Friday 28 December 2007

Some Seasonal Work

When I was a child my family went through a short period of going to a pantomime each Christmas, it didn’t that many years, but for that short while it was the only experience I had of live theatre as a child – it was a pale shadow of what live theatre can be. I can’t say the experience has scarred me for life or anything, but pantomime is not my favourite form of live theatre.

I’ve had a very seasonal short story published on the You Read Online Dot Com website, called Prince Charming. It is set around an amateur dramatic society’s production of Cinderella and focuses on Harriet, the woman playing Princess Charming. She finds this role eye-opening in many ways. The story can be found at: .

Please have a read of it, it’s only short, and leave your comments about it on the website.


Wednesday 5 December 2007

Based on a True Story

Many times I’ve met other writers who claim that their fiction is just that, fiction, that they never write from their own experience. I could never make that claim. So much of my life makes its way into my writing, even when I’m writing fantasy fiction, and my short story He Said To Me (corrected link: ) is no exception.

When I was a teenager I was an evangelical Christian, and in this environment I realized I’m gay. Even back then it was a deeply homophobic environment, simply being gay was an automatic sentence straight to hell and I believed in hell – fear of it would keep me awake at night. I received no positive gay images (This was before Queer as Folk) but I doubt my own self-loathing would have seen them as anything positive, so much did I believe what they told me. It was in this environment that I came across the Ex-Gay Movement, in the form of the British organisation The True Freedom Trust. The Ex-Gay Movement believes that someone Lesbian or gay can change their sexuality to heterosexual, be “cured”, by prayer, faith and a whole bag full of “quark” psychological therapies. The True Freedom Trust told me I was ideal material to be “cured” because I was young, a virgin and hated myself for being gay (my words). Two and a half years later I ran away from them and the evangelical church, no more straight then the next gay man but deeply screwed up by the whole experience (when my church found out I’m gay they tried to cast “daemons” out of me and then dropped me like a hot stone. The “counsellor” at the True Freedom Trust, when I told him what had happened to me, actually started to justify those people’s actions).

It took me over ten years to accept what had happened to me and to come to terms with it. I am now no longer that screwed up person but still hundreds of lesbians and gay men are being damaged by evangelical Christians using homophobia to try and “change” them.

There has been quite a lot written about the harm and damage the Ex-Gay Movement does but, with the short story He Said To Me, I wanted to write about how you build a positive self-image after leaving the Ex-Gay Movement. The focuses is on one gay man’s journey after he’s turned away from evangelical Christianity and all their homophobic crap. It’s not a pretty short story but it contains many of the themes very close to my heart.

Only today I read that American evangelical and rightwing Christians are putting pressure on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to accept faith-based “treatment” programs for lesbians and gay men as legitimate psychiatric therapies. They want their unproven quackery seen as mainstream treatments. Do they have no caring or compassion, I don’t know, but they do have a great ability to ignore the evidence.


Friday 30 November 2007

Sign, Sign, Sign

It’s all happening again.

Back in May there was a proposal to completely change the way HIV Prevention was delivered in London, to scrape the current multi-branch approach and replace it with a system was only designed to was waste money. Well, thanks to the public out cry, that wasn’t steam-rolled through and we still have an approach that is working. But not for long, it seems.

The latest funding proposal for HIV prevention serving gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) is to be only £1,145,960 (£1.1 million), that means there will be a cut in the money for HIV Prevention next year (the new funding will start in April 2008). This will work out at £7.64 a year for every MSM in London – that’s how much London PCT’s value MSM’s health. Back in April 1998 the funding was £2 million, so ten years later we’ve see a 55% reduction in HIV Prevention funding. This is a scandal, especially when we’ve actually seen a fall in HIV infections in London’s MSM – the opposite of the national trend.

But we don’t have to take this lying down. Firstly, there is a petition to the Prime Minister to oppose this, and we can sign it online at

Also we can write to our MP, which can be done online at , and tell them how much we oppose this.

We won back in May, we need to do this again. One voice, shouting on its own, can easily be ignored; many voices all speaking together will grab attention.


Thursday 1 November 2007

It’s Me Again.

I’ve finally found some time away from working (the non-creative world of audits) to do some writing of my own, and some of it is getting published.

I’ve had another very short story published on the Gay Flash Fiction website ( ). Its a very brief short story, called Once More With Feeling, about a man who find his lover is being unfaith but does behave in the expected way. Unfortunately, I can’t post a direct link to the short here, because of the format Gay Flash Fiction all the pages have the same address, if you go to the Stories Page of the website the story is about halfway down. Enjoy.

Nursing Times has accepted another of my comments pieces, which is due for publication in December, and Nursing Standard has commission me to do another book review.

I have also started to post articles on Shvoong website, which is like a showcase for free lance article writing. Editors can view abstracts of my articles and buy them if they want to publish them. I have one article already up on it ( ), so fingers crossed that can generate some more publishing chances.


Friday 12 October 2007

Doris Lessing Says It All…

"Oh Christ! ... I couldn't care less." Was Doris Lessing’s response yesterday, as she climbed out of a taxi returning home from a shopping trip, on being told she had won the Nobel Prize for literature. I laughed so much it caused me to have a coughing fit.

Back in the 1970s Doris Lessing was told, by an officious representative of the Nobel Committee, that she would “never” win the Nobel prize, so she put all thought of it out of her mind. She speculated, yesterday, that she had been told this because she’d written a series of science fiction novels, The Shikasta books. If this is true then the people who made that decision should hand their heads in shame. The Shikasta books were how I first started reading her work and how I discovered the wonderful writing of Doris Lessing. She has an amazing ability to examine the world around her with a razor sharp skill.

