Friday, April 30, 2004

The Truth about being Single

I usually throw out the Style section if I buy the Sunday Times, but I was delighted to read a gutsy cover article by Shane (she) Watson called The Truth about being Single.

In addition to numerous references to Sex and The City and what to do next, I particularly like this:

According to the myth, there is the real world and then there is the world occupied by single girls and gay men. In S&G world, you spend all your money on cashmere and candles and white furniture. You eat salad for lunch and buy fresh flowers every day. It’s the latte lifestyle — me and my laptop in my local designer cafe

As mentioned before, women face a harsher ticking sound from their biological clock. On the other hand, some ageing men actually believe they're still as gorgeous as David Beckham. What delights me about Shane's article is that she demonstrates that women are at least thinking, while men are only just still wanking.

It is particularly amusing that Shane's article is in the Style section, because like in the Reagan years, the Millenium era has been all about Style with little substance.

Where this meant aspiring to the Lifestyle, it means you were also achieving a life without substance.

The gay lifestyle is at endemic proportions still, eg. young men in Manchester still pushing the limits of following their "Queer as Folk" models. In London, the gay scene has long been hijacked by fatuous publications such as BOYZ and QX, which address very little about anything other than sex and music. I've had the Boyz editor, David Hudson at my dinner table in the past, and I think it's about time you used your brain, David, you great big lunk...

The first thing you should know is that being single makes you unbelievably selfish. , says Shane Watson, and what she hasn't followed up on is that, even when you end up in a relationship, you haven't a foggy clue about how to conduct one. Look at the number of struggling couples there are out there, even the ones with young children.

I used to loathe being single, but now I'm sad to say I'm learning to be selfish. In 15 continuous years of being "partnered", what perturbed me the most was that too often I was confronted by single gay men who would either be secretly envious or uncomprehendingly bewildered or both, of what it must be like to be in a partnership where existed some elements of Love and Duty. The non-existence of environmental support for a relationship is probably worse than that endured by straights, but not one that will be solved by mere legitimisation of Gay Marriage. What was even worse was witnessing the constant denial by single gay men that their lives were anything other than FAB, GREAT, and in today's kiddie parlance, HAPPY, SANE and SORTED.

In this case of social truth, once again, gay men have needed the women to lead the way.

While women are needed to have children, and they know it, I wonder how long it will take for gay men to wonder what they are needed for, and how the hell will they ever learn it?

X2 - the Mother in Law

Your every flaw can be traced back to your mother. So too must your gifts, but they are clouded by the flaws. How impotent I must have felt I was when it came to dealing with them, that I should today feel more bitterness towards her than you.

I wonder if mothers know how powerful they are, long after their sons have outgrown their physical authority. If they should harness their influence, and if we should harness their influence: Osama's Mom, where and what the fuck are you doing? Barbara Bush, have you got a drinking problem? Ariel's Mom, seriously, don't you watch TV? Wake up, grow up the lot of you, and mind your children...

Yours might be old now, but she is not daft, and still she searches for something that is to me so obvious. It is hard to believe that she was "radical" for her time, in the now-gone-and-hard-to-imagine suffocating culture that was England's. Perhaps if she accepted how conformist she really was, she could start being truly radical.

Does she know how hard she tries to be restrained? To be polite? To appear rational and sensible at all times? As in The Dresser, to be never, ever, ever despairing? To be reserved, to be in a Church of England vicar's measure? All virtuous and Victorian values, worthy of respect to be sure, but still a mere subset of the human soul....

There is no passion in that palette of emotions. There is nothing searing, nothing burning, nothing Dionysian, nothing orgiastic. No devotional love, no tears, no ecstasy, no cosmic joy. And most of all ,there is no all-encompassing self-sacrificing love. All these things are too strong and too powerful to fit into a charcoal drawing.

I will not live in black-and-white. I know throbbing vivid colour.

Look how many people like you turn to counselling and psychotherapy, whose intellectual heritage is Calvinist Protestant Switzerland. Isn't it a wonder that they think they have progressed from being Sunday church-goers? Still looking for a way to reconcile all those other human emotions, into their minds that have been moulded by Protestant heritage. Would you and them not better study your heritage, your religious ancestry, than to confuse it with the tortured denial of Psychoanalysis, which is the fear (of mankind) that pretends to be a science?

I will not be bitter any more. I know what food is good, how to grow it, what tastes good, and how to cook. I can always add acid or tartness to counteract the bitterness, if ever there is such a shortage of decent food, that I should have to go back to that limited palette of emotions. I have known the finest foods, and I have eaten Saveloy and Chips. If I have to eat Saveloy and Chips, I do, but should I be so stupid as to prefer it? I will away....

Thursday, April 29, 2004

While building the cloakroom

I've been building a downstairs cloakroom lately.

The warm weather we had was glorious, even the fetid atmosphere that sat over us on Tuesday that ended in a deluge with thunder and lightning. Today the weather has gone back to British best. Overcast, cool, breezing, very North Atlantic. Grey, grey, grey.

Yesterday I was singing and dancing and hammering and building and thinking I could start loving again, and thinking how dangerous such thoughts could be.

Today, I think I'd like to be coddled and tended to by servants.

I am like a cactus, think I. I don't ask for much water (e.g. money). I don't look big up top, but my roots spread far and wide in my own search for nourishment. I don't have a big strong trunk, but being juicy and succulent, I would be eaten alive if I didn't have my prickly spines to protect me. When in my correct element, my fruits are abundant and enjoyed by all passersby.

So what the hell is a cactus doing living in a damp greenhouse (eg. this London climate), where it is least likely to survive? Vulnerable to and attacked by rot and pestilence.

The rot that floats about in and spreads through the air (eg. our media), and rests in the decaying matter that has been shed by wasteful plants that have leaves (eg. the old fallen ideas of the loud squanderers). This is not even rot that produces beautiful mushrooms (eg. the exciting extremes of a decadent society), but lives invisibly and seeks vulnerable hosts like me to feed off parasitically.

The pestilence of blood-sucking aphids, and of soil larvae that emerge to burrow into my roots.

What masochist am I that I should choose to live here?


Like many in my generation, I was in the Seventies and Eighties taught that when it comes to buildings and furniture, old is always better. This movement was probably a reaction to the shabby construction and manufacturing standards that existed in the Fifties and Sixties here. Hence there was a massive trend to restore Victorian houses and buy up anything that was antique. This did great business for Sotheby's and Christie's and neighbourhoods where the owners wanted to fuck off to Majorca.

