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!

One Lump or Two?

I was in the bath, facing that middle-aged dilemma of how to keep my phone far enough away to be in focus, without submerging it in water.

I was warm, pink and relaxed… when I noticed something worrying.

One testicle seemed larger than its companion.

I’d been concerned for a while that there was something amiss. There appeared to be a hardening at the base of my right testicle, but I kept foolishly pushing that thought to the back of my mind.

As I was on a schedule to meet Ruru in town, I didn’t have time to dwell on the matter.

I dried, dressed and departed… but that niggling worry persisted.


Missing Bar was heaving.

We enjoyed the novelty of being allowed to stand at the bar again. I had forgotten just how busy bars were in life before Covid… or loud.

One of the gaybourhood’s prominent venue owners told me how, on the full reopening weekend, he asked for the volume to be turned down when testing the sound system, “I thought, surely it was never this loud before?”

“I considered bringing the dog tonight,” I confessed to Ru, having got used to taking her out while restrictions were in place.

“She’d have been squished!”


My bath time discovery was still bothering me, so I shared my concerns with Ruru.

Having nursing experience, he immediately offered to go to a toilet cubical with me and take a look.

“No one will believe that you are just giving me a check-up.”

Ruru just raised a dismissive eyebrow and headed to the gents.

I followed a few moments later.

Walking into the toilets, I was met with an unanticipated obstacle.

Ru was stood at the sinks, surrounded by a multitude of sprays, gels, perfumes and potions, being peddled for tips by the man on the stool (another aspect of pre-Covid life that I had forgotten about).

There was no way we were going to be able to slip into a cubicle unobserved.

This was going to prove more of a challenge than expected.


We returned to the bar to consider our options.

Equator was too compact, we decided. There was no way we would be able to head off to the toilets together without being noticed.

“I don’t even think there is a door on the men’s loo,” I recalled. “We are bound to be seen going in or out of a cubical.”

The Nightingale Club naturally charges for admission, but we didn’t want to pay for the privilege of using their facilities for a medical examination.

There was another popular village venue where nobody would blink an eye if we went into a toilet cubicle together, but they have so much through traffic that we would probably have to form an orderly queue.

Who’da thought it would be so difficult to find an empty cubical on the gay scene?

“We could go to The Fox,” I announced. The little gay bar with the big gay heart would possibly be suitable for our purposes.


We ordered our drinks and sat at a table in The Fox’s neat little beer garden, but before we could execute our plan, Ruru got distracted when he recognised a fellow TikTok performer and excitedly trotted over to introduce himself.

My medical examination would have to wait.

Ruru’s new buddy was a flamboyant reality TV wannabe.

He stood out in an arresting outfit of coordinated white trainers, jeans, shirt and brand sweater, an ensemble that matched his dazzling veneers and set off his salon tan of burnt sienna. He was decked in gold bracelets and a multitude of rings on every finger. There were even several rings displayed on a gold chain around this neck.

This was a man who didn’t believe in subtlety.

His gaudy look was topped off with a tightly permed mullet, dyed a few shades darker than, what I imagine was once, his nature hair colour.

This glitzy oddball was with a gentile older gentleman who basked in his companion’s radiance.

This odd couple were surprisingly pleasant company, so after several more drinks, we invited them to join us back at Missing.

Our mission, to afford Ruru a quick peek at my troublesome testicle, had been temporarily forgotten.


In Missing, I kept the older gent company, while Ru bounced off like Tigger to twirl about the dancefloor and ‘Mr. Burnt Siena’ performed extravagant drop splits at every opportunity.

I was thrilled to spot a lovely man that I had been introduced to on several occasions by a mutual friend. We greeted each other enthusiastically, delighted to hug after eighteen months of social distancing.

I made introductions between Ru and this friend of a friend, and was struck by how much they resembled each other, apart from the striking height difference. One towered over his diminutive doppelganger. It was like they were each other’s reflections in a funfair mirror.


Watching Ruru’s orange friend from The Fox drop into his umpteenth split, I thought, He is going to require medical attention if he keeps this up… which reminded me of my own potential health issue.

“I’m an idiot,” I told Ru, as I dragged him to the stairwell at the rear of the venue. “We were looking for discreet toilets, but the perfect option was here all along. There are toilets upstairs… that people hardly ever use.”

In the cubical, Ru adopted a totally professional, albeit tipsy, manner. He gave me the onceover and concluded that everything seemed in order, but to go see my GP all the same.

Only once the examination was concluded, did we collapse into fits of giggles. Suddenly, nothing seemed more ridiculous than being stood in a toilet cubical with my best mate, pants around my knees, with my right testical cupped in his left hand.

Matters weren’t helped by some twink and his female friend attempting a 90s dance classic in the next stall, whilst simultaneously discussing what drinks they were going to get their mate, Oscar, to buy once they returned to the bar.

I called over the partition, “How are you managing to perform The Macarena in such a small space? Oh, and if Oscar is buying, I’ll have a pint of Stella.”


The next evening, I booked an appointment on the NHS app.

By the time I woke, late the following morning, I had missed several calls and received an email trying to book me in for that afternoon.

I called the doctor back and he explained what an examination would entail and the signs to lookout for.

“Well, I am currently stood in my kitchen fondling myself,” I informed him, “and, to be honest, I can’t feel anything unusual. I hope I’m not wasting your time.”

“No, not at all. It is better to be sure,” he assured me.

The doctor then rambled on about some Olympic cyclist who had competed with undiagnosed testicular cancer. I assume this was his attempt to reassure me that a positive diagnosis would not mean a loss of virility or physical prowess, although I suspected I wouldn’t be competing in major cycling tournaments anytime soon… especially as I don’t own a bike.


The misconception that the loss of a testicle effects your masculinity is, quite frankly, a load of bollocks. Over the years, I’ve been with plenty of mono-testicled men that have all performed admirably.

On one memorable occasion in Budapest, I met a guy in a cruise bar who bore a striking resemblance to Miranda Hobbs’ cute husband Steve, from HBO’s Sex and the City, a character whose storyline saw him undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.

After going with him in a darkroom, I informed my partner, “That guy only had one ball, just like Steve.”

“Maybe it really is him,” he suggested.

“Only the character had surgery,” I tutted, “that would be taking method acting way too far.”


My professional examination established there was nothing of concern.

At no point was I made to feel uncomfortable nor alarmist. I was repeatedly told, if in any doubt, the best thing was to have it checked out.

Now I know what everything is meant to look and feel like at factory settings, I will be in a better position to spot any abnormality.

