If ever there were I time I needed this blog… then now would be that time. Writing has always afforded me the opportunity of untangling the scribble of thoughts and furies in my head. When I was a boy I made sense of complications (secrets and lies) by writing. Setting out the problems and finding solutions. My first attempt at creative writing, a series of short stories about mice… written when I was no more than 11 years old. Reading them now they are a fascinating and heart wrenching attempt to unravel the unrelenting brutality I suffered at the hands of my step-father, at school and the casual racism of Whitstable people.
Now I am kept awake at night by other furies, no less brutal. The continuing and evolving cruelty of Brexit. The take down of an elected leader by those who sought to discredit with lies and false allegations of anti-semitism. Watching a good and honest man hooked by his enemies, made to squirm for no good reason other than he sought to challenge the vile status quo and support the arab people of Palestine, confronting apartheid Israel.
Many, many people feel hopeless after the recent UK election. A rigged electoral system, a billionaire owned press spouting lies about a good man then amplified by state media. The obvious similarities to all those soviet style broadcasts we smirked at thirty years ago becoming apparently ours. This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Ha! Riven from the ice by global warming. Climate change another of the challenges facing humanity denied by the same charlatans who sought to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.
There are two distinct types of people at home in the UK. Those who are invested in the truth and those who believe anything they are told. It is clear to people like me they dare not challenge the dominant voice. The others do not dare to take on the establishment. They cower before the lie.
You know I’ve never held my tongue. Restraint is alien to me. I’d rather lose a friend than stay quiet. This happened just before Christmas three years ago at an old friend’s house. Tom Croft and his wife Max. Sir Tom Croft. I’d know Tom since my teens and was very fond of his parents and his spinster aunt. I had spent years of Christmas at Tom’s beautiful converted barn. They had very kindly included me in many of their social events. Lunches, beach parties and garden parties, their garden is magnificent! However, their pretentious gardener, the vile Posy Gentles is not. I’d not always enjoyed these excursions. Their posh white friends were gruelling company. Trapped in a tight spot, forced to find any conversation with Amicia De Moubray, married to Kent’s Lord Lieutenant is a special kind of hell. However, I played the game and respecting Tom’s feelings ignored their right wing banta and kept my end of the conversation non controversial.
Christmas Day, three years ago at an intimate supper with Tom and Max I was forced to endure a local carpenter’s offensive opinion of gay men. I complained. Tom kept quiet as his wife, a Guardian editor, sought to protect the idiot carpenter and silence my experience as a gay man. She sought like most right wing women, at the highly polished, mahogany dinner table, to defend the dominant article: a white heterosexual male who didn’t want to understand his privilege. Who couldn’t bare… not for one moment to walk in another man’s shoes. I couldn’t shake the resentment and wrote her the following day:
‘Privilege has nothing to do with money. You may very well have come from a worst family situation than me (tho I doubt it) even if that was the case my journey as a gay man these past 60 years has not been easy and when I share my story I do not expect you to diminish my experience.
I do not expect you to be gay holocaust denier. I do not expect you to do anything other than respectfully listen to those who suffered because they were/are out gay men fighting for equality, visibility and anti vilification.
Here is what you refused that night to acknowledge for me and millions of other men my age:
1. Born a criminal. Know what that means? Ask other gay men in their sixties. It means when I was born a gay man could still be sent to jail for being gay. In fact, men were still being sent to jail for consensual sex acts as recently as 1988.
2. Facing violent prejudice in the street if you were an out gay man. Swearing, spitting hitting and worse. And as I found recently still evident on the less enlightened streets of some European countries.
3. The aids crisis deliberately ignored by government because it was perceived as a gay plague. Watching over 100 young men dying gruesome deaths.
4. Section 28, Margaret Thatcher’s draconian discriminatory anti gay law.
5. Marriage and other institutions lgbt people were excluded from.
6. Fear of openly expressing affection to ones we/I loved. This is perhaps the most egregious.’
She replied she did not recognise herself from my description and we were no longer friends. She wrote this from a holiday in Istanbul she and her husband shared with Anne McElvoy and Martin Ivens, the editor of The Sunday Times, who have located to my home town of Whitstable. One can imagine how they soothed her ruffled feathers and told her to ignore the uppity faggot.
The Guardian is now under the thumb of MI5. Forced to destroy their hard drives by a man from the ministry, the editor removed after printing ghastly truths provided by Julian Assange. How can anyone have any respect for Max Croft?
Arriving from London last Tuesday Sir Tom and his dog were waiting at the station. He said hello. I shook my head. His absurd wife, Lady Max Croft greeted him with a shrill. I do not need their garden parties, their equally dreary friends or their condescension. I do not need them to protect their friends from uncomfortable truths.
I haven’t written my blog for a very long time. Life sure has changed these past few years. The Little Dog, after a wonderful life, born on the streets of LA, travelling the world… a little dog who loved Paris and knew we were there whenever we arrived… caught his last breath in a veterinary surgery in Canterbury four weeks ago. He was done.
The day before he died he staggered into the garden and lay in the cold and dark under a garden chair. It was the sign I needed. The following day we said our goodbyes to our friends in Whitstable. Marilyn and Johnny held him one last time. He had been with me for longer than any human. Now he is a small tube of ashes, his coat, collar and passport.
There are days when I want to be where he is. But I know the Little Dog is waiting for me and whatever death God has planned for me it gives me solace to know this.
We have been living in Portugal these past years. Trapped by covid and inertia. We had our routine. We walked the little park every day. Occasionally, but not nearly enough, walked the beach. He loved the sand. That’s where I will scatter his ashes. Forever running on the sand.
My own brush with death in 2020 started on the morning of December 17th and ended four months later. Gripped by Covid. Hospitalised, plagued by demons, holding onto life. Covid 19 changed everything. My semi lifeless body washed from head to toe by gentle nurses. Learning to walk again. I agreed to take antidepressants. To be honest, from the hit of the first pill… I haven’t looked back. I wish I had taken them when they’d been offered years before. Everything changed. Everything. I take my pill and fear falls away. Finally I love everything I own, I enjoy the colours and the form but my self esteem is not tied up in my possessions or what I may have or have not achieved. Settled in my own body I finally have the peace of mind I thought would elude me til my deathbed.
Life is not without difficulties but my faith is simple: if I own my part, everything will be ok no matter what.
Fearlessness has its downsides. Recently I was queer baited in a supermarket in the small Algarve town where I live. Instead of ignoring the assailant I stood up to him. He was violent and I fought back. I thought ‘Duncan, you are 60 years old, it’s now or never’. By the time the brawl was over the supermarket was trashed, the police arrived. We were taken in separate ambulances to separate hospitals. My feet lacerated, glass shards are still making their way out of my toes. The gay paramedic in the ambulance advised me to contact a gay helpline who organised a lawyer gratis. They have been handling the situation ever since. It was time to fight back. It was time.
I let professionals deal with problems I cannot. Doctors, dentists, the gay lawyer. The Spanish lawyers: I am still suing Ana for the money she owes me. The property in Herefordshire is gently unfolding in the right direction. We won three major planning successes (one at appeal) and I love, more and more, being there. I realised I had never experienced my property in the summer so made my way there last July. It was such a treat. So quiet and beautiful.
Georgina, now it’s your turn. I have to write about you.
As I flew home from London to Portugal late last night in the rowdy Ryanair airbus, trying to ignore the menacing, drunk racists laughing around us I looked out of the window over the villages below me. Lit up like galaxies. Some strong and bright and highly coloured. Some weak and small swallowed up in the black, moonless landscape. Constellations above me, constellations below.
I had spent just one day of the planned 10 in Whitstable. Whitstable. How happy you and Georgina have made me these past 7 months. My mother and I have reconnected and made our peace. Richard, my best friend during my twenties is now married, children grown, a grandchild on the way. We sat by the fire in the Oyster Company drinking tea and catching up. Strangely, or not so strangely, our life trajectories had unknowingly intersected those three decades. Holidays in Montauk when I would have been there. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway past my house. He has a great deal to be proud of. The business thrives after thirty years. His son is strong and handsome, intelligent and humble.
I met Georgina Jenkins shortly after she moved to Whitstable 22 years ago.
Georgina bought the Copeland House bed and breakfast on Island Wall from John and Jill. John and Jill were fat when nobody was fat. Their obesity was a shameless part of their character as much as their gold chains and fancy set gold sovereigns. Jill had huge, baggy arms and voluminous breasts that swallowed you up when she hugged you. They owned the green grocer on the corner of Terry’s Lane before the council knocked it down, replacing the tatty nissen hut, the public toilets and the assembly rooms with rows of ship lapped faux fishermans cottages with ugly dormers and triangular windows that point into the eaves, never properly blinded.
Jill and John wanted a bed and breakfast thinking it less taxing than lugging boxes of spuds and brussels from Covent Garden every day. They bought the abandoned coastguard cottage by Keam’s Yard, Copeland House. They cleared out Nobby and other assorted drunks squatting there. Johnny put up terrible partitioning and equally bad wallpaper and voila: Jill and Johnny had Whitstable’s first seaside bed and breakfast.
A decade later, time to retire… Jill and John bought a bungalow in Yorkletts. Moving from Essex, a leap of faith, Georgina bought the B&B and set about poncifying her gold mine the day after she bought it. Out came Jill’s ghastly nick knacks replaced with a life time collection of Clarice Cliff. Out went Johnny’s pale yellow winceyette, brushed nylon and fire hazzard bedding replaced with white linen and interlined curtains.
George, divorced from famed book maker John Jenkins, has two children: Sophie Kay and Patrick Jenkins. After 15 years making the best full English in Kent Georgina retired and her daughter Sophie and son in law Michael Kay bought the bed and breakfast. They closed it abruptly and applied to the local council for change of use.
Like so many Essex woman of a certain genre, Sophie is instagram ready the moment she leaves the house. Alternately gurning or pouting in every filtered picture taken. Fake tits, fake tan, no conversation her ex boyfriend sent to prison for fraud, stealing credit cards. When I met her she had recently stabbed her boyfriend Adam Wright in the chest, he was hospitalised. She boasts she has many friends, a multi million pound property portfolio, that her daughter Poppy is top of the class. Is any of it true?
Patrick, Georgina’s son who I detested for years, has learned from both British and American prisons there is more to life. I now have a great respect for Patrick after years of being frightened and intimidated by him. Patrick has owned his addiction and from what I have seen of his writing could be a great writer. We unexpectedly had cause to visit Brighton and he beguiled me with his unique and compelling stories.
I always have time for an addict who owns his shit. Understandably, the rest of his family are less willing to forgive his unmanageability. Patrick’s children Henry and girlfriend Brooke, his daughter Grace and her drug dealer boyfriend Billy no longer speak with him. This family run in a pack. His aunt Gay Briggs and her daughter Chloe Coates also ignore Patrick. Chloe has a dim, posh husband called Jack Coates. Patrick calls Jack, Pussyhole. However, dim Jack is bright enough to know how uncomfortable Sophie and Michael Kay’s casual racism/homophobia made him. The Spanton/Jenkins are heavy drinkers. Gay drinks red wine and nods off at the end of dinner. They all think far too much of their moderate success and limited achievements.
