Setting Out My Stall


With over thirty years of misadventures on the Birmingham gay scene, I have tales to tell of the places, predicaments and people I have been in.

I have socialised and cruised in the bars, pubs, clubs, saunas and secluded midnight nooks that make up Birmingham’s compact gay village since my late teens. Here are my tales of queer encounters on the gay side of the UK’s much maligned second city.

I have experienced the tender, the terrible and the charmingly touching… but most importantly humour and humanity.

Shining a light on the scene unseen.

Bedroom Farce

Cash cascaded across the pavement… and they didn’t even bother to stop and pick it up!

I was heading to an impromptu post-work Grindr meet. My evening walk to Wolverhampton train station had been diverted to a mews of town centre flats by a tap, flurry of messages, cock shot and location. A case of commutus interruptus.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by this guy’s goofy face pic, but hoped it was just an unflattering photo and suspected he would look better in person. It is acceptable to backout of a hook-up in these situations, although an excruciating manoeuvre to tactfully execute… and hard not to take to heart when it happens to you.

I once arrived on a stranger’s house as arranged but was unable to get a response to my knocks.

I’M AT THE DOOR, I messaged.

I KNOW, they replied.

Their profile suddenly vanished. I’d been blocked. I was stood on their doorstep knowing I now had to walk away fully aware that they would be watching me depart.

It can be brutal out there, but you can’t be everyone’s type.

Heading to the location of my Wolverhampton detour, I cut along one busy street where a homeless guy sat on the pavement with a plastic pot of coins in front of him.

A passing pedestrian accidently kicked the container, scattering its contents… then kept on walking! Just because this guy’s life was in the gutter (well, a few meters from it) didn’t mean that passer-by had the right to totally ignore the mishap they themselves had just caused.

I stooped to gather coins… then added a few more to his collection.

When I arrived at Grindr guy’s flat, I was relieved to meet an attractive lad, with cute smile, dark floppy hair and softly almond shaped eyes. He really needed to update his profile picture.

This was my reward for picking up scattered pennies. My Karma Sutra.

I slipped off my shoes and followed my host up several flights to the top floor of three-storey accommodation at the rear of Victorian shops and into a compact bedroom, where he drew the curtains…

“Are you studying history?” I asked during pillow talk, having clocked the subject dominating his bookshelves.

“They belong to my flatmate,” he told me.

“Is this his room? We haven’t just done the deed on his bed have we?!”

“No. I haven’t lived here long, he still hasn’t moved all his things out of my room,” he said. “He’s at the gym.”

At that moment, there was the sound, from three floors down, of the front door closing.

“I don’t think he’s at the gym anymore,” I noted. The guy looked concerned. “Is that a problem? You are out to him, right?”

“Well, yes. He’s gay too, but…” He didn’t need to say anymore. I got it. He didn’t want to be caught in the act. “I’m sorry, but would you mind staying in here while I go down and find out what’s going on?”

I promised to stay as quiet as Anne Frank (Quieter in fact…  as she got rumbled).

He slipped guiltily from the room.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been someone’s dirty secret and I’d endured worse hiding places.

Half a lifetime ago, I was vaguely seeing some guy I had picked up on the scene. We were in that honeymoon period of a one-night-stand, followed by a few successive meets… while we both figured out how to politely say we really weren’t that interested in each other.

We were under the covers in his bedsit when a key rattled in the lock.

I found myself un-ceremonially shoved from the bed and bundled into the room’s fitted wardrobe.

As he closed the sliding doors he hissed, “It’s my landlord… stay quiet!”

I sat in that cramped space on a pile of crumpled clothes and random shoes, with shirttails dangling in my face, living the classic sitcom scenario, as the landlord waffled on about some mundane matter… for an eternity.

Finally, I heard the landlord leave and the wardrobe doors slid back open.

“Sorry about that,” he apologised. “I hate the way he just lets himself in like that.”

“Yes… I’m not that keen on it either!!! Now help me up, my legs gone to sleep.”

Back in Wolverhampton, my Grindr acquaintance returned from checking on his flatmate’s unexpected return and told me, “I am going to have to sneak you out.”

“My shoes are by your front door. Please don’t throw me out in my socks!”

He nipped back down to discreetly retrieve my footwear then returned and beckoned me to follow. We tiptoed across the landing and down the stairs, matching footfalls to make it sound as though there was only one person, like a couple of tribal warriors.

I wasn’t sure how he planned to smuggle me out unobserved, until we reached the middle landing, where they had a lounge with kitchenette leading off to the left. While the other man about the house was making himself a hot drink, my accomplice stood in front of the lounge door to help conceal my escape as I slipped away.

Moments after leaving, I received a text apologising for the way the encounter had ended.

I assured him it was all good… and besides, it had given me material should I ever wish to write a bedroom farce.

London’s glittering West End theatres wait in breathless anticipation for the opening night of ‘Confessions of a Middle-Aged Sex Addict’.

No Man’s Land

I keep hearing, “It’s not like old Boltz.”

Well, it’s not going to be. It is a whole new venue.

Forced to abandon their old bolt(z)hole by encroaching building developments, Birmingham’s best sex club was determined to reopen for Birmingham Pride 2021… and managed it on time at their new home opposite The Nightingale.

Once again, we have a place in the heart of the gay village to indulge in council sanctioned shenanigans with a drink in hand (I wonder if they are available for weddings? Although, I might give the finger buffet a miss. I know where those fingers have been!!!).

A pool table has proved a popular addition to the new venue. I was even persuaded to play a reluctant game, despite my protests that I’d be rubbish, as I hadn’t played for twenty-five years. I ended up winning… twice!

Personally, I would like to see the gloryholes in the cubicles made slightly lower. I have to balance on tiptoes (although it is doing wonders for my calves). Petite Kelvin must have to stand on a box, although with his impressive appendage, he could just sling his schlong over the partition and have them scramble over the top, like an SAS assault course.

Heating seems to be the biggest issue but keeping the place toasty would cost more than an average mortgage, so I came prepared for December’s Dare2Bare. I strode into the chilly interior, stark bollock naked, but entwinned in a replica Doctor Who scarf, hiding my modesty in 13ft of multicoloured woollen glory.

The bar manager gave me one look and deadpanned, “That’s against the rules. You can’t wear anything on your top.”


The Doctor Who scarf was a birthday present from my partner. He gave it to me while we were staying at a private retreat set in twenty acres of woodland. After a few beers, I posed for a birthday portrait in the grounds wearing nothing but that iconic scarf.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to show Doctor Who himself, Tom Baker, the photo. Mr. Baker took it in his stride and commented, in that booming voice of his, “Now, the problem of course is that scarf is not nearly long enough.”

“That’s very kind of you,” I thanked him, “but, really it is.”

The trickiest aspect of new Boltz to master has been the shifting entrance.

Having gotten used to the main entrance over Pride, it became a tad confusing the following week.

“I don’t understand” I commented to my equally baffled companions, as we stood on the pavement, looking at the shuttered doorway. “Their website insists that they have been open for an hour, but it clearly isn’t!”

At that moment, someone strode by us, up to a side entrance and walked straight in.

We all looked at each other sheepishly, agreed never to mention this again, and scurried after him.

The alternative entrance is used midweek but switches back to the main reception after a certain time at weekends, which can present its own issues to navigate.

