Friday, 30 September 2011

There is Nothing Like a Dame II...

As you've probably gathered from last night's post, I'm a bit of a Maggie Smith fan (show me a homosexual who doesn't like her). Why? Well, I think she's a first rate actress; on film, TV or on stage. I've only ever seen her on stage once, playing Lady Bracknell in Nicholas Hytner's 1993 production of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Aldwych. I don't remember much about Richard E Grant's Algernon nor Alex Jennings' Jack but I do remember Maggie Smith's stork like Lady Bracknell.
'The role of Lady Bracknell has always been haunted by the formidable ghost of Edith Evans, but at last another theatrical Dame has stolen the coveted crown and placed it firmly on her own head. Maggie Smith, with her handspan waist and sucked-lemon lips, is totally commanding.'
She's certainly an excellent comic actress who subtly brings to life that repressed English middle class female, half strangled by her own sense of decency. Witness her performance in Alan Bennett's A Private Function opposite Michael Palin. It is comic genius. Her aspirations, her apologies for her ageing mother (played by Liz Smith) and her ruthlessness to claw her way up the social ladder make for some wonderfully enjoyable scenes.

I've heard that she has an excellent and wicked sense of humour. As Desdemona to Olivier's Othello (which he also directed), he made the big error of criticising her for what he believed to be sloppy articulation. He advocated much rounder vowel sounds. Maggie took the point coldly and waited for the next performance. At interval, she popped her head round the door of Olivier’s dressing room, where he sat, blacked up as Othello and naked. All she said was, “How Now, Brown Cow?”

Another Maggie fix this weekend, I think, with more Downton episodes from the first series. I'll then catch up with the second series. Life's tough...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

There is Nothing Like a Dame...

As is my way, I come to such things late. I missed the first ever episode of Downton Abbey and never managed to catch up and so Downton mania has passed me by. Whenever I've seen Facebook updates or Twitter tweets mentioning Downton, I've ignored them.

Knowing I'd have some time to kill on a train journey earlier in the week, I downloaded Downton Abbey, episode 1, series 1. Wow! Why didn't anyone tell me? On the strength of the first episode, I've now downloaded the entire series.

I have to admit that a major draw for me (and every other gay man with a TV) has to be Maggie Smith. I'm a major fan of this woman. No-one delivers a line quite like her:
Diana Barrie: We should never have come. I never know how to dress in this bloody country. It is so easy to dress in England. You just put on warm clothing. (California Suite).
Joyce Chilvers: I think sexual intercourse is in order, Gilbert. (A Private Function).
Susan: Shows me pictures of other gods, getting up to [pause] all sorts. "Well," I said, "she looks a very busy lady. Is that yoga?" "Well, it helps", he said. (Talking Heads - A Bed Among The Lentils).
Reverend Mother: Brace yourself, sisters. Spread out and look for Mary Clarence. Try to blend in. (Sister Act).
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: What is a weekend? (Downton Abbey).

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

That's why God gave us membranes...

I nearly didn't go on my run tonight. It was late by the time I got home and I'd managed to convince myself that it was a bad idea. But then I put my foot down, gave myself a stiff talking to, threw on my running kit and managed to enjoy the sunset as I whizzed around the bay.

On my run tonight, I passed a pair of runners; one male and one female. They were in their 40s, probably husband and wife and dressed in matching running kit - mauve polo shirts and grey sweat pants. They reminded me of the American husband and wife tourists you used to see in Bath in the mid 90s in their matching shell suits.

Seeing them made me think of a woman I often see jogging who lives near me. Her run lasts no more than 15 minutes and yet she always carries her runners' flask of water. It's part of the look, I guess. Her matching Nike running kit is always bang up to the minute and her trainers are immaculate. On hot days, rather than leave the running jacket at home, she'll tie it around her waist. And come rain or come shine, she always carries the runners' flask. Let's face it, she's never gonna dehydrate in that time.

That's why God gave us membranes.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

All's well that ends as you like it...

With no gnats to irritate or distract me, I found myself deep in thought as I ran tonight. So deep, in fact, that the run almost disappeared; I have no real recollection of it - it just happened. My thoughts were enough to propel me over 4km; my legs were surplus to requirements. It's wonderful and strange how the mind is able to lift you and transport you to another world like that.

I had a meeting in London this afternoon and, despite earlier doubts about the worth of spending all that time, energy and money on a 250 mile round trip for a 90 minute meeting, it was, in the end, positive and productive and worth the expenditure. One of the last conversations I had before I parted company with my colleague at the railway station this evening was about the choices we make in life and, I guess, the consequences of those choices. This topic stayed with me as I made my way home and throughout tonight's run.

I am a gay man (in case you'd not guessed). I am single and I have no kids. My only responsibility is to myself. I can do what I want and come and go as I please. It sounds like a great life, I hear you say. And I'd have to admit that it seems to suit me right now. However, in 5, 10, 15 years, that may not be the case. As we get older, our values change and things that once held no importance suddenly become important.

For example, as a young man family meant very little to me and children of my own were of no interest whatsoever. Now that I'm not that far off 50, I'm certainly starting to see the worth of being able to call on family members. Tempus fugit. As a young man, I certainly had that mindset of who wants to live forever but, of course, as I get older I'm understandably quite keen now to buy a bit more time. And that is central to this problem; the fact that we make decisions when we're younger that affect us when we're older. I can sometimes spend my day worrying about or dealing with the consequences of choices I made when I was younger.

I read on PME200's The Blog That Peter Wrote:
I believe life is quite a lot like a monkey throwing shit at you. You can try to avoid the monkey, but they're sometimes pretty good shots. All you can honestly do is to try to deal with the shit that does hit you: that is within in your power: the rest is not.

I like his philosophy. I can't change the choices I've made in my life but I can change the way I deal with their consequences.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Underneath that burning sun...

I'd been looking forward to tonight's run with mounting eagerness as today progressed. The reasons were two fold: because today was a little bit pressured and I needed to shake that stress - I find running is great for this. And also, because today was such a beautiful day; it'll not be long before I'll be running in darkness, so glorious evenings such as tonight's are to be treasured. Tonight I was looking forward to shaking off the day and feeling the warmth of the sun on my back.

