Monday, June 28, 2004

Toronto Gay Pride Parade

Most exciting moment today at the Toronto Pride Parade: While waiting outside the Wellesley St subway station for my friend. There were 3 police officers four yards away from me keeping an eye on the area.

A guy walked past me. I saw him coming, because he was gingery, freckley, quite cute and sexy for thirty-something. His chest was bare. He was walking along the pavement just like the other people heading this way and that way. I suddenly noticed he was stark naked, and attractively so. The cops also saw him and said nothing. Other people saw him and said nothing and barely even blinked. Nobody gawked, or pointed. He didn't even have to streak. After he passed by, the cops joked "well, let's just pretend we didn't see anything... did you see anything?".

He was the only one who dared do it, that I saw all afternoon. It was a naturist/nudist's dream, and a damn sexy thing to do!

It was a sunny day, and warm enough. The parade followed a route south on Yonge Street, which is a bit narrow, and was barricaded so that you could not join it or dance with it. The barricades were crowded with 80% straights. The parade was very patchy with long gaps in some places, but a few very nice floats (the best ones were Carnival inspired)

Sadly, it seems to have become a victim of its own success, like the Notting Hill carnival in London. It is a minority event that has been turned into a tourist attraction, and lost a lot of its orgiastic, hedonistic, ecstatic, rebellious revelry, that made gay so different from being straight.

What was good though, was the street festival that occurred on Church Street and in about four of the little green-space parks in the neighbourhood. There were sound stages and some dancing, and the whole street scene and people watching was fun, for a city like Toronto, where downtown is frequently dead quiet. The Toronto gay scene was originally centered around the Yonge and Wellesley intersections, because Yonge Street was a sleazy seedy strip in the Seventies, and the Wellesley vicinity was the gay section. Since then, the gay scene has almost entirely shifted over to Church Street, where all the bars and cafes are nowadays.

There has been a gay community centre at 519 Church Street for a long time, and behind it is Cawthra Park ,which holds Toronto's Aids memorial, with names of many of the people who died from 1982 onwards.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Canada Politics, Palliative Care, Toronto Pride

Blogging can be a vent for frustration, or it can be a sanctuary to visit to re-establish your Self.

When flying to Canada from Britain, I recommend Canadian Affair, who run a service by charter planes from Mytravel (what used to be Airtours). Compared with Air Canada (see March posting), you get a cheerful planeful of attractive trolley dollies, the much nicer Airbus planes, and seat-back television, all else being equal.

There is a federal election here on Monday, and while the rest of the world doesn't rate Canada as anything more than the Great White North (of the USA), the newspapers and TV have been relentless in their coverage of politics in the run-up. Of course, Canadians are zealous about protecting the democratic processes of their system of separate federal, provincial and municipal layers of government. By comparison, the British democratic process still seems like a mish-mash concoction.

Paul Martin is Prime Minister of Canada and he is a Liberal. He was Finance Minister for 10 years and then inherited the PM's job from Jean Chretien, the French-speaking chain-smoking, ex-Trudeau-cabinet veteran who speaks out of one side of his face. PM (how convenient his initials are!) is from a political dynasty apparently, with a dad who almost himself made it to the top in Canada. He is wealthy, a successful businessman, and has been graced with a charmed life nearly as fortunate as Pierre Trudeau's. The difference is that Paul Martin was handsome, but has already lost much of his looks, and is becoming deferentially sage with age, whereas Pierre Trudeau was still at his peak of playboy manhood in his late 50's.

He is being challenged by a most untrustworthy looking Steven Harper of the Conservatives, which have been formed from what was left from the Progressive Conservatives after Brian Mulroney, and an alliance from Alberta that is very Texas-redneck-like. Steven Harper is the classic Corporation Man, from head to toe. Ugh! Not a look I go for...

Finally, on the Left, which again has little similarity to the British definition, is the New Democratic Party, headed by Jack Layton. Easily the man with the most electable personality, but from the party that is historically associated with car factory workers and hard-working union members, he will probably have to content himself with being the coalition vote in what is expected to be a minority government.

