29 November 2006


Swapping the Marais for Pigalle, it’s hard to believe you’re still in Paris: stepping inside the club, it’s hard to believe you’re in the same gay world. No fresh-scented cologne: no air conditioning: it’s all hot sweltering man-muskiness. That might be pleasant if it wasn’t for the stale sweat.

The music pumps. I’d forgotten there are places where you don’t have to wait for a decent song to hit the decks: after ten minutes in this place, you have to dance, even if it’s far too crowded on the dance floor, that’s how fucking good the DJ is. It starts off R&B before heading to the exotic far east, evoking fond memories of bhangra nights at London’s Club Kali, before losing me altogether with a flip through rap, ska and other styles that I’m too old to recognise, before returning for a blast of R&B at the end.

More like nightclubs back when I started out on the scene- men standing around awkwardly, men not quite sure if they should be here or want to be here, not so many men strutting around with a confident gleam, quite sure what they want to do and who they’re not prepared to do it with- it offers more enjoyment than any night out I’ve had out in this city... a night out alone, that is.

Enjoyable in spite of that interval on the dance floor when it all gets awkward.

He has an attractive body; he has an attractive face, although his smile isn’t what you call warm. He dances good, which doesn’t turn me on quite so much as a man dancing bad, but it’ll do. Anyone dancing turns me on, except those guys who gyrate their hips at something like a mongrel in midsummer heat, or a pole dancer who doesn't realise he's not starring in a Bangkok peepshow.

I watch him for a while, allowing him get closer. Then I feel him brush so lightly that it might be accidental, before feeling him against me again, realising from how smoothly he moves that he wants not to be doubted: he is out for a professional all-night work-over… and he thinks that I am capable of delivering.

If all I wanted was a one night stand, he is everything that I’d want. Two weeks ago, if he’d started dancing his ass up against me like he's doing, something would have happened fast.

Maybe that’s why I delay a little too long… asking what the fuck I have come out wanting, checking that I am sure about what I don’t want tonight.

I'm at the stage in life where I probably look like I’ve been around more, that I have been playing in this field long enough to have learned… to have a little... technique, shall we say… so his mistake is easily made.

But truth is, when it comes to a one night fuck- just about raw sex and there’s absolutely nothing more to it-I’m crap as I’ve ever been. If I was drunk or horny enough, no doubt I might attempt something... and if there was a full moon and fuck knows what stars shining in my favour, perhaps I'd forget myself for long enough and deliver a performance that might not completely disappoint.

But chances are that it wouldn't work out like that.

I don’t have the inclination, never mind the French, to explain all of this. I take a coward’s way out- or a gentleman's, if you prefer to call it that.

He looks back at me, after I scuttle to the opposite side of the dance floor. He's still dancing, but he isn’t smiling in my direction anymore.

Little did he know that I was doing him a favour.

Fucking time-waster, he's probably thinking.

And he's probably right.


If you haven’t seen the film, I’m about to talk in tongues. This won’t make any sense; it’s not intended to review; spoilers throughout.

After watching Babel, I wondered if Inarritu intended his audience to question why we all bought a ticket. Advertisements suggest that it’s a film starring three internationally well-known actors, when nothing could be further from the truth: children are the stars, with an ensemble cast that include some famous actors who deliver convincingly. But who’d have gone if it was billed as a film about two Moroccan boys living in poverty, two American kids living a sheltered life under the care of an illegal Mexican housekeeper, and an adolescent Japanese girl who is a deaf mute?

The film reflects how human lives in developed countries are valued differently to the lives of those in undeveloped countries, that is certainly deliberate. Was a point also being made about the value of celebrity, in order to reflect this?

At a guess, most of the audience was in a similar position to my own, identifying with the tourist everyman, trapped in a nightmare. Approaching the end of their ordeal, a helicopter powers into view, with everyone in the cinema breathing a sigh of relief for the artificial skin inhabited, knowing that the day has been saved… then you look back at a village full of men, women and children living in real poverty, knowing that they are simply unfortunate enough to have been born in a country where an individual citizen is not symbolic of the nation’s sovereignty. There are no embassies prepared to do whatever it takes to save one of them, dammit... when it should all go horribly wrong. By the end of the film, you realise that however the characters suffer equally, its the poor Moroccans on the mountain and the illegal Mexican immigrant who are to be left up to their necks in shit.

That wasn’t the main thrust of the film; emotional punches were packed elsewhere. It looked at the joys and terrors of childhood. It was credible to watch privileged kids making to with less comfort; it was delighting to watch those kids learn how to have simple fun, chasing chickens around the coup…until the moment when they realised that they were catching chooks to have their necks wrung, and they were going to eat them at dinner.

Babel has some pretty major flaws- surprised by how willing I am to overlook them. (Eg. how all of the investigating authorities involved jump to the conclusion ‘terrorism’ was hard to swallow, whatever about how quickly the media did) My strongest objection of all has to be the contrived linking of the three disparate stories. We can suspend disbelief to imagine a tourist hit by a random bullet, but what are the chances of her children getting dragged across the border by an illegal immigrant to be abandoned in a desert while she's bleeding to death? Completely unnecessary for the film to work, in any event.

His technique of allowing parallels and comparisons between different slices of ordinary life, as opposed to extraordinary character or dialogue, to make the audience think, is effective. There wasn’t a need to introduce such extraordinary coincidences, or even such extraordinary circumstances. This cinematic style might improve by returning to its literary roots, books like Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’- like any other art, cinema can be as effective, if not more effective, when it avoids melodrama.

It was the story involving the Japanese girl that knocked me out, a teenager unable to communicate on the same wavelength as those around her.

