Friday, November 30, 2001

Another Friday, another online personality test:

If I was a James Bond villain, I would be Dr Kananga.

I enjoy tarot readings, growing drugs, and throwing people to hungry crocodiles.

I am played by Yaphet Kotto in Live and Let Die.

Who would you be? James Bond Villain Personality Test

So, Liverpool loses a favourite son. Yes, Robbie Fowler has transferred to Leeds United.

No, silly. I meant George Harrison. You know? Was in a famous band thirty years ago?

I used to be a massive Beatles fan. In the mid-80s I discovered mid-era Beatles, and listened obsessively to Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt Pepper. And no-one does obsessively quite the way I do. I read every book ever published about the Fab Four: George Harrison's autobiography, the Albert Goldman biog of John Lennon, the Hunter Davies book, Philip Norman's Shout!, the Ray Connolly ones, the Mark Lewisohn diaries, plus the memoirs of every bit-player, studio hand and roadie.

And then, one day, I went off them. Just like that. Transferred my obsessions elesewhere and suddenly my old obsessions seemed naff. I blame George Harrison. Cheapening the legend, living off his former fame, churning out nostalgic Beatley bits of shit like When We Was Fab and All Those Years Ago. Get over it, man. Oh, and then there was the Travelling Wilburys. And don't start me on Jeff Lynne...

The flag on Liverpool's City Hall is flying at half-mast today. I don't know why, as the fucker got of there as soon as he could. Made a few bob and moved down south. Bought a fuck-off gothic mansion set amid acres of Oxfordshire park land. Died in Los Angeles, by the way.

That Beatles reunion is really fucked now. The talented one died twenty years ago. Now the dull one's gone. That leaves the thick one and the grinning drippy control freak.
We have just been called into the office and told that, due to falling profits, the company will not be subsidising any Christmas lunches this year. "You can still take time off to have a Christmas lunch, but you'll have to pay for it yourself."

My manager's manager chimed in, "We'll still go out? The production department? I'll organise a date."

Look, if I have to pay for my own lunch, I'll choose the people I go with. And you won't be one of them, capice?
This time last year, I had a crush on a guy who worked in Borders on Charing Cross Road. I can't tell you the number of times I popped in there just to look at books, peering over the top of a magazine to watch him at work. I don't know how many times I stood in the queue, waiting to pay for something I really didn't want, waiting for the Borders lottery: "Will he be the one to serve me? Oh look, he's almost finishing with that customer. Damn, she's picked up a copy of the Little Book Of Calm. Put it down, bitch! Oh no, I'm being beckoned by the spotty geek at the other till. No, I'll just ignore him. Damn!"

It wasn't like I was stalking him, honest. But I never did get to talk to him, and the last few times I went in he wasn't there. Perhaps I scared him off.

Borders have a habit of hiring sexy staff. They've continued that tradition Down Under. Good luck, Dave!
Today's favourite search request:
tracys cunt

Or perhaps podgy nude girl

Thursday, November 29, 2001

I'm clearly on a porn tip today. Jonathan has sent his digital camera in for repair. I hope it didn't contain any dodgy home-made porn like the camera Marcus handed in. Yes, Marcus and I did the first thing that most new owners of a video camera do - we filmed ourselves doing, er, stuff. Then Marcus dropped the camera [not during the act, but a couple of days later, when he was showing the film to his flatmate. And now it's broken.

Many, many years ago, I had a boyfriend called Kobus [pronounced "coo, a bus!"] who lived with his aged mother. He had one of the first video cameras - a huge thing which took full-sized video tapes. Thinking back, I guess he must have done this kind of thing before, because he had all the gear - a tripod, professional lighting, etc. He set the camera up at the end of the bed, and we, well, you know.

One day, he was all alone in the house, feeling a bit horny, so he put the tape in the VCR in the lounge and watched us. Now, here comes the key bit: he then left the tape in the machine.

A few days later, he and I and his mother were in the lounge, watching TV. Mom had the remote. "There's nothing on tonight - let's see if we've taped anything..."

With that, she pressed "Play".

It took a while for me to register just what I was seeing. Bodies. Naked bodies. Our naked bodies. Oh shit. Kobus leapt out of his chair and frantically hit the VCR, shouting, "No, ma, you don't want to watch that!"

"Why? What is it?"

She seemed genuinely perplexed, and to this day I have no idea if she:
a) realised it was two people having sex.
b) realised the two people were male.
c) realised the two males were her son and me.

She did die of a heart attack not long after that, though.
What's your favourite ABBA song?
I was going to write a scathing review of Aiden Shaw's novel, Wasted. But I can't be bothered - Aiden's a nice guy, he's just not a writer. Instead, I'll just list some of the witty one-liners I would have included in my review:
  • His films contain more realistic dialogue.
  • The only thing that's Wasted is my time.
  • If Aiden Shaw is a novelist, then I'm a porn star.

    Actually, I was a porn star! Well, "star" is not quite the right word, but I have appeared in a porn film. I think.

    I was a young-looking 20, a skinny chicken with sprayed-on jeans, standing on the balcony of a Johannesburg club called Zanzibar, drinking a gin-and-tonic because it looked cool under the UV lights. As did the blonde highlights in my Durannie fringe. An American guy came up to me and said, "You're gorgeous. We're making a porn film in Hawaii next week. How would you like to be in it?" At first I laughed it off, but then he bought me a few more drinks and paid me a few more compliments and promised me lavish fees, and before I knew it, I'd agreed to go home with him, and once there I agreed to "perform" before the cameras the next morning.

    Not in Hawaii, I have to point out, but in Johannesburg, at the very modern house of his friend Stan. Stan owned a car rental firm and was the promoter of a very successful gay club. So he had a bit of money. He had a stunning modernist house - all stark brickwork and sharp angles and sheer glass. And a black marble swimming pool running around three sides of the house.

    It was around this pool that the action took place. Unfortunately, I can't remember much of what happened. I do know that I was very, very nervous. I think there were three of us involved: the American "producer", me and a young friend of Stan's. I can't remember if there was a plot or any dialogue, or if we just got down to it.