One wonderful thing about travelling, as opposed to merely going on holiday, is being reminded how wherever you go, people mostly think their world is the centre of the universe. Even in Canada they do this, although right next to the USA. They achieve this perception by viewing themselves as the conscience of North American society. Which is probably why Michael Moore, he who has recently released Fahrenheit 9/11, looks to Canada as a role model for the U.S.A. Of course, in Britain, people also think they are at the centre of the universe, and regardless of how broad a coverage of global news the BBC presents, the tone and the perspective values is inescapably, parochially, self-centred. So really, it's not surprising that for most of history, the Sun revolved around the Earth.


My Dad is alive, but very much a palliative-care Cancer patient. His entire quality of life, what little there is, depends on morphine. I keep thinking back to my school-day readings of "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, where an old lady is sick and bedridden, and the two innocent kids are forced by their dad, Atticus, to go visit her at the same time every day to read aloud. After she dies they learn from their dad why they had to do this task. She wanted to die without the morphine that she had been getting, and it was the time of day when she would normally have had her fix.

I've learnt to distance myself from the sickness and the fading of Life, enough to be useful and helpful. This I always knew intellectually, since it is obvious that Doctors, Nurses and Care Workers face this sort of thing and have to see it as Work. It does amaze me though, how much distance there is between Empathy and Pragmatism. In Empathy, you can project yourself into the patient's mind, and be entirely burdened and depressed by how dreadful it all is. In Pragmatism, you can laugh, live, lust your own detached way, while you help the patient without imagining too much about how it would be if you were they.....

They are the two extremes, Empathy and Pragmatism, and like a clock pendulum, I need to unwind and settle somewhere into the middle of them.

Empathy: How must it be to be trapped in that limbo of the scarcely living? You know that outside, people are doing everything, as you once did, but now you can't even go to the toilet without assistance,and know you never will again?

Pragmatism: How to help him: to get through the day; to take the medicines to not feel too much of the pain; to be there when he wants to do anything, which can be as simple as trying to sit up in bed or shift the bed clothes, or as normal as playing a game of Scrabble.

It's all a very big subject, and this is still just a tiny blog from my tiny mind.


Toronto has its gay Pride this weekend. Typically, they have long since dropped the gay label and officially just call it Pride (in any diversity that you may represent). It is mostly gay, of course. Unlike London which has a Pride March, Toronto has a Pride Parade. The Pride parade in Toronto was a dazzling demonstration of Gay extravagance back in the days before the Aids crisis, and I am told it has in recent years returned to those glorious heights. Having a Parade versus a March just about says it all about the difference in Political culture between Canada and Britain, and not just
as you would think, the difference in Gay culture.

This is the same difference in political culture which caused the Toronto Gay Community to virtually collapse in the mid-Eighties under the weight of the Aids crisis, while in Britain, there was a genius campaign to stop its spread, and a brilliant support network to help those who were dying.

In times of crisis, Britain historically is well-inclined to make a pragmatic assault against the cause of the crisis.

In times of stability, Canada knows how to Live.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

What's Love got to do with it?

I'm so unused to getting feedback on this blog, it's quite a surprise! Firstly Madame Tytania sends me an email compliment, then my blog gets mentioned by her, in her interview and then I actually get comments on this blog!

I guess I am more accustomed to a garret-inhabiting mentality... one advantage is that it offers you quite untrammelled artistic licence. Blogs are actually quite constraining - there is a great amount that you have to hold back, unless you're entirely anonymous. There are in the blogosphere aspects of decency, shame, and social responsibility, which all act in a way that can actually exert more community values than your neighbours. A blog also has to follow a theme, and offer some consistency, which rule I have somehow instinctively accepted.

This once, I shall indulge myself and use the feedback as a subject for a blog post.

I quite like Madame Tytania's description of my blog:

"was cool till he blogged supporting Ukip"


Sadly, you can't please anybody ALL of the time, and that happens to be one of the major downfalls in the search for Love. The two ways around it are:

1. To avoid knowing any of your lover's thoughts, ideas, dreams, beliefs, etc.

2. To know them, and where they differ from yours, just to accept it as so..

The second option is bloody difficult... I could never claim to be so big-minded that I could do it. I am as prone as anyone could be to take the first option, and immerse myself into a fantasy where I see in a lover only what I want to see..


