Thursday, 26 June 2008

Mosque, Manson, Man Who Fell To Earth

In the last two years I’ve been to the doctor more often than the rest of my life combined. I’ve had three viruses and two mystery ailments in the last year alone. I currently have a skin virus (nothing you can see, please don’t back away) and a virus on my lungs. I’ve been tested for diabetes, HIV and boneitis. I have weed in jars and had blood taken thrice. I've been swabbed, thoroughly and repeatedly. I feel fine and dandy. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and, ongoing Binge Drink Britain behaviour aside, am living healthier than I have since I was twelve. Still every morning I cough up a quart of grey gelatinous goo. Doc says my lungs are clearing themselves out now I've quit smoking. This is a good thing I guess. I’m on a ruthless regime of exercise and hippie food to burn/starve this thing into submission. Since Sunday it’s been gym twice a day and consuming only hard-boiled eggs, fruit, brazil nuts, yogurt, creatine tablets and protein shakes. I don’t know if it’s the dazed feeling one gets from fasting or the creatine tablets but my writing has come on a treat. Highly recommended.

At my second home in the country, by which I mean my boyfriend’s terrace in Levenshulme, they’re building a brand new mosque on the corner of the street. It’s shaping up nicely and they’ve put lovely hanging baskets outside all the houses which we must remember to water if it ever stops raining. The Imam and all the other smartly dressed Muslim men are forever up and down the road, doing, organising, finalising, in their pristine white hats while I sit inside with the curtains drawn and watch ‘On Demand’ Marilyn Manson videos with our little black cat. It’s so deliciously secular. It should probably go in The Novel.

It’s normally referred to as ‘Aerosmith On Demand’ round here because the artists are alphabetised and I can never be bothered to go beyond Aerosmith so I just watch the video for ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ over and over. I hate everything there is to hate about that video: Steven Tyler’s claw hands, the awful movie happening in the background with Bruce Willis and Ben Afflecks’ ridiculous ‘heroic’ pouts, the bands’ uniformly foul haircuts … One time I was so cross I wandered as far as Alphabeat. More fool me. What exactly is that boy so smug about? Because he gets paid in Topman vouchers or because his girlfriend is a midget?

Imagine the courage it took to scroll all the way to ‘M’. (Twenty Mariah Carey vids and no Madonna, strange. Must be a corporate sponsor/Virgin tie-in thingy or something). And so to Marilyn Manson. I do love him, but what was the point of covering ‘Personal Jesus’? It’s exactly the same as the original. ‘Sweet Dreams’ is better. Sleazy, guttural, sinister and brilliant. It’s one of those MM videos, of which there are a few, where you watch and you genuinely think ‘There’s something the matter with these boys’. I think it was the close up of the self-inflicted stomach scars hovering above his ripped ballerina dress. Perfect.

Speaking of pop stars, it’s Bowie Bowie Bowie round here at the moment. Everywhere I go there’s something that reminds me of him so I’m just diving in head-first now. He’s my desktop wallpaper at work and my facebook profile picture. I can’t get beyond nine-thirty in the morning without listening to ‘Modern Love’ or ‘Sound and Vision or even ‘Magic Dance’ if I’m feeling frivolous (wonderfully hammy remix here). I’m trawling the Internet desperately looking for that clip from Cracked Actor where that off-her-tits fan says ‘We’re just the space cadets, he’s the commander’ when I should be working. I’ve exhausted in pursuit of forgotten treasures like ‘Letter to Hermione’ and ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ (which then shows up in my friend’s facebook status. See? He’s everywhere!)

