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One gold ring December 24, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.


Have you ever seen such beauty? You can see it even bigger here. Doesn’t it just make you want to grow a beard right now and go and do nothing but chant and swing an incense-burner all day? I was so staggered by the beauty that I had to dash to last.fm and listen to two songs by Ace of Base in a row.

It’s in the town of Rostov, north-east of Moscow, and not to be confused with Rostov-on-Don which is in quite another part of Russia altogether. This Rostov is one of the towns of the Golden Ring which are all so dripping with churchly beauty that I want to give up all that is worldly and go and live as a holy fool, spending my nights and days murmuring in a cave. Naturally, having lived down the road – by Russian standards – for two years, I didn’t go to a single Golden Ring town but, if I’m spared, it’s down as an ambition for a suitably vague point in the future. Still, Novgorod – not to be confused with Nizhnij Novgorod. I do apologise for all this – where I have been, has enough churchly beauty to make your heart ache too, as, indeed, does Moscow’s own Kremlin. Ignore anyone who tells you to go to St. Petersburg, which is where Russians pretend to be Italian.

Anyway, that’ll do as a Christmas card, won’t it? It’s got snow and churches. And one of the wooden structures in the foreground is almost bound to have a manger.

Have beautiful, bearable days.

Winterspeck December 22, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, the sky over Berlin has decided to give up on keeping up even the meagrest of appearances. The sun thinks, unlike the diligent lamp-lighter in the Little Prince, that it is not worth its while shining weakly for half an hour or so a day and has put its feet up and decided to tend to Berlin later. The shortest day is, of course, just behind us – summer starts today! – but the shortness this year appears to have borrowed an extra layer of grey. It is now gone 8, so should, I think, by rights, be daylight and, while you wouldn’t think it was night if you bothered your arse, needlessly, to look out the window – I’m only bothering to open the curtains so I’m not the subject of neighbourhood tuts – the sky hasn’t got that much of a daytime quality about it either.

So I plan to eat and drink the darkness away. Plus everyone’s favourite day of the year is just around the corner so eating and drinking are majorly par for the course. And we have guests coming this year – they know this blog exists, so I can’t be too revealing – but we are a drop worried about what we’re going to give them to eat. Mind you, they’re both from the English-speaking world so hopefully don’t know anything about food. Still, I slightly can’t get beyond thinking a bowl of cornflakes for the starter and then two bowls of cornflakes for main course. Perhaps with a bowl of cornflakes with sugar for pudding.

Plus there is a no-sweet-things policy in this house…

We’ll relax it for guests. But, gosh, terrifying letting people into your home, isn’t it? Giving them first-hand experience of your domestic folie à deux. The Russian and I are going to have to hide so much evidence of bits of our existence over the days to come. Like we did when his brother came to visit before he knew my darling was a trouser-bandit and I was his bellebeau and then he walked into the kitchen when the Russian gave me the only spontaneous peck on the cheek he’d ever given me. And then the Russian accidentally pinched his bum. I think as long as I can remember to take my discarded clothes off the Christmas table, we’ll pass muster…

I think it may have been a one-man executive decision – the no-sweet-things policy – but the Russian mostly goes along with it and makes sure that any gorging on Snickers is done outside the home. I do occasionally remember that policy needs to be enforced so, in moments of political zeal, I carry out spot checks and make sure no sweet things have been smuggled into the house. Yes, sorry, I’m afraid you do have to remove your shoes and belt, sir. All in the name of girth-control, of course. Which hasn’t factored in that the consumption of 18 billion savoury/liquid calories a day are also a significant contributory factor to size.

But it’s the season to be jolly. To let your hair down. Bend the rules. Yet I am busier with work than I have ever ever ever been in my long-legged life so have had almost no opportunity to make the most of the atmosphere of almost unbridled joy that Berlin’s ever-smiling, ever-polite citizenry never need an excuse to create. I did manage to have one or two light ales in honour of this chap’s birthday the other day – there was a sweet angel at the occasion that I chatted to. When I realised I was being exposed to a new species of human, I asked him his age. And he said 24. Which I think was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard. I didn’t even know 24-year-olds still existed! I gave him a brief lecture: don’t take drugs, put a little money aside every month, what do you mean, you’re a musician? Get a job! And a hair-cut! Help little old ladies across the road, an apple a day…, wash behind your ears, wait till you get married, tolerate benignly but laugh and point fingers the second they leave your field of vision at those dim enough to think differently from you, look both ways, careless talks costs lives, honey’s very good for you. And then I gave him the five-euro note I’d been planning to use as a hankie to buy an ice-cream. Mind you, that’s 700 quid now, isn’t it? – but otherwise it’s been work, work, work and almost no play at all.