The boys of Brum can breathe a collective sigh of relief, everything is in working order and I’m out there… having a ball.

The Walk of Shame

I believe that sunrise is best seen at the end of a long and enjoyable night… not as a painfully early start to the day.

I love wandering home through the dawning city: drunkenness giving way to exhaustion; dark changing to grey then light; birds telling the world they’re awake; the first buses of the day rumbling by.

Shameful? I don’t think so! It makes me feel young.


In my younger days, I would return home from a night out via the direct route through Birmingham’s largest park, much to my mother’s consternation.

She would regularly berate, “I wish you wouldn’t walk through the park at night. You never know who might be in there!”

I would nod and make all the appropriate noises of contrition… then do the exact same thing the following weekend.

I had no intention of changing my habits. The route from pub to home through the park took 40 minutes, compared to double that had I gone the long way round, besides I always assumed that muggers were unlikely to lurk in deserted parkland when they would have far more chance of finding victims on busy thoroughfares.


I only encountered other people in that sizeable 2,400 acres on one memorable night. I was passing through one stretch of woodland that always gave me the heebie-jeebies. The canopy of trees was so dense that no ambient light could penetrate. I was plunged into total darkness in a black so dense that the only way I could tell that I was not straying from the path was the reassuring feel of tarmac beneath my feet.

A thick mist had risen from the many ponds and pools in the park and was hanging close to the ground, giving the already atmospheric environment a particularly creepy feel that night.

Suddenly, the path ahead was filled with unearthly light. Several towering silhouettes stretched elongated tendrils of blackness toward me. I stopped in my tracks, convinced I was having a close encounter of the third kind and was destined to be whisked away like Emma Samms in a Dynasty cliff-hanger.

It turned out to be night-time fishermen heading home, light from their powerful torches augmented by mist and casting distorted shadows.


That meeting in the woods turned out to be much ado about nothing, but my partner and I had an experience in the forests of Croatia that could have ended in toothy tragedy.

We were exploring the country by car and had stopped for the night in Plitvice Lakes National Park, a wilderness of wooded hills, waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes.

We found a friendly, puppy filled, homestay in a picturesque valley.

That evening, we walked the mile or so down a weaving lane to the only place to eat in the area, but at the conclusion of our meal, decided to slice 15 minutes off the return journey by taking a shortcut through the woods, so exited the establishment via the backdoor to access the path.

The woods were forebodingly dark, but we could just make out the track when our eyes adjusted to the gloom.

Once deep enough into the woods to be committed to that course of action, we became aware of the sound of moving foliage and the snap of detritus in the undergrowth. Something was moving alongside us.

I whimpered, “What is that?”

“It’s probably a squirrel,” my partner offered, unconvincingly.

“Squirrels don’t snap sticks with their paws!”

We both scrambled around in the dark to find something to defend ourselves with. My partner came up with a log so big that he could barely carry it and would struggle to swing in combat, while all I could find was a thin sapling that would barely swat a fly.

Fortunately, we spotted light up ahead and ran the last 100 yards to the road and safety.

Having no other options available, we returned to the same restaurant for breakfast. Pulling up in the carpark, we were horrified to see a huge sign, which we would have noticed the previous night, had we not emerged from the rear entrance. The sign featured an arresting image of a human skull with a big red cross through it and warned not to enter the woods during hours of darkness, because of the danger from wild cats, wolves, and bears… oh my!

“See,” I gulped, “I told you it wasn’t a bloody squirrel!”


Back on my more mundane walks home from Birmingham city centre, it is almost inevitable that some horny lad will cruise by in their car (especially if you know the side streets to loiter on).

They will pull up alongside and engage in an exchange that goes along the lines of:

“Hey man, whatcha up to?”

“Nothing, just wandering around. You?”

“Just drivin’ man. You been out tonight?”

“Yeah, to a few bars. What you been up to?”

“At a mate’s place… you know, chillin.”

Then there will be a few awkward moments, as they stare ahead trying not to make eye contact, as they invite you into their car without directly admitting what they are after.


One evening, I was picked up by a guy in a white van.

He found a suitably quiet place to park up and suggested, “We can get in the back of the van, as there’s more room.”

“Won’t it be dark?”

“Nah… There’s a light back there.”

When he opened the van’s rear doors, the space was filled with commercial sized sacks of onions, potatoes, rice and pulses, stacked one on top of each other.

“Sorry,” he apologised, “I had to do a Cash & Carry run for my uncle’s shop.”

We manged to climb in and make a bed amongst the lentils.

Afterwards, I asked, “So where is your uncle’s shop?”

He responded, defensively, “Why do you want to know?”

“Because I’ve seen what you do on the produce,” I told him, “And I never want to shop there!”


Several weeks back, I took full advantage of the first weekend of freedom after restrictions on hospitality were finally lifted and stayed out partying until gone 5am.

As I staggered home, I approached an area of warehouses and abattoirs, with their claggy stench of death. I became aware of a handsome Middle Eastern fella walking parallel with me on the other side of the street. Our paths crossed at the intersection, and he struck up a conversation, in limited and heavy accented English.

“Hello. You been out tonight?”

I told him that I had.

“Hurst Street?”

I acknowledged that was indeed where I had been.

“You like men?”

I told him that I did.

“You come with me? I have key.”

“Do you have a flat nearby?”

“No,” he replied. “Reception.”

Before I could ask for clarification, he trotted up a few steps to one of the many industrial units on the road, unlocked the doors and beckoned me in.

The reception space was sparse, littered with cardboard, but fit for our purposes.

Once our brief liaison was concluded, he casually offered, “I show you livestock?”

“Pardon… You show me what?”

He immediately threw open a nondescript door to reveal a vast warehouse of pens filled with hundreds of sheep.

They all turned simultaneously to silently stare at me with benign curiosity.

I surveyed this unexpected sight for a few bemused moments then the guy closed the door again and announced, “We go now.”

Sadly, my eyes were probably amongst the last things those ewes ever saw.

It made for a unique conclusion to a very long night.


When I relayed this tale to my partner the following morning, he asked, “How could you not know the sheep were there?”

“They didn’t make a sound,” I explained, “and that area of town always smells like a barnyard, so how was I to know I was having sex in a slaughterhouse?”


Thankfully, the animals I encountered on that urban walk home were less menacing than whatever stalked us through the woods of Croatia … unless one of them was only wearing sheep’s clothing.

Love in the Time of Corona

Birmingham promotes itself as ‘having more canals than Venice and more parks than Paris’ and both have certainly seen an increased footfall over the past sixteen months of pandemic and lockdowns. Cruising is back in fashion.

