Friday, 31 March 2023

My cold, wordless exchange with Lily Savage (Paul O'Grady R.I.P.)


It will have been early 1988 when the campaign was at its height to prevent an obnoxious Bill becoming law, which was to make it a criminal offence for a local authority (read 'teachers') to promote homosexuality. Our side's 'anti' campaign itself was unsuccessful as the then Mrs Thatcher's government managed to get her Bill through Parliament in the Summer of that year where it remained for a further 17 years until Tony Blair's Labour government got it rescinded without too much trouble. In fact throughout that law's active life not one single prosecution under it had been made, not helped by no one agreeing on exactly what 'promotion of....' actually meant. But much of the energy of the 'anti' campaign was on the lines of 'if this gets through, what comes next?' - the answer to which, if not worded as the British law was, can depressingly be seen happening right now in the U.S.A. 

As part of the 'anti' campaign there were a number of events in support of that side, including theatrical charity dos. In London there were two such which I attended, possibly the biggest one being in one of that city's largest theatres, the 1200 seater Piccadilly theatre, with a large number of stars, including internationals, making a brief 5-minute appearance to make their support known. I can't list all the names now, the long tally-call being quite breath-taking, though I'll still have the programme somewhere - but I do remember Dame Edna Everidge, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Alan Bennett, Harold Pinter (and, I think, Tom Stoppard), Simon Rattle with his then wife, the cast of 'EastEnders' and 'Les Mis', Gary Oldman and Sheila Hancock did the seduction scene from Joe Orton's 'Entertaining Mr Sloane'.....and, making their very first live performance ever, the Pet Shop Boys who performed, highly appropriately, 'It's a Sin' (and, I think, 'Always on My Mind') Lily Savage, who was yet to become a national figure though by then very well known on the gay scene. I'd seen her before and, frankly, hadn't cared for her, striking me as relentlessly bitter and humourless, unless you thought that hurling 'f' and 'c' words with no wit at various celebrities and politicians, was side-splittingly funny which some, indeed, did. I thought his material was all too shallow. Anyway, he did his predictable routine leaving me duly unimpressed. Then after this show I had booked to go straight to another similar event at one of London smaller theatres, half the size of the Piccadilly, with another cast list of more big names but mainly those from the gay circuits. And once again Lily Savage was on that programme too. She came on, same dress as before, and did the very same act which I'd just seen. I was sitting in an end seat on about the third row from the stage, quite conspicuously placed as it was jutting out into a side aisle. In the middle of her piece she suddenly stopped and looked directly at me, probably noticing that I was sitting there, rigid and unsmiling despite her best efforts - and it was a looooong, silent, icy, 'if-looks-could-kill' stare. The audience hushed, and I could sense them starting to look for what had caught her attention though I didn't dare to glance around myself. I could have put an end to the dreadful moment there and then by just giving a smile and a thumbs-up, allowing her a sense of relief, but I was frozen into immobility, face and all. Then, after what seemed an eternity, with blood rushing to my cheeks, she looked away. I was certain she must say something, but she didn't. She'd have forgotten the moment two minutes later, and compared with the vicious heckling she must have got in her early career up to then, it would have been nothing. Yet here am I, over 30 years later, still remembering and cringeing at the memory of that moment of 'nothingness'!

By the time Paul O'Grady died unexpectedly in his sleep the day before yesterday at the age of just 67 (nine years younger than I am now. Eek!) he'd been accorded the now rather over-used accolade of 'national treasure' which is probably fair. He'd ditched the Lily Savage persona for good about 15 years ago and has been appearing on national television since the mid-90s, though in latter years only as his true self, a warm, genial host - a side of him with qualities which Lily Savage's character was devoid and I hadn't been aware of. He was a popular chat-show host, as well as for game shows - though he did do the occasional theatre appearances, such as the Child-catcher in 'Chitty' and 'Miss Hannigan' in 'Annie' (he was actually appearing in the latter in Edinburgh when he died). He became particularly well-known for his concern for animals and, in particular, for rescued dogs, the subject of a regular TV programme. He leaves behind a husband (rather good-looking, I must say) as well as a daughter from a previous marriage. 

Everyone's parting is sad, and it seems my briefest of briefs 'interaction' with him, if one can even call it that, did not do justice to the man. R.I.P., Sir!

Monday, 27 March 2023

The 'N - word' before it became the ultimate unmentionable.