Despite not getting out of work until well after I would've ideally liked to have, I cycled home with my sights set on my run. And so, setting off, there was a spring in my step and a big grin on my face. Did I need this or did I need this? I needed this. There was a soft warm breeze and all of the Bay was bathed in a beautiful warm light. This run was bliss and I could really feel the heat of the sun on my arms and legs and back. It felt like a taste of the Summer we never had. Then it hit me...

Like a fizzing electrical field that sprang from nowhere, it hit me; this wall of irritation enveloped me, shrouding me as I coughed and blinked and spluttered along. My running route never takes me far from water; I'm either crossing the Taff or closely following its course. Awoken from their autumnal torpor by this glorious weather, these swarming gnats had mistakenly thought that Spring had arrived.

They were in my hair, on my arms, stuck in the hair on my legs and in my eyes and mouth; they were everywhere. Obviously, their emergence was related to the weather in some way but did they really think Spring had arrived? This I pondered on as I continued on my run, brushing insects from my hair and trying to remove those that had dive bombed into my eyeballs as I continued to run.

Luckily, this happened toward the end of my run. I was glad to get home and, whilst my dinner cooked, I jumped in the shower to rid myself of these kamikaze arthropods. That was about an hour ago and I'm still itching, despite having scrubbed their carcasses from my skin and hair and eyes.

Were they mistaken; tricked by a little Autumn sunshine into thinking it was time to get up - similar to my reaction when my alarm goes off by accident on a Saturday morning? As they dive bombed into my eyes, what suicidal thoughts did they harbour? In fact, do they think at all or is their activity today the result of a chemical reaction set in motion by the application of some heat? What level of consciousness do these insects possess?

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rose tinged urine...

An odd day. I woke up really early so switched the radio on and fell asleep again to Radio 4's On Your Farm. I then dreamt about herding sheep. I got up well before 8:00am but couldn't really seem to get going, so remained sat in my underpants until well into the afternoon.

To try and get my engine turning I decided to clean the flat, with my Walt Disney compilation providing the soundtrack. So, I whistled while I worked until the place was spotless. Next I went for a swim followed by a quick zip around the Bay on my bike in this gloriously unseasonable weather.

Whilst starting to prepare dinner, I suddenly realised why my urine has had a rosy tinge all day; today will be the third day that I've eaten beetroot.

The colour of clogau gold, it is...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The eagle has landed...

A bit of a slow start this morning. I managed to stay asleep until 8:00am and then just dozed (with one eye open) until 9:00am listening to the lovely Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

I pottered about until 10:00am, drinking much too much coffee, before cycling to the supermarket twice (I forgot to get fresh ginger for my tea) and then cycling to the barber's for a trim. When I got home, I rinsed my hair in the shower to get rid of the loose strands, already driving me to itchy hell and back.

I then went for a very pleasant and relaxed run in the wonderful autumnal sunshine that gave Cardiff a golden glow throughout this morning into the early part of the afternoon. I know that I've said I enjoy running in the rain (and I do) but nothing quite beats running with the warmth of the sun on your back. And so it was today.

After my run I met a mate in town for a drink. Now that the Kings has closed, it's a bit of a job to know where to go. We ended up in Wow, which (whatever you think of it) I always feel is more of an evening bar. Despite the abysmal service, we managed one or two drinks before decamping to The Eagle, a new bar on Charles St. It was empty when we got there but seemed pleasant enough (especially when I screwed my eyes up really tight and tried to imagine it with a few customers in there).

The Eagle is marketed as a gay men's bar, with a leaning toward a clone/bear clientele: no windows; few seats; grey decor; lots of slate, steel and mirrors. Intimate (small). I was told by a barman that I should not miss next Saturday night on any account. When I asked why, I was told because they are having a bootcamp night next Saturday and I should wear my combats.

Do I look as if I own a pair of combats?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Meat and two veg...

As I swam up and down the pool tonight, I thought about what to have for dinner. This is a bit like patting my head and rubbing my abdomen; if I get too wrapped in thought I end up not counting my lengths and then I don't know where I am. Whatever I was to decide upon having to eat would have to be bought at the supermarket on my way home. What was my stomach telling me it wanted: chicken, pork, lamb...?

It was at this point that I realised that I hadn't eaten meat for about three weeks. Not since I returned from Istanbul, really; the last meat dish being a Turkish lamb dish at a restaurant in Sultanahmet. No, I haven't turned vegetarian - I just haven't eaten meat. It's not a conscious decision at all, it just seems to have happened.

I've never been, what my Gran would have called, "a big meat eater". As a child I was more than content with the vegetables and if I did eat meat it tended to be a few slices of chicken. I became a full time vegetarian in 1983. But then, as a student in the early 1980s, it was quite fashionable to be a vegetarian (compulsory, some would argue). This lasted for the best part of the next 5 years until one drunken night I wolfed down a pork pie - always my Achilles heel.

As I thrashed my way up and down the pool, I thought about this and pondered whether I was getting all the nutrients my body needed. I wondered if I was getting enough protein, given the exercise I was doing. What was the point in swimming up and down this pool if I wasn't taking in enough protein to build any muscle? I resolved to buy some meat at the supermarket before I was laid low by some condition related to malnutrition.

I have just finished the biggest, freshest, tastiest salad I've had in a long time. I ate it with some warm crusty bread and it was delicious. But I thought you'd resolved to buy some meat to feed your malnourished body? Mmmmm! When I saw the packets of etiolated flesh laid out in the supermarket, I somehow went off the idea.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Hotties 'n' fitties...

There are days when my run doesn't cross anyone else's path; I don't see another soul, despite me running through numerous residential areas, I run into no one. Yes, I can see people in their cars and in their houses and flats but I don't actually pass anyone else in the street.

Then there are the other days when I pass so many people; it's as if all Cardiff's residents have come out for an evening stroll, en masse. I see people returning from work, couples out for a walk, people nipping to the shops and even other runners.

Today was one of those other days. It seemed that everyone had timed their outing for my benefit. It was like a film set where there's a tracking shot of the hero (me) walking down the street whilst neighbours, played by a hoard of extras, go about their business in the background.

And what a well groomed and handsome lot my extras proved to be this evening: the runner in the well fitting shorts doing some stretches before setting off, the labourer in a t shirt who swaggered toward me over the bridge and the guy in the suit who smiled when he caught me stealing a look at him after I'd passed.

Tonight there were many opportunities for panting, had I not already been panting quite hard anyway.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The best cure for holiday blues...