An old colleague claims to have been present at the meeting where this oft touted tagline about Brum was coined by a public relations hack, who apparently made it up on the spot. It turned out the line about parks was true (with Paris having 400 parks, compared to Birmingham’s 500) and Birmingham does technically have more miles of canal than Venice (which doesn’t have the same romantic ring to it). Unfortunately, while the canals of Venice are banked by ancient palaces, glisten beneath picturesque bridges and are filled with bobbing gondolas, Birmingham’s are surrounded by grim graffiti covered warehouses, fester in the murky shadows of Spaghetti Junction and team with trash and old supermarket trolleys.

No matter the reality of this PR statement, those canals and parks have been busy whilst the bars and club have been closed, as they are perfect locations for likeminded gentlemen to meet. The old beats and cruising haunts have been busier than they have in years. It’s been like the 1990s out there!


One popular park, situated just to the south of the city, was particularly busy during that initial sunny summer lockdown. I couldn’t stroll around without running into acquaintances from the scene. We gayly greeting each other with knowing smiles as we cruised well-trodden pathways beneath towering pine trees.

I got reacquainted with my old comrade Radomir; bumped into several faces from Boltz; had fun with a hulking guy I knew from the sauna, who always puts me in mind of an American football player; and caught up with one friend who was sooooo hungover that he could only sit sombrely (if not soberly) on a log, with a wan complexion that blended him, chameleon-like, into the foliage.

One elderly gentleman, whom I vaguely recognised from Equator Bar (and resembled Patrick Stewart), dropped his pants upon seeing me and politely asked, “Would you like this?”

“No, thank you,” I replied, “but it was very kind of you to ask.”


I was intrigued one afternoon to find a portly chap stood in my path, wearing nothing but a toweline robe and a pair of immaculately white trainers.

He took a drag of his cigarette and greeted me with a casual, “Hello”, as though we had both simultaneously stepped out onto adjacent balconies at a compact holiday complex.

How he kept those trainers so pristine and the whereabouts of his other clothes are still a mystery.


I got to recognise the regulars, such as: the three old boys who hung out on a sunny tuffet, like something from a gay Last of the Summer Wine; the disturbed stoner who alternated between an improvised routine of moves that vaguely resembled tai chi or smacking the living Hell out of a tree truck with a staff (people tended to give him a wide berth); and a bad trannie on a bike.

Although a fallow period, compared to pre-Covid promiscuity, I enjoyed hooking up with several new people: There was a handsome Moroccan, who valiantly attempted to persuade me to bottom on each and every encounter… with no success; a Pakistani in full flowing kameez, sporting a meticulously shaved triangle around his crotch, on an otherwise hirsute body; and a dog walker who took advantage of his professional trips to the park to get some unprofessional job satisfaction… Taking the dog dogging.

I met the latter fella one day, while he was out exercising a massive mastiff. The dog was lovely, but overly curious and was determined to get a good sniff, no matter how many times he was gently pushed away. It’s large rugby ball shaped head, short beige hair and large eyes reminded of Zippy from Rainbow, complete with an unfeasibly wide mouth, which I really didn’t trust in such close proximity to my soft delicates.  


There is a L-shaped stretch of canal, accessed via an entrance in a Digbeth backstreet, that has always been a popular hunting ground. It has a strip of secluded greenery, teetering perilously on a sheer drop to the pitiful trickle of the River Rea, which always makes my legs feel funny if I venture too close to the edge, and a long dark tunnel in which to loiter with intent.

The tunnel offers a surprisingly safe place to make out, as it affords views of the towpath in both directions. The contrast in light and dark, means that the eyes of anyone walking towards the tunnel cannot adjust quickly enough to penetrate the gloom, but those within the darkness can clearly see anyone approaching…. and correct their attire accordingly.


One afternoon, when I arrived at the canal, there were two guys stood wide apart on the bridge, trying to look inconspicuous, as though standing on a drab stretch of Birmingham canal for no apparent reason was a perfectly normal way of spending your time. One was a handsome black lad with a stunning physique, while the other was a grotesque of long greasy hair, doughy face and simultaneously exposed bulbous belly and massive arse-crack.

I was delighted when the handsome lad immediately flashed a smile and vanished down into the greenery, glancing back to indicate I should follow. Like I needed encouragement!

I mentally punched the air and performed a happy dance in my head, but externally maintained a cool demeanour. It is never good to look too grateful in these circumstances.

As I moved to follow, I passed Doughface, who pointedly let out a disgruntled huff, clearly disappointed that he hadn’t been the recipient of that flirty smile and nonverbal invite into the trees.

I had barely begun to explore that fabulous body when Doughface turned up, pushing his pedal bike through the bushes, and just stood there watching with a dull scowl.

“Thorry mate,” said the lad, with a subtle lisp, which only made him more attractive “but could you give us some privithy?”

“No,” snapped Doughface, sulkily. “You were interested in me until this guy turned up,” he said, nodding in my direction, “and cockblocked me”

“Did what?” I asked, having never heard the term before.

“Cock-blocked,” he repeated, with emphasis. “You are a cockblocker!!!”

I just laughed and suggested to the lad that we find somewhere else to go.

“I didn’t give him any indication that I was interested in him and never would have done,” the lad told me as we headed back onto the towpath.

Unfortunately, everywhere we went, Doughface followed.

We tried the bridge tunnel and a few other secluded spots, but he trailed with his bike, cursing me and mumbling about cockblockery.

Finally, the lad lost patience and told him to, “Fuck off!!!”

“No,” Doughface harrumphed, “I’m going have you.”

In all my years on the scene, I have never encountered such a vile and sexually aggressive attitude and snapped, “You are out of order, Shrek!”

“This is freakin’ me out, sorry,” the lad apologised. “I’m going to have to go.”  

I offered to walk with him, in case Doughface persisted in following, although why I thought someone built like the proverbial brick dunny would require my protection is beyond me.

“No, I’ll be fine,” he assured me. “If he tries anything I’ll punch him.”

“Don’t do that,” I advised him, adding the cliché, “he’s not worth it.” I thought for a moment, looking Doughface up and down, and suggested, “but you could chuck his bike in the canal.”

We said goodbyes, expressing hope of meeting again sometime, then headed off in opposite directions.

Doughface mounted his bike, revealing even more of that cavernous butt-crack and rode away, sneering one last dig at me as he departed, “Beaten by an old man with a handbag!”

I retorted, indignantly, “Do you mind?!! I’m middle-aged… and it’s a satchel!”

Sadly, I’ve not seen the buff boy with the cute lisp again.


