Thursday, September 29, 2005

Germ Alert

I have had an on-off-on-again cold for nearly a week now. I am going to spend as much of this weekend as possible on the settee watching DVDs.

And my washing machine has started squeaking when the drum goes round clockwise, which may not be related.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Just Duckie - Still

I can report that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Duckie were open for business as usual tonight - in fact slightly busier than usual, nothing like a good bit of intrigue to pack in the punters. At the start of the evening - and as if nothing was any different to how it had ever been - Amy was holding her second Fun With Vegetables evening around the middle table; basically get a load of veg plus several sharp implements for cutting the same into various unusual shapes and styles. Some people were managing to carve elaborate things such as palm trees from their selected veg and tools; for me it just reinforced the fact that a) I have no artistic ability or imagination whatsoever; b) my skills with kitchen implements are somewhat lacking, too. After much struggle I did however manage to produce the obligatory Courgette Spiral (everyone was doing them), plus make a sort of Evil Mushroom Face, out of a mushroom (unsurprisingly) and some serrated-edged carrot shavings. I guess you had to be there. And my effort were still better than those of the annoying bloke who splashed a cucumber with mayo to look like....well, use your imagination.

Silly though it sounds, this does sort of underline what an important club Duckie is. I mean, what other night out could you go on where dangerous implements are not only left out in public, but you the punter is actively enouraged to pick them up and use them as you will. Says a lot about the people who go to Duckie that they can be unqustioningly trusted to enjoy themselves with endangering others (usually). In between all the vegetable excitement, Amy told us that it was not actually Jason the current landlord who bought the place, but a couple of (probably v. rich) friends of his, and that they are fully committed to keeping the place gay and keeping Duckie on.

Special mention should go to tonight's act, The Puppini Sisters. 3 female singers, 2 men playing double bass & guitar; I'm going to sound very ignorant but I don't know the style of singing they do apart from the fact that it was popular in the US at some point roughly between the 1920s and 1950s. Do-wop ? Boogie-woogie ? Anyway, whatever style it is, they knew the audience well as they did covers of The Smiths' Panic & Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights and therefore went down a treat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

She Said NO !!!

Thank God Shelley has finally stood up to vile Charlie and refused to go through with the wedding. Admittedly, waiting until the vicar was asking her "Do you take this man....." to decide she was better off without him was cutting it a bit fine, but at least it ensured she had plenty of witnesses. Now we have Status Quo's cameo appearance to look forward to from Friday, and the comedy wedding of Les and the lovely Cilla.

When (Elvis) Was (Johnny)

Oh dear, I made a rather large blooper last night. For a big(gish) money quiz, The Retro Bar was surprisingly deserted, and just 9 teams participated in an especially tricky little quiz containing 18 songs with brackets in the title plus a further 2 without, just to add an extra bit of confusion in. We managed to get a creditable 14.5 out of 21 being quite successful with the bracketing, but you also had to identify the band or artist who was performing each of the songs. Well, the fall from grace came when I confidently decided that the distinctive voice crooning away was Johnny Cash. It turned out to be Elvis Presley. Wendy duly humiliated me during the answers; I, demonstrating team spirit aplenty, immediately tried to shift all blame onto Gareth and Doug, with little success.

Saved !

So the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been bought by Jason, the current manager and according to a (rather unreliable) source from Out, a bloke called Paul. All for a mere £1,085,000. So hopefully we can all sleep safe in our beds knowing that Duckie will continue for the forseeable future at least. Admittedly I haven't heard any formal announcements saying yea or nay, but I think it's a fair assumption that it makes good business sense to continue with a night which has been a nice little earner, packing the punters in every Saturday for nearly 10 years.

And I'm also glad that it means that my last ever Duckie act won't be last Saturday's entertainment, known as The Town Bikes. A performance art duo from Melbourne, they seemed to know what they were doing, and were obviously no strangers to performing for an audience, yet they made little impression on me. Oh well, that's the way it goes with Duckie acts, you win some, you lose some. Bring back Earl Okum !

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I'm not sure which is more bizarre - London Zoo holding a specially designated gay day or Dawn managing to turn the concept into a themed music quiz. But that is exactly what she did, last night's quiz featured 20 songs which all contained an animal in either the artist or song title. And we managed to score a perfect 20/20....well I say we, but in reality of course, Ian got them all and refused to be diverted by my claims at one point that there really are animals called Dragons. Though in an uncharacteristic lapse on his part, we finished second after a tie-break but still walked away with Penguins. The chocolate biscuits, not real ones; in fact we each got a packet of nine. I am rationing myself to two a day.