Well, not everything Victorian was always excellent. I've had to demolish a partition wall to install a doorway for my new cloakroom. This is a 1905 house. After taking off the plaster to reveal the brickwork, I discovered ye olde construction technique that I've heard other people complain about over the years. The brickwork was not in an interlocking pattern that you would expect. In fact, there were vertical timbers every 18 inches (2 brick lengths), and horizontal planks every 4 layers of bricks. In other words, this was actually a timber partition wall with brick infill. The heavier solid expensive bricks were used only on the bottom third of the wall, with the cheaper Swiss Cheese bricks used up on top.

Of course, the mortar was of lime, not of Portland cement, and the bricks all came out with scarcely any encouragement. For those of you who live and use everything around you without bothering to find out where it comes from: Portland cement, the very glue of your built environment, was only invented in the late 19th century. Prior to that, how did anybody build things, even in Roman times, you should wonder? They used lime, which is made from limestone, which is still in use today and which has some advantages, but adhesive strength is not one of them.

Being an analytical sort of person, I puzzled about why they used this wood and brick technique for building a wall. After all, there had to be a reason, and it had to be about money, which had to be about saving time. (These are the constants that run through history, while all else might change). And I figured it out. Lime mortar is quite sloppy, and takes many days or weeks to cure to a reasonably hard state. It does not achieve its full strength for many months. This is unlike Portland cement used today, which is quite hard after only one day. You can't pile bricks up with lime mortar quickly without worrying that the mortar will squish out at the bottom. So you have to put in horizontal timbers to prop up the bricks while they're setting. Then you need vertical timbers to hold up the horizontal timbers.

Just as well I gave up on the romance of Victoriana years ago. I couldn't afford to do it properly, anyway.

Get a load of this blog, which comes out of prison - Clearly Calm. It's going into my blogroll! Geez, they get to use Moveable type, money, money, money. Which reminds me that I saw a whole load of jobs going in the prison at Ashstead Middlesex, paying generous salaries for cooks and gardeners, because they required you to work with/supervise the prisoners. Money, money, money....

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Those college students

Critical Mass are having their 10th anniversary ride this Friday starting at South Bank under Waterloo Bridge, after 6pm. Want to see whether London still has any pizazz? Check it out, and decide once and for all. You can be walking, cycling, skateboarding, whatever..... and doing it with as much colour as possible.


My lecturer at the college where I do an evening course was confiding in me today. He is a really nice English chap in his late fifties, who is a fine example of his generation : he tries very hard and does his very best for everyone, with the best temperament that you could expect of anybody. He was telling me how he despairs at the daytime classes because of the current generation of youth.

Now if you haven't had anything to do with the bottom half of the school leavers over the last 6 or 7 years, you will probably be entirely dismissive. Basically they are lost. So many of them come from single parent families, broken families, families with interrupted parenting scripts (ie. they have cut themselves off or have been cut off from grandparents and great-grandparents). Most of them are not deprived, not by any measure that is used by 80% of the world's population. They may not be rich, but they are definitely not deprived: they have TV, Walkmans, games, and they know more about music than they know about London, let alone the rest of the world.

He was complaining about how they argue about all the silliest things all day long, accomplishing little. And that everything they say is a pack of lies. (I hope they didn't learn that from the House of Commons). They are a generation that has been lost to the economy, and oddly enough, the Jack Straw set of the Labour party is totally clueless about it.

I had to work as a temp for 3 weeks in a Hackney school 2 years ago. The children were anywhere between terrifying and "a bit worrying". The permanent teachers complained that it was because of a lack of resources, but this was not the complaint of anyone who had seen schooling outside Britain. An American supply teacher who had even taught in Los Angeles ghettoes gave up on the school after a week, declaring that these children were beyond hope.

I have witnessed corporate organisations, nothing as genius as Tesco, B&Q, or John Lewis, and I very soon saw the really horrendous problem in this school. The teachers each had their own socio-political agenda, and demonstrated no common united face towards the children. The Teacher's unions added to the confusion by pandering to individual gripes. Being Hackney, the school attracted teachers whom thought they were helping the world by treating these children as poor victimised members of society. Ask a parent struggling to raise today's children, and they will tell you that you must never let children get the upper hand, or you've lost control of them. The teachers, being the kind of people that were still rebelling against their own memories of their own upbringings, and being the kind of people who disavowed themselves of ever becoming parents, were their own worst enemies.

The school is closed down now, because even the Education authority realised that pouring money into the infrastructure of the school would not solve the problem. There was no other way of getting rid of those teachers.

And now that Britain is paying adolescents to stay on in school beyond 16, and go to college, I wonder how they are going to remedy the education of this generation? Or do the Jack Straw set really think that their pet social agendas that were formed under Margaret Thatcher, still have any place in today's different circumstances.

Intransigent adherence by adults to the tenets of Libertarianism have helped to form this generation of youth, and much as I regret how boring London has become, even I admit that a decade of being boring is needed to rebuild this society for the future.

Blistering Barnacles!

This was the first weekend of heat and sunshine under a high pressure cell. Shirts-off weather. It never fails to amaze me how my hormone balance shifts tectonically with the seasons. I don't think I am unique there, because human beings are physically primitive animals. The menstrual cycle that governs their reproduction is all the bleeding proof I need to defend that. I am however more confronted with my animal self than the average vegetable that passes for a man.

Saturday was a cycle ride all the way into London, following the instinctive logic of a mouse in maze. Never in Lycra, which to me is less sexy than women's nylon stockings. It was astonishing how light the traffic was on a Saturday afternoon. Darting in and out among all the side streets, I was able to assess the pulse of London in the space of 2 hours. Why don't journalists do that? Probably because they're too busy getting drunk at the Evening Standard.

The glorious weather had drawn people out, but it was not busy anywhere except in the tourist ghettoes, notably Oxford Street and Hyde Park. Along the way there were small clusters of people that were gathered outside the more well-situated pubs. Otherwise, the Brits have abandoned London. You can come to visit London and never meet anyone who was born here, and that is modern tourism. Ho hum, mediocre, mediocre, mediocre! The tourists in London vary from one year to the next, depending on who the travel companies can con into taking up the hotel bookings. The current average tourist in London is European, 30-50, conservatively middle-class, married or with one or two children in tow. They're here to catch up with their Joneses while it is cheap to do so, and are content with a change of scene without expecting any earthshaking culture. Ho hum, mediocre, mediocre, mediocre!

