mercredi 29 octobre 2008

Topiary treats and overgrown gardens

Last night I went to the theatre. The Theatre Chatelet - which is a lovely old barn of a venue, but the balconies have supporting posts that make for poor viewing for 50% of the seats up there. I had a seat with a crap view, but I moved.

This turned out to be a big mistake.

As soon as I moved, someone else jumped into my seat, so there was no going back. And I'd sat myself down next to a typical Bobo mother and her chatty, chatty, CHATTY child. After ten minutes of his running commentary, I had to ask his mother to shut him up.

"But he's only a small child" she said. "he doesn't know how to behave".

"Well then maybe he shouldn't be here, if that's the case", said I.

Mother tutted and child was quiet. For a while.

The show was Edward Scissorhands - the Matthew Bourne ballet version (very good, see it if you can). The production is pretty true to the film, and Edward does marvellous things with bushes and hairdo's before being seduced by the local slut and becoming an outcast. it's all very sad.

A short while in there's a scene where there are a couple of people holding up 'vote for Upton' signs - it seems the mayoral election is on. This pleased chatty child no end.

"Maman, regarde! Il ya une manifestation!" he yelled. "J'adore les manifestations". (look Mom, a demonstration! - I love demonstrations)

It seems the spirit of '68 is alive and kicking.

And then every time a scene ended he would say "is it the interval?".

When the interval finally did come, there was a treat waiting for everyone sat in the surrounding seats. 'Mommy' got out a big envelope from her bag and from the envelope took out a contact sheet of photographs.

"Darling, tell Mommy which one of the photo's you like the best. Which one does Mommy look prettiest in?"

Well, I had to look, didn't I?

The photo's were of 'Mommy' lay naked on a bed. Artistically naked, not slutty naked, admittedly, but it would be hard to say that Mommy looked 'pretty' in any of these shots.

It looked like she had a dirty great bathmat in her lap. She didn't, it was just her lady garden, which had overgrown somewhat.

The small child said he didn't like any of the pictures. Apparently Mommy looked dead in them and he didn't like that.

"Oh well", she said. "I guess I'll have to ask Uncle Georges to take some more".

mardi 28 octobre 2008

Cowboys and Indians

We had a great dinner yesterday evening. Even the obvious racism didn't detract too much from the food, the ambience and the company.

It was my Lovely Paris Friend's birthday and we went out to La Coupole. In the Parisian world of good old-fashioned brasseries, La Coupole is one of the kings - real vieille école stuff - with amazing service and great food.

The waiters are in bow-tie and dinner suit, and they all come together to sing happy birthday to you - if you organise this in advance. I didn't, but someone at a table nearby did, so hopefully LPF got a bit of vicarious pleasure from this...

Anyway, entrées of oysters and prawns were fantastic and we followed this with two of the main courses for which the house is famous. LPF took the steak tartare, I went for the lamb curry.

What happened next surprised me. Now, I worry that I am being totally anglo-saxon in my reaction to this. I've asked French colleagues this morning and they think it is perfectly acceptable and that it is in fact 'typique'. This is what happened:

The waiter who had served us all evening came with the steak tartare for LPF and presented it with a flourish. My lamb curry didn't appear.

What did appear was an Indian man - yes, a man from India - wearing a maharajah's outfit - yes, a maharajah's outfit - wielding a silver domed trolley.

With a muttering of something like "your curry, sir", he pulled back the cover of the trolley and proceeded to serve up the curry from within. He did this with impeccable style and class, but nonetheless I couldn't get away from the nagging thought at the back of my mind...

...they have employed an Indian and dressed him up in 'Indian' clothes just so that he can serve curry to the middle classes?

What worries me is that I'm seemingly the only one who thinks this is wrong.

lundi 27 octobre 2008

What you gon’ do with all that junk?

Now, I’m not saying that I’m, like, Randy Jackson or anything but when it comes down to what the cool folk are saying these days, I’m pretty good at working it, dog.

You know, all this ‘hanging with me homies’ and such, it’s given me a bit of an insight into gangsta speak. You know what I mean, bitch?

I know whether something is ‘phat’ or fat – not that it can’t be both (I give myself as evidence here) and I know my ice from my bling. I’m even pretty good at translating regular American into the Queen’s English.

If someone wants to hang on the sidewalk, I know they’d probably like a sit down at a pavement terrace. If he tells me that ‘that bitch ain’t shit to me’ I know he’s not talking about Boubou the French Bulldog and her constipation.

So, I was in a club on Friday night and this really attractive guy came up to me. He was early forties, good clothes, salt and pepper hair (be still my beating heart) and he was American.

“Hey man” he said.

“Hello” I said back, trying for all the world to sound like a member of the Royal Family.

