Thursday, June 29, 2006

So hypocritical it's almost funny ...

Condoleeza Rice has been trying to lecture the leaders of Pakistan on how to run a democratic election.

Honestly. I kid you not. Before we get to the details, here's some background.

There is a crazy religious dictator running the United States of America. This man stole an election by using connections within his corrupt family to illegally deny the vote to hundreds and hundreds of African Americans in Florida; and even then, he still lost, but managed to steal the election anyway. Of course, denying the vote to African Americans is in no way indicative of racism, because he managed to find a couple of heartless, unashamed money-grabbing mercenaries who happened also to be African American to join him - of whom Rice is currently the most prominent - and thereby create the impression that he's really all about equal opportunity.

He used connections with right wing media organisations to spin the outcome of the election in his favour even though there was no justification in doing so. This allowed him to make it look like his opponent was being a bad loser, when in fact, his opponent was the fair winner.

He took advantage of the fear generated by terrorism to keep the country in his sway, and justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation in order to plunder its energy supplies and enrich himself, his family and their cronies. This was despite the fact that the terrorists in question had been funded by him, his family and their cronies for many years, and many of them were flown out of the country by him in the immediate aftermath of the initial terrorist attacks.

His illegal war has made the world a much less safe place, and has done much to encourage further terrorism by creating a justification for it; and he has the nerve to criticise all who didn't stand with him as "enemies of democracy" - despite the fact that the countries who did stand with him did so against the democratic wishes of their peoples.

So, with that in mind, we now read that his globe-trotting "goodwill ambassador" is trying to dictate to people in another country how to be democratic. What a fucking cheek!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Time To Fix The Shingles

Here am I, working in Scotland, and my Lovely Husband™ is shacked up at home, all poorly with shingles.

Although I haven't suffered from this myself, I know how horrible it can be. My grandmother was really, really ill with it when she was in her late 60s or early 70s, and there were times when it really look like she might not pull through. Thankfully, after a sustained outpouring of TLC from my mum, she got better.

Knowing what a horrible illness it is, it pains me to be such a long way away from Lovely Husband™ during this time, and I can't wait to get home tomorrow so that I can look after him, if only for a weekend.

In the meantime, work is just going mad, and I have to get an article in to my editor this evening - the second piece of work in my new role as part-time lesbian journalist.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nonchalant Strollers Ltd

Lovely Husband™ and I live near a gay cruising area. This isn't by design, although when I took the flat last year, I knew just how close we would be. If it made any difference at all, it was probably the one slightly less than ideal thing about an otherwise perfect place to make our home. Not because I have anything against people going cruising - gawd knows I did enough of it myself in my single days - but simply because it can create the odd awkward moment.

Such as this weekend, when we had been playing host to a very good family friend of my Lovely Husband™, and a friend of hers. These two lovely ladies, both retired and genteel, were taking advantage of our proximity to the beauties of nature by having a stroll in the woods next to the house. They were put off, however, by the unusual number of single men wandering around amongst the trees, or standing menacingly in every other clearing. I assured them that they had been in no danger, except perhaps of seeing something they didn't mean to.

There is also an annoying aspect to the proximity of that part of the woods. The place where we live is a bit tight on parking. There is a car park - little more than a bit of wasteland - that sits between the two "action areas", and which used to be open all the time. At some point, a gate has been erected. It gets closed in the evenings, preventing further ingres to most traffic. I suspect cruisers on motorbikes remain unruffled. Cars already parked there are free to leave thanks to a clever one-way barrier. I'm sure at this time of the year, when it stays light so late in the evening, this is as much a pain to other users of the woods - dog-walkers, cyclists, strollers - as it is to the guys who go there to cruise. However, it's even more annoying to us residents, because the cruising guys tend to park in our street, and that can get more than a little irksome, given the limited number of spaces. Last weekend, I noticed that a traffic warden was walking along the street handing out parking tickets, but I wondered at the time how he would distinguish between residents and non-residents.

It's not all cruisers, btw. My parking space has sometimes been nicked by some thoughtless 4wd-endowed parent teaching their offpsring how to respect the environment by running them to school in a car that could probably carry half of their class. Oh, the joys of having a posh private school across the road.

I suspect that the word "thoughtless" in the that previous paragraph was redundant. I don't think you can drive a 4wd car in a city and be anything other than thoughtless.