Even a stop in the King's Arms revealed less testosterone drive than could be found in a pregnant, 5'2" Vietnamese woman. London is flaccid - it has no distinctive local energy. The sexiest person I saw all day was a 17 year old girl, possibly Slovenian, who was wearing a black top bare on the back but secured by 5 strings. What's all this boring fuss about being gay or straight? It is as dull as the fuss about being black and white. Even apartheid was destroyed, so why shouldn't these suffocating labels be consigned to history for the subject of future ridicule.

Friday, April 23, 2004


To look at the sky, broad and blue, and think of flying.
We are apes with metal wings.
The hope of freedom, of better times, is relief from the fear of here.
Escaping, running away, to find a dream that puts the soul at ease.
In a car, in a train, in a plane, we feed our animal need to flee.
While we can still run away, we still feel safe.
We do the car, the train, the plane,
Over and over and over again,
Burning oil, burning up the planet,
So we can still feel safe.
When we arrive there, we find what we had here,
The same cages, the same walls are there.
The same corporations, the same mankind pen you in.
The wilderness is gone, so we must travel constantly and never arrive.

When they take away our car, our train, our plane,
No longer knowing how to fight,
Like running prey finally trapped,
There will be a terror so paralysing,
Freezing like the gazelle waiting for the big cat to sink its jaws into the neck,
Frozen, waiting for the predator to take us,
Waiting, afraid to look,
where, who, is that big cat?
Or if it is a wolf,
What sheep are we?

London's Boring, London's Boring...

Fetch the Engines, Fetch the Engines....

London has become irretrievably boring. It is now only a city of cleaned up architecture, interspersing tastefully the modern with the ancient. With regard to the human element it has lost all its vitality and vigour, but now sits efficiently with a shallow smile to take what it can from peoples all around the world.

The difference is shrinking between London and a tourist attraction such as Disneyland. At least Disneyland has characters that have survived seven decades. London's characters don't survive, they just get snuffed out.

Take Ken Livingstone for example. In the Eighties, everybody in London, all anarchic rebels, thought that Ken represented them. Ken was Margaret Thatcher's enemy - a wasteful, almost Communist Lefty. In the short-sighted logic of the Eighties, the young adopted the simple rule, "My enemy's enemy is my friend".

When the time came that London created the position of Mayor around 1999, the young rebels of yesteryear were disappointed with the lack of socialist values in Tony Blair. Everybody in London supported Ken Livingstone for Mayor, because Tony Blair was against it.

Ken was driven from Tony's labouring party, much against his wishes. He became Mayor, and has surprised everyone. Instead of bringing back some heart into London, he has somehow given it nothing but cold semiconductor memory.

So when you walk about in London today, you will have clean streets and nicish buildings to look at. But all the life is gone, and you might as well have imagined London's history by just looking at the Internet.

There is no more grittiness in London. Instead of the will-to-live in Eliza Doolittles, there is the aftermath of spin and political manipulation from the Henry Higgins. (Perhaps there are too many gay politicians, parliamentary assistants, political lobbyists, journalists and charity trustees, whom under a Blair government, have in the image of Peter Mandelson, striven to achieve respectability. Somehow they have achieved the alchemist's goal, that even a Bible-bashing fundamentalist could not achieve: they have succeeded in taking homosexuality out of being gay.)

Ken Livingstone supported the construction of the new office tower on the Spitalfields site, which is near Liverpool Street station and used to be a vibrant and exciting area. The office tower is now about 3 storeys high, and rises like a tombstone over a buried neighbourhood. That anyone would still build soulless large office towers, after the demise of the World Trade Centres, is very sad indeed. They might claim that it is perseverance in the face of terrorism, but it is in fact perseverance of the dehumanisation of mankind for the satisfaction of global corporate profit.

Ken's semiconductor change of heart is partly due to his age. When you reach middle-age, nobody wants you, and you fear losing your job lest you never get another one. It is that ageist in Britain, anyway. Thus Ken was desperate to be taken back into Tony's labour party, and had to grovel like a lone-wolf to get back into the pack.

Ageism will be the death of humanity.

Coca cola can pick it up

The Coke can leapt from the passenger window, into the middle of the steet in queuing traffic in broad daylight. A £12,000 car, maybe more, with two men in their late twenties. You would expect them to know better. I had just been thinking to myself how Newham was looking so tidy and cleaned up. (Although I know it is just because we are at the beginning of a new accounting year, and they are afraid we're going to revolt over the expensive council tax rises).

So it's the beginning of the season to do battle with yobs and louts. Social equality being what it has become, you cannot assume that they were English yahoos, and indeed they weren't. Suppose the Coke can lands on the street and nobody around them says anything. Should we expect some 60 year old man (who's fallen by the wayside of the new British gravy train) to come along with his dustcart and broom? For £6.00 an hour or less he is supposed to silently and thanklessly scoop up this piece of litter. Or perhaps instead of him, we should need to import an immigrant to do this rewarding and noble job? This is the modern British economy? Productive, necessary, and self-sustaining.... hey, that's clever!

The trouble with being Libertarian by ideal is that it is an impracticable ideal. Should someone have the freedom to act so antisocially? Should they have no reprimanding eyes about them to limit their selfishness? Would zero-tolerance of littering perhaps save us from having to endure a future where the same offender becomes the chief executive of Enron, Arthur Anderson, Marconi, or Parmelat?

Monday, April 19, 2004

Love by Action

In Chinese traditional movies, we don't always use kissing to represent love, nor do we say 'I love you' all the time. We represent it by action or we use other symbols to represent it.

It is very typical for me, and for Chinese people, in fact to express love in a hidden form. Love is hidden in the heart. We don't express love with things such as flowers in our films but by actions.

(Gordon Liu, who was a fighting monk in Shaw brothers kung fu films, interviewed in Metro today)

The dominantly used concepts of love that exist here in London are firstly those from Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, and secondly those from the globalized Hollywood Mass Emotion Machine, (which was controlled and influenced for most of the Twentieth Century by a handful of ex-Pogrom Jewish immigrants). You can think about what they are.

