Saturday, 19 May 2018

We're vamos-ing as we speak, sweetie

As you read this, we are likely to be alighting into the sunshine of El Andalus - and yes! We shall be heading to the beach...

Back in a week, dear reader!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Two decades?! on earth did we manage it?!

Madam Arcati and I have reached a milestone - this month (we don't have a set date; the whole of May will do as a celebration) we have been together for TWENTY bloody years...

That, of course, is the reason for our second trip in a year to the delights of the Costa del Sol tomorrow, for a week of unabashed hedonism. Why change the habits of a lifetime, I say?

We've been through a lot, have Tony and I: several house moves (including from Plymouth to London a year after we met), several changes of job, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and all that malarkey. [Meghan and Harry have all that to come. But they're multi-millionaires so I doubt the "for poorer" bit applies.]

As we're off to Spain, I thought it appropriate to check out what would have been playing there two decades ago this month - and I discovered that their Number 1 and ours in the UK were exactly the same. So here she is, the Queen of Fucking Everything herself, Our Glorious Leader Madge - and Thank Disco (Techno? Trance? EDM?) It's Friday!

Faster than the speeding light she's flying
Trying to remember where it all began
She's got herself a little piece of heaven
Waiting for the time when Earth shall be as one

Time flies - "Quicker than a ray of light", indeed.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Very, very much

In our "comfort zones" in the West, it is easy for people to say - as the usual pundits tend to do, in particular when such things as Gay Pride events are debated - that we have it all "sorted"; that the battles for equal treatment and recognition for gay people have largely been won. But even during the recent glitteringly camp Eurovision Song Contest, there was still evidence of homophobia - be it institutional, such as the Chinese censorship of rainbow flags and gay performers, or attitudinal: some of the commenters "below the line" in such august media as The Independent or The Telegraph still found the need to heap scorn and condemnation on the fact that Ireland's entry had the temerity to feature a gay kiss. At Eurovision, for fuck's sake!

Gay people in all societies - "First World" and "Third World" alike still encounter insults, discriminatory behaviours and sometimes violence. Trans people in their own struggles for recognition are regularly disparaged by right-wing and left-wing groups alike.

HIV/AIDS organisation Avert has some optimism:
"...progress is being made in overturning anti-gay laws. Last month saw the total number of countries with anti-LGBT laws drop to 74 with Trinidad being the latest country to join the modern statute books (pending an appeal).

"Activists hope that upcoming court rulings in Kenya and India will see this figure drop to 73 or even 72."
There was actual good news as Australia (finally) made same-sex marriage legal (as did Slovenia, Germany, Malta, Taiwan and Austria during 2017); darling Tom Daley used his position as a Commonwealth Games medal-winner to highlight homophobia in the world's media; cute Justin Trudeau's Canadian government formally apologised to the thousands of Canadians who suffered injustices during a decades-long campaign to root out homosexuality from the military and public service; and gay producer-director James Ivory received an Oscar for Call Me By Your Name (which itself was a smash hit in cinemas across the world).

None of this is anywhere near enough.

The continued active persecution, discrimination, imprisonment and even murder of gay people by ISIS and Islamist states such as Brunei, Iran, the Gulf States, Morocco and Saudi Arabia; and the spite, bile, cruelty and violence towards us that is actively encouraged by Russia and its ex-satellites, Catholic and African churches, US gobshite evangelists, and right-wing politicians across the globe proves that this is not the case for the majority of people in this world.

The list of modern-day horrors in just the last twelve months includes the persecution and torture of gay people in:
Shamefully, our own Commonwealth is a collective that includes a high proportion of the World's homophobic states. Prime Minister Theresa May last month expressed “deep regret” for Britain’s role in criminalising same-sex relations in its former colonies and announced Foreign & Commonwealth Office funding for an ambitious £5.6 million two-year programme to advance equality and equal protection before the law. Baby steps.

And I haven't even mentioned Trump...

As ever, on this International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHo), there is a simpler message for our oppressors, bullies and haters out there:


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

¡Es hora de fiesta!

And so, dear reader - with Eurovision well and truly over, in the middle of my last week in the office for a fortnight - another countdown begins...

This weekend Madam Arcati and I will be jetting off (at stupid o'clock, but that's another matter) once again to the sunshine and delights of Benalmadena!

It has been a long struggle this Spring - moving house and garden in January was such a stressful situation that even our regular week in Spain in February (during which the weather was not exactly tropical) could not quite take the edge off it. Then came the coldest, darkest March on record (during which we sincerely thought we'd lost most of the plants we'd moved, after all that; but thankfully the losses were minimal), and teething problems with the telly connection and the heating, and budgeting for the higher rent, and getting this place into some semblance of decorative order (building wardrobes and shelves, hanging pictures, planting up pots), and the continued looming threat of redundancy in work, and, and, and...


We also need some utterly exagerado entertainment to remind us why we love Spain so! How about the pairing of an ageing burlesque stripper and a delightfully camp mariquita, having the party to beat all parties?!

That'll do nicely:

Inevitably, I have featured both "Señoritas" here before.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The gardening goddess

"Any death of a loved one is sad. But Beth Chatto lived to a great age and enriched the lives of so many of us with her writing, teaching and incomparable garden - so let's celebrate a life supremely well lived." - Monty Don
Britain has a long history of celebrated gardens and gardeners - from Romanesque villas to monastic cloisters, through Tudor knot gardens to William Kent's vistas, "Capability" Brown's landscapes, Humphrey Repton's Romanticism, and Joseph Paxton's formal designs in the industrial Victorian era.