As might be obvious, to this day I have mixed feelings about the cruising area that's so close to the house. However, this evening it did afford me one of those moments for which I completely forgive all the other stuff. I was popping out to pick up my Lovely Husband™ from the station (he would normally do the stiff 15 minute walk, but was a bit exhausted). En route, I saw a guy heading into the trees. And, heavens, but he was trying just far too hard to look nonchalant. It was comical. He might as well have been wearing a T-shirt that said "Not looking for cock. Honest!" In big, bold letters. Possibly neon. Flashing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Scottish Jig

At the risk of boring you to tears with the virtuous vigour with my myself and my Lovely Husband™ seemingly make the most of every moment, I'm about to deliver another breathless description of a fabulous weekend.

Before that, I should mention a few other things.

The weekend before the one that's just gone, we had the unalloyed delight of entertaining a very good friend of ours from New Zealand. We'll call her Exocet. We all went to Hampstead Heath and had a picnic in the glorious sunshine. We wandered around a little, and passed the mens' pond, where the usual gaggle of sun-kissed, exquisitely buff muscle marys were recovering from their drug binges of the night before.

This week, we'll be entertaining - and no doubt entertained by - a friend of my domestic goddess mother-in-law. We'll call her Bracken. I hope I get home whilst she's visiting. I'm currently still in Scotland,m but keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be freed up by Wednesday to get back to London. Bracken loves to dance in a highly amusing way to ABBA, and I have photographic evidence of her ability to get a little carried away by one too many sherries.

This coming weekend, another very dear friend is over visiting from New Yoik. We haven't seen him for ages, and can't wait to catch up! I suspect he might have exciting news about his career, too, since he's a highly talented, well-connected screen writer. I think there might be a feature debut in the wings.

So, leaving all that to one side ...

After the Not So EasyJet debacle on Friday night, we went straight home (well, as straight as two men who are married to each other can) . We did have one detour, because we were both hungry, and at that time of night, you've got to pick a curry or two, if you'll forgive a little bit of Lionel Bartering.

Saturday, we popped in to Glasgow and spent a wonderful couple of hours in Slater Menswear, which is simply the best place to buy suits. Of which I know. And the Glasgow branch is their main store. It's suit heaven. So, I got a suit and a pair of shoes, and my Lovely Husband™ got two suits, both of which I picked out for him, oddly enough. I say oddly, because I really don't have the gay clothing gene, and he does; but I seem to have an eye for suits. One of the ones that he got is black velvet with a white or light grey pinstripe. Sound ghastly? It looks terrific on him, if a little Jonathan Ross. But then, he could wear a dirty teatowel and make it look fabulous. It's them gorgeous cheek bones, innit?

Late Saturday afternoon, we went out for a big family dinner, of sorts, to a totally wonderful Chinese buffet place in the middle of nowhere. It was terrific, and I'm really not usually one to sing the praises of Chinese food. (Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Indian, Bhurmese - I love them all; Chinese, I'm not so keen on.) This place, however, was really, really, really good.

We ate quite early because my dad had to get off to his AA meeting. He's a changed man since he started going to those. He joined when my youngest sister became pregnant. He vowed that his grandchild (since there is only one - so far) will never see him drunk. And he's stuck to it. And he's become a much nicer person as a result. Everyone has noticed, and everyone comments on it. It's great. Incidentally, my little niece was with us at lunch. The poor wee thing isn't very well, but she's so good-natured that even though she's not well, she's still really well behaved, and tries to grin and gurgle through it all. Completely adorable!

The staff in the restaurant were all over her trying to make her laugh - and succeeding, because she's very smiley and giggly. And I ended up doing a whole load of magic for the waiters and waitresses, so that was nice.

So, having had a relatively early dinner, it was an easy thing to then organise a night out. My brother joined us, a little apprehensively since we were going to a gay place. My sister also joined us, but her girlfriend needed an early night, so she brought along Wee Gee, a very young chap who may one day be vaguely related to us by marriage (between his brother and our youngest sister).

So, off we went to The Polo Lounge - which to my mind is the most fabulous gay club ever invented. It has beautiful antique furnishings on the ground floor, a mezzinine with more modern deep leather sofas, and downstairs, a big dance club playing up to date stuff, and a smaller dance room that does 80s and90s trash. It's everything I could want in a club all in one place.

