Saturday, April 30, 2005


We arrived in Paris on time and after a minor panic on the train when Brett’s luggage had disappeared (someone had moved it to an overhead rack and not told us) we headed off into the Metro. Here we came to the first of Paris’ idiosyncrasies. The ticket machines for the Metro claimed to take all major credit cards and displayed logos for MasterCard and Visa – and yet none of the machines would take any of the various credit cards the Chorus boys tried in them. They also didn’t take notes, so we had to resort to scraping up loose change for everyone’s tickets.

The second idiosyncrasy is in Paris’ maps. The location they display for Metro stations bears only an approximate resemblance to the actual location of the station itself. According to both of the maps we had available, our apartments were on the corner opposite the Bréguet-Sabin station. In fact they were a couple of blocks further north.

We got checked-in okay, after a long wait while the receptionist dealt with a group of loud Italians who seemed to have some problem with the locations of their apartments. When we finally made it to the room I was in a bit of a grump – which wasn’t helped by the expected Wi-Fi not being available and my phone having a dicky-fit and refusing to pick up any networks for a while. After unpacking though, I had calmed down somewhat and was ready to start the holiday again.

The apartment isn’t large – it’s probably not much bigger than a hotel room. The sofa folds out into a bed – which is fully made and fairly comfortable. There is a kitchenette and a good bathroom. The balcony does indeed have the advertised furniture on it – however if you unstack the chairs so that both of them are at the table, then you can’t actually get onto the balcony. Even with them stacked up, you have to squeeze past the table one at a time and get fairly cosy to get two people on it together. It isn’t really worth the effort anyway – we are in a largely flat residential area so there’s nothing much to see. There is a very small white tower in the distance which we think might be Saint Sulpice.

We are pretty philosophical about all this though: we didn’t come here to spend our time in the room; we came to explore and enjoy the city and that is what we then set off to do.

We called John W who had been on an earlier train and was out exploring with a group of the guys already. They were in the heart of the Marais, which is Paris’ gay district, so we headed in that direction too. We didn’t catch up with them though until dinner time. In the meantime we met another gang of LCMC boys in the Café Open on the Rue des Archives. We had a beer, took a few photographs of the gang and then wandered on, checking out the bookshops along the way.

At 8pm we met up with John W & Rich C, Jeremy, John G, Nick B & Ping for dinner at Bofingers, just off the Place de Bastille. (Photos here.) This is one of two restaurants we have had recommended to us and it turned out to be a good choice. Downstairs it is a bit grand, done in a freshened-up Art Nouveau style. Upstairs is a little more ‘olde worlde’ with dark wood panelling and muted stencils on dark wallpaper. The food was very good. The service was relaxed and friendly (although not always entirely accurate in recording our orders) and the whole meal was most enjoyable. Just a group of friends out for dinner with pretty much no Chorus talk at all.

The others were going on to a bar called the Bears’ Den, but it was in the wrong direction for our hotel and, while we would have enjoyed a drink, we decided to head home.

The weather here is apparently unseasonably hot – I certainly don’t think I’ve brought quite the right clothes. It was humid and warm today and tomorrow is forecast to be even hotter.

On the train we roughed-out a plan for the week. We are going to take in the Musée D’Orsay, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Versailles and the sights of central Paris, as well as going along to several concert blocks and doing our own performances. Brett has also asked me to blog for the SingOut site too. I think it’s going to be a busy week!

Incidentally we discovered that there is free WiFi in the apartments, you just have to be in the foyer to use it…

To Paris by Eurostar

The journey is going well so far. See here and here for first impressions. We left Waterloo on time at 12:09 and reached Ashford (Our only other UK stop) just under 50 minutes later. Having loosened us up with free champagne, the staff are now serving lunch: a light Thai chicken salad followed by a supreme of salmon, then gateaux & cream.
13:09 (BST) Into the tunnel.
13:30 BST/14:30 CET emerge in France.
Lunch is proving to be a nicely relaxed affair: not at all rushed - which makes a nice change from flying (but then, I've never flown 1st Class.)
The French countryside looks little different from Kent: low green rolling hills with the occasional patch of bright yellow rape seed. The only thing that gives it away are the different shaped electricity pylons.

Ready for departure

Well the packing got left until this morning, but we’re about ready now… apart from the fact I’ve left my white trainers at work. (They are part of the Chorus costume we’ll be using.) So we’re taking a rather circuitous route to Waterloo so I can pick them up. Enough for now. More from the train, where I’m sure I’ll be using my camera phone lots!

Friday, April 29, 2005


I really don’t feel like packing. I just want to go to bed. Unfortunately we are booked on the 12:09 Eurostar tomorrow, so we have to get prepared tonight, as there is only limited time tomorrow. Hmph.

Today went as expected. Observing the court was interesting – although I managed to land in a court with a Stipendiary Magistrate rather than Lay Magistrates. Nevertheless it was a very different experience from visiting Bow Street. There was a wider range of offences; ranging from cycling on the pavement, through car theft and joyriding, through to drug-trafficking and child pornography.

The weather was bright and sunny as I was walking along the river to work afterwards and the afternoon was fairly stress-free.

But now I still have to pack.

