encapsulate every facet that made up the character of a great twentieth century literary figure. On completing ‘In Cold Blood’, Capote effectively created the genre of reportage with his non-fiction novel and in celebrating its success with a black and white ball (he claimed that he made 500 friends and made 15000 enemies on the day the invitations went out) he was one of the first Americans to mix up old-money privilege with pop artists, models and photographers.


6.30am6.10pmticketafter the filmbrochure

Flags come and go

Something interesting happened to this blog on Sunday, possibly a bit of a milestone of sorts. My flag counter showed, for the first time, that Canadian visitors exceeded South African ones. I find it quite strange as I only know of two regular Canadian readers, Andrea and Xmichra, whereas I have quite a number of South Africans who are regulars.

Who are the rest, I wonder?

Ironically, Andrea may have contributed to the Canadians taking over as she sent me the clip of 'Hotdogs for Homophobes' that I posted a few weeks ago. The post has recently been linked to milkandcookies and, as a result, I’ve been getting a lot more hits than I usually do.

Who would have thought that Andrea was so sneakily competitive? :-)

Sticking to the subject of flags, a mild obsession of mine, let me return to the subject of a previous post – the lowering of Ghana’s flag in the list of visiting nations.

There was a time when I wondered who my regular visitor from Ghana was until I realised that it was my friend Felicitas in Maputo, Mozambique. Both sitemeter and neoounter identified her ISP as being from Ghana. Once I realised it was her, I always knew when she’d been reading my blog, something she did 2-3 times a week. Her suicide note to me and its contents were a shock that unsettled me for a while and I said that I’d try to find out more and, at some stage, do a follow-up post. That post still needs to be written. At the time, however, I mentioned that whether I wanted to forget her or not, I’d be reminded of her every time I looked at my blog. My obsession with my flag counter means that I always look at it every time I log on so I’m constantly aware of not having had a reader from ‘Ghana’ since Felicitas committed suicide. Three days after getting the note, I said:

At one stage, the only countries ahead of Ghana were the US, UK, South Africa, Canada and France. Since her death, the number of hits from Ghana has stayed static at 35 and Australia has moved ahead of Ghana.

Now, almost three months later, Ghana (still static at 35), has slipped into 15th place. There are quite a few other countries with 35 readers so they will be overtaking Ghana soon.

I really couldn’t have a more poignant reminder of her death.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why haven't I come across you before?

James popped by at about 10.30 on Friday night. He was steaming. I was completely sober but it didn’t take much encouragement to get me to follow him to the pub where we joined a few friends. Amongst the people at the table was someone I’d not seen before. That’s quite unusual for the small, incestuous Nottingham gay scene where all are fuck-in-laws and, if you don’t actually know the person, you almost always recognise the face.

‘Why haven’t I come across you before?’ was said perfectly innocently.

I couldn’t understand why everyone packed up laughing. It had to be explained to me.

Duh!!!!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Veggie mush à la Nomad

veggie mushSometimes I get the urge to consume large quantities of vegetables but I usually run out of steam and will have a fag instead. On occasion, I’ll actually indulge the urge and see what vegetables are still salvageable from the fridge. That’s when I experiment although experiment may sound a bit more adventurous than what actually happens as I tend to stick to one of two ‘tastes’. ‘Oriental usually involves variations on chilli, soya sauce, ginger, garlic, etc. ‘Mediterranean’ tends to consist of variations on chilli, olive oil, garlic, lemon and herbs. Last night’s experiment, yet another ‘Mediterranean taste’, worked out rather well and it gave me an opportunity to see if my camera phone is up to scratch when it comes to food photography. It isn’t! You can judge for yourself.

2 – 3 courgettes (*) sliced into disks
bunch of spring onions chopped, including all the green bits
1 red pepper – chopped into small pieces
2 potatoes – peeled and chopped
Alan’s special sauce
Crushed dried chillies
Crushed garlic (lots)
Salt to taste


Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain water and mix in 2-3 tablespoons of sauce. The potatoes will get ‘sticky’ and turn a pale orange colour.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of sauce in a wok or saucepan. Add garlic and chopped chillies. Sir-fry the courgettes until most of them begin to darken on each side. Add salt to taste. Stir in the chopped spring onions and stir-fry with the courgettes. After about 5 minutes, stir in the chopped red pepper and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and stir-fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Serve on own or as an accompaniment.

It’s a really delicious mush and I ate a huge pile of the stuff. There was some left over that I put in the fridge. I plan to heat it up with some diced chouriço and serve in an omelette, sort of like a Spanish omelette.