“Your junk man. It’s good.”

“Thanks, erm, yours isn’t so bad either?”

“You gonna give it to me?”

“Erm, probably. Possibly. Erm, what do you mean…?”

Well, he told me. I was a little surprised and a little impressed. Surprised that he was referring to the good stuff as junk. Impressed that he’d spotted the good stuff in the first place. Impressed he’d got the balls to come and talk to me.

Reader, I was impressed enough to let him have the junk….;-)

vendredi 24 octobre 2008

Hard to beat

So, it's the weekend. I have a Suntory and coke in my hand and from where I'm sat, the world looks pretty good.

Before I head out for a bit of what Paris has to offer, I thought I'd just say this. The Singer series was a funny story to tell - funny in a strange way, most definitely not ha ha. But it was a big bit of my life and I'm pleased it's over. Getting it down in black and white here was a good thing to do. Thanks for bearing with me and thanks for not telling me that the blog had turned miserable. And thanks for the lovely words as the story progressed.

So, back to 2008 and I'm in a great mood. I love the promise that Friday evening brings - a weekend ahead with friends to see, drinks to drink and restaurants begging for patronage! Does it get any better?

And my big job for the weekend? Sort out my wardrobe for my trip. Next Saturday - the 1st - I'm taking the big bird over to Chicago for a week of, well a week of Chicago. Tips anyone?

And the great news is that Monday's trip to Brussels has been cancelled. I can take it easy without thinking I have to get up early Monday morning and drive to Belgium. A big relief. Although I do have to go to the UK this week, but that's a fly in and out kind of trip. Easy.

The rest of the week looks pretty good too - I have the ballet on Tuesday (Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands, which I saw at Sadlers Wells, but is truly amazing) and then Aimee Mann at La Cigale on Friday. Too exciting.

It's going to be a great week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Folks, there's a weekend out there, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Let's do it.

jeudi 23 octobre 2008

The singer - Part VI - the end

After a short stay in ‘hospital’ K was sent home, pending a date for his trial. He went to his parents’ home and we spoke regularly. I know this sounds weird, but I kept in touch because on top of everything that had happened we were friends, and I felt he needed a friend. And I’m sure I didn’t want to just walk away either.

After a month or so, he called to ask if he could come and stay at mine, in the spare room. His parents were being too overbearing and he needed some space, needed to live like an adult. I said yes. I didn’t know what else to say.

K came back to live at mine and did indeed move his things into the spare room. He would sometimes sleep there, sometimes sleep with me.

During his time in hospital and the month afterwards K had been diagnosed as suffering from a form of psychosis. He was taking tablets to send him to sleep and others to wake him up. Seroxat became his best friend.

His mood wasn’t what you’d call stable. He would become enraged quickly, never violent, but angry. He was a totally different person to the K that I had known ‘before’. Sex brought on awful nightmares for him, but his libido hadn’t disappeared. Ultimately, the seroxat put paid to any hopes of a sex life for him and he became frustrated.

Socially, he was a nightmare – I never knew what to expect and I ended up rarely going out. It was too hard to mix him with friends and family, and leaving him behind led to arguments and awfulness.

His day in court finally came and he was acquitted. He never gave me the details. He wouldn’t allow me to go to court with him. He told me afterwards that he had planned to kill himself on his first day in prison had he been found guilty. He had hidden heroin in a condom in his backside for this very purpose. This is what he told me. He showed me the heroin.

As his talk turned more and more to suicide I started to get scared. I was way out of my depth here. I would talk to him about his future and he would say that the big difference between us was that I wanted a future and that he just wanted to disappear, to end it all.

But then some days I’d come home from work and he’d have cooked dinner, rented a DVD, put flowers in the kitchen. We’d sit together on the sofa like an old married couple and watch the movie, his head on my shoulder. These days would upset me more than the angry days.

And then my Dad died.

I wasn’t able to grieve for myself, look after my mother, deal with my brother’s strange behaviour and handle K all at the same time. He wanted to be my number one priority and I couldn’t do it.

At the same time he stopped taking his pills. He had decided that he was well and that he could stop the medication. I understand now that this is part of the rollercoaster of depression, but it was so new to me. Put this together with all of the other pressure, and I was pushed to the edge.

I was grieving. In the last two years, I had buried three grandparents and, but a week earlier, had seen my father into the ground. I had a psychotic lodger/boyfriend, a newly widowed mother and a brother who couldn’t see past his own grief to think about anyone else. I had closed my doors to friends as K got worse. And my family just weren’t interested.

All I wanted was to be at the top of someone’s list, but there was no one.