One Saturday night, things were quieting down in the club, so I decided to head off. I buzzed my way out through the side door, but found the next set of double doors, leading onto the street, locked. I turned to re-enter… only to find the door had locked behind me. To make matters worse, the intercom had been switched off. I couldn’t buzz for re-entry. I was trapped in no-man’s-land in a Men Only club.

The situation put me in mind of a friend’s mother, who once found herself inadvertently locked outside the Alexander Theatre… dressed as a nun!

She was attending a screening of Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music, which opens with audience members in fancy dress being invited to show off their costumes on stage. Firstly, the multitude of unique costumes are invited up. There is a parade of faux-Nazis, lonely goatherds, people dressed in outfits fashioned from curtains and brown paper packages wrapped up in string (I still wonder how they managed to sit down?). Once all the individual outfits have been presented, the dozens and dozens of people dressed as nuns are invited up en masse (or should that be to mass?).

When my friend’s mother received the calling to join all those other Brides of Christ on the stage, she dashed for the nearest set of doors and ran down the stairwell, not noticing in her excitement that she was the only person taking that route. When she reached the bottom, she burst through the double doors finding herself outside. She had mistakenly used the fire exit, which automatically sealed behind her, leaving her stranded alone in a dark street at the rear of the theatre, whimpering in her wimple.

By the time she had found her way back to the theatre’s main entrance, through the foyer, up the stairs, along the bar and back to the auditorium, all the nuns were being ushered back to their seats. She had missed her moment in the spotlight.

At least she fared better than the unfortunate gaggle of nuns who fell through the stage a few nights later. On that particular night, novices were so numerous that they would not all fit in the available space in front of the theatre curtain, so were directed to a lower subsidiary stage. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be a stage at all, but the orchestra pit covered with thin plywood, which, not strong enough to support their combined weight, collapsed. The startled sisters tumbled down onto the music stands, instruments and equipment stored below.

A work colleague was at the tragic performance and told me, “One minute they were all stood in their habits, laughing and smiling, the next there was an almighty crack and they plummeted into the pit. We had to remain in our seats while the show was postponed, and emergency services arrived. We had a disturbing view from the balcony of numerous nuns sprawled in twisted positions. It took an age to stretcher them all out.”

Fortunately, none of the nuns were injured beyond repair. I wonder if the insurance company had the cheek to classify the accident as ‘An act of God’?

Back in the space between Boltz’s redundant side doors, I was wondering if I should panic. I had tried banging and shouting, but no one could hear me over the music.

Through a slim window in the door, I spotted a mate, Rickie, sat on a stool, so I sent him a desperate text, HELP! I’M TRAPPED BETWEEN THE DOORS AT BOLTZ!!!

I then watched in frustration as he resolutely refused to look at his phone.

I didn’t want to end up like an acquaintance who got locked in a club for the night. He fell asleep under a table in an obscure nightclub situated in Digbeth’s warehouse district, only to wake at dawn and find himself alone and locked in. After feasting on a breakfast of bar snacks, he made his way to the roof and shimmied down a drainpipe.

I spotted another friend, Dave, whom I assumed had left earlier.

I immediately called him via Facebook.

As I had never called him before, he answered with a concerned, “Are you OK?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I assured him. “Look to your left.”

His puzzled expression broke into a broad grin as he spotted my pitiful face staring at him through the slither of glass in the door.

He strode over and set me free.

“You made a rookie error,” he laughed.

“I know,” I agreed. “I’ve been stuck in there for fifteen minutes!”

So, some aspects of new Boltz have taken a little adjusting to, but it is good have the place back in business.

Critics have short memories. Lockdown reduced us to scavenging the canal sides and parks for scraps. There was even an absurd period where the ‘Midland’s horniest club’ had to adhere to social distancing, with punters sat at foldout picnic tables. More Yogi Bear than Dare2Bare.

One quiet evening, I was afforded a glimpse of the other spaces currently under development at the club. There is going to be a vast dance floor, intimate back bar and gallery of cruise zones.

It is going to be grand… once the final nutz and boltz are in place… and those gloryholes have been lowered.

Sex and the Second City

Early this year, HBO announced a reboot of Sex and the City, but with a new title and minus one key character.

Television shows notoriously struggle after losing a prominent lead. The schedules are littered with TV roadkill, like The X-Files, Northern Exposure, The Dukes of Hazzard and Birmingham’s own Crossroads, which all limped along briefly with a gap in the cast list, then crashed and burned (Don’t get me started on The Kids from FAME).

I couldn’t help but wonder… will these new misadventures of New York’s sexual socialites regain a loyal audience without Kim Cattrall or is it destined to be what The Golden Palace was to The Golden Girls?

Our first dog was named after Samantha Jones. We Considered Carrie (Too neurotic), Charlotte (Too prissy) and Miranda (Imagine shouting that in the park!), but Sam worked (Kindred spirits… I always come up as Samantha in one of those Who Are You from SATC? online quizzes… Whodathoughtit?).

I took the puppy to the local laundrette in Moseley, her tiny head peeking from a backpack for extra cuteness.

We inevitably attracted attention from the laundry attendant (It is your civic duty as a pup owner to welcome strangers to pet the beast) and I plied the rehearsed banter, “She’s a Collie and Alsatian cross, which keeps her job options open,” I explained by rote, “and her name is Sam, named after Samantha Jones from Sex and the City.”

A typical Brummie bloke, sat on the bench with an open tabloid resting on his gut, commented in his thick accent, “Well, ye betta ‘av ‘er fixed before she starts actin’ like ‘er!”

I had the audacity to write to Kim Cattrall, whilst she was performing in London, asking for an autograph dedicated to her canine namesake.

She didn’t respond.

Not one to be easily deterred, I tried again.

I sent a second letter, but this time simply stating my name was Samantha.

That signed playbill, dedicated to our dog, was proudly displayed on the kitchen noticeboard, until it was so sun-faded that all I could do was… flog her ghost of an autograph on eBay.

I met Kim Cattrall in person once, whilst she was in another West End play (a two-hander with Alexander Siddig (Star Trek’s dishy Dr Bashir) called Whose Life is it Anyway? where she played a paraplegic who enjoys a flirtatious relationship with her doctor).

At the stage door, Siddig (Full name: Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abdurrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi… or Sid to his mates) wandered out with unassuming charm, but prior to Cattrall’s appearance, the theatre staff unrolled a carpet and erected a barrier of those coiled ropes that separate one from treasures at National Trust properties.

A theatre official announced to the swelling crowd, “Ms. Cattrall is unwell and will not be stopping to meet people tonight.”

Several moments later, the grand lady herself emerged… signed autographs, posed for selfies, smiled, chatted and could not have been more gracious.

On my last trip to New York, over a decade ago, I had my own minor Carrie Bradshaw moment: It wasn’t enjoying a fag on the steps of a brownstone; sipping a Cosmopolitan; or counting calories with an egg white omelette… but a close encounter with NYC Transit.

I was about to step off the sidewalk when an approaching bus threatened to soak me with a puddle. I jumped back in good time. The bus was embossed in a banner for the Sex and the City movie! I had just inadvertently re-imagined the opening title sequence of the series, minus the tutu.

My first time in New York was as a dorky 25-year-old.

Dropped off by a cab at Columbus Circle, on the lower corner of Central Park, I was conscious of not looking up in awe at the skyscrapers, as I had been warned this would identify me at a vulnerable tourist to potential muggers. The fact I was wearing a backpack and studying the Rough Guide to New York City didn’t occur to me.

That night I hit the gay scene in Greenwich Village.

I wandered around, unsure of where to go, until I spotted a pub with a very familiar name… Stonewall.