But, in the end, are literary prizes important? Doris Lessing has won almost every one of them there is to but if she had won none of them would that have made her any lesser of writer, I think not.

My school introduced a prize for creative writing, but I only heard of it when the winner was announced. You see, the only pupils that could enter it were the ones in the top stream for English, and I not being so was automatically barred from it. The girl who won it that first never won another word after she left school, until like me.

Most years, when they announce the short list and then the winner for the Booker Prize I am left with the feeling “Who picks these books?” They nominate books I would not want to read, let alone books I actually have read. It seems to being popular is an automatic bar to nomination, like not being in the top set for English.

I’m with Doris Lessing, "Oh Christ! ... I couldn't care less." I’d much rather people read what I wrote.


Thursday 27 September 2007

Work is The Curse…

Oscar Wilde said “Work is the curse of the drinking classes”, it is a typically flippant remark of his but sometimes I feel that work is the curse of my writing. In the last month or so I’ve been busy with my job, I’m an Audit Nurse, and it has left little room for anything else. My writing output has mostly been audit reports, a very dry and very unfulfilling activity. It has left me frustrated as hell.

I’ve still managed to keep up with writing my novel, a fantasy story about a boy searching for his missing mother through seven very different worlds. It’s my first real attempt at writing a novel, I feel I’ve waited far too long to start and I don’t know if it will be any good but I’ve got to keep on writing it. You see, its story has got right under my skin and I can’t stop thinking about it, working out the plot in my head, twisting and turning were my characters will go, it’s a kind of obsession but a good one.

This month will see the publication of an article I wrote, promoting testicular self-examination (sounds so exciting), for the British magazine Out in the City. The only thing is I don’t know exactly when it will be published; all they’ve told me is that it’s going to be in the September issue.

I certainly won’t let my blog be so silent for so long again, I’m not going to give up on this.


Thursday 16 August 2007

Publish and Be…

I’ve heard it said, so many times, that you can’t fight the bigots, you just have to ignore them and eventually they’ll go away. I don’t agree, I can’t agree because I’ve seen how effective it can be to stand-up to them.

Back in July 1997 I was a Staff Nurse, working on a hospital ward, and I was on a week’s Night Duty. The ward was very quiet at night, once the patients had gone to sleep, and the patients always gave us their unwanted newspapers to read – ninety percent of the time they were tabloids. I’d rather sell my soul then actually pay money for those awful rags that make-up the British tabloids, the thought that my money going to aiding them is too much for my morals; but if someone gives me one free that eases my conscience. As awful as they are those tabloids make for fascinating reading, their stance that there’s always someone to “blame”, a villain in every story, and the blunt and inflammatory language they use. Also, I was really bored on that Night Duty.

One night, during that airless week, I opened an unwanted copy of The Sun newspaper (One of the worst all the tabloids) and read an opinion article called “It is cruel to ‘gay’ kids try sex at 16” by Anne Atkins – a “professional” vicar’s wife and right-wing Christian.

The article stated “this is not opinion: it is fact” that gay men have a life expectancy of 43 years and are 17 times more likely to be paedophiles then heterosexuals. (This is as much a “fact” as saying unicorns live in the depths of English forests and dragons roam the Walsh hills) The sheer homophobia and lies of that short opinion piece was sickening. Every short paragraph of it contained the most appalling lies, all of them designed to whip up homophobia. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach reading it.

At the time, July 1997, there was a political push to equalise the age of consent for both gay men and heterosexuals – only a few years before the gay age of consent had been lowered from 21 to 18. Months before the parliamentary debate the right-wing were crying homophobia about it; the Evangical Christians quickly added their voices.

Anne Atkins was a vicar’s wife, former actress and very poor novelist. She’d risen to notoriety only the previous year by attacking the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), turning a two minute radio God-slot (for which she was a contributor) into homophobic propaganda – she actually claimed that accepting Lesbian & Gay Christians was causing the fall-off in the numbers of people coming forward to train as Anglican ministers, which was a lie. With this notoriety Atkins found the role of a life-time, she was the fluffy and blonde face of “Christian Morality”, her general persona was of “I’m only saying this because I care soooo much,” and it was completely untrue. Underneath she was just as bigoted, hypocritical, blinkered and truth-light as the rest of the Christian Right-Wing – trying to tell people how to live their lives without any regard to the realities of life. With Atkins there was one difference, she actually seemed to crave the fame her notoriety brought.

As I read and re-read that article I became more and more angry. In her short “career” up to that point Atkins had repeatedly used homophobia to keep her in the public eye, but this time she’d suppressed herself. This article oozed homophobia from every brief paragraph, but it was the lies there that were most shocking. Lies that painted gay men as diseased, corrupt and less then human. (Later I would find out that Atkins had based her article on a piece by Paul Cameron [I would never call the stuff Cameron produces as research, that would give it far more credit then it deserves] were he made the claims about gay men’s life expectancy and being paedophiles. Cameron’s work was no more then statistics with extreme prejudice, Cameron did not fulfil any of the requirements to measure life expectancy; all he did was a crude survey and then poured his prejudice on it. He made no attempt to reduce any of the biases in his survey. Atkins appeared to seize on this work without any attempt to analysis it) How much hate and fear must her little article have generated?