One night, I tried to explain this to K. He told me that I had no idea what it was like for him. That I was selfish and that I didn’t care. That he was going to kill himself. That his death would be my fault. That he’d stage it so that I was the one that found him and that it would be ugly.

That was it. I went upstairs, packed his bags and phoned his father. His son was no longer my responsiblity. I took my keys off his keyring and I told him to leave.

Getting him out of the house wasn’t easy and I was afraid. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m no weakling, but he was a very strong guy and the situation was tense. This sounds incredibly dramatic, but if he wanted to kill me, he could have done so. Very easily. Nothing would have surprised me.

With K out of the house, I left by the back door. I locked the house behind me and quickly, quietly went to a local hotel.

I presume he waited for his father, but I don’t know.

Today, it’s six years later, and the hard part for me is not knowing what happened next.

He fell off the edge of my earth and I never saw or heard from him again. His parents wouldn’t take my calls and the single letter that I wrote was sent back unopened.

I hope he is alive. I hope he is well. But really, I can no longer bring myself to care.

mercredi 22 octobre 2008

The singer - Part V

Shortly after the New Year, Jenny dumped K. He gave me no explanation, I didn’t ask for one. She disappeared off campus for a while, but when she returned she was as friendly to me as ever. I was obviously not implicated in their split.

Me and K? Well, he became a fairly regular visitor to my place, but always on a pretext – he didn’t want my housemates to know we were sleeping together, but they were no fools. He would tell them we were working on a university assignment together, that he was borrowing a CD, that he wanted to show me a new video he had bought.

And all of this – the ‘schoolwork’, the ‘CD playing’ and ‘video watching’ – we did behind closed doors, with minimal noise…we wouldn’t want anyone to hear anything that could incriminate him, would we?

University ended in the early summer. We both graduated (me with a first, him with a lucky 2:2) and I headed off to the Midlands to start a new job.

K got on a plane to Australia and there he stayed until the end of the austral summer. He wrote to me often and sent me photo’s of him looking tan, fit and healthy. He was working as a dive instructor in Queensland, and loving it.

We would see each other on and off for the next few years. We were great friends – friends with privileges, if you like.

One year, in January, he turned up on my doorstep. He was just back from another stint working in Australia.

He stayed at my house for 5 months, during which time we lived like any other couple – well, when we were inside the house, at least. He came to family dinners and parties, but always as my ‘friend’, my ‘lodger’. He met my friends, my colleagues, my neighbours. He always introduced himself as my friend from university, despite the fact that we shared a bed every night of the week.

During these months he didn’t work. I fed him and watered him and paid the bills. I bought him new clothes and took us out to the pub. I was a bloody fool.

Then, as the summer started, he moved to Cornwall. He’d got a diving job down there for the summer and would be back in the autumn. He told me he loved me, that he’d miss me, but that this was a great job. I was pleased that he had got a job – that would be a relief to my bank account. But I was sad that he had gone. I missed him.

In September, I got a call from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. He was being held in Plymouth and had given my name as his next of kin. Could I find him a lawyer?

The Police told me that he’d been arrested after he’d had an argument with his girlfriend (girlfriend? This was the first I knew about a girlfriend). They’d argued and she claimed that he’d opened the car door and pushed her out. He maintained that she had jumped.

At the time, they were travelling at forty miles an hour.

I rang round and got a lawyer to go and see him. I prepared myself to walk away from this awful situation.

Three days later he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

How could I walk away now?

mardi 21 octobre 2008

Ding dang dong

Am I wrong to love this song as much as I do?

Just fabulous. The group is les Rita Mitsouko and the song is called Ding Dang Dong (ringing at your bell). Available at the sign of the apple.

And how classy is the lead singer, Catherine Ringer?

I challenge you to not dance to the chorus with your arms above your head...give it a know you want to...

The singer - Part IV

The Christmas holidays passed fairly quickly, and on the 30th I headed back ‘home’ to university. Classes didn’t start for ages yet, but I’d arranged to spend New Year’s Eve in town with some friends.

I got back to my student house and opened my mailbox. There was a note from K inside.

“Don’t know when you are getting back to town, I’m here already. I’m bored and depressed after the usual family rubbish. Come over when you get back.”

Well, I kind of ignored the note – the mailbox had given me plenty of other things to worry about – phone bill, electricity bill, library book reminders, new timetable for school…not what a boy wants to come home to.

That evening, with my housemates still at their respective familial homes, I lay on my bed and watched crappy TV. I had a beer or four. I ordered a pizza and ate that. I was asleep before the News at Ten. The doorbell woke me up. It was K. But then you knew that it would be, didn’t you?

“Let’s go get last orders”. He said. The pub was at the end of the street, fifty metres from my house. I agreed.