Love by action, instead of just romantic words or chocolates and flowers, leads to tangible growth. Compare that to getting a crappy bunch of flowers, or some lame chocolates that have been carelessly picked up in the supermarket. Love by action involves directly helping the other person, and taking some responsibility for their future best interests.

The population of China is estimated at having already been 100 million at 0 A.D., and today is a billion people representing nearly 20% of the global population. Despite this, there is a limited perception of Chinese people which is gained only from Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan movies, and the post-drinking trip to the Chinese restaurant/takeaway. The old stigma of Chinese inscrutability lives on. Children immediately break into a Kung Fu routine or a Banzai! joke (a British comedy which is witty but plays on old Oriental stereotypes) as soon as they see someone Chinese.

By comparison, could you imagine the uproar if children were doing "Black and White Minstrel" or "Golliwog" impressions everytime they saw someone Afro-Caribbean?

Today, British people are actually more knowledgeable about Thailand, because of its popularity as a tourist destination, than they are of China. So how can Britain delude itself into thinking it can be multicultural when most of its people scarcely have any intellectual understanding, let alone feeling, about the history and culture of this fifth of the world's population?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Skewed Multiculturalism in Newham

Opened my back door this morning, and instead of being met with the sound of birds and the rustle of spring leaves in the breeze, what do I hear? A horrible sound, a male caterwauling of some religious bent.

I put on the radio to try and drown it out while I was working, but still those shrill calls of the male-desperate-to-get-the-attention-of-the-whole-wide-world-by-screaming-his-religion rose over the few electronic Watts of sound that I could muster.

This lasted several hours, and the temperature of my blood heated up faster than the cooling spring air. When the noise began increasing, I went ballistic and stormed out the door, around the corner, and went marching down the street looking for the source of this inconsiderate noise. I had thought it was the third garden over behind mine, but no, it wasn't. I proceeded down the road towards the station, and suddenly realised that the sound was coming from beyond Manor Park Station, indeed from the Romford Road, A THIRD OF A MILE AWAY from where I live. The noise had been even louder than the trains that rush through the Manor Park.

I suddenly recalled seeing the notice on the Romford road of a religious procession that was to take place today (Sunday). Infuriated at the noise, I went to look, but found not a colourful or fascinating parade (unless it was already over), but a couple of vans with speakers blaring this wretched noise.

To what extent does ONE minority have special rights over ANOTHER minority that allows the bigger minority to bombard their neighbours in this inconsiderate manner? Do these special rights come from the strength of numbers? If this is the case, then the smaller minority deserves the greater protection than the bigger minority, or else we revert to the Law of the Jungle such as in the USA, namely: "MIGHT IS RIGHT".

I feel so entirely embattled here in East London. I am visibly "ethnic" (to use that word debased by the Commission for Racial Equality) but I am so hopelessly outnumbered by strident and vigourous "minorities". Indeed, I feel sorry for all those old Eastenders who are the suffering English minority here in Manor Park.

This is just one small example of the flaws of multiculturalism, which in any case was never well understood/explained/considered in Britain. In Canada, Pierre Trudeau (who had the intelligence and the power of speech to express it) implemented multiculturalism IN THE LATE SEVENTIES. It is still there today, although it is struggling to find a future path. In Britain, nobody has the wit to analyze Canada's experience, let alone the honest, intelligent integrity needed to borrow from and improve upon it. So here we are, in East London, suffering from the chaotic imposition of an ill-conceived multiculturalism, while Robin Wales and the Guardian writers like to boast that we're one harmonious, uniformly successful community.

Please note there was no Easter parade with a brass band booming in this neighbourhood last Sunday. There was no festival of Cantonese Opera, let alone the traditional wailing Cantonese funeral procession. There was no St Patrick's Day parade here. There was no Samba band from South America whooping it up on the streets. Only the noise today of some religious procession of one domineering "minority".

Please, can we have a Samba band? That is MY religion. Why are my beliefs not catered for? Or am I supposed to give in to living in a society of ghettoes?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Warm sunny morning

The mature cherry tree on the Wanstead Flats closest to Manor Park Station is in the peak of bloom, and is heavy with white blossom. Although back in February it looked like we would have a spring that was 3 weeks early, the trees seem to be sticking very closely to the schedule of averages. Perhaps the cold nights have held them back till now.

Bluebells are out in the woods. Not all bluebells are English. Many of the ones you see around London, or in people's gardens, are in fact the Spanish bluebells, which like many things introduced into this island country, is threatening to take over the native species, which need protection. They do this not only by multiplying in their own right, but by mixing into the genes of the English bluebell. For years I nurtured the bluebells in my front garden, and wondered at why they were so vigourous, healthy and robust. I congratulated myself on my nature-gardening skills. Then I was disappointed to learn they were the Spanish bluebells, which are common as muck and as easy to grow as daffodills.

What is the difference between the English bluebell and the Spanish bluebell? The English bluebell has narrower leaves, tends to have a thinner more sparse flower spike, and most importantly, the flower spike bends over at the top and dangles all its flowers on one side. This is known as a one-sided nodding inflorescence. The Spanish bluebell is sickeningly meaty and overbearing, with wider leaves that spread further, and a bold upright symmetrical flower spike. Thanks, Germaine Greer, for drawing this to the nation's attention 2 years ago.

In other words, the English bluebell has a delicate beauty, whereas the Spanish bluebell has a weed-like robustness. The Spanish bluebell is taking over, because it does very well outside of the darker woods, with more sunshine and heat. If the English climate should once again experience a few successive years of cold dark dampness, they would die off very quickly. So that's enough about the English and the Spanish, before some naive Guardian-reading Anti-Racist accuses me of racism, (The Boys Who Cried Wolf, who destroyed the value of the word that might have saved a lot more people in Rwanda). Or see the noble reference at English Nature.

Along Aldersbrook Road, which borders the magnificent Thirties suburban estate of Aldersbrook, some vandal has smashed up the glass J C Decaux bus shelter at the corner of Herongate Road. J C Decaux is the equivalent of Ikea to the street furniture business (eg bus shelters, advertising hoardings, benches). They may well be most successful globalized industry to ever come out of Belgium. Almost every damn thing you see in the street in London nowadays is J C Decaux. Thanks Ken Livingstone, for blowing my burdensome Council Taxes on street furniture that even 11 year old kids think are ugly.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Love's Hindsight

There comes a point after the most painful divorce/breakup/separation of your life, when for the first time you can begin to look back at it with hindsight.