I know that I've only recently come back from holiday but they do say that the best cure for holiday blues is to book the next holiday. So that's what I've done; I've booked a week in Fuerteventura in November after seeing a good deal online - a deal that was way too good to miss. So, I'm excited. It's only two months away and I can almost feel the sun on my butt.

This holiday is a totally different type of holiday to my last. My last holiday saw me running around Istanbul, visiting this mosque or that palace; whereas this holiday is one where I lie on a beach for a week doing absolutely nothing except being lazy. So, as I swam tonight; there was no planning of what to see and dreaming of what it'll be like there. No. I've been to Fuerteventura so many times in the past, I've seen most of what there is to see (sand, rock and aloe vera plants). All that I could dream of whilst I swam tonight was that lovely feeling of the sun on my back - and that will be all the sweeter in that dark and dank month of November.

Curiously, I don't do that much swimming when I go to Fuerteventura. Yes, I'll splash about in the sea whilst the fishies nibble me and yes I'll do the odd length of the hotel pool but it's not the sort of swimming you'd do for exercise. It is quite literally a splash - an enjoyable splash but no more.

Instead, however, I will run. Not huge distances; just a little over 3km every day about 5:00pm. That way, I don't start drinking until the evening! Having been there so many times before, there is no running route for me to work out as I've done it countless times. I could run it with my eyes shut.

I'll be ready for a bit of Canarian sun come November.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Will you still love me...?

Reading the news tonight, it seems that someone in the Lib Dems at their conference in Birmingham has got some common sense with their questioning of the new restrictions over when gay men can give blood. As I said in my earlier post - How can Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terence Higgins Trust, say that these new rules are, "necessary, fair and reasonable"?

Furthermore, I see that the US dropped their discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy today. US President Obama said, "As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love,"

And finally, I read a story today about a man in the US Army stationed in Germany who video records the moment when he phones his dad to tell him that he's gay. He says that he's been working himself up for 4 hours before telling him. This is riveting stuff and your heart just goes out to this guy.

There are many who think that nowadays being gay is something and nothing, a walk in the park, a matter of no real consequence any more. I believe that a measure of true equality for gay people will be when coming out is not the heart-in-mouth moment it is for this guy, frightened that his dad is going to stop loving him.

"Will you still love me?" the guy asks his dad. “I still love you, son. Yes, I still love you,” the father replies. Watch this US Army guy's moving coming out moment captured here.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

Judging by the weather today (and, to be honest, the last couple of days), Autumn is well on its way to making itself at home. That pervasive drizzle has well established itself and there is certainly the beginnings of a chill to the air. I wore my v neck sweater to work today - the first time since last March.

This evening's run was a moist affair in the rain. Although, as some of you might know, I quite like running in the rain. The air was heavy and there was a strong smell damp wood everywhere. The run itself was fairly pleasant and I felt quite relaxed, cooled and pampered by the drizzle with the low clouds and failing light. And I could certainly feel the night drawing in as I came to the end of my run - dusk was upon me.

I've always looked forward to and welcomed the new season, whatever it may be. However, I can't help but feel I was short changed with this year's Summer and so I'm not quite ready for Keats' "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness". Summer never really got started and the few glints we saw were ended all to soon. And as for the "gathering swallows"; well, I think they have long finished their "twitter in the skies", if indeed they ever got started. Seems like a cue for Mr Antonio Vivaldi

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bits and pieces...

I've spent the morning looking out of the window at the frequent but irregular showers and the first part of the afternoon getting soaked by them. When I looked at the BBC's weather forecast for Cardiff last night it showed a dull start but brightening weather throughout the day. The weather bulletin on BBC Radio 4 this morning seemed to corroborate this. However, the reality today was a stop start grey drizzle through most of the morning followed by glimpses of blue sky but unpredictable heavy downpours throughout the afternoon. I guess that's what they mean by brightening.

I got fed up by lunchtime and cycled to the swimming pool. I didn't want to feel trapped indoors like I was yesterday. I paid the price of getting soaked to the skin before I got there, drenched again on the way to the supermarket after my swim and half drowned cycling from the supermarket back home. Yet everytime I parked the bike and went indoors the rain stopped and there was a blaze of sunshine.

My swim was pretty uneventful. The pool was relatively empty and fairly quiet. I like it that way, especially when the lanes are configured at 50m, as they were today. Such a peaceful and relaxing swim. Upon exiting the pool, I did spot a woman in the changing village stood looking in the mirrors in jeans and a bra, which she was trying to hook up (see last Thursday's post). Hello, this isn't your bedroom!

Following my swim, I then went home for a spot of DIY. Basically, I'm getting a bit fed up with the connection dropping to my desktop computer on my wireless broadband. It seems to do this at about 6ish or 7ish every evening. Could it be the interruption from everyone turning on their wireless broadband? Anyway, I'd been looking into buying some adapters and setting up a powerline network in the flat so that my main desktop computer doesn't suffer these outages. However, a cheaper solution I'd thought about was to run a network cable via the loft from the router in the lounge into the desktop in my spare room.

After buying a 15m network cable this afternoon, I wrung my clothes out and set about it. The bit I always hate is crawling about in the loft space. I'm scared of falling through between the beams, the insulation makes me itch like hell and I hate the the huge spiders up there. However, Indiana Jones like, I braved this hostile environment and managed to connect computer to router. The bonus is it seems to be working (so far). Another bonus is that I don't seem to have made that much mess. Remarkable!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

What in tarnation...?

Cardiff International Pool was closed today, which meant that I didn't go for my usual dip. They were open between 7:00am and 8:00am but I was fast asleep until long after that window had closed. I would have gone to Maindy Swimming Pool but the frequent showers of rain kept me indoors for most of the day.

So, after a little light dusting and a liberal squirt with Mr Muscle here and there, I've occupied myself by drinking ginger and lemon green tea and staring at a computer screen.  Facebook status updates and the various tweets being chirped throughout the Twitterverse have virtually been my only contact with reality today. I did venture out on my bike once to the supermarket and got drenched. I hate days like this.

It seems I'm not the only person feeling trapped. One story to prick my interest (via @matted1) was the story of Tracy Trasancos who is "too disgusted by gays to leave the house". Where do these lunatics get their ideas from? On her blog she states, “I find myself unable to even leave the house anymore without worrying about what in tarnation we are going to encounter".

What in tarnation, indeed...?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Friday night drama...

In which Duncan's subconscious, disguised as Satan, tries to persuade him not to go for a run after work on a Friday night.