Apparently K had downed a couple of beers, then walked the streets looking for a light switched on in a friendly house. Mine had been the first one he’d seen. At least, this is what he told me.

At the pub, we had a couple of beers and chatted. Neither of us mentioned the pre-Christmas weirdness. We headed back to mine, so that we could share a joint or two, nothing unusual in that – it was something we’d done before. I made us tea and we ate digestive biscuits while smoking some very fine hash. It was a very English scene.

“Can I stay here?” he said. In the absence of a sofa, or a comfortable chair in the house, we were lying on the bed, and were listening to Oasis.

“Sure”, said I. “But there’s only here”, I said, meaning my bed. “Everyone else is away and their rooms are locked”.

“That’s what I was hoping”, he said.

While he was in the bathroom I quickly undressed, modestly, to my t-shirt and shorts. I got into bed. He came back in the room. He undressed. He did this without looking at me. He knew that this would mean that I could watch, which I did, with pleasure. Unlike me, he wasn’t overly modest.

Naked, he climbed into bed next to me.

“I hope that you aren’t planning on keeping those on for very long”, he said, and he tugged at my shorts. The night passed too quickly. Neither of us got much sleep.

The next day, he headed back to his place to change. We arranged to meet for drinks before I went off to see the New Year in with some other friends.

To my surprise, he turned up at 8 o’clock as promised. Equally to my surprise, he wasn’t alone.

“I haven’t seen you in ages! How was your Christmas?” said Jenny, his beautiful, intelligent, lusted-after-by-all-straight-men girlfriend as they sat down with their drinks.

“It was, erm, unexpectedly interesting” I said, looking at K, who was looking devotedly at Jenny.

“That’s good” she said, “Did Santa send you that hot guy you’ve been asking him for?”

“He did” I replied. “But it seems I unwrapped someone else’s gift by mistake.”

lundi 20 octobre 2008

The singer - Part III

I’m going to refer to him as K. If he reads this, and recognises himself, he'll know why he is K.

After that first encounter, we became good friends. Just really good, solid friends. Best friends, in fact.

It turns out he was the same age as me. He had come to university from the military where he had served in the first Gulf War and had been in both Kuwait and Iraq, pretty much fighting on the front line. He had tales that were so far removed from my experiences of the same years.

While he had been dodging bullets in Basra, I’d been downing vodka shots in Darlinghurst. Not quite the same thing, but both potentially disastrous. Being a bit older than the rest of the year (not much older, but enough to set us a little apart) meant we had things in common with each other that we didn’t with our colleagues.

On the last day before we headed off for the Christmas break, we planned to go into town and have a big night out. This wasn’t our usual thing. Over the last couple of months, we’d gotten into a habit of eating lunch together when our timetables matched and having a beer down the pub once or twice a week. We didn’t party together. Ever.

But that night, he turned up at my house with a bottle of vodka, a couple of ecstasy tabs and a big grin on his face. It was going to be some night.

As you can imagine, we danced and danced. We laughed a lot, acted like fools and avoided fights; such was the city centre on a Friday night. As the ecstasy kicked in, we were in a bubble of our own, a little world where only the two of us mattered.

As usual, the club closed too early and we started the walk home. It wasn’t far, but it was cold enough and late enough that it would normally feel a lot further than it was. That night however, with the ecstasy still buzzing through us, the walk would have passed quickly.

The journey home took us up a path behind some halls of residence, a path that was pretty deserted and dark – I wouldn’t have taken the path on my own, that’s for sure. Anyway, with K it was fine – he was certainly able to handle a couple of rowdy students if the situation arose.

We got to the end of the path - where we would each go our separate ways to our own houses. We said goodbye, agreed it had been a great evening and arranged to meet the next day before going back to our hometowns for the holidays.

I walked on towards my house. He called after me.

“Hold on mate. Wait up a minute”.

I walked back to where he was standing. “What’s up?” I said.

He pulled me into him and kissed me. It was crazy. It was intense. Trust me, this wasn’t the kiss of a friend wishing another friend a merry Christmas. This was filthy, dirty, great.

We came up for air. “You know, I really love you…in love with you”, he said.

He looked triumphant, ecstatic, but this quickly gave way to a look that was confused, lost, sad. He turned away from me and walked away. His walk turned into a run and he sprinted off. I was left there, stunned.

What had happened? What was that all about?

The next day I waited for him at the agreed time and place, but he didn’t show. I drove back to Birmingham wondering what it was all about. I was certain that the pills were to blame, but nonetheless, I found myself all at sea.

Had I just lost my best friend to a moment of drug-induced weirdness?

dimanche 19 octobre 2008

While I was sleeping...

How did I miss that?

I've been blogging for a year and never noticed! Damn, I hate it when I miss a birthday.