    I also can't remember if I was paid for it, though I have a feeling I wasn't. Being a gullible young thing, I took them at their word when they said that this session was just the first of many, the rest still to come in Hawaii. I have no idea if our session ever appeared in a film, or - a far more likely scenario - was simply passed from chickenhawk to chickenhawk on the Johannesburg scene. I shouldn't imagine my performance was up to much.

    If I'm a porn star, then Aiden Shaw's a novelist.
  • Today's favourite search request:
    wet willy pics skateboarding
    And, no, I don't have any pics of Blu Cantrell naked. Or digimon sex, whatever that is.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2001

    Speaking of Cliff, a few years ago I got on a number 8 bus going east along Bethnal Green Road. I was headed for The Block, and was dressed accordingly. Whatever odd sights I witnessed that night at The Block were nothing compared to my bus journey there. Sat opposite me was a middle-aged woman carrying a rolled-up poster. Somehow, perplexingly, we got talking. She had just come from the Royal Albert Hall, where Cliff had been performing.

    "And you know, all those other women, the common fans, were there. But what they don't know is that I'm married to Cliff. Oh yes, but I can't tell them that, it would ruin his career. You know, he keeps an eye on me - he flies over my house in a helicopter just to make sure I'm alright: 'it's OK Joan, I'm watching over you,' he says. It's good that the real Cliff has started performing again. For the last five years, the Cliff that you've seen on telly or in concert was a lookalike, an imposter. If you looked closely, you could see he was Indian. That's because the real one was living with me. But those other women, the ones who were queueing to get him to sign their posters, they didn't know that. He fooled everyone, my Cliff."
    Is this grounds for divorce? What do you think? He'll be buying bloody Cliff Richard albums next.
    Thanks to holidays and honeymoons, we missed the last couple of pop quizzes at the Retro Bar, so we were looking forward to last night's quiz. We had a full-strength team (me, Jonathan, Darren and Ian) and were quietly confident that we'd be in with a chance. Not even close! But - considering the quiz consisted largely of new releases, and considering we're a bunch of tired old codgers - we did quite well. And so did our neighbouring team, comprising Davo and Marcus. [Greed and the potential for glory made me choose my regular teammates over my boyfriend - an unwise decision, as the Kylie round proved!]

    The quiz started with DJ Otzi's unspeakable version of Do Wah Diddy, and we were asked who had the original hit with it in 1964. Please use the comments facility to answer this and any others. Next up was an anonymous bit of fluff that we failed to recognise as Blu Cantrell's Oops (Hit Em Up Style). The unmistakable bellowing of Anastacia was next, followed by Mary J Bilge [sic].

    We had no problems naming the TV series theme tune that Moby sampled for his hit Go. Next we had to name the soul diva singing that song that goes "fish in the sea, you know how I feel, it's a new day," plus the indie band that's released a cover of it.

    We could name two of the three Pink Floyd songs - See Emily Play and Money, but not the third - something about a bicycle.

    Next up were three new indie bands. We recognised Ladytron, correctly guessed the White Stripes and somehow managed half a point for guessing that the third band was the Moldy Peaches. It was in fact The Peaches.

    The three Tori Amos covers were easy, despite them all sounding like typically kooky Tori dirges. Name the three artists who originally released Strange Little Girl, Enjoy The Silence and Rattlesnakes.

    31 artists are featured on the cover of What's Going On? by Artists Against Aids Worldwide. Name six of them.

    We were doing quite well up to this point, but then came the three Kylie questions, on which we failed to score a single point. We'll have to turn in our membership cards to the homosexuals' club! Give the first 17 words of I Can't Get You Out Of My Head. Now give the first 14 words of I Should Be So Lucky. Finally, give the year the latter song was released.

    We finished on a score of 15 out of 21. Davo and Marcus got eleven-and-a-half. Simon, aka Newton - or is it Ridley? - from Shinky Shonky, got an amazing 20.5 and scooped the 55 quid.
    The man from Del Monte says 'yes'
    Today's favourite search request:
    where can I buy in London a remote control furry dog

    Speaking of search requests, it appears that the digitally manipulated XXX pics of Justin Timberlake I posted a few months ago have hit the search engines. I had very nearly my busiest day ever here at Swish Cottage. It took me a while to figure out just why, but of my 380 page views yesterday, 117 of them were on the N*Sync man's cock.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2001

    You may have noticed the new banner at the bottom of my links list. Link and Think encourages bloggers to link to sites providing information about AIDS and HIV on World AIDS Day - 1 December.

    Another World AIDS day site is The Hive - a new blog. It contains stories by people whose lives have been affected by HIV. It is open for anybody [yes, even you] to contribute. I've just added a piece about a documentary that was on BBC2 last night, about the South African activist, Zackie Achmat.
    The Advocate on Blondie
    Harry plays a strip-club madam in Richard Glatzer’s gay-porn exposé, The Fluffer; she portrays a “bull dyke with a mullet” in Spun, the feature directorial debut of Jonas Åkerlund, who won an MTV Award for directing Madonna’s “Ray of Light” video; and she has a cameo role in the Martin Scorsese–produced, Scott Kalvert–directed Deuces Wild, which stars Matt Dillon and Brad Renfro.
    Today's favourite search request:
    edna st. vincent millay nude photographs

    Monday, November 26, 2001

    I suppose I could tell you about Saturday night's gay[ish] blogmeet at the Retro Bar...
    I suppose I could tell you about the rumour that was confirmed...
    I suppose I could tell you about chatting to Sparky at Barcode afterwards...
    I suppose I could tell you about waking up with Marcus the next afternoon, surrounded by crisps and pistachio nuts...
    I suppose I could tell you about Dame Edna's fantastic show at the RVT...
    I suppose I could tell you about what happened to Ian afterwards...
    I suppose I could tell you about the intimate details of our sex life that a rather wobbly Marcus told a bemused Jonathan...
    I suppose I could tell you about what we did after that...
    ...but I'm too tired to tell you.
    RuPaul has a blog. Only one posting so far. Superblogger, you better work.
    Today's favourite search request:
    david beckham gay lookalikes