Didn’t make the greatest impression when the first guy I chatted to asked, “What brings you in here?”

“I know my history,” I replied.

“History?!” He was affronted. “I used to drink here then!”

I must have appeared a precocious buck… and an English one to boot.

Now, as a man on the cusp of fifty myself, I understand the slap in the face that must have been to an older guy on the make, but I meant it with reverence. That bar is a legend.

I ended up joining a crowd of strangers gathered around a stand-up comedian, who had called in at the bar for a post-gig drink and was regaling the punters with her routine.

There was a mid-week offer that for every bottled beer you bought, you received a wooden token, which could be redeemed for a free second drink.

When the impromptu stand-up act concluded and the crowd dispersed, one guy came up to me and said, “We all have work in the morning, but you are on holiday.” He then handed me a stack of about a dozen unused tokens. “Have a good first night in New York!”

By the time I fell out of Stonewall, the subway had closed down for the night, so I decided to walk the twenty plus blocks back to where I was staying.

One large alleyway was illuminated, like something from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Curiousity piqued, I strayed closer to investigate. It turned out to be a film crew on a night shoot, but as there was nothing of interest going on, I turned to leave… and bumped straight into Hollywood star Steve Martin. We exchanged smiles and I headed off. As I passed a trailer, the door burst open and the fabulous Goldie Hawn descended the steps, blowing kisses to her adoring fans (both of them). It was the most showbiz sight I have ever seen, even compared to Kim Cattrall departing that West End theatre with red carpet and barrier ropes.  

I was in a fledgling romance back when Sex and the City first broadcast… and one episode actually helped cement that relationship.

I was lamenting the loss of partying and hedonism that a new commitment inevitably entails. I hankered for nights out that ended with sunrise and illicit encounters. Then one night we watched an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie secured a VIP invite to the hottest new club in NYC, which required an exclusive key to gain entry. Her then beau Adian, scoffed at the concept, so Carrie stropped off to the club on her own… only to return after an epiphany that she already held the key to the best gig in town… her relationship.

Carrie states in the closing monologue, “That’s the thing about Manhattan, the most exclusive clubs only have a couple members and they’re very hard to find.”

Cheesy I know, but that episode resonated.

And just like that… over twenty years passed. My partner and I are still together (Now openly reembracing hedonism and ‘illicit encounters’), and New York City’s shoe addicted columnist and friends are returning to television screens.

Whether this reboot is a success, only time and audience appreciation figures will tell, but… ‘am I looking forward to this new series?’

Well, that would be a BIG… Abso-fucking-lutely!

The Ogre Under the Bridge and Other Tales from the Darkroom

I was late to the XXL party (Birmingham’s XXX rated monthly club night, where anything and everything goes).

Publicity suggested the event was exclusively for big hairy bears in leather and harnesses, which isn’t really my thing. I didn’t want a similar situation to that time I accidently found myself at Skins Night, surrounded by a garrison of National Front style gay Nazis, two ideologies you would assume incompatible. I am tempted to attend a sportswear night though, partially by the lure of scrummy rugby kits, but mainly because I would love to turn up in full cricket whites or golf cap, checked trousers and knitwear, looking like I were about to play a round with Brucie and Ronnie Corbett.

After years of avoiding XXL, I was persuaded by my ex-high school form tutor, “There are all types,” he assured me. “If you enjoy Dare to Bare, you will love XXL.”

He was right… Then Covid struck. XXL was cancelled. My timing sucked harder than those guys behind the drapes.

Eighteen months later, XXL was the first event of that nature to restart in Birmingham, now at The Tunnel Club, former Subway City, near the Jewellery Quarter.

There was a buzz on the scene that weekend. The guys were gagging for its return.

“About bloody time,” I overheard one fella exclaim, “I’ve got balls the size of melons!”

A fleet of cabs departed Hurst Street, depositing their eager passengers outside the club, built into the railway arches leading from Snow Hill station, where a que formed around the block. It was like the opening weekend of Star Wars.

Slightly later than advertised, the doors opened, and the throng streamed in.

The Tunnel Club consists of three rooms: A long bar with reception and toilets; a huge dance floor, domed by the brick arch of the railway bridge, with a metal staircase leading up to a clanking gantry, giving the place the feel of party night in Cell Block H; and a smaller dance space, where the DJ booth had been swathed in a vast XXL promotional banner and lights dimmed to encourage fun, frolics and fornication.

But… before I could enter the club proper, I had to face an ogre in the cloakroom.

“Six pounds,” she demanded as I handed over my items.

Aghast, I spluttered, “How much?”

Without comment, she stabbed her finger at a sign that stated ‘£2 per item’.

“Oh, well in that case, can I have my things back for a moment,” I asked. “One of them was only a shirt and will easily fit in my bag.”

The woman’s lip curled into a snarl, and she skulked back to the rail to retrieve my possessions, which she slammed onto the counter.

“Thank you so much,” I smiled sweetly, countering her brusque manner with exaggerated politeness, as I rearranged my items and handed them back.

She snatched my things and manhandled them to the rear of the cloakroom… to presumably defecate in my bag.

I carefully stowed the chit in that tiny redundant pocket of my jeans, determined not to lose it, as I didn’t fancy my chances of getting anything back otherwise.

In the club, the dancefloor was thumping, while the darkroom filled with pent-up frustration.

As the action got going, the heady atmosphere was disturbed by a jaunty jingle from someone’s phone. Its owner was on his knees, pleasuring another guy, but quickly fumbled to dismiss the call.

The caller was persistent and rang back… twice.

On the third ring, I called out, “Tell the wife you’re busy!”

It’s not often you hear laughter ripple around a busy darkroom.

Back at the bar, I realised the card limit meant I would be better off using cash, which was in my wallet… in my bag… in the cloakroom

Oh shit, I panicked, I’m going to have to deal with that bad-tempered attendant again!

“Sorry to disturb you,” I said with timid sincerity, “but I need to get something from my bag.”

The woman sucked her teeth in disgust, setting her face in a mask of contempt, eyes fixed on some point over my left shoulder… and she stayed like that for what seemed an eternity.

I tried subtly moving my face into her eyeline, but she maintained the blank countenance and just stared through me, as though I didn’t exist.

I cast a glance back toward the bar, just to check that the rest of the room hadn’t also frozen, and I wasn’t caught in some spatial temporal anomaly… but no, they were all still buzzing about.

Finally, she emerged from her trancelike sulk and begrudgingly searched for my bag amongst the randomly arranged racks. I considered suggesting she hung the items in numerical order to make things easier to find, but wisely thought better of it… as I was afraid that would result in me being dragged screaming through the serving hatch and eviscerated.

With cash in my pocket, I bought further drinks and basked in the temptations of the darkroom.

As the night drew to a close, numbers dwindled, and the darkroom began to thin out.

I stood at the side and watched with curiosity as one shadowing figure studied the various images of burly half naked men printed on the banner that screened off the DJ booth. He focused on one stud in particular, looked it up and down, then sidled over, hand outstretched. The guy’s fingers touched the buff chest of the life-sized photo… then he snatched them back in surprise, as though he had been stung.

Hearing my snort of laughter from the gloom, he turned, “Christ that freaked me out, I thought he was real!”

I’ve been back to XXL at The Tunnel Club several times since opening weekend, but on one occasion there was more action in the darkroom than anticipated.

It was toward the end of the night and a dense huddle of men were playing in one dark corner, when an altercation broke out. There were raised voices, a scuffle and the sound of a fist connecting with flesh.