The most dangerous drug that has ever been sold to young people. Mostly because it is legal, and it is very, very profitable. Coolness is like the very sound that emits from the pipes of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, as he leads his followers on a merry trance over a cliff.

Having reached the age where I have finally given up on trying to be cool, I have ten times been close to writing a major essay on the subject of coolness since I started blogging. But I found as I looked around with new eyes, that it had all been said and written before, and I had just ignored it all that time...


I never advocate anybody to support anything unconditionally, or for perpetuity. And I only expressly support something when I find that the general public/media have taken a trite stance against it. Isn't it peculiar that there is so much triteness in popular society, even as there is so much aspiration to coolness?

Anyway, so much for my usual over-analysis! Sometimes I bore myself stupid!

Spit Fire

from the pervasive atmosphere of self-destructiveness,
the mutant vestige of a class society,
where once the aristocracy
disdained all their subordinate lifeforms.
Now that the aristocracy is a historical farce,
that disdain persists as a tendency to self-hatred amongst some of its peoples.
Where once the upper classes were there for the hating, now there is nothing. Casting about, some may choose to hate their "own kind", or hate themselves. Who will teach them to draw back from the hating, into the fear, and then to draw back from the fearing, then to venture forth with collective optimism?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Midsummer's Sunset

A very hot day, almost scorching in the afternoon, ends in the only glorious sunset I know of in London, here at the south end of Wanstead Flats by Manor Park.

With only one more week before the cycle turns once again towards winter, there is the urgency and fear that comes with a seasonal climate. The pressure to mate, to nest, to hurry and live in zest, to exult, to transcend beyond mere earthiness. The Electronic Children have a hopelessly vague understanding of the timing of the seasons, grown up as they are in front of a TV set, a computer terminal, inside double-glazed centrally-heated homes, entertained endlessly with music, games, films, videos, TV shows, and scarcely with enough natural wit to wonder at the mud from which they arose. Despite all this, they can't even be bothered to vote in a democracy that gives them the wealth that they take as granted.

The heat of summer has been so early that raspberries and strawberries have ripened about 2 weeks earlier than normal. All signs of spring have already gone to seed, and the lack of rain is already starting to show.

I can't help noticing how everyone is so confident and independent in the summer, and starts neglecting the people that they otherwise seek out in winter. The socialising effects of winter and their influences on Northern European societies are so understated.

Last Thursday's elections are already long gone history. Ken Livingstone again is Mayor, elected by numerous limp socialists and Lefties that either can't read the numbers on their council tax bill, or are already living off the state so that they don't care about a council tax they don't have to pay. The choice for mayor was weak, but even the Green Party fared better outside London than inside London. Darren Johnson, the out gay mayoral candidate for the Green Party, did not do well at all, but anybody who is honest enough about the importance of physical appearance in winning a democratic vote would be able to explain why: nice man, but not handsome, manly, or possessed of any forcefulness.

Robert Kilroy-Silk has done a fabulous job for UKIP in the European elections. There were so many people who knew him from his daytime "Oprah Winfrey" style TV show, who wanted to register their disgust at how he was forced to quit that job by the Political Correctness Mafia. He has been extremely well-spoken and focussed in his TV appearances about the elections, and frankly he looks like the best possible option for the future of the Conservative Party. Michael Howard is just never going to pull it off, because he never was good looking enough, and the ageing process is not helping his appearance, as it can with some types of men. Find out why so many women voted for Tony Blair when he first appeared on the scene, and it's not hard to detect that they felt he was handsome and charming enough for them to want to trust him.

Yesterday's football game between England and France was a shattering disaster in the last 5 minutes. Otherwise that is already history.

My exam today was a breeze. I have nothing good to say about the City & Guilds Institute and their examinations: they seem to me to be idiots who expect their students also to be idiots. I used to know someone who used to work there, and I was always appalled to hear that he created examination papers in subject areas in which he had no expertise. Now I know how he did so - today's examination was a mixture of the exact same questions that have appeared in examinations over previous yers. Without even any alteration in the sequencing or wording of the multiple choice answers.

