London 2012; A Failure for the People

I’ll admit, when we won the Olympic bid all those years ago I wasn’t that fussed. I thought it was cool that London was going to host the games. I thought it would offer great redevelopment and employment and, having been a fan of watching the athletics before, I had a sense of pride that I’d be able to go and see the games in my city. But I wasn’t other enthused about it. After the bid it disappeared from the limelight for a couple of years before it burst onto the scene earlier this year. To buy tickets or not to buy tickets? But of course…if I didn’t go I’d be devastatingly disappointed and regret not having made an effort, so, £1,000 of tickets were bid for.

As you’ll have predicted, I got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Oh, but’s it ok, there’ll be a second round of tickets. Yes, for events which no one really wants to see and at a higher price. Yes, but there’ll be free events such as the marathon and road cycling. Ok, but that will just remind me that I didn’t get tickets, that I can’t get into the park to participate, and that I can’t enjoy the stunning new venues you’ve built for a so called legacy.

Whilst private firms, established companies, and foreign nations have seemingly been given tickets to allocate as they wish, our supposedly tech-savvy officials had the fairest lottery way. So by fair, one person gets £5k worth of tickets whilst hundreds of thousands get none? With the outrageous expense of the games, I can’t fathom why a piece of software wasn’t created to allocate everyone one pair of tickets for an event, before going round and round allocating the remaining tickets. We have the internet…creating pictures and text out of electrical impulses. We have televisions picking up video images from, basically, the air. A simple piece of allocating software was not much to ask for was it? And whilst I grappled to try and get tickets, those in other countries just logged on, filled their virtual baskets, and off they went.

But, it’s not just the ticket allocation that’s riled me. In Weymouth, a 7 foot fence has been approved for erection along the seafront to stop people trying to get views of the boating. Wasn’t this an event for the people? To be proud as a nation of our sportsmen and women? But now, even though beaches are public spaces, views will be sealed off to all but those with tickets.

The AWFUL mascots meanwhile, supposed to inspire children to get involved in sports, cost £850 a time if a school wants to hire them. £850! With only four schools currently taking up the offer it seems that Olympic money has been spent on development and creation of something which simply can’t be utilised. And for the very schools which most need to inspire kids, and those in none affluent areas, students WILL miss out.

I was finally riled beyond belief today when it was reported that Olympics officials were urging Londoners to avoid public transport next year during the games and to walk, cycle or work from home. This is the LONDON Games. This was a games for the people. This was a games where London, particularly the poorer East End, was to have redevelopment and rejuvenation with transport links becoming smooth, efficient and second to none. Yet now, they want the hundreds of thousands of people who are hugely disappointed by their lack of tickets, to shun public transport in the hottest months of the year and walk and cycle to work? Shame on you London 2012 Committee. Shame on you.

For an event which is supposed to bring the nation together, to celebrate sport and, in particular, create a fantastic atmosphere in London, all they have managed to do is fragment celebrations between the favoured few and the disappointed masses. For Londoners, for those who will have to put up with the Olympic buzz on our doorsteps, and lest we not forget the expense that Londoners have had to pay for this event, we have been failed. We have had our excitement raised only to be crushed. We have had promises fail to materialise. And now we are being asked to shun the very city that we live in to free up public transport for others. And whilst I shouldn’t, I am now hoping that this disaster comes crashing down around the Olympic Committee’s ears.

A Bar to Avoid – LVPO

Being in Soho, one of London’s trendiest spots and the centre for the gay community, you would think that you couldn’t go far wrong as a bar. The pink pound is most definitely flowing here and so bars have to stay ahead to keep custom. However, whilst this bar wasn’t a gay bar, LVPO seemed to have missed the memo about being trendy and chic, and was probably one of the worst bars I’ve ever had the unfortunate circumstances to visit.