Breaking up is forever hard to do. The infatuations of adolescence were painful, if short-lived. The romantic disappointments of being twenty-something were like punches in the face that told you to harden up and wise up. Then if you're lucky and persistent, as I was, at last you find real relationships that last years, and you discover that making Love work is like cooking. You can make the most divinely delicious meal that you'll both remember on your deathbed, or it can turn into the worst gruel that shouldn't be served to a serial-killer in prison. The cookbooks aren't there, the recipes aren't there, the food technology isn't there. Rick Stein isn't there to guide you, nor is Prue Leith. The materials for your cooking aren't nicely laid out in aisles in Tesco or Waitrose. So what can you do? Listen to the Beatles? Go and watch Love Actually? Join an evangelical Church?

There are three stages in a breakup, and any one of them can be the worst. There is the period before the breakup, which I call the build-up, and this can last years. There is the actual breakup, when the decision is made and the separation gets under way, and this can last months. Then there is the aftermath, which can last the rest of your life, if you can't get over it. (I know of a family acquaintance who is still embittered at his ex-wife, and is becoming a hermit ten years after their divorce).

In any case, spring is in full swing. The sap is rising, not only in the trees, but in the animals and humans. If you're not feeling frisky, it's time to get out to an old-fashioned farm (they're harder to find nowadays) and get connected to nature. The daffodils are mostly finished and the tulips are already opened up. The weeds are showing why they are weeds, because they can take over so easily. I always let the dandelions show their flowers until the first seed-head comes, and then I rip them out where I can. I reckon that gives everything in the garden an even chance, and no need for weedkillers ever. Notice how similar people are to plants, and how managing a garden is like balancing society?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Yay LBC Radio London!

Well unless anybody knows the methadone equivalent for blogging, I think I'm turning out to be one of those people who have to be paid to shut up.

Yahoo James O'Brien of LBC Radio! I don't know why I haven't listened to LBC for ages. It's like hearing someone speak English, after having spent a prison sentence on Mars. Where have all the people on the BBC, on the Telly, and in the newspapers (those Guardians of civilization) been living for the last few years? In their closets? Or in their handbags? It doesn't seem that they have been in London, or even in England.

It's great to hear someone talking intelligently about what's really happening on the doorstep, here in London and in Britain, NOW, not 15 years ago. I can't help noticing that at 32, (I think he said he was), he has a clear view that is refreshingly aware of real life situations in this country today.

Maybe you don't realise it, but there are far too many 40 to 55 year olds who still carry around the late Seventies and the Eighties with them. They still think there's a coal-mining strike on. They still have voodoo dolls in the likeness of Margaret Thatcher under their pillows. They still have enormous chips on their shoulder about some bullying experience that they had when they were in school, or on the council estate they grew up on - as if that were equivalent to a World War II battlefield experience. They still carry the Sixties sexual revolution on their shoulders, although it never helped them find a decent loving relationship to hang on to. Worse of all, because of employment ageism, they're terrified of losing their jobs. So they hang on to their jobs when its way past time for them to get a new life.

No wonder there is a tradition in this country of letting the young take over. It's because the middle-aged refuse to or are unable to move on.

Jenny Eclair (44) followed James O'Brien, and the generation gap was awful. She's still moaning about how she breaks into a sweat whenever the subject of marriage is mentioned. (How old is that hang-up?) Well it's too late for that now anyway, Jenny, so get on with the rest of your life, or let someone else do the talking.

Borgger this!

Day seems to happen again, and Night seems to at last divide the Days. We can instantly connect to anywhere on the globe, but where physical transportation between different timezones is concerned, I travel as well as a souffle.

Simultaneously I have through this ridiculous phenomenon of blogging once again returned to a congenital disposition that I have been trying to surmount through my entire life. I would rather float around in the safety of my mind, than connect to my body.

Last summer when I entered the world of the unintellectual, the manual workers, using my body and sitting in Caffs (working class cafes, not Starbucks) sharing their copies of The Sun and The Star, I had almost escaped the tyranny of verbal thought. Not entirely comfortably, I at last understood that I too was able to reach a state of existence where I had to struggle through a paragraph in a tabloid, because of the meaningless irrelevant nature of words, words, words (snooty Guardian readers take note).

Today, by comparison, I am again ignorant of my body, and preferring the ruminating meditations of a monk. This blogging phenomenon had obvious dangers that I knew from the start, as I noted in London - Where have the interesting people gone? .

As I stand on the wall peering at the vastness of the blogosphere I am wondering why I would want to live there. It would mean maintaining a blogroll, trying earnestly to be blogrolled by others, and subsisting in a community that I haphazardly encounter as I wander about the Web. I could hope to be RSS aggregated by control freaks that feel plugged in by monitoring the blog universe. This in a city where I have 6,000,000 people on my doorstep, where strangers will not even look at each other on the street or on the train.

This is terribly wrong. It is not whether I should be using LiveJournal, which would allow me to simulate a neighbourhood where friends casually drop in. It is not whether I should be using Moveable Type, which would allow my blog to dress professionally and enter the blogosphere's economy. I do not live in the white wastes of Northern Canada, or the sparsely populated deserts of Africa, or the horizonless ranches of Australia. I live in a City, with a long human history, whose once famous claim was, "If you're tired of London, you're tired of Life"

It occurred to me that it is not by curious coincidence that Blog sounds so much like Borg. (See also Love and Sex & the City). From Startrek I quote "The Borg have a singular goal, namely the consumption of technology, rather than wealth or political expansion as most species seek". So I thought, is there a Is there a No, there is neither, surprisingly, but you might wish to explore

So Borgger this! I am off! An addiction is still just an addiction.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


You were born with so much more than anybody else. Or so it would have seemed. And what did you do with it? What was missing from you that set you back so much?

Didn't your mother love you, or did she love you too much? Wasn't your father warm enough with you?

Did they come from big loving families? Were your grandparents the best, or weren't they there at all?

So if you know those answers, why don't you find your missing link? It won't come to you while you sit there afraid to look. Don't carry on with the same old cup of tea and the newspaper. Don't go on the computer and spend hours playing with yourself.