(*) also known as zucchini or baby marrows

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mine's smaller than yours

I live within less than a minute’s walk from two cinemas, the Broadway, and the Screenroom that proudly proclaims itself as the smallest in the world. Both of them are classified as independent ‘art’ cinemas but while I’m a regular at the Broadway, I’ve never been to the Screenroom. Every weekday morning at 6.30am, I stand on the corner at the Lord Roberts, my local, waiting for my lift to Northampton. So, every morning, I spend a few minutes looking directly at the Screenroom telling myself that I really ought to go there at least once just to see what it’s like inside.


In my student days in Cape Town, I used to be a regular at the Three Arts Theatre in Plumstead, a place that proudly proclaimed itself as the biggest theatre/cinema in the southern hemisphere. There are lots of places in South Africa (I’m sure the same applies to Australia and Brazil) that have grand pretensions about their size. On a world scale, they don’t exactly measure up so they compare themselves to their ‘rivals’ in the southern Hemisphere, the less blessed hemisphere when it comes to matters of size. The Three Arts, now Ice Olympia, seated 2000 people and was a great place to see films long off the main circuit. Unlike the Labia, Cape Town’s independent ‘art’ cinema, it had no pretensions about its artiness but it was a good place to catch great films from the past.

I often saw films there with G. Unlike him, however, I didn’t go there on my own to see films while stoned off my head. He’d often fall asleep when watching films but was usually woken up by someone, probably the cleaners, before the cinema was closed. The Three Arts, being such a huge place and run on a shoestring budget, used to just shut for the night after the last patron was seen to go. There were a number of occasions when he woke up several hours after the place had closed to find himself in a huge, pitch-black auditorium, not knowing where he was until his stoned brain managed a clear thought or two. Getting out the first time wasn’t easy. He had to work his way to the stage, feel for light switches that weren’t easy to find and eventually break out through the fire escape. It got easier after that and he’d always leave with a great selection of movie posters that made wonderful wallpaper.

In the eighties, the Three Arts became a music venue for international artists whose careers were on the skids but who didn’t mind ignoring the boycott of South Africa if it meant lining their pockets and stretching their egos for a little bit longer. I saw Tina Turner there (before her subsequent re-ascent of Pop’s pinnacles), Chick Corea and The Temptations, amongst others. Despite the ‘international acts’, its glory days from the sixties and seventies were long gone and it was slowly decaying. By the time the Bolshoi Ballet performed there in the early nineties, soon after the lifting of the cultural boycott, it was plumbing new depths. One of Cape Town’s newspapers, reviewing the ballet, mentioned seeing rats running across the stage.

Newer theatre and music venues in more fashionable parts of the city dealt it its death blow and, as a cinema in a world of much smaller venues, its size counted against it. For a while it hosted evangelical Christian meetings until it resurrected itself as an ice rink.

I used to enjoy seeing films in that large, impersonal space but actually prefer smaller venues. There’s really no reason why I haven’t been to the Screenroom yet as it’s literally right on my doorstep. Perhaps, I lied when I asserted that I’m not a size queen?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wielding a sledgehammer

In the end I had to go for the sledgehammer approach: re-install Windows as opposed to repairing it.

The advantage of that approach would be the recreation of a ‘clean’ hard drive and a system registry unaffected by the countless installations and un-installations of software spanning several years. The disadvantage, of course, would be the loss of data and the need to reinstall all the software I use. Like every other IT person I know, I’ve never been good at backing up my data, so I had to try my best to back it up before wiping my hard drive clean.

I went out and bought a whole lot of blank DVDs and got started with sifting out the dross (lots of porn!) and backing up the important stuff.

Well, that was the idea but my noble attempts were thwarted by my DVD-writer persistently refusing to complete the writing process to disk. The same happened if I tried to write to CD. I started contemplating the awful fate of losing everything, including treasured pics (not porn!), documents, music and more. Knowing that I have a CD that contains the really vital stuff (my various CVs, novel ideas, recipe book, lots of pics, etc), I knew that going down that route would not be a total disaster, just a really major one.

I’m glad the decision to go for broke happened really late on Tuesday night when I was ready to drop with tiredness as it stopped me from doing it there and then. The few hours of sleep that followed, followed by a few hours of work (yeah, right!) gave me time in which I could contemplate my decision with a bit more clarity.

Get an external hard drive!

And so I did.