These trips to the park and canals were a rare lockdown treat, compared to my level of pre-covid promiscuity. There were points during that first six months of the pandemic where it felt like I had been castrated.

When asked by a work colleague, “What is the first think you are going to do when all restrictions are lifted?”

I automatically replied, “The entire Moseley rugby team.”


The worldwide pandemic presented obstacles to carnal encounters, but you can’t keep a good man down. The gays rapidly adapted and found canal relief.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

My Mother’s Son?

There is a widely touted myth that gay sons develop a close bond with their mothers.

An ex-boss so believed this that she desperately wanted her son (and only child) to be gay, so they could, in her words; “Go shopping and attend the theatre together.”

It got to the point where, as a young man, he had to sit his mother down and come out as NOT gay.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” he told her. “but I’m straight.”

“Maybe it’s just a phase you are going through,” she suggested. “Have you tried being with a man.”

“No. I’m sorry, but I like woman.”

“I understand,” she conceded solemnly, “and I will still love you, no matter what you are.”


My relationship with my own mother is strained… to say the least.

To put it bluntly, I think she is an unpleasant paragon of suburban prejudice, pretention and hypocrisy, with strong opinions and a sharp tongue (Imagine a combination of Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life and Hyacinth Bucket (Booooouquet) from Keeping Up Appearances, but without their wit or one-liners). For the sake of harmony, I keep these opinions to myself and maintain the thin facade of caring son.

Despite a lifetime of railing against my rearing, elements of my mother’s personality do inevitably manifest, not as bigotry and bile, but as pompous bloody-mindedness.

I endeavour to channel my more bolshy genetic traits in positive directions: I am a wiz at securing refunds from retail outlets and dealing with errant utility suppliers and I have left many a customer services manager with shaken timbre after encountering my unyielding stance that every issue can be resolved to my satisfaction.

I once explained to a New Street Station official how I had left my return ticket in the toilets at Wolverhampton, whist having a poop, and being a frequent passenger, would know better than traveling without a valid ticket.

“I believe you,” he admitted, but resolutely insisted that I still had to pay the fine, as that was the rule.

I disagreed with his stance and asked, “If policies are so intransigent, then why employ managers to make decisions?”

“Good point,” he conceded… and let me through.


My bullishness does mean our small Birmingham backstreet is litter free.

When my partner and I moved in, I got so frustrated by the amount of litter dropped by pupils from the local school and drifting in from the nearby Balti Triangle, that I became a vigilante litter picker.

Initially, I cleaned the street under cover of darkness, as I felt self-conscious about being a local busy body.

One evening though, I was caught in the act by an elderly Pakistani neighbour.

He pointed at the binbag in my hand and, in faltering English, told me, “You… good neighbour.”

From that moment, I became an out and proud litter picker at large.

A family over the road even bought their own litter picker sticks and would join me on weekend mornings.

I returned home one evening to find a card on the doorstep from the school, thanking me for my community spirt, along with a family box of wine gums. How they knew these were my all-time favourite confectionary, I have no idea.

Unfortunately, the school let themselves down, when hundreds of letters failed to make it home to parents as intended but were instead strewn far and wide.

I picked up every scrap, filling several binbags, which I tied to the school gates with a note, written in red pen, ‘POOR EFFORT. MUST TRY HARDER. D- ‘.

I subsequently invoiced Birmingham City Council for maintaining the neighbourhood.

The council responded, predicably stating they do not pay for unsolicited services… but I had made my point.


On another occasion, a secondary school pupil provoked me when he spouted homophobic insults on my morning bus ride into Birmingham city centre (Not specifically at me, but in an obnoxious manner, to the whole bus).

He was remonstrated by a couple of passengers, which only resulted in a further tirade.

I don’t usually keep quiet in the face of homophobia (as the guy who delivered a drive-by insult outside Missing one evening discovered. Three years of drama training meant my response of “CUUUUUUUNT!” was far louder), but on this occasion I decided to remain silent and pursue a different course.

When he got off in Digbeth, beating aggressively on the bus windows from the outside, I also disembarked and followed him. It did occur to me that pursuing a schoolboy across the city in the early hours could be misconstrued, but I hoped to follow him to his school and report his behaviour to a senior teacher.

Unfortunately, he boarded another bus at a stop further up the high street.

As I had already made myself late for work with my impromptu crusade, I abandoned the chase, but made a mental note of the bus number.

That evening, I conducted a little research online and then set about methodically telephoning every secondary school on that bus’s route.

The majority of schools were sympathetic, but one severe receptionist, of the type schools and medical practices favour, scoffed, “We have almost three thousand pupils at this school. How are we supposed to identify one child from a description?!”

I politely explained, “I know your school’s demographic. This particular boy will stand out… as he is white.”

There was a brief pause, while she nibbled humble pie, then the subdued receptionist admitted, “Ah, well yes, that is unusual in this school.”

I proceeded to give a full description, “He is overweight, although more chubby than fat. He has mousey brown hair, a dull face and thick rimmed retro style glasses that would look funky on somebody more attractive. The most distinctive thing about him was his coat. He was wearing a mustard-coloured anorak, not Colman’s mustard though,” I clarified, “more like those cheap brands you get in Lidl.”

He would have stood out like a chubby sore thumb.

Each school got back to me with their progress over the next few days.

None admitted to a positive identification, but all promised to pursue the matter, and several said they would bring the incident up in no uncertain terms in assembly that week. By this point the red mist had dissipated and I let the matter go. I just hope one podgy pupil in a school off Coventry Road, unexpectedly learned actions have consequences.


My finest hour came in a local supermarket.

It was a busy Saturday afternoon, but inexplicably only the self-checkouts were open, which is fine when you have a limited number of items to scan, but impractical when dealing with a large trolly load, a comment that was curtly dismissed by the member of staff I mentioned this to.

I felt my hackles rise.

After several failed scans, a prolonged proof of age verification and unregistered discounts, I had had enough.

“Right, this is ridiculous,” I fumed, sweeping items back into our trolly.

I stormed around to one of the abandoned checkouts and started to pile it high.

Using that drama training, I projected, “AISLE THREE IS NOW OPEN, AISLE THREE IS OPEN!”

A queue immediately formed behind me and within moments a harassed looking young woman dashed over and took up position behind the till.

I was politeness itself to the shop assistant, aware that none of this was her fault and thanked her profusely as we bagged up.

“Thank Christ that worked,” I remarked to my partner as we left. “If it hadn’t, I would have looked a right twat pulling everything back in the trolley.”


It is said, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’… you should try a mildly inconvenienced homosexual.