Do people tell you to love yourself even more? You must be kidding, where will all that energy go into, a metamorphosis into a robot Narcissus? Why don't they tell you to grow your own wheat, drill for your own oil, forge your own steel? Neither they nor you have to bury your own shit in the ground, but they tell you that you need to love yourself more?

Those people should have been shot, not the innocent ones in Rwanda. No, just be pig ignorant, go buy yourself another CD at Virgin, you're not harming anyone else. Go do some serious drugs while you're at it, hey you're free! Well you want to be cool, don't you? After all, you're sane and sorted, aren't you?

What will happen when somebody finally needs you? Will they bother, when you didn't even know how to help the person that loved you? Will you even notice that they ever needed you, or will you pass from this world without any feeling, like some dumb car?

Democracy in Trouble

I never vote. What's the use of voting? All politicians are lying, self-serving hypocrites. They're in it for themselves.

I thought about it: not voting is a political statement, but a rather weak one, and said:

Suppose by not voting, you actually get something worse than if you did vote?

And it just about entered into the 25 year old's head.

Democracy is in horrible trouble in Britain. So bad is it that the Electoral Commission has started a rather good TV advertising campaign. The theme of the campaign is that everything you do in your life - your choice of music, your football team, your clothes - is a political choice. Democracy is in that bad a shape, that some Advertising Agency's creative team figured out that it was time to explain what POLITICS means.

Well, the Green Party very kindly popped a flyer through my door last week. What a surprise, the elections are on Thursday, June 10, for London's Mayor, the London Assembly, and for the European Parliament. The other parties don't even bother to tell me this. They are that smug. Have a look at the Political Compass and see why. Spread your mind. Talking about Left and Right are pretty damn backward, considering that we've sent things to Mars and wired up the planet the way we have. Left and Right of what? The political compass suggests that North, South, East and West are the next step in the labelling of politics. You may discover that both Labour and the Tories are further away from your own political beliefs than either the BNP or the Greens.

The Famous Gardens of Stowe

Stowe, once the great seat of the Dukes of Buckinghamshire, is near Buckingham and Milton Keynes. It is renowned in the gardening world for its influence in natural landscaping. The main house is still occupied by the prestigious Stowe School, which boasts amongst its pupils Richard Branson, that great Imam of modern Britain.

Stowe has only been in the hands of the National Trust since about 1990. As such, it isn't the plantsman's garden that you can expect at some of the more established National Trust sites. It is indeed more landscape than garden, but is so packed with architectural monuments that it must have been considered vulgar in its day. The site is hilly, and amidst the rather open aspect, temples seem to have been built on every possible mound.

Easter Sunday is perhaps not the best day to enjoy Stowe: young families flock there for a civilized day out, but even the children of today's finest families are raucous compared to those of yesteryear. The scattered mature trees and grass cannot without shrubbery soak up all the Twenty-first Century whining that echoes between the sand coloured buildings.

The monuments were erected as political statements, and are interesting as such, but in their time were sadly impotent, in much the same way as blogs are today. The family lost political influence by not keeping apace with the Industrial Age, and the house and garden declined in the early 1800's.

Away from the big political follies, it is by the lakes that Stowe truly becomes magical. The view from the Palladian bridge is one of those fine marriages of water, sky, trees, grass and waterfowl that is forever England. The view of the Palladian bridge is a young lover's dream. The water falls from one lake to the next, with just enough height to be impressive, but not so much that it is overbearing. The walk around the lake is tranquil, and the different vistas reassure from every angle of the richness of this country's land and water.

Similarly enormous water gardening achievements can also be seen here in East London in Wanstead Park, only 15 minutes walk north of Manor Park Station. Wanstead was once also a great house, whose downfall sounds like the template for East End culture and the first ever episode of Eastenders. Its wealth was squandered by the wrong kind of husband and the building was demolished for its stone. The gardens and the four enormous man-made lakes survive today to demonstrate the influence of the fashion started at Stowe.

One notable feature of the day's visitors to Stowe was the absence of any visible British "minorities" other than myself. There were some foreigners, but by their conversation they were clearly tourists. Does nobody else worry how ghettoised this country has become? How will the National Trust, and indeed Britain's heritage, survive without the endorsement of its newest citizens?

Girl, read this (literacy rating: The Star)

Fish like to swim
Birds like to fly
Men like to shag
Your mission,
whether you choose
to accept it or not,
Is to find one
that does more than that

Monday, April 12, 2004

Manor Park, East London

Manor Park in East London is often mixed up with Manor House in North London. Apparently people don't know the difference between a park and a house. Manor Park sits at the southern tip of Epping Forest, the ancient oak forest that King Henry VIII saved for himself to hunt deer. There aren't enough forests left in Southern England. Like the others, this one survived only because it has poor, gravelly soil that isn't suitable for cultivating hungry crops like wheat and barley.

Manor Park has a Railway Station (not a Tube Station), on the Gidea Park/Shenfield trains out of Liverpool Street. It is the stop between Ilford and Forest Gate. The New Essex commuters whizz through it to their jobs in Central London. The greenest greeting outside any station in East London holds its breath for you. Immediately to your left, the North, you see a triangular corner of the Wanstead Flats, as this section of Epping Forest is known. Your view to the right (south) of the station is not so kind, because a clutter of tortured neighbourhoods stretches towards East Ham.

The Wanstead Flats are essentially a heath, with open grassed areas, some woodland, a lot of gorse and broom. It also has a large number of football playing grounds that are available for hire on Sundays. Until about six years ago, there used to be free-ranging cattle here from April to September: it was the only place in London where you would find free-grazing livestock. The cows added an incredible dimension to this precious jewel in London. They exerted a life force that was greater than that of the greed of the men and women who flock to London to earn unnecessary things like BMW's, and bling-bling jewellery. Then the BBC (British Bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy Crisis) and the FMC (Foot-and-Mouth Crisis), created a paranoia about beef and cows that has since joined the list of Tony Blair's cleverly forgotten mistakes. So now the cows are gone, but the cars never seem to go away.

Manor Park is the dead centre of London, because of the City of London Cemetery, which is the largest municipal cemetery in Europe. The cemetery is maintained to very high horticultural standards by hard-working, low-paid, unappreciated temp agency gardeners. It offers tree trails for the perfect visit. The entrance to this cemetery is a 6 minute walk directly up the road as you turn left out of the station.