Sex was a means to that end, at first: then, it became her end. It was excruciating to watch. I can’t imagine another life that is more far-removed from my own on the surface, yet similar in other ways. To what extent do gay men have sex in order to connect? Is it not often affection, interest, human warmth and a sense of acceptance that you are after, when you end up settling for just another one night stand?

27 November 2006

Riot Heat

Uniforms do nothing for me. No doubt one can trace that back to childhood: ugly school uniform, and the other uniform in my village worn by the Boy Scouts (only youth group in the Republic of Ireland that segregates on the basis of religion; my objection at the time had more to do with silly badges and being told what to do)

Gay men around the world unite in their lust for law enforcement officers, but I swear that I’ve never seen anything to match the police in this city. Perhaps the French government fear gays are increasingly a force to be reckoned with, preparing to erupt in protest and overthrow the state (if demands for more flattering street lighting, hygiene checks on those using the Metro, minimum size restrictions for the darkrooms, and curfews restricting ugly or unfashionable men from entering the Marais, are not met) and have taken the precaution of exclusively employing men who are highly-desirable for their security services, sexually charged men who will only have to shake a stiff baton to make any gay roll over backward with heels in the air.

There are large protests every other week in Paris: it seems to be something that people here do on a regular basis, as the Spanish throw a festival, as it were. It’s worth going along to one, if only to be manhandled by the law enforcement officers; in addition to the Gendarmes mobiles, they bring out the CRS, specially-trained riot control teams, steel-toe booted, weapon-wielding fiends who all look as if they’d rather enjoy kicking you around a cell. Imagine my surprise on hearing that in slang they’re called ‘poulet’ which means ‘chicken’, which is a bit like comparing Mike Tyson with a chihuahua.

At a confrontational protest last week, members of the fire services marched in protest against changes to the retirement age. Imagine my distress, hearing about this after the event. Any video footage released will be available for download on all of the porn sites by the end of next week, I expect.

No doubt the streets were packed with gays to watch them, listening to aggrieved firemen assert their right to continue in service when they reach 60 (‘if he’s still got a body like that when he’s 60, he can save me!’) I’m sure the gays were right behind them, in every sense of the word, and ready to throw themselves against any police officers who tried to drag those firemen away, ready to bombard them with text messages if they tried… until of course the ‘poulet’ arrived; fickle as we are, we’d all have switched allegiance quicker than you could spunk all over one of them.

Apparently, fifteen men were taken to hospital by the end of the protest… strained necks and other minor injuries caused trying to get a better view, one imagines.

Can't wait for the DVD release; a porn version is called for... smouldering hot from the streets of Paris - hundreds of French police reveal their power hoses, threatening to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring those hunky firemen to their knees...

25 November 2006

Help the aged

Fundraiser for LGB youth group… a good cause, and what better excuse for another night out. It warmed the cockles of my heart to see a room full of young cheerful positive gay, lesbian and bisexual students, dancing and laughing together, with no one standing alone in a corner of the venue feeling uncomfortable, which in my day was a more common way of dealing with coming out. There was even a talent competition, with some of these youngsters performing for the first time in drag as French divas that I’d never heard of and never want to hear of again, although I cheered enthusiastically of course. There was even a little white boy who did Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’, a song that I danced to before he was able to walk. He performed brilliantly, although he rushed his movements unnecessarily, shaking with nervousness and unable to look his audience in the eye. The room applauded wildly, giving him a taste of self-confidence, all that he needs to make his delivery complete.

It was a good night, but I confess that hanging around in a room full of mostly youngsters made me feel quite old. That sense of having been on the scene for too long was accentuated when I got picked up. He looked across the dancefloor; I smiled back; he approached to make small-talk; I replied; he moved a little closer; I mirrored his body language; you know the routine.

He was a short, stocky and sexy Frenchman, name irrelevant. What was I doing later? He planned heading on to a nightclub where they played techno music. To me, that’s like standing in a room where several different anti-theft alarms go off at once. There was a time when I probably would’ve gone along and suffered, but I’m past that, so I suggested that he go and that I’d meet him again another time. He didn’t think that was a good idea and became persistent, wanting me to accompany him, trying to persuade me by promising that if I came for two hours, he’d give me a night of pleasure in return. That made me feel even older still, because I realised that there was a time I would have though ‘oh, night of pleasure, whoopee!’ whereas instead I found myself asking ‘why is this idiot trying to persuade me to do something that I don’t want to do? there’s no reason why a night of pleasure has to happen tonight, if he’d rather go dance his ass off.’

Eventually, he suggested leaving early, inviting me to have a drink in his nearby studio. I wasn’t born yesterday, and I thought… why not. Out of the bar, along the streets, into the building, up the stairs, we’re standing outside his studio and he’s unlocking the door when he mentions casually that he’s got a flatmate- just a flatmate, not a boyfriend or anything, to which I nod believingly.

Behind that door is the smallest studio I’ve ever seen: a giant television and a double bed- no other room, no other bed- and no more furniture: no chairs, no cooking facilities, but CDs and clothes scattered everywhere. It’s no more than a cluttered wardrobe, in which stands another man who is preparing for his night out at the techno club, obviously surprised and clearly less than happy to see me. I find myself accepting a drink and making embarrassed small-talk for a few minutes -yet again, we return to his desire to go out; what has he taken?- before I get up to leave… at which point my short, stocky and sexy Frenchman comes out to the corridor and wants to know why I’m going away so quickly, and why it appears that I’ve no intention of seeing him again.

All I can do is shrug. I don’t believe he’d understand if I tried to explain.

Hormones no longer overwhelm my reason, even when I’m pissed as a newt. I can’t help seeing things for what they are. I can’t help knowing that I’m too fucking old for this.

Pride and Partiality - Chapter Four: After a night out

When at last they were left alone, Dylan, who had been cautious in his praise of Mr Binglay, expressed to his best friend Joe how very much he had admired him.