Satan is sitting on the sofa reading Heat Magazine.
The door to the flat can be heard to open and then slam shut.
Duncan enters.

Duncan: Still here?
Duncan throws his bag down then flops in an armchair.
Satan: After the week you’ve had, you deserve to put your feet up tonight.
Duncan: After my run, that is my precise intention.
Satan: I didn’t think you’d want to go running tonight?
Duncan: It's what I need.
Duncan takes a breath.
Duncan: It'll help clear my head.
Duncan hauls himself to his feet.
Satan peeps over his magazine at Duncan.
Satan: Did you pick up that bottle of wine for later?
Duncan: Shit!
Satan: You do look knackered, mate.
Duncan: Really?
Satan: Why don’t you postpone your run until tomorrow and nip to Tesco for that wine instead. A glass or two of Cabernet will relax you.
Duncan thinks about this.
Duncan: I think a run would relax me more.
Duncan makes to leave.
Satan puts his magazine down.
Satan: Always had a problem with guilt, haven’t you?
Duncan: What?
Satan: Like you’ve always got to earn that reward.
Duncan: Where’s this coming from?
Satan: Even Mo Farah takes the occasional day off.
Duncan: Can we pick this up when I get back?
Duncan makes to leave again but Satan grabs his arm.
Satan: Look at those big black clouds.
Duncan: I like running in the rain. Remember?
Satan: I know. I mean... I was going to say they look like they’re finally going to let the sun through.
Duncan pulls away from Satan.
Duncan: I like the warmth of the sun too. I’m going to get changed.
Duncan leaves the room.
Satan looks desperate.
Satan: You’ll miss The One Show...!
After successfully battling this demon in my head, I went for a run and was rewarded with a downpour of rain for the last kilometre. Happy days.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

I don't want to see your pants...

Cardiff International Pool doesn't have separate changing areas for male and female swimmers. Instead it has what they call a changing village (who dreams up these names?). The changing village comprises of row upon row of colour coded cubicles in which anyone can go to get changed. They have lockable doors and a metal grill overhead to prevent anyone from climbing up and spying on swimmers in adjacent cubicles. Opposite all cubicles are row upon row of lockers. Down one wall that runs the length of the changing village is a row of mirrors, punctuated regularly by coin operated hair dryers.

I would have thought that the guidelines don't need to be spelled out. Anyone wanting to go for a swim occupies a cubicle, locks the door, gets changed, unlocks the door then deposits their belongings in one of the nearby lockers. When they have finished swimming the above is true but in reverse. Simple? Or so you'd think...

Tonight I saw a man strip to his pants by the lockers. He then nipped into a cubicle without closing the door, dropped his underpants and then pulled on his trunks before scampering out and popping his underpants into his locker. Did he not think that anyone else could see him? Before anyone gets too excited he was certainly no looker. I once rounded the corner to find a middle-aged woman in her bra and pants drying her hair in front of the mirrors. Had she forgotten where she was?

Perhaps these people really do have lapses and get confused about the environment they're in. Much like men who, having had a good few pints earlier, get up in the middle of the night and piss in the wardrobe. Or kids who get confused by the adult standing infront of them and, much to their embarrassment, call their teacher "Mum".

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Singing like a canary...

Before I went for my run tonight, I was checking my Twitter account on my mobile and ended up reading some of the tweets other people have generated that I've marked and saved as favorites. Some I've stored as favorites because the point being made is an interesting one, some because they link to a document that I want to look at later and some simply because they made me laugh out loud. Rediscovering this one hit the proverbial funny bone and bouyed me along throughout my entire run this evening:
I've woken up with calfs like an angry tranny
I've had a Twitter profile for over a year but couldn't really see any reason to tweet or read anyone else's tweets. I sort of missed the point. That is, until the bad weather hit us in December of last year when Twitter became a bit of a lifeline in trying to find out what buses and trains were running. I didn't really tweet much myself until the summer of this year when my friend, @Jaime_Falarczyk, bullied me into taking an interest and I liked what I saw. When I started this blog I found tweeting an excellent way of publicising new posts.

Being a relatively new and a moderately taciturn tweeter, I don't have that many followers. Compared to some tweeters with their followers running into thousands (@stephenfry has over 3 million followers), my select and discerning group of 53 is absolutely miniscule. However, that is not the point. The things I like about Twitter are its immediacy, its local relevance and the dazzling (and sometimes obscene) examples of wit that lift your spirits and make your day. With that in mind (and with a warning that some of these are quite filthy), I offer you some of the tweets that have made me smile over the last couple of months (twitticisms, if you will):
How to give a great handjob. Step 1: Use your mouth.
Some people just need a highfive. In the face. With a chair.
@Squibby_ saw this on someone's profile and thought of you... "looks aren't everything, but you can't wank over personality"
Silence is golden, duct tape is silver
I was absolutely disgusted after I accidentally clicked on some gay porn today. Worst 3 hours of my life.
So "it's raining men" is a song about bukkake?
How many homophobes does it take to change a lightbulb? None; they fear change even if it makes the world brighter.
I was SEVENTEEN before I realised the teams on University Challenge didn't sit on top of each other.
I've not had sex in so long, when I fart, only dogs can hear it.
Twitter does seem to attract nastiness sometimes doesn't it? But luckily being a sexual health doctor I'm used to dealing with dicks. ;-) x
You can see for yourself by signing up for Twitter here and you can follow me by clicking on the Get Twatted button in the right hand menu.

Thanks, @duncanalexander!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Telephones and cheese...

My phone decided to commit suicide in the night. All that remained this morning was a random arrangement of pixels like a fizzing paraffin sheen (and an invoice from Dignitas). Life had got unbearable, or so the note I found said. I couldn't make any calls (even to the emergency services) because tapping the screen resulted only in a splutter of buzzes and a death rattle of clicks.

So, with a heavy heart this morning, I gave Orange a call to arrange for the body to be removed (and a replacement delivered). This they readily agreed to and confirmed it would be shipped today, for delivery between 6pm and 10pm tonight. This meant a mad dash home to get the phone backed up (as best I could with little left of the screen to guide me) so I could dispose of the dead one and take delivery of its brand spanking new replacement.

