London Triptych

A very enjoyable book and impressive debut. Three stories set roughly 50 years apart in London. All involving rent boys as significant characters. The book is well written and the characters well developed. The story from 1894 was one of the young rent boys involved with the trail of Oscar Wilde. The handling of this story reminded me of the Sins of the Cities of Plain (which is acknowledged in the afterword). The 1954 story about the late coming out of an artist inspired by his muse, who is a rent boy. This was the most enjoyable of the threads as the Jonathan Kemp captured beautifully the writer’s internal struggle and its repercussions. “1998” Was the story told by a lad in prison about falling in love (with a rent boy) which was mesmerising at the end and written with great passion.

The afterward was also a great read and probably reflects the authors academic roots. I discovered Polari Journal [An International Queer Creative Writing Journal, currently on Issue 2] and a few books to add to my wish list (or to request from the library)

  • The Victorian Underground, Kellow Chesney
  • The Verdict of You All, Rupert Croft-Cooke
  • London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885-1914, Matt Cook

“London Triptych” (Jonathan Kemp)

John’s London Walk

Met John, Andrew and about 10 other friends for a walk from Hampstead to Highbury Tubes. It as a short ramble that we took at an easy pace, covering some lovely parts of Hampstead, and at least three of John Constable’s Houses. We had a drink in the Wells Tavern, and then lunch on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Walked over Parliament Hill down to the mens’ bathing ponds which looked lovely, but not special enough to make a day trip from Cambridge for a swim. Tea in the Lauderdale in the afternoon, before walking back along some old railway line to Highbury. Lovely to see Heiko and some other familiar faces. Popped into the Devonshire Arms for a drink and a dinner (extra spicy cauliflower curry—thanks David).

screen-capture.png
P6120006.JPG P6120007.JPG
P6120010.JPG P6120011.JPG
P6120008.JPG

Exquisite Bodies

Had a quick trip to see the Exquisite Bodies exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London yesterday. Comprised wax work anatomical studies from the 19th C, used as research and education tools (e.g. in human embryology) but also in “museums” and freakshows, where they still played an educational role but made money from their shock value.

WTX055364.JPG.jpeg

Some of the pieces from named sculptors were very intricate and fascinating: quite a few others were largely to educate on the horrors of syphilis. Good exhibition, and not nearly as gory as it might sound.

Skylon

Had a lovely day in London yesterday for Michael’s birthday. We spent the afternoon in the Porchester Spa, steaming, perspiring and lounging in the 1930’s splendor of the place. Even though we were there for four hours, it still didn’t feel long enough! I still couldn’t work out how the schmeissing works: there seems to be an establish system of queuing but and it was unfathomable.

We met Christopher and Matthew for dinner in the Skylon Restaurant in the evening, this time 1950’s glamour at the Royal Festival Hall. We had a lovely table by the window in the restaurant: a great place to sip cocktails before dinner. The service was faultless: friendly, informal, professional and attentive, we felt very well looked after. The food was excellent, and we had a good choice from an interesting menu: John Dory with whelks for me (yum yum!). The baked alaska for two was flamed at the table, after hot brandy was poured on top: the smell of burning sugar was lovely and it was a very impressive sight!

We got the National Express bus home from Embankment: probably a lot faster than the train (which had bus replacements on the service from both King’s Cross and Liverpool Street), and we were at our house about 90 mins after catching the bus in London.

Royal Festival Hall Embankment

In the Dungeon

We had an early start today to meet my sister, Christine, her husband, Adam, and Jessica and Lewis, our niece and nephew, for a trip to the London Dungeon. We had a very nice second breakfast while we were waiting for them to arrive in a cafe off Borough High Street called De Gustibus. Michael had an almond meringue which was very nice, chosen from a selection of about five meringue mountains. My fruit flan was very nice too. We started queuing about 10, and by the time the family arrived at 10.20 there was a massive queue behind us that looked like it would take hours to clear.

Warning, Christine! Devis in the London Dungeon

Grim Reaper in the London Dungeon

The London Dungeon trip started off quite poorly. We were hustled from place to place, photo taken in a pose with no explanation or thought to whether we wanted it. The first room, is then a tatty walk-though that takes far too long, but luckily is really a holding queue for the main attractions. These were scenes from London’s grizzly past: the plague, the great fire, Jack the Ripper, ghosts etc. Lots of actors taking us through this in, what must be, an exhausting and repetitive schedule. Some of the actors were great though and I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. The woman in the torture chamber was an especially good torturer and she scared me within seconds of entering the room. The woman in the Sweeney Todd scene was also great fun. There were three or four very good rides/experiences. One was a good water ride and Jessica liked the Sweeney Todd experience (all the lights went out). The whole trip lasted a couple of hours and culminated in a court scene where we tried, found guilt and sentenced to be hanged. The hanging took place in a fairground ride called Extremis: the photo’s speak for themselves:

Christine, Lewis and Adam, The Long DropAdam, Michael and Graham the Long Drop

So it was great trip. Jessica and Lewis were amusing too they ‘weren’t scared’ of anything, but crept closer and closer to holding mum and dad’s hands when things got a little bit scarier. We left on a bit of a high in perfect time for lunch, and headed back to Borough High Street to go the The George Inn, which we discovered on our beer tour a couple of years ago. We had a good lunch and nice Green King beer there, then headed over to the South Bank to have a walk. The Tate Modern was setting up for a new installation in the turbine room (but had impressive street art murals outside that I enjoyed), Wandered over to St Pauls cathedral. I’ve never been in and I’ve wanted to go for a long time to see John Donne’s grave. We had a lovely walk over the Millenium Bridge, but were a bit shocked to discover that it would have cost about £35 for us to enter St Pauls, so decided to move on to Hyde Park, by bus.

