Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas everyone!!

reluctant xmas elf
Thanks to Babs for the link

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter's here!

22 Dec 2006Winter's here at last!

Not that I particularly like winter of course, but it has been strange not feeling properly cold until the last few days. I've actually had to wear a scarf to keep me warm rather than as a colourful neck accessory. The fog has been playing havoc with the airlines and driving has been particularly tedious as everyone slows down to a crawl.

The following series of pics were taken over the past month and a bit, all at about 8am as I walked to catch the bus between the central bus station in Northampton and work.

10th Nov14th Nov15th Nov16th Nov21st Nov
10th Nov14th Nov15th Nov16th Nov21st Nov
22nd Nov23rd Nov11th Dec22nd Dec
22 Nov23rd Nov
11th Dec22nd Dec

But much more interesting than the eventual arrival of winter is the fact that today's my last day (*) of work in Northampton!

Not only am I moving to a new job in a new city in a new country, but my daily commute is going to become SO much easier. Instead of the daily nodding off during the hour and a bit long car journey to and from work, my daily commute is going to be a mere 20 minute tram and metro journey. Bliss!

For those of you who are unlikely to be reading blogs in the next few days, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and, especially, a great New Year. For those of you who'll be around, I'll wish you again at the appropriate time.

(*)I had to change the password on my PC today. I changed it to 'lastday'. It had been 'orange' for the past month.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm not the Ipswich killer!

Taken from an email I sent my landlady-to-be in Amsterdam:

The trip back to England was a bit of a nightmare. The plane arrived at Luton at 9.30pm after which I needed to catch a train to Nottingham. Rather stupidly, I hadn’t looked into the rail situation at that time of night and found that the last train going in my direction was a train to Derby. So I had to get off at a station (Long Eaton) as close as possible to Nottingham from where I’d get a taxi. I’d never been to Long Eaton before so wasn’t prepared to find it a rather strange ‘non-town’ with an almost non-existent station placed on the outskirts of the town. I arrived there at half past midnight and found myself almost in the middle of nowhere with not a taxi in sight. Well, there were taxis around but they were ferrying people about or had stopped working for the night.

I started to walk towards the town centre thinking that it would be easier finding a taxi there.

About 100 metres ahead of me, I could see a woman walking in my direction. She’d probably seen me wandering around aimlessly on the corner and wondered what I was up to. At that point, I crossed the road as a taxi was approaching on the other side of the road and I thought it may stop. It didn’t. I crossed back again, thinking that, as a local, she’d know where I could find a taxi at that time of night. As I approached her, I could see that she looked rather panicked. In fact, she looked like a gazelle trapped in the a pantechnicon’s headlights. I asked her about taxis and she, pointing wildly in the direction of the town centre, she stammered ‘There, that way. You must go that way!’

Long Eaton is a long way from Ipswich but I’m sure the murders have made women walking in dark, isolated places feel very vulnerable. Poor thing, I wonder if she slept well that night?

It reminded me of when I lived in Brighton when I sometimes used to catch the bus just outside Sainsbury’s at the bottom end of St James’s street in Kemptown. A beautiful black woman sometimes used to catch the same bus with her young son. One day I overheard them speaking Portuguese to each other so I moved closer to them and said something (in Portuguese) stupid like, ‘You speak Portuguese, so where are you from?’ There are a lot of oddballs in Brighton but I don’t think I especially look like one. Nevertheless, she looked a bit freaked out by the question and seemed loathe to reply. Feeling rather foolish, I said something even more stupid. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not trying to hit on you, I’m gay.’

Oddly enough, after that rather unpromising beginning, we became quite good ‘bus-friends’.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Prepping myself for the move...

murder in amsterdam
My mind is starting to shift into Amsterdam mode so I've decided to help it along with a few purchases.

I bought Ian Buruma's critically acclaimed 'Murder in Amsterdam', a 'rivetting account' of the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, Mohammed Bouyeri. It discusses how a clash between European Enlightenment values and Muslim fundamentalism is ripping Dutch society apart.

Always a controversial figure, Theo van Gogh's murder was very much a result of his collaboration with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a brilliant and stunningly beautiful Somali from a prominent political family who fled to Holland to escape a forced marriage, learned perfect Dutch, joined the left-wing Labour Party to advocate for abused Muslim women immigrants, and by 2002 was a Member of Parliament and rising star in the conservative free-market Liberal Party.

For a Muslim perspective on the book, read this review.