We didn't get to stay very long, because I had to get to work the next day, but we made the most of it. My sis and Wee Gee stuck around when we left, but my youngest brother came home with us, partly because he felt a bit uncomfortable, bless 'im.

Next day, I was up bright and early to get into Stirling for 09:00. I did some work whilst Lovely Husband™ sunned himself outside and improved himself with literature. We got away after an hour or so, broke fast in a nice cafe, then visited Stirling Castle. Great views from the battlements - and it's so old!

Alas, as we were leaving for lunch with my cousin and his girlfriend, and a couple of old friends I hadn't seen in years, I got a call that pulled me back into the office. I headed to Linlithgow, dropped off my Lovely Husband™ and went back in to face the music. After a couple of hours, it was too late to join them for lunch, but I caught up with them outside Linlithgow Palace - another fabulous castle - and went to grab a bite. It was very lovely indeed. And still sunny, so the neds (that's Scottish for chavs) had their shirts off to expose their deeply tasteful lobster-coloured torsos.

After that, it was a short hop to the airport to see my beloved onto his jet plane, and back home to pick up my ickle brother and go with him to see X-Men III.

Bit of a boring one, then, clearly.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Paid To Be Bastards

One of the things that I missed during my years spent in New Zealand was the steady, stellar growth of the no-frill airline. They had been doing very well as I was leaving the country at the arse-end of 2000, but in the intervening years, they have grown to become a major part of the travel market, and the big players have had to adjust accordingly.

New Zealand is relatively remote, and so there isn't the same phenomenon that you get in Europe of being spoilt for choice over where a couple of hours in an aeroplane might take you. There's Australia, and there's some beautiful south pacific islands, and then there's nothing but water in every direction for hours and hours of travelling time. Another significant difference is that the travel market in Europe is an order of magnitude larger than that of NZ, and therefore there is a lot more money, and a lot more companies chasing that money.

With many a wistful glance, I would watch TV shows that made it look like jumping on a plane to Alicante was like catching a bus, and no-one would bother buying turrone at their local shop when the real thing was a £5 flight away.

Recent experiences have caused me to reconsider. Apart from the fact that the airlines are doing more than their fair share to damage our beautiful but fragile planet, and should be taxed accordingly, the quality of service in every single one of them seems to have plummetted. Or possibly I've been unlucky, but I consider than unlikely, since I'm fundamentally a very lucky person. (That is, I have a very lucky fundament.)

When my Lovely Husband™ and I went to Paris recently to celebrate the first anniversary of our nuptials, our EasyJet flight was delayed. By several hours. We were very lucky to catch the last RER train from Roissy airport, otherwise we would have spent on a single cab fare what we had "saved" by flying with EasyJet. And methinks they're going to have to drop the "Easy" from their name or they'll have the trades description people all over them.

On the way home from aforementioned trip, guess what? We were delayed. By over an hour. Fuckers.

I'm currently in Scotland, having come up here yesterday. I had some difficulty finding a suitable flight time, and ended up plumping for one from Gatwick because it fitted best with my schedule. I missed the check-in by 3 minutes. They refused to let me through. That was EasyJet. So, I went to BA. Now, to be fair to them, the guy behind the desk at BA was very, very good. Not so some of their other staff, nor the way they had signposted (or rather, failed to signpost) the instructions for checking in. It was appalling. But fortunately, not especially busy.

So, after a couple of hours working in the lounge (I had booked late, and was obliged to buy a business class ticket, so I did get that one perk) I head to the gate, get on the plane, and wait. And wait. And wait. Some annoying people arrive and sit next to me. We're still waiting. After about an hour waiting on the tarmac, we finally get underway. As a result of trying to get to Scotland early, I arrived at the office at 16:00, and a couple of hundred pounds worse off for my troubles. Oh, and my business class price didn't get me any more leg room. I still felt like I had been put into stocks, and the local villagers were going to start throwing rotten vegetables at me any minute.

I'm still in the office now, expecting to go and pick up my Lovely Husband™ from Edinburgh airport. I would have been underway by now, but his EasyJet flight has been delayed. By at least an hour.

What the f*ck is going on? These airlines seem to have convinced us that shoddy service is a reasonable price to pay for cheap fares. Except the fares aren't really that cheap, unless your parents booked them for you back when you were a foetus. They also seem to have convinced the government that it would be A Terrible Thing, not to mention Terribly Unpopular with The Voting Public to do anything that might force them to put their prices up. Like actually taxing them for the environmental damage that they cause. Grr!

