Friday, 16 April 2010

We used to be paid in tickets

I’m now in Leeds and am celebrating by sitting in a Pizza Express on my own staring at a gerbera in a vase. Rock and Roll! I’ve just been with the BBC crew up here drinking in a lovely pub down by the canal. It’s been a beautiful day today, almost summer-like, and outside I can see the setting sun dropping between two industrial buildings. It’s the kind of moment I’d like to spend running around on Ilkley Moor, watching the sun glinting in the windows of Bradford whilst little plumes of volcanic ash waft above the city like birds migrating at the end of summer. Instead I’m stuffing my face with pizza wondering why I ordered one with an egg on the top.

The BBC Leeds crew seem genuinely lovely. I’m so lucky with the people I work with on these projects although Alison will be hard-pushed to be any more wonderful than Siobhan in Coventry and Anna in Northampton. We were all royally entertained in the pub by a chap called Matt from Newark, who’d never spoken to a gay man before, which felt a touch 1980s. He seemed astonished that I used to play rugby, even more astonished that I was a forward and then decided that if he were gay, he’d want to marry me. He was on a stag do and invited me to come along. I politely declined for no better reason than they were off to a transvestite bar, because it’s apparently where straight men go to pick up women on hen dos. How hideous! Matt seemed genuinely shocked that I’d attended more hen dos in my life than stag dos. Sometimes I forget what a meterosexual, gender-confused existence I’m proud to call my life in London. Perhaps it’s to do with my sexuality. Perhaps it’s having been to a mixed comp, but I find very few differences between men and women; certainly not in the way I behave with them, or vice versa. Oddly, it seems only when they interact with one another that the mayhem begins. Women suddenly become women and men become men. Sometimes I can’t believe what lunatics my straight friends turn into when faced with an interested member of the opposite sex. I’m convinced that game playing will eventually bring about the end of the human race!

Mid-April 1660 was not exactly a vintage period in Pepys’ diary, probably because he was spending long periods of time shut up in a cabin in a ship that wasn’t going anywhere. 350 years ago to the day, he spent much of his time handing out tickets; a sort of IOU from the Navy to its employees which could be traded in for money (or promises of money) when the individual was back on dry land. The system didn’t work very well. The Navy was under-subsidised and sailors would often go unpaid for months, which led to horrific problems for those with families. This was a situation which upset Pepys greatly - particularly when the emaciated wives of sailors appeared in the garden of the navy office and banged angrily on his study window. He spent much of his time lobbying the government to release more funds for the Navy but things were slow to improve and for a time they got a great deal worse. During the Dutch Invasion in 1667, many sailors became so fed up with the endless empty promises of money that they switched sides. English voices were heard on Dutch ships shouting; “we used to get paid in tickets, now we’re paid in dollars”...

1 comment:

  1. I think this is the best way of stag dos that I have heard till now!!!