Do not confuse this cemetery with the still-in-active-service Manor Park Cemetery: you reach that one by turning left as you come out of the station and turning left immediately again, and walking 200 yards. If you arrived by the train from Liverpool Street, this is the cemetery that you saw on your left as you approached the station.

There are also the Woodgrange cemetery and the Plashet Jews cemetery, reached by walking south towards East Ham.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Edible Gay Man

Today I conquered THE WALL.

No, I don't climb. I'm not so fortunately genetically endowed. No, I don't run. I didn't break through the marathoner's pain barrier, and I can scarcely run 2 miles anyhow.

THE WALL is my kitchen wall, in a kitchen that has been a construction site for nigh on three years.

Margaret Attwood wrote an acclaimed feminist novel, The Edible Woman, in the 1960's. (I have read it once only, in 1981). The main character is a young single woman working in a menial office job in Toronto, such as women were limited in doing back then. The scene is impossible to imagine in today's world where often men report to women bosses. If you had the pleasure of seeing the remnants of the Scottish Presbyterian culture that still existed in Toronto in the Seventies, this book was a horrifying journey.

In this book, the main character finds her horizons, in a world designed for men, to be so suffocating that she enters an alternate state of mind. She stops doing her washing up, and leaves her kitchen sink. For months the kitchen sink builds up, while she subsists in this alternate world and sees the things in her society that are swallowing her up. She finally makes it through the nightmare, and one day she returns to the kitchen sink, and does her washing up.

So too, THE WALL has been my kitchen sink. This is the wall which broke me. After hacking off all the unstable plaster to install electrical wiring for appliances, I for the second time in my life had to do some plastering. With all the testosterone-formed bullishness of youth, I attacked it but moderated my impatience with slow careful attention, in order to achieve a fine finish. Despite all my cleverness and ambition, the plaster slumped slightly, and it was the final straw of failure.

Of what failure, you might ask? The failure to see any future in the gay world that I could find about me in London, let alone the one I had chosen to live in for the previous 8 years. There has been no intelligent design of life for a gay man of a certain age, ever. The AIDS epidemic intruded too horribly in gay culture, for gay men to be able to concern themselves with survival beyond the short term.

I was the Edible Gay Man, consumed finally by the limited lifestyle options that gay culture had to offer men over that certain age. Today, after two years of working my way back to THE WALL, I finally painted and made it good. I might not have ever conquered it, and I don't believe in celebrating lest I forgot what went into that wall. But it looks damn good.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Amazon was a rainforest, once

From out the sky the multi-coloured fly did fall
into the Web. A corner of the web far away
from the Spider that did spin it.
When birds flew by
the multi-coloured fly they saw it
floundering like a fish,
And thinking of this tasty dish they
swooped down, but seeing how sticky was this web, they
braked, fired their reverse thrusters, and
beat their wings against the empty air.

Upon the ground the lizards
lounged and waited for the fly.
The spider spun and spun and spun then stopped, and
from its Alien belly
phalanxes of nanocoded robots marched,
crawling about its Web to check what it had netted.
When they came upon the fly, multi-coloured,
far away from the spider, they
cut away the sticky threads to carry it
back to the spider, far away. But the vortex
from the hungry birds shook the web, and
the robots lost their hold of the multi-coloured fly,
for a picosecond. The lizard tongues flashed,
as the multi-coloured fly dashed
for the shelter of a huge pungent flower
and safely there began to sup hungrily on its rotten smell,
for there was nothing to eat, but the promise of the smell,
and from the flower's axils, drops of goo seeping from glands,
digested the fly as the flower closed up.

The spider spun and spun and spun,
The birds flew by
The lizards lounged
The flower fruited
And down to earth it fell
A hog sniffed the fruit, swallowed it.
6 miles away, the next day
it shit the seeds.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The nation gets older?

On BBC Newsnight (Britain's most esteemed TV news program) this evening, the feature was once again about Asylum, legal and illegal immigrants. The usual left and right sides of the political spectrum were presented, and although attempting to be rational, both typically stuck like glue to their football teams. The middle man, chosen to present the balanced view, proposed yet again that the only approach was to consider the demographic projections for this country's population. He repeated the old argument that as we all are getting older, we need people for our economy. (see also They were good for the British economy).

Well, isn't it strange that nobody is saying that maybe people in Britain should have more babies?

Why doesn't anyone in Britain want to have babies? Since contraception is an inarguable human right, nowadays the continuation of the species has to arise out of choice, and not by accident. The lack of discussion about the fear of having and raising children is the most insidious impotence in the West.

A sociologist in Toronto brought out a book last month, identifying that people in Western society are refusing to grow up. In other words, perhaps our problem is not that we are getting older, but that we grow up too late. There has been a lot of cheering for Des O'Connor who has at 72 fathered a new child. That's all very well for him as he is a man, but a woman over the age of 45 has a poor chance of becoming a new parent.

Wealth has proven to be the most successful contraceptive that has ever been invented. In East London, where a constant stream of new arrivals feeds the lowest tier of wealth in this city, it's easy enough to find families with children. Well isn't that the ultimate in laziness, when apart from importing all material products and consumer goods, your economy also has to import immigrants to have the children ? It does make me feel guilty for being gay.

Ps. Representing the "Left" was Bernard Crick, Government Advisor on Citizenship ; the "Right" was Patrick O'Flynn, Political Editor, 'Daily Express'; and the "middle man" was Richard Lewis, Former Deputy Head ,EU Asylum & Immigration Unit

London | Woman, 64, raped in racist attack

BBC NEWS | UK | England | London | Woman, 64, raped in racist attack
Here is another example of social decay in Britain. In London, too. Well away from any tourist area. Well away from the Zone 1 and Zone 2 concentric districts of London which have been gentrified so that the new Establishment (of wolves in socialist clothing) can glory in their overvalued properties. Where fifteen years ago this sort of thing used to be an Inner City crime, today it is a Zone 3 and 4 crime.

While most people still think rapists are just sexually sick psychos who can't control their animal urges, this demonstrates a case of rape used as an outlet for racism.

While most people think that racism is perpetrated by whites and endured by "minorities", this demonstrates a case where it is the other way around.