Because of all this there was no time for my planned swim tonight and so I consolled myself by eating my own bodyweight in cheese today. I've noticed that cheese is often my prop, my comfort blanket, my diversion activity. At times of stress, I often turn to cheese for support. I'd be great in an emergency situation as long as there's a readily available supply of cheese. Today, I munched my way through a packet of Edam slices whilst in work this afternoon and nibbled on a block of Jarlsberg when I got home.

The courier came at about 6:30pm and now I feel a little sick.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Nevermind being Googled, I've been Street Viewed...

I set off for my run tonight with a bit of a jaunty spring in my step. A little too jaunty for a man who has just endured his first day back in work after two weeks and one day on his holibobs. If the truth be known, as busy as it was, work wasn't half bad and it was lovely seeing colleagues that I'd not seen in a while (two weeks and one day to be exact). As I rounded a corner about four kilometers into the run I spied a dark car coming toward me with what looked like a periscope mounted on its roof. It looked suspiciously like the car that Google uses to capture its Google Street View imagery. Within seconds my stride elongated and I tried to look as elegant and athletic as I could for my moment of Google glory.

By coincidence, I read today, as I'm sure many of you will have, the news about the Florida woman who was captured by the Google Street View camera at her front door without a stitch on, in her birthday suit, butt naked and bloody starkers. Whatever her reasons for appearing nekkid on her doorstep, it can't be that pleasant to be captured in that vulnerable state by a Google Street View camera and then that image be available to millions of people, including details of the address.

Having said that and expressed some degree of sympathy for this woman's predicament, one of my favorite websites has to be Street View Funny because of its collection of scenes that Street View witnesses. Sometime, by pure chance, the Google Street View car will happen upon a scene. Sometimes people who have prior knowledge that the Street View car is going to be in their neighbourhoods have lined the streets to welcome it, others have staged elaborate scenes in what can only be described as the ultimate form of street theatre.

Indeed, I was captured by Street View when Google photographed the streets of Cardiff a few years ago. In fact, I was captured twice in about 12 hours. I remember reading in the news that they were photographing streets of numerous places in the UK and so I well remember seeing and recognising the car as it passed me on my way home from work one evening. I said to my partner at the time, "I'm sure I've just been snapped by the Google Street View car...?"

The next morning, I saw the same car again as it approached the bus I was sat on as I made my way into work. Admittedly, the one of me on the bus is pretty blurred and even I would not have picked me out, had I not known where to look. You'll have to take my word for it. I remember thinking then, wouldn't it be funny if I was caught in both images. And indeed, when Street View was launched in the UK, the first two locations I checked were Stuart Street and St Mary Street in Cardiff and, Bob's your uncle (Fanny's your aunt), there I was.

I'm sure that there are thousands who would be able to pick themselves out from Street View images but I wonder how many appear in more than one image? And of those that are captured in more than one image, what is the greated distances separating the locations where thay were taken? What are the greatest time differences; mine were a mere 12 hours apart but are there any that run to months or even years?

Incidentally, as the car I saw tonight came closer, it became apparent that it was not the Google Street View car but someone transporting a pipe which they'd tied to the back of their vehicle. All my primping and preening had been in vain and, as quickly as my stride had elongated and I'd tried to adopte that look of elegance and athleticism, I slumped back to my purple faced panting shuffle.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The elephant in the room...

I woke this morning feeling a little delicate, to say the least; yesterday afternoon and evening being spent at the last day of Cardiff's Kings Cross. The Kings Cross is Wales' oldest gay bar or rather, it was Wales' oldest gay bar because as of today it no longer exists. It has closed for refurbishment in preparation for its opening as a straight gastropub.

Times move on and everything changes, I hear you say. Absolutely. However, I can't help feeling a little cheated and hard done by. Anyone who visited the Kings over ten years ago will know that it was located at the arse end of Cardiff. However, with the redevelopment of the Mill Lane area and recently with the development of St David's 2, the Kings has found itself bang in the middle of one of the best pedestrianised areas Cardiff has to offer.

I first went to the Kings in 1982; it was the first gay bar I ever set foot in. I have supported this bar for the best part of 30 years and for most of that time it has existed at the skanky end of Cardiff. Now in it's prime location, I find that my support is surplus to requirements. Times move on and everything changes, as you say.

I eventually went for a swim at 4ish this afternoon, once the pool had reopened after an event at the international pool for much of the day. Just what the doctor ordered. My hangover was banished by a few lengths of the pool, which was set at its 50m configuration. The cool water easing that nauseous hangover feeling. As I swam, I started thinking about the subject of tonight's post and I began to contemplate how you can avoid talking about 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

You can't avoid talking about 9/11 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In 2001, along with everyone else I watched the rolling news coverage of the events on September 11th with my heart in my mouth. Everyone who has lived on this earth in the last ten years has potentially been affected by the events of that day, whether they know it or not.

Let's never forget the lives ruined as a result of 9/11: the passengers and crew who died on the four hijacked planes that day, the thousands of people who failed to escape the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon when they were hit, the members of the emergency services teams that persished in the line of duty, the people killed in subsequent Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, the thousands who have lost their lives in the subsequent wars and skirmishes that are a result of our response to the attacks and the thousands who have suffered as a result of our Western prejudices to Islam because of that day. 9/11 casts a long shadow.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Gayness was thrust upon me at an early age...

This morning I tweeted, "Gayness wasn't my choice, it was thrust upon me at an early age." It was a joke after I'd stumbled upon the photograph on the right. It's me aged four and dressed up to the nines for a birthday party. And you've got to admit, I do look a bit gay. OK then, a lot gay!

I went for a run at midday and whilst out it got me thinking about the nature/nurture debate: Am I gay because of my genes or am I gay because my mother made me gay by dressing me up to look like some sort of proto Dale Winton? What made me a homosexual?

As I ran, one thing struck me: I think that some straight people believe that us gays decide to be gay about the time we start puberty and that it's a sexual thing. For me, I knew there was something different way before the trauma of puberty started. I can remember, aged eight, arguing with my younger brother about a tent we'd been given; he wanted to put it up and I wanted to wear it. I can well remember re-enacting every scene from Hello Dolly after seeing the film at a tender age and I remember that by late afternoon on Christmas Day 1970 my Action Man was stripped of his combat gear and was wearing a dress and full slap. I don't remember ever making a concious decision about it.

My mother has recently told me that she thinks her father was gay and I know of a few second cousins on that side of the family that are gay. Recent research points to a genetic influence and that certainly feels right but I don't think you can rule out environmental influences either. I was always encouraged to express myself and in that environment I flourished and so did my gay sensibility. When puberty arrived and I started to feel attracted to boys rather than girls, it was building on a well established gay sensibility.