Still, you can't please everyone. A member of Thingbox, who shall remain nameless, has posted there about the quiz:

remember Wendy will award the prize to the team that a) sucks up to her the most AND b) practically lives in the fucking place. This quiz is absolutely NO fun. We have won it about 4 times and each time walking up to get the prize is like a march to the gallows.

When I pointed out that no, she always awards the prize to the team with the most points, ie as per conventional concepts of "winning", he still wouldn't be swayed. I suspect he scored 19.5.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Vauxhall And I

I am rather worried to hear that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern pub, home to Duckie every Saturday for the past 10 years is now up for sale at auction on 20th September. It remains to be seen what this means for Duckie itself. As per usual in these situations, all sorts of speculation and rumour are flying round, probably from people who haven't got a clue what they're on about. Depending on who you listen to, it's going to be demolished and the land is having luxury flats built on it; it's going to be turned into a B&B; the current landlord is trying to get the money together to buy it himself; it's being sold with him as sitting tenant. Etc, etc, etc.

Of course I hope this doesn't mean the end of Duckie. The club could be relocated elsewhere given its popularity, but my past experience of "Duckie-elsewhere" eg on special one-off nights or events, is that the club just doesn't work properly elsewhere. Whether it's the griminess, the run-down decor, the feeling of faded glamour and the sense of a place which maybe used to be quite grand but has now seen better days, there is something about the RVT which fits symbiotically with Duckie. It's difficult to imagine one without the other. If Duckie was to find a new venue, I would like it to have the same feeling about it as the RVT, but be twice the size (which is still not that big actually), have a decent stage area for the acts, be easy to get to but not right in the centre of town, and have excellent aircon (the only significant difference from the RVT). Shouldn't be too tall an order, should it ?

I wonder if the new owners will be made aware of the structural defects to the back wall of the building caused by the male customers' habit of using it as an outdoor urinal over the years!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dirty Losers And Tits Of Death

Hmmmm.....not sure what to think about this one. Last night I went to fellow OUTer PJ's monthly clubnight, Dirty Losers at Clockwork on Pentonville Road. I wasn't really sure what it was going to be like although the website led me to assume it was going to be some sort of indie/alternative through the ages type of thing, perhaps akin to Duckie but without so much pop.

Luckily I got there early enough to see the main band, the interestingly-named Tits Of Death, an all female synth-metal quintet who were pretty good if slightly breast-obssessed in song as well as name. (In fact, they go on about breasts even more than Lesley from Big Brother, but unlike her they can actually sing too). I was expecting a riot grrrl or grungy look, but they were actually glamorous & glossy, not the sort of women you'd expect to be playing dirty rock'n'roll, the incongruity of which no doubt causes confusion to many, always funny to watch. Not so funny was a man inexplicably dressed in a bird costume (with dreadlocks!) who was taking up too much room and kept nearly knocking people over.

So anyway, after the Tits came the music & dancing part of the night, where it all went a bit funny. The music was mainly 50s & 60s rock and roll, nothing bad & quite interesting actually, just not what I was expecting. And the remaining people (lots had left after the band finished) seemed to enjoy it, despite in the main probably not having been born until a good 10-20 years after said music was made. That got me thinking; at the risk of sounding like an old codger, when I was young I wouldn't have been seen dead dancing to (or enjoying) OLD music - that was for old people! Maybe today's youngsters are more open-minded about such things; or maybe music today is utter crap and I was fortunate to grow up in a golden age which scaled heights of innovation, imagination & originality that will never again be reached, thus ensuring it will endure for generations. As for the club, well PJ says it varies from month to month and they try and play a real mix of stuff, so it hasn't put me off going again - I'm also hoping I might get to DJ there some time having submitted the following sample playlist a while ago:

Wah - The Story Of The Blues
The Amps - Tipp City
T Rex - Metal Guru
The Smiths - Sheila Take A Bow
Fiery Furnaces - Tropical Ice-land
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger And The Trinity - This Wheel's On Fire
Graham Coxon - Freakin' Out
The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Sinead O'Connor - Mandinka
Le Tigre - Hot Topic
Sultans Of Ping FC - Where's Me Jumper
Helen Love - Debbie Loves Joey
Siouxsie And The Banshees - Dear Prudence
Buzzcocks - Orgasm Addict
Placebo - Taste In Men
Talulah Gosh - Bringing Up Baby
Art Brut - Modern Art
Gang Of Four - I Love A Man In A Uniform
Kate Bush - Sat In Your Lap
Aztec Camera - Oblivious
Hole - My Beautiful Son
Joan Jett And The Blackhearts - I Love Rock'n'Roll
Stereolab - Ping Pong
Lou Reed - Vicious

