Friday, 19 March 2010

A Fine Read - Radclyffe Hall's 'The Well of Loneliness'

I first read this truly ground-breaking novel in 1987 (at the suggestion of my most beautiful-ever gay friend. - The friendship lasting barely 6 months, breaking down after a disastrous trip to Paris together. Perhaps a story for another time?) But I'm now coming to the end of a re-read and it's striking me, much more than the first time, how remarkable the book is. It was the first novel dealing with lesbian relationships which I'd read and for that reason hadn't been immediately enthusiastic. (Silly me!) First published in 1928, it was soon involved in a notorious trial in the British courts which, unsurprisingly for the time, judged it to be 'obscene' and banned it - thus consigning it to Limbo for some decades. Of course one winces now at the writer's description of lesbians as having the 'mark of Cain', referring to gays generally as 'inverts' and homosexuality as a burden (as indeed it would have been then and in that society) and as a somewhat unwholesome characteristic, those having it being individuals to be understood with sympathy channeled through pity. But once one gets over where Hall was coming from in those repressed days it really is an extraordinary work, beautifully and sensitively written There is nothing in the least pornographic or even explicit in the book ("And that night they were not divided.") nor anything more graphic than the occasional kiss on the mouth. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in historically significant gay lit. If you are so interested, do please read - and let us know what you think.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Me - this morning

Although I see my face in the mirror several times a day it takes a mugshot to bring home how old one really looks. I made eight attempts this morning and this is the least unflattering one. It's a sobering thought knowing that one is not going to look any better in future - so that's my excuse for putting this on the record before I appear even more decrepit.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Following my last blog, here is the other half of my 'dynamic duo', the ever-wary Noodles, with his long whiskers. Rrrrrrrr.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

My little furry, cuddly menace.

Here's my beloved Blackso who has come so very close to doing me a serious injury several times. Such as yesterday when he was snoozing in Noodles' own place (probably deliberately) I picked him up to place him back in his own usual 'territorial' spot on the settee. But when he's picked up awkwardly he lashes out with his long and very sharp-clawed paws at anything nearby, just to get hold of something and which, as on previous occasions, happened to be my face and neck. It was a close shave - almost literally - the resultant scratches thankfully being only superficial, but it could so easily have been disastrous - serious injury or, conceivably, even worse! Can't blame him, of course (bless his little cotton socks). It's my own forgetfulness in picking him up without forethought that creates the perilous situation. Normally, being much more affectionate than Noodles, he likes being held up to my face and he purrs loudly and rubs his head against my beard as I whisper sweet nothings to him. (He also snores like a mini-foghorn!) Noodles is much more circumspect, only getting lovey-dovey when he wants to eat and, unlike Blackso, will not stay in my lap nor sleep in my bed with me. But I do love them both like crazy. If only they didn't have those little lethal weapons in their paws they'd be....... purrfect!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Thoughts on treatment on film of historical personages

I've just completed reading Lytton Strachey's quite excellent biography 'Queen Victoria'. Such lucid, stylish and fluid writing - even presented me with half-a-dozen 'new' words with which I was unfamiliar, which I like in a book. But we all know this monarch from early photographs as the squat, po-faced, matriarchal figure in advanced age. However, apparently even as a child, she had unprepossessing looks, a rather short, dumpy figure with projecting upper teeth and weak chin. Now setting this against her representation in last year's film 'Young Victoria' where Emily Blunt looks as though the character would have graced a 'Miss World' line-up, then one gets some idea of the extent of historical 'accuracy' of this film in particular. But this is hardly something new. All films, from whichever country, have glamourised their past. There have been so many films featuring Queen Elizabeth I but, as far as I know, not one of them has even dared to hint that even in middle age she possessed hopelessly rotten teeth (the ones remaining in her head, that is), that she became almost totally bald, and that in order to cover up the pock-marks on her face she wore face-cream, reputedly, up to an inch thick - the latter being some exaggeration, one might think. (Would a film featuring George Washington have the guts to display a portrayal of him with wooden teeth?) I accept that the 'truth' can often work against the success of a historical film but on the other hand I do believe that a little more attempt at veracity has its own dramatic potential, though maybe not in the way most members of an audience would care to see, sanitisation being rather more palatable. I could go on further at some length but at least I've got it off my chest.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Once again, the Pope cries "Boo!" and this cowardly British government jumps to do his bidding.

As though the recent submission to allow religious institutions an opt-out in discriminatory laws, by allowing them to dismiss gays or refuse to appoint them solely on grounds of sexuality, wasn't enough, I'm seething all over again at yesterday's shenanigans in Parliament in which our so-called' socialist' Government itself amended its own proposal to forbid discrimination in the teaching of sex education in schools. Now so-called 'faith schools' will be permitted to teach their own religions' sexual 'morality' - as long as it also says that there may be other views, without having to explain what those other views are and why they might have greater validity than those of the religion they are teaching. Critics have accused the move as allowing religions to indoctrinate their pupils with homophobia - not to mention the disgraceful acquiescence in permitting Catholic schools to teach that the use of condoms, in all circumstances, is 'sinful'. The government denies that it has 'watered down' their original very commendable proposals in the face of considerable opposition, especially from Christian and Muslim groups. So why change it at all, then? Well the fact that the official response from the Roman Catholic Church is that it is 'happy' with the outcome says it all.
Of course this couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that we'll be having a General Election within 2 or 3 months, could it? If they had refused to accede to the demands of the religious right then it would have been a gift to the Conservative opposition - who supported the concession, of course. (During discussion, one Conservative M.P. asked the Government for assurance that schools will still be able to teach that 'homosexuality is wrong'! The response being a repetition that schools will be allowed to teach the 'morality' of their own religion - in other words, 'Yes'. )
So there we have it. After years during which Tony Blair, despite his considerable faults, fought tooth and nail to achieve legal parity for gays in virtually all respects, we now have his very same party actually creating further discrimination against us in order to appease the right-wing, to thereby avoid losing votes. The only possible positive note is that with Parliamentary time so tight before an election the legislation may fall through lack of time. But even after the election, do I think the Churches will give up? Somehow I doubt it.