Passing Comments

Sometimes you overhear wonderful snippets of conversation in passing.


I heard a heart-warming conversation between a mother and son, who were sat behind me on the bus.

“I really want a pair,” the young lad implored his mother.

“I’m just not sure,” she replied hesitantly.

“But I would LOVE a pair of sparkly shoes,” the son insisted.

“You need to be a strong person to wear shoes like that,” the mother explained. “Some people may not understand and could laugh at you.”

“But I just really like them,” he persevered. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

Without missing a beat, mum-of-the-year replied, “Well then, let’s go get you a pair of sparkly shoes.”

A scene from a real-life Everyone’s Talking About Jamie… performed atop a double-decker.


You overhear bona banter on the gay scene.

One December, I had finished a spot of Christmas shopping in Birmingham city centre and headed to Hurst Street for a pint. As I strolled by two guys, I caught the tail end of their conversation, “… he didn’t realise that he’d bought the wrong calendar and spent three days eating dog chocolates.”

It sounded like a line Rita would say about Norris from Corrie.

On another occasion, a barman in the gay village greeted a regular customer by indicating a stack of condoms at the door and saying, “Hey mate, we’ve got your size in. You should grab a load, we don’t get XXL very often.”

It is one thing the bar staff knowing your usual tipple, I thought, but another matter them knowing your size of condom!

Unsurprisingly, the customer was unconcerned about his personals being broadcast across the bar, as it pays to advertise, and cockily responded, “Actually, they are a bit too big.”

The barman was taken aback, “Really? Even for you?!”

The customer was adamant, “Yes, I popped one on the other day and looked like a kid in his dad’s wellies.”


One evening, I was waiting for a friend in a pub near Snow Hill Station and couldn’t help listening to a ridiculous conversation between a couple of larrikins, who were several pints into their post-work drinking session.

“You know I love you like a brother,” one of the lads gushed, “don’t you?”

“Yeah mate, me too. I’d do anything for you,” the friend reciprocated.

“Anything… really?”

“Yeah, anything!”

“Soooooo…,” mused the first lad, “if I had been kidnapped and the only way to get me released was to fuck a guy… would you?”

“No way!”

“But you just said you would do anything for me.”

“Not that!”

“Even if my life depended on it?”

“Still no.”

“All you have to do to save me is fuck a guy, but you still wouldn’t do it?”

“No!”

Trying a different track, the first lad asked, “How about my mom? Would you fuck my mom to save my life?”

“Oh yeah,” the friend enthused. “Your mom is fit!”

Undeterred, the lad persisted with his hypothetical hostage scenario, “You still wouldn’t fuck a guy to save my life? I have known you since primary school. You are my best mate. All you have to do, to save me from being brutally murdered… and probably tortured…, would be fuck one guy. I am really hurt that you wouldn’t do it.” He looked genuinely crestfallen.

“Ok… ok,” his potential saviour finally conceded, “if it were absolutely the only possible way of saving your life, I’d do it…., but only for you.”

First lad smugly raised his half empty pint and gave a victorious snort of mocking laughter, “Ha… you’d fuck guy!”

At my own table, I drank a silent toast to Beavis and Butthead of Brum and an expertly executed entrapment.


I experienced being listened to by a good-natured eavesdropper on one occasion, whilst telling the story a good friend’s husband told me about his first prostate examination.

It was during the period the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, was undergoing its re-build and consultations were relegated to temporary cabins. The husband had watched in mounting trepidation as the doctor donned a glove and applied lube to his finger. When the doctor inserted his digit, he let out a shrill scream and his leg shot out in an involuntary spasm, kicking a gaping hole in the plasterboard wall.

When I reached the conclusion of my tale and dropped the punchline, “At which point he ejaculated,” I noticed the guy at the next table failing to disguise his amusement, so turned and welcomed him into our conversation.

“You have got to love a straight guy who is confident enough to tell this story in mixed company,” I said. “He told us that he didn’t know if he was dreading next year’s examination… or looking forward to it!”


In the words of the late, great, Victoria Wood, “Keep your trap shut and your lugholes open, and you can pick up some very interesting conversations,” … especially if you happen to be sat in the right spot in the gaybourhood.

Fightin’ Like a Ewing, Darlin’

I am not too proud to admit that when the American mega-soap, Dallas, returned to television, for its sadly truncated run, it became my guilty pleasure. I loved the fightin’ an’ a feudin’, where ‘Blood is thinker than water, but oil is thinker than both’.

I enjoyed it soooo much, that I bought the boxset of the original series, spending the next year watching fourteen seasons, a prequel miniseries and two TV movies (I fell short of continuing with the spinoff series Knotts Landing, but never say never).

At the time of watching, I never imagined that this series would become a tutorial in conflict resolution.


My partner and I have different approaches to our open relationship. While I favour the immediacy of anonymous hook-ups in bars, saunas and gay beats, my other half prefers the familiarity of a regular buddy, someone with whom he develops a comfortable intimacy.

Several men have become regular visitors to our house over the years.

One fella became a good friend and welcome house guest for a while. He was a sturdy bull terrier of guy with an ever-growing collection of tattoos and a personality to love. He liked to maintain the air of streetwise geeza, but this tough man image was shattered the time I introduced him to some French cheese. You would have thought I was trying to feed him dog shit! He went into a panic, running around the garden trying to evade me, while I took delight in pursuing him with the offending chunk of stinky fromage. He ended up trapped in a corner, whimpering like Fay Wray at the approach of Kong’s giant paw.

From that day on, if he tried to act tough, I would threaten, “Don’t make me get the cheese.”

Unfortunately, this friendship turned soar. He and my partner fell out and haven’t seen each other in years, but he is still fondly spoken of in our household.


The latest heir to my partner’s affections is a quietly spoken thirtysomething Pakistani with a gentle nature and a winning grin.

Their friendship had been blossoming for many months before I finally met him… but in circumstances that neither of us would have wished for.

I had heard so many good things about this guy, but he avoided me, as I think he was nervous about meeting the ‘husband’.

Apparently, he would sit for hours at our kitchen table in his cap and hoodie, engrossed in playing games on his phone. It seemed, as well as the Islamic relief on offer, he also enjoyed the peace our laidback home gave him compared to his own bustling household. Our house offered a refuge where he could be comfortable in his own skin, away from judgement and cultural expectations.

I found it endearing the time he opened our fridge and asked, “Where your snacks?”

“We’ve got olives, pickles and pate,” said my partner, an offer which was met with a look of disgust, “or I could make you a cheese sandwich.”