It was then I decided to do something about it.

In Britain we have the Press Complaints Commission, the body that oversees any complaints about newspapers. It is funded by the newspapers and rarely upholds the complaints it receives, it has always seemed to side with the newspapers; but complaining directly to The Sun newspaper would have been useless. So I got their Code of Practice and set about constructing my complaint. I wasn’t the only person who complained about Atkins’ article, they had a record number of complaints about it, though it still took them six months to reach their decision (!!).

I received my reply from the Press Complaints Commission on a Saturday morning, in late January 1998. Martin and I had recently started our relationship and that Saturday morning we were preparing to go out together but when I read the letter I actually jumped up and punched the air. They had found in our favour, they had found that Atkins’ article was not “factual” and she should never have claimed what she did. It was a victory, a wonderful victory for the truth. Rarely did the Press Complaints Commission uphold complaints but here it did, Atkins’ article had so blatantly breeched their Cod of Practice. The full decision can be read at:

I can’t say it was a glorious victory. Anne Atkins didn’t apology for her appalling article, she actually tried to paint herself as a victim in all of it, she claimed the article was re-written her a sub-editor and they had changed it (Anyone who’s had anything published knows that sub-editors do edit, often re-placing our over-writing, but never do they change the tone or emphasis). She never took responsibility for what she wrote. Atkins did claim, in the middle of all the negative publicity, that she would give up journalism to concentrate on novel writing – though this was as truthful as everything else she’d written because weeks later she was in another tabloid, using her usual homophobic tone to tell off George Michael. I certainly didn’t get any “right of reply”, though I’d have loved to have pointed out how Atkins had played fast and loose with the truth. But one important thing did come out of all of this; it stopped the rise of Anne Atkins as a moralist.

Atkins had seemed to be carving out a career as Moral Campaigner, the person who speaks out against society’s “ills”. Being found guilty by the Press Complaints Commission seemed to stop that and instead she was consigned to the bin of “Rent-a-Bigot” – dragged out to disapprove of something. I can’t claim to be responsible for this but I am sure that my fighting back helped towards it.

I would do it all again, too, even though it was a long and frustrating experience. Since I’ve started to write seriously, especially since I have been writing opinion pieces, I have found how careful and accurate you have to be; I’d never dream of being as ignorant, biased and plain slapdash as Atkins was. An opinion piece, by its nature, is an expression of the writer’s opinions but what it is based on has to be truthful, it has to be based on the truth.


Thursday 2 August 2007

One in Ten People

To mark the 25th anniversary of Terry Higgins’ death this year, one of the first people to die from AIDS in Britain, The Terrance Higgins Trust (Who bare his name) conducted a survey into people’s attitudes and knowledge around HIV & AIDS. 10% of those who took part thought HIV could be caught from sweat, 10% thought you can get it from kissing, 12% thought you can get it from sharing cutlery. 20% thought there’s a cure for AIDS.

When I read this I was shocked, all these beliefs are false but what was more shocking is that these are basic HIV/AIDS information, not rocket science, and should be widely known by now. We’ve had twenty-five years to get our message across, what the hell has gone wrong?

I turned my horror into an opinion piece for Nursing Times magazine (it was published two days ago), with the hope that others will feel the same way that I do. I can barely believe that our health information message has gone so wrong on HIV/AIDS. But HIV is no longer a “hot potato”, the media has long ago lost interest in it, and so such of our health information is in reaction to the latest media health-scare.

I am deeply saddened by this. So often we seem to be chasing behind bad information/rise in infection rates were HIV is concerned. We’ve had over twenty-five years and we are still not winning the fight against HIV, and it makes me feel sick.


Wednesday 1 August 2007

One of Those Moments.

While growing up the images of gay men I had were limited, at best. They basically came in two types, the sexless effeminate men (you couldn’t call them queens because they were so pathetic) or the self-hating and constantly apologising “hom-o-sexuals” (“oh please forgive me for being such a pervert”), and neither of them were remotely sexual. It was the 1970’s and it was no climate to try and develop a gay identity.

As I slipped into my teens I was desperate for any kind of gay images, anything that didn’t tell me gay was bad and unnatural. I couldn’t find it anywhere on television, if it was on radio it was hidden to me, and growing up in suburban Liverpool I had no access to the first shoots of British gay publishing – the newspapers I saw, if they ever mentioned it, only ran gays as “dirty pervert” stories.

On a cold Friday night in 1981 it all finally changed. My parents were out and I had the house to myself, so I sat down to watch the television the whole night – as a teenager I was practically addicted to it. I was watching Channel 4 (back then it was still new and still broadcasting programs aimed at “minorities”, programs aimed at groups no other channel would bother with; it hadn’t turned into the Reality TV and imported programs channel it is now), it was broadcasting the first Secret Policeman’s Ball that night. In the middle of all that Oxbridge humour Tom Robinson came on and, accompanying himself on a guitar, sang Glad To Be Gay. It was like a new world opening up for me.

Gay To Be Gay was never an anthem of pride, it was always a protest song against homophobia, yet it was the first time I ever heard someone publicly stand-up for being gay, it was the first positive image of being gay I had seen and it was wonderful. Here was a gay man who was unapologetically standing up for being gay, who was saying the problem was with society’s homophobia and not with his sexuality, and he was attractive.

For two minutes I watched almost breathlessly, this wonderful moment of basking it such a positive gay image, then it was over and the Oxbridge comedy continued.

