The name of god on the tip of my tongue

Came to Leeds, day out. It’s my old stomping ground, where I came to waste away my uni days.

I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds.

I mean, not constantly. There were weeks I’m sure when I was fine.

But I got ill here, and I didn’t appreciate how ill; a lot of my time in Leeds was barb wire and static and me trying to convince myself it was silk and cool water. Still; time dulls edges and smooths wrinkles, soothes stinging memories. Now Leeds is a city of fond nostalgia, the ghosts of friends I wish I’d kept up with, and lifetime and a half away there’s a thin memory of me; less heavy with regret, although maybe just as wound up with uncertainty. And wilder, so much wilder than the man I am now.

At times, I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds. Continue reading

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Out of work
divorced
usually pissed,
he aimed low in life
and missed

Roger McGough, ‘Missed’

Woke up full of cold and with depression still fogging up my mind. Sweaty, twisted night’s sleep, although pleasant dreams – they have been, recently, strangely. Mum and Dad on their way to NZ, me alone in the house I grew up in. Feeling like I’ve gone backwards, and stopped.

I looked up philosophy books on Amazon, not sure why, put a few on the wishlist. And so fell back into Leeds and I guess part of the person I was in Leeds.

I was a lot thinner, then. Well, a bit thinner.

Continue reading

Eyes begin to linger

Like I say, I’m maybe a teensy bit hypo at the moment. While that can be fun and dances, it can also make me a petulant cock. So while most gay men would skip eagerly to any event named ‘Naked Boys Reading‘, the grumpy bouncer on the door led to a grumpy me entering the venue.

Grumpy me doesn’t like crowds, grumpy me doesn’t really like people. Grumpy me is more than a little self-entitled and sulky and there were too many people, the music was too loud, the bar was too crammed and, and just ugh. Ugh. Why did I bother?

Fortunately I have a decent amount of self awareness these days and knew grumpy me was just grumpy because of a mild fog of hypomania. I decided to stay. Besides, I’d paid seven quid and I’m skint, may as well get my money’s worth.

Grumpy guy. Beards and pretention in Shoreditch, how fucking gay can you get; naked boys reading.


 

I’d actually been really looking forward to it. The fact I’m leaving London soon has given me the impetus to do those things I’d always meant to do, and going to this was one of those things. I’d put a few call outs on twitter and Facebook to see if anyone fancied coming, everyone was busy, no one took the bait. Fuck it, I thought. I’m going anyway. He bad can a night called Naked Boys Reading be? I could only fail to be pleased if they were reading the phone book. Or had taken an imaginative interpretation of the word ‘naked’. Everyone’s naked under their clothes after all but I think we can all agree that’s cheating.

Don’t worry, it was awesome.

The self confessed crap drag queen dragged me out of my funk. She was helped by the crowd, who came across as warm and playful. I soon found myself grinning, then laughing, and cheering along.

The guys who came on were all shapes and sizes. Being prepared to stand naked in front of a load of gay guys, a notoriously judgy demographic, takes a tonne of guts. To stand starkers for an extended period, reading literature is… well, let’s not bother with delicacies; it’s gloriously batty. The concept alone is laughably absurd. The knowledge that gay men (and a few women) would horde to such an event laughably predictable. That anyone would turn up to get their kit off and read is a glorious, wonderful expression of the heights of cultured absurdity to which gay society is reaching. It’s right up there with foxes wearing lanyards.

Of course a guy comes on waving his wang around and you gawp at the wang (well, I do). Then you examine the body, everything you’re not meant to do in the changing rooms. But changing rooms are always filled with the young and the beautiful. Fuck the young and the beautiful.

Your eyes keep flicking to the face, obviously; everyone’s addicted to watching faces, and when we can gawp we gawp. We gawped, classy with affected disinterest and closed lips, but we gawped. Still, stories drag you in. There’s nothing people love more than stories. Eyes begin to linger, enchanted, on the face, on the eyes, telling the story. Stories ranging from dark to comic, to sexual (obviously). Eyes begin to linger on the stories.

So the nakedness fell away, became irrelevant. Yeah, we were at naked boys reading so we could gawp respectfully, warmly, at naked boys. I mean why not? But eventually the nakedness became a side show, an addition to the act. Naked Boys Reading became readings by naked boys. Everyone laughed, everyone cheered, everyone clapped and listened and smiled. It was great. A great reminder we’re all naked under our clothes.


 

Yes, obviously I’m going to do a reading at some point.

Foxes with lanyards

Furries everywhere.

Isn’t it brilliant?! Birmingham – came into a bar for lunch and to charge my phone, stumbled on a furry meetup. Fucking brilliant. Fluffy tails and yelps, bouncing blue wolves and a moose twerking by my table. She holds a large inflatable banana, waves it. I giggle and grin, scribble in my notebook, sip cheap lager. Happy. Possibly a little bit hypo. But I hope not, I hope this is me, at last.

Having a grand old time; woke up with only a faint fog of a hangover; I like hotels (‘liminal spaces, Phil; you like liminal spaces!’), but I’m in a Travelodge, so not so much. Still. Lush beds, good sleep. Came down for the BeyondPositive Birthday Bash, beers and queers and the occasional cheeky fag. Exciting accessories. We ended up in Eden and I ended up sleepy, bad karaoke and me thinking I’m maybe a touch too old for all this. Kissed my goodbyes and returned to the hotel, narrowly avoided Boltz.