The idea of using this subject for a post comes about through very recent news that some of Agatha Christie's novels (as well as some of Roald Dahl's) are being altered so as to have terms which are now considered to be 'racially insensitive' either altered or completely removed for future published editions. I am not going to argue here whether such changes are or aren't justified.

Those of my generation and older will recall the time when this word was in almost everyday use by many, including friends and even relatives, with hardly an eyebrow raised in disapproving reaction. It must have been in the 1970s when, at least in England, it became 'dubious' until, following the example of the U.S.A., it became (probably in the 1980s) unacceptable virtually everywhere, especially in a social context - though it was , and I believe still is, used by (racist) comedians in the relative seclusion of private clubs. I recall it being used on TV 'comedy' shows still well into the 70s - this was a time when one of the most popular shows here was the weekly 'Black and White Minstrel Show', all the male singers and dancers having blacked-up faces, all the females without the black make-up but in alluring, revealing dresses as also their dancers, some in almost bikini-like costumes so as to give show to much exposed, exclusively white, female flesh which, it was assumed, that audiences liked to see.  

When my family first got a television, around 1958 - before colour of course - one of the very first films we watched together was the Agatha Christie thriller advertised above - which, with its unexpected, breath-taking resolution, made a deep and highly favourable impression on me. Christie herself had used the 'N-word' when transferring her novel, originally called 'Ten Little Indians', into a stage play. 'Ten Little Soldiers' had also briefly been employed. Incidentally, when I saw the play on stage about 30 years ago (though knowing the big 'reveal' of the plot rather blunts the experience) even 'Indians' had become 'Travellers' - which itself, with its uncloaked suggestion of gypsies, has now also become a clear no-no.  And the play's title, like the 1974 re-make film - and with, indeed, Christie's own approval which she had also herself previously used - had by then become the entirely innocuous 'And Then There Were None'. 

I hadn't heard of Lenny Bruce when I saw the 1974 Dustin Hoffman / Bob Fosse film, which I liked a lot - and moved me to find out more about the man. (Oh, how I'd liked to have seen him reacting, assuming his political and social stances had remained unchanged, to our present Trump-world!) In the film 'Lenny' he masterfully illustrates how the sting can be drawn from the word 'nigger' by using it regularly and non-judgmentally - a lesson which is, arguably, still valid today. However, I think there's not enough recognition that within the 'family' of non-white people, the word can be used as a term of friendliness or even affection - as much as the word 'queer' can, and is also used in a non-pejorative sense between gay, (usually) men. But that does not give authority to those outside those particular worlds to use the words as a put-down, something which is obviously not so when used by one member of such set towards another, as like an informal form of address. There is no sense here of one individual claiming a superiority over another in these cases. 

I began primary school in 1952. In my family I have always been the darkest one - as well as the tallest, though that is 'only' 6 feet. Being born in India (of mainly European 'stock') was enough to additionally mark me out as someone 'different'. Some years back my younger brother had one of those ancestry tests done, which showed, unsurprisingly to us, a significant Iberian strain - my father claimed to be half-Portuguese, so hence is my surname, slightly altered from its original - as well as some Scandinavian - my paternal grandfather's 'other half' being Danish. But there was also some [I think 18%] Asian, which may have come from my mother's side, though she, as English, wasn't aware of - or didn't want to say? -  where that originated from. At primary school, and it's hardly credible now, among 600 infant and junior pupils, I was the sole one who was most visibly not white, moreso than any of my three brothers. So I was an obvious target for the 'n' word, though, must say, not frequently, just now and again, and more often than not, abbreviated to 'nig' - and by boys (it was always only boys) from classes other than my own who didn't know me. Of course, being called 'nig' or the full word hurt, as it was meant to, though it didn't obsess me unduly. I just thought of it as being part of the world. As far as I know, my brothers had not suffered the same indignities that I did, though their complexions were a shade, or even two, lighter than mine was. When I started grammar school at 11, I found once again that I was the darkest out of another 600 boys (a boys-only school), that is until a young guy with coal-black skin joined some years later, and who, I noted, after riding out silently all the laughing and ribbing behind his back - sometimes even to his face - he quickly became hugely popular, gaining a retinue of devoted fans who followed him around and chatting with him at recreation time, something I'd never experienced myself. I felt so happy for him, though wasn't brave enough to tell him so.