“I don’t trust strange cheese,” he said dismissively (What is it with the cheese?). “Don’t you have samosa or bhaji?”

“I could toast you some crumpets.”

“What are trumpets?”

From that day on, I always knew my partner’s new friend had been over, because the fridge was stocked with south Asian snacks.


One evening, I was greeted at the front door by my partner in a state of high anxiety, “He stole my phone,” he blurted out.

My partner’s buddy had spun some yarn about a fault on his own phone and needing to borrow one to insert his chip into. It didn’t really make much sense, but after months of intimacy, my partner had trusted him. He then made up some ruse to leave the house with the phone, promising to return within the hour.

“That was three hours ago and he’s not replying to messages.”

Recalling my epic watch-thru of Dallas, and the Machiavellian machinations of the show’s infamous star, I asked myself, What would JR Ewing do?

The answer was simple: Find their weak spot and exploit it, while wearing the, oh so charming, grin of a hungry crocodile… darlin’.


We sat down at the laptop and engaged in spot of research.

With minimum effort, we discovered a glut of personal information. I had his address, work history, names and occupations of his immediate family, the professional contact details of one well connected sibling, plus a selection of very saucy photographs.

The internet is a wonderful research tool.

I sent the errant phone thief a polite message, ‘Hello, I gather that you have an item that doesn’t belong to you. I would like it returned by the end of tomorrow, otherwise I will be getting the authorities involved. They may ask awkward questions regarding the exact nature of your relationship with my partner. As a proud gay couple in an honest open relationship, we have nothing to hide. Can you say the same?’

I sat back and awaited his response.

The afternoon of the following day, I received, ‘Don’t call the police. I’ll come around tonight, but no drama.’

I promised ‘no drama’, said I looked forward to meeting him… and not to be late.


I received him at the front door with, “I’ve been saying for ages that I wanted to meet you.”

“But not like this,” he mumbled sheepishly, snatching the cap from his head as he crossed the threshold.

Once in the living room, I motioned for him to sit.

I only recall snippets of the lecture I subjected him to, but the gist was: “You were a welcome guest in our home”; “More than just friends”; “Betrayal, disappointment and disgust”.

I should be able to transcribe the entire conversation, as I had my phone recording the exchange as potential leverage, but I deleted that file long ago.

“It is lucky you got back to me when you did,” I told him. “Your sister’s office is on my route home. If I hadn’t heard from you, I planned to call in and explain the whole situation to her in person.”

He went grey, welled up and looked like he was on the verge of throwing up.

As furious as we were, we would never have outed him to his family for the sake of a phone… but he didn’t know that.


It turned out that he had pawned the phone to pay off a debt.

I had to cough up the cash to get the phone back. We agreed he would repay what he could each week, even repaying ‘in kind’ by helping paint our lounge and kitchen (I made him do all the jobs I hated). At £5 an hour he was the cheapest decorator in town, always dressed in his customary cap and hoodie, but covered in a makeshift poncho, fashioned from a binbag.


Despite the undesirable circumstances of our first meeting, he has become a trusted part of our logical family and home for wayward gays. I suppose friendships have started in worse ways, (although I struggle to think of any off hand).

One evening, I returned home to, “Now, don’t be mad, but he’s in our bed. He finished work early, wanted to hang out…. then fell asleep.”

I popped my head around the bedroom door and could just see the peak of his cap peeking (as it would) over the covers.

We needed to go out to pick up a few things and had no hesitation in leaving him home alone.

Finally, at 9pm, I woke him with, “Hey Goldilocks, it’s time to go home.”

Shortly after, he emerged, bleary-eyed and wearing that Cheshire Cat grin.


These days, he tends to chillout at ours, eating his way through the fruit bowl, demanding cheese sandwiches (We have converted him to ‘strange cheese’) and once, to my mock indignation scoffed a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates that my partner had bought for me!

We mainly cross paths when I return from work (handing over the dayshift to night duty) and we bond over the latest movie blockbusters.

On one encounter, I casually mentioned some modern remake of a silent classic… He looked at me blankly.

“Surely, you’ve seen a silent movie?”

“Oh, yeah man,” he responded, “I watched all the Silent Hill movies.”

After I had finished laughing (and thinking, They made more than one?!), I explained how films originally had music and sound effects performed live in the movie theatres.

He just looked at me with an expression that said, You makin’ dis shit up!

I implored, “You must have at least seen Charlie Chaplin?!”

“Oh, yeah man,” he nodded, “that’s the guy dancin’ ‘round the lamppost in the rain.”

I give up.


The stolen phone incident and my Dallas-style retribution is long forgiven and feels like a dream… Maybe one morning, if I am very lucky, I will awake to find Patrick Duffy in my shower.

Blood is thicker than water, but friendship is thicker than both.

What Goes Around…

There is an oft quoted claim that gay men have more sexual partners in a single year than their straight counterparts. I find this easy to believe, considering that a recent survey concludes that heterosexual men only have an average total of 14 partners in lifetime. The gay guys I know could clock up that tally in a slow month, good week or busy Sunday afternoon in the sauna!


Responsible gay men opt for a regular sexual health MOT. I usually take advantage of the pop-up clinics that appear in bars, clubs and other venues on the gay scene. With a couple of unobtrusive swabs, a few samples and a prick of blood, the job’s done and the results are efficiently text to you over the following week. It is free, quick and simple, gives you peace of mind… and more importantly ensures that you are not out there spreading the ‘love’.

Over the years, I have had the luck of the Devil. Other than a couple of infestations of crabs, I have managed to avoid any sexually transmitted diseases. That was until last year.

I initially noticed a faint burning sensation when I urinated, which got more intense over a few days until I dreaded having to take a pee. It rapidly got to the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer, phoned in sick and took myself to the drop-in clinic in the basement of Boots the Chemist in Birmingham city centre.

The brilliant Umbrella servicesprovide daily walk-in appointments, but places are limited and are offered on a first come, first served basis, so I was told to arrive as the store opened and wait in line until the clinic itself raised their shutters an hour or so later. It proved to be good advice. I arrived early as instructed and there was already a queue forming.

I was immediately struck by how attractive my fellow patients were. I suppose the more attractive you are, the more opportunities you get to catch a sexually transmitted infection.

My partner told was once cruised by a hot guy while waiting for a sexual health check-up at the Whittall Street branch but decided that the clap clinic was the last place that you wanted to pick up a guy. What else would you pick up?!

It was a long wait, made marginally more interesting by a mouse scurrying across the waiting room floor creating brief pandemonium.