I knew Georgina’s chain smoking sister Gay Briggs years before I met Georgina, she never really interested me. Gay is a show off who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. A fog horn boasting into the wind.
Lately, the pack has shrunk. Gay’s charming husband Bruce recently died of a massive stroke ‘he farted three times and I knew he was dead‘ and their hugely popular sister Maxine died of a rare leukemia. The best of the family died with them.
Georgina is my friend. I love her very much. An unlikely partnership. 14 years older than me, those who saw us together were bemused. When I lived in Whitstable I would leave her to deal with visitors from London when I couldn’t. We would cook, garden and travel. We fantasised owning a hotel. We wanted the Dolphin Hotel in Herne Bay but when push came to shove, it was a scary prospect. Wherever we went we would pretend we were looking to buy property and make time-wasting appointments with realtors. It was our hobby. We spent three months in Australia. Gallery owner Oscar Humphries was astounded we shared a room. Not a bed. We jogged from Bronte to Bondi and every day worked out at the City Gym. We drove from Sydney to Melbourne. We drove with Oscar into the outback and photographed a Bachelor and Spinster’s ball for the Sydney Morning Herald.
I wanted her to see everything I loved. I took her to Fire Island, we stayed at the Mercer Hotel in New York City, we travelled to film festivals. When I made the Elizabeth Hurley movie she pretended to be my mum when I had to entertain the producers. When I brought Jake B to London it was George I wanted him to meet.
Even though she had an occasional romantic love for me (mocked by her daughter) she knew her romantic love could never be fulfilled. And even though I continued to have intimacy with men I didn’t flash my various affairs or one night stands in her face because I knew it would hurt her. Most gay men I know have a very close woman friend in lieu of a mother. As my mother and I became closer, leaving decades of resentment behind, my relationship with George changed too.
George and I were fractious on occasions but never bored. We had a few, huge dramatic fights. Fantastically frugal she knew to the last penny how much money was owed at a restaurant. How many sweets we shared on a road trip. Every penny profit was a ‘touch’. Her family never approved of me even though, when I lived in LA, I was forced to accommodate and entertain them. I invited Georgina many times to Los Angeles but she never came. She would have loved it. The garden. The space. Malibu.
So, it was with great sadness I learned she had Parkinson’s Disease. She deteriorated quickly.
I would occasionally pop in to see her whenever I was in Whitstable, avoiding Patrick. She was often on her own and would ask me to help out with little tasks as her mobility was impaired. She never forgot my birthday and I would keep up with her on social media. Last year she told me her family (all of the above minus Pat) plus Sophie’s red faced husband Mickey and Pat’s ex wife (also called Georgina) were travelling to Cyprus for two weeks. George told me proudly Mickey is treated ‘like a king’ in Cyprus.
So, needing to be in Whitstable, Georgina invited me to stay. It was lovely to be with her but what I subsequently discovered was extremely disturbing. Stories of casual abuse from her unemployed daughter Sophie. The evidence of neglect was clear to see. The formerly beautiful beach house George moved into after she sold the B&B to Sophie was such a mess! My Mary Poppins gayness got the better of me: Piles of old papers sorted. A huge, unused treadmill sold. The 18th century Indian bed she used as a coffee table returned to its correct place, loose covers freshly laundered.
The previous year, left alone in the house she had fallen badly and broken her hip. When the ambulance arrived her family came to kiss her goodbye. Each one of them solemnly climbing into the ambulance. They didn’t expect George to survive a covid hospital and rehab. The youngest grandchildren were told they wouldn’t see their grandmother again.
The family extended their stay in Cyprus from two to five weeks. I stayed on in Whitstable to keep her company. We established a nice routine. Working with her carers and Emma the cleaning lady we restored order where there was none and a good routine for her safety. I took her to hospital appointments, food shopping and Tescos to buy loungewear. Tiny things to do but apparently a bridge too far for her daughter the gurning Sophie who had rarely taken her out. George admitted she didn’t like the way they pushed her around, in and out of the car. She felt unsafe. ‘They treated me like meat.’
When it was my time to leave she would shake uncontrollably. On her own she was useless. I knew it.
“Protect me from my family.” she asked. I came back. For six months.
During these past few months we have laughed so hard, we’ve eaten at restaurants which is no small feat considering her disability. I wash and blow dry her hair and she calls me Nicky. (Until Sophie ‘borrowed’ the hairdryer.) We unpack the past. I have a notoriously bad memory after my spinal leak. George remembers all the detail my brain erased. She says, ‘do you remember…?’ I often don’t remember, even when she tells the story.
We got into very bad habits, watching bad TV. Game shows in the afternoon. We cooked three meals a day and put on weight. We experimented with Parkinson’s approved diets. I fed her black chocolate and bananas as it was meant to help. We loved eating home made curry and slow cooked shoulder of lamb. We braised oxtail. Porridge every morning unless we fancied greek yogurt and granola.
Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect the body, it affects the brain. A quick google search and a chat with her doctor confirmed the worse: Georgina has stage 4/5 Parkinson’s. Paranoia and terrible anxiety are as much a part of the disease as the uncontrollable shakes. People with Parkinson’s shouldn’t be left on their own. Loneliness is corrosive. When she was certain I wasn’t leaving, even for a short while, she would settle and calm and the less the terrible shaking would grip her. Yet, I also saw her focused and determined when she really wanted something and I was there to facilitate.
At night we kept the door between us open so she could hear me breathing and she would settle into a deep sleep. Sometimes she would panic. Screaming out. A deep roar from a place I did not recognise. Left on her own the unreasonable fears and thoughts would overcome her and she would imagine people breaking into the house, stealing from her cupboards. Occasionally, even when I was with her she couldn’t get comfortable, getting in and out of bed dozens of times. Pulling on the only shoes she trusts. Removing them. Pulling them on again. Frightened she would fall. I would put her back to bed, cover her feet, hold the jug so she could pee, soothe her wet brow. Sometimes at 3 or 4am we would get her off to sleep. I wasn’t always patient at 3am. She would apologise telling me her daughter would accuse her of attention seeking, unable to understand the profuse sweating was her broken internal thermometer, another Parkinson’s horror symptom.
A month or so after I arrived she told me she was worried about money. Knowing how frugal she was I asked how that could possibly be. She said she was totally broke. I didn’t believe her. She owns her house on the beach, had sold the B&B for £600,000 which gave her at least £300,000 to live on after paying the mortgage.
Elders are incredibly vulnerable. Elders with a debilitating disease are more vulnerable. Elders with money and a debilitating disease and greedy children? After a quick look at her bank statements it turned out during the past 5 years of the worst of her Parkinson’s her daughter and son in law Michael Kay had persuaded with her to part with over £350,000 in cash and still owed her £85,000 from the purchase of the B&B. They had defaulted on the promissory notes they had signed. They had made her take out a £50,0000 government bounce back loan. Predicated on a fantasy Covid would get her, that she would die, they thought these interest free loans would vanish, the 1.2 million pound house she lives in would be theirs. Job done.
However, things went tits up for Sophie and Michael Kay.
Georgina didn’t die.
Nor did the gurning, pouting Sophie expect an old friend to turn up in a moment of need. They did not expect the friend to call a lawyer, Age Concern and the elder abuse unit at Maidstone Police Station. They did not expect to get caught.
It latterly turned out a shrewd property investment made by Georgina had also been intercepted and overwhelmed by Michael Kay.
I spent more and more time with George. I was frightened for her life. I wanted her to have a life. More than sitting in her reclining chair looking out of the window. When we weren’t together we would chat for hours on the phone. An hour’s chat before bedtime. Often those conversation were about her children. Sophie ‘had a turn’, Patrick was a terrible son.
For spurious reasons guilty Sophie would storm into George’s house, screaming. A 50 year old woman screaming relentlessly at her frail mother. Even when we locked the door she kicked the door so hard it splintered. Whilst I was there Sophie barricaded her mother into her own bedroom screaming. Always screaming. Blaming anyone/everyone other than herself for her problems.
A violent household on Christmas Day 2021 I saw Michael Kay hit their tiny dog, a big man punching a small dog. Michael Kay was officially warned by Canterbury Police for threatening me.
Mickey and Sophie have a small son, Dexter and Sophie has a 13 year old daughter called Poppy. The heavy set daughter was both bullied and a bully at school. Both Poppy and Sophie have eating disorders. Sophie wants weight loss surgery, she was impressed when meeting my sister Roya who recently had weight loss surgery. We would hide biscuits and other sweet things from Poppy. We stopped buying ice cream. She would eat everything she could lay her hands on.
Yet, whatever Sophie owes Georgina, however they treat her… she forgives them. I suppose that’s what mothers do? Georgina loves her daughter and her granddaughter. Stockholm syndrome.
Alone at the house, George placates herself in the early hours on-line shopping, cardboard boxes and packages arrive from Ebay and Amazon. She lives on a meagre state pension. Rather than returning an unsuitable item she always offers the item to Sophie, who never said no. Nibbling at the very little Georgina has. They never offer to help out with the important things. Only when Patrick demands they pay for a new wheelchair or the security cameras set against the loan repayment. Never did I hear Sophie say, hey… I know you don’t have much I’ll return this gift, you should have the money.
Living in constant fear of her overdraft. This is not how life should be. She worked her ass off. She always had a job. Expected nothing, gave everything. She made excellent business choices, George should be luxuriating in her dotage rather than worrying about every last penny.
Anxiety exacerbates Parkinson’s disease.
If she ever gets the money she is owed by Sophie and Mickey she is determined to send Poppy to a public school but I’m afraid you can’t polish a turd. This may seem harsh but read until the end, dear reader.
For seven months I saw Georgina decline. Paranoia, when anxious. would twist her mind, she was convinced the carers were stealing her makeup. Convinced they were poisoning her food. She would fret a specific bowl or jug had been thrown away. She thought she saw a person stealing a television. She was particularly anxious about my relationship with other women. She was convinced I was having an affair with Patrick’s girlfriend, Caroline. She said, ‘Caroline is my achilles heel.’ Convinced my female friends were not just friends. Most worrying of all she could hear people lingering in the garden. We had security cameras fitted to alleviate her worry. I found the bowl, the jug and the missing ribbons, we found her purse she was sure Sophie had stolen. We located her missing wedding ring.
Eventually I found her a more suitable walker for the home and a new wheelchair powered by a lithium battery for trips into town. Sadly, she only felt safe with me taking her out.
Occasionally she would ask me to marry her. “If anything happens to me, marry me .” I must admit, if it protected her from Sophie, I would have married her but I knew in my heart it was an impossible dream, a dream like the hotels and homes we saw together all those years ago. It would have been a marriage of convenience to suit her immediate needs. I couldn’t do it.
The pressure from her daughter was getting worse. Knowing my service was coming to an end I booked a ticket to Portugal. Promising to come back in a month. A week into my return Georgina called me, she was distraught. Her adored grandchild Poppy had slapped her so hard in the face she saw stars.