Discovered this which could potentially be excellent given how good the freebie MP3 is of Richard Walters and Faultline doing ‘Be My Wife’. I’ve decided I now need to complete my admittedly weak home Bowie collection. My friend Matthew is the biggest Bowiehead I know so we’ve decided to have a Bowie night. I’m going to be Steve Strange of course. Matthew is bald with a large chest and an even larger moustache so he can be Marilyn. Here was the plan:

Matthew: I do have just about everything he has ever produced, so you can have a sack load of vinyl, tapes and cds.
Done. Let’s have a Bowie night at mine and I can record as we listen. It’ll be like how the New Romantics started at Billy’s in Soho in 1979.
re: bowie night, yes. we start off with red wine (man who sold the world), move through spliffs (hunky and ziggy), beer (aladdin sane and pin ups) and then monster through bags of gran (diamond dogs to low); we have a quiet patch (low to lodger), then hit cocktails (let’s dance to tonight), then lager (tin machine), and then just cigarettes (black tie through to reality), then we quit everything but coffee. then, when we get to 2006 we have a heart attack and that disappears too.
Sounds perfect. Tin Machine is SO lager. I can’t smoke at all though I’m afraid, in fact neither can you. Well up for the heart attack though.

I think everybody who has devoted their life to pop music has to go through a Bowie thing once in their time. I think this is my second or third though, maybe this time I’ll get over it.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Things to see and do: Queers, Punks, Art, Skins, Trannies

It’s never going to stop raining you know. Short of moving to Fresno I suggest you quit whining, zip up that dishy cagoule and get out there. Things to look forward to include …

Queers Support Ladyfest
26th June
Gig night at TV21 with excellent line-up of local talent, held to raise cash and awareness for forthcoming Manchester Ladyfest.
“Performing are queer disco punk terrorists Vile Vile Creatures, sarcastic political pop-punkster Ste McCabe, Manchester's finest riot grrrl flavoured punk rock 3-piece Hooker and brand spanking new grrrl-blues from Girls Who Hold Hands. Also newly added to the line up is the most fabulous comedy-gothic-drag performer Faby Licious. Make sure you don't miss Queers Support Ladyfest or you will miss out, it's gonna be the queer gig of the year!!”

Are Friends Eclectic?
3rd July
Second outing of monthly night of top bollocks music at Retro Bar, themed for your dancing pleasure with live bands to boot. This month, PUNK!
“July's night is for all you punx out there, we have a live set from The Smears and we'll be playing all the best of anarcho, skin, oi, crust, trash and femme punk.”

12th July
Sexy art happenings in the city in an admirable attempt to disrupt the everyday and MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
“A micro-festival of incidental intervention and sited performance, with a hint of mischief! Chance encounters, random occurrences and risky ventures around and about the city centre. Cheeky, thought-provoking and sometimes raunchy sprees of eccentricity…”

Manchester Skin Weekend
27th, 28th and 29th June
Coinciding beautifully with Sparkle (below), the fourth annual Gay Skin Weekend is in town to show the two ends of the gender spectrum living harmoniously side by side. Maximum 3 mm crop please lads. Anybody going to both I wonder?

27th, 28th and 29th June
Fourth annual trans festival, three days of partying, support and dressing your best in and around the Village. Start praying for sunshine.
“A weekend festival of all things transgender, with a fun mix of both social and support activities. Includes talks, workshops, meals, clubs, information and so much more.”

If you’d like me to mention an event, drop me a line at and I’ll do a round-up every so often.

A random selection of Cocteau Twins from I doubt this band could be any more wonderful. They mange to put you through the emotional wringer even though I’ve no idea what their songs are really about (does anyone?). History will rank Liz Fraser alongside Kate Bush for the purity and innovation of her singing. Where the hell is her solo album? Also I’ve just heard
her duet with Jeff Buckley for the very first time and it has almost made me blub. I’ve name-checked it on her Wikipedia entry, for the world must hear it. ‘It’s okay to be angry, but not to hurt me …’ God bless Jeff.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Saturday night and Sunday morning, 14th – 15th June

My sister’s ace mate Michelle up from London for the weekend so Saturday evening sees us bar-hopping up Oxford Road. Gorgeous sunny evening so it’s outside Kro 2 to begin where I natter about the wedding and Michelle tells us about her sister who used to be a kitten-heeled dolly-bird and is now marrying an Australian farmer for a life of outback dust and toilet spiders. Love eh? In attendance besides us are James (Emma’s boyf), Joffrey, Stuart, Dean and Christine, who I haven’t seen for ages since they moved north to the ‘burbs (Swinton), and Kate and Pete, fresh from seeing Rufus Wainwright, Devo and others in Barcelona. Extremely jealous.