    Friday, November 23, 2001

    Another Friday, another online personality test. According to the Harry Potter Sorting Hat, I am Ravenclaw. Now, having never read any of the Harry Potter books, I have no idea who or what that is, but I certainly hope it's got nothing to do with this lot!
    I was thinking of reorganising my links list, using real names instead of blog titles, cuz - well - it seems more personal somehow. But then I realised that a large chunk of it would look something like this...
    David
    David
    David
    David
    David
    ...and I - David - changed my mind!
    I need some new music, some new books. Based on my previous purchases, ratings and items on my wish list, Amazon thinks I'll like these CDs:
    Animal Magic ~ Bonobo
    Asleep in the Back ~ Elbow
    All Is Dream [LIMITED EDITION] ~ Mercury Rev
    White Blood Cells [IMPORT] ~ White Stripes
    Love Is Here ~ Starsailor
    The Optimist ~ Turin Brakes
    Souljacker ~ Eels
    Here Be Monsters ~ Ed Harcourt
    Residue ~ Hefner
    Wonderland ~ Charlatans
    City Watching ~ Two Banks Of Four
    Jazzanova Remixes 1997-2000 ~ Jazzanova
    Morning Sun ~ Block 16
    Chemistry Is What We Are ~ Simian
    Rooty ~ Basement Jaxx

    ...and these books:
    The Dark Room ~ Rachel Seiffert
    Hotel World ~ Ali Smith
    Number9dream ~ David Mitchell
    True History of the Kelly Gang ~ Peter Carey
    According to Queeney ~ Beryl Bainbridge
    Half a Life ~ V.S. Naipaul
    The Devil's Larder ~ Jim Crace
    High-rise ~ J.G. Ballard
    A History of Britain Volume 2: 1603 - 1776 ~ Simon Schama
    Fury ~ Salman Rushdie
    The Crystal World ~ J.G. Ballard
    The Drought ~ J.G. Ballard
    The Atrocity Exhibition ~ J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs (Preface)
    Madonna: Queen of the World ~ Douglas Thompson
    The Sweetest Dream ~ Doris Lessing

    ...if you have read any of these books, or have listened to any of these CDs, please leave a brief review in the Comments below.
    Jonathan and I took Dan out last night. We decided to take him to Shoreditch, as I figured it would be London's version of New York's East Village hipster-nerd thing that Dan loves so much. I just hadn't counted on the throngs of drunken suits. Calling them "City workers" would be too kind - they were insurance company clerks and secretaries.

    Our first port of call was Hamilton Hall at Liverpool Street station. I love meeting people here - it's just so fabulously fake, over-the-top faux baroque, a little slice of Viennese opera in London. The plaster surrounding the gilded cherubs and moulded grapes has now been painted a dirty yellow, to give it that authentic tobacco-aged patina.

    We walked up to The Light. Housed in a former electric power station, it has kept its industrial feel, with exposed brickwork and heavy-duty machinery on show. The ground floor bar was a bit noisy, but - after sending Jonathan on three exploratory missions - we eventually found the upstairs bar. This was more like it - leather sofas, understated DJ, helpful bar staff - and we had the place virtually to ourselves. We had an intriguing encounter with a bouncer, who claimed - when he was on his own - to know both me and Jonathan. Yet when he was with his straight colleagues, he completely ignored us.

    We were now starving, but none of us was overly taken with Great Eastern Dining Room, so we headed for reliable favourite Cantaloupe. "This reminds me so much of Brooklyn," said Dan, which I think was a compliment. We went through to the restaurant area, where Jonathan treated us to dinner. I had a dish seemingly designed for me: all my favourite things on one plate: Tender lamb shank! Chorizo! Butter Beans! Pumpkin! Red Wine! Hunky waiter!

    Our serious discussion about racism, social issues and crime in South Africa was - perhaps thankfully - cut short by closing time in Home. We dispersed to hail cabs and run for tubes.

    So, while the evening wasn't quite the two-fingered-salute and a sneer in the face of New York that I'd hoped for, it was more than just an arched pinkie and a stiff upper-lip.

    Thursday, November 22, 2001

    While I was on holiday, I read The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin. It's about a successful gay writer who reads a novel by a young boy who was sexually abused as a child and is now suffering from Aids. The writer gradually comes to have doubts about whether or not the boy is real, or merely a creation of his "mother".

    It turns out that Maupin's novel is based on his real doubts about a real book, published by a possibly-not-so-real boy or his "mother". Read this commentary on MetaFilter.
    Try the Guardian's spelling quiz. I got six out of eight, but I can console myself with the fact that three of the four editors in my office - real, proper writers - scored five; while the other managed just three.
    Speaking of Americans in Europe, Steve Bell has won an award for political cartoon of the year for this cartoon in the Guardian.
    As we speak - or as I write, anyhow - Sparky should be on a train heading from Lancashire to London. I do hope he's looking out of the window on his right, and is seeing the gorgeous sunset. Jonathan and I are taking him out to trendy SoSho tonight, to give him a fix of the "hipster-nerd aesthetic" he's been missing.
    Sunday 18 November

    Not a great deal to tell about this day, as we only got up at dusk. (Well, we’d spent a further four hours after we’d left the club, blissfully, wonderfully, awake in the hotel room.)

    We had a so-so dinner at SantaMonica on Place Reial, then called in at EasyEverything on the Ramblas to check email and write brief gloating blog entries.

    Our guide book told us that Poble Espanyol was open till midnight on Sundays. Not in winter, it ain't. All the bars and clubs were shut, but the security guard let us wander around. Poble Espanyol [Spanish Village] was built for the Exhibition of 1927, and is a collection of buildings representative of the architecture of the various regions of Spain. There's a Castillian street, an Andalucian barrio, a Dominican church, etc. It should be very tacky, but it's been done with such attention to detail that it's really charming. On summer weekends, the place is alive with trendy bars and clubs.

    Because the following day was to be our last full day in Barcelona, we had an early night. Well, early-ish, anyhow, getting home at about 2am after a few drinks in Dietrich and Atame.


    Monday 19 November

    A busy day, packed with sightseeing.