So the Russian had smuggled in Nutella. I’m a late adopter because of growing up in such non-privilege. Can you believe I didn’t get to go skiing in Switzerland for the first time till I was 15? Fif-fucking-teen! If that’s not child abuse, I don’t know what is. But a school French exchange when I was 17 introduced me to Nutella. And oysters, and rabbit, actually, but Nutella’s resonated with me more ever since. But, obviously, one can’t just pander to one’s desire for Nutella! Like other almost unimaginably extravagant luxuries, I thought it was to be savoured strictly away from home only. Perhaps in a little hotel somewhere. Or as the house-guest of an obscenely rich friend who just has Nutella cavalierly lying around cupboards! So I needed an excuse, to assuage my guilt and justify the consumption, to open the jar, excavate huge, great, stonking mechanical-digger-loads of the stuff and polish it off before looking down at my rotund frame and regretting it with due speed. “I’ll only allow myself a spoonful with a cup of tea,” I settled on as a routine and had hardly got to my second cup before it was all too late anyway and the Russian had cleaned the thing out better than brigands raiding a jewellery shop.

Anyway, it’s led to a quest for ever better, ever more luxurious, December-only sweet items. And we’ve discovered this. If it’s only available in Germany, and you’re mad enough not to live here, drop what you’re doing and hijack the first conveyance that will get you here. Chocolate and mint but – imagine! – even better than After Eights.

I think we’re all allowed a little indulgence till the sun comes back, don’t you?

Cheer December 9, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Insomnia or, at the very least, disturbed sleep caused by worrying that I might die while dancing along to Mickey by Toni Basil, is wreaking havoc with my clockwork. Still, as luck would have it, I’m keeping the world afloat single-handedly and there’s no time for sleep with all the scampering I have to do in my translatorly hamster-wheel.

Do you dance, darlings? I used to think it was a thing to do but as I’m now not far off the telegram from Her Majesty, I’m close to giving up the ghost. I’ll throw myself around a dance-floor if need be, but need doesn’t often. My mother taught me to waltz, or to move in a shape approximating a waltz, no doubt seeing it as a vital life-skill for a man about to embark on adulthood in the 1990s – I put it down to her not knowing how the world works rather than actual madness. And, anyway, her mind’s in far better shape than mine is and she’s 200 if she’s a day, which she is, at least, because she had me, and I wasn’t born today, or even yesterday – and I dutifully tried to pass on my dancing skills to the Russian in case we ever establish a foundation and start hosting gala dinners but my beloved is not light of foot or, indeed, mass and I think his dancing exploits are best left uncategorised, unnamed and unchoreographed.

(Speaking of choreography – Ms. Basil’s main bag – guess how old Toni Basil is now. No cheating.)

So dancing has become a vicarious pleasure.

Call me heterophobic if you will but I’ve got a feeling gay men probably set an ounce more store by dancing than our heterosexual brothers. Us gayers being artistic types – I only translate to help humanity. I’m a singer-songwriter-sculptor mostly – means that a dance-floor pulsating with poofs might even have the odd profesh or two on it and it’s not a rare treat to see someone moving in a way that seems to have education behind it. I look on in admiration and order myself another drink.

Darlings, but even we artistic gayers are products of our surroundings. And unless one makes a very concerted effort to pretend to live in a different world and is very selective about the company and geography one keeps, there are still chapters of one’s life that are heavily heterosexual. I am unfortunate enough not to know any gay men much older than myself or any long-term gay older couples. So I don’t know if the Russian and I, as surely as bankruptcy follows Christmas, will do that couple-dance that so many of our older heterosexual co-humans do. You know, the sort of jivey-dance. Him twisting her around. Their arms fumbling overhead. Catching her, supposedly, if she has spun clean away and then halting that momentum and spinning her back at just the right time. And all performed, almost without exception, with a total lack of co-ordination and skill after the committed consumption of booze.

I was only reminded that I didn’t have a prototype of couple-future when the Russian and I ended up Sunday-night-drinking in Poland. The club was quiet, naturally, and only hardened boozers bothered venturing out in flagrant disrespect of the working week ahead. Psychotically drunk people who’d never been to ballet school hurled themselves around furiously. Occasionally I would worry that it was about to descend into violence. The more psychotically drunk men were all much the most huge and most meaty present. “Probably not gay at all,” the Russian and I would reassure ourselves, drawing naturally gifted and florid designs for pink-gated communities on beer mats, but then one would pull his trousers down and dance in his boxer shorts and the other would pull his t-shirt off and then, in a crowning dénouement tying up all loose ends neater than a Vienna baker, they would snog each other and collapse with an unsexy thud onto the stage. (The Russian and I set fire to our blueprints.)