Anyway, going back to 'Ten Little Niggers', at my first school, there was an annual event where pupils from all years were chosen by their teachers to take part in a series of performances before the whole school in the assembly hall. It was a Roman Catholic school whose headmistress was a nun, as also was her deputy/final-year teacher. All the other teachers were lay women and two men, all also R.C. of course. This particular year when I'd have been 7 or 8, the year above me had been given the task to act-out the then relatively well-known children's song 'Ten Little Niggers' (from which Christie got her book title, though which is never heard nowadays) on the assembly hall stage, with ten chosen boys given blacked-up faces (shoe polish?) - as well as big curtain-ring sized earrings(!) plus some garishly coloured scarf. Then they'd be made to pop up to being visible one by one from behind a low lateral screen to illustrate the song's story, with the respective, varied (humorous) demises - I remember one being caught by a shark, another being poisoned with a cake - all while the whole school, including teachers and nuns, along with a couple of priests as guests from the adjoining church, singing along merrily and heartily the chorus line of - "One little, Two little, Three little, Four little, Five little NIGGER boys" the chorus being repeated as each boy 'died' thus reducing the number 'survivors' - so at least TEN times altogether!.......all the while leaving me inwardly squirming as I watched the wretched, demeaning spectacle from a tightly-packed bench. I don't remember if I made some show of pretending to sing along.

Ah, such were the times! Better now? Well maybe - or.....?


Monday, 13 March 2023

Annual Doggie Extravaganza - Crufts Best in Show 2023

The winner - and 'Best in Show' is.........ORCA!

 And runner-up or  'Reserve Best in Show' is........Blondie

Finishing last night, I watch this event every year as religiously as I do the 'Eurovision Song Contest' and can't think why I've not till now done a blog on it, especially considering there are so many avid dog-lovers in blogland, several of whom I'm delighted to be following. 

Crufts, held every year in Birmingham, claims to be the world's best dog show. Whether it is or not it's certainly the biggest, with multiple thousands of entries from all over the globe, providing four days of quality 'entertainment' in competitions, obstacle courses, tricks, skills, obeying commands, grooming etc.......all of course, presided over by expert veterinary supervisors.

I can't claim to be particularly knowledgeable about dogs (nor cats, for that matter) other than liking them hugely, their honest, uncomplicated emotional responses being the main source of their endearment for me. All on the surface, nothing hidden. But I know very little regarding dog breeds (so many of them, and such variety!) and the niceties of interpreting their doggie language. 

I've never been a dog-owner myself, except when as part of the family we owned one between my ages of around 10-18 - and though all my members of my family were animal-lovers to varying extents it was I who was foremost and closest to 'Candy'. Now, with three cats to care for and coddle (it was they who chose me to leave their homes for and move in here!) and at my advanced age, acquiring a dog, or even another cat, is really out of the question, sadly.

So here are some misc pics from the last few days:-

Incidentally, I would urge anyone who hasn't seen the Christopher Guest film 'Best in Show' (2000) to take a look. Totally hilarious, with nearly all the humour coming from or directed at the dog-owners rather than the animals. It's one off my all-time favourites and easily one of the funniest films I have ever seen.

Now, to end with, here's last year's champion, and what a fine specimen of the breed he is, you'll agree! And just look at the winning dog he owns too!

Monday, 6 March 2023

Mo Salah, Liverpool F.C. footballer - gets ALL my attention.


It's not a sexual thing - I mean he's 46 years younger than I am - but, goodness me, there's nobody at all in today's sports-world who, appearance-wise, comes anywhere near to ticking my boxes so completely, and he's done so ever since appearing on my radar when he started playing for Liverpool six years ago, and has always been one of their most prominent 'star' players and regular goal-scorer  - while also remaining part of Egypt's national team. I know he's been married for 10 years and has two daughters, but even so, when I see his team playing I'm sitting utterly transfixed, awaiting a view of him, any view, to slaver at excitedly (okay, so maybe it is sexual to some extent). But such a beautiful man I haven't seen in many years - the epitome of 'stunning'!

I'm not aware of any gay fan club with him specifically in mind, so maybe it's just me, but I can live with that - though I do hope he doesn't shave off his beard for some time yet.

Drool, drool, droooooooollll!!

Monday, 12 December 2022

Vulpine visitor.