Whether nature or nurture, I think it was kind of inevitable in my case.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Lethargy, lassitude, torpor, torpidity, stupor, languor...

I'm not quite sure why I feel so lethargic but I have done ever since I returned from my week in Istanbul last Saturday. I just can't summon the enthusiasm to do anything. Normally I'm always on the go; always doing something - go for a run, go for a swim, nip to Tesco, pop into town etc. However for this last week all I've wanted to do is mooch.

I've had to force myself out of bed every morning this week; something that never happens. I've never had any difficulty getting out of bed, I'm up and about usually before they've finished the first news headline on Radio 4's Today Programme when my alarm goes off at 6:30am. Today saw me languishing there, entangled in the duvet like some 1930s Hollywood starlet.

Once up, this last week has seen me loitering around my computer, not actually doing anything. l just blankly stare at the monitor, like I'm tranfixed by the interweb ions. I've had to force myself away to do things that need doing, such as laundry, food shopping, cleaning etc. The thought of a run or a swim, this week, has been such an effort and inconvenience. It feels like I've occupied someone else's body.

Today I sat about drinking coffee and playing on my computer until about 11:30am and then I had to force myself to wash, dress, clean my teeth and then cycle to the pool for a swim. Once in the water, of course, everything's fine and I'm pleased that I bothered; it's the thought of it that's the hard part. In fact, today's swim was a speedy affair that saw me power up and down the lanes with enough energy for two swimmers.

I wonder why I'm finding it so difficult just to get going in the first place?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Necessary, fair and reasonable...?

I spent the morning mooching around listening to the news. I then cycled to the pool for a swim. As I swam I pondered on the news that homosexual and bisexual men who have not had sex for at least a year can now donate blood. I would have thought that the number of individuals falling into that category are a minority. As exciting as the opportunity to now give blood after all these years might be, I think I'd prefer to cling on to those rare opportunities for excitement of a more carnal nature. Honestly, wouldn't you?

You now have the potential scenario where, as Ben Summerskill of Stonewall said, "A gay man in a monogamous relationship who has only had oral sex will still automatically be unable to give blood but a heterosexual man who has had multiple partners and not worn a condom will not be questioned about his behaviour, or even then, excluded." To me that sounds dangerous and discriminatory.

How then can Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terence Higgins Trust, say that these new rules are, "necessary, fair and reasonable"?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tigger like...

During my run this evening I thought about my visit to the diabetic clinic at the Heath Hospital (or Universtity Hospital of Wales, to give it its proper name) today, which resulted in an unexpected thumbs up regarding my blood glucose control. I say unexpected because I feel that I've not been paying enough attention to this aspect of my life recently. Also, my blood pressure is (so they tell me) very good at 126/70 - not bad for a (not quite yet but almost) 49 year old diabetic.

I have been diabetic for 34 years and I go for regular check ups at the diabetic clinic. For the past 4 years the feedback has been very good. Prior to that it wasn't bad but a bit hit and miss. Good blood glucose control is fairly central when you're diabetic; it influences everything. I think there are two very important factors which have helped me in this: I eat a very good diet (high in fibre and fresh fruit and vegetables, low in fat, salt and refined sugars) and I exercise daily (if I'm not running then I'm swimming). Five years ago, I would have thought that such a lifestyle sounded a bit fussy and little too healthy. I'd've dismissed it and lit another cigarette. How things change...

Buoyed up by my good news from the doctor, my run was a spring heeled affair that saw me bound, Tigger like, for a relatively easy 5km run. Unlike that plodding approach I sometimes experience. Adding credence, yet again, to my belief that the physical, mental and emotional are all inextricably linked. It even rained during my run, which it almost never does (I've mentioned my love of running in the rain before); clearly, somebody up there likes me.

Whilst out on the run my mind drifted to running in Istanbul and I became aware that, because of the map I published here a while ago, you have a good knowledge of my running route in Istanbul but are in the dark a little regarding my usual running route here in Cardiff Bay. So here is is...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Seasons in the sun...

I went to Swansea today to visit my mum and my brother. Despite it being only some 40 miles away, I hadn't been back in quite some time. I was brought up near Swansea on the northern side of the Gower in a small village on the Loughor Estuary called Penclawdd. I spent the first 21 years of my life there and with every year that passed, the urgency to leave grew more intense.

For me that urgency stemmed, in part, from the fact that I was gay and living in a fairly traditional, white, welsh, working class community in the 1970s. Swansea in the late 70s was not the most liberal of environments. It's a place that doesn't hold good memories for me; I always found it to be such a narrow minded, intolerant, unsympathetic and fearful place. I felt like the proverbial square peg.

My aspirations (sexual aspirations, career aspirations, indeed, my whole outlook) seemed beyond what Swansea was capable of giving me. My last few years there, as I battled my way through puberty and beyond, were like one long stifling gasp for breath until I eventually escaped in 1983. This is why I always feel a little apprehensive whenever I return.

However, prior to the onset of puberty, in that child's world of innocence and blissful ignorance, growing up where I did was like living in the Garden of Eden. I was surrounded by countryside, by nature, by safe places to play. For me the summer of 76 started in 1968; there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

When I got back from Swansea tonight, I had a look at Penclawdd on Google Earth and I could pick out the rivers where we used to go swimming, the trees where we made dens, the orchards where we nicked apples and the fields where we helped the farmer bale hay.

I can still hear the soundtrack...

Monday, 5 September 2011

What an unexpected waste...

Today has been frustrating to say the least. It's been the sort of day where nothing works in your favour; a sort of doesn't do what it says on the tin kinda day. A lot of waiting around and I hate days off work that are wasted like this - just waiting around.

I woke at 5:00am and so switched the radio on, which sent me back to sleep until 7:00am. I then got up, drank too much coffee, ate my porridge and read the news online. I mooched around in my underpants until about midday. No work today as I've got another week before I go back to work... and I choose to get up at 7:00am. What's that about?

I spent the morning waiting for an engineer to fiddle with my boiler (again, not a euphemism). You may remember that the day before I left for Istanbul an engineer came to service my boiler. Well, whatever he did rendered it useless and I have been without hot water ever since - just as well I've not been here. Anyway, eventually, about lunchtime he arrived. He fiddled for 45 minutes then he left. At last, I now have hot water.