As trousers were rapidly raised and the orgy scattered, I stepped into the fray.

I stood between the two men, separating them with outstretched hands, “No, not in here,” I said in a calm authoritative voice. “Take it outside or forget it.”

The aggressor wasn’t ready to let things go and riled up again.

“No, we don’t fight in here,” I told him and went to place a peaceful palm on his shoulder.

He slapped my hand away and growled, “Don’t tell me to shut up!”

“I didn’t tell you to shut up,” I assured him, “and I would never do so, but this ends now.”

The wind suddenly went from his sails. It was over.

The guy I had been messing about with when the disturbance erupted, appeared in my face and planted a passionate kiss.

When he pulled away, I joked, “Was that hot?”

“Yes,” he nodded… and several disembodied voices from the gloom agreed.

Diplomacy is sexy, apparently.

I don’t know what that ruckus was about (Spurned advances? Cock-blocking? Who knows?), but I once narrowly avoided a similar clash in another venue’s darkroom, several years earlier.

There was just myself and an attractive guy, who seemed interested, so I made a move… only to be aggressively shoved back.

“Get off man,” the guy yelled. “What the fuck you doing?!!”

Shocked by his reaction, I headed to the bar to put some space between us.

Later, as I emerged from the toilets, the guy was stood in my path, playing the fruit-machine. I had two options: I could either skirt sheepishly around him or deal with the matter directly.

“Excuse me,” I said, “sorry about earlier, but places like this are based on nonverbal communication and body language. I misread the signals.”

He seemed taken aback that I approached him to apologise and mumbled an acknowledgment.

Not long after, I was stalking the cruising area, only to find him stood in an empty cubical with the door wide open. He smiled and beckoned me in.

“This is an unexpected turnaround,” I said, as we bolted the door.

“The way you came to apologise impressed me… and turned me on.”

Seriously, professional diplomats must get soooo much action.

Back at XXL, on the night of the fight, I was waiting in line to retrieve my coat and bag, when someone approached to say, “You were so calm in there when it all kicked off.”

“It may have looked that way, but my stomach was doing somersaults,” I confessed. “I thought I was going to get punched at any moment.”

Truth be told… I was more anxious about retrieving my possessions from that bitch in the cloakroom.

For the record, don’t let the fact that an altercation occurred in the darkroom put you off attending an XXL event. This incident was a rarity in the extreme (unlike the Broad Street bust-ups that Brummie police are on constant standby for).

As for that woman in the cloakroom… she is a legendary reason to attend.

One day I hope that they erect a blue plaque in her honour… ‘The Ogre Under the Bridge Once Worked Here’.

Builder’s Craic

“Nice shoes,” I commented to one of two guys stood next to me outside a Birmingham gay bar. They were a combination of brown brogue and tweed (The shoes, not the fellas). Very stylish. “Yours are nice too,” I assured his companion,“but his win.”

“They do,” the friend agreed. “I spotted them first and he bought them. Not sure how that happened.”

It was this second guy, with the slightly inferior footwear, that had the most dapper overall style though. He complimented his stocky frame with a smart hipster outfit of checked trousers, flattering waistcoat, and sharp shirt, with cool detail at the collars and cuffs. He carried off the look effortlessly, while others can end up looking like cheap rip-offs of the Peaky Blinders (or as my partner inadvertently referred to them‘pesky bleeders’, which I thought sounded like a comic strip from The Beano).

As we chatted, a woman approached and started to fuss my dog.

“I bet your pup is a real chick magnet,” commented stylish Pesky Bleeder.

“She’s a great way to talk to hot guys,” I admitted. “I’ve learned to make it look like she’s pulling in their direction, while I’m actually steering.”

“She’s very pretty,” he said. “Great arse!”

I considered ignoring that comment, but curiosity got the better, “I’m sorry, but did you just say my dog had a ‘great arse’?”

“NO,” he spluttered, “Great eyes!”

“Oh, that’s a relief.” My partner and I have noted that she has a classic pear shape figure, but I did think admiring a dog’s bottom was a bit weird… unless you are another dog, naturally.”

So glad I asked for clarification.

It turned out this stylish fella was a builder… with a tale to tell.

He was once part of a crew hired to renovate a conservative religious school on the Isle of Wight. The workplace rules banned the crew from showing ‘inappropriate’ levels of flesh. Shirts were to be worn at all times and the upper arms had to covered, so no sleeveless tops or vests. Likewise, shorts were not permitted, for fear the sight of a burly calf should sent pubescent pulses racing.

It was a hot summer and after several uncomfortable days of working in high temperatures, he had had enough, so asked the foreman about relaxing the ‘no shorts’ rule, but to no avail.

“I was getting to the end of my wick,” he told me. “So, the next morning, I called in at Asda on my way to work. I headed straight over to the women’s clothing department and asked the sales assistant for help finding a skirt that fit. She was initially surprised, but when I explained the situation, threw herself wholeheartedly behind the idea.”

Having never brought a skirt before, he had to be measured and then the assistant headed off to find appropriately sized apparel.

There was nowhere to try on the item, so he nipped behind the counter, with the sales assistant manoeuvring a rack of clothing into position to protect modestly as he dropped trousers and slipped into his new outfit.

“Would you like those in a bag?” The assistant asked.

“Nah,” he replied, “I’ll wear them.”

He strode boldly out of Asda and across the carpark, enjoying the refreshing breeze his new purchase afforded him.

He was immediately stopped by security when he tried to clock-in on site, ensemble now complimented with toolbelt and hardhat.

“No shorts,” he was told.

“They are not shorts,” he replied, pulling aside his toolbelt to reveal the pleats. “It’s a skirt!”

“A what?!”

“It’s a skirt… I am wearing a skirt.”

“You can’t wear a skirt on a building site!”

“Why not? It doesn’t say anywhere in the rules and regulations that I can’t,” he said, sticking to his guns. “Besides, the office girls come onto site all the time in skirts… and often fail to wear safety shoes for that matter.”

The security guard was flummoxed.

“I’ll have to get a manager.”

Management was met with equal pedantic obstinance, “There is no rule to say I cannot wear a skirt on the job.”

“I don’t care,” the manager responded, digging his heels in. “You are not coming onto this site in that skirt!”

“In that case,” countered Boberta the Builder, “I am trans and if you deny me my right to dress in accordance with my gender identity, I will take you to court.”

The manager’s eyes narrowed, “Ok, go in, but we take no responsibility for any abuse you may receive from your colleagues.”

“I did initially get a bit of flak from the guys, as you can imagine,” my new mate told me. “But when I told them why I was doing it, they thought it was a brilliant idea.”

That lunchtime, half a dozen other builders descended on Asda to buy up their stock of plain skirts (and the sales assistant certainly had a tale to tell when she returned home that evening), returning to work wearing them for the afternoon shift, presumably to wolf whistles and a chorus of, “Nice legs!”.

The following day, management had a change of heart… and shorts could now be worn on site.

“This is brilliant,” I gushed at the conclusion of his tale. “When we first started chatting, you asked if my dog was a ‘chick magnet’, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but am I right to assume you are straight?”

“Oh yeah. My wife introduced me to the gay scene,” he replied. “Love it. You meet great people and there is never any trouble.”

“In that case, I love you and your story even more!”

“I’m straight too,” chipped in his friend, “obviously.”

“Not that obviously,” I commented, glancing down at his feet. “Not in those shoes.”