I love living in London

It's 9:50 and I'm sitting outside a small cafe on Horseferry Road in Westminster, waiting for the Magistrate's Court here to start. I'm observing the different Courts in session today as part of my application.
So here I sit, enjoying the morning sunshine, blogging on my PDA (because I still get a childish thrill out of being able to do that!) sipping on my latte, watchinq the world go by. I walked along the Albert Embankment from Vauxhall to get here and had a lovely view of the Palace of Westminster across the river.
I'm in Court this morning then back to work after lunch - but work should mostly be 'tidying up' ready for me to take my week off. And Brett gets home tonight! For a whole week together!!
It feels like the start of a good day at the start of a good week.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Coming Out: A Modern Ordeal

[2nd Draft]

I’ve just deleted a very long and somewhat pompous sociology essay that you probably wouldn’t have been able to bear reading all the way through. All it really said was: For gay men, coming out is a real Rite of Passage. It marks the distinction between two different phases of your life and for many people it is an Ordeal in the older sense of the word.

The upside of this is the real sense of community it engenders: You’ve shared the suffering yourself and so you probably know what’s going on in someone else’s head as they are going through it themselves.

The reason I’m dropping this pearl of wisdom on you is that last weekend, as I was randomly browsing blogs, I came upon this one. The blogger, Bruce, is a young gay man who came out to his mum recently and got a bad reaction. He was pretty desolated so I left a supportive comment.

It didn’t cost me anything. It took up very little of my time, but I empathised with what he was going through and thought I’d let him know he wasn’t alone and things would likely get better. He wrote a very heartfelt reply which both made me feel good and kind of crystallised the views I’ve expressed above.

All of which serves to remind me of the worth of things like the Chorus and its outreach projects which are designed to give guys like Bruce precisely that extra bit of support to help them face their ordeal.

Home again

So I got home safely. Driving back from Darlington yesterday was both more and less pleasant than driving up there on Tuesday. Better: the sun was shining and I hadn’t had to get up at 4am. Worse: There was more traffic on the road and I spent a large portion of the time either stuck behind lorries overtaking each other at miniscule speed differentials or, later, crawling through North London.

After returning the car, it was back up to Holloway Road (I had driven along it three hours previously!) for the final Chorus rehearsal before we all rendez-vous in Gay Paris – which will certainly be gayer when we get there! It was a storming rehearsal and I feel confident we’ll blow the other choirs away when we take the stage in Paris next Friday. Click here for a peek at the Tour Logo.

Today at work was partly spent catching up with email and fixing minor problems I’d left behind in Darlington and partly spent in meetings with suppliers bidding to replace our reprographics machines. I now know way more about colour calibration and spectrometers than I had any desire to learn.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Darlington - 8:50am

There's a lovely early morning feel to the town. At ten to nine pretty much the only shops open are bakers and newsagents. There aren't many people around and those that are aren't hurrying anywhere. It's such a refreshing change from London, where the rush hour starts in earnest at 07:30.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Network Issues |:(

So anyway, my last entry was written just before 7pm, but only just got posted because of ‘network issues.’

Since then we have been out and had dinner (which was all served by a very athletic boy-next-door waiter who was so charming and polite I’m sure he’s only just graduated ‘waiter school’!)  The main guy on the project called off at the last moment, so I ended up going with just the two women who I know only vaguely.  We still had a pleasant meal, only talking peripherally about work and the project – not like some of the consultants I’ve dined with who were complete anoraks! – and made it home again for about 8:45.

I’m now sitting in my room feeling like I ought to get some rest, but not feeling in the least bit tired.

Brett and I chatted on the phone earlier, but neither of us had any exciting news and talking’s not the same as holding him.


So here I am in Darlington.  It’s been a successful trip so far.  I avoided all the London rush-hour traffic by leaving at that hideously early hour.  The journey north was uneventful and completed in five hours.

The most interesting thing about it was some kind of incident going on in a residential section of the North Circular.  As I drove by there was one ambulance and half a dozen fire engines, plus a mobile control unit.  A few hundred yards later I was passed by three more engines heading in that direction.  There didn’t seem to be much activity where they were all parked up, but I know enough to say that something serious must have been afoot for them to pull in ten appliances at once.

I reached Darlington at about 10am, after a five hour drive, and spent the rest of the day doing what I could to get everything set up.  There were a couple of crucial pieces of the jigsaw missing because of delays by BT, but nothing I couldn’t work around.

I’m now back at the hotel, about to head out to dinner (well, Pizza Express) with the project team.  Don’t think I’ll be out too late, though; I need my beauty sleep today (see my photoblog for more on that subject!)

Received a lovely comment this morning from a guy called Bruce in Indiana whose blog I had commented on a few days ago.  More about that another time...

Late Night

Work was smooth. A bit hectic this evening – I had to pick up a hire car and then eat and get to a Chorus rehearsal. Rehearsal was in Belsize Park which was poorly lit and very hot and stuffy. (Not pleasant.) Did a lot of essential but unenjoyable note-bashing. Came home via work to collect car and laptops, etc. for the Project Office in Darlington. I’m theoretically setting off before 5am. Hmm.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The schedule

It’s going to be a busy week, this week. There’s a Chorus rehearsal tonight then tomorrow I’m leaving early to drive the length of the country to Darlington. Tuesday night I’ll be spending in a Darlington hotel before driving back on Tuesday afternoon ready for yet another Chorus rehearsal on Wednesday evening. Thursday evening is currently free and on Friday evening Brett will be home. (Yey!) On Saturday we’re off to Paris.

With my smart little new phone, I ought to be able to blog from just about anywhere that I have the time and inclination but let’s see how it goes…

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Wil Wheaton fetish?

As you’ll see from the sidebar I’m a regular reader of Wil Wheaton’s blog. One of Brett’s friends in Austin, upon reading my blog, accused me of having a Wil Wheaton fetish. I’m sure he was joking as he was reading just after I’d commented on how I liked Wil’s writing style.

