Goddards Pie Shop

Happier

So I’m sat in Goddards Pie Shop and I couldn’t be happier.

Drizzle, mizzling outside. Scalding coffee and piles of mash, thick gravy, meat filled pie. £4.50, you can’t go wrong.

I’ve got an MSc I need to get back to; it all seems another world away and another life away; the way long summer evenings seem impossible when you’re in midwinter.

I run out of mood stabilisers tomorrow, my normal GP unavailable until the 16th. I’m seeing any old doctor on an emergency appointment simply to get a script. And I need to talk to someone, talk to someone about the past few weeks; the way I’ve swung from chaos to a kind of fluid stability. Need to talk about what I did. What was done. But I can’t talk to someone new, can’t go over all this again, and that. It’ll have to wait.

I’m sat in Goddards Pie Shop. The place closed down a few years back, I was heartbroken. An institution for over a century. Came here with Amy once, kinda stoned, that nice kinda stoned, cosy and fuzzy. Best pie and mash in the world. Here I am again and I couldn’t be happier.

All this shit, all the shit that happened, explosions in my head; deafening, ringing, thrown to the ground and stunned, life thrown in the air, scattered. I’ve got to sort out uni, I’ve got to sort out drugs. I’ve got to sort out some kind of income and decide if I stay in London with it’s rush and sweet bruising tumble, or return North. To family, to quiet, to space.

But right now I’m in Goddards. Plate clean, mug empty. About to go into the mizzling drizzle. Waterproof jacket and hood.

And I couldn’t be happier.

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How bad can it actually get

Doncaster has had a fair few gay bars in its time. There was, originally, the Vine (now demolished), which was brilliantly old school with a normal-pub front room and a back room adorned with porn and rainbows, windows blackened. I went in there once, early 20’s drunk, and sat at the bar drinking pints while people played darts. Fantastic.

There was the Prince of Wales, which had a brief, violent life. I don’t think I ever saw the place without boarded up windows. Remember the headline in the Star in 2000 – ANGER AT NEW GAY BAR.

Ah, the good old days.

Most recently, the naively-named Crystals. By now it will have closed down. Crystals used to fascinate me, and I don’t think it was me being a wanker metropolitan gay. The place was big – I remember it from it’s pre-gay days, a bleary eyed 17 year old following his girlfriend to an awful ‘Battle of the Bands’ thing, featuring loppy haired 16 year olds. It had a huge bar area, raised dancefloor, outside yard. And I don’t know if it always seemed empty because is was so big, or if it really was always empty.

I went to the Christmas special there once, two quid entry and free buffet. You know those buffets that are all cheap food and cheap carbs and sugar and fatty reformed warm meats?

It was far worse than that.

Anyway. I used go out of habit, not because it was so good, but because it was so shite. I mean it was only twice a year or so, not counting Pride – I wasn’t trekking up from London just to sample the Donny nightlife. But every time I went, I thought ‘this is awful, this is the pits. It can’t possibly get any worse than this’.

And so every time I returned to Doncaster, I’d go, thinking it had to at least be better than last time.

It never was. It was always worse. And I became fascinated. Entranced. Sat on my own, drinking bad lager and smelling the stale carpet, staring into the middle distance. How bad can it actually get?


 

I used to hate my nose. It’s effete, slipping up at the tip like a stereotyped French aristocrat, permanently upturned to the world. Now, however, I still hate my nose, but I also hate my hips and this fat on my belly and the horrible moobs than droop unappetisingly from my chest and I know you all say you can’t see it but it’s there. I hate my arse and the fact my biceps are shrinking from lack of gym and the dry skin on my cheeks. Flab padding out my frame, oozing into a muffin top. My body saggy, undesired and undesirable. Mottled, too skinny, too fat.

Being gay has taught me a lot. And one of the things it’s taught me is that my body is criminally undesirable. It’s no big deal, and objectively the vapidity of it all is funny; watching sometimes from the sidelines, at the boys prettier than you who no doubt still think they’re ugly, knowing that no matter how thin, how big, how ripped you get, you’ll never, never be happy. And I guess in a way, it’s all cool. All in the same boat, after all, me and you against the world.

Anyway.

Every now and then something erupts on the London scene which demonstrates not only how disgustingly / amazingly shallow it is, but also that there are unknown depths of shittery which your feeble mind was incapable of imagining until it burst forth, greasy and warm.

A few years back this came in the form of FitLadz, a scally-themed cruise night which advertised they’d be turning away ‘munters’. Leaving aside the fact that most people don’t go in for the dress code at these places and that those who do don trakkies and  caps tend to be well-to-do architects called Sebastian, saying you’re gonna turn away ugly people is pretty ugly.

Whether it was a marketing ploy or not, feather boas were ruffled and FitLadz soon backed down, removing the wording from the ads.

Today, word on the grapevine reaches me of a night to be held at the Hoist, one of London’s full time gay fetish clubs. It’s a ‘private party’ but it is being hosted by the club, so I feel somewhat (somewhat) justified in levelling a bit of invective their way; entry to the party isn’t determined by who you know, but by how you look.

Seriously. You send them a photo with a few stats and they determine if you’re eligible.

Now as I say, this is a private do but the Hoist, while they are known for various kink nights and a variably-enforced dress code, are not especially known for an upstairs function room available for parties or wedding receptions. They’re not even known for providing really, really shit buffets (insert comment about ‘putting on a good spread’ here). So there’s clearly more involvement than just a bored receptionist taking down a date in the back office.