“He is all that a good man should be!” he said. “He’s good-humoured, and so positive and outgoing, and he shows great consideration for other people. He was so polite… I never saw such good manners!”

“He is also rich, handsome and well-endowed, which a man ought likewise to be if he possibly can,” replied Joe, “This makes him more than a good man, as far as the gay world is concerned: this makes him a perfect man. His character is thereby complete.”

“He certainly received a great deal of attention tonight, that is sure.”

“You received a generous share yourself.”

“Please don’t tease me, Joe! You know I don’t enjoy any of that, and you know it has only ever caused problems for me.”

“It is true, I do know what it's been like for you, and I shouldn’t tease you for it. I noticed that Charlie approached you before leaving.”

“Yes, I am glad of it. I wanted to speak with him, but I was concerned that if I did, he might get the wrong idea again. You were right to have warned me. It never occurred to me that because I enjoyed his company so much and spoke with him so often, that he might… I am sure that he was not in love with me, however. You only said that to make your point clearly, didn’t you?”

Joe said nothing for a moment. He had no desire to injure his friends feelings, and it was sure to disturb him to realise the truth; that Charlie had, in fact, suffered a serious crush for several months, despite all of the warning hints given, and despite all that his own common sense had allowed him to observe.

“He looked happy and relaxed tonight after he approached you, of that I am sure," said Joe. :You must be right in thinking that I was mistaken. But it is safe to leave things as they stand. He misses your company, for he told me that much. I suggested that if he finds himself at a loose end during the week, that we go to the cinema or have a drink together. I am sure Charlie will be fine, so don’t concern yourself further- already you are worrying, I can tell by your expression. Come, let’s return to the subject of Mr Binglay. He excited a great deal of attention, to everyone’s notice. It cannot be easy to remain down-to-earth in such circumstances, in that aspect I certainly do admire his character.”

“I was flattered by his asking me to dance for a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.”

“Didn’t you? That is another difference between us, Dylan: when someone compliments you, it never takes me by surprise. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you are about five times as handsome as every other man in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that!”

“It is kind of you to say that, Joe-”

“It is not kindness. It is honesty. You respect my friendship because I am one of the few people who do not flatter you. That requires me to tell you sometimes things that your modesty means you’d rather not have heard. I do not tell you in public, but we are alone here and you must know that your physical attractiveness is noticed wherever you go. It is necessary to remind you of that from time to time, otherwise you risk misjudging the motives of all those around you.”

“But I know that you think so only because... well, you are prejudiced in my favour!”

“Everyone is prejudiced in their friend’s favour, that I cannot deny. Yet I do my best to remain honest with my friends and with myself. I am convinced that if it were not for Mr Binglay’s wealth, and his the novelty, no one in the bar would have received more attention than you. All of the admiration you excite is well-deserved; those familiar with your character know that, but it is often given for the most superficial of reasons.”

Dylan hesitated for a moment before saying more.

“Mr Binglay danced with you also, Joe. Please tell me honestly, what did you think of him?”

“I thought that he was a very agreeable man.”

“Is that all?”


Dylan looked at his friend with an expression that was difficult to unravel; he appeared to be pleased and yet perplexed all at once.

“That is all!” said Joe insistently. “Don’t for a second suspect me of any greater admiration of Mr Binglay, or imagine that I conceal it out of deference to you! I do not fancy him, not in the slightest!"

"You really don't?"

"I don't. I give you leave to like him as much as you want. In fact, I encourage you for once; you have like many a stupider person!”

“Oh, Joe, don’t tease me about this!”

“I’m perfectly serious!”

“I do like him, truly, and so I can’t understand why you wouldn’t also… unless you can see fault in his character that I am unable to see?”

“You’re a great deal too apt to like people in general, and you never see a fault in anybody. All the world is good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you say a bad word about a human being!”

“Because I don’t think that it’s fair to judge anyone hastily, you know that. Yet I always speak what I think.”

“I know you do. It is that which makes me wonder at you. With your good sense, to be so honestly blind to the pettiness and nonsense of others. Everywhere on the gay scene you find the affectation of candour- people who pretend to be speaking their minds, hiding behind the mask of acting camp and being crudely outspoken, priding themselves on being uninhibited and direct. It is common. But to be as you are, candid without ostentation or design, to take the good of everybody’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad… well, that belongs to you alone!”

After a short pause, Joe continued.

“So you like Mr Binglay’s brothers, do you? Do you consider their manners equal to his?”

“Certainly not- at first. But they are both nice when you speak with them. The youngest is going to live with him at Netherfield. I am sure we shall find him a charming neighbour.”

Joe listened in silence, but was not convinced. The behaviour of Mr Binglay’s brothers had not been calculated to please in general. With more quickness of judgement and less pliancy of temper than his best friend, and with judgement unaffected by any attention to himself, Joe was little disposed to like them.

Anthony and Fredrick Binglay were in fact quite good looking, and were not deficient in good humour when they were pleased or without the power of being agreeable when they chose it, but they were also proud and conceited. They had a fortune behind them and had been educated in one of the finest private colleges in the country, and were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and in associating with people of fashion, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England, a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than the fact that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by their father’s ownership of a chain of sex saunas called Spunkies, with outlets nationwide.

Their father, Mr William Binglay (Big Bill as he was known to his friends) had inherited a fortune and used Spunkies to make his fortune greater still. With his fortune he had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it, after suffering a major heart attack while ‘interviewing’ staff at one of his outlets. His sons had sold the business, and his middle son Mr Charles Binglay, who had managed his own share of the inheritance prudently, intended to settle. Having spent their own share, his less sensible brothers were anxious for him to buy a large and impressive property in the city centre, for he was now established only as a tenant. His younger brother Anthony was by no means unwilling to live with him, nor was his older brother Fredrick, who had settled with a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider Binglay’s house as his own home when it suited him.