Anyway, last week WW was invited to play in the World Poker Tournament in Las Vegas. The prize money for even the top one-hundred players was good and there was a reasonable chance he’d be on that list, however his computer packed-up on Wednesday so he hasn’t posted to his blog since. This morning over breakfast I did some googling to find out how he was doing and, in the process, found a poker ‘profile’ on him (here) and there were some pretty twisted comments that had been posted by passers-by. For example:

I want to bang Will. Imagine a little anal with Will and one of the crewmembers who wears a red shirt on another planet. I am so horny. Will, would you mind letting me ride you doggy-style while I reach around and...

Now THAT is what I call a fetish: being so hung up on a guy in a role he played eighteen years ago is pretty weird, verging on the sick.

Generally I think that people who are into sci-fi are interesting and worth listening to.

Today? Less so.

A day with Bruce

Most of today was spent cycling with Bruce. (You can read more about the trip here at my PhotoBlog.) Bruce is my (now ex-) Brother-In-Law although I have known him longer than he has known my sister. We were at University together – well, he went up two years after me. He is now living in Tooting, studying medicine as a mature student and working casual shifts for the London Ambulance Service (to help keep him in the style to which he is accustomed.)

Bruce is an interesting character. Now that he’s back in London he seems to be all action. As well as studying medicine and moonlighting for the L.A.S. he’s also taken up Anglo-Saxon martial arts (that would be sword fighting to you and me.) We spent some time discussing how best to disable an opponent with a sword without killing them (which is usually easier and so, if you think about it, a far more efficient way to fight if you are wearing a huge weight of armour.) He showed me the longsword he’s buying.

He also keeps his eye on Sci-Fi fandom. One of the things he pointed out to me today was this spoof trailer for the new Star Wars Film. It is very well made and absolutely hilarious – although be warned: it is 38Mb in size, so only click the link if you have broadband installed and a few minutes to kill.

Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!'

Thought I might do a little flag-waving as it’s St. George’s Day


I have to say though, I’m not sure what else one is supposed to do in honour of England’s patron saint. Slaying a dragon is probably politically incorrect; now that hunting foxes, which are pretty common animals, is against the law, I imagine that killing a creature which, if it isn’t totally extinct should certainly be on the endangered species list, would be considered highly inappropriate.

I don’t have a particular urge to declare war on the French - they may go on strike a lot and can be a bit arsey at times, but they do make a damn fine breakfast. The Spanish Navy has never done me any harm either.

Perhaps I shall just hum the tune to Jerusalem, have a cup of tea while watching the cricket, and keep a stiff upper lip about the whole thing.

Rule Britannia and all that!

[Just in case you were wondering, it's Henry V, Act III, Scene I]

Friday, April 22, 2005

Verizon gets weirder

You may recall I was a bit gobsmacked a few months ago to hear that Verizon had blocked the entire continent of Europe from sending email to its customers, as a way of blocking spam. (My comments here.)

While I was checking to see if there had been any developments in the ensuing law suit, I came across this article which made me smile. The story hasn’t been picked up by any of the major news wires as far as I can see, so maybe the Chief Exec was being quoted out of context to invent a story. Nevertheless, in light of the company’s bizarre stance on Europe, one has to wonder…

Cocktails in Putney

Another good day at work: I got the Terminal Server for Darlington all sorted and even had time to tidy my desk. The one downside of the day was finding out from the AA’s route planner exactly how far away Darlington is! I’d thought it was somewhere in the midlands, when in fact it’s closer to Scotland. It’s roughly a four and half hour drive. I made an executive decision that my trip was going to include an overnight and booked a hotel.

I was giving Rosie a hand moving after work. She is sharing a flat in Putney with a couple of guys. She’s got a sizable bedroom and shares the bathroom, kitchen and decent size lounge/diner with her flatmates. The place has a bit of the air of a bachelor pad about it, but it’s not unpleasant.

Rosie Moves to Putney

After helping unpack suitcases and setting up her music system, we wandered out into the town to see what we could find to eat. Along the way we passed someone eating fish and chips and my decision was made: No cordon-bleu or haute cuisine for me. I wanted fish, chips and mushy peas.

Rosie Moves to Putney

Rosie suggested cocktails afterwards (possibly to redeem the tone of her first real night living here) and after some wandering we eventually found a tapas bar which could provide the goods. I had that Essex Girl staple; a Pina Colada, while Rosie had a Latin American rum and lime-based concoction. She went on to have an orgasm (that would be Kahlua, Baileys & Amaretto and bears no resemblance to Meg Ryan!) but I was going to be driving home so I stuck with a latte – which was beautifully presented nevertheless.

Rosie Moves to Putney Rosie Moves to Putney

I’m looking forward to a good weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tennis and Blogs

The highlight of work today was a tennis match. Gaetan, one of the Helpdesk team, had suggested to Jon, one of the software developers, that he was pretty good at tennis and that they ought to book a match at the local leisure centre. Jon had promptly gone off and done just that.

Nothing out of the ordinary there, you might think.

However Gaetan has acquired a bit of a reputation for being all mouth and no trousers… so for the last few days the one aim of the department has been to make sure he had no excuses for not playing and defending his claim of being “pretty good.” Rackets were arranged, balls bought and today I accompanied them both to the court and watched them play for a while. As it turned out Gaetan lost, but they were pretty evenly matched.

I used the opportunity to try a few shots with my new camera-phone. The only one that came out okay was the ‘before’ shot (here.) All of the ‘action’ shots were taken at maximum (digital!) zoom, so of course came out looking very pixelated.

The other incident of note was examining the laptop that had been run over (see here) by a car. Sure enough, it was still in working order, although the screen was detached from the base at one end. Other than that it worked fine (even the problematic USB ports were behaving themselves.) We asked for the details and were assured that, yes, the car had driven squarely across the bag and even left a tire print.