I confirmed today that the South African guy who was in my course had paid £1,700.00 tuition fees for being a foreign student. How these guys get screwed... the course wasn't worth anything near that, and the qualification does not impress anyone who works in the trade. Shame he couldn't have claimed asylum so that he could have got the same course for free, as do the unemployed, while self-supporting ordinary citizens of Great Britain had to pay £370.00. This is one messed up educational system, which is still exploiting what is left of its pre-Seventies reputation that persists in pockets of the English-speaking world.

On Saturday evening I went to see the most Artistic Pyrotechnic (fireworks) extravaganza I have ever seen. It was at Victoria Park, and though there was an ok turnout, there was space for 10 times as many spectators. This show was by Christophe Berthonneau and his Groupe F, done for LIFT (the London International Festival of Theatre). What's funny is that apparently this has been going on for over 5 years, yet a Google search showed little advance publicity for this year's event! What a poor use of money... When New Year's Eve comes along, there is nothing to see or do in London that is public, yet here in mid-June, we get a secret showing that costs just as much money, and hardly pulls a crowd.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


It was mid-afternoon on the aforesaid hot Tuesday as I cycled up to Hampstead for a swim. The traffic stopped at a red light on the roundabout at Archway in North London. A man began to cross the road. He was middle-aged, short, looked like an alcoholic in a sober phase. He has two crutches, and is barefoot on his left, but wears a boot on his right. He takes two meagre paces on his crutches, and then..

His trousers started slipping down. The fly was undone. He was not wearing underwear. They fell to the middle of his thighs. The car drivers stopped beside me watched, unblinkingly, unflappably. For 10 seconds his equipment was fully on view, while he became aware of it and tried to manoeuvre his trousers upward while perched on two crutches. Eventually he succeeded, and went back to the beginning of the pedestrian crossing, because the lights were going to change again.

The afternoon before the London Mayoral Elections. Forest Gate again. There are two Bobbies walking and having a jolly chat. Actually walking, as though they are on the beat. Ken Livingstone seems to have strong armed the police into putting on a good final show. There is a car stopped at the traffic lights, its windows are half-open, and music at a moderate level is playing on its sound system. The two guys in front are larking about a bit. And then...

The police went over to the car, and told them to pull over up ahead for a word...
Zero Tolerance has finally reached Forest Gate. Even I was amazed, as I saw no reason why the car occupants deserved this, and I'm usually all for discipline! And the stopping of this car was not going to easily improve ethnic relationships, as the police belonged to their classical stereotype, civilians of which are as uncommon as panda bears in East London.

1.30 in the middle of the night. Walking past Manor Park station, whose lights are kept on for the Mini-cab office, although there are no more trains after 12.30. And then...

As if it were a commuter who was just returning home from a day in the office, a fox saunters out of the train station, looks left and right and then crosses the road

Thursday night, about 10.30 pm. There is a helicopter beating the air in the sky above. Outside, police and an ambulance have assembled at the junction of Capel Road and Forest Drive. The police have blocked off Forest Drive and cordonned off a section of the grass on the East side of Forest Drive opposite Capel Road. They seem to be inspecting a crime scene. They stay there all night, but have gone by the rush hour in the morning

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Tropically hot

Venus the planet has just about completed its six-hour journey, as apparently it can be viewed as a small black spot crossing the face of the sun. This is supposedly the first time since the 1890s that this has happened.

And it has brought an abnormally hot day for early June, with a 30 degree Celsius high. Global Warming burns on...

The Cannabis Festival was amusing: quite busy but not thronging, with "crusties", proper hippie types that must have come into London for the event, because you rarely see them about London. There were small dance and music tents and a small main stage. There were a lot of colourful and bohemian people to ogle at. The weather was dry but overcast all day. The closing act was a bit hill-billy, apparently called Alabama 3, with a harmonica-player (or mouth organist) that was soulful with ease. Apparently he is the son of the mastermind of the original Great Train Robbery.