In the 20th century, Gertrude Jekyll was one of the most influential gardeners - embedding all the quintessential elements of what we now think of as the "British Cottage Garden", such as herbaceous borders based on colour schemes, climbers on trellises, and garden "rooms" as an extension of the house. These ideas were taken to extremes by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst, whose single-colour garden rooms became the height of fashion; but in the mixed borders favoured by Christopher Lloyd, planted beds went a step further still, with a kaleidoscope of sub-tropical plants and colours.

However it was Beth Chatto who put it all back together in some semblance of "order". Hers was the philosophy of "the right plant for the right place" - not merely creating gardens based upon the colour of flowers, their exoticism, their height or their contrasting shapes and habits, but on their preferred habitat; be that not only in her fabled "dry gardens", but also in waterlogged gardens, shady gardens, managing to find plants that thrive in clay, scree and gravel. In that, she was a pioneer - and, indeed was the last of the "gardening greats"; her influence and her expertise were universally admired by the perhaps more famous gardeners of more recent years, whose skills are demonstrated nowadays via a medium she herself largely eschewed, television.

With no horticultural experience herself, but with the guidance of her plantsman husband Andrew, she carved a unique niche in gardening lore - her books became international best-sellers, she was in great demand for lecturing tours, and her greatest legacy, The Beth Chatto Gardens near Colchester [which is on our list to visit sometime this year, with "the Essex Boys" Baby Steve and Alex who live quite near] receives thousands of visitors every year. And no wonder...

She's a sad loss. But I have found a (somewhat appropriate) song:

RIP Beth Chatto OBE (27th June 1923 – 13th May 2018)

Monday, 14 May 2018

You're so thrilling, and I'm so willing

Oh lordy. Monday again.

After a rollicking weekend, it is time to grit one's teeth, paint on that false plastic smile, and spend another week in that soulless place called "the office".

At least it is only five more days - then we're off to Spain again. Yay!

While we were otherwise distracted by all things Eurovision, passing unnoticed was the fact that it also happened to be the 90th birthday on Saturday of the prestigious talent that is Mr Burt Bacharach! So, by way of a belated celebration, on this Tacky Music Monday let's hand it over to the faboo Tom Jones (and his ever-ready performing trousers) to give us a rendition of one of Mr B's catchiest numbers...

Have a good week, dear reader!

Burt Freeman Bacharach (born 12th May 1928)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

We wuz robbed. Again! #589 in a recurring series...

Our Katie Boyle shrine

If the whole thing wasn't so ridiculously, gloriously, over-the-top; if it weren't our excuse for a blinder of a house party; if it had not carved its well-deserved niche in our Social Calendar as the "Gay World Cup" - we might boycott the Eurovision Song Contest for its blatant political bias against the UK. Despite entering one of our best songs, and an excellent singer, to represent us, we still only managed 24th place out of 26...

Ho hum. As per usual, our home was invaded by a host of our best chums, all variously attired to represent one of the participating countries; I was hostess-with-the-mostest/"Graham Norton"; vast quantities of booze and exotic foodstuffs were consumed; the rafters shook with cheers, jeers, singing and general merriment; and this morning the floor is covered with so many sequins, it looks like Liberace sneezed on our carpet! Quite the housewarming party for Dolores Delargo Towers #4.

Of the contest itself? It was (as is quite usual) a "mixed bag" of juvenile political worthiness ("peace", "love", and - ahem - "asylum-seekers" being heavily featured themes) and sheer unadulterated madness, and as usual the voting system was an esoteric mix of the obvious (Cyprus always gets 12 points from Greece, Eastern European and Scandi countries inevitably vote for their neighbours, and so on), but it also threw up some odd disparities - the jury votes favoured the "Justin-Timberlake-wannabee" from Sweden and the impassioned soul singer from Austria, but the popular (phone) votes pushed the likes of the Czech Republic's poor imitation of Justin Bieber, the over-emoting Italian duettists and the ugly Vikings from Denmark out of the lower reaches where they were languishing into the top ten).

Highlights? The fantastic operatic vocals of Estonia's Elina (and, of course, that dress) [BBC host Graham Norton's comment: "Her wedding dress is going to be a real disappointment after that, isn't it? 'This old thing'."]:

...the craziness of Moldova's DoReDos [Graham Norton's comment: "It's like they've got a time machine and gone back to 1978. It's like some children's television presenters got a bit over-excited at their Christmas party.... Answers on a postcard please. I've no idea what was going on."]:

...and the powerful performance by Miss Saara Alto (quite a feat, while spinning on a knife-thrower's board!):

Our girl SuRie faced the horror of having some lunatic political protestor rush her on stage to snatch her microphone - but then went on to perform the best rendition of her faboo song Storm we'd seen her do. Despite being offered a second chance to perform, which she declined, she didn't benefit from any "sympathy vote". Our "jury" gave her top marks, however:

United Kingdom 233
Israel 218
Finland 209
Moldova 208
Estonia 186
Bulgaria 182
Cyprus 168
Denmark 155
Austria 140

In the end, in the real contest, it was quite a nail-biting voting countdown as the phone votes were announced - frustratingly slowly - and the "horse-trading" between countries began in earnest. Austria had an early lead, then it was threatened by Sweden, then, eventually, the winning position was a close-run thing between Cyprus's sassy Eleni Foureira (Beyonce-style hair-flicking dance routine, and all) and Israel's kooky Netta. As the crescendo arrived, it was obvious that the "Beth Ditto-looky-likey doing chicken noises" had won - and well-deserved, I'd say!

Here's the runners-up:

Eleni [Graham Norton's comment: "Wow. We must applaud the use of flame-resistant hairspray there. That was impressive stuff."]:

...and Cesár [Graham again: "Now he can go and get out of that outfit. Must be like a paddling pool in those trousers - not a very breathable fabric."]:

Despite the injustice meted out to SuRie, it was a supremely fun night - and we all had a fantabulosa party!

Same time, next year?!