I have to say I was impressed: You can kill the screen on a laptop just by leaving your pen top on the keyboard when you close the lid and yet this one had survived the weight of a laden estate car rolling over it.

In Other News:
Rowan officially moved to London today and tonight I was supposed to be helping her unload and unpack. In the end it turned out that she had it all done before I got home, and wanted to go see her friend Claire who is flying back to the States tomorrow so I got the evening off. I spent it mostly googling for webloggers with whom I shared interests.

I’m considering attending a social event for London bloggers in May and thought I’d investigate my ‘community’ a bit. My totally unscientific research led me to shortlist the following that looked worth keeping an eye on: Stairs of Great Britain, twenty-something blog, Dominic Sayers, Naked Blog and More a Way Of Life - only a couple of whom fulfil the original criteria for the search, but hey, that's what the Internet is all about!

Right, I’m getting tired now and my mind is wandering too much. Blogger seems to be up and down a lot tonight, so I’ll post this now while I can and save enthusing about Curtis’ travel blog for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Yin and Yang

For once I was out of bed at a sensible hour this morning and had time to relax before leaving for work. While I was sitting there, both good karma and bad karma found me. The good karma was noticing how alive the gardens behind our flat look. We overlook some communal green space with several large trees. During the winter the trees are bare of leaves and look quite stark, but over the last few weeks the cherry trees, one pink and one white, have blossomed and the really tall tree is suddenly a massive green canopy again, moving with the wind. There were lots of lovely springtime feelings in that observation.

The bad karma moment was that, browsing through my friends' websites, I saw that Curtis had updated his site with news of his big Australian holiday. In itself that is a good thing – from skimming his holiday blog it looked like he had a great time – the negative thoughts came from realising that the last time I mailed him, he was still looking forward to the holiday. I haven’t mailed him in months. That led me to thinking how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to many of my old friends and a determination to catch up with them now that I have more time to myself.

So, with my Yin and Yang in balance, I headed off into a basically pretty good day. I was on top of all of my work, I downloaded street plans and Metro route planners for our Paris trip in a few weeks and things were generally chilled.

I spoke to Brett this evening, as he’d sent a rather plaintive email out to his family today asking for news. I didn’t have much interesting news to offer him, but it was nice just to talk to him. For all that I am on my own, I am at least at home with plenty of things to fill my time. He is having a somewhat harder time of it in a short-term-let apartment in a foreign country that’s even colder than England.

We had another Chorus rehearsal tonight, this time concentrating on the repertoire for our Paris trip and we did well: The songs are pretty much there, with just polishing to do in the next week. I am looking forward to Paris, both from a Choir point of view and a personal holiday point of view.

Right. I’m off to read about Curtis’ trip down-under before turning-in.

Tough little laptop

One of my tasks at work is managing the IT Helpdesk. Sometimes you get a request where your jaw just drops. Below is an extract of an email exchange with one of my users. It certainly brightened up the morning in our office…

From: [username deleted] To: ITHelpdesk
Subject: Problems with laptop USB ports

I seem to be having some problems with the USB ports on my laptop, [stuff deleted for brevity] I have a feeling it might be something to do with the fact that the computer got run over in a car park about six months ago. It was in a padded computer bag so wasnt too badly damaged and it still works ok but possibly it loosened something around the USB ports that has finally come out/broken?

From: [Me] To: [username deleted]
Subject: RE: Problems with laptop USB ports

Yes, it's possible that the car park incident is related to the problems with the USB ports. Company-issue laptop bags are only rated to protect against impacts from vehicles up to Band F. Can you advise the model of the car that ran over it so we can see if it's worth making an insurance claim against the bag's manufacturers?

You should also return the bag to the Helpdesk for replacement, as they should not be used after being involved in an incident of this kind. Also, can you advise how much of your time is spent in car parks? It may be necessary to upgrade your bag's protection factor if you are likely to be around larger cars, HGVs, aircraft or light artillery.

I will have someone from the Helpdesk come and have a look at your USB ports.

From: [username deleted] To: [Me]
Subject: RE: Problems with laptop USB ports

I was thinking that it might be worth seeing if HP want to use the computer in an advert to show how tough their laptops are seeing as it got a full squishing by a whacking great Vauxhall Vectra Estate full up with stuff and pretty much survived! To answer the question about whether it looks like its been run over, theres no tyre marks or anything like that. Just one of the hinges for the screen has broken (although at the time it was only slightly cracked, opening and closing over time snapped it off) and there's a slight blemish on the screeen where the screen got pushed into the keyboard. Other than that it looks fine.
I have a replacement laptop bag with full protection up to light artillery shells now but thanks for your concern.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sleep deprived

Brett was off to Stockholm again this morning. His car to the airport was booked for 05:15, so we had an early alarm. I foolishly didn’t get up when he did and drifted off to sleep again after he’d left, only waking up at the time that I should have been on the train to work. After a hurried commute, I eventually breakfasted and showered in the office!

Had lunch with John M and discussed mobile phones, Chorus, movies and suchlike. As he works in the industry he had been able to point me at a few places to get software for my new gadget. I now have a selection of decent freeware games with which to distract myself on dull tube and train journeys.

Felt more productive today at work – or maybe because I was out for lunch I didn’t allow myself time to surf the newswires or my favourite blogs – made progress on sorting out the Terminal Server for our new Project Office but failed to sort out the problem with the mail services in our Adelaide Office. The rest of the day was spent on administrivia.