I'm taking the Eurostar next time I go to Europe, and will give serious consideration to taking a train when I'm heading up north. Trains have lots of Miss Marple charm, and since aeroplanes have become overrun by the hoipolloi, you meet a better class of traveller on GNER. It's more relaxing, too. And they have wireless networking on board.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bathroom Sink Drama

Given the adumbrations of despair concerning the supply of water in the South East of England, and the Mayor of London's helpful suggestions about how to save a bit by not flushing the loo, it occurred to me to canvas for an opinion on pissing the sink as an option for us chaps above a certain height.

Pissing in the sink is something I've done many's a time if the throne is otherwise occupied and the need was great. I've had no qualms for a long time about pissing in a proper shower. I draw the line at a shower over a bath, especially when it's at a friend's house.

It struck me that pissing the sink should be encouraged, because it really doesn't take much water to clean up afterwards, certainly a lot less than the standard flush.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Word Games

Inexplicable Device has been dishing out letters in a meme about identifying 10 words that start with the same letter and have some personal meaning. I got the letter "I", so here goes.

I is for igloo. Perhaps I was an intuitive innuit in a former life, but during the long, cold, snowy winters of my childhood, back before global warming had made snow into something that comes in a can, I always tried to make them. And failed. But I kept trying, because you know what they say - try, try, try again, and keep trying until everyone is laughing at you for not realising your own limitations. Then shoot them.

I have to point out, at this point, that it's very hard not to hear Ali G's voice when typing "I is for ..."

I is for insincere. I spent years studying for the Catholic priesthood, and one of the most important lessons I learned is that absolutely the most important qualification for those with such a calling is sincerity. Once they can fake that, they've got it made.

I is for indigo. I love those colours in the very blue/purple area of the spectrum. I don't know why. Also, Indiglo Nitelite watches were very cool, in their day.

Shit. That's only three. Seven more to go? I'm not really the kind of person who has special things that mean a lot to me, and if I did, I don't think many of them would start with the letter i. Hmm ....

I is for infidelity. I was scarred quite badly by it, and it sometimes comes out when I make references to my ex. In person, I normally spit after mentioning him.

I is for infamy. Infamy, they've all got it infamy! I loved the Carry On films when I was a nipper, and later got hold of Round The Horne, too. Kenneth Williams - bless his little screwed up heart. Poor bugger.

Phew. Half way. This is getting a bit easier.

I is for IT. It's what I do for a living, although I tend not to dirty my hands writing code these days. Perhaps one day it will take a back seat to the magic, but I doubt it whilst you can still get a good day rate as a contractor.

I is for India. Never been. Not sure if I'll ever go, but I love the food, and learning to love it was very much a part of finding my own identity, and developing my own set of tastes and inclinations. Also, I've had lots of Indian friends over the years, and that has meant a lot to me, because growing up in West Central Scotland and attending Catholic schools and then seminary, I wasn't acquainted with anyone non-white until I was 22!

I is for iridescence. I love shiny things. If IDV had given me O, I'm sure opalescence would have been in this list. And one of my favourite - and most requested - card effects involves some cards that become iridescent at the end. It's a better climax than ... well, some that I've had.

I is for internet. I've been using it for a surprisingly long time, since towards the end of my stint at the University of Aberdeen. And that's going back. 1991 I think it must have been. My early understanding of it and it's underlying technologies have been a great help throughout my career, and instrumental in landing me my role as a lesbian journalist.

I is for incest, which makes me think of my time as an altar boy.

Or is that incense?

My thanks to Inexplicable Device for letting me play. I hope I've done you proud. I believe that I am obliged by the laws governing these memes to offer to all and sundry a letter, should they want to have a go.

Oh, and apologies for not writing so much lately. I've been dashing all day and working late at the Cabaret. I was in Scotland yesterday evening and today. On my way home, I spotted a tourist wearing one of those awful tartan bonnets with fake red hair attached. They are very much a ridiculous parody of one particular stereotype of what Scots are like. And here was this guy wandering around Edinburgh airport in front of a load of Scottish people. And no-one hit him. I wonder if I would fair as well if I went to Brixton done up as a minstrel ...

And ... something has gone horribly wrong with my blogroll. Anybody know anything about that?

...

update: Blogroll magically fixed itself. Ah, self-healing software. Gotta love it.