Refrigerator of Terror – A Chilling Halloween Tale

“We should go as Batman and Robin,” I announced.

Ruru just raised an unconvinced eyebrow.

“They are the perfect Halloween costumes for us.”

It has got to the point where, if I walk into Missing on my own, people automatically glance over my shoulder and ask, “Where’s Ru?”

“Although, they’d have to be cool Batman and Robin outfits,” I insisted. “I don’t want to turn up looking like Del-Boy and Rodney in that episode of Only Fools and Horses!”

I messaged my partner to tell him his potential role at the Halloween masquerade.


Although the image of him in curvy bat-suit, with long red wig spilling from the cowl amused me, I had another member of the bat-family better suited to his look and demeanour. My partner is in his early 60s, with thinning hair on top, a thick pelt back and sides, and sports a fair-haired goatee. He has a reserved manner, which can appear brusque to the uninitiated.

YOU CAN BE ALFRED – I told him. A simple look to achieve by wearing a smart suit, trimming the beard into a moustache and carrying a tray under one arm.

On the theme of the bat-family, I have been watching a DC show called Titans, which follows adult Dick Grayson, after he abandons the mantle of Robin and becomes Nightwing, and his team of young superheroes (I have always had a thing for Robin ever since Burt Ward’s legs made an impression in that 60s classic).

In one episode, Grayson has gone missing. A dishevelled Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) returns to Titans HQ after hours of searching.

Firestorm tactlessly greets Donna with,“You look terrible.”

“Oh, I know,” she replies, “I’ve been up all night looking for Dick.”

We’ve all been there love, I thought.

We toyed with the idea of including our Scene Queen dog in the Halloween masquerade. She could go as Ace the Bat-Hound (It’s a thing, Google it) or, more humiliating for a canine, Catwoman.

After several pints, I thought all of this was a marvellous plan… but we would probably end up spending All Hallow’s Eve watching horror movies by candlelight.

I have always loved scary movies.

As a child, I would stay up late on a Friday with my mother to watch campy Hammer horror and shadowy classics from Universal Studios.

I distinctly remember being traumatised by The Omen trilogy and being surprised to see grow-up Damien, from the final film of the three, turn up in Jurassic Park years later.

Nothing can beat the terror of watching a horror movie on the big screen with no distractions and surround sound. I gradually recede into my seat as tension mounts, clutching a box of Fruit Gums, until I have practically withered away in fear. I love it!

A mutual enjoyment of horror was one of the few things my partner’s mother and I bonded over the first time we travelled to the United States to visit his family. She was a kind-hearted but taciturn host, who didn’t waste words on pleasantries. Her bombastic husband (who put me in mind of Foghorn Leghorn, the brash Loony Toons rooster) refused to watch anything even remotely frightening as it scared the heebie-jeebies out of him.

I was grateful to have at least one connection with my mother-in-common-law, as she certainly didn’t take to my English charms, automatically assuming I was elitist, having only encountered Brits on Upstairs Downstairs or as cod movie villains. Charles Dance has a lot to answer for.

Arriving at their home in small town Pennsylvania, I was greeted by what deceptively appeared to be a moderate sized 50’s bungalow… but was soon to discover the house possessed hidden secrets.

Despite having a perfectly functional front door on the veranda, everyone entered through a side door, straight into the kitchen.

My partner’s mother just gave a perplexed stare as I introduced myself (not the reaction you hope for when attempting a good first impression).

“Don’t worry Norma, you’ll get used to the accent,” her husband assured her, having spent time acclimatising on the drive from the station. “It took me a while too.”

The house had a dim interior, as a combination of drapes, blinds, shutters and canopies were deployed to prevent any ray of fierce summer sun penetrating.

The décor would be best described as country crafts chic. Every space was occupied with quilted cushions, crocheted quotes (extolling the virtues of family and the good ol’ homestead). Bizarrely, quaint scarecrows and stuffed mannequins loitered and slouched in various spots around the house. The characters were regularly changed to reflect the cycle of annual festivities: Halloween witches were replaced by Thanksgiving pilgrims, which were in turn usurped by Christmas Elves, snowmen and Santa. Any grandkids we weren’t going to give them would have loved it!

The big surprise came when you wandered through the study, which led straight off the kitchen, and found yourself on an interior balcony, stretching the entire length of the building, overlooking a cathedral-like space that housed a heated indoor pool. All illusions of compact bungalow disappeared.

Next to the pool were changing rooms and showers, plus a rec-room, with bar and woodstove. Beyond that was a warren of cellars, utilities and storerooms. 

Several nights into our stay, my partner, his mother and myself settled in to watch a remake of The Amityville Horror on cable.

My partner and I took turns going to the basement to retrieve bottles of beer.

When my turn came, I didn’t relish the idea of entering those underground spaces, especially in the heightened state of trepidation that a late-night horror movie instils. To make matters worse, I couldn’t find the light. There was no obvious switch next to the door, so I reached beyond the frame and nervously groped around the interior wall, expecting to be grabbed at any moment by clammy talons and dragged screaming into the dark.

The switch eluded me, so there was only one thing for it… I made a dash into the pitch, throwing open the refrigerator door with a panic that set the beer bottles rattling. A rectangle of icy light stretched across the cellar floor… and I froze in fear.

Illuminated against the wall was a young girl, dressed in period clothing. She looked to be around six or seven years of age and was facing away from me leaning on her raised arms, as though weeping.

In retrospect, can’t believe I was brave enough to do this, but I tentatively approached the apparition, in numb terror.

I reached out a hand to touch the girl’s shoulder and on contact the head turned to reveal a blank featureless face!!!

I stifled a scream… then realised… it was one of those bloody mannequins.

It turned out that this life-sized child was one of a set playing hide n’ seek. She had been relegated to the basement stores as her neck was damaged, hence her head spinning like something from The Exorcist.

I returned to the safety of the TV room, clutching beer… which I really needed.

Well, it is nearly Halloween night, and the Bat-suits haven’t been ordered. Time for candles and spooky movies.

I am just grateful we don’t have a basement.

Duty of Care

Although certainly not the only person to take a cute guy home from Birmingham Pride… I’m probably one of the few to leave him on the sofa for the night.

I spent Pride weekend playing Good Samaritan, starting on my commute that Friday.

When I boarded at Wolverhampton, there was a distressed teenager panicking she was on the wrong train. Another passenger was dealing with her, so I popped in my earphones and relaxed for the fifteen-minute trip back to Brum.

As the train pulled into New Street Station, I removed my earphone and realised the girl was now sat on her own further up the carriage and still upset.

I approached and gently asked, “Are you OK?”

She blubbed a flood of snot and tears.                                                                                  

It turned out she studied at a Staffordshire collage, but instead of catching her direct train home, got muddled and boarded the train to Birmingham instead. Not a major blunder, but this young woman clearly had learning difficulties and the unanticipated change in routine sent her into meltdown.

“Don’t worry, everyone has got on the wrong train at some time,” I reassured her. “I was once travelling home to Birmingham from Liverpool and ended up in London. At least you haven’t done as badly as that.”

Her weeping paused, as she studied me momentarily, presumably wondering if she should put her trust in this numpty who was clearly a liability on a rail network.

Her brief composure crumbled, and she wailed, “But I haven’t got the right ticket!!”

“That doesn’t matter. The staff will understand and help you get home.”

It turned out her ticket was valid on any network.