For a while it looked like they were going to have to close the clinic due to health and safety concerns, but the decision was left to us patients. We were told that no vermin had been seen in the self-enclosed medical area so, if we were happy to proceed with the appointments, the clinic would remain open.

There was a resounding, “YES!!!”

All I could think was, Please God, don’t make me wait any longer! I’ve had to take a day off work already… and my cock is burning off!!


Finally, I was called to an examination room by a pleasant woman wearing a hijab. I had hoped for her handsome male college, but I suppose it is best not to be intimately examined by someone you find attractive, as the uncontrollable effects could be awkward.

The nurse explained that before she did any tests, she would have to take me through a series of questions relating to my recent sexual history.

The first question was about my sexuality, “Do you identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bi?”

“Homosexual.”

“Do you engage in anal sex?”

“Yes.”

“Do you engage in oral sex?”

“Oooooh yes!”

A hint of a smile played at the corner of her lips.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so enthusiastic,” I apologised.

The questions moved on to sexual partners.

“How many do you have on average?”

When a mate of mine was once asked this same question, he casually replied, “Well, there are three of them currently sat in the waiting room, if that’s any indication?”

I thought about it for a moment and then estimated, “Around… half a dozen?”

“I’ll put you down as ‘Six sexual partners a month’.”

“A month?!!” I spluttered, “I thought you meant a week!”

She professionally tapped this information into the computer without comment.

At least she attempted to conceal her reaction, unlike the interim doctor, covering at an Edinburgh sexual health clinic, where a good friend of mine attended an appointment to ascertain his eligibility for PrEP.

He wanted to ensure qualification for free prescriptions, so when asked how many times he had engaged in unprotected sex in the past two weeks, he guesstimated, “Between thirty and forty.”

The doctor’s eyes bugged out of her head and she gasped, “How Many?!!”

“Well… I was on holiday,” he offered, by way of explanation.

He had been to Torremolinos Bear Week, followed by a similar event in Gran Canaria. Those gigs can get busy, so much so that another mate of mine found himself trapped in a packed darkroom by a heaving barrier of flesh. The only way he could reach the exit was by dropping to all fours and crawling through people’s legs.

“I had purposely shaved a dozen or so off the total,” my Edinburgh friend told me, recalling the doctor’s shocked reaction to his tally of partners. “I didn’t want to sound like a slut.”

He certainly met the total to qualify for free PrEP…The criteria was three.


My nurse in Birmingham, continued her questions and, handing me a sheet of paper listing the continents of the world subdivided into separate regions, she asked, “Have you ever had sexual contact with anyone from any of these areas?”

I scanned the two columns of geographical regions: South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, North Asia, Australasia; United States and Canada, Central America, South America, Caribbean, etc.

Handing the sheet back, I simply replied, “Yes.”

The nurse gave a soft sigh and explained in a patient tone, “No, you are meant to identify which of those regions you may have had a sexual partner from.”

“Yes, I understand,” I replied. “All of them. I have very eclectic tastes and I’m a sucker for an accent.”

She shook her head and grinned, “You are refreshingly honest.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? You do this every day and have seen and heard it all, you are hardly likely to judge me. I may as well be totally upfront.”

If you are brazened enough to catch the infection, you need to be confident enough to discuss it with a professional. The STD clinic is no place to be bashful… or pick up guys, apparently.

Two Guys, One Pup

We unexpectedly acquired a puppy at the end of last year.

This adorable nightmare of energy and attitude is a stark contrast to our previous dog, which mellowed into serene dotage before sadly passing away several years ago.

We are now back to being tugged along the pavement in all weather; paw prints on the kitchen floor/furniture/walls; chewed possessions; lost socks; dead grass; and the constant chorus of, “NO!… DOWN!!… OFF!!!”

It is all so exhausting! I can’t remember the last dog being this much work, but that may have something to do with the fact I am twenty years older than when we last had a young dog in the house… but let’s not dwell on that.


This Tasmanian Devil in our lives has been introduced to several of her predecessor’s favourite walking haunts.

In Moseley Private Park, a formidable Barbara Woodhouse type (80’s TV dog trainer), garbed in sensible tweed, inquired, “Is it a bitch?”

“She’s a bit naughty sometimes,” I replied, “but I wouldn’t go that far.”

The woman conceded a thin smile then swiftly changed the subject to the horrors of teething.

“We have been quite lucky with the chewing,” I told her, “but my arms are covered in marks.” I pulled up my sleeves to reveal red welts and scratches, “I look like I’ve been self-abusing.”

“I think you mean ‘self-harming’,” the woman corrected me, in the curt tone of a tolerant schoolmarm.

It was not until we bid goodbye and moved on, that I realised my faux pas and felt my cheeks flush.

On another occasion, in a Kings Heath park, renowned for cruising, I was innocently walking the dog (yes really!), when a patrolling police officer called out, “Hello, beautiful.”

I cheekily responded, “Hi, handsome.”

I knew full well he was addressing the dog, but I could live in hope.

I wanted to add, “I know this park’s reputation, but never expected to be hit on by a copper,” but wisely chose to keep that comment to myself.


The pup is yet to accompany me to any of Birmingham’s cruising grounds, where the old dog was my regular wingman.

Old Dog seemed to understand the concept of privacy and would discreetly vanish off to investigate the surrounding shrubbery, should I hook-up with anyone.

On one occasion, I meet a student on his way to or from Birmingham University. Old Dog gave him a once over with her nose, to ascertain his suitability, then trotted off into the bushes… as did we. She circled around us, exploring the undergrowth and unearthing rocks to chase, returning sporadically to check-in on our progress.

Unfortunately, Old Dog reappeared at an inopportune moment, bursting between my acquaintance’s legs just at the trembling conclusion of our alfresco encounter (She did something similar to Tenko’s Louise Jameson, but in very different circumstances). The guy reached the top of his ladder… and fell off, cascading onto her head.

The poor lad was mortified.

“Don’t worry, It’s nothing a shampoo won’t rectify,” I assured him… before heading home, with the dog resembling Cameron Diaz in that scene from There’s Something About Mary.


After that experience with Old Dog, the little Devil is unlikely to join me at the cruising beats, but we did introduce her to Birmingham’s gay village one Sunday afternoon.

A member of staff at one Hurst Street pub, delivered drinks to our table, then dropped to her haunches to fuss the pup, which immediately delved, nose first, under the hem of her apron.

With innate nonchalance and dignity, she arched an eyebrow and cooed, “You could at least buy me a drink first.”

Another member of staff, wearing unseasonably short shorts, was depositing a round of drinks at a neighbouring table, when the pup leaned over, from her spot on my lap, and licked his smooth toned thigh.

