Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Don't Rain On My Parade (II)...

Despite some initially pessimistic weather forecasts, Manchester Pride 2012 wasn't quite the wash out we were led to believe it would be. Saturday's Parade down Deansgate was bathed by blue skies to start with but got a little greyer by the time it reached the Village. There were stretches of sunshine that saw everyone spill out onto Canal Street and sudden showers that saw everyone run for cover again. Indeed, the same on/off weather persisted through much of Saturday, Sunday and well into Monday. I'm pleased to say that everyone's spirits weren't dampened by these occasional showers.

I guess many of us take Pride events for granted nowadays. Time was when they were more of a political rally than the carnival that we see today. I for one am pleased that they have become more of a fun event rather than the heavily policed, grim marches they once were. Now the police march with us. The theme this year was ‘Queer’d Science’, in honour of the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, who was appallingly treated by the authorities over his homosexuality. How times change.

I was so pleased to see so many families out enjoying Manchester Pride over the weekend; there were so many kids at the event in the afternoon. And I was also pleased to see some pretty big companies, proud to sponsor Manchester Pride; companies such as easyJet, RBS Group, The Co-operative and Selfridges. It's a sign of acceptance; it's a sign of the times.

How disheartening then to wake on Sunday morning to the news that Cardinal O'Brien was to lead the Scottish Catholic Church in reading out a letter in each of the Church's parishes in Scotland criticising the Scottish government for plans to introduce gay marriage. How out of touch can these people get?

You may remember that Cardinal O'Brien called plans for gay marriage a "grotesque subversion" back in March. Having been part of Manchester Pride this weekend and seeing all the smiles and laughter and fun, I believe that the only grotesque subversion is the Scottish Catholic Church and Cardinal O'Brien.

After a damp Bristol Pride and the patchy weather that beset Manchester, let's hope that God sees fit to bathe Cardiff Mardi Gras this coming weekend in glorious sunshine. I'd pray for such weather, if I believed there was even the smallest outside chance that he existed.

1 Year Ago:A little too highbrow...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Where in the world...?

I don't find it easy choosing holiday destinations. I don't mean those sun & sand holidays where one beach is much like another; they're easy to choose. No, I mean the city break type holiday where I try to go to somewhere that interests me, somewhere with plenty of exploring potential; somewhere that can keep me curious for at least a week.

In recent years I've been to New York, Rome, Lisbon, Madrid and Istanbul. As you might expect from that list, all of them held my attention for the entire stay and some I'd be more than happy to return to for further exploration. Usually, by early Spring, a city will suggest itself and after a little fact finding I'll book a flight and hotel. This year nothing has suggested itself.

I think the reason is because this year's holiday coincides with my 50th birthday and I've been under some pressure (all self generated) to find somewhere special. So in addition to satisfying all the usual criteria, this year's destination has to be somewhere worthy of a landmark birthday, somewhere that I can look back on fondly in my (anec)dotage.

Should I opt for a beach holiday and just let this landmark slip by in a haze of suntan spray and alcohol? Should I settle for a city that I've been to before? At least that way I know what to expect and where exactly I should spend my actual 50th? Should I choose one of those destinations that are sometimes referred to as the holiday of a lifetime? Tokyo, San Fransisco and Buenos Aires are three that have offered themselves up as contenders to bankrupt me as I slide into my sixth decade.

Last weekend I finally booked somewhere. This place has always been on the list but I've never quite managed to visit. Strange really why it didn't occur to me earlier in the year but within minutes of thinking about it, I'd checked out a few recommendations on Trip Advisor, booked the hotel and was researching flights from the UK.

This city has been fixed in my imagination since my teenage reading of Christopher Isherwood's early novels. A growing awareness of gay history and the liberal outlook of the Weimar Republic further rooted it in my mind. So where have I chosen to pass my half century? Berlin, of course, and I'm so excited!

1 Year Ago:Infected...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cycling matters...

Us cyclists are a funny lot; we love to point at motorists and accuse them of driving without due care and attention and then off we go and break the rules ourselves. We jump lights, ignore one way streets, cycle on pavements and we approach signalling as an optional extra (if the mood takes us). Of course, I'm not talking about every cyclist and the majority of them that break the rules don't do it all the time.

I have to admit, I sometimes break the rules myself but, along with all rule breakers, I'd argue that  there are very good reasons for doing so. Honest! My ride to work every morning takes me up a broad pavemented avenue in Cardiff called Lloyd George (Boy George, as I call it) Avenue. A cycle lane runs adjacent to to this broad pavement and yet I always cycle on the pavement. Why? Because the cycle lane is punctuated with barriers at every junction whereas the pavement is not. Also, the cycle lane is frequently blocked by kids playing and parked cars. Excusable? Probably not.

My journey also takes me through two pedestrianised areas in the town centre: The Hayes and Queen Street. You're allowed to cycle through The Hayes but you are not allowed to cycle through Queen Street, despite the fact that one segues into the other and with no clear and obvious signage. It's confusing. The police in one area of Cardiff have decided to target pavement cyclists, taking a zero tolerance approach with those caught, by issuing them with fixed penalty notices. I guess that murders and burglaries aren't quite as profitable. Who says that crime doesn't pay!