So, it's been a year and it's most certainly been a year.

It's pretty unusual for me to blog about blogging. Seems like a strange thing to do in some ways...kind of like writing a book about writing a book, or singing a song about singing a song. Both of which have been done, so maybe it's not so strange.

Anyway, with a year under my belt (and not wanting to miss an opportunity to tell you all how I feel about a subject) I thought I'd talk about blogging, just this once.

Almost everyone who comes here with any regularity is a blogger themselves, so I'm guessing you have feelings about blogging and the impact it has on your lives. Blogging for me has been a big surprise, delivering me far more than I ever expected.

I thought I'd just write about my life, in a kind of 'this stuff doesn't seem to happen to anyone else, so I'm going to write it down before I forget' kind of way. I never thought anyone would want to read it. But Swearing Mother wanted to.

Sweary was my first ever reader, and has been a loyal friend ever since. So many of you followed and I love that you did. What has amazed me about you all is the sheer diversity of everyone and how very few of you have a similar life to mine.

I've been discussing with Louise the role that blogging plays in a world where tolerance isn't always there.

I really do think that blogging gives a window into a life that we may never think about living ourselves (Lord knows me and Louise are very different - which we secretly love about each other). Blogging allows us to see the normal-ness of that other life, despite it being very different from our own normality. I like that. If more people blogged, would the world be more tolerant?

Beyond this, blogging is all about being nosey, surely? We say it's 'human interest' but surely it's nosiness? It's like looking into someone else's front room (and sometimes their bedroom) taking it all in and then telling them what we think about it. How cool is that? I know more about my fellow bloggers than I do about some of my family.

But more than seeing how other people live, being nosey and sticking my oar in, blogging has brought me a bunch of people that are turning out to be good friends. Some of you I talk to regularly via email, which I really enjoy. And then others are friends in the flesh too. Well, when I say in the flesh, I just mean that I met you and I liked you.

At least one of you is starting to look like someone I'll still be annoying when I'm old and miserable. I love that blogging brought me this friend.

It'd be a bit odd to say that this old blog has changed my life, but in some ways it has. For the better, too. I'm still me and I still fuck up pretty regularly. I just tell more people about it when I do. I guess it's like really cheap therapy....

So, this has possibly turned out to be a mix of sentimental claptrap and the musings of a tired mind. But I mean it all. Really I do.

Please keep coming to see me, keep leaving comments and, for those of you who visit me and don't post comments - well, you're also welcome, but I do love me a comment!.

Thanks everyone, it's been a fine year.


vendredi 17 octobre 2008

The singer - Part II

From my job in the conservatoire I was able to find out, over the course of the next couple of weeks, that his father was really ill and that he wasn’t going to be coming back to the school. For that year, at least.

This was quite a blow. In my mind, we’d gotten married, bought a fancy penthouse apartment and were busy driving around in our 4x4 with a black labrador on the back seat. Well, maybe not, but I had hoped for more than we’d had on that one drunken occasion.

Don’t ask me why, but one evening, as I was passing his house on the way to the train station, I decided to call in and see if his housemates had heard from him. I didn’t know anything about his housemates, except for the fact that they weren’t music students.

I rang the bell, and it was someone I recognised that answered the door.

It was a guy from my year at the business school - not on my course, and not someone I’d ever spoken to, but someone I’d nod at and acknowledge if we passed each other on campus. The little I knew about him was that he was ex-armed forces, a mature(ish) student and that he was dating one of the most stunningly gorgeous and incredibly intelligent girls at the University.

“How you doing mate?”, he said. "What can I do for you?"

I explained that I was after news of the singing boy, that we were friends of a sort and that I was just wanting to be sure he was ok.

“Come in” said the housemate. “I’ll tell you what I know about him. You want a beer?”

I went in. I drank a beer.

How was I to know that this would be the meeting that would throw my life off balance for so many years?

It would bring me love and heartbreak, indifference and hatred in equal measures.

It would give me a not so short, but very sharp lesson in handling mental illness, drug abuse and betrayal.

It would lead to hiding from family, cutting ties with friends, betraying those closest to us.

And all this, with a little light S and M thrown in for good measure.

The doors had been opened.

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

I (don't) heart the Beatles

Is it just me? I really hate the Beatles.

My friend in den Haag insists that the Beatles are the best thing ever to have been invented. He seems to imply that I am some kind of heathen living in a world devoid of love or emotion because I really don’t like them.

But really…she loves me yeah, yeah, yeah? Yeah, whatever.

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band? Sergeant Pepper's bunch of nuisance arse more like.

I can’t stand their music, their voices, their films. It all makes me cringe. Makes me reach for the off switch. Makes me want to throw the radio out of the window.