Kate has been simply bursting to tell me an amazing anecdote and when she does my jaw hits the floor. She’s an extra in the new Ken Loach movie, Looking For Eric, which is being filmed around Manchester. It’s apparently the brainchild of Eric Cantona himself who is both starring in the film and co-producing it. Obviously Kate’s a dear dear friend of ‘Kenny’ by now but has yet to see the bearded French beauty himself, but she will. The whole thing is so surreal and brilliant. Filming in Chorlton and Old Trafford, a cast of local stand-up comedians, Eric holed up in The Lowry learning to jive, apparently, and all this directed by the man responsible for Cathy Come Home, Poor Cow, Up the Junction, Kes for Christ’s sake! He’s 71, can you believe it? The film is apparently about football fandom, rather than a biopic of Eric himself as was originally reported. It will probably be the first and last football movie I ever sit through. Coming Summer 2009.

A stiff(er) drink is in order so it’s down to The Deaf Institute to hog a large table and proceed in earnest to get langered. Great music from the Chips night upstairs (oh the memories, and lack of, from Chips With Everything at Night and Day, wherein I had officially my greatest ever Manchester night out, maybe I’ll blog it one day …) and generally a great bar I’ve decided with beautiful people, us included natch. At some point we decide we want somewhere with even nicer wallpaper so we pinball up the road to Odder and manage against all odds (ha!) to get seats there too. This suits us, especially as we’ve realised that amongst us there is only one person still in their twenties. I won’t tell you who, it would just mean far too much to her. How decrepit we must seem!

Still, we’re not dead yet so I persuade the hordes they MUST dance and we head to Charlie’s for Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing (named after a Margaret Atwood poem), my second girl-music night in as many weeks. I love any excuse to go to Charlie’s, it’s kitsch, pokey, brilliant and allegedly owned by Triads. The remit of the night is dead simple: good music from any genre or decade, so long as it’s by women and it’s bloody good, so we have The Breeders, Madonna, Ting Tings, Elastica, Gossip, and possibly CSS and L7 too (or did I dream it? My brain was fairly starched by this point …) The place isn’t heaving but the crowd are lovely (my new friend Sian is here, hello!) and the dancefloor rarely empties. No bar queues either! Lots of lovely girls, gay and straight, plus boys of course. Us lot were the best dancers though. Fact. Back to mine afterwards for the usual late night dredging of youtube for craptacular pop nonsense and eventually zzzzzzz

(Almost forgot! I did not smoke a single cigarette the entire evening. Am quietly very proud of myself. I long for a life without cigarettes after being an on-off smoker for longer than I care to admit).

Sunday is SUNNY so it’s shades and shorts and up the road to Sackville Park for chilled picnic loveliness with Kirsty, Keith, Amy, Thom, Sian and the monkey. Yummy hangover grub plus fruity cider to take the edge off last night’s boozy ghosts. The park itself is pretty quiet (intermittent clouds keep the hardcore sunbathers at home) but any chance of peace is utterly destroyed by the four hour line-dancing fiesta outside The Rembrandt, courtesy of Manchester Prairie Dogs. God love ‘em, me and Joff were moved to tears watching them one year at Pride (loooong weekend) but trilogies of shrill Irish folk music, pounding handbag travesties and sequence dancing to ‘Vogue’ on a Sunday afternoon? Police!

A few rounds of Truth or Dare on the picnic blanket reveal us to be a bunch of thieves, drunks, vandals and sexual deviants, which pleases me no end. I top up my holiday tan and end up slightly tipsy in the sunshine which is very nearly my favourite thing in the world. Kirsty introduces us to the delights of peanut butter pancakes from Wong Wong’s bakery. SO good. We have those for tea and the weekend draws to a close. I go to sleep feeling pretty lucky to have all these great people in my life, and the monkey most of all. (And Manchester too).