The night was great, due to being with friends and the venue’s one and only good point; great music. However, you’ll only be able to enjoy this if the overpowering smell of sick doesn’t knock you unconscious. Combined with a lack of air-con and the over zealous security keeping every window and door shut, you’ll deserve a medal if u don’t wretch at least once.

But the negatives don’t stop here. It’s a thriving Saturday night, we’re at a private function, and they’ve only laid on one barmaid. Sure, she’s pretty, she’s smiley but she doesn’t have a clue and, having ordered three cocktails, she disappears for at least 15minutes. Oh…and there is no cucumber, even though it’s an ingredient listed in half of their cocktails. Oh, and they’ve run out of glasses so you’re now sipping your £9 miniature cosmo out of a wine glass. Whilst the dopey barmaid was quickly replaced the new smiley girl behind the counter couldn’t understand a word so you had to point at the menu. And she plopped my beer on the bar so that it splashed out all over my shirt – seriously not cool.

If you don’t think this is bad enough, then head to the toilets where you’ll find the cloakroom next to the urinal. I don’t mean in a different room, I mean you have to reach over a pee infested grotty splashed toilet to put your coat in. Nice.

So, if u want a hot, overpriced grot-hole which smells of sick, this place is perfect. If you’d prefer going home without your coat having been splashed in drunken fuelled piss, best to avoid at all costs.

Tunes for the Weekend

There’s something to be said for going out, having a skin full, being surrounded by familiar and new faces, and just having a good time…..especially when there’s a lot of melancholy in your heart. And for this weekend, these two tunes are making me smile 🙂

Adele’s Rolling in the Deep – London Remix

Jennifer Hudson’s Where You At – Dave Aude Radio Edit

Grindr’s Racism Row

Anyone who reads this blog now and then will know of my predisposition towards the darker man. It’s not that I find white men unattractive, hell, all men can have be down right sexy no matter where their ethnic origins lie. It’s just that there’s a deep running vein of desire in me which likes golden skin, dark hair, and mysterious eyes. I’m not the blond, blue eyed boy lover, but it’s just as well, as we can’t all like the same type otherwise we’d all be chasing each other in circles. However, SoSoGay.com’s article Profile Prejudice struck a nerve with me. By stating on my profile that I like certain types of guys am I inadvertently causing some guys bad feelings?

It certainly got me thinking. There’s no denying that many people are simply more attracted to certain ethnic groups than others. In many ways I denounce caucasian guys pretty quickly, even if they’re of model beauty. That spark just is never there, and it’s not like I haven’t tried in the past. Obviously, I don’t say that I only like one type of man and you haven’t got a chance if you don’t fit the mould because there are exceptions. But the lines can easily become blurred if I’m saying I like Latino, Indian Asian, and Mediterranean guys and you’re a white guy thinking I’m having a pop.

Having not come across any Grindr racism before I was fairly interested to read SoSogay’s article and see viewpoints from the other side. I don’t even think I’d seen ‘White Only’ on a profile before. This was all to change a couple of days ago though when I received a message from a guy asking if I was into a particular ethnic group of guys. I responded quite honestly, HELL YES! And was then barrage to some of the most racist views that I’ve ever encountered. Englishmen apparently fuck anything that move. I was obviously not an upper class Englishman for sleeping with these people, for they were lower, dirty citizens, spreading disease. I was completely shell shocked.

Stupidly I called this guy a racist ____ and blocked him. Looking back on it I should have snapshopped the conversation and reported him to Grindr. And whilst his views would not have changed, at least I could have got a foul minded bigot removed from a networking place where I’ve actually met some of the nicest men ever.

As a gay man I find it extraordinary that other LGBT people can have such views. Whilst we continue to fight for equality we remain a minority group when compared, certainly in numbers, to heterosexuals.  And for someone in our minority group to have such a backward and racist beliefs towards other minority groups in this day and age is utterly astounding. It has made me aware though, that when writing our Manhunt, Gaydar, or Grindr profiles, it is extremely important to take care not to inadvertantly offend when racism could not be further from your mind.