After work I met up with Ping for dinner. He was feeling rather down after the election yesterday. We had cocktails and a pleasant meal in a restaurant near Covent Garden and managed to while away three or so hours.

Came home after that so I could get an early night – which is where I’m off to now.


Freshened Up

You may notice a bit of a change in the look of the blog today. It isn’t in its final form yet, but I’ve got rid of the big profile section at the top, tidied up the sidebar a little and added a link to my new photoblog:

Monday, April 18, 2005

Caring Too Much

I was quite tired at work today having had a late night last night, so I didn’t get much done really. I just kept up with stuff.

During lunch I did notice an amusing post on Wil Wheaton’s Blog which you can find here. It seems that pettiness and factions are wherever there are people who care about something – even a movie franchise.

The Chorus rehearsal was most enjoyable again tonight – we started work on Another Hundred People, from Stephen Sondheim’s Company; yet another song I really like in this repertoire.

There was also the Chorus AGM which went fairly smoothly. Brett was the only candidate standing for Vice-Chairman and was elected. Ping was one of three standing for Chairman but he didn’t succeed, coming third. I fear he will take the defeat to heart and view it as a personal rejection, rather than just a political vote. It would be a shame if the Chorus lost his enthusiasm and energy as a result of it because he has so much of value to offer.


Another geeky day on Sunday. I was playing with my phone and photoblog some more while Brett was trying to get some website & blog stuff done for SingOut, the UK association of Gay and Lesbian choirs. He wants to get a SingOut Blog in place ready for when we all head off to the Choral festival in Paris in a few weeks time. Unfortunately the technology has been fighting back and neither he nor I could get Blogger to publish to the site which hosts SingOut – despite being able to get it to work on other sites.

This evening was the big Chorus fundraising event at the V&A Museum in Kensington. Both Brett and I were there to schmooze potential donors. It was a very good evening: It was the inaugural performance of the new Chorus ‘Small Group’ who performed two sets of songs to great acclaim. We were also launching our new Patron’s Scheme to hopefully raise money from prominent supporters. It was a very professionally done event. We had private access to a new exhibition in the museum followed by a champagne & canapé reception all served by excellent staff in a magnificently decorated pair of rooms. First indications are that we’ve raised a substantial amount and been promised a lot more. Even if the event doesn’t directly pay for itself, I think we’ve raised our profile considerably today.

After the gig a few of us went out for a meal at a nearby Italian restaurant. Brett and I had been on our feet all night, smiling and making small-talk, and John & Rich had been on stage performing with the Small Group so it was nice to relax and chat even though the food wasn’t great.

Ended up waiting half-an-hour at Earls Court for a tube to Wimbledon but made it home eventually…

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Geek's Christmas

So far the weekend has been a bit of a geek-fest. During the week, I have been looking at other ways of hosting my blog. Blogger has been rather unreliable of late and I get withdrawal symptoms if I can’t post when I feel the urge. I’d also been looking at redesigning the template to give it a cleaner look. A template redesign would involve me in quite a lot of manual HTML coding and my knowledge and skills in that area are currently quite basic, but I’m picking it up.

As part of all this mulling about redesigns, I’ve been surfing lots of other blogs looking for style ideas and, in the process, was reminded that I’d thought about doing a photoblog. I have a decent digital camera, but it is too bulky to carry around all the time, so I decided the time had come to retire my venerable mobile phone; in the age-old tradition of middle-aged men everywhere, the time had come to replace it with a younger model with fancier features. Brett has been muttering about getting a new phone for a while, so we thought we’d take advantage of Orange’s two-for-one deal on 3G phones and both get video phones.

If only it were that simple.

There were times on Saturday afternoon when I felt we were the confused customers in a TV commercial, scratching our heads and saying ‘So many bundles, so many models, and so many options! How can we decide what’s best for us??’

It took us a while, but we did eventually come to a decision (and heartfelt thanks to the manager of the Wimbledon Orange Shop, who was the only assistant we found who really knew what he was talking about.) I came away with a nice new Nokia 6630, which has a good quality camera built-in. Unfortunately Brett has to wait fourteen days before he can get his because of ill-thought-through conditions on the two-for-one deal, but in the end we will both get fancier phones.

So… back at the ranch, I started testing my photoblogging abilities while Brett read his latest comics. The photoblog is not quite ready for launch yet, but I am now configured to post pictures via email from my mobile phone which is pretty cool.

The new phone is neat. My old phone could, in theory, do almost everything that this one does (except having the 3G bandwidth) however I couldn’t get it to do much with multimedia/Internet stuff without all kinds of contortions. In the time since I bought my old phone, the manufacturers have obviously got their ideas (and their software) better sorted and the new one is fine: Easy to upload all my contacts and generally easy to set up.

One thing that brightened my morning today was that, realising it can use MIDI files for its ringtones, I uploaded a selection of old files I’ve had lying around in my filing system since the days when MIDI files were new and exciting. So I now have the options of Chopin’s Minute Waltz, The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, YMCA and the Loony Tunes theme to choose from. Unfortunately some of the ones I might have used have several seconds of silence at the start, so I have had to pass on the themes from The Godfather and James Bond.

And that was my Saturday: A geek’s Christmas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Underwear abroad

Being gay isn’t always easy but it does have its good points. For example, even in a fairly liberal society, eyebrows would still be raised if a straight man frequently dressed in his partner’s clothing. As a gay man however, not only is it perfectly acceptable, it’s a positive perk! If you find yourself a partner of a similar height and build to yourself, you are effectively doubling your collective wardrobes. In a culture which so often judges you on how you look, you can see how this would be A Good Thing.