Poppy, is a heavy set teen, she has a foul mouth and often called me and her grandmother ‘cunts’.
I was furious. Georgina said the slap reminded her of when Mickey hit their tiny dog. I called Patrick but Georgina, trying to protect Poppy denied it had happened. Then she admitted it was true. Frankly, I didn’t know what to believe until Poppy relented and confirmed it had happened.
She begged me to come back. The following day from Stansted I called to see how she was doing. She told me she had seen compelling evidence from her daughter Sophie I was planning to murder her. Knowing the jig was up, Sophie had persuaded her poor mother her best friend and greatest support was out to kill her. It was enough. I knew I had to get out. I arrived in Whitstable, Patrick picked me up from the station. There is nothing anyone can say or do when dementia sets in. The person you knew is no longer there. I packed up my things and Richard organised a room in the hotel.
When I arrived at George’s house she was sitting in her new wheelchair. She looked terrible. Georgina’s ‘friend’ Pauline Hendy was there. Her friend who wouldn’t believe Sophie and Mickey had taken her money. An ex barrister who in 1993 had worked infamously on the consensual sado-masochistic acts case for the appellants. She is one of those woman who seems to disapprove of strong gay men. Her face looks like a disinterred, freshly unwrapped Egyptian mummy, one colour, no lips, holes where eyes should be. Pauline was determined to defend Sophie. Her smile, a crude slit in old leather. For what reason I have no idea.
I told her to fuck off. It was not Pauline Hendy helping her friend at night. Clearing up the pee. Feeding her. Holding George until the shakes stop. Toweling off her night sweats. Where is Pauline for her friend? Pauline is not a friend. She is a goule.
Georgina called at midnight. She was crying. She said, ‘I was praying. Asking God for one normal day, then I would die.’ She misses walking the dog. Ironing. She misses what life used to be like. Normal.
Yesterday, returning to Faro I felt for my friend, Georgina. It’s hard to reconcile the things people are saying and the disease they have. The disease is speaking. This is not the person I knew.
Thankfully her son Patrick and his girlfriend Caroline can take up the reigns where I left off. They are chasing the money taken by his sister Sophie and her frightful husband Michael Kay. Pat and Caroline are feeding her. Protecting her.
It is not my responsibility. I will remember the fun we had. I will miss the laughter.
Elder abuse is real. It is silent. It is happening to a person you know. It is happening right now.
Yesterday I met Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury and Whitstable. She was half an hour late for our appointment. Her train was late. The taxi wasn’t where they expected it to be. She runs into the meeting berating the train and the tube. Rosie is a slight, blond woman who, against all the odds beat long time conservative MP Julian Brazier with a slim 186 majority in a constituency that never had a Labour MP since voting began.
I congratulated her, “You must be very grateful to Jeremy Corbyn,” I said.
Rosie smiled, she seemed baffled when people told her on the stump they were voting for Jeremy and not her. “I heard that all the time,” she said. I pressed her to admit it was Jeremy who had energised the Labour vote in a traditionally conservative area but she was reluctant to agree Jeremy Corbyn was the reason she had her seat in parliament. I asked her if she was a ‘blairite’, she replied candidly, “I owe everything to Tony Blair.”
She whispered conspiratorially, “Jeremy’s nearly 70, you know.” As if telling a 58-year-old it’s all over for someone who is 69, all over for Jeremy Corbyn. I was beginning to understand who Rosie Duffield is and where her allegiances lay. I looked carefully into her eyes. “We need someone younger.” she says.
I wanted to meet Rosie Duffield to find out if she was adequately representing her LGBT constituents. So, I started our meeting by asking Rosie if she had ever heard of Rudolf Brazda. She hadn’t. Rudolf, the last holocaust survivor to wear a pink triangle, held at Buchenwald. I asked if she knew what a pink triangle signified. She nodded her head cautiously as if she were searching for a memory. I explained who Rudolf was and how his and other LGBT inmates were remembered in oral histories archived at the New York Holocaust museum.
Their stories are desperate, they tell how badly they were treated by both inmates and guards. Beaten, murdered by guards and inmates. Treated like pedophiles are treated in prisons today. I told her how, when the camps were liberated, the gay men were not set free but taken to prison by British and American liberators. These gay men, I reminded her, are my family of origin. Murdered in the concentration camps by both nazis and fellow inmates.
Rosie shifts in her seat uncomfortably.
I let her know my own history of dealing with homophobia in Whitstable, the daubing of homophobic slurs on my house, bricks through the windows and more recently being verbally assaulted by a homophobic public house land lady. Rosie seemed genuinely pained by my description. Rosie and her manager offered to speak to Jonathan Neame about the homophobia in his pubs. I accepted their offer graciously.
I wondered what Rosie Duffield’s definition of homophobia was? She mumbled she didn’t have one. I wondered why? Why hadn’t The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defined homophobia like they defined anti-Semitism? After all, we were there too. We… the LGBT community stood behind those terrible chain link fences walking with the dead and dying. Where was our definition of homophobia? A definition the party could work with?
Religion is a choice, sexuality is not.
I asked her if she thought Jeremy Corbyn was anti semitic and a racist.
Rosie wanted me to know her fiancé is black, that she couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be black, gay or jewish. She had to accept as the truth from her jewish friends if they were convinced Jeremy was anti-Semitic… she had no option but to believe them. I asked if she was ’empathetically challenged’? She became angry and told me she would ask me to leave if I spoke to her like that. She told me I was being rude.
“You mean… rude like Margaret Hodge was to Jeremy Corbyn?” Rosie told me she was a ‘Very good friend of Margaret Hodge’. I asked Rosie if I had called her a fucking homophobe would she ask me to leave the office. She told me Margaret Hodge had every right to shout at Jeremy because she was a jewish woman who had lost family in the holocaust.
I reminded her again. My family of origin also perished in the holocaust. Gay men without children, abandoned by their family for being gay. Who could possibly claim these men (sex perverts) as their relatives? It is incumbent upon men like me, willing to claim men like Rudolf as my own family, wrought from the history of lgbt oppression.
I asked again, “Where is the IHRA definition of homophobia?”
The definition of Anti Semitism has become the stick by which people like Margaret Hodge and her friend Rosie Duffield beat Jeremy Corbyn. Yet, as a gay man, when I want answers about her understanding of homophobia Rosie tells me her definition of homophobia is ‘common sense’.
Religion is a choice. Sexuality is not.
Rosie stumbled into admitting she was Roman Catholic. “A church riven by homophobia,” I say. “Religious people are not my friends Rosie, they have delivered a history of violent rebuke against LGBT people. Refusing to recognise our most basic human rights.” What are you going to do about the pockets of homophobia in the Anglican Church? You are, after all, the MP who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Religious people are not our friends. Jews. Christians. Muslims. There are still passages in the Torah, Bible and Koran demanding death for practicing gay men. Why haven’t these passages been removed? When will Jews, Christians and Muslims remove passages from the Torah Bible and Koran that incite violence toward LGBT people? Legitimizing LGBT intolerance? When would she call for homophobia to be erased in all religions.
Rosie looked aghast.
The problem with Rosie? She’s a delightful, simple person. Her politics are scarcely evolved. Rosie isn’t ‘woke’. She probably didn’t expect to win her seat. Her understanding of her LGBT constituents is scant. It’s not her fault, she doesn’t ‘get’ how important historically the Labour Party was to LGBT people during the hostile 1960’s – 1980’s because she can’t imagine walking a mile in our shoes.
The meeting ended. A nervous looking latino man waiting in the lobby wanted to talk about Brexit. He was sitting with his daughter. I set off into the searing heat.
On the way home to Whitstable I felt shaken and slightly bullied. I’d experienced only a fraction of what is currently tearing at the heart of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Rosie is our existential threat. She exemplifies how Tony Blair snatched control from working people and handed power to a few entitled white folk.
Rosie has an agenda shared by many of her Blairite colleagues: to unseat Jeremy Corbyn. For those of us who believe passionately in Corbyn’s inclusive vision for our country it was inconsiderate of her to say she had no clue what the lives of gay, black or jewish people could be because she wasn’t black, jewish or gay.
I wondered how Rosie could possibly see past her white, christian heterosexuality to represent any minority? Me? The anxious latino man? The truth is, Rosie is not motivated to represent her constituents. Rosie is not interested in the lives of her constituents. Rosie is obsessed with regime change. She spends her time berating and bullying Jeremy Corbyn. She has no interest in me or indeed real instances of homophobia she is instead obsessed with politicised examples of anti-Semitism.
In 40 years I had never bothered to meet my Member of Parliament, then Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of The Labour Party. Even though I voted for Thatcher in ’78 and Blair in 1997 I never joined a political party. I have since joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party is the biggest political party in Europe because of Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour Party needs MP’s who represent not only its 800,000 voting members but the millions of disaffected Britons who believe in radical change… sadly, for the constituents of Whitstable and Canterbury Rosie Duffield isn’t one of them.
Another morning at the hospital. Another biopsy on another lump. I’m quite sweaty today. My arms hurt. The arthritis in my neck makes my arms painful, numb and tingling. The pain increases when I cough, sneeze or strain.
After the consultant I drove to Margate where I met Jonathan Viner who has famously bought the huge Margate Print Works, partially selling to Tracey Emin and others. We ate a light lunch at David Liddicot‘s cafe on Union Row. Jonathan rather sweetly paid for lunch, (£20). Of course we discussed both projects. He is unsurprisingly proprietorial about Margate. Viner, I suppose, rediscovered it and put his money where his mouth is.
He very kindly walked me around the last remaining part of the huge building still unsold. The cavernous concrete space ripe for something magnificent. We discussed Brexit, we discussed moving to Kent, we chatted briefly about Jay. He is obviously quite competitive but not in an overwhelming, American way. I told Jonathan I’d met the ghastly Margate based architect Sam Causer who has all the charm of untreated sewage.
We discussed terrible Margate landlords who want too much for their properties and he was eager to remind me I didn’t own anything in Margate… yet. I replied gently that if my idea fell through it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I learned from buying at auction… there’s always something else, next time. It’s not healthy to obsess about things. It can get you into trouble. God has a plan. I just have to listen out for it.
I’ve been going to London meetings. NA meetings. It baffles me how people stay clean. But of course… they don’t. The real addicts die. NA, divorced from Bill’s radical idea of a spiritual solution, is utterly worthless. I am irritated by NA in the UK, the group therapy, feelings laid bare. I was sharing step solution in a Chelsea meeting last week and a young woman in the meeting told me I shouldn’t talk about the steps because she found it ‘triggering’.
Meanwhile Chip, my friend in NYC, who worked a solid NA programme overdoses and dies. He was a splendid, handsome father of one. Divorced from God there was no other destiny for him. Jail. Institutions. Death.
The Whitstable Biennial opened this week. Consequently there is ‘art’ everywhere: in beech huts, coffee shops, fishmongers, gardens, St Alphage church on the high street. The art is pretty dull but the buzz around town is great. I found two gorgeous bronze figures tucked away in a shed by sculptor Mark Fuller who is without doubt a bloody genius. £80.