    First up, Gaudi’s La Pedrera, the apartment complex with the melted, flowing shape and the groovy chimney pots. We also took a tour of one of the apartments. The apartment was huge – about twenty rooms, all spacious and airy. Once again, Marcus and I changed our minds about where we’d like our summer home.

    Then we took a walk to La Sagrada Familia, perhaps Barcelona’s most famous landmark. Marcus has a real fear of heights, but I managed to force him up the spiral stairs. He was a bit wobbly when we finally reached the top of the spires.

    As it was a glorious, cloudless day, we decided to take a trip out to Tibidado, one of the two mountains overlooking the city. There’s a cathedral with a large statue of Jesus at the top, and a funfair too. To get there, you need to take a Metro, then a tram, and finally a funicular. However, on the day we tried to go, the tram was replaced by a bus, and the funicular wasn’t running at all, so we didn’t make it to the top. We did consider walking up, but instead drank in the view - and a couple of beers - in the glass-fronted bar on the edge of the hill.

    After a siesta back at the hotel, we had dinner in a restaurant near the Picasso museum and bid our farewells to Barcelona by having a last tour of the [thoroughly empty] bars.

    Tuesday 20 November

    Up at 8, last-minute packing, check-out, panic at the Metro station about which train to take. Our flight was delayed by an hour, but soon we were flying over the snow-covered Pyrenees, on our way home.

    There is so much we didn't manage to do on this trip...
  • The zoo
  • The funfair on Tibidado
  • The illuminated fountains on Montjuic
  • A few days in Sitges
  • A trip to the monastery at Monserrat
    ... that we will simply have to go back in the summer!
  • Happy five months' anniversary, Marcus!
    I read it while I was on holiday, darling. So there! Damn good it is, too.
    Friday 16 November

    Still didn’t manage to get up much before noon. After coffee, we took a lovely walk through Barcelona’s Barri Gotic – the Gothic Quarter – an area of ancient lanes and trendy shops. We marvelled at the Gothic Cathedral, which has a flock of geese around a fountain in its courtyard. We ambled down towards the seafront, the sky growing ever darker and more threatening.

    As we reached the Parc Ciutadella, the heavens opened. We ran through an incredible downpour, and took shelter in a greenhouse. A greenhouse which just happened to have a bar in it! We had two cups of coffee and two huge snifters of brandy while water pounded on the glass above and around us.

    After a little while, it stopped and we walked around the park, checking out the fabulously over-the-top fountain, La Cascada. The storm’s winds (which, according to the next day’s headlines, were measured at 145km/h) had torn branches off the trees in the park, and we found these weird alien-looking seeds, like huge green testicles.

    We had planned to go to the zoo, largely to stare at Snowflake, the albino gorilla, but the zoo was shut, so we went to the Arc de Triomphe instead. (Yes, they have one of those in Barcelona, too.) We took the Metro to Placa d Espanya and ascended the escalators past the magnificent National Art Museum of Catalunya to the Olympic village. As we reached the top of the hill, the sun came out of the dark storm clouds. The huge modern telecommunications tower looked amazing in the dramatic lighting.

    We walked back down, past Poble Espanyol, which we decided to come back and visit another time.

    That night we went out to the usual bars, and then went to the club, Metro. Although we danced on the main dance floor most of the evening, we did take a couple of turns on the flamenco floor. I found the TV screens above each stall of the Gents' urinal a bit off-putting and counter-productive. After surveying the club from a dark corner near the bar, watching for clandestine transactions, we found what we were looking for and had a fantastic evening. Marcus bumped into a guy he knew from Sweden. “Who’s the top, and who’s the bottom?” he asked us.

    Saturday 17 November

    Although we were dead tired, we decided to go to Parc Guell. We took the Metro to Lesseps and then walked up past fabulous villas, many of which were now occupied by squatters. We couldn't make up our minds which one we wanted for our summer home. Just before we arrived at the park, I asked Marcus if he knew what to expect. "No idea," he said. His face, when he saw the fabulous, surreal Gaudi creations, was a picture.

    They must have had some damn fine drugs in the water in Catalonia around the turn of the 20th century. You had Gaudi, Picasso, Dali and Miro, all producing surreal masterworks. Gaudi's work was on a far bigger scale than the others. His instruction when designing Parc Guell was to produce a residential estate. His solution: molten benches, leaning pillars, mosaic dragons, phallic turrets - a surreal landscape, dreamlike or nightmarish. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fine citizens of Barcelona decided it was too bizarre for a residential estate.

    We hadn't eaten all day, and we were both shaky from hunger, a situation that was remedied - I'm ashamed to say - by a visit to Burger King. Later that night, we made up for it by going to Taxidermista, a lovely restaurant on Placa Reial. The building which houses the restuarant was once a taxidermist's shop, and has been converted very intelligently into a wonderful dining space, with some of the original fixtures, some new, and a glass floor looking down onto the kitchen. Good food, too.

    We went to Metro again that night, leaving at 6am. We paid a quick visit to Acido Oxido, a heaving after-hours club, but Marcus had a bit of a turn - he couldn't handle the crowds, or their sheer freakishness, and we left after just half an hour. The skies on our short walk home were beautiful - pale blue with pink cotton-wool clouds. This augured well for the day ahead, but we only got up at 5pm, so probably missed a gorgeous day.

    [more to follow later...]
    When I was a child growing up in South Africa, my older brother told me about ant lions. "Look out for perfectly conical depressions in the sand," he told me. "At the bottom of them, there lies an ant lion - a kind of dragonfly larva or something - just waiting for an ant to fall into the hole. It senses the movement of the sand, then grabs the ant and sucks it dry."

    He told me this story when I was about ten years old; so why oh why did I dream about them last night? In my dream, the ant lions looked exactly like the large prawns Marcus and I had in Barcelona! Turns out they look nothing like that.

    I also had two separate dreams in which I was a resident of a country undergoing a civil war. In the first dream, I lived in eastern Europe; and in the second, I lived in Thailand - and was a teenaged girl!

    Wednesday, November 21, 2001

    Pics removed to conserve bandwidth. They can be found here.
    I am 30% ADDICTED TO THE INTERNET.