OutKast – Aquemini (need to get entire back catalogue pronto)
Pop Levi – The Return to Form Black Magick Party (totally T-Rex, am especially hooked on ‘Skip Ghetto’ still, Pop keeps a little Marc in his heart …)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Saturday 7th June

Billed as ‘the wedding of the century’ (by me just then) rarely if ever have I been this excited by a do. Unbelievably I’ve been friends with Katy for fourteen years and with Ben for seven. Yikes! At some point in the morning I begin to get terrible nerves and find it almost impossible to mingle with anyone I don’t already know. Worried I’ve come across as aloof I make amends later by getting drunk on two glasses of champagne and startling complete strangers by grilling them with unprompted questions about who they are and how they know Ben and Katy. Everyone is absolutely lovely in the face of my pink-cheeked interrogations. Having spent the weekend boasting that it was I who introduced the bride and groom , when Ben gives me a special thankyou in his speech, which of course makes me cry, I only wish I’d been a bit more humble …

Everything goes beautifully, it’s like a model in how to throw the perfect wedding, so much work and planning makes the whole thing seem effortless. The weather is summertime at its best, the church is quaint and charming, the dress is beautiful, as is Katy’s hair and long tanned back beneath it, I audibly sob during the service, the bridesmaids are adorable, Katy’s brother Pete sings ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ accompanied by his wife Claire on the piano, which sets the last hard-faced bitches off sobbing aswell. The speeches are spot-on, always the scariest bit for me, but they are all done with genuine love and humour and good old belly-laughing throughout. The meal is divine and we dance like utter maniacs afterwards. If the tape of us punk-Morris-jiving to ’Don’t Stop Me Now’ ever comes to light I want it burned. A highpoint comes when almost every single person on the dancefloor seems to know all the words to ‘Ask’ by The Smiths and those who don’t look on visibly mystified by the drunken horde hugging one another and wailing ‘If it‘s not love then it‘s the Bomb that will bring us together!’ Brilliant. Gotta love a wedding and this was the best.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Friday 6th June

No work today so a glorious Friday morning lie-in, the height of decadence. Tear around the flat packing for Ben and Katy's wedding weekend then catch the tram up to Dane Road to Joffrey’s house. The tram is jam-packed at 2pm and we can’t work out why. Does nobody have a job? Anyway it’s a glorious day so armed with a bag of Murray Mints and a five CD set of the best of the Nineties, we hit the road, bound for the tiny fishing village of Ravenglass in Cumbria.

The CDs turn out to be less of a trip down memory lane and more like a turn on the memory rollercoaster. My god, the Nineties! My life from 12 to 22, and it seems like yesterday. Check out these corkers …

Even more hideous than you remember:

D:Ream – ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. Sounds precisely like the Blairite ‘smile-while-you-die’ singalong banality fest it was destined to become.

Crash Test Dummies – ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’. Even typing it makes me cross. Neil becomes hysterical during the ‘birthmarks all over her body’ verse. I mean, what?

Jimmy Nail – ‘Ain’t No Doubt’. Full-body cringe at the talky intro. Mid-Atlantic Geordie? I don’t think so. LOVED ‘Crocodile Shoes’ though! Woo!

Hepburn – ‘I Quit’. Eerily prescient title. Which Hepburn were they named after I wonder? Could it be this one?

The Lightning Seeds – ‘Lucky You’. Shit sandwich.

Plus forgotten nightmares …

Scarlet – ‘Independent Love Song’. Just why, dear?

Suggs – ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. If only he was. Unprovoked assault on a classic slice of Revolver.

Sounding completely brilliant:

Ini Kamoze – ‘Here Comes The Hotstepper’. This track sounds funkin’ amazing! I manage to strut whilst sitting down.

Shakespears Sister – ‘I Don’t Care’. Sounds so much more like The Cure than I ever realised. ‘Hot as any hottentot ...’ Genius.

Mark Morrison – ‘Return of the Mack’. Where had he even been? I can’t remember. He sings like a duck but it works. Quack.

Olive – ‘You’re Not Alone’. Sounding utterly out of step and futuristic amongst its peers. Those warped synths are complete mind control.

Kylie Minogue – ‘Put Yourself In My Place’. Smutty title. Turns out it’s my favourite ever Kylie song.

Plus forgotten gems ...

Len – ‘Steal My Sunshine’. Sounds just like Bran Van 3000. Wickedbad.