If my arms work I may go to Canterbury Pride this evening.
Ivan Cartwright visited me last weekend. We had lunch at Dave Brown’s then drove to Margate. He had never been. He was very impressed. Lunch with M&J at well reviewed Angela’s in Margate on Wednesday. I ate Turbot and some odd tasting greens.
Met in Soho last week with a gentleman who wants to buy my art collection, then a brief but good catch up with my producer. I bumped into Johnny and Julian outside Maison Bertaux. We drank a little coffee and I scoffed a large Mont Blanc, you know the one… with mashed up marrons glacés, meringue and cream.
I travelled from Whitstable to London on the train. It was exactly the same time to get up there as it was 40 years ago. It’s perfectly fine. The bus from Victoria to Piccadilly Circus was wonderful. Swinging past the Wellington Arch, on the upper deck, very little traffic. The trees around Green Park and Park Lane have matured beautifully. Apsley house now looks like it’s sitting in the countryside rather than a concrete island. I fell in love with London all over again. Who wouldn’t?
After lunch I took the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Place and had tea with Christophe. He looks wonderfully relaxed after his hip operation. Pain shows in the face, you know. Without the pain he looks marvellous. “Everybody says the same,” he smiled.
There was a coach from Faversham to Whitstable after 11pm but so what? A drunk man on the bus was recounting his recent arrest for knocking someone out. I had no problem with the railway. I had no problem with the buses and the tube. I’ve had no problems with the NHS. I just wish the pins and needles would stop.
Nor fear of deportation or student loans. Don’t let the government shut down beleaguer your special day.
Nor think of drones killing gay men on foreign shores. Not in my name.
Dream my dear, of the $160,000 surrogate baby you really can’t afford. White eggs and spermatozoa Amex paid for.
Grown in a poor brown woman whose name attorneys erased. She’ll never be known to the unborn child.
Goldman bonus spent on more Botox. Calm your troubled brow with restylane. Fill the lines they put there with relentless bullying and casual homophobia.
You weren’t looking for love. A painted finger nail emoji on your Tinder profile, hoping for a merger and acquisition. Perfect in the Pines. Helping him fuck another guy. Guiding him into the gaping hole like a stallion. Prepped and raw. Bare back monkey.
Marrying a fellow American now, you need not stress, ICE officers will not be your groomsman. Not today.
Thank Jesus Christ Almighty,
Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act is no more.
They can not stop you, nor turn you from the hospital as your husband lays dying from a lethal Fentanyl overdose. Undetectable. No longer woke.
Found in the sauna, wearing his combat boots, multiply penetrated, cream pied, still bound and dripping, eyes open, calling out another man’s name, swaying gently in the black polyester sling.
Enjoying your honeymoon in the leather bars of Berlin.
They are deporting thousands of undocumented workers in the USA. Friends and family disappear. The cranberry bogs remain un-harvested. The schools stricken by grieving children. Police officers didn’t think it would be this way. They couldn’t put a face to the men and women Trump wanted to deport. Simple, honest people caught up in the merciless trawl. They didn’t realise their friends were breaking the law. They didn’t understand the depth of hatred their fellow citizens harboured for brown and black people.
Hackney. East London finally puts paid to the ridiculous notion I can leave my car unlocked without being burgled. Yes. I am that man. Regardless of the stolen cash, life in East London is inspiring. Like the first time you visit deep Brooklyn, you understand who millennials are and what they prioritize. Bushwick, going there with Paris McGarry and her boyfriend Tom. The streets were buzzin, the restaurants overflowing, the music bursting out of every window over the cobbled streets. Huge lofts once filed with machinery now house tech aspirants and what, I think, is the difference? Intellectual rather than mechanical industry.
Hackney has exactly the same energy. Fit, bearded men cycling through the park discussing crypto currency on their cell phones. They look insane, talking to themselves, eyes fixed on the road, avoiding my dogs who are inexplicably drawn to cycle paths. I feel alive here, which is odd as I am facing death head on right now. I am optimistic even though I feel the curtain closing about me, taking my final bow. I sit in Shorditch House all day drinking water and coffee and eating sour jelly candy. I buy boots in APC and wonder why. I mean, I don’t need anything. I am rootless, I am free.
Going to NA meetings all over the East End. I am drawn to the drama I suppose. I meet cool people and when they read about me are less eager to judge my life, my exploits whilst American addicts damn you forever. You lose your grip once and Americans watch with glee as you fall from the side of the building. Falling like a crazy base jumper. You took a risk… it didn’t pay off. Your fingers slip from the polished marble. The English addict is less determined to make you pay.
However, NA is not very productive in London. The people may be kind but the programme stinks. Swimming around in their own shit. NA isn’t group therapy. Nobody cares about your feelings. Addicts repeat their using tragedies again and again day after day. They have no solution, grasping hold of their pain, reliving the insanity, indulgently spewing over anyone who will listen. They attend endless meetings 90/90 but will not work the 12 steps. Of course, after a few months, they relapse then after another spectacular ‘rock-bottom’ claw their way back into the rooms… continuing the cycle of despair. I keep reminding myself not to slip back into bad habits. No catastrophic thinking, no indulgence. No. No. No.
I’m in Climpson’s the local coffee shop trying to write a treatment. Broadway Market. I know the fishmonger and the book seller. The baristas know my name. I’m writing a gay Fatal Attraction. Crazy older lady meets younger gay guy at AA meeting, she’s a hoarder, he takes pity on her, cleans her house, helps her with her life, she lends him money and falls in love with him… then tries to destroy him when he refuses her advances. It’s waiting to be written. This story, this slice of life upstate. Donna, you crazy witch! I took Donna to a gay party, she wasn’t impressed when I talked to the other guys. I took her to Abby Rockefeller’s farm. She wasn’t impressed when I talked to other women. I felt her eyes boring into me. We left.
The dull thud returns, at the base of my sternum. The pain wraps around my body from my stomach to the base of my back. The acid reflux, overwhelming tiredness and irritability. I had more tests. There are problems that need resolved but the doctors are too damn eager to slice into me. I already had my gall bladder and an isolated tumor on my adrenal gland removed.
The doctor is thorough and uncompromising. I revisit all the horrors of pancreatic cancer. I look at potential remedies, of which there are few. The very worst scenario is called the Whipple procedure which is also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, a complex operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder and the bile duct.
They say to me: these symptoms are found in women. They say, it may be malignant, it may be benign, it may be somewhere in between. The diagnosis isn’t good enough. It’s too damn vague. I lay on my bed after our long walk and fall into a deep sleep. I breathe deeply, clearing my mind of everything I think I know. I remind myself of the solution, the literature. I say, what will be will be. Divorcing myself from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.
During the day I face indecision. I may not correctly determine which course of action to take. I ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision. I relax, I don’t struggle. I’m surprised by how often the right answer comes after practicing these principles in all my affairs.
There is something lost and broken about a small town. Not on its surface. Beneath, where the new working class flex what little muscle it has. Withered by austerity and the banking crisis, lifting their weary faces and skinny fists toward the last of the watery sunlight.
Whitstable has always attracted freaks and frauds. Crooks and drifters. Before the gang of yummy mummies arrived with their plantation shutters, gumming up local stores with giant strollers… gangsters sat in Wheelers back room making deals. Far enough from London, close enough to get home for their tea.
Life is evenly divided between Whitstable my home town and the world I created elsewhere. You know, in the newspapers and on TV. To come home is a mixed blessing. My estranged brothers and frail mother have become litigants rather than family as I sue for my part in David’s will.
Even though Whitstable is a very small town one can totally miss seeing someone for decades. Yet, with very little effort, I saw my mother on the street. She looked animated, mid conversation with other mothers, presumably after dropping my nephew Oscar Roy at school. Frances Roy, Frances Spark, Fran. I don’t know what she calls herself nowadays. I walked closer, I tapped her on the shoulder… she turned to face me. I was shocked by how badly she has aged. The face I once adored is now smeared over her large skull, her features drawn, jowls and ear lobes drooping like melting tallow.
I was momentarily pleased to see her. I felt protective once again. I wanted to reassure her things were going to work out. I thought the violent abuse we received from David would somehow bond us forever. Sadly, she has never been anything other than utterly selfish. She may have once but now she no longer wants the best for me. I am a stranger to her.
Unplanned pregnancy, shame and derision have shaped who she is today. She learned nothing from her own story. She never made amends. She was never proud or encouraging of any of her children. The older we got the less interest she showed. She had no ambition, no desire, no love.
I used to make excuses for her. I’d tell therapists, “The nuns at the mother and baby home made her life miserable.” I explained to psychologists, “Her father was cruel, her mother insensitive.” “It was a different time.” “When she looks at me I reminded her of him.” I said. And all the while, unbeknownst to her, the world was changing. She told the doctor at the hospital, when I later read the notes, she was ashamed of me being so obviously gay… a gay child. The sight of me flouncing around upset David.
They tried to shut me down. The harder they tried the harder I fought back. They tried to cure me with anti psychotic drugs. They gave an 11-year-old gay child, badly abused at home… anti psychotic drugs.
I protected her from what others might say. I melted when she cried. She used her tears to avoid the truth. Any difficult subject… she would cry. One day I told her the crying wasn’t working. I wasn’t going to cry with her anymore. She stopped crying. She didn’t do it again. My mother does not deserve my protection. Sooner or later we are all owed the truth.
I was 22, I had a show in the West End. She didn’t take the train, she didn’t see the play. She couldn’t be anything other than embarrassed, four gay men talking about our gay lives. She didn’t see me at the Edinburgh Festival, she didn’t see me. She had excuses.
The next show, The Host performed in the Oyster Company great hall, my mother came with her sister Margaret and giggled in the back row ruining it for other people. She didn’t come to the ICA or Sadler’s Wells, she didn’t come to The Hen and Chickens. I don’t think she said a word when I won my place at a prestigious film school. To this day and to the best of my knowledge she has never seen any of my films.
I’ve never written about her in this blog, explored who she is or was. I never once described her casual homophobia. I wanted to believe she was a better person than she actually is. A better person than me. But she wasn’t… she accused my boyfriends of being gold diggers, made gay slurs about AIDS and ‘disgusting gay diseases’. She failed to ask about my relationships, my work and my life. When Joe and I bought a Porsche I was excited to show her.
She looked at it and said, “You ponce.”
That is the sort of woman she is. Yet, when she was homeless I let her have one of our homes… even though she was the one who walked out on David… taking nothing. Like so many women, she left it behind. She walked out on my inheritance.
I have loyally hidden her true nature. In the film AKA I did not reveal she colluded with my abusive father. I continually let her off the hook.
When she called to tell me my brothers had been sent to prison, she blamed the police, she blamed everyone but them. My brother Martin Roy sends an abusive note to my lawyer. I do not read it. He storms into the solicitor’s office and demands to see him.