I ended up escorting her to the main concourse at New St, checking the departure board for her next train and taking her to the appropriate platform. This was trickier than anticipated, as she randomly stopped, turned, dithered, flapped and wandered off in the wrong direction. It was like trying to shepherd a flighty chicken.

Eventually, I got her to the correct platform.

“Here is your train,” I indicted with triumphant sweep of my arm… just as they blew the whistle and it glided out of the station. I saw tears swell and lip tremble, “Don’t panic, there will be another train along in… in… well, soon.”

Thankfully, there were staff a few yards down on the platform, so I guided my overly emotional charge in their direction and, once assured that they grasped the situation, handed over responsibility to the professionals. Job done.

My automatic response to being asked for help is, “Certainly… as long as it doesn’t involve money.” I will always go out of my way to help someone in genuine need, just not fund addiction.

I am particularly inclined to help someone if they seem new to the country, as I have been aided on so many occasions during my own travels around the world.

Whilst interrailing around Europe in my late teens, I was stood at a pedestrian crossing when a stranger asked if I were British. When I confirmed I was, they pressed a £1 coin into my palm and walked away without further comment.

That coin proved to be the only currency I had (or access to, due to a debit card mishap) when I eventually found myself back in the UK and stranded at Euston Station after the last trains had departed. I used it to call my parents and ask them to buy me a ticket home on the first morning train.

After a restless night on the cold concourse, I found a duly purchased ticket waiting at the booking office… along with £10 in cash.

“Your father paid an extra ten pounds so we could give you money out of our till to buy yourself breakfast,” the ticket clerk explained.

Apparently, this was unprecedented and required phone calls to various managers but worked perfectly. Genius.

On holiday in the mountains of Spain, my partner and I asked a couple how to find a particular restaurant. They warned it was on the outskirts of town, a fair walk up a steep incline, but gave clear directions how to get there.

Ten minutes into our trek, the couple pulled up alongside us in their car and beckoned us to get in. They had remembered that the restaurant closed several months earlier.

The girlfriend was so apologetic, “We felt terrible and didn’t want you thinking we had given you bad information on purpose.”

They kindly dropped us off at their favourite place to eat in town.

I was required to play Samaritan once again during the dying hours of Birmingham Pride.

I emerged from Boltz (now at its new premises opposite The Nightingale) at around 2am on Monday morning. The club’s busy darkroom had been stifling and it was refreshing to pause for a moment in the light breeze and drizzle. Glancing over the road, I spotted a vaguely familiar figure slumped under a canopy at the corner of Kent Street.

He was a student from Wolverhampton University whom I had briefly met a several years earlier and unexpectedly bumped into again earlier that evening.

I squatted in front of the lad and asked, “Are you Ok?”

He looked up with bleary eyes and shook his head pitifully.

I plonked myself down next to him.

“What happened?”

“Don’t remember,” he replied. “I veeeery drrrunk.”

He found himself separated from friends and collapsed in this sheltered nook in an intoxicated heap. The details were all a little hazy.

“Where are you meant to be staying tonight?”

“Wifffffriends… Can’t remember. Phone’s dead.”

He was lucky to still have his phone… and wallet for that matter.

“Look, my partner and I live a couple of miles out of the city, only ten minutes in a taxi,” I told him. “I could make you up a bed on the sofa. I promise no funny business, just a genuine offer of help. Would you like to stay at ours?”

He looked at me with huge sad eyes and whimpered, “Yes please.”

My heart melted. I hate that whole ‘daddy’ shit, but every paternal instinct kicked in. I booked an Uber, raised him to his feet and half walked/half carried him to the pick-up point.

“Try not to look too drunk,” I warned, as our waiting car came into view, “and for God’s sake don’t throw up or pee yourself in the back of the cab!”

I sent my partner a simple text message, I AM BRINGING HOME A STRAY.

Next morning, our unexpected sofa surfer was surprisingly chipper.

I offered coffee and arranged an Uber back into town.

“Please send me your bank details so I can pay you back,” he insisted.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. “Buy me a chai or, even better, a beer sometime… and leave a good review on TripAdvisor.”

I couldn’t help wondering, would I have been so inclined to help had he been a complete stranger? Would I have offered a place to crash if I hadn’t known him from Adam? I’d like to think I would, but I’m not sure.

I have subsequently learned of the Southside Safe Space. This initiative provides help, whatever the reason, located in the Arcadian car park every Friday and Saturday from midnight until 5.30am.

Do we all have a duty of care?

We refer to ourselves as a gay community, so maybe it is the responsibility of the whole community to ensure the safety of all, treating strangers in need as we would our friends, partners and logical family.

The lad I encountered was so vulnerable. I am glad that I was in the right place at the right time to help.

It is the most proud I have ever felt at Pride.

Bursting with Pride

After nearly two years and three cancellations, Birmingham Pride is back, bigger and better than ever before. It is time to bask in a city filled with love. The city centre is one big party, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity and debauchery.

Rainbows have been appearing all over the city, in anticipation of this weekend’s festivities: New Street Station is resplendent in rainbow colours, from the ticket barriers to the giddying steps that lead down to Station Street; the trams declare their services ‘are for everyone’; and buses are stopping at signs decorated with every colour of the spectrum.

The party kicked off with a free community event of speeches and entertainment on a stage that wouldn’t look out of place a major music festival on the site of recently demolished wholesale markets. Saturday was opened with traditional words of pride, progress and solidarity in front of the council house and concluded with revels in the city’s southside district.

After over eight hundred days since the last Pride event, it was phenomenal to be back together.

“We will meet again,” as some old Queen said last year.

Back at that last event in 2019, my friends and I applauded the opening addresses then headed off to find a suitable vantage point to watch the parade.

As we shuffled along the packed streets, I spotted a handsome police officer, with dark brown eyes peeking from beneath the dome of his helmet.

“Excuse me,” I approached him, brandishing my camera, “but would you mind if I took a selfie with the hottest copper on the beat?”

“Sure,” grinned Officer Sexy, looking around. “Where is he?”

The raucous parade thunders through the city, with thousands of participants representing all LGBTQ+ tribes in their full debauchery and glory: Gay parents, with children riding on their shoulders or in buggies, stroll alongside drag queens and half-dressed stilt walkers; floats filled with spinning pole dancers follow representatives of the emergency services; leather clad clones march behind the military; same-sex ballroom couples are just one (quick-quick-slow) step behind Caribbean steeldrummers and bhangra beats; corporate companies, cashing in on the kudos, are represented alongside political parties and genuine civil rights campaigners.

I’m heartened that the most enthusiastic cheers of the parade tend to be reserved for the gay refugees, an unimaginably brave multi-cultural group who have fled everything they know to escape prejudice, persecution and in some countries the threat of imprisonment or even death.

Well, to be totally honest, there is one group represented in the parade that is ever so slightly more popular than the gay refugees and receives a louder cheer from the crowd… the fire service. Hey, we’re only human.

There is one particularly hot fireman I always lookout for. He is short, buff, with slick dark hair and a cute diastema (the noticeable gap between his two upper front teeth).

I once saw my favourite fireman doing community outreach in Birmingham city centre. The fire department were handing out leaflets and badges to passers-by and inviting people to pose for photos in the cabin of the fire engine.

I strolled over and shook his hand, “You were at Pride this summer, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” he replied, sounding surprised. “You remember me?”

“Of course, … I thought you were hot”

“Oh great, that’s all we need,” one of his colleagues sighed. “He’s full enough of himself as it is!”

Back at the parade, a group of burly men with ample body hair and a distinct lack of shirt buttons came into view.