So, I’m asking for your help.

I appreciate that I’m in a minority with this, and I don’t expect many of you to come out on my side in this argument - but please tell me that I’m not alone.

Help me to prove to him that I’m not musically challenged. Show him that there are other people out there who also don’t heart the Beatles.


mercredi 15 octobre 2008

The singer

It’s been a long time since we had a bit of historical romance, so I’ve been searching in the archives for a tale or two to share with you. How about this one:

A few years ago I was working at a music school – for grown-ups, not kids. A ‘conservatoire’, no less. Now I don’t know about you, but I fall madly in love with talent. And no, I don’t mean the ability to put a leg behind your head or a talent for belching ‘Advance Australia Fair’ (although I have, in my time, come across both of these talents – and each was, erm, interesting…in the right circumstances).

I mean a real talent – music, art, whatever. To me this is just like, wow. And so, there I am, a young man with hormones aplenty surrounded by these amazing musicians.

Because of the job that I had, and because of my age and obviously because of my general all-round attractiveness, I used to get invited to lots of the post-concert after-parties for the various orchestras, ensembles, trios, quartets and choruses. Not only did I get invited to the parties, but I also got to attend most of the events.

Some of the concerts were great – others not so good (I’m thinking of every single dreary classical guitar concert that I’ve had to sit through here). It was at one of the better concerts that I saw him first. A new guy, handsome as a handsome thing and an amazing voice. He was singing in the chorus in the (pretty amazing) production of the Magic Flute.

At the after show party venue (the halls of residence, naturally) I had a couple of drinks with the orchestra, waiting for the singers to get de-frocked and re-frocked. It seemed like this was taking forever, but finally – an hour or so later – the singers arrived back at halls.

But where was he? I asked around and it seemed he’d headed straight into town to meet some friends at a club. Luckily, the person who knew where he had gone was also heading there later. “Do you want to come with us?” he asked.

We arrived at the nightclub at around 1am – and anyone who knew the UK in the 90’s will know that this meant that there wasn’t much to go before closing time. Anyway, by this time, the objective of going to the club had been left behind in the sober part of my brain – which had been superseded by the less than sober part.

I soon found myself in a dark corner, alone, collecting my thoughts, jack and coke in hand. I was sat on a typical nightclub sofa – too soft, a bit sticky and not anything you’d want to see in the bright light of day – but it was providing my drunken legs with a hard-earned break.

As I sat there, my reverie was broken by someone sitting down next to me. I looked to my side and my eyes were met by the eyes of the singer.

“Hey”, he said. Obviously, he was about as sober as me.

“Hey”, I replied back. It lacked originality, but it was all I could muster.

“Someone said you were asking after me”.

“It’s true. But that was a few drinks ago”.

And so the conversation continued.

We didn’t see closing time, we just left and staggered home together. We both lived in the same part of town, streets apart, but we ended up at mine. That night we fell into bed and slept, neither having the will nor the wherewithall for anything more.

We both headed off to our individual classes the next day – him at the conservatoire, me at the business school. Both of us had our heads in our hands and ibuprofen in our pockets as we left the house.

I called his house later in the day to see if he wanted to catch up.

“He’s not in” his housemate said. “He’s gone back to Scotland. His Dad is in hospital”.

mardi 14 octobre 2008

Me butch? Not much.

So, I work with a mix of people. A real mix.

I'd say that the mix includes some curious british eccentrics, the odd alcoholic who stinks of whisky when you give them a lift at 8.30 am, an office bike, a couple of coupley couples, a range of slappers of all ages (including some confirmed swingers) and lots and lots of really lovely people.

In amongst all this lot is myself. Waving my Rufus Wainwright CD and holding up my end of the minority bargain.

So it came as quite a surprise when a colleague called me today to let me know that I was the subject of the latest rumour to pop out of the gossip machine. According to said rumour, I've slept with at least 3 of the girls in the UK office, including the colleague that called me to let me know.

We pissed our pants laughing as she told me how I've suddenly become the office stud. Apparently it's been heavily debated and most people think it to be true.

Admittedly, since I've been in France the UK has seen lots of new staff join and old staff leave, and I'm an unknown quantity to many people there. And I guess that I do come into the office, do my job and leave without discussing my life story with colleagues. And then, neither do I actually sit at my desk reading a copy of Gay Times and listening to Judy Garland.

But despite all of this, I think it's pretty obvious at which end of the ballroom I dance.

Yet, apparently not.

I find all of this particularly amazing given that the last time I saw my colleagues I was wearing a t-shirt that euphemistically, but fairly obviously proclaimed that I would suck off a sailor if the opportunity arose. But hey.

Has the world gone mad, or am I just being particularly butch these days?

dimanche 12 octobre 2008

Picture this.