At the time I never told anyone else about what I’d seen that night. I could barely accept that I was gay, back then, I could never have admitted to seeing and let alone enjoying Tom Robinson’s performance; but I never ever forgot it.

Several years later I saw Tom Robinson live, on a very wet Sunday evening in Southport’s Floral Hall (Southport is God’s Waiting Room on the Irish Sea). Live his performance was even better, he sang all the sang of his I’d grown to love in those few years (that moment on television had made me a life long fan), and when he sang Glad To Be Gay I happily sang along too – as did the rest of the audience.

Many years later I actually met Tom Robinson. It was in Trafalgar Square, London, for a World Aids rally. He was comparing and singing at it, I was a volunteer there. I physically met him and shuck his hand, he was handsome and charming as I remember from seeing him on stage. But I never told him about seeing him television, back in 1981, and what it had meant to me; well you don’t, do you…


Friday 20 July 2007

Give Me A Subject Between 1 & 10

A couple of days ago I was accused of having no opinions. I’ve been accused of many things, often not true (I’m far more boring then people accuse me of), but never that. Many times I’ve been accused of being over-opinionated, as if you can have too many opinions. Certainly anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m never short of them.

Recently, I’ve started to write opinion pieces for Nursing Times, the other weekly nursing publication in Britain, and they’re not the easiest of things to write. Obviously you start with a subject, something you want to write about, my first one that was published (at the beginning of this month) was on what action is being taken against people who attack healthcare staff – in Britain it seems to be none. But it is so easy then just to fire off all your personal prejudices. “I think anyone who attacks healthcare staff should be shot,” kind of thing. I see that all the time in tabloids when C-List celebrities have columns and all they do is use it as a rant. I tried to make my opinion piece a spotlight on the subject, set out my standpoint and then challenge readers over it, was it fair that those who attack healthcare workers are rarely prosecuted. Well it seemed to work because Nursing Times published it and they’ve accepted for publication a second one I wrote. Does this mean a new career opening, God I hope so.

My last blog was about my personal experience of the July 7th London bombings. I hope I didn’t come across as a victim, God knows that I’m not. But I did want to show how terrorism affects so many lives, people far beyond those poor souls who were physically injured by the attacks; I also wanted to show that we can’t spot a terrorist just by the way they look, because so often they look like everyone else around us.


Friday 13 July 2007

One of The Worst Days…

Thursday, twenty-ninth of July, two thousand and five. London felt as if it had been living on its nerves for weeks. You could feel the tension in the air, and the hot weather only increased it. We were living in West London, North Kensington (I always told people I lived at Ladbroke Grove – it always had a move cosmopolitan sound to it), and I had spent that morning shopping in nearby Sheppard’s Bush.

On the seventh of July, that year, the unthinkable had happened; London had been hit by suicide bombers. London had been the victim of terrorist bombing before, in the nineteen-seventies it seemed as if the IRA had tried to bomb the heart out of London, but never before had there been suicide bombers. Suicide bombers hold a different and previously unknown terror for us. They so deeply believe in their cause and that they are right that they’ll die for it. That was something new and threatening to us, fanatical terrorists willing to die, and something very difficult to stop.

Four suicide bombers blow themselves up at the height of the London rush hour, three on different tube trains and one on a bus, killing 52 people and injuring countless others. This left London emotionally shaken, thousands and thousands of people who weren’t directly involved were left stunned and shell-shocked – myself included.

Two weeks later there was another attack on the London transport network, but this time London’s luck held. The four suicide bombers failed, their bombs went off but all they managed were loud bangs and lots of mess, and these bombers fled. One of them, as he fled from the attempt to bomb a tube train at Sheppard’s Bush, dumped an unexploded bomb in the small park at the end of my then street. We actually drove past were the unexploded bomb was left, only a couple of hours before was found – two days after those failed attacks. But the worst came on Thursday 29th July 2007.

That day I had been shopping and was returning home, at twelve-thirty, as usual I had got off the bus on Ladbroke Grove and was walking the five minutes up the road to our flat. As I turned the corner I saw the end of my road sealed off by the police, red police tap stretched right across the road and there was a large number of police there – many of them armed. I went up to one of the police officers and asked him what was happening, saying I needed to get home, he just replied that there was a “terrorist incident” and they were not letting anyone through. Moments later there was a very loud bang and the police pushed everyone right back. It was then that I was gripped by fear, real and very sharp fear. I’ve never been so afraid and so lost at the same moment. I was stood on the street, all hell breaking loss around me, and my main safe-haven, my home, was barred to me.

That afternoon and early evening was spent in a fog of shock and disbelieve. At the time I worked just around the corner from were I lived and so I went into work, though off duty, because it was the only safe place I could think of. Fortunately for me, our Mental Health Lead Nurse, Mary Murphy, was on duty. She was brilliant and just talked with me, helped to calm me, as much as I could on that strange day. Martin, my partner, rush back and seeing him was a deep relief. Just being with him was a step back to normality, as much as we could. Martin and I spent most the afternoon and early evening just wondering around our area of West London. Our comfort zone of our home was barred to us, so we walked slowly down to Sheppard’s Bush, were I had been only that morning.

Those hours we spent in limbo, before we could finally be let back into our flat, were a strange and listless time. In the area around our home everyone seemed know that there was something going on involving terrorists, everyone seemed to be on edge about it, but the further away we walked the less people seemed aware of it. At Sheppard’s Bush we sat in a pub for a few hours, killing time, and so many people around us seemed so unaware of what had happened. I wanted to shout at them that there were terrorists just up the road, that there were terrorists on our very doorstep.