The Year of Men

Tomorrow it’s 2011. Another year has rushed by in flamboyant colour, filling life with a positively mad rush of rollercoaster excitement. It’s been a good year, and I’ve actually managed to meet some of the goals that I made this time last year. I failed in my running as I only ran one half marathon, but I did get a personal best so even in failure there’s a silver lining. My novel is still incomplete, lying unwritten in the depths of my computer files, its characters stuck in time waiting for their paths to unravel. However, I have packed on a load of bulk and muscle (long may it continue), and I have continued to build The Guide to Gay Gardening, so meeting half of the targets is still pretty good. Meanwhile, I’ve taken my writing career to new heights with an entire portfolio of additional clients, and I’ve even managed to score a presenting spot on a new TV show in 2011. All in all, 2010 has been pretty damn fine.

In 2010 I got an iPhone. In 2011 I want one of these

Each year I normally spend New Years Eve with my friend Xenia, where we get off our rockers at my place, dance around the living room, and generally act like silly buggers. We don’t set exacting resolutions, we just set a new yearly theme. It work’s pretty well as there are no goals to fail, just a subtle direction of where the year should take us. Unfortunately 2010 was the year of spontaneity, something I’m not very good with, and I can say that I pretty much failed. But with the evening soon upon us I’m sure 2011’s title will spring to mind! However, as I approach my 30’s and most of my friends now have significant others I’m fairly sure I’m going to continue the dating drama and make 2011 the Year of Men. There a number of exciting things this year – the debut of my new show, my 30th, the arrival of several babies, a huge wedding to attend – and it would be nice to share it with at least one beautiful boy, if not several. Whilst I’m not going to be throwing myself at every man who moves, it would make my year to finally find love for the first time. I like my men like my tea – dark, strong, and tasty – and to find someone who fits my checklist would be an added excitement for a year thats set to be the most interesting one yet!

A Gay in Christian Clothing

I was brought up in a christian family. In fact, in Dusty’s own words, I’m the Son of a Preacher Man. This is why I always find it extraordinarily hard to swallow the pill that you won’t be gay if you follow the christian way. My parents managed to take me along the christian path of morals, courtesy, and compassion, without shoving Jesus down my neck. They didn’t stop me when I got a Sunday job. My Dad responded to me telling him that I was gay by saying something along the lines of “I’ve known for years”, before giving me a huge hug. It’s fair to say that they’re bloody brilliant parents. However, as brilliant as they may be, they are religiously christian, something which I simply do not share with them in the least.

Christmas is always an odd time for me partly because, growing up in the church, the whole event was about Jesus. Carols were sung, advent candles were lit, my Christmas was about tradition and christianity. Now that I’m older I find myself missing my childhood traditions, the buzz that surrounded the build up, the social aspect of everyone singing carols and looking forward to the 25th. Yet, when I do attend church, often just to keep my mother company at midnight mass, I feel completely out of place and rather disrespectful. Why is it that the more you try to not think of anything ‘sinful’ it all comes flooding in? I’m knelt, trying to listen to the prayers, and all I can wonder is if my Grindr’s buzzed me a message, or if my latest ManHunt beau text me. Even worse, my mind wanders to the pornographic gutter as I desperately fight to bring it back to the respectful thoughts that I should be having. It’s all I can do not to flee the pew as my dangerous and stubborn mind fights its way towards naked men or thoughts of a festive conquest.

I know there are many liberal christians out there, my parents included. I know that there are in fact many members of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community who also believe. And I, in some way, am impressed at people’s dedication and faith, for it is something I know that I could never have. However, as I kneel desperately trying to keep my mind out of the gutter, I spend the hour feeling like a disrespectful hypocrite whose once happy christian Christmas is now just a distant memory.