Whitstable High Street. She’s nicely dressed. I tap her on the shoulder and say hello. She looks shocked. She looked beaten. She holds onto her friend, she links arms… as if I am going to be rip her away from them. I ask if we can have coffee. She shakes her head and looks like she might cry. “I don’t want to talk to him.” The other mothers try encouraging her to have coffee with me. They advise her to talk it through but my Mother dare not do that because she has been lying so long… she knows if she accepts a coffee it is time to tell the truth.
Her friends say, “She speaks so highly of you.”
“Really?” I reply. “She scarcely speaks to me at all.”
I ask them if my mother Frances Roy mentioned to them she did not tell me my father was dying of cancer, she did not tell me he had died and then concealed his funeral from us all. She grips hold of the other woman frantic, terrified. Her brain racing for a solution. Fear. I return to the car. She runs up the street as fast as her 73-year-old legs can carry her.
New Years Eve we sat in a small group in his sitting room. Whitstable people. An MBE, an artist, the celebrity gardener, the Michelin star chef, the academy award nominee and a couple of imported diplomats… friends of our host. He is wearing a djellaba. Black linen, a rust colored silk shawl and Saudi slippers. At midnight we toast the new year and hug. I check insta and snap chat. They are toasting in an ice palace in Reykjavik and the Sydney opera house. Sam Taylor Johnston posts random snaps of black men preparing her dinner and black men entertaining them with dancing.
The following day, New Years Day… we reconvene at Windy Corner Stores. At another table I see a man whose name I no longer remember, he has piercing blue eyes, he’s in a local band. I stare at him. He knows who I am. Like looking into the eyes of ones captor. Throughout my childhood this blue-eyed man mercilessly bullied me using gay slurs. I thought to myself, should I say something? He knows me. He knows what he did. I say nothing. I just stare.
A few days later I post this on the Overheard in Whitstable… Anything Goes, Facebook page.
Returning to Whitstable has been a positive experience. However, I’ve seen a few people around town who were openly and violently homophobic to me as I was growing up. I have never been ashamed of being gay and those who resorted to homophobia were the kind who resented ‘openly gay’ men, us who refused to be cowed by their hate. These people may now explain away their homophobia as a cultural phenomena but as with historical child abuse, historical homophobia must be answered to. Attitudes may have changed but the effects of homophobia should be acknowledged. If I see anyone in the town who was homophobic in my past I will remind them of their past cruelty. Most gay men in their 50’s either forsook marriage or children or waited until late in life. We lived through an aids epidemic. Whilst that was happening graffiti was written on the side of my house in island wall, it said: aids available here. LGBT people do not have to hide who we are and who we love. The privileged white men I have confronted so far claim they are the victim because I had the audacity to remind them of their hate. The homophobe, the racist, the misogynist is not the victim. Those who peddle hate must own it and make amends.
Of course, this note punctured Whitstable’s fragile, dark heart. I am harangued and homophobicly abused. Along side the homophobic abuse, energetic white people assure me nobody cares anymore if you are black, gay, fat… etc. As long as you keep quiet about it. If you complain… these illogicals demand you pipe down. It is still typical for white heterosexual people to shut down gay people who have the audacity to share their negative experience and challenge homophobia.
Of course, being a public figure I am used to the abuse. I have never been compliant.
I was most interested to hear from one commentator, Kris Howell. The rest: feckless female trolls, thin-lipped and spray tanned, their dyed hair in lank bangs. When I returned fire with equally vile invective they became outraged, like prodding a termites nest. The little termites ran around screaming.
For my amusement I suggested to one morbidly obese woman she may be in receipt of benefits. An excellent way to upset an oik. I found a picture of her wedding, her huge pink body wrapped up in acres of synthetic fabric. Her husband, pallid and inert. She told me she owned three cars. ‘You think I’d be on benefits with £70,000 worth of cars in front of my house.” It brought into sharp contrast just how different their world is from mine. I looked at my watch and smiled.
Kris Howell, better known as Les (ironically he also changed his name) caught my interest because once reeled in said exactly what I expected to hear. He wanted me to know he had bullied me not because I am gay… but because I am me.
He refused to differentiate between the two. As if the two could be separated.
Compliant homosexuals put up with being picked on, bullied, imprisoned and generally kicked around. They learn how to be invisible. Those of us who refuse to go quietly are branded difficult, hated for not keeping quiet. Other gay men who play the game as prescribed by straight white people are just as offended when a fellow gay rocks the boat. As the trolls railed and raged over my post the local gay hairdresser pinned his colors to their mast not realizing he had been co-opted into a seething pit of homophobes.
Les Howell refused, despite reasoned argument, to grasp that being gay had defined me, and I have good reason to be angry and better reason to fight back. How did a ten-year old me deal with being repeatedly called pooftah and bleached nigger at school? I was keenly aware of both racism and homophobia. We were taught by the vicar of St Alphage that the black boy sitting naked before Christ was a savage and would not know how to use a toilet. My uncle Norman confirmed this by pointing at black children, reminding me they were filthy savages.
Remember, even though homosexuality had been decriminalized by Woolfenden in 1965 gay men were still being arrested for consensual sex well into the 1980’s. I was born a criminal and I had every reason to be angry but that anger, as the years passed, turned me into something I would have preferred not to have been.
Yet, as Les Howell spewed his vitriol, so full of hate… like most enraged fools, he lost his grasp on reason. It was perfectly ok to remind the world of a man’s indiscretions he said, but not his triumphs. He told me he was law-abiding but balked when I reminded him both his friends Stuart and Martin Roy had been in prison for worse crimes than spending money on a credit card.
Like most fascists his argument have nothing to do with logic and what he may or may not think of me… and everything to do with who he is and the resentments he carries. Hate, like water, will find its level. It will seep into everything and rot where ever it remains.
He wanted me to know I was a liar. He said, “You were a liar before you went to prison and you’ve never learned your lesson.” I wondered what the lesson should be? And I thought, you know, lying is a particularly gay thing. I called Stephen Fry and we talked about gays and lying. The genesis of our fantastical lives. He had also gone to prison. He had stolen credit cards from other people, I had merely run up a huge bill on my own credit card. The difference? He would still have gone to prison in 2018, I would not.
Why do gay men lie? We lie to save ourselves. We lie until we come out of the closet. The longer we are in the closet the more we lie, the easier it becomes, there is no longer a taboo. The truth is negotiable.
The following day the trolls were chattering on-line like agitated chimps. Upset ’cause I had removed the thread. “Has he tagged you?” The wannabe silver back asks the girl with thin lips. He is holding up his metaphorical pool cue reminding everyone he won the argument. He won the fight. They talked cryptically about rinsing and reeling people in and unicorns. The woman in the synthetic wedding dress said she was sick of being maligned (my word not hers). A couple of them private messaged me in the hope I would re-engage.
Anything Goes’ on this Facebook site simply means: trolls and their dumb friends get to spew hate at anyone they feel they can bully and misinterpret, using xenophobia, misogyny, racism and homophobia as their weapons of choice. Their lives do not bear scrutiny. They are neither patriots nor evolved. They hide behind fake accounts because their truth is unbearable. They lie yet cannot bear anything but the truth in others, they insult but cannot stand being insulted.
They are kids in the school toilet. Writing notes and passing them around, scrawling over pictures, insulting who they believe are more vulnerable.
Dealing with the mass market can be very revealing. The British general public, like the woman in the white synthetic dress, are presently emboldened by Brexit.
The following day I had tea with Barry Green at his hotel, The Continental. His son Richard was my best friend in the 80’s. We talked about Brexit. He told me he was a keen leaver and I asked him why. I’ve always respected Barry. I want somebody I respect to convince me Brexit is good for the country. I want to be wrong about Brexit. Barry Green was the second successful business owner, Susanna Atkins at The Goods Shed in Canterbury was the first, who came out to me as a stalwart brexiteer.
Actually George Wilson, our local Scottish millionaire, was the third but we didn’t get past talking planning permission.
I am fascinated by their Brexit. How it works for them? Susanna’s family (sons and cousins) had to bring in the harvest last year because they couldn’t get anyone to work on their farm. Susanna thought it was great, she suggested we all bring in the harvest. As it was, long ago. I could not imagine the sickly woman in the synthetic wedding dress on her knees in the fields. She might have a word or two to say about that when the local aristo land owner requisitions her, dragging her screaming from her smart phone, from Celebrity Big Brother on her giant flat screen… to pick asparagus for the 1%.
Barry told me he voted Brexit… he assured me not because of immigration (he is married to an Eastern European) but because of the common agricultural and fisheries policy. Ok, I said, so who is going to write the new agricultural and fisheries policy for the UK? Barry didn’t know what sort of policy or quota we would have after Brexit because he thought we might not have one at all.
“Do you think a free-for-all out at sea will work fine for our fisherman and fish stocks?” I inquired.
Both Susanna and Barry think the country will be best served by an army of artisans, baking bread, catching fish and selling our surplus to who ever wants to buy it. They believe their small-scale business model can be translated into something the whole country will adopt, setting the country free from the rest of the world. They crave autonomy, they crave sovereignty. They resent the rules, they want to catch what ever they want when they want it and bugger the cod stocks. They know what is best for the people if only we can return to simpler, less complicated ways. Bringing in the harvest with a new peasant class and take what we want from the sea as we need it.
Profit now, conservation later. They believe in the Dunkirk spirit. They believe the English will overcome adversity. An adversity we created for ourselves… we now delight in overcoming. Meanwhile the EU are preparing a no deal Brexit while our government prepare for nothing. Hurtling toward an arbitrary date when we fall gently off the cliff.
Barry Green sat on the brown leather Chesterfield whilst we chewed over the past. I congratulated him his success. He told me I was the kind of person who could have done anything. I remind him, I’ve done more than most.
“Those houses you sold are worth £3 million pounds now.”
“But I wouldn’t have had any adventure, Barry.”
He remembered the play we performed in the Oyster Company, the summer of 1985. “The red knickers.” He chuckled. “Tatiana’s red knickers.”
“Do you remember the vase of blue Corn Flowers?”
“Yes,” he marveled.
I’m not going to explain. You had to be there.
The dogs curled up on the sofa. They ate cheese. They are still sleeping. It’s midday. They don’t have to worry about the pig and the dog we shared our time with these past few weeks in Barnes. We are going to walk in the rain. We are going to meet him, feel his soft skin under his coat. Just like the old days. Kissing in the street.
It’s been months since we last spoke. My harried exit from the USA only made our separation more dramatic. Those last fraught days before Abby drove me over the border. I had no time to explain, no time to say goodbye. Of course, I saw your brother in Seville but he provided scant consolation. I think about you often… and why not? We saw each other frequently. In lieu of our conversations I imagined your first experience of burning man. I wonder with a wry, affectionate grin your house filling with even more bits and pieces.
Toward the end of my time in the USA Ithink you knew just how miserable, trapped and disappointed I had become. Increasingly overwhelmed by my hatred for almost everyone except you. I wanted you to know just how relaxed I am here. It’s not Nirvana but I can travel, I can speak English to those who understand and most of all? The problems I encounter here I can deal with more than adequately. I would rather the English disappoint me than strangers from another shore.
The gays here do not confuse me with some character they’ve seen on TV. And even tho I might say I don’t want to fall in love… it’s maybe because I don’t dare love possible.