The barman turned to find myself and pup sat there with matching hound-dog expressions.

“It was her,” I snitched, pointing at the culprit.

“I take it where I can get it.”

If there were a prize for deadpan banter, the staff at Missing would win hands down.


Down at The Village Inn, the dog was inundated with attention from inebriated admirers, although I had to repeatedly remind people that tickling fingers make tempting treats to a six-month-old puppy.

She met her first drag queen, but the real highlight was an encounter with a human pup of indeterminable gender, decked out in full rubber suit, collar, chain and leather mask.

“This is too good a photo opportunity to ignore,” I commented to my partner.

Our pup was besotted, boisterously scrambling all over this fascinating new character, trying to investigate under the mask. I pulled her away when she got too enthusiastic.

“It’s okay,” the human pup assured me, “I’m a dog person.”

“Well, it would be ironic if you weren’t.”

We chatted for a while and posed for photos.

“Thank you for talking to me,” this sweet, but socially awkward, pup said. “People can be nasty when I’m dressed like this. This is my favourite outfit and people are really mean when I wear it to the supermarket.”

I am automatically drawn to the most oddball characters in any situation but can understand how this leather clad hound might turn heads in Sainsburys.

The bar manager came over to remind human pup to maintain social distancing, “You have to stay seated.”

“Sorry, it’s my fault,” I explained, then snapped my hand to my shoulder and instructed, “SIT,” in the manner of, (aforementioned) Barbara Woodhouse.

He did.

The manager gave me a sidewise smirk, “Erm… harsh… but that worked!”

“Know your audience.”


Our dog day afternoon on the gay scene was a success… and there have been several since. The pup is destined to become a regular scene queen. She is a canine fag hag in training.

Feel free to come and say hello if you spot us out there… but watch those fingers.

Shut Up and Sign, Ginger!

May bank holiday weekend is traditionally when Birmingham city centre becomes one big party celebrating Pride, but this year organisers have made the wise decision to reschedule the festivities to September.

Under normal circumstances: drag queens would be donning teased wigs and sequins; Sonia would be ironing a frock in preparation for her annual trip out of the care home; pubs and bars would be stocked up, marquees and stages erected, rainbow bunting hung and banners unfurled outside each venue, promoting their line-up of entertainment.

Several years back, one such banner, hanging across the front of Eden, caught my attention, as it advertised actress/singer/dancer Bonnie Langford as headlining Saturday night.

I have got to know Bonnie a little from working with her on various personal appearances, so popped into the pub to find out details.

Eden’s matriarch, Maura, was behind the bar.

I inquired, “What time is Bonnie Langford appearing on stage?”

“Around eleven, I t’ink,” she told me.

“In the morning?”

Maura gave me that look Dorothy from The Golden Girls reserves for Rose when she says something particularly dumb, while I performed a mental facepalm.

“I’m sorry, of course she’s not going to be performing at eleven am,” I apologised, shamefully. They were hardly going to book her for breakfast cabaret.

I turned and headed for the door, feeling Maura’s pitying stare on the back of my neck as I skulked out.


Bonnie Langford, a veteran performer in her mid-50s, has suffered from the enduring stigma of all-singing/all-dancing stage-school starlet, an image seared on the nation’s consciousness by her childhood role in Just William, as precocious Violet Elizabeth Bott and her exuberant ‘teeth, tap and curls’ appearances on countless light entertainment productions in the 70s and 80s, but this is far removed from the grounded professional I have encountered.

Once, on stage with a colleague of mine, she modestly described herself as, “Just… an old turn.”

Deciding to conclude Bonnie’s appearance using her own words, but having misheard, this colleague announced, “Please put your hands together for ‘an old tart’…”

His face was a picture when, after waiting for the applause to subside, she politely explained that wasn’t actually what she had said.

In recent years, the public perception of Bonnie Langford has undergone a transformation, due to her portrayal of Carmel Kazemi on, BBC soap opera, EastEnders. A central storyline saw her character lose a son to knife crime, earning Bonnie the Best Newcomer gong at the British Soap Awards in 2016, an ironic victory for an ‘old pro’ of stage and screen who has been performing since the age of three. It only took fifty year to become an overnight success.


Back at Eden’s Canopied cabaret, Bonnie burst onto stage to an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd of inebriated Pride revellers and belted out a medley of show tunes and camp pop classics, closing with a remix of I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper, including soundbites from her time on Doctor Who, much to the delight of, the surprisingly numerous, sci-fi fans in the crowd.

I got to catch up with Bonnie afterwards.

As we chatted, several people approached for selfies and autographs, which prompted me to ask, “After your appearance on The Catherine Tate Show (where closet case, Derek Faye, inevitably gives her one of his infamous rants after she casually mentioned that she has many “gay fans”) has anyone at the stage door had the audacity to tell you to ‘Shut up and sign, Ginger!’ (A quote from the conclusion of the sketch)?”

“No, not that,” she laughed, “but there was this one young man at a train station…”

Bonnie went on to tell me how, when she had asked the booking clerk for a ticket, he responded, “Who, dear? Me, dear? Gay, dear?”

She didn’t pick up on the reference to Catherine Tate’s character and went into a panic, spluttering, “B…b…but, I didn’t say you were gay.”

“He just kept it going,” Bonnie told me. “It was awful. I felt myself go all hot and cold at the same time. All I could think was, How has this happened, I only asked for a return to Nottingham?!

She explained, “You film these things so far in advance and never know when they are going to be shown. It wasn’t until he said, “How very daaaaare you?”, that the penny finally dropped, and I felt a wave of relief. Apparently, the episode had been broadcast the night before.”


Several months later, I was working with Bonnie again in a church hall in West London (The glamour of showbiz!). She walked into the kitchen where I was washing mugs, so I cheekily nodded at the tea towel and suggested, “I’ll wash, you dry.”

“I don’t do dishes at home,” she replied, “I’m not starting here.”

I mentioned her appearance at Birmingham Pride.

“What an insane night that was,” she recalled. “I finished a show in the West End, jumped in the car, drove up to Birmingham, where I practically stepped straight onto stage, performed this gig for a fabulous crowd that had been drinking all day, caught my breath, then got back in the car and drove home. I just sat behind the wheel, driving down the M1, thinking, Did that really just happen?”     

Well, yes it did… and a ‘bonnie’ wee night was had by all.

Come back to Brum soon. X


I am looking forward to learning what old turns will be performing at this year’s Birmingham Pride… and old tarts for that matter. I am sure there will be plenty of both.