My flat is on the other side of the road from a large-ish park where, as I've known for years, a 'family' or more of urban foxes live. Over time, when I've got out of bed in the early hours, I've very occasionally seen one in the back gardens scavenging for food. Even with the odd cat around outside, including my own, they ignore or just accept one another, though cats seem the more wary and somewhat fascinated, without the overt hostility or fear they'd exhibit against dogs. 

A few nights ago I found the food which I always leave out overnight for my own furry threesome not only eaten up entirely and the milk-bowl licked dry, but also my indoor rubbish bag, prior to putting in bin outside, had been ransacked, with tea bags, avocado skins, cat left-overs etc littering the kitchen floor. (I leave the kitchen window open for the cats with a small gap for them to go in and out at will on their nocturnal prowlings). I didn't give the incident much thought then and there, thinking another cat had been the culprit. However, on the following evening, sitting watching telly with one cat on my lap and another nearby, they both became unsettled and got up to peer down the hallway above the stairs. I rose to look and there, disappearing through the kitchen window was the brush of a fox tail - and evidence of ransacking once again. It was clear that at least one of them had got bolder. 

Searching the internet for a fox-repellent, they all appeared expensive and more geared to gardens or farms rather than domestic 'invaders'. But it seems that scents which foxes actively dislike include garlic (I'm with the fox there!) and chillies, so I bought some of both and, as instructed, crushed some of them in a bowl and added boiling water, which I've left on the kitchen window ledge for the last three nights. Seems to have worked. But only this morning, at 5 a.m. and temps well below freezing, looking out with a torch, there on the wall, watching me dolefully was a fox, with a pleading look which said 'Please give me some food!' I felt so incredibly sorry for the poor creature, it was heart-breaking. But didn't dare to respond as I wanted to, knowing that if I did it would only return again and again - and then acquiring a dreadful reputation as a fox-feeder and attractor from all the neighbours and beyond - and, to top it all, the lovely young couple neighbours under me (he a doctor, she a former nurse - could be extremely useful!) have an 8-month old baby!

So, as at right now I'm hoping that I don't see the vulpine visitor again, though I'm sure I will. And what if it gets brave or desperate enough to push in past the stinking concoction I leave on the window ledge? What can I do? Oh, the heartache! It hurts so! 😟

Friday, 14 October 2022

And yet a further milestone reached - they just keep coming!


Yes, today (15th) is my 'Trombones Day' - "With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'B' and that stands for........" - Birthday! 

For those who've been enquiring after my well-being during recent months - something for which I'm eternally grateful and very touched indeed - overall, my health continues fine, all thing considered. As I often say, it's far better than a lot of folk of my advanced age (and yet older) have, if they have even ever reached it, which now just about all of my one-time small handful of friends failed to do. 
Previous eye difficulties are more or less gone now. Sight in both eyes is very good in one and quite acceptable in the other. Not needing spectacles at all, with contact lenses, after 50 years wear, also now being firmly relegated to the past. Lingering slight regret that there remains a discernible disparity between both eyes' visions but I appreciate how lucky I am having come through the sometimes dramatic difficulties with the result I have. So I've positively no complaints! 

Couple of months ago I managed to resume reading again, both newspapers and books - and to prove to myself that I can, a week ago started re-reading that readers' Everest, (or should we now be calling it 'Sagarmatha'?) of 'War and Peace', my ninth (and possibly last?) 'ascent' of it - and in a fifth translation. (Very curiously, this 'Penguin Popular Classics' edition, which I picked up for £1 some years back, doesn't give this particular translator's name, and which my Internet search has also failed to uncover. Most odd.) But it's a great relief to get back to what has been for me, viz. reading generally, one of the greatest pleasures in all my life since infancy.

I must poignantly mention in passing that today would also have been the b/day of Arteejee (RTG), hubby of our late, dear Anne-Marie of Philly - both much missed, and will continue to be so.

Now it's disappointing that I can't show, as I always have done for every birthday, up-to-date photos of myself and my three furry flat-mates. Yesterday I took what I thought were good photos on my digital camera, but when I came to try to upload them onto this p.c. it seems that things have moved on and the old procedure doesn't work as before. The simplest way is now via a smartphone, which I still don't have, and to do it with a digital camera requires me to follow instructions which I just can't understand. Terms are used which are gobbledygook to me. So, until I can find some way to achieve it, unfortunately at present there are no new photos are to be seen. 