One of the worst parts of it, those hours we spent wondering around, while we couldn’t be get into our home, was not knowing what was going on. All we knew was that it was a “terrorist incident”, there was police everywhere, sealing off the area around our then home and that I had heard an explosion. We had no access to the internet and everywhere we went nowhere had the news on, we were lost for information. In our twenty-four hour news culture, that day Martin and I were cut off from it. It was after seven o’clock, as we made our way back to our flat, that I found out the bare bones of what had happened. My friend Andrew called me to see if we were all right and I found out that two suspected terrorists had been arrested.

It was only when we were finally allowed back into our home that we were able to piece together what had happened. Two men, suspected of taking part in the failed attacks the week before, had been arrested. The explosion I’d heard was the police throwing smoke bombs into the flat to flush out the men. They were the men whose image, of them surrendering to the police dressed only in their underwear with their arms raised in the air, was shown around the world. The worst element was that those men had been living in the next block of flats to our own; they had been living just down the street from us. Martin recognised them, he had seen them at our local bus stop, I’d been in our local shop at the same time as them, they had been living along side of us. Terrorists had been living less then a hundred meters from our very home.

I found it difficult to relax after that, for many days. Every time I heard a police or ambulance siren I’d physically jump, my nerves pulled on edge. Every time I was outside, especially when I was on public transport, I would find myself staring at people and wondering if they too were terrorists, it didn’t matter what their race or gender was. Every time there was a mention of the arrests on the media, in the days after you couldn’t avoid it, I’d find myself physically tense up. I was physically unharmed by it all but I just could not relax, for days and days.

Four days ago the trail of those two men, and the other four men involved in those failed attacks, ended, though two of the defends the jury failed to reach verdicts on and so there’ll be a re-trail ( ). The two men who arrested on Thursday 29th July 2007 were found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of forty years in prison.

The experience has left a deep impression on me, one I’ll never forget, I feel less safe here in the city that I love. I’ve moved away from North Kensington, there have been no further suicide bombings in London, and I’m no longer tensing every time I hear a police siren, but I no longer feel that comfortable safeness I once felt here in London, though I certainly have no plans to leave this city.

Hollywood and television would like to give us the impression that terrorists are evil and mad, you can easily spot them by their evil stare, but in reality terrorist are just ordinary people, living ordinary lives but, for whatever reason, have extraordinary and very dangerous believes. A terrorist can look like anyone else, I know because I’ve stood at a bus stop and waited to be served in a local shop with terrorists and I never knew it.


Monday 9 July 2007

Based On A True Story

Last week I had an article published in Nursing Standard magazine, I seem to be getting a regular with them. This one was basically advice to nurses who have received notices telling them that their jobs are “at risk” – i.e. they’re at risk of being made redundant. It is quite a horrible thought; I live in a society that actually makes nurses redundant.

This article first started life when I worked for NHS Direct. Last year they had a “Consultation Period” when they were threatening staff with redundancy because they had over-estimated their budget (Of course the Senior Management who made the mistakes weren’t being threatened with redundancy). My colleagues were stressed out of their minds and no one knew exactly what redundancy entailed – we were NHS staff and traditionally the NHS has been short of staff, not having too many and making them redundant. During that period I learnt a lot about redundancy. I was not the only nurse to live that nightmare. I since turned that experience into an article for Nursing Standard magazine.

It’s not the best experience to write about but nurses are still facing the threat of redundancy, they shouldn’t be left without any support. I was also able to get a mention in it to my friend Sally’s website ( ), she’s an excellent Life Coach and she deserves all the publicity she can get.


Friday 22 June 2007

The Joy of Live Theatre

There’s still something magical about life theatre. The performance is happening there and then right in front of us. Unlike films or television, there are no cut-a-ways or re-takes for fluffed lines. The performance is there in a hundred percent reality. The actor’s performance is there before us, all the nuance and emotions are there in the flesh, even if they’re just sitting still they are still performing, there is a live connection with the audience. There is nothing quite like it.

Last Saturday night we went to Tim Miller perform his latest one-man performance piece 1001 Beds, and it was as electric and gripping as all the other performances of his we have seen. The phrase “performance piece” puts so many people off, visions of obscure theatre were everything has “meaning” but only those “in-the-know” understand it, leaving the rest of us bewildered and bored. Tim Miller’s performance pieces are anything but this. His pieces are built up from a combination of his memories and own experiences, political observations (especially around American politics) and amazing flights of fantasy.

1001 Beds takes its starting point and title from the fact that, as a performance artist, he travels a lot and has slept in so many different hotel beds. At first it is a light-hearted look at the strange world of hotels and hotel rooms. But soon he moved onto his own intermit experiences of hotel rooms, especially the first night he spent with his lover Alistair in a London hotel room in 1994. The piece ends with a glorious fantasy about the end of Bush’s presidency.

Tim Miller’s performances are always passionate and full of energy, one single man filling the whole stage available to him. 1001 Beds was no different, with the occasional use of a microphone, he filled the whole of the huge barn-like stage at the Drill Hall Theatre. He even managed to form an intermit bond with us the audience, as we sat there in the semi-dark. When he talked of that first night with his lover Alistair, in that tatty London hotel, his own face was light-up with both love and passion.

The joy of any Tim Miller performance is the passion and energy he always fills them with। 1001 Beds was no disappointment either.


