Saturday, 8 July 2017

Pride and stuff

We had a wasps' nest in the rafters of our house until yesterday. Sadly I was out when the man came to deal with them, pumping a white dust into the brick work from our bedroom window. Abbie thinks that wasps must hold a cure for cancer, based on a belief that all creatures on this planet must have a purpose of some sort. It certainly seems that wasps don't bring a great deal to the table. I mean, they're alright at this time of year when they're quietly busy making nests and stuff, but then they turn into proper maniacs. I can't imagine how awful it would have been in the autumn when the queen wasp chucked all of the boys out of the home they'd built. No wonder wasps get so angry!

I took a trip into central London today to see what the gays were doing for Pride. The tube journey was rather pleasant. There were loads of young people bedecked in flags and wearing outrageous outfits. A pair of young girls with rainbows drawn with makeup on their cheeks were cuddling fondly.

Pride is very different these days. When I was in my early twenties, it was a political march which we all took incredibly seriously. The party afterwards, which was usually in a London Park was always a legendary and hugely decadent experience, but it was generally regarded as unacceptable to attend without marching first. Politics used to come before partying. The march was the bit which demonstrated to the world the huge diversity within our community. Being gay wasn't just about people like John Inman, or drag queens, or the lisping nellie clich├ęs which abounded in the media. Yes, they were all there, but they were rubbing shoulders with firemen and teachers and ordinary people that Joe Public would never have thought to be gay.

These days Pride is no longer a march. It's been rebranded as a carnival parade. A money-making scheme for which you have to pay to participate. These days the gays pay to show the world how fabulous we are. Those who turn up to march are turned away and told they need a permit. The parade is therefore filled with shiny floats and crowing people dancing to souped-up ABBA songs, wearing little glittery pants and blowing whistles. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with that. But, for me, that's just one part of my community. Only allowing the glitz and glamour to be seen in this parade does nothing but trivialise my community. It makes us all vapid, one-dimensional party animals. But unless we remember the journey we've been on for the last forty years, we'll forget that it can all be taken away from us with one brutally right wing government or a devastating sexually-transmitted disease.

I didn't particularly fancy being sucked into the revelry so we skirted around the outskirts of Soho, doing a tour of vintage shops in Seven Dials after eating at my favourite chippie in London. The "Rock and Sole Plaice" (see what they did there?) serves enormous chips, which are always fried to absolute perfection. They're cooked in vegetable fat as well, so it's a brilliant place to take any vegan friends you might have in town who fancy the British chippie experience. Obviously they'd have to avoid the fish...

Old Compton Street, unsurprisingly, was rammed. Standing at the end of the road was like looking down into the Castro in San Francisco. The searing heat gave everything a sort of nostalgic, hazy quality. Flags of many nationalities fluttered in the breeze. It made a change to see rainbow flags flying on that street again. In the '90s it was almost exclusively gay, until its success pushed the rental prices up and only the fancy brands like Hotel Chocolat could afford to move in. Another example of gay men being pushed out of a club which we popularised!

I went from Central London to Julie and Sam's house in Catford. They'd been with Nathan and Abbie all afternoon knitting in the back garden and when I arrived, I was instantly fed (Julie is Jewish) and then taken out into the allotments behind their house where we picked raspberries and gooseberries.

We sat on a hammock until the sun set. Nathan was knitting a pair of socks with fluorescent wool which started to glow magically as the light started to fade. Abbie has recently ditched all of her Mac products and largely returned to PCs. Nathan asked her at one point how she was coping "without Apple products" at which point Julie, bursting into the conversation, said "can't you eat apples either these days?"! Ah! The joys of miscommunication!

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