And it was only the straights who could show us the way in how to grow old gracefully and dance like proper couples. A deliciously jolly pissed couple did the inelegant jive-dance. Their movements were so slow, so padded, that even their reactions to getting the spins wrong without fail would come about twenty seconds later. Mr. would spin determinedly on. Ms. would move as the laws of physics dictated, having no mental input to contribute, and would be hauled back in close when Mr. was in a position, both physical and geographical, to do so. She would try to mouth words of apology and self-deprecation, blinking very slowly throughout. He would guffaw jollily. Then they would snog.

“Darling, we don’t know how to do that dance. Maybe it is a vital ingredient of a happy partnership. And we don’t have any older gays to ask guidance. We are pioneers. We don’t know what the future holds. Oh god, if we get rich and establish a foundation and have gala dinners, will you instantly then run off and leave me for someone 19? I promise I don’t mind that you wear pyjamas.”

Luckily for us, No Stress then rattled scratchily off the gramophone. We got jiving with the best of them and, do you know, I think we were even better than the Puerto Rican couple.

Lucky dip December 1, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: ,

The troublesome thing is choice.

I went to Poland. Quite by accident. I’d only meant to take the S-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz to go and see Klee and Koons – it’s K season at the Neue Nationalgalerie. Lowry and Lichtenstein up next. I’ll have learnt the whole alphabet by 2013 – but got confused and ended up in Warsaw.

Made up for my error by going to see Koons and Klee another time, though. May I recommend to anyone thirsting art but who hasn’t got a bean to walk around the outside of the Neue Nationalgalerie building if they want to see the Koons? You’ll see every single exhibit thanks to its perfectly glass walls. And the troubling thing is, if you go in, apart from having to pay, which makes any transaction less satisfactory – just ask a man who frequents prostitutes if you don’t believe me – you might watch the little video about Mr. Koons. And that slightly spoiled him for me. Because while I was quite happy to look at his big bowl of eggs and think, “Hmm,” I was slightly underwhelmed by Koons the man. Nice enough guy. But I wish I hadn’t heard his justification for his works. “All about acceptance.” Drone.

But Klee was far more problematic. Horridly prolific. Wall-to-wall fucking art wherever you looked and downstairs at the NN is loathsomely spacious. Couldn’t get away from the stuff, though I did have one moment of joy when I went to turn another corner, fully expecting another frightful, never-ending vista of more wanking Klee, and it was just an alcove with a fire-extinguisher. The one brief let-up in the whole sorry affair.

But there was a lovely museum-goer with the best intellectual hair I’ve ever seen. A small gent. In his 60s. Jacket, shirt, trousers. Brown shoes, of course. Wandering around with his less intellectual – at least if her hair was anything to go by – wife who nodded spouselily and dutifully at his disquisitions. But his hair was top-hole. A swirling typhoon of hair, which may have had its whirlishness increased by having to double as an extremely elaborate comb-over. But the most extraordinary thing was the pate – is that the word I mean? You know. That bit where all the hair seems to spring from. Where he’d have had a bald patch if he’d had less of his intellectual hair – was just behind his left ear. I was transfixed. Much more interesting than the endless, non-stop Klee.

And the art made me think of potatoes, and how, as I shuffled from one hateful Klee to the next, I’d much rather be engaging with potatoes. Preferably eating them, of course, but, at a push, even looking at them. I’m not sure whether I’d rather have peeled potatoes than be at the Klee but it might have been a close run thing.

So I ended up in Poland. The Russian – for he was with me. You think one of us would have noticed we’d missed our stop when the border police got on, but no – commented, when we took a breather from hijinks, that, say what you like, and Poles may well like to say otherwise, being in Poland does feel just an incy bit like being in Russia. Warsaw looks quite like Russia – all hugeness and parallelograms – and the hustle and bustle of downtown Warsaw feels quite like the hustle and bustle of downtown St. Petersburg and Poles and Russians look quite alike with their chunky men and all the glamour pusses and Poles and Russians abandon themselves to fun, when they have decided to abandon themselves to fun, in the same concerted, uncynical way. It’s very attractive.

We had such fun that the Russian has had to convert to Catholicism and I’ve had to go and rescind my excommunication from the church so that we can quickly join Opus Dei and self-flagellate the pleasant memories away. In the meantime, we have fantasies about moving to Poland. Like Russia, but not. Surely we’d learn the language in ten seconds. And the totty! My god, the totty. We have retuned our souls to their Slavic settings and now have to fight drearily over who gets to wear the best shawl.

But, darlings, the only problem is that Poland gives you choices. If you go to a cash-machine, it asks, “Do you want us to fix the exchange rate now or let your bank do that, kind sir?” When you pay by card, the machine asks, “Shall we charge you in złotys or some other currency of your choosing, kind sir?” Honestly, do these people have no respect for their totalitarian past? I can’t cope with that kind of choice! The whole trip was wasted prevaricating.

But once there’s a lucky dip button on all Polish machines, that’s it. We’re emigrating.