Between Mr D’Arcy and Mr Binglay, there was a very steady friendship, but no sexual attraction whatsoever, which is odd enough in the gay world, even without a great opposition of character between the two. Binglay was endeared to D’Arcy by the easiness and openness of his temper, even though it offered a great contrast to his own, and though with his own he never appeared dissatisfied.

On the strength of D’Arcy’s regard, Binglay had a firm reliance, and of his judgment the highest opinion. In understanding, D’Arcy was the superior: Binglay was by no means stupid, but D’Arcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved and fastidious, and although handsome and well-bred, his manners were not inviting. In that respect, Mr Binglay had greatly the advantage, sure of being liked wherever he appeared, while D’Arcy was continually giving offence.

The manner in which they spoke of their night out on Saturday was sufficiently characteristic of their differences. Binglay had never met with pleasanter people or more handsome men in his life; everybody had been kind and attentive and charming; there had been no formality, no stiffness; he had soon felt acquainted with all the room; and as to Dylan, he could not conceive a man more beautiful. D’Arcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little style and no substance whatsoever, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. He acknowledged that Dylan was handsome, but remarked that he smiled too much.

Listening to this conversation, Anthony and Fredrick Binglay allowed it to be so, although they had both liked and admired Dylan and pronounced him to be a sweet boy that they would not object to know more of. Having established that Dylan was liked by his brothers, Binglay felt that he was given leave to think of him as he chose.

23 November 2006

Les Troyens

Five hours of melodrama, glamorous frocks and shrieking in public; no, I wasn’t back at the gay bars in the Marais, and it wasn’t a Dynasty special. I attended the derniere performance of Les Troyens at Opera Bastille.

To my right sat a gentleman who had queued along with me for an hour to buy a discounted ticket. When the curtain rose, he began to fidget. I had never imagined that there were so many ways to fidget. After staring at me blatantly for quite some time, he then stared at the people further along on the row, then stared at the people some rows in front. In due course, he unfastened his tie and fastened it again, moved about in his seat, tapped his feet, checked his programme and fell asleep… and that was just in the first part. Why was he there? He was alone; no opera-loving partner was forcing him to remain in his seat. If he was related to one of the cast, he wouldn’t have been queuing for a cheap ticket. Is there a state-sponsored scheme that releases geriatrics for a day provided that they go to a cultural event, or allows convicted criminals to serve a year of their sentence by sitting through an entire opera?

I didn’t expect him to return for more, but there he was after the interval. And guess what- there were still more ways to fidget! Having adjusted his neck-tie, he examined the back of it carefully, and afterwards he fixed his hair and checked his fingernails, before grooming his incredibly hairy wrists for at least ten minutes. He fell asleep twice more and even started to snore, waking himself up before I was able to kick him. I am convinced that the highlight of his evening came when a woman in the row tried to quietly unwrap a boiled sweet, and he got to say ‘shush!’ loudly.

That aside, I had a wonderful night. No surprises to find that the theatre overflowed with card-carrying members of the gay league, several of whom I’d gladly fidget through a performance with. It was a fabulous performance, with two extravagant intervals, allowing some of the audience to flutter their eyelids over their thick programmes, while others dashed off to use the toilet facilities for an unreasonably long time.

The highlight of the opera came in Act Four when, after a perfect day together, Queen Dido spends her first night with Aeneas, the handsome Trojan. No stickiness on stage, of course, but a beautiful aria, leaving all of the rest to our imagination. She falls asleep in his strong arms, and Aeneas is drifting off to sleep himself when… in the distance, he hears a singing voice to remind him of promises he made. He must leave to found a great empire for his people, and so he steals out of bed, leaving his lover asleep. The curtain falls.

Bated breath in the auditorium as the next scene begins on the beach outside the palace, with Aeneas packing all of his things on a boat with his son. Queen Dido enters… not running with desperation in her eyes, oh no… striding majestically to stand looking down at him in cold fury. It was all sung in French, but all of the gay league knew exactly what she was getting off her chest.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Er… I didn’t want to take you. I had a great time, really. I didn’t leave my number-”

“Yes, I noticed that. Because?”

“Er… it’s that I heard my dead ancestors singing in the distance.”

“Hmmn,” says Queen Dido, like she’s heard this particular aria before.

“No, really, you see I made a promise to lead my people from our ravaged shores after our defeat at the hands of the Greeks. I must found a new empire that will change the world.”

“And you think that’s more important than leaving me a note?”

“Er… well….”

“And you’d rather go founding another empire- as if the world doesn’t have enough problems as it is- instead of spending the rest of your life with me?”

She stands there, looking fabulous… just to remind him what he enjoyed last night, and what he won’t ever get a chance to enjoy again if he doesn’t get out of that boat.

“Of course not, of course not! I’d much rather stay here, you know that… It’s just that… well, I promised, didn’t I? And there’s my little son, I must think of him. You understand, don’t you?”

“I think you’re the one who doesn’t understand, Aeneas. I suggest that you continue thinking about this… very carefully,” she says, giving him one of those looks and departing.

Before the gay league members have had a chance to uncross their legs, we’re back at the palace. Queen Dido paces her room, waiting for news. A messenger enters to inform her that the Trojans are sailing into the distance.

It is serious tantrum time!

After some running around the room and shrieking, she notices that Aeneas left his cloak on her bed, so we have the symbolic throwing-away-of-his clothes, followed by more shrieking and more aria. Fabulous! Then she pulls herself together, a little too quickly to be realistic in my opinion, but then it has been a rather long night. Queen Dido turns to her messenger, calmly and quietly, and tells him what to do. Prepare the army and send them after those boats. Kill them all. Do not let a single Trojan survive.