    I could go either way. Deep into the madness of nights filled with coding CGI-Scripts and online role playing games, or I could become a normal user. Good luck!


    Take the INTERNET-ADDICT Test at Fuali.com!
    Our holiday in Barcelona:
    Wednesday 14 November

    As I shut the door and left the house, I realised that while I may have remembered everything I would need for the holiday, I'd also locked my keys inside the house. Well, I wouldn't need to worry about that for another week. It was so cold when I met up with Marcus at Kings Cross, that I was wearing four layers of clothing plus a hat. I consoled myself with the thought that it would at least be warmer in Spain.

    As it turned out, it wasn't that much warmer - it was overcast and drizzling. The hotel we'd booked was just off the Ramblas. They have a weird system of numbering floors in Spain - first there's the ground floor; then the entresol; then the principal; and then - and only then - do you get the first floor. Thus our room, which was supposedly on the third floor, was actually on the fifth. (Or the sixth if you're American.) And, no, of course there wasn't a lift. Our room was large, with a separate lounge, but looked directly onto a concrete wall.

    We took a quick wander down the Ramblas to the harbour, then popped into a bar for a beer. Schilling (C/Ferran 23) is a great combination of a grand old cafe and a trendy bar, with a largely gay clientele. A colleague at work had recommended a restaurant for dinner, and - despite appearances - it was excellent. El Cafeti (C/Hospital 99) is at the bottom of a dingy alley in a run-down part of town, but the interior is charming, the food excellent, the prices reasonable, and the service - well, a bit surly to be honest.

    We then went off in search of the city's gay nightlife. So many gay bars have opened in the area around C/Muntaner, C/Casanova and C/Consell de Cent over the last couple of years that this part of the Eixample is being nicknamed the Gaixample. On a Wednesday night, however, most of them are empty, with only Dietrich (C/Consell de Cent 255) getting busy. We called in for a nightcap in a small neighbourhood bar where it seemed de rigeur to own a small dog and be very camp. In what was to be a common occurrence, Marcus ordered two vodka and Cokes, which the barman somehow heard as two vodka and tonics.

    Speaking of drinks, my god, they pour them strong in Spain. The formula for pouring drinks in Spain is something like this: put three ice cubes in a tall glass; now pour vodka in, and keep pouring till it's half full; now pour some more in; and a bit more, leaving an inch at the top to add your mixer.

    Thursday 15 November

    We had planned to go to the Dali Museum in Figueras, but we only surfaced around noon. We figured we could still make it, so we scrambled up and ran to the train station. We bought our tickets, only to discover we'd just missed a train and would have to wait an hour for the next one.

    It was pouring, so after a half-hearted look at Gaudi’s Casa Batlo, we retired into a coffee bar on Passeig de Gracia. There are two types of train from Barcelona to Figueras: the express and the slow train. Guess which one we caught? Two hours later, we finally arrived at Figueras with just an hour to spend in the museum.

    But what a museum! An amazing building, filled with brilliant art. And with a busload of slow, annoying, French pensioners. Marcus and I showed the compassion for which we are famed when one of the old dears took a tumble on the stairs and was surrounded by a flock of tutting old ladies offering her sugar cubes. “Out of my fucking way, you old bats,” one of us was heard to mutter.

    After a quick meal in a restaurant that showed signs of last being decorated in 1974, we caught the train back to Barcelona.

    We discovered the delights of Spanish supermarkets. In particular, the booze aisle. Our squeals of delight and amazement could be heard around the store. “Look at this: a bottle of Smirnoff, 1100 pesetas – that’s, like, four quid!” “And these beers, 58 pesetas each - that’s just 20p.” We didn’t just buy booze, though, honest. The chocolate was incredible, too.

    Off on a round of the bars, which only started filling up well after midnight. The bars in Barcelona are all beautifully designed, with sleek, well-lit post-industrial interiors. They make the trendiest bars in London look like the drab pubs they really are.

    In a packed Dietrich, we were approached by two friendly guys offering to sell us drugs. Well, it would have seemed rude not to, but we could have bought what we ended up with in the pharmacy aisle of the supermarket for, like, three pesetas or something.

    This didn’t put us off clubbing, and we went to Arena – a small club filled with eccentric types. Not bad for a Thursday night.

    [more to follow later...]
    I have an old Geocities mail account that I don't use these days, largely because of all the spam I started getting. I checked it today after a month or so. Here's an unedited list of the all subject titles in my mailbox this morning. Spot the one email I actually wanted to read.

    Copy any DVD Movie for FREE!; Increase Your Bust Up To 3 Cup Sizes! Natural Bust!; Make 36% Yearly Fully Secured!; Guaranteed Top Ten Search Engine Placement!!; Impotency - no longer a problem; ELIMINATE CREDIT CARD DEBT!; Is your spouse chatting online to their lover?; Universal Cable Box Sale - Perfect Gift - Save $$$; Got Debt? Cut Your Bills in HALF!; SCHOOL, PERSONAL NEEDS, HOME, AUTOS, MONEY, NO PAY BACK!; Free Vacation; Pill to Increase Your Ejaculation by 581%; ISP Business Expo Debuts in San Jose in January; Body Fat Loss; L.o.o.k and f.e.e.l 10-20 y.e.a.r.s y.o.u.n.g.e.r!; Make your own DVD and Playstation Games for the cost of a rental; Check Out Samantha's First Photo Shoot; Interracial p0rn - You won't believe your eyes; Thank You For Your Interest..........; laser supplies; Take Advantage of Falling Interest Rates!; COPY ANY DVD MOVIE - FOR FREE!; Dear Future Millionaire; Holiday Discount - Boost Your Traffic!; Hi There.; University_Degree_Program; Drive away in a Jaguar X-TYPE; The PPC Killer Application - ROI Optimization!; We Run Background and Asset Searches!!!; Have you found the best Life Insurance Policy? Get a FREE quote now!; Urgent Marc Almond News; Shop around and compare your Life Insurance rates. Get a FREE Instant quote!; Hey Mike; NEED EXTRA CASH?!?!?; All Natural Way to Grow New Hair!.Read on; Your_£2_off_voucher_for_the_new_Top_of_the_Pops_CD; Is your mortgage APR as low as 3.94?; Perfect "AAA" Credit Rating in 30 Days ... Guaranteed !; Stop Snoring85%Effective/Website works now!; Change Your Life Forever!; Guaranteed Top Ten Search Engine Placement!!; Tired of Being in Debt!; EASILY COPY ANY DVD MOVIE FOR FREE!; Get One Today; Facial Rejuvination Really Works!; Snoring Keeping You Awake?*Free Melatonin*; Terminate-Credit-Card-Debt!; Money Judgments; Holiday Special -Giovanni Famous Name Brand Leather Jackets on SALE NOW!!; Click here to double your money in 30 days; Making over Half Million Dollars every 4 to 5 Months!!!!!; Horny Blowjob Site; New Pill Adds 1 to 3 inchs to penis-Guarenteed; FREE GAS!
    I spend every second Tuesday at work putting together an environmental newsletter. We delayed this week's issue, with the editor's agreement, as I was away on holiday, only returning today.