(I couldn’t find Boltz)

Wake early because I always do, check out and walk to the library; Birmingham’s new library all light and space, glorious. Musty old books and a kids’ space with a scrap heap spaceship. Roof gardens, apple trees.

Birmingham Library

Sometimes, wandering through Cambridge, I’ve heard a harp played, delicate. Sandstone and subdued, harps sound bright in the staid atmosphere. But on the roof of the library I hear a trumpet riffing out, bouncing up from below. Drizzle mizzling, wet concrete, but the trumpet doesn’t care about that. Bold as brass.

The canals! Canal boats, a river bus. Old pubs and funny graffiti. Geese.

The Bullring is bright and loud and bustling busy, scent of perfumes layered with aftershaves drift by, gaggles. Kids, pushchairs. Posters smiling, telling me my life isn’t complete, and wouldn’t it be great if it was? No, no it wouldn’t. Unbroken symmetries are boring.

Church.

Just outside the Bullring, church. It doesn’t take long for the city to drop away, and it doesn’t take long for me to breathe a bit deeper. Atheist as I am, there’s more than a little peace and fragility in religion. Light through church window

I light a candle, I usually do, when in a church. Don’t say a prayer but I do remember, and it’s good to sometimes shine a small light, light a small flame. There’s the smell of wax, that shimmering heat you get in gathered candlelight. A draught from the door catches the flames, tilts them. I put out my hand, cup my memory. Protect it from the wind for a little while.

Stone! Cool stone, I’ve always loved the touch of cool stone and I place my palm against a column. Sometimes, in my family, we hug trees. Trees are good to hug but stone is good to touch. Old, silent. Cool.

I got a leather jacket! Been meaning to get one for years, got a second hand one in the rag market for 25 quid. It’s scratty and doesn’t quite fit me and I think it probably sums me up quite well, right now.

The rag market is a different kind of bustle, narrow walkways crammed with the slow and shuffling. Second hand electrics, DVDs (‘Clint Eastwood £2!’), cheap incense and Julie’s Stall (‘Mens Socks! Ladies Pants! Top Brands!’). Love it. Endless rolls of fabrics, wall hangings, rugs; second hand jeans for sale, terrible figurines for sale. I grab some chips and walk down to gay street; a homing habit but also – I need to charge my phone.

And the place is full of furries! I love it, I fucking love it. Fluffy tails and antlers, yips and yelps. People dragging suitcases, foxes with lanyards.

Maybe I’m hypo but you know maybe I’m not. I’m not dancing in the street and I’m not belting out tunes. I’m just loving the world; I’m loving the canal boats and cheap pants and the smell of vinegar on hot chips. I’m loving the touch of cool stone, the smell of gathered candlelight. I’m loving that I live in a world which finds space for foxes with lanyards.

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.

Have a sense of style

Honestly I know this comes accros as an advertorial for DailyJocks but I swear it isn’t

*Having said that, if they want to send me some free underwear that’d be cool


He’s coming up the stairs and in a moment

He’ll want to see your underwear

-Pulp, ‘Underwear’

As I say, I’m terrible at the whole gay thing.

Seriously. There’s all this stuff you’re meant to do, like have a sense of style and an extensive facial care regime, and go shopping; God, you’re meant to do all this shopping! I’m absolutely terrible at it. You might say that I’m not even trying at all.

Dancing. I’m quite good at over the top dancing, as anyone who’s seen me on the dance floor will confirm.

Also I like cock, obviously.


So. Shopping. Underwear and shopping are two of those things which homosexuals are meant to do and which we’re meant to be good at, and I fail. I fall flat on my face. I’m far too Northern to be comfortable spending any more than £7 on a pack of three briefs from Debenhams. Ocassionally, rarely, I’d remember I was gay and buy a pair of Aussiebums (remember Aussiebums? When all the London gays wore Aussiebums? Yeah – even I wore Aussiebums, which is when you know you’ve reached market saturation). Anyway, I eventually lost most of my Aussiebums in various darkrooms, so I was left without even those for comfort. Or lift.

Thing is, I’m terrible at shopping, generally. I mean at uni I’d go months without eating properly, not necessarily because I was too skint (altho I was), but because I just didn’t like going to Morrisons. The only nice thing about Morrisons was the extensive cheese counter in Kirkstall, and seriously if you can’t lure me out with an extensive cheese counter then you’re gonna have no luck with fabrics, no matter how snug.

Also I spent all my loan on beer. Queens Court Pink Pounder was legendary.

Still. A man has to eat. And apparently a man should also wear underwear, most of the time. For comfort and lift.


Subscriptions. I honestly never notice my gym direct debit, or my Google music, or my Netflix. And so when I was introduced to subscription underwear, my life was transormed. Or at any rate my genitals became better supported.

Each month I give them money. Honestly I’ve no real idea how much it is, if I did then the Yorkshireman in me would be mortified, but screw him. Screw him and his bad underwear choices. Apparently with the money I pay and items that I get, it’s a good deal. I don’t care. I HAVE NICE PANTS!

Every month I get a new pair landing on the doormat. They choose, they send, no hassle, all done. It’s been happening over half a year now which means I’ve got to the stage when I sometimes forget it’s happening and I get SURPRISING NICE PANTS, which is the second best way to get nice pants.

Finally I get to feel like a proper gay after all. At least, I do when I’m only wearing underwear.