People will become aware that the attainment of social equality extends to all areas of life. Will they realize that it might be time to build a civilized society again?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Tendonosis, not tendonitis

Ignorance is everywhere, and society expects you to be responsible for compensating for the blissful ignorance of others. This is all very well for the one or two who are clever and bright enough to do so, but the rest of us delude ourselves that we are genius enough to escape the failing intelligence of our civilization. (There lies another case for the limitation of liberalism. We cannot allow anyone to pursue lives of untrammelled blissful ignorance, because beyond some point such a single individual will adversely affect someone else.)

And so especially to the people from whom we seek help, the ones who are employed to completely reject ignorance in their field of specialty. Doctors, once treated as god-like figures of authority. We now understand them to be human beings, and we don't expect too much from a General Practitioner. In Newham, we have many Third-world immigrants who still worship them and expect divine salvation, and their naivete is a scary reminder of the knowledge gap on planet Earth. We slide into the clinics (often just called "surgeries" in Britain) and have to wait patiently amongst the cowed hordes: pamphlets offer advocacy services and interpreters in 30 languages. When finally we take our turn in front of a GP, who has chosen or been driven to work amongst the disadvantaged for some mixture of Hippocratic duty or Race Politics or less-than-average-competence, we note that they are drained and pained, and we spare them more desperation. Rationality and science and reason for five minutes is the minimum respite that such a GP can hope for. So in full understanding of the healthcare process, we ask for a referral to a consultant specialist and duly receive one.

It is the consultants that we must not forgive so kindly. Which brings me to tendonosis. You will have noticed that one of the big differences between the young and the old, are that the young can bounce around and fall off skateboards and still feel no enduring aches and pains. All those scary old people that seem to struggle along the pavement (translate to sidewalk in US) hardly stretching their legs, what is the matter with them? Could it be arthritis, could it be rheumatism? Could it be bad diet, lack of exercise, or penance for youthful sins? Why don't they just pour themselves the trite panaceas of Western culture - perhaps a couple of whiskies or pints of Guinness - and at least block the pain, and laugh, laugh, laugh. Or take a few aspirins.

Athletes and professional sportspersons learn about injuries and have access to the finest resources, medical and those complementary. We cannot hope for these, as our own entire bodies are worth less than a toenail on David Beckham's right foot. Then still, athletes age, and the likes of footballer David Seaman and long-jumper Jonathan Edwards are still forced to retire from their passion before the crucial age of 40.

Can we not at least hope, then, that a consultant rheumatologist, such as the one I experienced at Newham General Hospital, should at least know what any experienced physiotherapist understands? That tendonosis is not tendonitis, that the majority of aches and pains and loss of athleticism are due to ageing, and their care is not improved by "trying aspirin for a month". I quote the following from Patella Tendonosis, but you can find more technical medical references on the Web: we get older the healing response of our body is diminished and damaged tissue may not completely heal. When it affects tendon tissue this degeneration is known as tendonosis. ..

Tendonosis is not an inflammatory condition, anti-inflammatory treatments, such as ice packs and NSAID
(Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) medication, are not appropriate. In fact, NSAIDs may be counter productive as they inhibit natural chemicals that can promote a healing response.

The key to treatment of tendon degeneration is three months rest from sporting activities to allow regeneration to take place. Research has shown that the collagen scar tissue that the body lays down to heal damaged tendon, takes three months to mature to the point where it can cope with increased loads. Treatment by a Chartered Physiotherapist to promote this healing response may include heat treatments or friction massage. Once the pain has settled and enough time has been given to allow the scar tissue to mature, more active rehabilitation can be initiated.

I should also point out that Osteopaths I have encountered do not know this.

On the average body, long before something as critical as arthritis normally appears, the enduring aches and pains that will be experienced are the accumulating results of tendonosis. They accumulate early enough that well-paid famous athletes still have to retire before 40.

The Day After Groundhog Day

The day after Groundhog Day is the most beautiful day in the year. A winter that lasted forever lies behind you. A winter that nobody could promise would ever end. About you, the smallest thing catches your attention. With gusto you seize it gleefully and slip it into that part of the jigsaw puzzle you've been trying to finish.

There will be other winters, and endless Groundhog days, and finally no more days after Groundhog day. So be it. You made it through the last one.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Gay marriage in the UK

Well, the issue has been building up for a few weeks, and now we seem to have Rights for gay couples - but not marriage.

Curiously enough, yesterday a friend mentioned that he had managed to bring in his non-British partner back into the UK, by registering him as his partner. In other words, gay partners have been recognized by the Immigration department for a few years now.

So this new right really is only about money, and specifically inheritance tax. Since this tax is only payable in the UK on estates worth over £250,000, can you really get excited about this?

We live in an era where Love is hardly discussed. We live in a country where it is not traditionally discussed. We use the English language which despite swallowing up words from other cultures, has still added nothing to the family of words about love. Within all this, we have the plethora of gay men who are vacuumed up into the commercial scene, thrown into lives of drugged clubbing and anonymous sex, denying themselves that they need love, and who often don't have two pence to rub together. Finally, at the core of this onion of ignorance, we have a gay culture that barely acknowledges old age. To reach the stage, where you can worry about passing your inheritance to your lifelong partner, seems a plain miracle (also read an addict's second chance).

So why should inheritance tax be exciting for the majority of gay men? I don't deny that this new right is logical only because it seems like harmless equality. It is a mere technical administrative adjustment, that benefits only the well-to-do. It doesn't really constitute significant social progress that gets down to improving the welfare of a person on the street, whether he be gay or not.

Breast Milk

Pete and Jeff on Virgin Radio this morning were playing with the topic of the woman who sells 50 litres of her breast milk per month. One asked the other, "Your wife's been pregnant, have you ever tasted it?" The answer was reserved, so the topic is still marginally tasteful.

When I was 21, a friend of the family, now in her Eighties and herself a mother of six, told me of an old Chinese saying. It goes like this:

"If a woman breast feeds her child while her man is having sex with her, the child will grow up with mental problems."

This is of course a cultural taboo designed to stop something socially undesirable. But what struck me at the time, with my glimpses of the fecundity and fetidness of Chinese society, was imagining the men and women needing the taboo to stop them committing such indecency.

Chinese society has always been a male-dominated universe. The thought of the sexual urgency of the male requiring the woman to be providing two service functions simultaneously is plainly awful. But my friend also implied that sometimes it was the woman that wanted it.

Well, taboos worked out by an old and experienced civilization deserve respect.