I’ve no idea if we will ever meet again. If we have anything more to say to each other but I wanted you to know how grateful I was. We had a blast. I wanted you to know that I love you very much.
My journey across Europe has been deliciously eventful. However, these past few weeks in Dorset were perhaps the most scintillating… and British.
My time on the West Dorset/East Devon border bound by upper class British convention. Rules of social engagement forged over hundreds of years by our ruling class… manners maketh the man. Rules, before my stint in the USA, I adhered to (mostly) and challenged unsuccessfully.
In the USA I learned a different social practice and without my daily dose of British self loathing I learned a very useful trick most Brits seem oblivious: Self Esteem. Consequently, revisiting the rules governing so much of our British social life has been a little disorienting because… I am Johnny Foreigner and the brits at play (and in the house of commons) behaving more like inchoate, chattering chimps than adroit conversationalist.
The British, upon meeting a stranger, like any un-evolved primate seek to assert themselves over the other and on rare occasions and only when deem appropriate… defer. A British person, full ape… will never give in to money, power or prestige. They’ll give up their seat on the british bus but only to those they assess are born to sit in it.
Socially, the Brits engage a very specific modus operandi.
Firstly, they establish the worth of the other. They quickly seek to discover reasons for any shame he/she should feel for merely being alive: At Monkton Wyld Court, Simon Fairlie’s obnoxious wife Gill Baron the imperious editor of The Land Magazine, rearing up on her hind legs, reminded me I had been expelled from Monkton Wyld School even though Gill conveniently forgets both she and her clochard husband were also expelled.
Bette Bright, whilst grooming another female in the pack, wanted me to remember I had once pretended to be a Lord. Another creepy petit bourgeois reptile told me I didn’t deserve my accent. All of which would have once caused me to flinch when I lived in the UK. After so long in the USAthis British social venom fails to work as I carry more than enough antidote.
As it turns out, the critical gaze of a posh, British person is surprisingly easy to ignore. The shaming swipe effortlessly parried. The knowing laugh means nothing at all and hangs in the air like a fresh fart. Their sly, snaggle toothed grin makes the posh Brit look like they have learning difficulties. I was surprised by how often these rather crude techniques were used and how unsophisticated the most sophisticated Brit appears once you lift up his skirt and smell his unwashed cunt.
Bette Bright, married to singer and TV entertainer Suggs from the band Madness was the first Brit who wanted to remind me of my place. The very notion of one’s place is so uniquely British. As I was leaving a not so amusing Sunday lunch party in Whitstable with my friend Simon Martin, director of The Pallant Gallery, Bette sat bloated and over dressed, her fat cheeks once sweetly girlish now pock-marked and scribbled with red, broken veins. She wore green, over-sized bakelite jewelry, a large bottom impeding her journey.
I had once been very friendly with her sister Alana who died of pancreatic cancer. Attempting to make me uncomfortable she announced across the table, “Lord Anthony Rensdlesham, wasn’t it?” I was momentarily stunned as I had no cause to be reminded of that particular adventure, not for twenty years or more. Remember… I am not my story. Perhaps the best and most enduring gift AA afforded me. As Anthony Rendlesham had once been my name I was thrown into a different world. A centuries old world of sophistication, Fortuny and… Falconetti.
I asked her why she wanted to remind me of something I had lived 40 years ago. What was her aim? If her aim was to shame me… she had failed. I wondered out loud why a straight, white, affluent woman was trying to shame a gay person of color.
“How rude! ” She said.
“White fragility, white heterosexual fragility.” I replied.
She looked perplexed by my comment. “I have lots of gay friends.”
“And you learned nothing from them? Bette Bright, gay men know a great deal about reinvention… so odd you’ve not had that conversation. Didn’t you reinvent yourself Bette?”
I continued with vigor.
“Yes. Of course you did. You were born plain Anne Martin. Dull Anne. Well, dear, what’s good for the gander… is good for this goose. You may call me Lord Anthony Rendlesham.”
I swept out of the party. Leaving her spluttering into her summer pudding.
A theme emerged forcibly throughout the rest of my journey. I asked my friend the Weymouth born artist Graham Snow if he too experienced homophobia amongst the affluent, the ruling class, the petit bourgeois. He blurted out a list of ghastly things he puts up with. He is quite the most lonely person I have ever met, made more lonely by his so-called ‘friends’ who do not want the best for him.
Like Lucy Ferry making disparaging remarks about Lee McQueen’s rough east end boyfriends. Those woman kept that boy lonely. They used him, like Graham is used by unscrupulous heterosexuals. Graham, born in the 40’s, was shielded from the true horror of the most virulent hatred of the gays by his friendship with extraordinary men… like David Hockney and John Schlesinger. He has thick, thick skin after enduring years of glancing blows from the casual homophobe.
Homophobia is real and crippling and we dare not talk about it just in case it makes us vulnerable. A British aristocrat loves to mine another’s vulnerability. Reminding you he is whiter, more well-bred, more heterosexual and closer to the crown than YOU.
Perhaps I’m looking for trouble. Perhaps I’m too sensitive. Perhaps the blonde, female fitness instructor who has coffee at Dave’s Deli in Whitstable is not a homophobe but just doesn’t like me. There seems nothing worse to a recent Whitstable resident than these words: I was born here.
I am not an easy gay, I am not the kind of gay man who ignores a casual homophobic aside. If ‘Woodsy’ the window cleaner wonders why I am in Whitstable and doesn’t like it… maybe he’s scared I know a little too much about his past.
After a rather grueling tour via Swanage of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast with Graham Snow, he took me to the home of some very English sub aristocrats for dinner. Writer Jason Goodwin, son of Jocasta Innes and his very Nigella Lawson type wife. Their house was a typical English country affectation. A Christopher Gibbs pastiche thrown together with no money. Piles of rotting books, sagging sofas and a smokey fireplace. Their dogs were aggressive and needy, they want to sit on your lap then bite your hand. The food was overcooked, the conversation tepid… I sat opposite our host and a charming Italian woman Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council and an Oxford don who loathed Jeremy Corbyn and still believed in slavery.
A forlorn, bald man sat beside the don, Matthew Rice whose wife Emma Bridgewater had recently and very abruptly left him. She had not mentioned him, he wailed, on Desert Island Disks. Apparently it is sexist to ask if she is menopausal. Now she has gone (she is not coming back) perhaps Mr Rice should bite the gay bullet. I mean… he can’t possibly be straight. Can he? Years of stenciling fowl onto earthenware might betray something of the fey in a man.
During the second course (roast lamb) shop keeper and Poundbury apologist Ben Pentreath arrived. A very British, gay handful. His simpering, tongue tied husband in tow… brutally eclipsed by Ben’s scintillating, room filling persona. Ben excused himself… they had been to another party. The dull husband threw Katie a huge bunch of vulgar dahlias. Ben had stories to tell and took charge of the table as best he could. He mocked his boss Prince Charles with an uninspired impersonation. Our host and hostess gasped and giggled like naughty Victorian children enthralled by a Zoetrope, tittering at everything the clown queen regaled.
Ben and his pretty husband live in a parsonage not far from Jason and Katie. The house has been ‘published’. They show me pictures in a magazine of Ben’s equally annoying interior. Stuck in a grim place where a potager is still essential and an escritoire ‘sublime’. More stuff. Acres of stuff. Rooms full of stuff. Stuff Poundbury bought. Stuff set against emerald walls, set against raspberry blancmange, more and more, lustre ware, vulgar dahlias… bunches and bunches of them.
After dinner I sank uncomfortably into the sofa, consumed by horse hair and damp feathers. Ben wanted to introduce me to the ‘most perfect’ man.
“I have the most perfect man for you!”
Announcing to the room I needed a boyfriend. I told him to google me. I couldn’t imagine he would want to introduce me to anyone after he had read everything there is to read about me…
“I don’t want a boyfriend,” I said.
Jason sat beside me. Looking intently. He asked why I didn’t want a boyfriend. I told him a little of my story. Unpacking the bags. I mentioned coming out at 13, he asked dismissively why it was so important to ‘come out’.
“Ask your best friend Ben,” I said. Ben balked.
Ben ditched the resting bitch face and looked quite real, momentarily. He told Jason he was 27 when he came out, when he told his brother he was gay his brother reacted very negatively. Jason was shocked. I realized these two men who claim to be best friends don’t know each other… at all.
Jason Goodwin, enjoying his casual homophobia, sneered at my sadness for all the men I knew who died of AIDS, questioning my PTSD. Jason sneered harder when I told him how the lgbt community must still fight for equality and wondered why I let cruel Section 28 affect me. Jason, like so many men of his class, thought us impudent for wanting more. Now he sits in the front row of his gay best friend’s wedding. As for Ben Pentreith, what fight did he put up? He let the rest of us do the heavy lifting. At his wedding he scarcely gave a thought to the men who sacrificed so much for his happy day.
As a deliciously uncomfortable postscript I made Ben describe how gay hook up apps like Grindr and Scruff work to the assembled crew of stodgy heterosexuals. It was gleefully entertaining. “Scruff?” They repeated disdainfully. They wrinkled their noses, fanning away the imagined smell of the word.
I met a man I had brief crush upon, He was blond and sensitive and sturdy. I didn’t make a move. I think I would have fallen in love. I bought him a bottle of gin.
Monkton Wyld. I was staying in the house of a retired Dr and his Christian wife. They were touring Australia and New Zealand. The Monkton Wyld rectory was filled with opaque plastic boxes containing a life of habitual collecting. Bits and pieces. Scraps of fabric, knitting needles, tapestry. Every room has a sofa, even the dining room. The Christian wife does not want to live anywhere other than the huge house in the country where she keeps her charming husband hostage. He wants to live in Australia near his adored kids. They’ve brought a little slice of Surrey to the vail of Monkton Wyld. Tennis courts, over planted herbaceous borders, a rockery and sweeping lawns. Their staircase and landing is painted a delightful jade color but she doesn’t like it. She wants to paint it, he doesn’t want to spend £3000. She is unhappy. They are unhappy.
They left the house. Went away for 6 weeks. When they returned she had read all about me on the internet. I could see from her pinched lips, her sallow… indirect look. Too much of a coward to look me in the face and tell me what she really thought. Her Christianity didn’t allow her to approve of gay men. Even though she has a bisexual daughter. So she dressed up her disapproval with a shocking number of complaints about my stay at their house. The water pump had stopped working and would cost them £1,800 to put right. Some of the plants in the greenhouse had died. There was dog shit in the herbaceous borders. I had bought the wrong cat food.
There is a field at the bottom of their garden the local disliked farmer wants to sell. I hope someone buys the field and builds a big beautiful house in that field souring their perfect view. Perhaps I will.
Whilst in Dorset I took a little road trip 50 miles North to see Rachel Campbell-Johnston who was once the lover and friend of Sebastian Horsley. She is the art critic for the London Times. The final weeks of my drug use was spent with her and Sebastian. I specifically remember her vomiting out of a black cab on Kensington High St after doing reams of cocaine in 1997. The taxi driver looked so disappointed.