And talking about profit, some of you may remember my complaint to Cardff Bus in May. Well after much prompting and further complaints about their lack of response, they eventually got back to me over two months later. This tardiness by them gave me ample opportunity to fizz, fester and frustrate; the result of which is I have cancelled my £50 a month season ticket and opted to cycle to work instead - whatever the weather. I've fitted my bike with mudguards and bought myself a waterproof cycling jacket and trousers and still had change out of £50. Next month I move into profit!

Last Saturday I cycled the Taff Trail from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff with my friend Howard. The weather was beautiful, the views stunning and I almost reached a state of cycling Nirvana... Until I hit Pontypridd, where the trail runs out along with any signage to guide you to where to pick it up again. What a shining example of shitsville this place is. It's confusing, it's dangerous and it's enough to make you jump lights, ignore one way streets, cycle on pavements and approach signalling as an optional extra. Really!

1 Year Ago:The ladies who lunch...

Monday, 6 August 2012

Personal Olympics...

I must admit that in the run up to the Olympics I wasn't that enthused. You can guarantee turning me off completely when you wheel out the patriotic card; that forced, gung-ho, get behind London 2012 hype that was (and still is) everywhere. The Diamond Jubilee was the warm up act to the Olympics and they seem to have segued from one into the other with no pause for breath.

I'm sure that if you live in London and you're lucky enough to have a few tickets to a couple of Olympic events, it's a different story. I'm sure that if you've never had that uneasy feeling when people start chanting and waving union flags, you're wondering what the hell I'm complaining about. I'm sure that if you don't have that queasy reaction to all the sponsorship rules about what can and cannot be worn and eaten, you're at a loss to explain what I'm yapping on about.

So I'll stop yapping on and cut to the chase (long story short); contrary to every expectation I had of myself, I have spent the last few days in a highly emotional state, yelling at the TV, gesticulating wildly to thin air and sobbing like a baby at the highs and lows of these Olympics:
All the hairs stood up on my neck as a crowd gathered around a large public screen in Cardiff and cheered Bradley Wiggins on to win the Men's Time Trial.
My sadness at watching Rebecca Adlington put on an unnecessary brave face after winning a bronze in the Women's 800m Freestyle.
My elation at catching quite by accident our lads win the Men's Four on Saturday morning.
The deserved win for Jessica Ennis in the Women's Heptathalon as I punched the air and yelped.
My elation and pride as the the tears rolled down my face watching Mo Farah take the Men's 10,000m
And finally (my favorite image so far), the fuzzy warm glow I felt watching Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking win the Women's Lightweight Double Sculls.
Surely, the look on Katherine Copeland's shocked face sums up what's great about these games. It's not about sponsorship or patriotism or being there in London waving a flag; it's about the personal stories that lie behind the results.

The joy and the heartache that is so often evidently on display is very moving at times. This demands that you engage with these athletes and these Olympics on a personal level. And that is something I'm more than happy to do.

1 Year Ago:Coming to my senses...

Run 06/08/2012 17:11
Distance5:01 kmTime26:51
Pace5:23 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Run 03/07/2012 17:25
Distance5:01 kmTime29:17
Pace5:51 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Raining.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Meretricious (and a happy new year)...

Sad news today to hear that Gore Vidal is dead. He was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Princess Margaret, Tennesse Williams and Leonard Bernstein. He was close to John F Kennedy and confident of Jackie Kennedy. With his quick wit and brutal frankness, he often seemed the only voice of reason and critical thought to emanate from the US.

Vidal was an author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter and political activist. He wrote plays that were Broadway hits (The Best Man and Visit to a Small Planet), historical novels (Burr, 1876 and Lincoln), political essays (Armageddon? and United States: Essays 1952–1992) and film screenplays (Ben-Hur and the original draft for Caligula). His autobiography, Palimpsest is well worth digging out.

He was known for his acerbic tongue and lightning wit. Asked whether his first romantic encounter was homosexual or heterosexual, Vidal replied that he had been "too polite to ask". The BBC have put together a list of quotes to mark his death. They all display the man's sharp sense of humour.

My favorite quote is not included in the BBC's list. It goes something like:
The British writer Richard Adams, appearing alongside Vidal on That Was The Week That Was, called his work "meretricious" "Pardon?" said Vidal. "Meretricious" repeated Adams. In a split second Vidal was back at him, "Meretricious to you," he smiled, "and a happy new year."
You can find out more about Gore Vidal here.

1 Year Ago:Where's the justice...?

Run 01/08/2012 17:29
Distance5:01 kmTime29:00
Pace5:47 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Heavy downpours.

Run 30/07/2012 17:38
Distance5:01 kmTime30:15
Pace6:02 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Grey.

Run 27/07/2012 16:57
Distance5:06 kmTime30:13
Pace5:59 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Sunny and hot.