I also bought the Moleskine City Notebook for Amsterdam. It's a beautiful little book that I fear my laziness may make a waste of money. But, being a sucker for the words 'the legendary notebook of Hemmingway, Picasso, and Chatwin becomes your guide to Amsterdam', I was easily hooked.

A bit of googling introduced me to a new blog, American in Amsterdam. It appears that James is a well-travelled gay American who recently moved to Amsterdam. By looking at his BlogMap, I can see that he lives very close to the flat I didn't take.

Talking of which, in a fit of prematurity, I tried to alter my BlogMap to reflect my address-to-be in Amsterdam. At the time of posting this, it hasn't worked - possibly some fate thing won't allow me to until I'm actually living there.

Update: Blogmap now shows me as living in Amsterdam.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Argentinian steakhouses, bikes, canals and dildos

Apart from 4 days soon after I got married 22 years ago, I don't really know Amsterdam except from 2 days spent there recently. One was for my interview a few weeks ago, the other yesterday when I was looking for a flat to move into when I move there on New Year's Eve.

It's still a beautiful city with beautiful architecture and my lasting memories of the place are unchanged except that there seems to be less dog shit all over the place. The canals are still there, as is the red light district and the numerous coffee shops full of tourists. Bikes, bikes and more bikes - they are everywhere! But, what is it about Argentinian steakhouses that there are so many of them? I don't recall them from my visit of 22 years ago. Their ubiquity reminded me of how I was struck by the huge number of orthopaedic shops in Madrid when I visited many years ago.

I walked all over the city yesterday, trying to get a feel for the areas that surrounded the two flats I was going to see.

gabled canal housesgreen wallscanal iguanasiguana
gabled canal housesgreen wall17th century canaliguana sculpturesanother iguana
wall fishbikes and bikescopulating bikesmore copulating bikesmore bikes
wall fish
bikes everywhere
bikes copulating
more copulating bikes
bikes standing
asleep or dead?dead bikesex toysmrs balls chutneyportuguese restaurant
sleep or dead?
dead bike
sex toys for all
Mrs Ball's chutney
Restaurant Portugalia

There are lots of sorely neglected bikes around - I wonder what happens to the dead ones?

It's good to see that Mrs Ball's chutney is available and nice to see a Portuguese restaurant as some Hispanic competition to all those Argentinian steakhouses. It's next door to a gay hotel called the 'The Golden Bear'. I was reminded of Nyasha (*) when I saw it. The restaurant, that is.

Both flats were great but I chose the one closer to all the action. It's on the first floor as opposed to the fourth floor as was the other one. But those weren't the main reasons for choosing it.

It's very spacious, beautifully furnished and is the only flat in the whole building. It has very high ceilings, lots of lovely original features including heavy antique doors that separate the living room from the rest of the flat. It's on Leidsestraat, a very busy shopping street and is very close to a tram stop. So, unlike the other flat, it's going to be rather noisy. But, living over a club as I do now shouldn't make that too much of a problem. Leidseplein, a tourist trap heaving with bars and restaurants is nearby, as is Vondelpark and the book district. The Rijksmuseum is 5 minutes walk away so I'll have no excuse to not be cultured. And, if I want to be uncultured (probably more likely) there are numerous sleasy gay venues nearby.

I suspect I'm going to enjoy staying there.

leidsestraatamsterdam map

(*) Nyasha's usual blog seems to have disappeared so now you need to go here to find her.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The countdown to Amsterdam begins….

I’m flying out to Amsterdam this afternoon to view a couple of flats tomorrow. I’ll be taking my maximum luggage allowance in the hope that I’ll take one of them and be able to leave my suitcase there.

My Eurostar ticket is booked for the 31st so I’ll be starting my new life in Amsterdam from about 7pm on New Year’s Eve.

Work (groan!) starts on January 2nd.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Party time for queers in Cape Town

It's almost time for the annual Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) costume party.

The first one, The Locker Room Project, was held in 1994 , the year of South Africa's first democratic election which led to sexual orientation being enshrined in the world’s most liberal constitution. It was such a hysterical success (*) that MCQP has grown up to become an annual event on the international queer circuit party calendar.

But, while it may be a queer event, it's very popular with the straights. Straight people in the know, that is. The sort that know that a really good queer party is hard to beat when it comes to friendly, over-the-top, uninhibited fun.

I've yet to go. Maybe next year if I'm in Cape Town. Had I gone this year, I seriously doubt that I’d have dressed up as a super hero. Dressed up as anything, actually. Perhaps I could have passed as Benjamin Parker?