    The editor worked hard to get the issue's stories ready for my return. Then came yesterday's announcement about Heathrow's Terminal Five, and she's got to rewrite the whole damned thing. I'm not very popular right now! Still, it gives me some unexpected free time this morning. Expect a Barcelona report-back, with pics, later today.

    Sunday, November 18, 2001

    All too soon, our holiday draws to a close. Tomorrow is our last full day here, so we need to make the most of it. More than we made of today, anyhow, when we surfaced just as the sun´s last rays were filtering through the blinds. Well, we´d only got to bed at ten that morning. We have both been amazed at the hours these people keep - no-one has dinner before 10pm, and it´s clearly a crime to go to a bar before midnight. After Metro shut last night at 6 in the morning, we discovered an after-hours club that was packed to the hilt. With the ugliest men in Catalonia, unfortunately.

    Any fears I´d had about going on holiday with a "new" boyfriend have proved unfounded. Marcus is a perfect travelling companion, and this week has brought us far closer together. May it be the first of many. The weather could have been better, but the company could not. As I hoped, Marcus too has fallen in love in Barcelona. I hope we´ll come back here in the summer.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2001

    I'm about to head off into the sunset for a week, so I leave you with this image, emailed to me today. Find the apricot! [I think I can find the apricot, and I think I have also found several people I have known rather well...]
    Time Out's online city guides were once very sparing in the information they gave away. Obviously, they wanted you to buy the book to get the full picture. Nowadays, though, their listings are pretty darned comprehensive, and - best of all - free. I've just printed about fifty A4 pages of stuff on eating, drinking and clubbing in Barcelona, thereby saving money which I can spend on those very activities. Well, we're probably going to spending a fair amount of time indoors, as the weather is deteriorating!
    The new ad for Bachelors Cup A Soup had me in hysterics this weekend. While searching for it online, I discovered this archive of British TV ads from the seventies or eighties. Is she or isn't she?

    I didn't find the Bachelors ad, but I did find fabric for bachelors.

    Monday, November 12, 2001

    Marcus and I leave for Barcelona on Wednesday. Although I've been there four times, and know the city well, I have never had a really good meal there. Every restaurant I've eaten at has been a disappointment.

    The sole exception is Ila de Gracia, a restaurant up near Fontana metro station. I first went there with my friends Richard and Halina back in 1996. We got chatting to the waiter, José, a really lovely guy. He chatted to us for ages, telling us about loads of bars and clubs. A year later, I went to the same restaurant with my friend Saffina. José immediately recognised me, and asked me how my two friends were. A year after that, Saffina went on her own, and again José knew who she was, and asked after me. I'd love to take Marcus there, to see if José still recognises me after a two-year break, but there's a problem: Ila de Gracia is a vegetarian restaurant, and I have a boyfriend who refuses to eat vegetables!

    If you have had a good meal in Barcelona, please recommend the restaurant in the comments.
    Jonathan is clearly having far too much fun on his Not-A-Honeymoon in South Africa to do any blogging. But he wouldn't be Jonathan if he didn't keep me up-to-date on his progress via SMS messages:
  • Open top bus was full, so we're sitting at a restaurant in Camps Bay sipping a rather nice South African.
  • The men are gorgeous, but I'm not sure about that accent!
  • We're on the road to Mossel Bay. What the hell does "Ahead Voor Robot" mean?
  • Nine years of being with Mark have finally rubbed off on me - have sent a meal back to the kitchen for the first time in my life.
  • We're lying on the beach, under the stars. They're different down here!
  • OK, we've been in Knysna five minutes and are looking for a gay bar. Can you help??

    And, of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't keep him up-to-date on the goings-on at the RVT:
  • Oh. My. God. Andy Almighty just played Steps' next single: a cover of I Know Him So Well!!
  • On Friday night, Marcus and I, and his two flatmates, went to the Two Brewers in Clapham. We got very, very pissed. One of them quite literally...
    My heart sank yesterday when I heard that the DE Experience was unable to perform at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, due to "unforeseen circumstances". [I'm not even going to begin to speculate!] I needn't have worried. Her last-minute stand-in, Jewish-American transsexual Candi Cane, was excellent. [Note to US gay bloggers: this is not the Candis Cayne who presides over Barrcadua every week.] The secret love-child of Peter Stringfellow and Anne Robinson, Candi's act features videos, masks and more wigs than Hedwig. She's rapidly picked up on British culture, too, as her portrayal of Delia Smith showed.

    Lots of great company at the RVT, too. "I feel like a member of the First Wives' Club," said my ex-boyfriend Pano as I introduced him to my ex-boyfriend Michael and my boyfriend Marcus.

    Friday, November 09, 2001

    God, am I glad I didn't grow up in Sweden. This explains a few things...
    I've switched the comments from Reblogger to BlogBack, so they should work again. [Thanks, Sandra for pushing me into doing it.]
    I am honoured to take the credit for inspiring this.
    Apologies for the quality of these photos, but considering they were taken with a £39.99 digital camera as small as a matchbox, it's amazing they came out at all. See if you can piece together what I did during my lunch break!