Of course, this speaks to the narcissism of the gay scene, the impossible drive for impossible perfection, the desire for impossible bodies. I could write on and on and on about the way this environment impacts us – us as gay men, in our own lives, our own bodies and minds, far away from the scripted ideals. But that wasn’t what first struck me about this – that’s all old hat.

What first struck me was, ‘this is amazing!’. Just when you think the body fascism of the scene has found its nadir, another sink hole opens up and you find yourself tumbling helplessly into it, the only thing making it bearable the knowledge that everyone finds it as despicable as you. Except for the people who would go to a night like this.

Think about it: What kind of person would want to go to a night filled with the kind of people who would want to go to to a night like this?!

It’s fascinating. You have to admire them, and it really can’t be long until some corporate club comes up with the same wheeze. They probably have, somewhere outside the UK. It’s amazing, watching, chewing your protein bar and gazing down Compton Street.

How bad can it actually get?



 

Aside

I’d laugh all the way to the Eagle if I found out this venture was a flop for the Hoist, but the same can’t be said for Crystals. For all that it was abysmal, I would have given my left eye for a town centre gay pub when I was growing up alone in that town. I hear there’s possibly another one opening up further up the road, or a pub owned by a couple of gay guys which I suspect will at least put on a night. I really wish them the best of luck. It’s easy to mock from the bright lights of the big cities, but gay teenagers growing up in small towns deserve to know they’re not alone.

Shite

You put my feet

back on the ground

Did you know

you brought me home?

You are sweet and you are sound;

You save me

-Zero Seven, ‘Somersault

Doncaster’s shite.

It’s OK, I grew up there, so I’m allowed to say it. Doncaster’s shite, and it smells of pasties and fags. All the bars – all of them – play music too loud, so you’re screaming to make yourself heard. Not that is matters, because no one from Doncaster has anything worth saying.

It’s small.

I went to Doncaster Pride at the weekend (I know, right? Doncaster has a Pride!). The music was too loud and they spunked too soon by having strippers on as the first act. I grabbed a pint with Leo and we sat drinking, petting some guy’s puppies. Bloodhounds.

Walked around the stalls; The police missed a trick by not having any fit coppers doing outreach and the fire brigade was all women, so we didn’t dally. Sipped our pints.

Rainbows. Fucking rainbows! What is it with fucking rainbow tat?! How anyone makes a living like that is beyond me. We sipped our pints. The wind picked up, a chill; rivers of rainbow boas.


 

“Now, do you have something warm to wear” mum asks; finds a fleece. “Hardly the height of fashion, I know, but it’s only Doncaster!”

I stuff it into my new ‘Head’ rucksack, the one I bought to make me feel sporty and proper and new start new me.

“I know you cope perfectly well in London but while you’re up here I’m afraid you’ve got me to worry about you. Now is your money safe? And what time will you be back?”

“Probably not”, I grin “and late!”, bounce out the door with Leo, make our way.

“Do your best to have a good time!” she jokes. Doncaster’s shite, after all, and we’ve come all the way from London.

Laura runs fast from nowhere, hugs me tight, tight. Twenty year friendship, glowing, ignites. I smile daft.

“Too loud!” she shouts, we retreat inside. I grab another pint.

Leo -> Laura; Laura -> Leo. And the kids. The kids, crawling happy all over us.

Laura has kids! This still amazes me. You get older, without noticing.

Doncaster’s shite, but this space is nice, the new theatre and culture space is nice. It smells of coffee, and today it’s full of fags.

And you can’t help but laugh, playing games with kids, chasing and rolling and being pulled every way around. Spinning with them, them squealing with delight. Old friendship ignites, new flames. Doncaster’s shite, but you know, in some lights…

Time passes. I sip more pints. Walk with Laura, holding hands; I tell her what’s been on my mind recently. She holds me, tight; “Oh, Phil”, and she holds me and it’s warm as autumn light. Her kids, running through the whirling rainbow boas, chocolate smeared cheeks. Music too loud. Doncaster’s shite.

And we’re up from London, Leo and me. London’s great, after all. It smells of city dust and money; London’s great, you know this because all the Londoners say so, on TV and radio. All the buzz all these people all these minds I can feel them racing round, getting ahead, getting along in life. London smells of tarmac and traffic going nowhere – where else would you want to go?

The boys are pretty and they flex their pecs and their jeans hang from their arses, just so. The music’s better and the clubs are cooler and you can get high and fuck strangers and it’s so hot, so hot in those sweating gurning moments when you pour petrol down your throat to make your soul ignite. Blaze bright.

Doncaster smells of beer and chips and piss in doorways at night. Shouting fights, girls tottering along Silver Street, boys swagger. Ambulances, police – frightening, I guess. If you didn’t grow up there.

Off to Crystals – it’s shite. What did you expect? Music too loud, bar three deep. I gulp my pint, smoking rollies. Arm ’round Leo and next to Laura. Outside, smell of stale beer and stale fags. Cheap weed.

So of course London’s cooler, and Doncaster’s shite. It’s OK, I grew up there, I can say that.


 

I didn’t bother with London Pride. I mean I live there, so why would I do that? Got pissed on gin at my mate’s flat, watched ‘Bridget Jones’.

“Oh, Phil”, Laura says; hugs me tight.