The weather was great and Hyde Park had a lively and friendly atmosphere and a Caribbean Festival (with Steel Band). Walked around, and had a good look at the Albert Memorial, which Jessica and Lewis had running races around to keep them occupied while we had a cup of tea. It takes about 50 seconds to run around the monument—not nearly long enough!

Albert Memorial

By now it was about 5pm, and we headed back to the Central Line, via the Peter Pan Statue, which Jessica liked. Finally, we had to say our goodbyes at Lancaster Gate tube: it’s amazing how quickly a day can go!

Jessica and Peter Pan Statue

Fun night in London

I have a new favourite hotel in London the City Inn Westminster Hotel. We arrived about 8 on Friday night and were impressed by the lovely tea selection and the free iMAC/television in the room. The hotel is very smart, has a good looking restaurant and was only £100 for the night, which is OK for central London. We walked over the river to Barcode in Vauxhall for a couple of beers and to listen to the good DJs there. It was good to bump into Tony, an ex press officer at the RSC, who left a year or so ago. adam-001.gif We headed around the corner about 11:30 to go naked clubbing at Stakers which was as good as always. The mix of men and women was better than in the past (that means more women!) and the atmosphere was very friendly. We left about 2.30 and it was really great to only have a 10 minute walk over the river to get to the hotel: no messing with late night buses.

We managed to get up and out the hotel by 11.30 on Saturday, missing breakfast because we were heading over for a meaty lunch at Santa María del Sur in Queenstown Road. It’s an authentic Argentinean restaurant that Michael’s been wanted to try for a while. We had a Parrillada Mixta, which is a mixed grill served on a charcoal braziers: Argentine-style pork sausage + Sirloin steak + black pudding + provolone cheese + mushroom. We started with a lovely pisco sour cocktail which helped us on our way to a great lunch. We left about 3 and took the bus back to central London to go to an evening at the Dragon Hall in Covent Garden, organised by the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) to mark International Day Against Homophobia. The evening was commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of Clause 28, in May 1988, and also the official launch of the new LAGNA website www.lagna.org.uk.

There was an excellent exhibition of press material from the 80’s that reminded everyone just how horrible the press was towards gays during the AIDS/Section 28 period. We heard a couple of great lectures: Professor Jeffrey Weeks: the political context of Clause 28, and Lisa Power: the campaigns against the Clause. Followed by film footage, including the lesbian invasion of the BBC news studio on the day the Clause was passed. There was more to come in the evening, but stuffed full of Argentinean beef, wine and pisco sour, it was difficult to concentrate for too long, we se headed off about 6.30 to head back to Cambridge. It was a very good event, and it was good to get an invitation from Oliver.

Sea Survival Training

Michael and I left home at 7.15 to go down to London for an RYA Sea Survival Training organised by the Sailing and Cruising Association. The course was in Greenwich at a somewhat shabby RYA training school run by Captial Sailing. There were 16 of us students there. The morning comprised lots of chat, questions & answers and an RYA video that was rather sobering: seeing two Olympic swimmers coping with cold shock and the effect that cold has on swimming coordination. Also learned that as the body cools down in cold water, the heart and circulatory system are supported by the hydrostatic pressure on the legs, as these are lower in the water. When you get pulled out the water after a long period in it, the hydrostatic effect is withdrawn and gravity can then also pull the blood to the feet, leading to a large drop in blood pressure, which can be lethal. We all watched the video in silence! The trainer, Steve Windoe/Windle?, was a very interesting chap: he used to be a Naval diver trainer and has been involved with a lot of sea training for the Navy

We had lunch in a noodle bar in Greenwich village with Mark Gedrych before heading over for a pool session at St Georges Pool on The Highway (Shadwell). We wore our foul weather gear in the pool, and practiced swimming alone and in a conga line. Then we had a bob around in our inflated life jackets and had to climb 1 foot out the pool compared with, say, a 5 foot climb onto a real boat! My bruises are coming up nicely from this! Then the four-man life raft came out and it took us about 5 mins to actually get it inflated once it was in the water. We practiced getting in it (as photo below from the Captial Sailing web site)

DCP_4016.JPG

then getting out it. Then righting it (assuming it had been inflated upside down), then getting out an upturned life raft and getting back in again with a casualty. It was all exhausting and despite the best efforts of the 12 other students kicking their legs in the water to recreate a Force 8 Gale, I always aware that this was in a nice warm pool, with no waves and in bright light. Quite an eye-opener. Also an eye-opener because I managed to split my eyebrow when turning the life raft over, quite a small cut but quite a bit of blood! Mark as some photo’s which I’ll append if available. Left with our certificate, actually from ondeck training centre. Sadly we had no time to go out for group drinks afterwards as we were heading home to see Equus.