A lad behind me turned to his girlfriend and asked, “Why are those men wearing mouse ears?”

“They are wearing bear ears,” I interjected. “They are bears.”

The girlfriend looked perplexed, “What are ‘Bears’?”

“If you are stocky, hairy and have a beard, you are a bear.”

The lad indicated his own hairy chest, “Would I be a bear?”

“No. You are too young… and slim,” I told him. “You would be a cub.”

This straight boy now had a whole new hitherto unknown gay identity… and seemed delighted.

I was suddenly aware of a presence at my shoulder. I glanced down to find a diminutive old woman trying to squeeze through the crowd. She scuttled around to the other side of me and started to elbow her way between myself and the guy stood on my right. Just as she managed to squeeze her head between us, a large pack of human pups, dressed in their rubber outfits, dog collars and masks, walked, crawled and scampered by.

The old lady tutted loudly and moaned, in a thick Brummie accent, “All this bother just to get to Primark!!!”

The stranger on my right and I grinned gleefully at each other, as she wandered away.

“Oh my God, that was straight out of Victoria Wood,” I laughed. “In fact, I’m not entirely sure that wasn’t Julie Walters!”

A few summers ago, my young work colleague Paige and her friends found themselves accidently part of Brighton Pride parade. They had been cruising the streets in their car, trying unsuccessfully to find a parking spot, when they inadvertently drove through a neglected security barrier and found themselves trapped.

There was nowhere for them to turn off and escape, so they had no choice but to keep driving along the parade route.

They had a group of fetish enthusiasts in front of them and a float full of dancing go-go boys directly behind. Paige and her girlfriend were mortified and just kept their heads down, trying not to make eye contact with the cheering crowds, but their flamboyant male friend threw back the sunroof and burst from the car like a jack-in-the-box, basking in the glory.

When they eventually reached the end of the route, the organisers were furious with them for illicitly entering the parade and demanded they pay the participation fee.

The usually mild-mannered Paige lost it, “We didn’t want to be in your fucking parade! We were only stuck there because someone left the gate open!!!”

After two colourful hours, the Birmingham parade trickled to an end. It was time to head to the gay village for the awaiting shenanigans… and to give my Pride T-shirt its annual outing.

My special T-shirt features a picture of a hand with index finger pointing to my left and declares, ‘THIS MAN… LIKES COCK.’ It goes down a storm with Pride revellers and has proven to be a real asset, giving me the excuse to approach the best-looking guys and cheekily ask, “Are you man enough for a photo?”

The first year I wore the ‘This Man Likes Cock’ T-shirt, I was clocked by a group of policemen.

One of the officers nodded in my direction, muttered something to his colleagues, then all four headed in my direction.

Oh no, I thought, surely, they’re not going to tell me to cover it up? This is Pride, anything goes! There are guys walking around with their arses hanging out of their chaps, my humble top can’t be causing offense.

“Excuse me sir,” said one of the offers, as he approached, “we couldn’t help but notice your shirt.”

“Errrrm… yes?”

“Could we have our photos taken with you?”

The next thing, all four of them were taking turns to pose next to me with the accusing finger pointing in their direction.

When it came to the turn of the fourth and final police officer to take position for the photo, his colleague pointed at him and commented, “By the way, just for the record, of the four of us… he actually does like it.”

They all giggled, and the officer stood next to me with his arm slung around my waist, nodded that it was true.

From then on it became my mission to have my photo taken wearing that T-shirt with as many official types as possible. I managed to get shots with security guards, vendors, barmen, bouncers, first aiders, some woman off Gogglebox, that fireman with the cute diastema and even got inadvertently ‘papped’ with the Mayor of the West Midlands.

At one point, I approached a strapping armed police officer, decked out in flak jacket and utility belt. I had my arm casually draped across my chest to hide the logan, which surprisingly worked, and he obliviously agreed to pose.

His colleague offered to do the honours with the camera, but just as he was about to take the photo he noticed the statement embossed on my clothing and went to point it out to my unaware victim. I subtly silenced him with my finger to my lips. The other police officer gave a conspiratorial smirk. Only once the photo was taken, did he gleefully draw his colleague’s attention to the wording.

The posse of armed police burst out laughing and gave me contact details to send the photo to, while my quarry performed a resigned facepalm.

The following day, I attempted the same trick on another armed cop, stood in front of an impressively armoured vehicle.

Before I could get close enough to ask for a photo, he shook his head, “No, no, no, I’m having my photo taken with THAT shirt!”

“But why?” I asked, innocently.

“Because the one you took yesterday is all over social media,” he replied. “They’ve even posted it on the West Midlands Police website!”

My mate Kliff was lucky enough to acquire free entry to Pride one year, by being in the right place at the right time and being offered free VIP tickets.

Kliff is an inimitable character. Although small of stature, he fills a room with his personality, howling with laughter, gasping in delight, bursting into song and launching himself excitedly into the air from a barstool whenever someone he knows walks in. He is one of the quirkiest people I have ever met. He is a constantly twitching mass of nervous energy, with a pair of glasses that never seem to sit straight on his face, like a kid that has just taken a tumble down a slide.

As I said, Kliff is short, but there is one part of his anatomy that is far from small. He is renowned for having one of the biggest cocks on the Birmingham gay scene (Now I’ve got your attention!). His pendulous appendage practically hangs to his knees. When he is stood naked in Boltz at Dare2Bare, people tend to shake his member rather than his hand. Well, it is a private members club.

Back at Pride, Kliff showed his newly acquired VIP ticket at the checkpoint and was admitted into the event but pulled aside for a random search. Security checked his bag then proceeded to pat down his clothing. When the guard reached Kliff’s inside leg, he encountered a potential lethal weapon.

“Excuse me sir,” the guard asked, tugging at the offending object though the trousers. “What is this?”

Kliff rose grandly to his full ‘action figure’ height and with resolute dignity declared, “That… is my penis!”

The security guard staggered back, horrified, muttering, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!”

Clearly in this instance, VIP should have stood for ‘Very Impressive Penis’.

Birmingham Pride 2021 is in full swing and there will be plenty of tales to tell of fun, friends, frolics and fornication to come, but for now… Let’s party with such passion that we bring this city to its knees.

It has been a phenomenal event so far. Everyone involved in its planning and execution should be very proud.

Pride Plus One

I received a text asking, WHAT ARE YOU DOING FRIDAY EVENING?



The blunt honesty of the last line made me smile.

When Friday came, I ditched my usual jeans and T-shirt for smart casual and mingled with the great and the gay celebrating the long overdue launch of Birmingham Pride.

I had to wash and change out of my work scruffs in the disabled toilet at Missing. It wasn’t until stripped and rinsing my bits at the sink, did I realise I hadn’t bolted the door correctly. I was mortified… that no one tried to take advantage of me.

I met my date at his apartment. We headed to The Loft, where we passed under a rainbow arch of balloons and were welcomed with complimentary drinks by my favourite bartender (Sssshhhh… don’t tell the others). He never fails to put a smile on my face as he sashays between tables in his flamboyant 80s inspired wardrobe. He’s a little ray of sunshine. X

David Nash and Lawrence Barton, the powerhouses behind Birmingham’s gay village and Pride (More ‘The Gays’ than ‘The Krays’), gave speeches outlining the highlights of this year’s celebrations and the journey it had taken to get there, expressing relief that it was finally able to go ahead after eighteen months of uncertainty and cancellations.