Thursday 7 June 2007

Sometimes Things Do Happen

On 22nd May I blogged about the proposed changes to the way HIV Prevention is delivered to gay men in London (Not So Gay Health), yesterday I found out there has been some interesting developments. The plans that would completely destroy HIV Prevention have been put on hold. There will now be a review of these proposals with a public consultation.

The commissioners agreed that any new commissioning intentions will be: based on analysis of current services, consult with HIV Prevention Organisations, comply with statutory obligations and be overviewed.

The Compact Advocacy Programme at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) have said that these proposals (The unbelievably bad idea of “Health Interviews”) have broken various codes of the Compact Agreement between government and the voluntary sector because they tried to push them through very quickly and with virtually no consultation. An NHS spokesman has said that the commissioners will continue to fund the existing services whilst a new consultation is held.

Full details of the Commissioning Intentions and Public Consultation can be found at

I read this with a sigh of relief; somebody had actually stopped and took a look at what was happening. The proposal is still on the table but there is now a level playing field and the extremely good work that has gone before will not be ignored. We now stand a good chance of saving our services. It isn’t over but I’m going to ignore it.


Monday 4 June 2007

Review Me, Review You.

I have had another review published, again in the Nursing Standard. This one was of a book about the motivations of male clients of prostitutes. It might not sound the most exciting of reads but this review was easy to write. The book was interesting and well written and the authors’ research, which formed the back-bone of the book, was intelligent and well constructed. It was an easy review because I was able to honestly recommend it.

The problem comes when I am given something bad to review, which happened recently. The publications I write reviews for don’t want those bitchy, “this is crap and I wasted my time reading it” reviews. So I had to write a balanced review but still pointing out the flaws of it; I had to shape my arguments in a way that, I hoped, would warn people off this piece of crap – without saying crap. It’s the bad reviews that I find so hard, the reviews of books that are so bad that I just want to scream “Don’t read this rubbish! It’ll rot your brain!”

There is certainly an art to writing reviews, to summing up something in only a few hundred words, backing up your recommendations and balancing your argument so that it doesn’t sound too gushing or too negative; and I feel that I’m just learning how to do so.

Saying all that, I hate those reviews (often find online and/or in newspapers) were the reviewer wants to show off how clever they are, “I can rip this to shreds so easily”, and waste the review doing so without exactly telling us anything about what they’re reviewing। I see this a lot in film reviews. I read the review and at the end of it I still don’t know what the film is about, though I now know what the reviewer feels about the director and how in love they are with the leading actress/actor.

Drew Payne

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Not So Gay Health

We are only beginning to take the health needs of gay men seriously, in resent years, and our health service has just begun to resource it. In London we have been extremely fortunate, since 2001 we have had London Gay Men’s HIV Prevention Programme, a health programme that works across all London boroughs to target Gay Men’s HIV needs, it has used different routes to get its message across. These have included leafleting gay venues, media adverts, publications, health workshops and specific campaigns. Well, now all this good work is in danger.

There is a proposal that will completely change how health promotion is delivered to gay men, a proposal that will STOP all the good work that is now being done and replace it with a strategy that is almost guaranteed to fail before it has begun.

It is proposed that the ONLY health intervention for gay men in London will be health interviews. It is intended that every gay will have a one-to-one interview, were their health and sexual activity will be record, they will then be “advised” on safer-sex issue. These interviews will not conducted by healthcare professional but by volunteers, recruited from men who have previously been interviewed.

There will be not leaflets, media adverts, campaigns or publications, only these interviews.

The intention is that 100% of gay men in London will interviewed, anyone who has taken part in any research study will tell that getting 50% response is a near miracle – a 100% is impossible. They carried out a pilot study for this proposal in Greenwich, it cost £50,000 and only 8 men came forward and took part.

The information from the interview will be recorded and can be used by other agencies, surely that is enough to put off a lot of men from coming forward. Even here in London, there are a lot of gay men who are not open or able to be open about their sexuality. The present approach, of different methods of delivery of the information, can reach these men because they don’t have to come out to access it. This safety net will be gone if this proposal goes forward.

This proposal will set back Gay Men’s Health to the last century, all the good work that has been done since 2001 will be lost.

You can read the full proposal at:

Please, please email your MP and ask them to raise questions about this crazy proposal in Parliament, we need to stop this before it destroys gay men’s access to good Health Promotion. If you don’t know who your MP is you can find out at:

If you want a draft letter to send to your MP just let me know, I can let you have a copy of one a friend at GMFA has already drawn up.

Please help out with this very important issue.


Thursday 17 May 2007

Come and See

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this but blogs can be very addictive, checking out other people’s profiles, reading other people’s blogs, watching all those videos. Well, I’m not the only person in our household who’s addicted to blogs, I’ve got my partner Martin into it.

He’s a very good photographer, well I think so, he’s been taking them for several years now and the quality of them has certainly improved. He has an eye for framing a picture, for capturing an interesting image from the ordinary things we encounter. He’s started a MySpace profile as a showcase for his photography. I’ve included one of his pictures with this blog (See right).

Please check out his profile, , and the pictures he’s already posted there, .


Tuesday 15 May 2007

It’s All Swings and Roundabouts

Sometimes it all feels like swings and roundabouts, something good happens and then it’s knocked back by something bad (or just not good). Call it Karma, call it Natural Law, call it “Oh, great…” but it does seem to happen a lot.