In our relationship, Brett has got the better deal. He is just a little bit too short for me to wear his clothes but my clothes, while somewhat long on him, can be made to serve. Of a weekend you can often see him lounging in one of my sweatshirts with the sleeves rolled up a little.

This morning I had a laundry crisis. Lots of clothes had been washed at the weekend so I knew that everything was clean on Monday. Yet by Wednesday morning I appeared to have run out of undershirts. The only candidates I could find were Brett’s (somewhat worn) t-shirts (which in any case are two narrow across the shoulders and rub constantly.) In the end, I eventually found one and dressing proceeded without further incident.

However, now that I’ve had a chance to check the laundry basket more carefully, and the piles of clothes I haven’t yet gotten around to putting away, and Brett’s drawers and wardrobes, and all the usual clothes-drying locations, I can now positively say that four of my undershirts are missing. Where can they be?

While I can speculate on their location, I cannot say for sure. Yet somehow I imagine that Brett will be spending his Saturday morning visiting Marks & Spencer and purchasing some of St. Michael’s finest. Whereupon I shall be writing initials on the labels with a laundry marker! Harrumph.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I just wanna sing...

It was a rather quiet day at work today which was fortunate as we were understaffed. From a team of seven one is on holiday, one was working from home, one was on a course and one was off sick.

Monday night means a Chorus rehearsal though and tonight’s was good fun: We started work on a song for our July concert which is taken from Jerry Springer, The Opera. It’s called I Just Wanna Dance and contains such immortal lines as ‘I just wanna fuckin’ dance’ and ‘I don’t give a fuck no more, if people think that I’m a whore.’ Yet for all the profanity, I found the song beautiful and moving. It starts off in the tentative, almost plaintive, vein of someone dreaming of escaping their tedious life and progresses towards a proud, angry declaration at the end as the soloist comes out of their dancing ‘closet’. I really enjoyed it.

I felt very down during the second half of the rehearsal though. We had moved on to a different song and all of a sudden I felt Brett’s absence quite keenly. As I don’t have to be up too early tomorrow, I stayed for a drink after the rehearsal had ended and had a pleasant chat with Nick and John.

Nick isn’t a singing member, so I don’t get to see him that often, but he is standing for re-election and had come along to be questioned by the Chorus. Brett’s and my relations with John and Nick have been somewhat strained over the last few months because of the politicking that has gone on on the Steering Committee. So now that this committee’s term is coming to a close I’m hoping we can reconnect, as they are a good couple of guys.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Missing him already

Not a lot to report this weekend. The weather has been nice, but we haven’t really made anything of it. It’s mostly been spent shopping, tidying, paying bills and mundane stuff like that.

Rosie has been down for the weekend and on Friday I went with her to hear her old choir sing in Westminster Abbey. They were very good – in fact the whole experience was enjoyable. The building is so wonderfully quiet without tourists. The organ sounded great and the singing was lovely.

Brett is packing as I write and I’m feeling a bit out of sorts about that. It’s the feeling of impending doom, like going back to school after the holidays. I don’t get the serious pangs when he’s actually gone, just when he’s getting ready to go. During the weeks so far I have managed to either occupy myself with other stuff, or be so worn out that I’m fast asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.

So far they have only been four day weeks but this time he’s away for the fortnight. So it’s now that I’m missing him.

The Child Inside

I have often heard it said that the birth of your first child, or sometimes the realisation that you are going to be a parent, makes you realise suddenly that you are no longer a child yourself. It’s supposed to be a step-change; when you suddenly feel a weight of responsibility settle onto your shoulders. Strangely, I mentioned the likelihood that I would never father a child as a reason for wanting to give back to the community through serving as a Magistrate.

Yet now that I’m over the initial excitement of getting through the first interview, it is beginning to sink in: If I’m successful I will have become a ‘pillar of the community.’ If I get through the selection process I really will be affecting peoples’ lives, directly and sometimes profoundly. It isn’t quite the epiphany of parenthood, but the realisation is beginning to nibble at me: This really is a serious thing I’m doing. I’m not a kid any more.

Bruce sent me a text message saying “For what it’s worth, I think you’ll be VERY good at this. I don’t think I know anyone more honest and upright than you!” It’s reassuring to know that my friends think so highly of me. Even so, if I ever do get to sit on a Bench, I think I will still feel like a nervous child inside. The trick to adulthood, it seems, is just not to let that show.

Friday, April 08, 2005

First Interview

I’m still on the high, so I’ll blog about it now.

The interview went very well. It only lasted twenty minutes but in the end it was pretty much what I expected. Why did I want to be a Magistrate? How did I feel about judging people? What weaknesses did I have that might affect my decisions on the bench? What were my views on the police? There was only one question that stumped me initially: When I was asked how I thought the Magistracy should support the police I couldn’t think of an answer. It was only as I was slowly talking my way through the question that I realised it was a trick question. Magistrates swear to implement the law “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will” so of course the police don’t get any special support. Everyone should be treated equally by the court. Phew!

So when it was all over, the secretary to the committee handed me a couple of DVDs (one for me and one for my employer) and asked me when I could come back for the second interview. That caught me off-guard – I’d been expecting a letter in a few days – but I wasn’t going to complain and arranged a date.

Apparently the next stage will have me looking at a sample case and discussing it; which is something I think I feel more equipped to handle. I’ll also take a few mornings between now and then to sit in on Magistrates’ courts around London to get a feel for the atmospheres and the different kinds of business they do.

I feel good.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Adult to Adult or Parent to Child?