What about Aeneas, the messenger asks. Aeneas? Aeneas who? Make sure that you kill his precious son before you take care of him, then chop his body into teeny weenie pieces… and make sure you chop all the parts up, even the teeny weenie ones.

Needless to say, the gays are all crossing and uncrossing legs in excitement. I’m sitting there wondering how it’s possible that we’ve never heard of this Queen Dido before… I mean, the only Dido I’d ever heard of was that simpering, whimpering singer. Why, this woman is a bitch from hell: she is our ancestral mother, our ultimate queen, our Alexis… we are going to bring down the house when the final curtain falls.

But wait, she cries, turning to her messenger again.

We all slip onto the edges of our seat… what can that bitch have thought of doing next?

Cancel that order, she tells the messenger: go build a giant funeral pyre instead, onto which I shall throw myself and burn to death, lamenting my misfortune.

There’s a collective sigh of disappointment in the auditorium, while the man at my side continues to fidget, oblivious to the fact that Queen Dido’s chances of gay immortality are about to go up in smoke.

20 November 2006

Gay Penguins Adopt A Chick (A Childrens' Story)

Once upon a time, in a magnificent island called Manhattan, there lived two cute little penguins named Roy and Silo. From an early age, discovering that most other birds were able to soar freely through the clear blue heavens while they had to swim in the sub-zero temperatures or waddle ungraciously on the treacherous ice, those penguins realised life was unfair and that they got a raw deal in it. Still, instead of wallowing in self-pity, Roy and Silo took consolation in their own company, and their rather dapper tuxedo feathering, and decided to get on with the business of living.

What adventures they had together! Yee-haw! You might not already know, but all penguins are gregarious when they’re young, and let me tell you little Roy and Silo hopped and tobogganed enough to leave a trail of feathers across the ice that only the best of them dared to follow. At night, they sat together on the floats, huddling close as they listened to terrifying stories about humans, how they liked to hunt little critters just like them, slaughtering great numbers of penguins to skin them alive for their blubber. You can imagine how that scared the shit out of them, can’t you? Unable to sleep, little Roy and Silo lay close together and whispered to one another, assured that the inaccessibility of their own icy habitat kept them safe from any humans nearby.

Everything went along fine until there came a season when the other penguins in the flock started to behave a little… well, strangely. Some bowed, some shook their heads at one another, some began more elaborate displays of what we humans call courtship rituals. Do you think little Roy and Silo were impressed by all of that? Hell, no! They laughed their feathers off at such a load of old nonsense. Off they went swimming together in the ice cold waters, playing like they’d always done before.

But let me tell you something, kid, penguins have got to withstand pretty some intense temperatures to live in those waters, and while all those other penguins were off bowing and shaking their heads at each other, making funny little squeaky noises that would one day produce little eggs and the next generation of pretty little chicks, there was no one else in that icy water, and it got real cold. And I mean real damn cold. In fact, it wasn’t long before little Roy and Roy were freezing to death, so it was lucky Roy and Silo discovered that a tail wasn’t just a rudder for turning around, and those stiff little flippers were working away under the water. Yee-haw!

None of the other penguins made much of a fuss when Roy and Silo decided to set up a little calf and cow operation together, although some of them refused to take Roy and Silo seriously until they hatched a chick of their own. This proved impossible to do, for biological reasons, leaving the fellows with no alternative to seek intervention from the humans, who had until then paid little or no attention to the feathered friends' domestic arrangements. Suffice to say that after rolling a rock around for several days and treating it like an egg, the zoo keepers (who, like most humans, were rather stupid creatures) a surrogate was provided.

No one denies that Roy and Silo had their first domestic tiff over who was to start fasting for the two-week period while incubating that little egg of theirs, but that aside, all went smoothly until it hatched. Initially, Roy and Silo were both shocked to discover that their little chick was a sooty grey colour, with plumage in no way resembling their own: rumours that an egg had been abducted from an impoverished penguin family in Malawi were vigorously denied by the zoo keepers. In time, the little chick who they had named Tango demonstrated normal penguin tendencies, much to everyone’s relief.

But, some might say unfortunately, this little story does not end there. Although Roy and Silo overcame their initial nesting difficulties, raising a little chick put a considerable strain on their relationship. To be quite frank, it turned Silo’s stomach to watch as Roy regurgitated his food, which Tango was then expected to eat. Then there was arguing and fighting about the usual domestic stuff: who was going to stay at home looking after the kind, who was cleaning all the bird shit out of the nest, you know... and I won't deny that it got a bit ugly sometimes.

Perhaps their relationship would have survived all of that if it hadn’t been for the hordes of additional visitors at the zoo, criticising their parenting skills, watching every move Roy and Silo made, no doubt hoping to get a picture of one of them dangling little Tango over the edge of the ice. Well, suffice to say that it reached a point where little Silo just wasn’t able to take it anymore. One night, he went out to one of the floats and slid up and down on the ice until his head was dizzy and sore. He felt better after that, and realised there was another penguin sitting all on her own looking over at him, a penguin that he’d seen around. Her name was Scrappy, a plain little creature, the kind ofpenguin that everyone liked but no one wanted to date. She was nice simple homely sort, and as he sat there watching her watch him, Silo couldn’t help realising how much easier life would be if he was hanging out with Scrappy instead of Roy.

I don’t have to spell it out for you, kids, do I? Silo did the only thing he could do in the circumstances, which had been the right thing all along. He told Roy it was all over and said goodbye to little Tango, leaving them to cry themselves to sleep at night for several weeks to come.