Breaking the Taboo

Depression is a funny thing, and something that remains a taboo subject even in the 21st century. It’s more spoken about, a more acceptable topic of conversation, but people still do not quite understand the ramifications of what having depression actually means. If you say to someone you’re feeling depressed they think that you’re a little down, that a cup of tea, a chat, or going out will instantly cure it. For some that may work, but for the vast majority of people who have depression it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, not something that a glitzy social afternoon with wine and friends will help ward off. When you mention to someone you’ve been feeling down they assume that you’re feeling a little blue and under the weather, not that you got into bed at 3pm and lay there for seven hours staring at the ceiling, unable to move for being paralyzed by a huge black pit of despair in your stomach. That responding to a text, even when the phone is next to your face, is too much pressure. That summoning the energy to even think about getting up is difficult to find.

I’ve managed my depression, without drugs, for years. I hate chemicals, even if they’re supposed to make you feel better. They mess with your system, they kill your libido, and whilst you may not feel down, you feel nothing. You don’t laugh. You don’t cry. You don’t get incredible enjoyment from the smaller things in life. You just go from stop A, to stop B, to stop C. I’m a happy, optimistic person. I know my symptoms, I deal with them, and then I get back on with life.

I can normally tell when a bout of depression comes on, and as my good friend recently pointed out, it seems to occur when everything in my life is going right. As soon as my personal life sees sparks, or a big opportunity comes up professionally, I shut myself down. I go into ‘hermit’ mode. I blank everyone in my life no matter who they are. It’s happened again this week, and whilst it crept up on my slowly this time, after cancelling a studio work day for Saturday I recognised the onset. I LOVE working in a live studio, the buzz, the responsibility, the social and fun working aspect, and I’d been looking forward to yesterday immensely. But on Thursday I found myself phoning the production coordinator, making my apologies by saying I had a bad IBS bout, and that I wouldn’t be able to make the day. I commonly use IBS, how can I say “I feel down”? People simply don’t understand. And whilst today, on this wintry but lovely Sunday, I’m feeling much better, this 4 days of blackness has cost me both professionally and personally.

I Hate to be Maudlin, but….

I’m a pretty optimistic kinda guy. Yes, I have bouts of crippling depression, and when anything is seemingly going right for me I have a habit of becoming slightly bi-polar, bouncing off the walls one minute and in a pit of despair the next. But on the whole I’m a happy guy. I hate putting any downer feelings on others. I hate saying that, actually, I’m not that great. And I tend to smile, laugh, and chat, even if on the inside I’m feeling as black as a moonless night.

I don’t know whether it’s the run up to Christmas, but today I’m feeling awash with greyness. The dating game can be an energy and emotionally sapping affair. I don’t know how people do it. How they find the energy to keep that snowball rolling, to keep meeting guy, after guy, after guy, until they find the right one. Since starting the dating game after a decade out of it, I can’t say I’ve had any horrendous experiences. Everyone has been extremely nice, surprisingly so in some cases.  I’ve dated about ten guys over the past few months.  Two I could have seen more with, but circumstance didn’t allow it. One was ideal and had I been able to will myself into liking him more it would have been perfect. And of course, Mr Fun keeps on rumbling along in the back of my mind.

Meanwhile, trying to actually find a decent date seems to be getting increasingly hard. All the hotties are taken, or sexually incompatible. They’re too young, or they’re too old. They’re not in my shallowly small circle of attraction. And the number of men who turn out to be coupled and just looking for NSA is astounding! I’m don’t judge, each to their own, but it doesn’t make it easy when half the guys who could be a good date turn out to have boyfriend or husband already!

You get to the point where the thought of going on another data, of having to talk about yourself AGAIN, of having to basically have the same conversations over and over, becomes despairingly awful. Today I just want to already have that someone, to not have to constantly put myself out there, to not put on that shining smile and eager personality to help seduce. Today, this modern hermit is feeling decidedly blue.