Ping called tonight and we spent quite a while on the phone talking Chorus. He had been sent my ranting blog entry from a few nights back and wanted to know how serious I was about what I’d said in the cold light of day. I think perhaps my declaration of not caring had made him stop and think a bit, since he’s standing for election as Chairman of the Chorus at the AGM in ten days time. I basically stood by everything I said, but pointed out how it arose from a particular combination of circumstances which are unlikely to be duplicated in the new committee when it is elected.

I need a break from the pressures I’ve experienced since taking office – in fact really since I started work on the new policy documents back in the summer. I suspect that given a few months though, I will step back into the scrum. I share with my sister and mother the doom of always stepping forward when we see something that needs doing that no-one else will own.

Ping was surprised, in one of our conversational tangents, that I had a grasp of Transactional Analysis. We agreed that the Chorus spends a lot of its time in parent-child mode and that more adult-adult is definitely needed. It would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath.


I have my Magistrate’s interview tomorrow.

Hopefully it will only be the first interview, followed by a second, followed by appointment but for now I’m just concentrating on tomorrow.

I had a haircut today and the new shirt is ironed and hanging with the new suit in a carrier; the interview details are already in my bag waiting to go tomorrow morning.

Tonight I have been trying to prepare. My fellow blogger, Bystander, pointed me at some online training resources which are interesting and I’ve been scanning through them. The difficulty in preparing for the interview though, is that the prerequisites are so basic: Essentially not being involved in any other branch of government, not being a criminal and not being bankrupt – it doesn’t even say that you have to be legally sane! (Although I suppose that sanity is implicit in some of the character traits you are expected to show.)

With the lack of any hard experience or qualifications required, I’m expecting lots of soft, ‘touchy-feely’ questions exploring my views on justice and the law, community-issues and so forth. I’ve tried to prepare myself by mentally outlining answers to such questions, along with the other interview staples about why I should have the job and what my ambitions are, etc. but I really have no idea what to expect. I’m hoping that Bystander’s other piece of advice holds true: “It’s Mark One common sense.”

I’ll let you know!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Film Fest

After all the tension of last week and Sunday night, this week seems to be going remarkably well. Work is busy but interesting; I’ve even caught myself whistling some of the latest Chorus tunes while at my desk.

Tonight I am just back from seeing a selection of films at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, to which John M had invited me (despite my having inadvertently stood him up for lunch on Monday!) While not 'entertaining' in the Hollywood sense, they were all of them interesting in their own way. The first three were presented under the collective title ‘Fuck Gender’, two of which examined the concepts of butch and femme in lesbianism and what causes people to view you as one or the other. The third in the triplet took you in totally the opposite direction by looking at life as a transgender person who blurs the distinction between male and female identification. After a break for some drinks we went into a second showing of a very short film where a woman interviewed her parents who, although married for many years, both came out as gay in later life. The last film of the evening was an hour-long documentary partly about life in San Francisco and partly about the Golden Gate Bridge’s role as a suicide landmark.

The film contained some interesting statistics – apparently only six percent of people who are prevented from committing suicide go on to try again. John mentioned an Economist article he’d read recently which reported that when selling aspirin in bottles was banned, so you could only get them in blister packs, the suicide rate from aspirin overdose dropped noticeably – presumably because it was more effort to pop fifty pills from their packaging than it was to just chug a bottleful. I had never realised that suicide was quite such an impulsive decision; quite frightening really.

We’re going to watch one more film, this time on Friday night, which is a behind-the-scenes exposé of the Los Angeles Mr Leather competition. I’m meeting my sister to hear her choir sing in Westminster Abbey before the film though, so on the whole Friday will be quite an eclectic night. Best of all, Brett will be home from Stockholm for the weekend. Yeay!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Freaky Psycho Blogger

Just at the moment, I am reading Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton (who writes one of my linked blogs, see below right.) While the book is about a lot more than his blog, it is still a fairly no-holds-barred review of what was going on in his head as he wrote some of his blog posts. It’s a very revealing and quite personal book that has got me thinking about what I am trying to get out of my own blog.

While nominally an ongoing letter to both my and Brett’s parents to try to make up for how rarely we see them, I am keeping it as much for my own recollection as for anyone else’s. It is my diary if you like. For basically egotistical (and, to be honest, laziness) reasons I have chosen to publish this diary online as I write it.

However, just as Wil found himself doing, I am finding myself often putting the ‘best face’ on events and not really talking about what is going on in my head as they happen. Skating over the ups and downs of life is probably providing rather bland fare for my immediate readers, and negating the long-term reasons for keeping a diary, as it doesn’t really say much about who I am as I write it.

Just by writing about my life on a frequent basis, I’m clear that it isn’t ‘interesting’ on the grand scale of things. Nevertheless I hope, in years to come, to be able to look back through my postings and have my memory jogged about all the little events that make up the fabric of a person’s life. So I guess I owe it to myself not to wash any of the colour out of the telling.

The upshot of all this electronic navel-gazing will be a more emotionally frank blog at times. It may not be to everyone’s taste (in fact I fear the family McHargue could soon be swooping down on Wimbledon to rescue their prodigal son from his freaky, psycho boyfriend!) but hey, that’s life! And, after all, you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

I suspect I've already inaugurated this new era with my previous post. Maybe more on that subject at a later date, but for now I'm going to go to bed. Too many late nights and early mornings are catching up with me.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Chorus - The Last Straw

It’s funny how things go. I’m sitting here at 2am in my dressing gown, unable to sleep because I am so wound up. This is despite having a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable day. Today we had a full-day (well, 11-5) rehearsal where we worked through an R&B medley that we will be performing in Paris. Both the music and the ‘choralography’ are lively and fun to perform. It cheered me up considerably as I’d started the day wishing I could get out of the rehearsal and just have another lazy day.