Sophie B. Hawkins – ‘Damn! I Wish I was Your Lover’. Neil puked when this came on but me and Joff were totally into it. ‘You’re the only shoe that fits, I can’t imagine I’ll grow out of it …’ Work it Hawkins.

A clear drive all the way to Ravenglass to find ourselves booked into the loveliest B&B in the world, the Rose Garth. Our window looks out onto the tidal flats which teem with plovers and gulls and crabs. We even get binoculars in the rooms so Neil and Joffrey are both in YOC heaven. We freshen up and take a walk through the landscaped woodlands. I panic slightly fearing Matthew has got us lost in a forest until it’s pointed out to me that the trees all have labels with their Latin names on. I don’t get out much, Platt Fields is remote for me.

We arrive in the grounds of the gorgeous Muncaster Castle to meet Ben and Katy and the rest of the wedding party for pre-do barbecue and beers. The castle is fairy-tale pretty, home to an owl sanctuary and allegedly full of ghosts and spirits. The views are astonishing and a wonderful summer’s evening is spent gassing, boozing and catching up with friends old and new. I go to bed drunk, happy, very excited about the next day’s festivities, with a touch of nerves just beginning to kick in, even though I don’t have to do anything except get dressed, turn up, sing ‘Jerusalem’ and drink. I’m dog-tired by the time I hit the pillow but I’d forgotten how quiet the countryside could be and I take forever to drift off to the deafening sounds of my own mind.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Thursday 5th June

Worked like a dog all day long, a dog that’s maybe fallen asleep on the porch, dreaming about chasing rabbits, that kind of dog. Then home for more work, this time The Novel. I’m in the middle of writing a complete and utter bitch at the moment who I adore but who’s on her way to a dose of life-changing comeuppance. I want the bitching to continue for a little while longer though. What a cow she is, I shall miss her.

Shower, change, hit the streets, lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat. Or just a cash machine with tenners left in it would be nice, one that isn’t surrounded by the living dead, i.e. paralytic post-exam students and heroin addicts. NatWest in Chinatown fails to meet either criteria but I use it anyway. The drunkest woman ever stands guard by it, she stinks bless her, points at me and shrieks, ‘You cheeky man!’ I am afraid but escape unscathed. By the way, does anybody else sing ‘NatWest Barclays Midlands Lloyds’ whenever they see a NatWest? I still do it! ‘NatWest! NatWest Barclays Midlands Lloyds! Black horse apocalypse! Death sanitised through credit!’ Love it.

I’m headed for the first night of Are Friends Eclectic?, a new monthly hosted by my dearest buddies Kirsty and Keith, late of Danse Macabre fame and general night owls and misfits about town. The venue is the basement of Retro Bar on Sackville Street and as I walk the full length of this queer street that bisects Canal Street I watch it change from tinted-window sleaze at The Thompsons Arms, which always strikes me as chicken-hawk central (could be the young rent sitting on the car park stairs outside), past the tang of chlorine at the sauna, past a gaggle of bears and beards outside The Rembrandt mingling with the drag queens traipsing up and down carrying signs for The View (is that what it’s called? - that nothing bar that used to Prague 5), plus all the other Village uniforms and the endless upfront, funky and uplifting house (gag) …

Down the far end though, in Retro, a genuine little queer event comes together over the course of a sweaty, cidery, punky night in this brilliant little spit and sawdust dive. It’s the same street but a world away and it feels magic and bad and sexy hiding down here getting pissed on a Thursday night with my mates. Vile Vile Creatures play a terrific set with their shit-hot new drummer Julia giving them a new lease of life while Jenny spits love and bile down her megaphone. Rod from Bollox shows up, plus we meet an ace face crowd of people of all sexualities here for the music the shits and the giggles.

The nights will all be themed and tonight’s opening event is Femme Night. Kirsty spins a fantastic mix of stuff. ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’, a gorgeous track by The Cookies which I’d never heard called ‘Girls Grow Up faster Than Boys’, ‘Gutless’ by Hole, The Slits, The Go-Gos, The Breeders, KD Lang, ‘Bette Davis Eyes’, Althea and Donna, Le Tigre, … More lager, more cider, new friends, love it. Can’t wait for the next one.