World Aids Day

I remain fairly shocked about the number of gay men that continue to practice unsafe sex in the modern day. Perhaps  the devastating effects of Aids when it first emerged onto the gay scene in the 1980’s has bypassed the younger generation. They don’t know the horrific consequences it brought, they haven’t seen any high profile safe sex campaigns. Perhaps it’s that the disease is now seen as a chronic, yet manageable illness. Something that isn’t necessarily fatal any more. I don’t know, but whatever many men’s thoughts, practising safe sex is still vitally important, not only to protect yourself, but to stop the disease from spreading.

On December 1st it’s World Aids Day and, as gay men, we are all being asked to make the following pledge.

  • I will know my HIV status
  • I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status
  • I will take personal responsibility for using condoms
  • I will value myself and my health
  • I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread

Every single point in the pledge is easy, and can help fight AIDS at the very source – transmission. The Soho Clinic in Dean Street, London, is a free testing centre where you can find out your status easily. They have a drop in facility, and whilst you may have to wait a while (it was only 30mins when I went) the actual test takes literally a few minutes. There are onsite counselling groups should you need them and a brilliant text service to let you know results if you decide to have further STD tests done.

Knowing your status is the single most important aspect. Over 25per cent of people living with HIV do not know they have it. Not only are they not on the drugs that will help stave off the disease’s effects, but they could be unknowingly passing it on to partners.

Getting a test is scary, lets not lie. Especially if you haven’t had one before. But knowledge is power. So this World Aids Day, get tested, find out your status, and take the steps needed to prevent AIDS continuing to spread. Assume all your partners are positive, but bring it up in every case so that the topic is an open book. And stay safe, use freedoms, and ensure that you have a fun, and healthy future.

Grindr is the Devil

Having become completely addicted to my new iPhone it was only a matter of time before I signed up to the immensely popular Grindr. What started off as a fantastic dating tool has in fact proved to be a heart wrenching social app for the romantically minded, and I’m starting the curse the day I ever installed it.

For those of you who have no idea what Grindr is, put simply, it’s a GPS driven dating/hook-up tool for the gay community. Creating a profile, it shows you all the other online Grindr users in your immediate area, whether they are 200m away, or 2.1km away. You can message, send photo’s, star your favourites, and block the idiots that you can’t be dealing with.

Of course, on a very stereotypically crude gay level it is the perfect tool for men to hook up. You’re feeling the urge, there’s a guy 300m away that looks nice, well….what’s to stop you?! But for me, for the romantically minded, it’s another way to find a possible date in this social networking and media driven age. I’ve met a couple of guys off there for dates, and I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. However, for those that are not one-time stand guys, there is also a HUGE downside.

I’m currently totally hooked on a guy that, though I’ve only met twice, I’m falling for. Though I’m 29, I’ve never been in the dating game. I’ve been single for a decade, and only had one boyfriend who was the result off a one night stand. I’m looking for the one, I’ll make no secret of that, and whilst I’ve surrounded my heart with a stone cold casing for years, I’m quickly realising that actually, I’m a romantic fool. Plus I have the dating age of a 13 year old. I’ve never loved, so I’ve never lost. And before this beautiful chap, I’d never had the heart leaping into your throat moment as you see them down the street. And it is here that Grindr becomes an application of torture.

This heart wrenching app lets you know if someone’s been on up to an hour before. You log in, his little green light is lit up, but there’s no message. You wait. There’s still no message. Is he waiting for you to send a hello? You finally pluck up the courage, and he’s now offline. You don’t want to log in incase there isn’t any hello, yet you want to see if there is. And when there isn’t, but his little green light is still blurring in your eyes, you want to smash your phone to bits.  And don’t get me started on the texting, with no response, yet logging into Grindr and then suddenly a txt thing. I want you to remember to send me a txt, not be reminded because a little green bling catches your eye.

I know that I’m being slightly ridiculous, but unfortunately, this is how my brain works. And whilst I’ll get over it in time, for the time being, to grind, or not to grind, is taking over most of my daily thought!