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.”

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!

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.

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?”


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.

Relieving the Grind of Grindr

Grindr is a popular gay men’s dating app… where dating is the last thing on anyone’s mind (In fact, as I was writing that opening sentence a combination of a mistype and predictive text corrected it to the far more accurate ‘the arse thing on anyone’s mind’. Maybe I have ‘prophetic text’ installed?).

Most conversations on Grindr go from ‘Hi’, or sometimes the awkwardly accurate typo of ‘Ho’, to an exchange of cock shots in under a dozen messages. Not that I’m complaining. I wholeheartedly believe that this is what Grindr is there for. I get a little irritated with pithy profiles that whine, ‘All anyone wants is sex on here!’ or ‘If you are only after hook-ups, don’t message me.’. If you ain’t after a shag, then don’t go on Grindr! It is like boiling a kettle then moaning that the water is too hot. That’s what it’s there for.

Despite the bracingly direct approach Grindr encourages, I do like it when someone manages to show a glimpse of their personality. My favourite profile I ever read admitted on behalf of us all, ‘These are our best photos guys… it’s all downhill from here’.

My own profile reads something like: ‘I like guys that are darker than me, but as I am ginger that isn’t hard to do.’ If you spot me out there, say ‘hello’… and send pics.  

I have one gambit that tends to wean the men from the boys. When asked for that ubiquitous cock shot, I sometimes send a photo of me stood next to a friend’s chicken coup proudly holding a feathery bundle of poultry (it is actually a hen and not a cock, but let’s not quibble). This can sometimes result in an instant block from the nonplussed recipient, but if they can’t take a joke, then it’s no great loss, but more times than not it results in a good bit of banter.

By the way, while on the subject of ‘cock shots’, I know a woman whose surname tragically is Cockshott. To make matters worse her first name is Gaynor. Gay Cockshott! GAY COCKSHOTT!!! The poor woman is named after those images that we bander about like bonbons. She must dread registering for anything, but on the plus side she has a readymade drag name. I know of another unfortunate whom, through marriage, is now Gaynor Hooker. Let that one sink in.

I really enjoy misappropriating Grindr on occasion. I have a gay neighbour with whom I would chat to on the app, long before we ever spoke in person. I would delight in sending him random neighbourly messages asking to borrow a cup of sugar or reminding him about recycling collections. The more banal the better. Thankfully, he found this nonsense mildly amusing too and played along, otherwise it could have resulted in an instant block, which could have made things awkward next time we were putting the bins out.

On one occasion, I managed to utilise his talents as a math teacher, when a ridiculously beautiful guy appeared on Grindr, showing up as only 20 meters from my house.

I sent his picture to the neighbour, IS HE AT YOURS?

NO, he replied. I WISH HE WAS!



It would have been like a scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien movies, where the militia track down the creatures with thermal heat sensors.

“I’ve got a fix on one, Ripley! 20 meters… 18 meters… 10 meters… 1 meter! Bugger me backwards, he’s in the ducting!”

We never found him.

On one occasion, I was having a drink in a particularly quiet bar when I noticed the bored bar manager scrolling through Grindr on his phone, so I sent him a message.


Moments later, I heard a bang on the counter as the barman slapped down his palms. I looked up with a start to see him glowering at me with his typical sassiness.

“What?” I asked, feigning ignorance.

“Seriously?! You couldn’t just ask for a drink like a normal person?”

“I could,” I admitted, “but where would be the fun in that?”

He shook his head with a smirk, “Un-be-lievable!”

Well, it made a change from, DO YOU HAVE A COCK PIC?

Next time someone asks me for one of those, I may forgo the photo of me beside the chicken coup and instead send a picture of the lovely Gaynor.

The Boy with Hearts in His Eyes

Many a middle-aged man in Missing has gazed into his eyes and seen their feelings reflected… then been flicked in the bollocks and called a ‘Dirty Bitch’.