Had a non-Spanish tapas dinner in Brixton, and it is still surprising how trendy Brixton has become. I can't think of anywhere in Newham that has bars or restaurants of its kind.

Went on to Ian's place in Vauxhall, where I had such a surreal encounter with two very inebriated Bohemian couples with infant children. Vauxhall is so genteel compared to the warzone that is East Ham or Little Ilford! There is no Bohemianism anywhere in East London except maybe in parts of Hackney.

It was a rare but pleasant reminder of bon vivants. One couple had two children, and the other had just had their first and were swearing against having any more. On the Sunday morning they were already downing Bloody Maries. You could see this was some last gasp as they watched their lifestyles already transforming so that in about 8 years time, they will drive about in 4x4's taking their children to school. They will deny any of the madness of their youth or that anyone else should ever be so foolish as they. They will be plotting to live in neighbourhoods with good schools, and judging whether their family inheritances will afford them to send their children to private schooling.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Venus Transit

I only ever heard of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. So I was amazed to find this on Access All Areas:

The Venus Transit of June 8, 2004 is the astronomical event of the year. The Venus Transit has always preceded great breakthroughs in human consciousness and played a very significant role in the Mayan Calendar. The Transit will be the starting point of the Golden Age, a process that will come to an conclusion at the next Venus Transit in 2012.

Well, if Venus be the Goddess of Love, this blog is just in time, honey, for this event.

Access All Areas also seems to be one of the main supporters of the Cannabis Festival which is on tomorrow at Brockwell Park in South London. I've come across Access All Areas before because their Party Listing has some of the most unbelievably wonderfully NON-COMMERCIAL, AGGRO-FREE clubs that are happening in London. Shhhh. Keep it secret.....

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Plastering Affirmation

Gee whizz. I finally have a plastering success story. The smoothest flattest skimming application of finishing plaster I have ever done.

How many years have I waited for this feeling? And typically, it finally happened without any panic, without any sweat. I'm not so stupid to think the lack of panic was the cause of this success. That cool calmness was a manifestation of my having finally learnt enough about plastering so that my old dog's brain could transfer it into my subconscious.

Oh the stages of learning, which seem so natural and effortless in youth, do eventually become to ageing people a set of stairs without a Stannah Stairlift. So the realization of transcending from the "You don't know that You know" stage, to the "You know that You Know" stage is encouragement that isn't silly at all. It would be nice to have the confidence to know that going through the motions of Learning is always taking you to that final stage. I suppose that's what is worth encouraging, but I still want to savour this moment.

Plastering isn't just an art. It is full of little details of knowledge which its final appearance entirely masks. You have to:
1. Know the different types of plaster.
2. Understand their suction and adhesion characteristics.
3. Understand the suction and adhesion characteristics of the substrate surfaces, and the variations between the different substrates on the one wall.
4. Apply the right amount of water to the background and to the mix.
5. Know the setting characteristics of the plaster depending on the environmental temperature and humidity.
6. Judge how quickly it must be applied, when to use the straight edge, and when to do your smoothing.
7. Learn the manual skill of handling a trowel (itself as much of an athletic achievement as of a typist who can do ninety words a minute with perfect accuracy from an audio tape recorded by someone with bad grammar, poor diction, and a scatterbrain).
8. Develop an eye for a straight line, for flatness, and for smoothness.

And then some day, you have to do all this at professional speed, look for your own work, earn the derision of office-working snobs, without any hope of holiday pay, sickness pay, or a pension. And dread that one day as you get older, you'll be unable to practice your trade for physical reasons.

Last year I met a 35 year old plasterer who was already getting arthritis in his hands. He had been working in this wet trade since he was 17.

Poor bastard, what's he to do next? Depend on a Labour government? Hire other plasterers to do his work while he becomes their manager? (Not all men are cut out to be managers, and anyway managers in Britain have a mostly undeserved status compared with the Scandinavian countries).

I also tried using Thistle Undercoat plaster this week, and was amazed to find that they seem to put Vermiculite in their aggregate. The result is a light weight plaster that gives a strangely hollow sound! The workability of this plaster is excellent though, and I don't think I will ever go back to One-Coat plasters except for patching repairs.