Soundtrack: The first Super Furry Animals album which still sounds brilliant as ever to me, plus Morrissey b-sides and 'Eiseger Wind' by LiLiPUT

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The crunch

You know what I miss? That kind of writing that begins: ‘I believe it was Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote …', or, ‘As I think Solzhenitsyn once said …’ Let’s be honest, you’re probably writing on a computer, just get online and look stuff up. Maybe these days we should begin: ‘I Google it was Kierkegaard who first posited …’ Having said all that, I do believe it was ee cummings who wrote, ‘I’m living so far beyond my means that we may be said to be living apart.’ I do hope it was him, I’ve been bandying this around for years now and I can’t remember for the life of me where I first heard it. No doubt it will turn out to be Dorothy Parker after all.

I digress. My means and I have been at odds for as long I’ve had them. And now a recession is on the horizon. Well, not so much on the horizon as lying in your bed, picking at your breakfast, pointing at your worn out shoes and laughing. On the news last night was a downhearted woman in Newcastle who has knocked ten grand off her house and still can’t shift it. Being a terminal renter myself I feel, ironically, some sense of security that a poor property market and ruthless interest rates won’t have me on the street. Many aren’t so lucky though, with their foolhardy 100% mortgages taken on in the heady days of boom. How far away they seem already.

Another woman lamented the downturn in ‘lifestyle’ she was having to endure. ‘We’re only using one car now, and as for groceries we’re cutting back on virtually everything. All luxuries. Even organic.’ ‘Are you fucking serious darlin’?’ said the interviewer. ‘Give me a fucking break.’ No he didn’t say that actually, but he, I and the nation were thinking it.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Crap things and great things about Manchester

I've become Woody Allen, constantly kvetching about Man/hattan/chester, threatening to leave, saying 'clubs are over', 'bars are over', 'gay is over', 'Manchester is over', 'I'm bored', 'I'm moving to London/Barcelona/New York/Cirencester'. Every now and then it's nice to do a little pro and con. here's what's currently floating my boat or getting my goat.

Crap things about Manchester

The buses: ‘You wait for ages and three come along at once’ is the least of your worries; how about they’re full of spliff smoke at eight in the morning, the driver talks to you like you’ve taken a crap in his till, pituitary cases are playing dubstep on their phones so loud that you can’t think … Taxi!

The vomit: ‘Ooh look, pink rice. Where did they order that from I wonder?’

Market Street: Perennial unfavourite. Where are you meant to walk exactly?

Street aggro: Yeah I AM looking at you, otherwise I’ll walk into you, won’t I?

It’s small: You’re just guaranteed to run into somebody you don’t wanna see when you’re at your absolute worst …

Great things about Manchester

Architecture: The Palace Hotel at night, Beetham Tower in the sun, red-brick terraces, Hulme Arch, London Road Fire Station, John Rylands library …

Sackville Park: The sun’s out, go to Olive, stock up on deli treats and Magners, sit in the park with your mates and imbibe the sweet afternoons away …

Spring onion fritters at Ho’s Bakery: They’re sweet, they’re salty, they kill hangovers in a single bite! Go Ho’s!

The boys: Out comes the sun and out too come those beautiful boys. Where are they hiding the rest of the year?

It’s small: You’re just guaranteed to run into somebody you know when you feel like a party …

Soundtrack: Urban Theory ‘Electroklash’ compilation which I bought aeons ago and rarely played. I’ve discovered the Royksopp mix of ‘Please Stay’ by Mekon featuring Marc Almond is the absolute shit. Repeat repeat repeat …

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Fit men blogs

You know those blogs that are just pages and pages of pictures of fit shirtless blokes? Yeah, I love those. But even I get bored after nineteen pictures of the same Versace cumbuckets or the pseudo-porn of Abercrombie & Felch. So, for one night only, let this be your totty blog of choice. Here, classic man-beauty triumphs over the usual three per cent body fat contractual obligations. These are the men that make me trip over myself and the very reason God made eyes etc.