Yesterday I had an article accepted for publication and inside twelve hours later I was told that a short story, I sent to a different publication, had been rejected. So often the negative can knock the shine off something positive, but I have to hold onto the positive otherwise I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.

The positive is that Nursing Standard have accepted the article I sent to them, they accepted it with almost no changes needed (some publications change what I write so much you’d never guess that I had written it). Good old Nursing Standard have been so good to me. The down side is the subject of the article, it is an advice article for nurses who are looking at redundancy. Nurses are now being made redundant, what is our society coming to? There is a shortage of nurses in this country, we haven’t been training enough nurses for years and we actually recruit (poach) them from other countries, and now nurses are being made redundant. And the government tries to tell us that the Health Service is the best it has ever been, all I’m feeling is déjà vu because this was happening fifteen years ago.


Friday 11 May 2007

Mr Brown Is Coming To Town.

Yesterday Tony Blair finally announced the date when he will step down as Prime Minister, 27th June 2007. This has run and run far longer then must soap opera story lines, Blair announced that he would step down months ago but refused to name the date so everything has been up in the air. Well, finally all the speculation is over and it all feels like such an anti-climax.

I voted for Labour, in 1997, when this government was first elected and back then it actually felt like something different was happening. We had a new Government, a big change from the Tories who’d been in power for so long they’d grown arrogant and corrupt with power. It was as if we actually had the chance to turn back the huge social divide that the Tories had fostered.

Its ten years later and Tony Blair & Labour have been in power continually since then, but I can’t say that Britain is a wonderfully better place for it. Labour has done a lot of good, we now have previously undreamed of gay rights in this country. When I was coming out, back in the dark 1980’s, I would never have imagined that we’d have anything like Civil Partnerships or the protections we now enjoy. They also passed the Human Rights Act, finally giving us rights under the law. But homophobia is still a big problem, we are seeing the rise of the far right and the Christian right. Trying to find a home is still a nightmare, there is still a chronic shortage of affordable housing – especially here in London. Labour is now marred in the sandals and in-fighting that marked the Tories last years in office – power does corrupt.

When Tony Blair was first elected I was an NHS Ward Nurse and there was a big hope that the NHS was going to get the resources and respect that it was crying out for. At first, there were some good chances, NHS Walk-In Centres and NHS Direct were new and radical yet greatly needed, but soon things swung in the opposite direction. We were given league tables that pitched hospitals against each other for funding, the same as the Tories did the Internal Market, yet none of the disastrous changes the Tories brought in have been corrected. Now we have sight of hospitals massively in debt, wards and units closing and nurses being made redundant – something I thought we’d never seen again when the Tories lost power.

Tony Blair’s legacy will certainly be the war in Iraq, whether you agreed with it or not it has proved a terrible disaster, but I think his legacy should be something else. Tony Blair has managed to move politics in this country, instead of having Labour on the left wing and the Tories on the right wing; we now have two centre parties, two parties only slightly apart. Ten years of Tony Blair and now we can barely tell the different between Labour and the Tories.

What will happen with Gordon Brown?


Thursday 10 May 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy.

I’ve been kept busy, this last week, writing. It is amazing what a new injection of life my creative energies have received since we moved here, not least to say how easy it is to write now that I have the space to do so. I now spend several hours a day writing. This week alone I have sent off ten short stories and articles to different publications. Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing back from them. Now begins that awful waiting game, which can go on for months, as I am at the mercy of ten different editors. I wish there was a quick way to do this but, in general, editors seem to take an age to decide anything and even longer to tell you.

I’ve also been busy writing for Nursing Standard. I’ve finished one review (the book was crap and very prejudiced which made writing the review bloody hard, I just wanted to put “Don’t read this rubbish!”), am preparing an article to submit to them and am about to start another book review for them (hopefully this book looks a lot more interesting).

I continue to write Flash Fiction and am getting some very positive feedback from that. I’m putting together three Flash Fiction stories to submit for an anthology, so here’s fingers crossed over that.

Here are links to some previous pieces I’ve had published by Nursing Standard.

This is the editorial I wrote, for Lesbian & Gay History Month, the first time I was guest editor:

This is one of the articles I’ve had published in their Careers section, it is about career progression:

Here’s a listing of some of the other articles I’ve had published with them:


Thursday 3 May 2007

Under The Radar.

Yesterday, 1st May 2007, The Equality Bill came into law, here in Britain. It makes illegal to refuse to offer anyone a public service on grounds of their sexuality. Therefore anyone providing a public service (not just the Public Sector, but anyone, whether they’re a shopkeeper, hotelier, running any sort of business that looks to the general public as costumers) can not turn someone away because of their sexuality. But if you had been following the media you’d never knew because there was barely a whisper about it being finally passed into law.

Earlier this year we saw the ugly sight of the Church of England, the Catholic Church and almost every other Christian group in the country opposing this bill. They claimed (untruthfully) that this bill was prejudiced against them (Sic!) because it gave equal rights to Lesbians and Gay Men. They wanted the right to carry on using their traditional homophobia, as if this was “right” and equality for Lesbians and Gay Men was “wrong”. Well, all the emotional blackmail and downright lies of these religious groups came to nothing and the Equality Bill is now law.

I have this to say to all those Christians who predicted that the Equality Bill would destroy our society, it has been law for one whole day and I see no cracks appearing in our society...


Be Healthy and Eat Right.

The latest edition of FS Magazine is out ( ), and is also available for download as a PDF file. If you turn to page 26 you’ll find “Keep Your Balance”, an article by me about eating a Balanced Diet and what exactly that is.