    My little spy camera is more fun than I'd imagined. We've spent the morning - during what is meant to be a busy press week - making silly movies. Unfortunately, I can only get the webcam function to run on a PC at the moment, and the fims are saved as exe files so only follow these links if you're on a PC.
    A short film about Marcus [437Kb]
    A 90-second whodunnit [4Mb]

    Thursday, November 08, 2001

    Someone - I think it was probably Meg was talking about how the staff at Boots literally force you to take advantage of their two-for-one offers. Another of Boots's idiosyncracies is the 'linked save'.

  • Sandwich plus 500ml Coke: £3.05
  • Sandwich plus 500ml Coke plus KitKat: £2.75

  • One of the pictures above is of Marcus getting ready for Jonathan and Mark's partnership registration; the other photo is of me. But which is which? Did someone say "twins"?
    Oh! Look what I received in the post this morning: Yes, it's a teeny, tiny digital camera, no bigger than a matchbox, complete with keyring attachment. It's probably also a pile of crap, but who cares?
    An **All Users e-mail I received this morning:
    i'd just like to say sorry to the fellow employee whose dinner i took home last night

    i'd left a waitrose bag in the fridge on the 4th floor and must have picked up the wrong bag when leaving

    anyway, i've checked this morning and my bags gone too so...

    .... i hope you found my thai curry as delightful as i found your chicken

    sorry again
    michael
    For the last two days, I've been playing Rockstar Game, but I'm no nearer to understanding how it works. It's a sort of Fantasy Pop Star thing, where you create a pop star, who records singles, then tours, releases albums, etc. My pop star - Mickey Moist - is not doing very well. Go and buy his single - it's currently languishing at number 970 on the UK singles chart!

    Wednesday, November 07, 2001

    My day in three pictures: 1, 2, 3. [And no, this doesn't mean I've been painting, fisting and listening to music. Unfortunately.]
    The most fearsome creature on earth: a white South African with a rubber stamp.

    South Africa House has seen many, many protests, and it was the scene of much turmoil this morning. I spent one-and-a-half hours in a queue there today, witnessing petty bureaucrats taking great glee in dashing the hopes of the desperate. There's something about a South African bureaucrat that makes him worse than any other kind.

    My brother and his South African girlfriend had a baby four months ago. For reasons I can't claim to understand, the baby has to be South African, even though he was born in England and has an English father. They hadn't yet registered him, but they received some distressing news this week: her father back in SA is very ill and if they want to see him, they'd better hurry back.

    The baby therefore needs a temporary passport. You'd think they would be able to request the necessary forms by phone, but oh no - you have to send a self-addressed envelope or pick them up in person from the South African High Commission. That's where I came in.

    You'd think, too, that you'd just be able to pop in and pick the forms up, or that the underworked receptionist would have a stack of them, but oh no - you have to join the queues of people renewing their passports, applying for visas, work permits, etc.

    When I left South Africa seven years ago, I hoped I'd never again have to hear "Where's your ID book?" But hear it I did, again and again, and a multitude of excuses: "But the lady on the phone said I wouldn't need it", "But I've never needed it before", "But this is the fourth time I've been here this week", "But you didn't tell me the photos had to be identical".

    I finally made it to the front of the queue and explained I needed to pick up some forms for my brother. "Where's your ID book?" I explained, again, that the forms weren't for me, but For. My. Brother. "When are they planning to leave? How long are they planning to stay? Have they got a letter from her father's doctor?" I don't know. They're for my brother. "You'll have to get a letter from their doctor." No. Give me the forms for my brother.

    I stuck to my guns, and the forms were eventually handed over. I called my brother to tell him I was sending them special delivery. "Oh, that's OK," he said, "her father's better; we're not going now. I meant to call you last night."
    I read yesterday that Neil Hannon had sacked the rest of the Divine Comedy to go solo. After last night's quiz, I toddled, rather drunk, into a music industry showcase, where the band was auditioning for a replacement lead singer. Now, I can do a vaguely passable Neil Hannon impersonation, and I'm a similar build, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. To my amazement, they chose me.

    We rehearsed a bit and did our first gig. The news that Neil had left the band affected our ticket sales really badly, and the venues had to be scaled down - we performed round the back of a row of terraced houses. The crowds were hostile - I bravely stepped up to the mike and cracked a joke: "Sorry Neil couldn't be here today. As you see, I've grown a beard, too." They booed and bottled me off stage.

    The crowds chased me, all of us skating in our socks along tiled swirly pathways on the marble floor. This turned into a Busby Berkley production number, with me singing a new song: "Poor Janet, poor Jackie, poor Yoko, poor Jane; they can't afford the luxury of a middle name."

    Tuesday, November 06, 2001

    If you're using a PC, Dave's Quick Search Toolbar Taskbar is essential. Perhaps one day somebody somewhere will invent something similar for the Macintosh.
    Sometimes - rarely, but sometimes - I wish smoked. And sometimes - even more rarely, and quite mystifyingly - I do. I had several drags of Marcus's cigarette on Friday night, and I think I had about half of one on Saturday night too. I'm not sure why - perhaps it's a subconscious ploy to make him feel guilty about smoking. To give him credit, he did try giving up just after we started going out.

    There are a few benefits to smoking:
  • Smokers have a valid reason for taking a five-minute break from work every hour.
  • They get to know people from other departments and floors as they cluster outside the building.
  • They get to hear all the gossip.
  • They have a ready-made excuse for talking to fanciable strangers in bars in clubs: "you got a light, mate?"

    But then I hear my boyfriend coughing his lungs up first thing in the morning and I remember why I don't smoke.
  • 60%. You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You're the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!
    Are you a blogaholic? Link via Dave.
    Public firework displays. What's that all about then? Don't get me wrong - bonfire nights in the back garden are one of Britain's loveliest traditions. Friends and family gathered round the fire, sipping hot toddies. Kids running around, munching on treacle toffee and toffee apples. Paranoid parents keeping the children twenty feet back from the fireworks. Nervous fathers gingerly approaching that Roman candle that still hasn't gone off. An effigy - not Osama Bin Laden, please - burning away. Ah... bliss.