(Oh, and Norwich won 2-0 yesterday. Hurrah !)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lets Be 'Aving You

With it being the week for some World Cup qualifying matches, it does of course mean the domestic footie season is temporarily on hold. Which is normally a bit irritating, but in Norwich's case, it might just be the breathing space we need to get our heads together and bounce back from the disastrous start we've made to the season. Having been relegated - narrowly - from the Premiership last season we have managed to keep most of our best players whilst buying a few more, so ought to be reasonably confident of being one of the best teams in the fur-coat-and-no-knickers league (sorry I do of course mean "The Championship" as it's now rather grandiosely called - sorry to everyone involved in said naming, you can dress it up all you like but you can't get away from the fact that it's the second tier of English soccer and therefore one layer below where we really want to be).

So with all that talent at our disposal, why does our current record stand at 3 Draws, 3 Losses and ZERO Wins ? Over-confidence ? Resting on laurels ? A complete under-estimation of how tough it was actually going to be ? Whatever the reason, in the words of Delia on that fateful night last night, LET'S BE 'AVING YOU and give us the first win of many this Saturday !

Eeek - Northern Ireland 1, England 0 with 12 minutes left. Flippin' Ada.

It's The Quiz Of The Week

Last night, being a Tuesday, saw me at the Retro Bar for the pop quiz. Having actually not been there that often of late due to pathetic reasons such as being tired or it being "too hot to move", attendance was necessary last night due to the quiz being set by Ian. This did of course mean that because he was in the DJ booth playing the music we couldn't benefit from his extensive knowledge when it came to writing down the answers.

Nevertheless, myself, Gareth and Doug - aka The Social Piranhas (in homage to Jill from Nighty Night) - turned in a solid performance scoring what would normally be a modest 11.5 out of 20. We came unstuck in a rather long round containing the same question: Did this song get to Number 1 in the UK only; US only; Both; Neither ? Who would have ever guessed that M's Pop Muzik was a US Number 1? But it was and it turned out that the winning score was only 14ish, so we actually did really well even though I say so myself. It was also good to hear the theme tunes to Magpie and The Liver Birds. Even better - free beer! We finally claimed our prize for winning a couple of weeks ago, in the form an ice bucket which was not only full of bottles of lager but also came in useful for cooling sweaty foreheads.

A very good night then all in all. Just don't mention The Dooleys.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Best Days Of Your Life

Sometimes I really do think Ian spends far too much time collating information in his head about anything and everything modern-culture-related, though every now and then you realise what a boon
this can be. For instance, without his encyclopaedic attention to detail, I would never have learned of the death a few days ago of the actor Michael Sheard. "Who?" you might ask (I did, at first). Well, he played fierce, toupee-wearing, no-nonsense disciplinarian Mr Bronson in the original cast of the BBC kids' show, Grange Hill.

It took me a while to work out which teacher it was, I actually spent a few days thinking "Bullet" Baxter had died. But I digress. Now whilst I don't have any personal feelings towards the actor himself, it has brought back fond memories of a TV show I loved and watched regularly as a kid. Grange Hill burst onto our screens in February 1978, and was set in a fictional comprehensive school (that's a high school, if you're reading this America!) in London, and was focused mainly on the lives of the 11-year-olds who had just started there. I, at the time was just about to turn 11 myself, and although not due to go to "big school" myself until the following September, I was already quietly shitting myself at the prospect, so this TV show not
only entertained me but also scared me too.

But there was no way I was switching off. GH has always been regarded as "groundbreaking" and like all things described thus, instantly courted controversy, disapproval and opprobrium from the self-appointed "guardians of the nation's morals". You see, up to that point, kids on kids TV shows usually had to be nice, well behaved and respectful of their elders; anyone that was not like this was the baddie and thus a lesson was dispensed in the "correct" way for a little boy or little girl to be. Sod that said GH, let's show kids how they really are. And so, you saw kids misbehaving, fighting, disrespecting their elders and generally doing all the things that kids do every day in every school the length and breadth of the country. And boy did people get upset. Apparently we were going to hell in a handcart, playground anarchy was being condoned and encouraged, parents shouldn't allow their kids to watch this filth, blah blah blah. I am however, proud to report that my own mum loved the show and never tried to stop me watching it (and I've turned out OK, haven't I?)