I then spent the afternoon waiting for a UPS delivery. Before I went on holiday, I signed up for a broadband sharing service called Fon. The way it works is: you agree to share your unused broadband via WiFi with other Fon registered users and in return they share their unused broadband via WiFi with you. What this means is you get free broadband via any Fon WiFi hotspot throughout the world. To enable you to share your WiFi you buy their WiFi router for 39€. This router allows your WiFi signal to be split and managed.

Anyway, I waited until about 5:00pm before he eventually arrived. Why am I always last on the bloody list? I'm not sure what I would've done had I the freedom to leave the flat and do what I wanted; each time I looked out of the window, it seemed that a rogue fragment of Hurrican Irene was blowing through. Not great weather for early September but perfect running weather. However, I didn't get my kit on and out the door until 5:30pm, by which time it was calm and the skies were starting to clear. Typical!

And my run was a rather heavy footed affair, which was a little unexpected given that I'd been running everyday in Istanbul on steeper inclines than I ever encounter here and in temperatures that were regularly hitting 30C+. You'd think I'd be able to take a trot across the bridge in my stride after that. Nothing today has turned out as I'd expected or hoped for.

And can I ask, "Why did they name one of the most destructive weather events Irene; a name which means peace?!?!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A period of re-adjustment...

Today has been a day of re-adjustment: the time, the place, the weather, the food and the people.
  1. I woke at 6:00am feeling like I'd had a lie in because Turkey is two hours ahead of the UK.
  2. Cardiff Bay is nice enough but the view across the Bosphorus is so much nicer.
  3. Although today was a fairly pleasant day by UK weather standards, having been used to 30C+ for the last week, I felt a little chilly at times.
  4. I know porridge is healthy but where's my cheese and tomatoes and yoghurt and honey and melon?
  5. For a relatively comfortable and privilaged society, we're a miserable bunch of sad faced gits.
So it is with returning from any holiday; I'm sure I'm not alone in going through a period of re-adjustment, where my heart and soul is still 2,709.35km away, approximately.

I went swimming this afternoon and dreamt of Turkish food for the entire swim. It wasn't the easiest of swims, not having been in over a week and it was made doubly difficult by trying to breathe and salivate whilst trying to swim. After leaving the pool, I went directly to the supermarket and bought some aubergines, onions, garlic and tomatoes. I'm not quite sure exactly what I'm going to make with them but Imam Bayildi springs to mind. Such a simple dish and with some crusty bread... Mmmmm!

And for all of you that asked why there were no pictures embedded in my Istanbul posts; Apple and Blogger are not natural bedfellows and I couldn't find a way of uploading the pictures to the blog post. However, now that I have a access to PC, I have spent a little time adding pictures retrospectively. Hope you like them.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Raindrops on roses (Istanbul 8)...

Another hot and sweaty day (my last) here in lovely Istanbul. I still haven't mastered the air conditioning - too cold if I leave it on over night and the alternative option is to gently stew in my sleep and wake up a little moist - actually, quite a lot moist this morning. And how badly did my running vest and shorts reek of sweat before I even set off this morning? Pepe Le Pew! So started my final run in Istanbul; my last canter down through the historic Sultanahmet, my last jog through the beautifully serene Gülhane Park and my last lap of honour around the Roman Hippodrome. A run over the bridge to the Sports Village and back in good old Cardiff doesn't really compare!

After my run I had a badly needed shower, breakfast and then I finished packing. I had an hour to kill and so went for a walk through the Grand Bazaar. I then returned to the hotel, checked out and made my way by tram and then metro to Ataturk Airport in under 45 easy minutes. There's only one thing that irritates me more than having to queue and that's queue jumpers. The queue for the British Airways bag drop desk was long and a family of 3 jumped to the start of the queue to join another family they knew - like they were exempt or that their behaviour was permissible because they knew someone at the front. Of course, everyone was far too politely British to do anything other than mumble their disapproval.

So what were the highs and lows of this holiday? There were so many highs; just being out in the streets and parks soaking up the sights, sounds and smells was a high I got every day of being there. Another high would have to be the people; so helpful and friendly and they all want to talk to you and find out where you're from and whether you like their city, which they all seem to have such enormous pride for. They are so tolerant of us westerners and our inappropriate behaviour and dress when visiting their holy sites. I saw way too much flesh on show with some people when I visited some of the mosques.

I can honestly say there was only one low and that was falling foul of a scam pulled by some lowlife when I left the hamam after my massage and scrub in a state of bliss. As I drifted up the street in my relaxed and happy state, a shoeshine guy walking in front of me dropped one of his brushes. I picked it up and chased after him. He insisted on giving me a free shine as a thank you (not a euphemism). There was no refusing; he held on to my ankle tightly as he worked away, repeatedly thanking me. Then he started to tell me about his son who was ill back in Ankara. I began to get uneasy but couldn't really leave as he still had a vice like grip of my ankle. When he finished he looked up at me and smiled. He said that he'd welcome any coins I could spare. I thought, why not and offered him 4 or 5 Turkish Lira (£2.00 or so). He grabbed my wallet and managed to snatch a 20TL note. I grabbed my wallet back before he snatched any more and threatened to call for help unless he returned my money. He threw 5TL back at me, saying that the amount he'd taken was the going rate. Rather than cause a scene or, worse, get myself in trouble by losing my temper and lashing out, I walked away. It left a bad taste, however, it would be unfair to allow this one sour note to spoil my memories or, worse still, to use it to judge this place and it's people.

In addition to the highs stated above, my favourite activity was going for a run every morning. You could argue that I can run in Cardiff or anywhere for that matter, so why would that be so special when in Istanbul? However, I've always felt that there is something special about running in a strange city that grounds you and helps ease you into that city's soul. It helps give a feeling of belonging. A close favorite after running was my visit to the Cağaloğlu Hamam for the feeling of relaxation I was left with and in third favorite position was riding the ferries across the Bosphorus for the sense of peace I felt when afloat. My favourite place to eat was a Turkish restaurant in Sultanahmet called Mosaik, the only place I ate at more than once. My favourite bar was the rooftop bar at my hotel, Pierre Loti, with it's fantastic views over the city and the silver tongued barman there, Eyyüp.

Friday, 2 September 2011

How queer (Istanbul 7)...