    Public firework displays, however, have none of this charm. Last night I accompanied three bewildered Swedish guys to the firework display at Clapham Common. Attempting to introduce them to some English customs, I handed out sparklers. Janne whispered "What are these?" Tomas whispered back: "Santa Claus". "Ah." They waved them around, half-heartedly, while I grinned like a madman, writing Marcus's name in lights across the sky.

    Thousands of people lined the streets around the Common, waiting patiently for the 20-minute display. Thanks to an unseasonably warm October, our view of the fireworks was obscured by dense leaves, but the crowds still oohed and aahed dutifully at every bang, before filing home again.

    "What an odd tradition," said Tomas. He's right, you know. Guys, I can't wait for Santa Lucia night!

    Monday, November 05, 2001

    Congratulations to:
  • Jonathan and Mark on the registration of their partnership and thanks for Saturday's wonderful reception at the Retro Bar
  • Ian on his birthday today
  • This weekend was prodigious. Or - if you're from Stockholm - nice!
    DATE Sat November 3 2001, 23:51  
    FROM  RRHTAMPA@aol.com
    TO  blog@cack.co.uk  
    SUBJECT Yeah me too  
    MESSAGE  
    I hate gay people too.

    Robin

    Friday, November 02, 2001

    A day in the McLife...
    Speaking of shirts that are too big, I'd love to publicly thank my marvellous, wonderful boyfriend Marcus. I casually suggested to him last weekend that I really loved my blue checked short-sleeved shirt, but it did seem to hang, tent-like, on me. "I'll take it in for you," he offered.

    I had no idea how much work would be involved. He's completely taken the shirt apart, cut bits off the sides, the bottom and the sleeves, and is reconstructing a far nicer, more slimline garment.

    Marcus, I owe you.
    I seem to be missing one vital gay gene: the shopping gene. I hate shopping, dread it, fear it. Especially for clothes. My problem is that I go out with a very, very clear idea of what I'm looking for, and if I don't see that exact garment, I won't be happy and will return home with nothing. Last night, I decided I needed a shirt for Jonathan and Mark's partnership do on Saturday. I could see the shirt in my mind - a dark bluey grey, not quite charcoal, more what my mother would have called Air Force Blue. Oh, and it had to be plain, slightly shiny, and smooth, with no obvious texture. You see my problem now?

    Amazingly, I almost immediately found the exact shirt at my first port of call: Selfridges. The right colour, the right texture, the right amount of shine, even the right label: DKNY. But not the right size. Smart shirts are graded by their neck size. Now, I have no idea what size my neck was, but I know one thing: it's very, very small. When the term 'pencil neck' is applied to me, it's an insult to pencils. I asked the very helpful middle-aged Vietnamese lady at Selfridges [Mrs Slo Kum?] to measure my neck, a humiliating process, made even more so when she announced: "Fourteen? Oh, I don't think we stock anything that small. The smallest we have is fifteen. If you wear this with a tie, the collar will bunch up."

    Still confident that I would find the exact shirt, I headed out along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street, New Bond Street, my confidence ebbing with each pile of horrible striped, checked, embroidered, or simply not-quite-right shirts I encountered.

    My other trouble is with posh shops - I fear them. I hovered outside Prada on Bond Street. On the shelves inside I could see whole stacks of shirts in my exact shade of grey. I walked past, then doubled back, surreptitiously peering into the shop, to make sure. Yes, there were hundreds of them, yes, it was a men's clothing shop, and oh God, there were four very pompous shop assistants standing round just waiting to patronise me, but what the hell, I needed that shirt. So in I went.

    The uniformed man guarding the door, and no doubt springing to open it when potential customers approached, didn't bother. I rifled through the piles of shirts. They were perfect, but had no prices on the damn things. I wheeled my head around anxiously, but the four assistants stood at the far corner of the shop, gossiping snippingly, probably sniggering at the torn lining of my jacket. One of them eventually deigned to come over: "Yes? Can I help you? I doubt it very much. Are you sure you can afford these? What makes you think you can wear Prada?" OK, he didn't say that exactly, but his eyebrow did. It is perhaps fortunate that they didn't have my size, and I never did get to find out how much the shirts cost.

    But this was nothing compared to my ordeal in the DKNY store, where I was tailed by a tag-team of security guards, making no effort to disguise the fact they were taking turns to spy on me, grunting into their walkie-talkies, pointing me out to each other, keeping a close eye on my rucksack.

    After two hours of trudging around the West End, feeling completely dispirited, I went back to Selfridges and bought the first shirt I had seen. I know it is too damn big. If you see me tomorrow, please do not point out that the collar is bunched up. I may just hit you.

    Thursday, November 01, 2001

    We've been having gorgeous sunsets in London all week. Tonight's is particularly lovely. It began half an hour ago, with a gentle pink band across the deep blue, like watercolour on wet paper. Then came slashes of red, orange and purple. Right now, there are violent neon splashes of orange and vermillion.

    Ooh, and looking out of the other window, I see that a huge full moon is hanging low over the horizon. And it's pink. Ooh, now it's orange.

    I'd appreciate the beauty of it more if I didn't suspect that it is merely an indicator of high air pollution.
    The Proudfully American Logo Museum: all the banner logos that have appeared on news reports over the last few weeks. America Fights Back, America Strikes Back, America Responds, America at War, Attack On America, etc, etc. How many permuations of stars and stripes can there possibly be?
    I can't be the only person who hears the phrase "book launch", and thinks "Free Food! Free Wine! Free Books! Free Goodie Bags!" Not, it would appear, if it's Creation Book's launch of Marc Almond - Adored and Explored, a book of photographs by Jamie McLeod with text by Jeremy Reed.

    No, in that case the phrase "book launch" means expensive bottled lager, no canapés, no freebies, and a table in the corner flogging copies of the book. Still, the venue - AKA Bar in London's glittering West End - is cool, with excellent music and funky loos (swish cottages?). It was fun watching punters stride confidently up to the bar, then hesitate, and reach into their back pockets for print-outs of the emailed invite, thinking "I'm sure it said there would be free drink!"

    The subject of the book did not turn up, as he was performing across town at Brixton Academy with Soft Cell. No doubt Jonathan will have the details.