So, happy childhood memories rekindled. And funnily enough, the country didn't go to rack and ruin, civilisation didn't fall apart at the seams, and 27 years on, Grange Hill is still going strong, now a staple of BBC children's drama. Over the years, it's tackled all manner of "difficult" and "controversial" subjects - bullying, drugs, menstruation, obesity, gay teachers, disability, teen pregnancy for example and is as much loved by kids today as those of my generation. Grange Hill, I salute you!

Rather embarrassing footnote: I remember Mr Bronson as being really, really old. Possibly a dinosaur in fact. Therefore I was rather distressed to discover that on his death, Michael Sheard was only 65. So when GH first aired, he was actually the same age that I am now!!!! The shame of it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Shop 'Til You're Hot

Looks like it's going to be another steamy day in the capital (and hopefully the last of the summer), so I am in two minds about doing one of my least favourite pastimes - shopping. Friends may disagree, but I would say I'm not generally an extravagant person. I'm not continually buying new clothes, gadgets, fast cars, designer labels, and my credit card bill is paid off in full every month rather than continually being pushed to the maximum. In fact, such is my lack of enthusiasm for "retail therapy", I tend to wear/use things until they are about to fall to bits - meaning sometimes the need for new purchases falls somewhere between necessary and essential. Having decided not to venture to the shops last Tuesday (again due to the heat), I'm going to bravely put my best foot forward today.

These are the things I want to buy - if not now then in the next few months - in descending order of necessity:

1) Watch
2) Bedroom Curtains
3) Gym Socks
4) Jeans
5) Bedside Table Lamp
6) Lampshade
7) Widescreen LCD TV with integrated Freeview

OK, so the last one's not strictly necessary. But my current TV is over 10 years old and can thus justifiably be replaced, and I'm getting increasingly fed up with new things being shown first on BBC3 or E4 or whatever other digital channel, and knowing I'm going to have to wait several weeks or months before they finally deign to show themselves on terrestrial. I want to see the new Nighty Night series now!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Natural Disaster

Like many people, my thoughts over the last week have never been too far from what is going on in New Orleans. I might moan about the weather here, but I can't even begin to comprehend what it must be like to be stuck in that filthy, humid, tropical heat and without the basics things (eg water, food, sanitation) that make life basically liveable, let alone anything further to give it any quality. All those horrific tales from the Superdome where people were seemingly crammed into for want of any other suitable public place; tales of rapes and beatings, of people being made to feel like animals wallowing in their own filth.

Now that it has suffered disaster on it's own doorstep, will the American administration now take a long hard look at its country in a far more self-critical way than ever before ? Will it look at things like its welfare system, its health service for example and the grinding poverty that the "have nots" of the country exist in as a result, the sort of poverty which means when a disaster like Hurricane Katrina strikes, you don't have the means to escape and go elsewhere and just have to sit tight and hope help is on its way. Will it take climate change more seriously and wake up to the fact that it's *everyone's* problem ? Will tough questions be asked about the general infrastructure of the country and the quality of the response to this disaster ?

It does seem at least, that the more difficult (for the government) facts of the matter are being made public. I'm a bit cynical about US news and tend to assume there is some level of censorship going on all the time which means that the general public don't always get to hear the full facts about things; whether this is unfounded or not, I don't really know. But it does seem that on this issue, the people know - and they are rightfully angry.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Turn The Heat Off NOW!!!

As Throwing Muses once sang, "summer's gone, summer's over". Well, at least you would expect that to more or less be the case in the UK come September. So why is it still so hot ? 32C last Wednesday, 28C predicted for Sunday. London is not a nice place in hot weather, no aircon on the tube, and living in what I suppose you would call an "attic flat" I get the sun beating down on my living accomodation all day, whilst simultaneously acquiring the rising heat from the two flats below me. I hope all the scientists are wrong about global warmimg, however I suspect they are not. But for now, if you're reading this Mr Weather-Controller-God, please turn it down a bit. It doesn't have to be cold, 20C will do. For now.

Having said all that, there are of course certain aspects of summer which please me. For example, some scaffolding has just appeared in front of the mansion block opposite me. And scaffolding can only mean ONE THING. No, not easier access to upper floors for burglars, but BUILDERS. Or perhaps, painters and decorators, or other tradesmen. And the warmer the weather, the more clothes they remove whilst working. Every cloud, as the saying goes....

Here We Go....

So this is what having a blog is like. Be patient I shall post more in due course, when I've worked out what's what.