Today I have a ‘clean’ hard drive with an innocent (is that the opposite of not corrupt?) operating system with most of my important programs reinstalled. I also have an external hard drive with almost all of the crap I’ve been accumulating for several years.

Anyone want to trade some porn?

I tried to post this yesterday afternoon

In trying to determine if a particular data item is an amount or a percentage, I've just been looking at its definition:

The PD is the propensity for a customer to be unwilling or unable to pay their account and clear the debt. This is the raw output from the PD Loss Model prior to any post-model adjustments having been applied.

I understood this to mean that it can be found at the back of the fridge. This didn’t seem strange until I looked at the attribute on the data model again, wondering how I was going to change its name to reflect its definition.

I must be very tired!

Yes, I was up very late last night trying to sort out my laptop. Getting there but not quite there yet.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Posting hiatus

We apologise for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change may have caused this…..

None of the options given to try and get Windows restarted on my laptop worked and I’m constantly being given that rather nightmare-ish message.

Postings will probably be infrequent or non-existent for a while.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

G & M get married

It was a busy weekend for me and gay 'weddings'. First it was Mike and Kevin in Nottingham, then it was G & M in London.

I've known G since we were medical students together in 1977. He's been with M for 18 years and there was a time when I 'counselled' G's mother about his gayness and the fact that he was living with M. She worked quite near to me in Cape Town city centre and we'd meet for lunch at the restaurant in Stuttaford's Town Square (long gone). It took a very long time for her to be accepting of it all and everything seemed to be going really well after their millennium party but there was a major setback last year where she starting asking him about girlfriends that featured in his past. On hearing that they were going to get married she expressed utter dismay and she refused to be at the ceremony.

Although London isn't that far away, I don't get to see G & M that often so I've not blogged about them much. While staying in Surrey when unemployed, I referred to a dinner party at their place and I mentioned the reference letter he wrote so that I could secure my job.

Lots of their friends, some from really far away, were there and it was a touching affair, far more traditional than I'd expected. But, while there may have been a 'wedding cake', the handing out of dope-laden chocolate truffles towards the end of the evening ensured that there was more than one break with tradition.

A number of us spent the night there and had a very leisurely Sunday morning sitting in the sun, nursing hangovers while we drank tea and ate wedding cake. I left later that day to spend the rest of the weekend with the T, Barber of Pinna, as he's referred to by G and M. He liked seeing the pics I took of the event but took special interest in the one of the painting on the mantlepiece.

Mantlepiece with cardsWedding CakeExchanging Rings

Tagged with Four Answers

I’ve been tagged twice in the space of a week. First it was Caroline asking me to spill the beans and now it’s whatalotoffun asking me ‘four answers’. Although Caroline tagged me first, her tag will take a bit longer than the ‘four answers’ so it will have to wait a few days.

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
• Guide on an ostrich farm
• Tele-sales for a firm selling exterior wall coatings
• Accountant
• All subsequent jobs (lots of them!!) have been in the IT field


Four films I could watch over and over:
I don’t tend to re-watch films that often and I find it hard deciding on what I would call favourites as some go in and out of favour over the years. But here are four films that I’ve watched several times and would be happy to watch again.
Dark City
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Harold and Maude
Blade Runner

Four Places I have lived:
Maxixe, Mozambique
Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Newcastle, UK

Four TV shows I LOVE to watch. My TV watching habits are very erratic and I don’t watch that many series so this should be quite easy but it’s not:
• Anything and everything by David Attenborough
Green Wing
League of Gentlemen
The Catherine Tate Show

Four places I have been on vacation:
• Zimbabwe
Transkei
• Venice
• Yorkshire Dales

Four websites I visit often:
• Lots of blogs
Arts and Literture Daily
Mail and Guardian
BBC

Four of my favourite foods:
Piri piri chicken the way I make it
• Moroccan lamb
• Braaied (barbecued) fish
• Carrot cake

Four places I would rather be right now:
• Kenilworth, Cape Town
• Claremont, Cape Town
• City centre, Cape Town
Smitswinkel, Cape Town

Four people I've tagged:
Bookpacker
Rob DAMNIT
Coffee Addict
Homme du Cap

PJ gets probed, albeit reluctantly

Yesterday, I got back from a long weekend in the big smoke (where I kept well clear of the blogosphere) to discover that PJ has answered the questions I set him a week or so ago.

He's done a good job, even throwing in a few rants agains Tescos, mothers who drive their fat children around in four-wheel drives and Daily Mail readers for good measure.