Marlon Brando: The ripped white T-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire must surely have been the sexual litmus test of its day (see Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise generations later). Don’t refuse him, that’ll just make him angry …

Cary Grant: Rugged and a gentleman, is there anything better? Who else was built like such a brute yet played tender and awkward so heart-warmingly? Stills don’t do justice to his magnetism in motion. Clooney is proffered as a modern equivalent and though they share an ambiguous sexuality and a quiet manliness, Cary clearly has the swoon factor that gave Clooney the blueprint.

Rock Hudson: Another brute but this one a cad and ruthlessly sexy womaniser, on-screen only of course. He is quite simply textbook handsome. Could have been a Greek hero in another life. Looks like he could break a barrel with one hand.

Gene Kelly: The finest behind in the business of show. But forget that for a second and let the twinkle in his eyes work its magic. Could anyone have ever said no to him? And in a sailor suit, forget it …

Clive Owen: My old PC perpetually groaned under the weight of my unintentionally amassed gallery of Clive Owen images until I had to admit I had a problem and erased them all. Absence only makes the heart grow fonder though. The slightly oversized ears and boxer’s nose suggest a rogue turned respectable but with a streak just waiting to be tapped into. Suits do not look this good on anybody else.

Channing Tatum: I accidentally came … across this defiantly gorgeous, ridiculously named Yank in Dito Montiel’s A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. He’s a model turned actor of course and one of only two concessions I’m making to anyone born after 1965. Hopefully he’ll fall on hard times soon and can come round and scrub my floors.

They also served …

Joe Dallesandro

Paul Newman

Paul Simonon

James Dean

Ben Cohen

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Diary run-down, or 'How hard it is to write'

I need to break the back of this sodding novel. It’s on my mind all the time and I know I have it in me to finish, and I actually think it might be good. I have ideas coming at me unexpectedly like lovely little tennis balls to the face, but I have to work for a living, I have a boyfriend I like to see occasionally, I need to get to the gym at least a couple of times a week to help me sleep properly (and to keep said boyfriend), I live alone and the flat doesn’t clean itself missy, nor do the cupboards refresh themselves in the night. And on it goes …

The frustration of not being able to write when I want is beginning to send me doolally in fact. Right before I went on holiday I had whatever the opposite of writer’s block is. I even kept my first drafts virtually unchanged and that never happens. Of course the holiday disturbed my momentum (I’m so ungrateful) but I vowed to pick up the mantle on my return. But consider this for a week of how not to get any writing done: Saturday: return to UK from holiday – Sunday: unpack, open post, laundry, food shop, restore semblance of order to Mancunian life – Monday: spend time with important life partner – Tuesday: work, Pam Ann at The Lowry – Wednesday: work, dinner at Cornerhouse, Sex and the City opening night – Thursday: gym, anniversary meal – Friday: gym, housework, computer fatigue, exhaustion ­– Saturday: gym, birthday gift shopping, birthday party, meal and drinks for two very dear friends – Sunday: trembling hangover, the fear, the blues, uncreative slump, watch Family Guy and Footballer’s Wives DVDs – Monday: work, gym, see boyfriend (can’t write in his presence, he sits on the paper) – Tuesday: dinner with beloved Auntie Dee and Uncle John to show holiday pics and because I will miss Dee’s birthday at the weekend due to wedding (so no writing then either …) Do you see? One has a room of one’s own; when will one have time of one’s own to use it?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Three Chinese restaurants in one week

Failed to buy Neil a present on holiday, and having returned home with a very British craving for Chinese food, I treated us instead to a meal at Pacific. As it turned out I ended up eating in Chinatown three times in a week, very rare and extremely decadent. Here’s what I found:

What I ate: Vegetarian prawn dumplings, Quorn pieces in black bean sauce, seasonal veg with garlic sauce, egg fried rice, soft noodles and bean sprouts, Tsing Tao beers
What I paid: £29
A little pricier than most of Chinatown but that bit cooler and more stylish. Good user-friendly menu with ethos explained in the front. Bonus points for Quorn dishes and lovely seasonal sides, plus rarities like the prawn dumplings. No idea what’s in those. The waitress brought the steamed version when I’d asked for fried and when I tried to explain the mistake she hadn’t a clue what I was trying to say. Still, it tasted great. Good place for a date I would think.