The good mood evaporated, however, when I came to check my email after dinner.

It’s a really a story of how gay men excel at petty personal-politics. Regular readers will know that I serve on the Steering Committee of the London Gay Men’s Chorus. Last summer, before I joined the committee, there were accusations made against the conduct of one of the committee members by some of the other committee members. The issue was, in my opinion, very badly handled at the time and I said so.

Unfortunately this opinion of mine seems to have tainted the Committee’s perception of me such that, when I came to join the Committee at the start of this year, I was perceived as being out for revenge. While I wondered at the frosty reception my ideas and proposals met, I viewed it simply as the teething problems of a newcomer settling into an established team. It wasn’t until a month or so into the job when this suspicion erupted into a diatribe from a colleague, accusing me of being out to undermine and destabilise everything and everyone that I realised that there was maybe a little bit more to it.

I made a full and frank statement about my intentions and views and made assurances all-round that I wasn’t trying to destabilise anything – after all I enjoy the singing and camaraderie of the Chorus too! Things settled down mostly, although there seemed to be a lingering suspicion from at least one member.

Tonight (well Sunday morning, to be precise, but I only read them this evening) the lingering bad feeling leaked out into a couple of emails which could almost be described as poison-pen letters! One of them picking holes in, and generally criticising, one of my pet projects and another having a go at me in particular and the committee I run in general.

It was all very negative and most of it was unfounded and/or hyperbole which I was able to refute fairly easily and did so. Now I find myself peculiarly numb to the whole thing and yet still unable to sleep. This incident is definitely the straw that has broken the camel’s back. I no longer feel a desire to give anything to the Chorus and am in it now purely for the selfish enjoyment I get out of the singing and performing. I am going to do no more committee work – which will hardly be missed as the AGM is in two weeks – and I have resigned my other role of managing the Chorus’ message groups. The respect I had for the work and achievements of our long-serving chairman has now been totally eroded and I find that I really don’t like the man.

It’s a shame, because the LGMC is such a worthwhile group to be involved with. It is great fun and a great community – for the most part(!). I’ve never been good with politics and have always preferred being straightforward with people. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong: A naïve assumption that people would take me at face-value – or at least give me the benefit of the doubt until I proved myself one way or the other. Well, I got my fingers burned on that one.

The worst thing about all of the above is that it’s now April 4th, which is the anniversary of Simon’s death, and I’d planned to spend this evening blogging about our relationship and his life and death but instead it’s been spent fuming and angry about something which I find I no longer care about. I really need to sort my priorities out.

Well, now that I’ve gotten the Chorus issue out of my system (but into my blog,) I can maybe go back to bed and remember happier times as a student in Dundee, spending days on the beach and in the park with my friends and with my surrogate little brother, whom I miss deeply to this day. Especially on this day.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Brunch had turned into Lunch by the time we got out of bed and made it to Café Rouge. Even so I savoured the meal; fixing the memory against the uncertain future where I might not be able to spend sunny Saturdays eating fine food on the spur of the moment without a care in the world. The sunshine seemed to have brought out meteorological desperation in the denizens of Wimbledon and shorts and t-shirts were very much in evidence, despite it not actually being that warm.

Once home again, I cracked on with reading my book (which Brett is also anxious to read) while he did household and computer stuff. In theory I was supposed to be paying bills and tidying paperwork too, but that never happened. I couldn’t face being organised today. We were expecting Rod & Jess over for dinner tonight, but it seems I got my dates wrong and they were expecting to come next week. That was actually fine as I was quite happy not to have to interact with people tonight.

Chorus email today reminded me that last night was the first session for our Youth Chorus pilot. It also said that it was a failure – an open introduction evening where only one person turned up. Technically I am responsible for it – albeit only in an oversight capacity – but I’d actually forgotten it was happening. The worrying thing is that I don’t think I care. Fortunately the AGM is only a couple of weeks away, so I’ll soon be free of the obligation. We have a six-hour rehearsal tomorrow which I could well do without too!

We watched the second episode of the new Doctor Who series tonight. It’s growing on me, although the one-story-per-episode format doesn’t give much time to really develop a plot.

Friday, April 01, 2005


The problem with holidays is that you can’t take time off without having to catch up afterwards. If they could really do without you for a week or two then the reality is that your job would have been made redundant years ago. I can’t decide whether that’s a modern thing or whether it’s always been like that. Somehow I suspect, though, that the Victorian pace of life was slower than ours. Either way, you come back from your week off, feeling all refreshed and full of energy and then get it knocked out of you by all the emails in your inbox and calls on your voicemail.

In my case I probably made it worse for myself by having a holiday just before the financial year-end (which is always a frenzied time) and just before releasing a major system. So anyway, you get the drift. I’ve had a lousy week at work. I picked up some kind of a cold midweek too and had blocked sinuses and now a nose that just won’t stop running.

Chorus stuff was just as bad as work. In fact I had more emails relating to Chorus than I had at work – but most of those were just automatic alerts about the new members joining the LGMC Yahoo Groups.

Anyway, it all seems to have settled down now so I’m planning a relaxing weekend to set me up for a good week next week.

Brett took this week off too, so our roles in the morning have been reversed: I’ve been saying goodbye to him while he’s still in bed, where normally he’s leaving early to catch the train to Aldershot while I’m still in bed. For the rest of the day he’s been reading comics and trying to integrate his PC with our TV.

So tonight – while he’s scrabbling around in the corner with SCART leads and S-Video cables – I’m going to do some preparation for my Magistrates interview next week.