They emphasised their aim to return Birmingham Pride to its political roots, remembering that Pride is a protest and Stonewall was a riot… whilst still being the best party in town. In this spirit, they announced the Big Free Community Event on the opening Friday of the weekend, which would include keynote speakers, performers, music, queer talent… and a candlelit vigil. I had better take hankies, as I am bound to be an emotional wreck. I became verklempt (my partner’s favourite word for ‘teary-eyed’) just listening to speeches at The Loft.

Reacting to an unsettling rise in anti-Trans sentiment, David stressed that the theme of Pride 2021 was ‘Stronger Together’ and pledged Pride’s commitment to stand in unity with all members of the LGBTQ+ community, campaigning against Trans, Bi or Homophobia and any form of hate.

“There is no L, G, B… without the T,” David succinctly put it, reminding those gathered that it was a courageous black trans woman, called Masha P. Johnson, who hurled the first projectile at the cops outside of Stonewall Inn. There is debate whether the projectile in question was a brick or, more fabulously, a shot glass, but whatever she chucked, it was a watershed moment that TRANSformed the gay liberation movement, which evolved into LGBTQ+ rights we know today… and beyond.

I was startled from the speeches by rapid-fire clicking to my right. I turned to see the lens of a camera hovering over my shoulder and the official event photographer sheepishly mouthing an apology, as he had made me visibly jump.

Later that evening, while relieving myself at the urinals, the same photographer wandered in, festooned with camera equipment.

“No photos,” I declared, then added, “Oh go on then, I could do with new Grindr pics.”

The evening soiree served the dual purpose of launching Birmingham Pride and welcoming Pride House Birmingham to their new hub of offices above The Loft.

The Pride House teams explained their aim to create a safe space and inclusive environment for LGBTIQ+ supporters, athletes, staff, volunteers and organisations at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games; scheduling queer entertainment before and during the games; promoting LGBTIQ+ participation in sport and physical activity; and offering a programme of education, across all key stages, centred on the theme that ‘Everyone is welcome in Birmingham’.

The team of three expressed thanks to The Loft for their home for the duration of the project, inviting the ensembled audience to approach them for a private tour of their upstairs suites at any time during the evening.

One of the Birmingham Pride House team in particular won hearts when he mentioned how he had thrown himself, so enthusiastically, into promoting the gay agenda, a mere handful of years after coming out. I swear the guys in the room simultaneously swooned (the fitted white T-shirt and matching smile helped too).

After the speeches, I made beeline for Mr. White T.

“Quite frankly,” I said, “I am surprised there isn’t a queue around the block for your private upstairs tour.”

He was very gracious… and couldn’t get away fast enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at The Loft, particularly the bottomless supply of filled mini-Yorkshire puds, stuffed mushrooms, brownie bites and savoury tarts that circled the room in a never-ending supply (tarts circling the bar… who’da thought?).

Maybe next year I’ll merit my own invite?

I wonder who I could take… as my second choice?

Hate Crime – The Boys Are Back in Town

Fun and Fear have always gone hand in hand on the gay scene: whether it be slurs and insults that can mar a night out; or open hostilities that erupted at the heart of Birmingham’s gay village in the early hours of Sunday 15th August.

Two men were viciously attacked with broken bottles by a group in a SUV. What started as a verbal exchange (whether cheeky banter or inflammatory slurs is point of debate), quickly escalated to a brutal assault, which left one man unconscious and his partner with extensive cuts. A female friend of the couple valiantly reached into the vehicle’s window, to retrieve their stolen phone, which the gang had snatched, only to find herself dragged along the road with legs flailing from the car!

I had been in the same gay venue as the victims an hour earlier, so must have seen them, but didn’t recognise either from their battered and bloodied post-attack selfie that appeared online.

Several days after the incident, West Midlands Police issued the names of three men wanted in connection with the crime, accompanied by existing mugshots (Clearly these guys were no angels).

One suspect resembled identical twins that had been working on a building project several doors up from my house.

It couldn’t be one of them… Could it?

I initially noticed this tall handsome guy, supervising the house renovation, whilst walking my dog walking around the block and frequently made any excuse to stop and chat. He was friendly and always awarded me a winning smile.

“You have got to see the hottie working on the house on the corner,” I told my partner. “He looks like a model!”

A few weeks into the building project, I saw him with his twin for the first time.

I rushed home and announced excitedly, “It’s just got better… There are two of him!!!”

The twin was nothing like his brother in temperament. He never engaged with me and just scowled as I passed by.

Good twin… Bad twin, a staple of every dodgy soap and daytime drama.

Over morning coffee, my partner read an update on the homophobic attack. Looking at the accompanying image, he commented on the resemblance to the local builder boy.

“I thought the same,” I admitted, “but dismissed it, because he didn’t look as hot in the photo.”

I suppose mugshots are rarely flattering.

“It says that he has a twin,” my partner continued.

“It is definitely one of them then.”

Although not sure which twin was guilty, I suspect it was bad-boy moody, but now both seemed less attractive.

The article stated whichever one it was had handed himself in, so there was no need to contact the authorities.

We scrutinised the other two mugshots with more attention and realised that we also recognised the youngest of the three. I regularly pass him in the neighbourhood, his severe fringe being particularly memorable, as it looked like his mother had cut his hair with a pudding basin.

The third of the three didn’t look familiar, but to be brutally honest I could pass his bulbous dim-witted face every day of the year and never give it a second glance.

Talking to neighbours, they thought they recognised all three of the assailants as some of ‘the boys’ at anti-LGBTQ protests outside a local school a few years back.

Birmingham’s busiest quiet road strikes again!

Statistics show that homophobic hate crime is on a steady increase.

Lawrence Barton, leading light of Birmingham’s gay village, said in a recent article in The Guardian:

“There has been an increase in this type of activity, locally and nationally. We had a homophobic attack on a drag queen only a few weeks ago.

“I’m out regularly in the gay district on a weekend, and it staggers me how many people come out with homophobic remarks, shout from their car windows and make comments as they’re walking past,” he added.

“Some people delude themselves into thinking that we live in a society that’s very progressive, and that we enjoy all these equalities and freedoms. But actually, when you cut underneath the surface, it’s clear there’s still a massive journey to true equality.”

Inevitably, I have encountered homophobic hostilities, such as having a bag of trash launched at my head from a third storey balcony (It missed) and drive-by abuse being yelled as I emerged from a gay bar, although three years of drama training meant my hearty response of “CUUUUUUUUNNNNNNT” was far louder.

Because of this current climate of hate and hostility, I found myself wary of a group of lads larking about on the pavement ahead of me, whilst taking the dog for a late-night walk.

I crossed the road to avoid them, but as we drew level, one of the lads glanced over and made a point of drawing his mate’s attention to me.

“Hey,” he called, “how’s it going?”

He then used a name that could only mean one thing… and I beamed a relieved grin.

He was clearly an ex-pupil from a local primary school I had worked at a decade ago, where the kids gave me an endearing nickname.

“I’ll always remember you,” he continued. “You made us laugh.”

“Sorry, I don’t recognise you,” I replied, “but I assume you didn’t have that beard when you were eleven.”

I crossed back over the road, chatted with the group and felt better about the world.

It was all good… this time.

At point of writing, all responsible for those malicious assaults have been located, charged and are currently on bail awaiting trial.

Ironically, for their attack on the gay community, they’ll serve time in a facility where they’ll experience more gay sex than they could ever imagine… which gives me far more pleasure than I suspect it will give them.

Suck it up boys!