China City
What I ate: Rainbow soup, mixed vegetarian dim sum platter, gluten sweet and sour duck, boiled rice, soft noodles with bean sprouts, Tsing Tao beer
What I paid: £18
Cheapest of the lot, full of cool Chinese teens and lovely staff. Soup was a bit uninspiring, doused with soy and pepper it was much improved, but you shouldn’t have to really. Oughtn’t to have strayed from my usual hot and sour but it did have the word ‘rainbow’ in it. Mixed platter was nice, lots of seaweed and particularly good Chinese samosas. Most people balk at the notion of gluten duck but I love it even though it’s probably killing me, and theirs was tasty. Generous portions too. This one’s on me.

Pan Asia
What I ate: Veggie sushi, crispy chilli veggie beef, soft noodles, Tiger beers
What I paid: £26
Classic work do venue, this time for my best mate Joffrey’s 30th though, and fave meal of the week for me, though a couple of other people found their dishes too salty. Generous portions again, next time I’ll split a main with someone and get soup and shared platter for starters. Bonus for offering sushi, and veggie sushi at that. The chilli beef dish is brand new to the menu and I thought was divine. I would normally stick with tofu and veg but I seem to have gone mad on meat substitutes this week, for whatever reason. My only gripe was they pushed Tiger beers on us and when we twigged it was a full quid dearer than other beers they took the drinks list away! Could just be paranoid. My favourite moment was when the waiter, in preparation for a surprise rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ replete with ice-cream and sparklers, whispered in Joff’s ear ‘Whose birthday is it?’ and Joff dourly replied ‘Mine’. Oops. Keep for special occasions.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Pam Ann at The Lowry

Ooh she’s got a filthy mouth on her! I think her fourth word was probably ‘cunt’. After the cringe fest that was Sandra Bernhard, Pam Ann was unstoppable hysterical joy at The Lowry. The garish vintage hostess frocks and dangerously hard hair-do are accessorised with a broad Aussie brogue and the lexicon of a navvie. We laughed from start to finish. Canal Street must have been a desert that night, every mo in the postcode appeared to be in attendance. My highlights were the excruciating audience interrogations (Pam: ‘What do you do for a living love?’ Man in audience: ‘I’m a filing clerk.’ Pam: ‘(pause) Wow, it’s so exciting just being here talking to you.’) and her re-edited version of Terror at 41,000 Feet where Pam accidentally gets drunk, doles out Ketamine to the passengers and calls the traumatised hostess a ‘cross-eyed bitch’.

At the climax of the show Pam invites representatives from all the airlines in the audience up onto the stage to compete with their very best PA announcements and campest airport strut. She has the utmost respect for the cut-glass professionalism of your Lufthansas and your British Airways, the ‘charter bitches’ on the other hand are virtually made to scrub the floors, and they love it. Such a good night, do not miss her again.

Pam on economy travel: ‘Okay front row, you’re my Business Class, next two rows you’re First Class. Okay, someone from Business Class, can you stand up for me, turn around, tell me what you can see. That’s right: POOR PEOPLE.’

Pam on the environment: ‘I’m sick of celebrities harping on about being green. ‘Oh, I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint, so I won’t be flying to New Zealand this year’. Well guess what, the plane’s going there anyway sweetheart, why not just get on the fuckin’ thing? And stay there.’

To woman in the audience: ‘Is that your husband? Is he gay? Oh really? Who bought the tickets for tonight? I think you two need to talk.

Mediterranean Spray

Graffiti on the Med ...

Ville franche






Sunday, 1 June 2008

Final Mediterranean memories

Reserved family seating unearthed at one of Pompeii's two amphitheatres:

Part of the surviving 'menu' at one of Pompeii's nineteen brothels (not bad for a city with only 25,000 inhabitants):

Plaster cast of suffocated dog, Pompeii:

Could I give up city living for this ... ?

Probably ...

Saying arriverderci to the Colisseum ...

... and to Rome.