Like I said at the beginning, life was unfair, and those penguins knew they got a raw deal from the beginning. So let that be a lesson to you, kids, and don’t forget what you’ve learned in this story: don’t ever let the media catch you with your pants down; when you’ve got to make a tough decision, take the easy way and do whatever the hell everyone else is doing; and don’t ever, never trust no one with a stupid name like Scrappy.

To read the sensationalised media coverage of this story, click here

19 November 2006

Pride and Partiality- Chapter Three: A Successful Advance

Not all that Queenie, with the assistance of her five girls, could ask on the subject of Mr Binglay was sufficient to draw any satisfactory description from Bennett. They attacked him in various ways- with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises, but he eluded the skill of them all.

At last, they were obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour, Ivana Hardman. Her report was highly favourable. Sue Narmi, who did some volunteer work as a part-time cleaner in the local gay gym, had been delighted with all that she saw of him in the changing rooms: he was quite young, handsome, wonderfully well-toned, demonstrated considerable stamina on the exercise machines, had a steady right hand when it came to lifting a bell-bar, and to crown the whole, he was extremely agreeable. There was no doubt that he meant to be out on Saturday night, because after he asked her what she was doing going through his sports bag- she had one just like it and thought it was hers, she claimed- she struck up a conversation about what he had in his iPod. So he listened to Madonna? There were a few Girls Aloud and Pussycat Doll tunes on there too? Yes, he liked girl bands but not enough to buy a whole album, and he mentioned that he hadn’t been dancing in a long time although there was nothing he liked better. That was one of the reasons whey he’d left the country for the city; he was looking forward to going out on Saturday night.

What could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love, Queenie declared to the girls, and very lively hopes of Mr Binglay’s heart were entertained.

“If I can see one of my girls happy at Netherfield, and all of the others equally well settled, I shall have nothing to wish for,” said Queenie to her partner. “Except for that nice leather headboard for the bed that I saw the other day. It’s sure to wipe down beautifully, and it’ll be on sale by the end of the year, mark my words. You must come take a look!”

As was hoped, Mr Binglay returned the visit that had been made by Bennett, but at an unfortunate hour when no one was home to receive him. He left a note to say that he’d called. After having his handwriting sample analysed by her psychic, who was visibly taken-aback by the size of the loops at the end of his g’s, p’s and q’s, Queenie sent an invitation to Binglay to come over for dinner was. She already had planned the courses when a message arrived which deferred it all, for Mr Binglay was obliged to be in the country on the following day, and consequently was unable to accept the honour of their invitation, etc. Queenie was quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in the country so soon after his arrival in the city, and she began to fear that he might be always flying about from one place to another, never settled in Netherfield as he ought to be. Ivana Hardman quieted her fears a little, starting the idea that it might only have been an excuse so that he could spend time at home, deciding what to wear out on Saturday night.

But distress was soon to return to Longhorn, with a report that Mr Binglay was to bring twelve gay friends, not one of them a fag bangle, along with him on Saturday. Queenie and the girls suffered both excitement and concern at this news: what did it all mean? Was Mr Binglay already attached? Would his company provide them with more men to choose from, or would his company compete with them for the few eligible batchelors left in the city?

On Saturday night, they were all comforted to find that they were victims of exaggerated rumour: when Mr Binglay entered the club, his party consisted only of five; Mr Michael Binglay himself, his younger brothers Anthony and his older brother Fredrick, who were both conveniently gay, and the partner of the eldest of those, Mr Hurst. There was also another young man called Mr D’Arcy.

Even to those not prone to exaggeration, Mr Binglay was both good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant smile and easy unaffected manners. His brothers were both fine specimen with an air of decided fashion, while Mr Hurst was considered by Queenie to merely look the part. But it was the other young friend of the party who soon drew the attention of everyone, with handsome features, his fine tall person, and his perfectly formed hind, not to mention the report which was in general circulation within five minutes of his entrance of his having a considerable and large…

“Fortune!” said Queenie. “He’s got even more to offer than Mr Binglay, they say!”

So it was that Mr D’Arcy was pronounced a fine figure of a man and declared to be much handsomer than Mr Binglay. He was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, until his manners turned the tide of his popularity. When the first Madonna song of the evening was played, he did not throw his hands in the air and smile like everyone else. When the third Madonna song of the evening was played, he pulled a face. When the eleventh Madonna song was spinning the decks, he was at the bar knocking back whisky and muttering under his breath. To make matters worse, Mr D’Arcy danced only once with the brother of Mr Binglay, declining to be introduced to anyone and flirting with no one at all. He spent most of the evening speaking occasionally to one of his own party or saying nothing at all. So it was that he was discovered to be have high ideas about himself, to be above his company and above being pleased. Not all his large estate could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

Mr Binglay, lively and unreserved and dancing every dance, had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room. He was disapointed that the club closed so early and talked of giving a party himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves! What a contrast with his friend, whose character was decided: Mr D’Arcy was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Queenie, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her girls.

At one point in the evening, Joe had been standing without a dance partner, and Mr D’Arcy had been standing near enough for him to overhear when Mr Binglay came away from the dance-floor to have a short conversation with his friend.

“Come, D’Arcy!” said he. “I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. Why not come dance?”

“No, Binglay. Your brothers are already dancing, and you know I detest dancing unless I am acquainted with my partner-”

“Then get acquainted! This room is heaving with men that I wouldn’t mind getting a bit closer to! So many hot bodies pressed together, and several of them look uncommonly well-hung too!”

“You know I’m not interested in all that!”

“Got enough for two yourself, have we?”

“Binglay, that’s not funny!”

“How long has it been, D’Arcy? Eh?”

“When erect? I’d rather not discuss that in public, if you don’t mind!”

“No, man! I’m not talking about your coc-”

“Keep your voice down, please!”