“What’s a pretty girl like you behaving like this.” he said.
Well, Rachel made millions from property investments (selling an old shed in Kensal Rise to Bella Freud) and bought an austere house near South Molton on Exmoor. She lives there with her daughter Katya, her mother, lurchers and two funny goats. Her marriage to my friend Jayne’s husband, Willy spectacularly failed. Their friends forced to take sides.
“Don’t talk about it!” She demanded.
I had totally forgotten she married Willy Nickerson, now she wants me to forget all over again. We reminisced about Whitstable. The Peter Cushing House. She attempted to shame me by wondering if I owned the house in Whitstable, or did it belong to someone else?
“No, it was mine.” I smiled, her icy stare not altering the temperature one jot.
“I didn’t own the house in Adam and Eve Mews.” I added, “That was my boyfriend’s.”
“Your dogs are so fucking ugly.” She said.
As if on cue one of her lurchers grabbed a huge leg of pork from the kitchen table and ran off with it. Rachel sprinted after the dog and returned with the mangled joint. She put it in the oven. “That’s what country folk do.” She said.
She remembered visiting me in Whitstable with Sebastian, Tricia and Paul Simonon from The Clash. She pointed at the bottle of wine on the kitchen table.
“We own these vineyards.”
I looked at her. Carefully. Wondering if she would ever grow up and make sense of what it might mean to be a wife and mother. She had failed so spectacularly at both.
The following day we sat with Laura and Peter Carew who I found myself liking a great deal. I reminded them I had been nominated for an academy award and gone to Sundance and opened many film festivals all over the world, which is far more than most of the wannabees we hung out with who told you they would… but never did.
“Look at his dogs,” Rachel spewed,”They are so fucking ugly.”
Although the Carew’s house is jammed with stuff like the houses of all these country people it is welcoming and warm. Lunch, a couple of chops and some salad. It suits Laura very much to have staff and land. Sheep and cattle. She’s only a decade from living on Exmoor full-time. Giving in to the lure of headscarves, tweed skirts, lambing, and driving a Landrover full tilt over the sodden moor.
I didn’t drive home the night I left Exmoor. I hanker for the sea. For Lyme Regis.
I was happy to see it. Lyme will always remind me of my first great love: Gerard Falconetti, grand son of Renee Jeanne. He played Meryl Streep’s real-time lover in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He was my lover and friend, he was also the first man I knew during those heady times to die of AIDS. When the doctors told him he would die of that cruel and terrible disease he threw himself from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse.
Bradford on Avon. September. I’m looking over her gently terraced garden, sitting at the desk of an old friend in her honey coloured Georgian house. The sun peeking out from an angry, black cloud. Gold finches at the bird table, brambles growing into the Kent Cobb Nut tree, blackberries ripe and ready to harvest. Beyond this garden there are 18th century terraces built of crumbling bath stone. There is a freshly planted parterre, the tiny box hedges won’t be ready for another two years. Box grows so slowly. All over the English countryside gardeners tend their neatly trimmed topiary, privet sculpted into elegant forms. The muscles in my back and neck are still tender from the last few months of anxious reckoning.
From my home in the USA… things are grim. That’s that. AMERICA. Every day the news gets worse. Trump’s white supremacist vision for the USA. Unpicking every half-hearted Obama achievement. Making the point of his white presidency to undo a black man’s legacy. Indisputable evidence… I escaped at the right time. I can’t understand people who stick around. What more do they need to see or hear before they leave that god forsaken Trump hole?
The most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.”
Thankfully I’m home. Home in England. I left my friends in Chamonix after we enjoyed a few days vacation in Northern Italy and yet another adventure on the Tuscan coast. I drove to Paris, left Dude with my friend Mary and the following day Little Dog and I caught the P&O ferry to Dover where I met my sister Roya. A few miles later I was sitting on the sunny lawn of my friend’s lavish Queen Anne mansion reconfigured in 1911 by Edward Lutyens.
It was the first time I’d met my sister, we’d spent a few years skyping since she introduced herself online. Now, here she was in all her lesbian glory with her delightful girlfriend drinking champagne on the velvet lawns of the English countryside. I’m sure she felt anxious. I’m sure she felt confused. We have ten brothers and sisters.
I’ve avoided England. Voting from afar, now I return. I must admit… I’m in love with you, the English, in love with you all. I understand you, you are gentle, even the hardest amongst you. You’ll never be as inflexible and humorless as the Americans. On the ferry home I listened to two middle-aged couples describing their lives on the roads of Europe. Motor homes. I envied them. On the road. Free. Unencumbered.
For the first time, however, the British have been divided. Not along lines of class or political affiliation but whether one is a brexiteer or not. Tentatively enquiring when one meets a friend if they voted for or against brexit. They might be that kind of person. Yet, as I waited at the traffic lights in Camden Town I saw a river of diversity. So unique, colorful… so English. Evidence just there on that grimy North London street: thousands of years of cultural amalgamation.
Our leaders seem so terribly out of step with the people they lead.
The English are very sweet. A ready smile, a polite greeting, they have a charming disposition. Drivers thank you for courteous driving, we stick to the correct lanes on the motorway. The British are engaging and inquisitive. After so many years walking streets in the USA, I gave up saying good morning or smiling at strangers. Here is a nation of men and women who without hesitation are eager to trust, eager to forgive and desperately want to smile whenever they chance upon a stranger.
Perhaps it’s me? Perhaps I am so happy to be back they recognise my unbridled happiness? I don’t think so. It’s them, the British, naturally optimistic, even though they are unaware of their optimism. They can’t see it. They would disagree if I told them to their face.
I was excited to see my home town, but I was too tired to drive to Whitstable the night I arrived. I planned to go after my sister and her girlfriend left but instead I crept into a huge bed with the Little Dog and slept soundly. In the morning I found the wonderful Barham Community Store, read the newspaper then headed up the M2 to the north Kent coast.
I parked the car on Harbour Street and had coffee at Dave’s Deli, he was adorable. His sister works there. We talked about Richard Green. He has been very sick. Everyone I met seemed delighted to see me and hugged me or shook my hand vigorously. People I’d known all my life. Half a century or more.
Yet, for all the time passed since I first cycled up Harbour Street at 7 years old on my red tricycle… not much has changed. There’s more money but there’s more money swamping the south-east, all the way to Margate. I explored the town and lingered outside all three of my houses. They were just as I left them. The house on Island Wall has a very smart garden and the house next door has nice new Victorian sash windows. Number 3 Seaway Cottages on Wavecrest (owned by Peter Cushing before me) is a little forlorn. The owner hasn’t been there all summer and the garden has overgrown terribly. Number 2 Seaway Cottages has been renovated several times since I left, they have built a 20 foot kitchen onto the back of the house. Thankfully they kept the expensive door handles and light switches.
I didn’t miss the houses on Whitstable beach, not one little bit. They were mine, I sold them for a huge profit and I moved on. People ask if I miss the money they would be worth now and I remind them they are only worth money when you sell them. I miss them not at all, they gave me the oppertunity to move on in style. I have never wished to be there again, no nostalgia… no regret. Not like Malibu… I hanker after Malibu.
Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Some uppity British people are very eager to remind you of your place in society, reminding me of my own ancient history… but I’m an American now so those archaic rules don’t apply to me.
I’ll never recover from my love of LA. However badly it treated me. I will never forget our ill-fated house in Malibu. The restaurant at the end of the pier. The Jacaranda, the delicate pepper trees, those tall palms glistening like cellophane when the rains finally came. Have you seen Pharrell’s video for his song Happy? That’s how I’ll remember LA. The light, the streets, down town Los Angeles, the fat and the thin. Looking heavenward, remembering why we moved there armed only with dreams. Pleading for security, good traffic, and a god who loves us even if the dream slips further from our grasp…
When I left LA I earned more money than I ever earned. What foolishness made me give it up? Fear. The same fear I had in NY and no longer feel here in Europe. Fear of the speeding bullet, the rogue cop, fear of mud slides, wild fires… and me.
Last week I purged almost all the white, American gay men from my Facebook friends list. When I announced I was doing so… Facebook banned me for a week. Thank you Big Brother, no Facebook means no compulsive checking. I didn’t recognize any of the gay white American men who claimed to know me, or I had friended because I am weak and colluded with the notion the gays gather as many other gays around them as we possibly can so we may perpetuate the myth of gay solidarity.
According to Facebook, this declaration to purge unknown faces from my FB page was hate speak.
I was an unwilling participant in an anonymous gay web. I don’t know the 50 people we have in common. I don’t want to know the 28 mutual friends. The 42 people who don’t know each other more than passing their clone on Robertson, Old Compton St, Commercial Street or Ocean Walk. Lives as the gays chose to document on FB, so utterly boring, so stultifyingly limited. Haunting the same locations, using exactly the same language we used 50 years ago… and on… the perpetual hunt, the same miserable polemic. One hundred thousand likes for a shirtless picture. A million Instagram followers for the most perfectly honed of them.
Recently a young gay man, beset by righteous indignation, complained to his 5 thousand followers his profile pic had been stolen and used on a well-known dating app. I wondered out loud (amongst the commiseration) why they had bothered stealing the image? The picture they appropriated was so utterly boring, so drearily identical to any number of equally dull gay men. There was nothing distinguished or vaguely fascinating about the stolen photograph. My comment caused OUTRAGE.
Their outrage is misplaced. The gays are so often angry but unwilling to take action. Emboldened by changing laws: each new generation of gays relive their very own glasnost, embracing ersatz activism. Their muscle drag and occasional militancy leads nowhere. Built like warriors, Spartans… fucking not fighting. Marching in the gay parade, holding their radical (campy) signs high above their heads then… a few hours later it’s back to the soupy hot tub for more identically built/identically aged/undressed… perpetual strangers. Cock first, talk later.
I seemed, during my time in the USA, to know two types of (repugnant) white gay men:
1. Semi aquatic gays who hang out in hot tubs and swimming pools. Boasting on-line about their open relationships, their poly amorous lives, one assumes they are ok smelling the stench of other men’s cum over their husband’s perfectly sculpted bodies.
2. Then there are gays like John Derian, the fay New York based purveyor of knickknacks. Publishing pictures of their grand houses, their grand friends, their holidays in equally magnificent surroundings. They need me to know what they eat, how they dress their surrogate children, how they arrange flowers and prepare the canape. These gays have open relationships built on mergers and acquisitions. Choosing men as they choose tuba roses at the farmers market. As far from love and monogamy as one can get.
The purge is complete. The result of this time-consuming exercise? My feed as dictated by Big Brother’s algorithms is now more representative of who I am. People I know in the world posting pictures of things I want to look at, asking questions I can answer, engaging meaningfully with me.
Good God! I knew so many white, American gays, fledgling proto fascists. Echoing fake news, convincing one after another what they want to us all to believe… amplifying easily digestible myths then greedily consuming them like protein bars. Post by post confirming their collective denial of what the gay community has become and where the community is headed.