It's Saturday night/Sunday morning. 3 o'clock.

I'm in a (very) straight nightclub in Solihull, drunk.

I'm dancing to 'living on a prayer'.

I'm dressed as a pirate, sword and all.

I wish I was making this up.

mardi 7 octobre 2008

Dirty Goethe and the shirty flirter

I went to sign up for German class today. This is part of my bid to meet more people and get more parisian friends, as it looks like I'm here for a while. And let's face it, I can't meet everyone in bars.

I'd called up earlier in the day and enquired about classes and availability and levels and so on, only to be greeted by the rudest person imaginable on the telephone. "That was the rudest person imaginable" I said to Debbie, as I put the phone down.

Apparently, I needed to take a test and see how my level was before we could enter into any discussion of availability of places. So off I traipse to the school (the Goethe Institute, no less), in the 16th (embassy and trust fund land) to sit my test. It's a lovely part of town this, but suffers from the mess left behind by the local small, yappy-type dogs. The ones that wear Cartier collars, eat foie gras and drink Evian.

I avoid soiling my (new, lovely) shoes, find the school and head to the course administrator's office. "I'm here for a test"

"Answer these questions, come back" said the snappy woman behind the desk.

"Can I borrow a pen please?"

"You have come for a test and not brought a pen?" She semi-shouted. "What a curious creature you are. Borrow mine, but no nibbling".

I filled out what I could and took the test back to the office.

"You haven't finished" said the same stern lady behind the desk. It was now more than obvious that this was she of the phone call earlier.

"No, but I'd started to guess the answers and I didn't want good guesses to make it look like I'm better than I am".

"This is very bad for you". She said, tutting. "I see a class at very low level for you. Nothing very advanced".

"Perfect", said I. "Just what I am after".

"You have the choice of these classes" she said, waving a timetable at me.

As I perused the timetable (all four lines of it) she served three other people. One by one she was insulting and rude to them...almost.

The first girl had forgotten her piece of paper with the course and room number on it. "You I shall call Mademoiselle Forget Everything from now on. Room 3c. Next!".

The second person was a woman of advancing years who wanted to know if there was a lift. "If you are not fit enough for our building, you are not fit enough to go to Germany. Ve have many hills there you know". She said, sharply.

And finally came a handsome young man looking for a space on an advanced course. "I'd like to know if you have a space on an advanced course" he said.

"I most certainly do. For you anyway." She had suddenly turned all coquettish on him and was embarrassingly, obviously flirting with him. She sorted him out with a class and turned her attention back to me.

"For you, I see something different". She declared. She reached under her desk and pulled out, with a flourish, a piece of A4. "Ve have courses at the University. They are for a, well, younger clientele. You vill be happier there".

And so she sold me a course that was 30% cheaper than the ones at the school, with better hours for me and funkier classmates. And into the bargain, she had paid me the biggest compliment I've had since moving to France. I'm nearly 40, and under no illusions about looking my age.

"I don't do this for everyone" she said. "Please keep it to yourself". And, I kid ye not, she winked.

And so, feeling like a WWII collaborator I skulked out of the building, fearful that someone might accuse me of sleeping with the Hausfrau...

lundi 6 octobre 2008

Go on, have a guess...

The Marais, 4am Sunday morning.

I'm in a bar with a friend, chatting to this lovely couple we met. He's French and his boyfriend is American.

One of them is slightly built, short and dark. He has olive skin and dark eyes.

The other is thickset, a big guy with a dopey smile and blond hair, blue eyes.

The dark guy is wearing a tailored jacket and smart shoes; the blond, a polo shirt, jeans and trainers.

You know what I'm about to say, don't you?

The blond guy is the Frenchman, the dark haired one is the American.

So stunned was I by this revelation (and not at all drunk... yeah, right) that I was accosting anyone brave slash stupid enough to come within ten feet of me, and asking them to guess.

"Which one of these two is French, which one American?"

Everyone got the answer wrong.

I'm not sure how long this went on for, but it seems that the pair didn't get bored of it.

I presume that they either a) get that a lot or b) were enjoying the attention in an even-negative-strokes-are-strokes kind of way. I think it may have been both. Or maybe it was c) they were more drunk than me. Although they would have had to have started drinking two days prior to achieve that....

Anyway, whilst ever I was annoying innocent bystanders, I wasn't talking rubbish to them, and that's got to be a bonus in anyone's books.

But as the blond one gave me his number and said "call me...", I realised that maybe I hadn't been as annoying as I thought...

dimanche 5 octobre 2008

Just shut up and cut.

It's been a funny old week. What with computers going wrong and being let down by Mexicans, being on the edge of a dose of man-flu and generally feeling that I'm not made for getting up and going to work every single day. It's not been the best, but hey.