Meet Ruru… the Marmite of the Birmingham gay scene. Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him. A beguiling Yemini, capable of going from sweet boy to sassy bitch in just one of his faint heartbeats.

To misquote the Sisters of Nonnberg Abbey from The Sound of Music:

‘Unpredictable as weather

He’s as flighty as a feather

He’s a darling! He’s a demon! He’s a laaaamb!’

I originally met Ruru on… well, I’ll say a popular gay networking app. He came over several times then spent one long sunny afternoon sat in my back garden… and stayed… and stayed… and stayed. He wouldn’t leave. He stayed so long that day that I started wondered if he had moved in, but had just failed to mention it to me.

He chatted occasionally, but mainly spent the time making me ‘go live’ on social media and trying to take selfies with my aging dog.

I had a bottle of wine cooling in the fridge and after the fifth time I had unwillingly featured on MyFace or Twatter (look at me ‘getting down’ wiv da’ kids), I really needed a drink.

As Ruru was Muslim, I didn’t want to offend him by drinking alcohol, but after a couple of parched hours, I finally gasped, “Would you mind if I had a glass of wine?”

“No, but just a small one,” he replied.

“No, no, no,” I blathered apologetically, “I wouldn’t get drunk in front of you.”

He gave me a coy look, “I meant, I’ll only have a small one.”

“You Drink?!” I spluttered in exasperation, “I’ve been sat here gagging for hours but didn’t want to insult you by drinking in your company.”

We polished off the bottle of wine (admittedly I had most of it, as he was a lightweight) then reached for a bottle of Prosecco. Midway through releasing the cork, I got particularly animated while telling a story and set the bottle on the kitchen counter as I gesticulated. Unexpectedly and dramatically, the bottle erupted in a geyser of sweet effervescence and the cork ricocheted from ceiling, sink and fridge in startling fury. I screamed and Ruru dropped into a lithe Spiderman crouch. Spidey-senses all of a tingle! Ru has subsequently discovered he has a fluttery heart. It could have killed him.

Several weeks later, I was strolling by the expansive windows of Loft Lounge and was attracted by Ruru’s frantic waving. He was sat inside on a sofa (Ah… Those comfortable days when The Loft still had furniture you could sit on without getting splinters! This was before they ditched the Friends inspired Central Perk look for industrial chic) and motioning me to join him.

He had an untouched glass of red wine and three beer bottles in front of him, two of which were empty. It turns out that he had only wanted the wine but had bought a beer to take him over the £5 card limit at the bar. He had never had beer before and necked it. Now having a taste for it, he immediately returned to the bar to buy another, but of course the card limit meant he bought two more to bring him up to the required amount. Why he didn’t just buy a bag of crisps, like a normal person, I will never know.

By the time I walked in, he was absolutely spannered.

Ruru just sat, consumed by an oversized sofa, gazing around in dazed contentment and occasional blowing out of his mouth, producing a sound like a gently neighing horse.

Whenever his eyes met mine, a dopey smile spread across his face and he emphatically poked me in my chest with a fickle finger, exclaiming a meaningless, “You… You… Yoooooooooou!”

He was in a right pickle.

I had been on my way to meet a friend, so had to leave. It was all a bit of a rush.

“I’ve got to go. Are you going to be OK?”

Ruru rolled his eyes in indignation and harrumphed, “Offff coursssse!”

I left him basking in his newfound love of beer and staring around the bar like a new-born calf trying to make sense of this strange new world it found itself in.

He survived the night (I did text him several times, just to check he wasn’t sprawled in the gutter).

Five years later and he is still an adorable lightweight and complete Muppet. Missing Bar is now his second home, where he regularly flirts with and winds up the other regulars, broadcasts live karaoke on social media and once got so drunk that he came out to his Muslim family in a text message then promptly ran away to Scotland to hide in the heather with a herd of wild haggis… but that is a whole other story.

One night, I was describing Ruru to someone that I assumed must know him.

They asked, “Is he small, really cute… and a nightmare after three pints?”

“That’s him.”

The radiant Ruru! How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?