I woke at 6:30am this morning bathed in sweat. By the time I got changed into my running kit I was dripping and I hadn't yet left my hotel room. A particularly hot and humid day here in Istanbul. And so, a rather moist Welshman panted his way through the Topkapi's one time rose garden, Gülhane Park. Running back up through Sultanahmet and around the Roman Hippodrome, I could hear the stray dogs howling; maybe they'd picked up on my sweaty scent or maybe it's the gay way I run?

After breakfast I made my way to the Grand Bazaar, now open again after the three day holiday for Eid. A maze of 66 crowded alleyways through a myriad of over 4,000 shops and stalls make up this, the largest covered bazaar in the world. I have to say that many of the shops and stalls sell nothing but cheap bric-à-brac that holds no interest for me. However, sprinkled here and there were things that did catch my attention; I was particularly taken by some Roman and Byzantine coins but not enough of an expert to be sure that the 130TL (£47) demanded for one rather good looking silver Roman specimen was going to secure me the real thing and fake coins are relatively easy to manufacture.

After leaving the Grand Bazaar, I made my way to a portion of the Aqueduct of Valens in Saraçhane Park. Built in the 4th Century AD by Emperor Valens, it was part of a network that delivered water from the Belgrade Forest to Istanbul's many cisterns. A little distance away I stopped for a çay and a cool down at a little café, where I tried to explain where Wales is to a friendly but bemused Bulgarian waiter. Logging into the café's WiFi, after he typed in the key, I was able to tell him that in Turkish I'm from a place called Galler. Much head nodding and smiling all round.

I returned to the hotel at lunchtime so that I could use their free WiFi connection to check in for tomorrow's flight back to London. I then got a tram to Karaköy and from there a ferry to Haydarpasa, the rail terminal designed for trains to Bagdad. From here I strolled the kilometre or so around to Kadiköy for the ferry back to Karaköy. Some of you might have noticed that I visited Kadiköy earlier in the week and, to be honest, the only reason I went again was for the ferry ride; the respite from the heat by being so close to the water is wonderful and there's something quite calming about floating on the sea.

I next got a tram to Kabatas and the the funicular railway to Taksim Square. Before going home tomorrow I wanted to visit one of the two gay bars advertised as open during the day. Most don't seem to open until 11pm at the earliest and don't get going until after midnight - too late for me. However, Chianti Bar and Sugar Café are open in the day but, could I find them? No! I could see a sign for Chianti Bar in its 2nd floor window but could not find the door and stairs to get to it. I did venture up one set of stairs and asked the trucker lookalike in the bar I'd stumbled into if this was the Chianti Bar but, as the words fell from my mouth, I knew the answer was going to be in the negative. As for the Sugar Café, well, either my guide book had got the address totally wrong or they'd closed.

So, that'll teach me; trying to bond with my Turkish brothers and sisters!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

For the fanatic only (Istanbul 6)...

Another early morning run today through the almost deserted streets and parks of this lovely city. I read in my Rough Guide to Istanbul that, "The vast majority of Istanbullu have little interest in running for it's own sake". It describes running in the city as "a pastime for the fanatic only". Judging by the bemused looks I get, I'd agree; it's not something that has fully embedded itself in the culture here, as it has in the UK. However, that doesn't explain the electronic clatter of a dozen cameras belonging to a party of Japanese tourists that were aimed in my direction near the Blue Mosque - if only I'd known, I'd've worn my best shorts.

After breakfast I made my way, by a rather full tram, to Kabatas and then a short walk in searing heat to the Dolmabahçe Palace. This palace, built in the mid 19th Century, replaced the Topkapi Palace in becoming the Sultan's main residence in Istanbul. It is a magnificent example of Western architecture of the period (baroque, rococo & neo-classical) with a waterside frontage of over 500m. After donning a pair of silly looking pink overshoes to protect the carpets and parquet flooring, we were taken on a gruelling 2 hour guided tour.

The guide started by proudly stating that anything we saw on the tour coloured yellow is gilt. We saw a lot of yellow. In addition, we saw a lot of crystal too. On closer inspection it all looked a little tired and tarnished. Despite all this, you cannot fail to be impressed with the palace and especially by the Ceremonial Room, with it's four ton crystal chandelier. If I'd known, I'd've brought a can of Pledge; it must be a bugger to dust - especially in this heat.

A short hop by tram to Tophane and Istanbul Modern. The tram journey itself was a short hop but, getting off the tram, my guide book took me in the opposite direction to where I needed to go. I eventually called into a rather ornate police station for help with directions. By now it must have been 30C plus and I was poaching in my own sweat as I crawled past the numerous nargile cafés that seem to have flourished in this area. Set in a stylishly revamped warehouse on the water's edge, Istanbul Modern houses the city's modern art collection. I especially liked the exhibition on the entrance level telling the story of Turkish modern art since the late 19th Century.

Make sure you visit the terraced café on the same level before you leave:  uber chic! Whilst there today, a huge Cunard liner manoeuvred itself up the Bosphorus to dock at a nearby quay, obliterating the café's wonderful waterside view of Sultanahmet, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus completely. No doubt, a fleet of coaches awaited to ferry its passengers on a whistle stop tour of the city, returning them to the ship for dinner tonight and onwards to their next port.

I left Istanbul Modern for the Kariye Museum by mid afternoon, getting a tram to Aksaray, then walking the kilometre or so to the metro station. Two stops on the metro and I got out at Ulubatli, where I noticed an LED display showing the temperature at 37C. From here it's another kilometre's stroll along the Theodosian Walls before you reach the Kariye Museum. The walls were built by Emperor Theodosius II in 413AD as the city's main land defence. They seemed to focus the heat as I staggered along their length. They're in a sad state after over 1,500 years of wear and tear (and a sadder state again after the earthquake of 1999).

The Kariye Museum is hidden a little distance (and one hair-raising, life-in-your-own-hands road crossing and some windy back streets to confuse you) from the walls and not that well sign posted. However, I eventually found it. Originally constructed in the 12th Century on the site of a much older church as the Church of St Saviour in Chora. The mosaics and frescoes are beautiful; stunning actually. However, it was well worth the entrance fee today just to get out of the sun.

A glass of çay at a nearby café afterwards helped fortify me before my mammoth trek back. Incidentally, for all of you that have always wanted to try a little frotteurism (look it up), you might want to start by having a play on the trams in this city. I've used public transport in a number of cities and nothing gets as intimate as an Istanbul tram at rush hour.

For the fanatic only, eh?