During the election the noise of the myth makers in the pink echo chamber became deafening. Everyone, of course, claimed to know Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager. Armed with their exclusive Robby Mook whispers they convinced themselves and others Hillary Clinton was unassailable. They believed everyone was thinking just like them. The violence I suffered at their hands when I told them bluntly they were wrong… was worse than any abuse I had ever suffered from any heterosexual homophobe. As it turned out, my take on the gay community was right… they were indeed wrong. Trump won.
I heard, via my own sources, Clinton beat Mook on the chest, crying and wailing…
Now the gays are right behind the liberal ‘reds in the bed’ narrative. Unquestioningly wedded to the dream of impeachment. Telling each other it’s only a matter of time before Trump is gone for good. They shyly, foolishly ask their friends on Facebook if another election will take place? After all, they bleat, we won the popular vote… even if the Russians lost Clinton the election. Their muddled polemic evolved amongst their good-looking selves on social media. Like in needle point class they stitch the narrative of their dreams as if it were true. Trump will be impeached they chant, Trump… is not my President!
My most violent confrontations on social media seems to erupt when I challenge American gay white men to explain how, as they claim, if they were hypothetically living in Nazi Germany would they take on Nazis? Contrary to their stringency most of the white gays I know would have willingly signed up to become Nazis… like most Germans did, to save their scrawny asses and of course wear the fabulous black and gold Gestapo uniforms.
My friend Bettina’s father, he lived in Germany during the war, told me he only heard about the concentration camps from annoying conspiracy theorists. The sort of people one didn’t want to believe. He was genuinely shocked, at the end of the war, to see the truth.
Few people are brave enough to challenge the regime under which they live. Most American white gays are incredibly comfortable. What would motivate any them to up sticks… unless forced to? Until the knock on the door. The stench of unwashed policemen in the kitchen demanding ‘papers’. Looking for evidence of homosexuality. The gays would hang on ’til the last-minute… until the authorities came looking for them.
The dumbest gays think in 1930 they would still enjoy the connectivity they enjoy today… their mobile phones and the internet. They think they would have access to a large group of similarly minded people, their mutual friends on Facebook. They do not understand the isolation of the activist. Activists in 1930 constantly wondered if they were the only human alive who thought the system… the regime was wrong. They were scared to articulate thoughts and ideas with others for fear of being arrested. Even gay or lesbian friends could not be trusted… lgbt friends regularly turned acquaintances over to the party for punishment.
Activists are often annoying, their message difficult to hear.
The pink triangle worn by gay men in the German concentration camps was the worst of all the badges… because it so often lead to violent and unexpected death from both guards and other inmates, the Jews in the camps would kill a gay wearing a pink triangle as easily as the Nazi. The Pink Triangle became something to aim at by bored soldiers looking for something to kill. Alan Davies the well-known and well-loved British comedian, lived in Whitstable whilst at Kent and Canterbury University. We knew each other but we were not particularly friendly. He wore a pink triangle badge into The Neptune pub in solidarity with the gays… yet continually indulged in casual and not so casual homophobia. He enjoyed his white heterosexual entitlement and when I challenged him to take off the badge he angrily determined it was his right to wear the triangle regardless of a gay man telling him he had not earned the privilege.
In the Neptune Pub I was told with sneering contempt marriage equality would never happen in my life time. Sadly, I believed them. However hard I fight, I thought, I’ll never live in a fair and equitable world.
When I made a fuss others insisted it didn’t matter. Making a fuss = activism.
Physically and verbally attacked for articulating (complaining) the iniquity and injustice gays endured every day. Made my friends feel uncomfortable.
Complaining = Activism
I wore pale blue overalls in LA County to determine I am gay. For all the world to see. There can be no mistaking what you are. They like to know exactly what they are dealing with… the authorities. Making me wear a pale blue uniform taught me a huge lesson. It flagged to the others: I am what you see me to be. I no longer enjoy invisibility. You will never let me forget my vulnerability. I am at your mercy. I learned what it was to be black in the USA wearing those overalls. My human rights lawyers assigned by the ACLU… Barry Litt and Lindsay Battles, perhaps the most ghastly people I ever met, never really understood how egregious the uniform was. They didn’t understand much other than their own egos. I hated them. I hated being around them.
I left the USA because I could no longer excuse how many innocent black men were murdered by the police paid by my tax dollars… and I asked myself: what would it take for me to think enough is enough and the first plane away? How could I justify living in a country that exploits vulnerability in all? All Americans I know, republican, democrat or progressive, buy into this version of capitalism: VULNERABILITY equals OPPORTUNITY. It is their DNA, add this to their inability to own up to uncomfortable historical facts about race and the people they displaced to live in the USA… and you have Donald Trump’s America, no different from how it always was but now the mask has gone.
Trump is going to be here for a long time. Get used to it. Nobody cares about the Russians, nobody cares if Trump is a fucking idiot. Everybody is now fully committed to the drama, the intensity of his high-octane reality TV style presidency. And get this, after his second term you’ll be voting for Ivanka who I assure you will be the first female american president.
Of course, not all gay white men believe we live in an unfair society. Since the wobbly supreme court equal marriage determination (so easily overturned) some white gay men think they are equal… the fight has been won. Even with Trump as president they convince themselves they are no longer vulnerable to exploitation. They are wrong. I am the annoying activist you don’t want to hear… to remind white American gays the battle is never won, the freedom you think you have is being eroded at this very moment in some back room at the Whitehouse in a deal between rabid Christians and some crazy Trumpista. We must always stay vigilant. Our battles fought honestly, not forged in the Supreme Court but in Congress and the Senate for all the world to see.
What used to be a trickle of exceptionalism that marred a tiny portion of the white gay male community has recently become a lethal torrent. Perceived ‘equality’ has revealed the true nature of many, many gay white men. No longer humbled by their treatment at the hands of an unfair, homophobic society they have sprung ahead of the pack, claiming that a ‘seat at the table’ is not good enough… instead we must build, decorate and chair the table… governing any meeting it may entertain. Moreover, we don’t really want to share the table with anyone other than really, really good-looking gay white men who all agree and never get angry.
Being gay is like joining a cult.
At gay AA… the greeters don’t greet you unless you are ‘hot’ or ‘famous’.
A Provincetown celebrity (aren’t they all) posted a picture of his smiling mug along side two other grinning, bearded gay men. All three based in Provincetown, on perpetual vacation, they look for all the world as if they are happy. As if they are care free… as if trouble seldom blights their gay paradise. Great pic! They may very well use the pic and pics like them to lure boys on a well-known gay hook up app. In gay paradise everything is perfect. That’s what they insist you believe. Of course… scratch a little beneath the surface of any gay man and one releases the foul odor of resentment, addiction, crippling narcissism and judgement.
I mentioned to Jim Lande who posted the pic that everyone seems so happy all the time in Provincetown? He replied, “Only for the deserving.” Of course, we know what that means. Jim means there is no room in a perfect gay society for an opposing view, an ugly mug, for poverty, for people of color, for mental illness… the deserving are hand-picked from the glut of meat delivered weekly to Provincetown, Fire Island and resorts like them.
Jim describes himself as a Boulevardier, a bohemian… he compliments a video I posted of Sebastian Horsley my great friend… I remind him that Sebastian was a bohemian, Jim is just a gay man wearing a velvet jacket… there’s a difference. He retracts the word bohemian from his description. He attempts to shame me for going to a boarding school that helps kids who have been abused. It’s the gay go to punishment: SHAME. Did you read that? This exceptional, best little boy who worked in government all his life spying on the good people of the United States is doing what the rancid gay does best… he is trying to shame me for something I could not help. I had no say.
Jim Lande is trapped in Provincetown, posting pics of his amazing life, his amazing friends… he posts endless reviews of the film he helped fund, Love is Strange by Ira Sachs. He describes Ira as a ‘Hollywood Darling.’ Blighted by gay exceptionalism… he reminds me how much money he is going to make, the awards they will win… the plaudits they receive.
Dan spends his summer hop-scotching across the world from gay resort to gay cruise to gay sightseeing. He travels in a pack of identical men. The same age, the same color, the same body weight, hair distribution, the same dietary obsessions… the same unresolved traumas. He is the ‘deserving’.
I met a young man on-line the other day. We had the briefest moment of intimacy. He is ‘desperate’ to be in the film industry. He is ‘discreet’ which is short hand for: I’m careful who I tell I’m gay and what I’m into because it might ruin my career chances. He’s not scared that straight people will find out, little Austin is scared the gays will judge him, the gays will shame him. He doesn’t want gay men to know anything. He is secretive, sneaky and as a result… thoroughly unattractive. He has built himself a hybrid closet (like a panic room) protecting himself from the gays.
(The actor I dated this summer was secretive, sneaky and lied about everything. The gays live in a shadowy world of fantasy, make-believe and lies.)
The society photographer boasts that the boy who loves him is ‘disposable’, he boasts that he fisted him… when I ask the boy what happened… he tells me that the hardest thing about the photographer were his fingers. We seldom talk about erectile dysfunction. Anything other than a hard cock renders a gay man utterly useless. You know, the gays hate me writing my blog. They write snarky notes insisting that I correct tiny details… (“I’m not a director I’m a producer”) as if any one cared!
On Facebook I am pretending to be an old Whitstable codger, enjoying a thread on Julie Burchill‘s Facebook page. Julie hates all Muslims, her page is rife with anti islamic rhetoric. If you disagree with her POV you are immediately branded a ‘jew hater’. She says, “I think I may have mentioned a FEW times that I am a Gentile Socialist Zionist? Why would people come here just to get cross? If you don’t like the tiny democratic state of Israel, surrounded by fascist fiefdoms, fuck off to one of the thousands of Jew-hating Facebook pages? Cheers!”
Her fans scream with joy! Her fans ecstatically revile Islam. Her fans start out by reminding us firmly that they are not racist (they don’t support the British National Party) then, without irony, they go on to say how much they hate all Muslims and want to kill them. I suggested meeting one of these crazy women to discuss exacting revenge on the Muslim population of Chatham…. amazingly she private messaged me in the hope of exacting revenge on Muslims!!!
Then it got pretty scary… these people are fucking INSANE. Julie has no idea what her crazed followers are capable of. She really needs to take that seriously. Whipping those guys up the way she does may lead her to some unsightly trouble… exactly the same trouble other radical preachers have, facing the same criminal charges. You need only one crazy person to do something dumb and cite Julie B as their inspiration…. well, you know the rest.
BTW what exactly is a ‘gentile socialist zionist’?
The only person to spout that kind of anti Muslim shit to me here in the USA was a white gay Producer who told me he believed (as a patriot) that all Muslims should convert or be eradicated from the earth because they didn’t like gays. I said, my deceased father was a Muslim and several of my 12 brothers and sisters too. He didn’t care. He still thought they should be murdered. Whilst I can sort of understand Julie’s naive zeal as a pre op convert to Judaism I found this Christian hatred and rabid insistence to kill millions of people based on their beliefs… utterly stunning. Mind you, this guy has always been a person to be suspicious of, he tells everyone who will listen that he will help anyone he can… any way he can… but when the time comes… he is nowhere to be found.