So, until the next time something happens in my life which deserves blogging about, I wish well to any remaining followers and readers of my sparse and rare posts.   
Very best wishes to y'all!

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Boy oh boy! Wouldn't wish this on ANYbody!


My first ever surgical operation - and. oh the pain - during it!!!! 

In short (?), then - I reported as requested to Brighton eye hospital for their team to examine the botched cataract removal surgery, my 'other' eye having been done with no problem at all - and within just 10 minutes when I'd felt very little discomfort. Now the team of specialists were alarmed at the build up of pressure inside the faulty eye, now with no lens, and I was strongly recommended an operation without further delay. Any postponement, they said, would carry a grave risk of losing all sight in that eye. So no choice, really. It had never occurred to me that things would have to move so fast. 

That was last Wed. They scheduled the operation for the following morning, asking me to stay overnight so it could be done right away at 7 a.m. I told them "No way!" ( I had to return home to see to the pussycats - which I didn't tell them. Besides, I've never been to hospital to stay in my entire life!) So early on Thurs morning I journeyed back with more than a little apprehension. 

Pre-surgery was given several different tablets and eye-drops to, the theory was, deaden any pain - on top of which received an injected local anaesthetic for the eye and its surroundings. Right from the start, when one of the two main surgeons started poking into the eye the pain was simply excruciating, the like of which I don't recall having experienced before. I tried my best not to yell out, failing a number of times,  and so it went on and on for very nearly an hour! I was gripping onto the edge of the operating table like my life depended on it - and each time I shouted out a soothing voice would say "Don't worry, Sir. Just a couple more things to do." The number of times I was told this was unbelievable - "Don't worry, Sir. Just a couple more things, then we've finished". It went on and on until I really thought my heart was going to give up the ghost.

Eventually it really did end and I was able to sit up, very sore-eyed, to be wheeled to where I could relax(!) for a couple of hours. At last I was able - just - to struggle up onto my unsteady pins. Then after a cursory examination, my 'new' eye (with new lens inserted) covered by cotton wool and shield, I made my wobbly way back home on the bus.

Woke up yesterday morning after sleeping a full 14 hours, though disturbed during night by soreness in and around the eye. Then at last I could venture to remove the shield. I did have some vision there, for the first time in several months, though was disappointed by it being nowhere near as sharp as the 'good' eye - and I even now as yet can't read with it, either distance and close-up.

Had to return to the hospital the next day yet again for a routine post-operation check-up. Both doctors I saw were very pleased at how things were, the pressure inside the eye having gone back down to near-normal. I was assured that once the lens has settled I will be able to read with it, which is the blessing I was hoping for. So I go back again for one further check-up in 3 weeks time.

That's the saga as currently is. I was immensely relieved to be told that no further surgery will be necessary, which is just as well, as I'd do just about anything to avoid going through that again - above all, if it's to be subject again to the sheer agony of that hour 'under the knife'!

Now the morning following what I posted above:-

After a night's reflection, and having now regained some composure after that horrific experience, I've come to the incredible, but not totally improbable, conclusion that, by some oversight (not intentionally, one assumes - and I hope) I was not administered with any anaesthetic, general or local. When I was told about the surgery the previous day I clearly recall the doctor saying that I'd be given a local anaesthetic. However, come the day I do not remember my being given any injection prior to the operation or, indeed, after. If I'd made any assumption at all it had been that there must have been something in the several tablets I was being given which would do that service. What prevented me from crying out during the operation even more than I did was the notion that I would be thought a wimp! But can one actually anaesthetise by taking only oral medication? Surely it would require an actual injection by syringe into the relevant area, as when a dentist gives you a jab in the gums, then waits a couple of minutes or longer for it to take effect. There was none of that in my case here. 

So that is my conclusion, unpleasant as it is, but now maintain what is likely to have happened. It would explain so much. When I went for the following day's check-up I did mention what a horror-show experience it had been - but no comment was made by the main doctor who just smiled benignly. (Perhaps he now realised it himself but didn't want to pursue it, maybe understandably so?) I think when I return for a further examination in three weeks' time I will mention it again and ask directly if it could happen that a patient is operated on without being anaesthetised first, to which the answer has got to be "Yes". I'd hardly have been the first! If there really has to be a 'next time', can't any more assume that the staff have got it all right.