So anyway, with all of this behind me, I approached the weekend with gusto - determined to enjoy myself and to forget the ridiculousness of the working week.

Friday is a half day for me, and my weekend starts at 12.30 every week. It's a great opportunity to run errands that have eluded me in the week, without losing my Saturday morning to them.

I got a couple of tasks out of the way - bank, post office - and then, in a bid to try and get all of my worst weekend chores over and done with in one swell foop, I decided to bite the bullet and go for a haircut.

I hate getting my hair cut. Normally it's something that I reserve for when I go back to the UK, and I can then go to the barber that I've been going to since I was a small boy. He knows not to talk too much, he knows how I like it cut, he's not expensive, he gets a good tip, everyone's happy.

Even though I'm going to the UK on Thursday, I know that while I'm there I won't have time for a haircut. I have a ridiculous schedule that is already double booked....lord. So, I needed to find a hairdresser.

I made a pact with myself that I would walk into the first one that did men's cuts. I wouldn't hesitate. I wouldn't think 'there'll be a better one in a few metres'. I wouldn't 'not like the look' of the barber. I would just go in and get it cut.

So, I do this.

And this is how I find myself sat in the chair of Chatty McChatty and his wife Talky McTalky.

Shit, these people could talk. And the shit they could talk too. At one point I thought my ears were bleeding from the constant chatter, but it just turned out to be a slight nick with the scissors. That's how bad it was.

And the chatter went on and on. At one point, he left me in the chair, went and put the kettle on and made himself and wifey a cup of coffee. And all this time he didn't stop talking at me.

The main topic of conversation was the fact that I am German. I'm not German, naturlich, but no amount of protesting on my part would convince them otherwise.

"You're are German, no?" was his opening gambit.

"No, English. I'm English".

"He says he's English" said chatty to his wife.

"Mais non, il est allemand. Without any question" said the wife.

"Truly, I am English" I protested.

"You speak with a German accent"

"I can speak with a German accent if you want, but it's not my usual speaking voice. I am English, you see".

"Well, I don't believe you. To me, you are German".

And the interactive part of the conversation ended there. For the rest of the haircut, he and his wife talked at me about the places in Germany that they had visited and how much they loved cruising the Rhine.

Apparently, Munich held fond memories for them too, as did the Bodensee. They had visited the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg and been charmed by the efficiency, and they had eaten curry wurst on the Rieperbahn and admired the hookers.

"The German hookers are very beautiful. You are a very lucky man to have the choice of so many beautiful German women" the wife said to me.

I feared any conversation with them that was based on my denying having an interest in Hamburg hookers would tip me over the edge.

I sat. I closed my eyes. I waited for it to end.

And finally the ordeal was over. I thanked Chatty and Talky, paid and headed to the door.

"You won't get a cut like that in Berlin", Chatty shouted after me.

"Bis spater! Und danke schon!" Shouted his wife.

God help me. I needed a drink.

jeudi 2 octobre 2008

Computer says 'no'

Now, me and technology, we get on ok. Not well, not brilliantly, just ok.

I can load software and download tunes and manage a pretty self-managing blog. But there reaches a point where things are happening because of a) the technology being incredibly well designed and just getting on with it without any user intervention or b) sheer luck.

Alas, this week neither has been happening for me. I'm about ready to throw a few grand's worth of computer equipment out of the office window onto the beach below (ok, so it's a cement works, but it looks like a beach).

Monday saw the arrival of a pallet-load of computers, printers, docking stations, network gadgets and things with wires sticking out of them (or into them, depending on where you stand). Included in the pack was a list of instructions that the company IT guy had put together before he skipped off to sunnier climes for a fortnight.

So Debbie and me, very pleased with our delivery, set out to construct the 'network' that computer boy in the UK had designed for us. We got on pretty well with it and by the end of the day we could print things out on our 'fast' printer.

Tuesday we could print things on the 'slow' printer too. And we could scan documents and send faxes.

Wednesday we could connect to the internet and send emails.

Today, we can do none of the above. Well, we can do some of them, but not all.

The problem is that somewhere, something is out to get us. I can get on-line, but not print. Debbie can scan and print but has no internet access. Neither of us can get our emails via the company system - I'm resorting to hotmail and Debbie is cut off totally.

At 3 o'clock we closed the office door behind us and went and worked from a local bar that has wifi.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping that someone will miraculously appear and say 'here it is - the piece you are missing'. Unfortunately, it's more likely that hell will freeze over and we'll be invaded by hordes of flying pigs.

I know that I have to sort it out myself, but really - I'd rather sit in the bar and do wifi.

At least they sell gin there.