“How long has it been since the last time that you shagg-”

“I don’t think that is relevant!”

“It’s relevant to the mood you’re in. You look as if someone poured acid on your Madonna collection!”

“I wish someone would pour acid on the DJ’s!”

“Go have some fun! Move a little closer to one of those men behind you! My God, look at the size of that!”

“Binglay, please!”

“Oh, just don’t be so fussy!”

“Look, I’ve told you already what I think of places like this.”

“Oh for God sake! Here we go again!”

“There is not another man in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with!”

“What is it that you’re looking for, D’Arcy? Perfection? I never met with so many pleasant and handsome men in my life-”

“Handsome, certainly. But there’s more to life than-”

“Don’t pretend that looks don’t matter to you, D’Arcy.”

“I never said that they didn’t!”

“Just look around you! Look and look and… try to stop thinking!”

Mr D’Arcy fell silent. He looked across at Dylan.

“You’re dancing with the most sought-after man in the room, as usual,” said Mr D’Arcy.

“He’s the most handsome man I’ve ever beheld, and he’s a nice guy too! There’s one of his flatmates standing a little behind you, who’s… okay, he’s not that cute, but he has got something… nice eyes, and not a bad arse from what I can see. I dare say he’s up for it. Let me ask Dylan to introduce you!”

D’Arcy turned around. He looked for a moment until catching Joe’s eye, whereupon he withdrew his own coldly and said;

“He’s okay, I suppose-”

“Come on, that’s the attitude!”

“-but I’m not tempted.”

“D’Arcy, just get drunk and give it a go!”

“Leave it, Binglay. There’s not enough whiskey in this room. I’ve been breathing in cigarette smoke and listening to fucking Madonna all night, so I’m in no humour to make small-talk with young men who spend their nights standing around waiting for the next quick fuck. You’d better return to your partner and enjoy his smiles, for you’re wasting time with me.”

Mr Binglay took his advice, for he recognised the first bars of a J-Lo song and wanted to impress Dylan with the moves.

In no time, the dance floor was more crowded than ever with gyrating men demonstrating how to get right with them. Shortly afterwards, Mr D’Arcy walked off, leaving Joe with no very cordial feeling towards him. Later that night, he told the story with great spirit among his friends, for he had a playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous at his own expense.

“At least he said that I haven’t got a bad arse!” he laughed. “It boosts my chances of getting that next quick fuck I’m so eager for!”

The evening altogether passed off pleasantly. Queenie had seen that Dylan was much admired by the Netherfield party: Mr Binglay had asked to dance with him twice, and Dylan had also been distinguished by a wink and a smile from the two brothers. Even more satisfying, she’d seen Ivana Hardman and Sue Narmi looking daggers over at her.

Dylan was as much gratified by this attention from Binglay as Queenie could be, though in a quieter way, and of course Joe was only too pleased for him. It was a night for compliments: Mitchell had heard himself mentioned to the party as ‘that accomplished man I was telling you all about’ to the other brothers, which pleased him greatly, even though there was no opportunity for conversation as both of the brothers immediately announced that they needed to go fix their hair. Colin and Craig had been fortunate enough to dance all night and get a few swift hand-jobs in the toilets, which was all they had yet learned to care for in a night out. They all returned home in good spirits and found Bennett still up.

“Oh, darling!” said Queenie as she entered the room, “we have had the most delightful evening! I wish you had been there! Dylan was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how well he looked; and Mr Binglay thought him quite beautiful and danced with him twice. Only think of that, my dear! He actually danced with him twice! Twice!

“I heard you the first time, Queenie!”

“Dylan was the only creature in the room that he asked for a second time. First of all, he asked that Halfling who rents a room from Ivana Hardman and Sue Narmi-”

“His name’s Charlie,” said Bennett. “If you’d remember his name, you’d save a lot of unnecessary rambling!”

“Well, I was quite vexed to see a man so fine as Binglay throwing attention that way! He must have felt sorry for him, I imagine-”

“Queenie, do you have to be so unkind?”

“I’m candid, darling! I can’t help myself! But anyway, of course Binglay didn’t admire Charlie at all… unless he’s in a darkroom, no one can bear to go anywhere near-”


“Oh, anyway… the important thing is that he seemed quite struck with Dylan from the first time he saw him. As we went to the bar, I overheard Binglay enquire who Dylan was. I decided not to rush over, but let him do a little of the running. Sure enough, Binglay got himself introduced and asked Dylan for the next dance. What do you think of that?”


“Then he danced with Blake King, and then Madonna came on so he danced in a circle with everyone, and then he danced to the new Scissor Sisters with Peter Lucas- it’s a great single, but the rest of the album isn’t up to much- and then he had a little rest before dancing with Dylan again, this time to J-Lo, and then he asked to dance with Joe to something dreadful by that imp Gwen Stefani, and after that he asked one of the Boulanger twins, I don’t know which-”

“For Christ’s sake! If he had any compassion for me, he would not have danced half so much!” cried Bennett. “No more of his partners! If only he had sprained his ankle going in the door!”

“Oh, darling, I am quite delighted he didn’t!” Queenie continued. “He is so excessively handsome, and his brothers are charming too: I never in my life saw anything more elegant than those little tops that they wore. I dare say those shoes were Armani…”

Here Queenie was interrupted again. Bennett protested against any description of finery. She was therefore obliged to seek another branch of the subject, and related, with much bitterness of spirit and some considerable exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr D’Arcy.

“But I can assure you that Joe does not lose much by not interesting him,” she added. “He is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Our Joe not handsome enough to dance with! I’ll have a word with the barman next time I’m out and see if we can slip a little something in his drink to loosen him up… Ivana and Sue will take him down a dark alley and that'll teach him manners. No, no, I wouldn’t touch him myself, oh no… I don’t care how rich or how big he is! I just wish you had been there, darling, to have given him one of your set-downs. Why, I quite detest the man!”