This year it's being held on 16 December, the Day of Reconciliation, a public holiday that has been know by various names, including the Day of the Vow and Dingaan Day.

One wonders what the pious Voortrekkers would have thought about all those prancing moffies in their glittering costumes? Skande!!

This is how 5FM radio is advertising the event.

(*) not my words - lifted from the MCQP website.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something for the weekend, sir?

Have you noticed how straight barbers are so often parodies of 'ultra masculinity'? It's as if they want to distance themselves as much as possible from any idea that they may be gay.

Where else, apart from in the company of drunk men watching a game at a bar do you find people who are so obvious about their liking for football, girls and getting pissed?

I wonder if straight koffie-moffies (*) (do they exist?) are the same?

(*) Afrikaans (colloq): trolley dolly

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A 'god' visits Nottingham

On Tuesday, after so many years of being a fan, I eventually got to see the man that so many of his fans think of as God. I’m talking about that miserable, arrogant, twisted genius known as Morrissey, the man whose lyrics can keep the angst-ridden teenager alive in all of us, no matter how old we are.

The hair is greying, but the trademark quiff is still there. No longer sylph-like, rather barrel-chested in fact, his moves are still the same. He seemed calmer, happier than he's been known to be, more at peace with himself and the audience, despite the occasional ascerbic comment. But this was still the real thing, the real Morrissey!

Although he sang a few of the lesser known B-sides, he mostly stuck to crowd-pleasing favourites. He was good. Very good!

There was enough chanting of his name and enough roses thrown on stage for you to know that there were many amongst the audience who thought of him as God. They must have been the ones who burst into lustful roars when he stripped off his shirt during ‘Let me kiss you’. Rather cleverly but, I suspect, a regular party-trick of his, he ripped it off towards the end of the song while singing, ‘But then you open your eyes, and you see someone that you physically despise.'

I may be a fan but I really don’t understand the extreme adulation he inspires. My best friend from university, these days a respected forensic psychiatrist, still suffers from this adulation, despite being my age, ie Morrissey’s age. He stood in a queue for over five hours a few years' ago, waiting for Morrissey to autograph something (probably a CD) he was promoting. For five hours he thought of things he had to say to the great man. Finally, when in the presence of his god, he was so tongue-tied that he was unable to greet or thank him, let alone say something profound.

Even very well-respected writers succumb to this adulation - Mark Simpson’s celebrated biography of Morrissey is called ‘Saint Morrissey’! Mark Simpson is credited with coining the term, 'metrosexual'. Douglas Coupland, another author closely associated with a popular term, 'Generation X', is another huge Morrissey fan. His Observer interview of Morrissey makes for interesting reading.

But, as a fan, albeit not an adoring one, it was great to eventually have seen him. It also gave me an excuse to join the YouTube generation. The clip is quite long (8 minutes), rather fragmented, and not of the best quality (camera phone), but it gives you an idea of what it was like to see Morrissey at the Nottingham Arena.

Update: The Independent reports on 'Screams of heresy from Morrissey fans':

Tony Wilson the godfather of Manchester's music scene, has launched a vitriolic attack on the singer just a week ahead of a public vote to decide if he will be Britain's "Living Icon".

Wilson, the former Haçienda nightclub boss and label manager behind New Order and Happy Mondays, tells me: "Steven [Morrissey] is a nasty human being. He treats people like shit and has done throughout his career. Smiths fans confuse the art with the artist."

Morrissey declined to comment. The city's most famous musical export is on the final shortlist of three - up against Sir Paul McCartney and, mercifully, Sir David Attenborough. The Living Icon will be announced on BBC2's Culture Show next Saturday.

No doubt Morrissey would greet a victory with characteristic jubilation.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dodgy in Nottingham

A large, luxurious sedan, darkened windows, parked outside a casino with its lights on. The sort of car that attracts attention while saying, 'If you know what’s good for you, don’t look at me.’ Taking pictures of its numberplates was definitely not the sort of attention it wanted.

Yep, there was something distinctly dodgy about that car.

dodgy back numberplatedodgy front numberplate

Friday, December 01, 2006

Now the Germans have an even smaller one

Just a few months ago, I wrote about the world's smallest cinema, Nottingham's Screenroom, situated a minute's walk from my flat. Well, it seems that that accolade now belongs to The Palastkino on Bahnhofstraße in Radebeul, Germany, which opened on 30 October.

According to a report by Guinness World Records, it only seats 9 people, just under half the capacity of the Screenroom.