18 November 2006

Le Weekend a termine

One hesitates to enter a bar called CUD. With a name like that, you imagine livestock bringing partially digested food brought back to the mouth for another chew, but having assured myself that it probably means something delightful in French, I went inside. The interior met with my immediate disapproval, with its garish lighting in parts with dark obscurity in others, and lack of harmony between the colours on the upper and lower floors, but the music was pretty damn good (a little Strauss, a little Mozart) so I decided to grace the establishment with my custom.

Hardly had I bought a drink than a young bearded man approached with a standard opening line. Unable to get rid of him with my usual brush-off (feigned inability to speak the language is generally effective; failing that, I often pretend to be an American myself, which usually makes the locals pull a face and move on) I enquired if he was out to celebrate the electoral victory. He answered that politics didn’t interest him. Hmmn, here’s an interesting fellow, I thought. Before I had time to recover from that remark, the brazen fellow made an indecent proposal, suggesting that I leave with him right then and there… and I’m sorry, but drunk, horny and hard up though I was, I draw a thin line at men with excessive facial hair that don’t show interest in the downfall of a fascist regime in their homeland. So I politely declined.

There was a fine specimen standing to my left throughout all of this. He was from Madrid, wouldn’t you know, conversing in bad English with another Cud-ette, who looked daggers in my direction when I started prattling away to him in fluent Spanish. Turned out that Ms Madrid was a tourist who had accidentally wandered into the crusiest bar in the Marais, subtly named ‘Le Coq’ While he wasn’t gay himself, of course, he had agreed to accompany Ms Daggers to relieve himself of the need to dance.

Well, of course, if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. (Haven’t you heard? The Republicans were so sure of defeat in the election that the arranged for all of the votes to be inverted… so when Democrats stayed home, they lost anyway!) Remember that old saying about how three beers are all that sets the straight boys apart from the gay ones? Well, in the case of Spanish men, you can water that beer down significantly. They grow up with little icons of several different Madonna incarnations scattered around their home, worship their mothers, and go weak at the knees for chorizo… must be something to do with it.

This was my chance, of course… Mr Madrid was mine for the taking. But then I recalled my first-hand experience of a Spanish ‘conversion’ and imagined what a first night with Mr Madrid was likely to involve... rather like breaking in a difficult horse; worthwhile if you have to cross a continent, but more trouble than its worth just to ride for one night. So I left Mr Daggers to play. By the time I left the bar, they were slobbering all over each other on the dance floor… didn’t know it was a gay bar!? Oh, please!

How drunk was I at this stage, reader? Feeling no pain as I bounced lines of men thicker than the wall, fluent in several languages used in Asia Minor, and unable to distinguish the days of the weekend, I tell you. But I knew it was time to leave the CUD alone.

Instead of returning home, off I went for a little walk in the open air… ahem. It had been a long time since I’d done that. Imagine my amusement when I first discovered that the central cruising area is located at the Louvre. Fabulous! In the garden of a royal palace, a little maze garden with faux marble sculpture scattered around; how delightful, and how perfectly suited for its purpose. So I had a little stroll until I stumbled upon someone crawling into a bush, only to discover… reader, I blush to the soles of my feet to admit that I was so falling-over drunk that I had forgotten what to do.

Let me elaborate: it’s more correct to say that I had forgotten what one does cruising au plein air. It had been so long (circa five years, if memory serves me… which its apt not to when inconvenient) that I’d forgotten that cruising is not about the exchange of pleasantries, oh no: there is no social etiquette whatsoever, it’s all about one thing and one thing only… and that one thing wasn’t really what I wanted, not at all. So there I was at the ball realising that I wasn’t really in the mood to dance, shall we say? What to do? How was I to ‘perform’ without a token of human warmth and affection, so much as a kiss, to inspire?

Well, I simply couldn’t… and no amount of enthusiastic tugging at my trouser pipe was going to make any difference to that, so I left.

Alas reader, another confession… no, I did not listen to the dictates of my good sense and return home, hanging my head in shame. For there was yet another chance to relieve myself of the heavy load I have been carrying since… let’s not talk about how long it’s been, alright?

I directed my footsteps to a den of iniquity that I had heard much of, but never yet visited. Le Deep it is called, for good reason. You’ve heard of Jules Verne? This is the place with dark depths that Captain Nemo is too frightened to enter. You’ve seen Halloweeneywood b-movies in which terrifying creatures of the deep attack fair maidens? It happens every night in this place!

No sooner was I past the entrance than paranoia set in: I was being watched by unseen eyes that burned with unspeakable lust. Low groaning sounds emanated from behind closed doors, walls sweated… at least I hope that’s what was oozing down onto the floor.

My heartbeat quickened, and for all the wrong reasons. I had to get out of this place before I stained myself. I ran, trying to touch nothing, especially anything that moved, and rushing around a corner, I screamed upon colliding with… my hairdresser! There he was, no less flustered than I was by the look of things, excusing himself politely so that he might rinse his hand in the nearest sink… and I don’t think that was hair gel on his fingers. If I’m not mistaken, it glowed in the dark.

That’s where the story ended, gentle reader. It did not have a happy ending. It was just like that moment in Cinderella when the clocks strike midnight and the beautiful princess realises that she’s just a little servant in a raggedy dress after all… except in this case I remained a beautiful princess in my own warped mind, while all those around me changed into rats and pumpkins they always had been, and the ugly sisters turned out to be uglier than I remembered.

I went back home alone, having gone beyond desperate. It was Sunday… and what had I done?

Another weekend wasted, and as J says, still no booty.