FS Magazine is a health magazine, in the vein of Men’s Health and those sort of publications, but aimed at gay men. It’s given away free all over London, but can also be downloaded from the above link. Its editorial line is that gay men need a good quality advice on all aspects of their lives, not just the single subject of safer sex. That’s not to say safer sex and HIV/AIDS prevention are ignored, but that’s only one part of gay men’s health needs. FS Magazine covers everything from relationships to sport, from sex to healthy living and everything in-between. It’s an approach that I, as a nurse, fully agree with.

I’ve been writing for FS Magazine for two years now and have found it one of the best and beneficial writing experience so far. In that time I have learnt how to put an article together and how to pitch it for a targeted readership, I’ve also learnt how to get my information across without sounding patronising or talking down to the readers – a lesson worth its weight in gold. Cary James, FS Magazine’s editor, has been a great help and encouragement to me. He’s the type of editor who supports a writer, not the type who sends out two line rejections that give no hints on how a piece can be improved.

I first meet Cary many years ago when he was editor of The Pink Paper and interviewed me about my experiences, as a teenager, of the ex-gay movement. Now he’s an editor I writer regularly for. I find it strange and fascinating how people seem to come around in circles in my life. I meet them, some times only once, loss touch and then years later I meet into them again. For me, the world can seem a very small place.


Wednesday 25 April 2007

If I Believed in Conspiracy Theories?

Again we’ve been without the internet for nearly five days, this time we were also without the telephone, and it has been a nightmare. If I believed in conspiracy theories I’d say they were out to get us (does this make me sound like I’m off my medication?), but I don’t believe in them. I do believe that our telephone provider is incompetent and couldn’t organise the flushing of a toilet.

I do miss the internet when it isn’t there. When I’ve got access without a problem I almost take it for granted, it’s just there and ready for whenever I need it. When it’s not there it’s almost a nightmare, gone are my emails and I can’t access websites I need to. When it’s not there it is like a dark hole has appeared and I can nothing about it. I’m so glad its back.

I don’t have any new publication news; I am still waiting to hear about so many different pieces and approaches I’ve made. It’s the Waiting Game and this is the part I hate the most. I am so much at the mercy of others; will they like my writing, will they publish my piece, will I even get a reply? I know the thrill of publication is great, and wipes away so many bad memories, but this soulless waiting seems to just drag upon my hands.

At the moment I am busy writing two book reviews, of nursing text books, and continuing to work upon my novel. The book reviews are not difficult, they just require me to be concise (something that I’m not always known for), and I do get to keep the books at the end of it. My novel is my pride and joy. It is a fantasy story about a boy who can travel between different worlds, as he searches for his missing mother. I have found myself getting more and more drawn into the plot, characters and worlds of this story; I have also found that a fantasy setting gives me far more freedom to write about subjects that interest me. I can write about the trails of growing-up, being an outsider, trying to find your identity in life and the relationship between and parent and child. I can also fill the story with lesbian and gay characters, and other outsiders. It’s a genre I almost stumbled across and yet I am finding so much freedom in it. This is also my first novel and just finishing it will be a triumph.


Tuesday 17 April 2007

Gay’s The Word.

In summer 1986, on a blisteringly hot day, I paid my first visit to Gay’s The Word bookshop, in Bloomsbury, London. It was like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave of books. Though small, everywhere seemed crammed full of books, every wall was covered in floor to ceiling shelves and every inch of those shelves had books on them. But those books were something else, these were all Lesbian and Gay related books, novels and non-fiction and everything else in between. There were so many books there that I had only ever heard of but had never seen for sale anywhere else before. Back then there was no internet to buy books off, mainstream bookshops didn’t have Lesbian and Gay sections and unless it was a bestseller (which wasn’t often) didn’t even stock Lesbian and Gay titles. Here, at Gay’s The Word, were all those books and magazines I’d had no other access to, books and magazines dealing with so many different aspects of gay life, books and magazines that were my education into gay life.

That first time I visited them I was only on a day trip down to London, I would return to Liverpool and an almost desert of gay literature. When I did move down to London, shortly later, I became a regular visitor to Gay’s The Word. It was my source of so much information and were I could buy so many books I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Times have changed and so have our book buying habits, we buy far more books from the internet, and that has had an effect on Gay’s The Word. Now, due to rising rents, Gay’s The Word faces a financial crisis, they could actually close. We need to support this bookshop because if we lose it, we lose it for good and such a wonderful resource has gone forever.

What can we do?

Well, buy something from it. Gay’s The Word still has an amazing stock, many books that are so difficult to get anywhere else. You do not have to go to Bloomsbury, they sell a lot online or over the telephone.

They have also introduced a scheme were by you can buy a shelf in the shop, thereby actually sponsoring Gay’s The Word.

There’s so much we can do to stop the closure of this wonderful shop.

More details can be found at the website:


Monday 16 April 2007

Another Blast From The Past.

Last year I had a short story, Things You See in the Dark, published in Chroma #4, Spring-Summer 2006. Chroma is Britain’s leading Lesbian and Gay Literary magazine, it’s one of Britain’s few Lesbian and Gay Literary magazines. It was a privilege to get one of my stories in it. I wrote Things You See in the Dark especially for them. I saw that they were looking for pieces for an edition themed around the cinema, I’d had the idea for Things You See in the Dark for ages, so over a mad weekend I just sat down and wrote it. The story is about a man growing up in suburban Liverpool and the influences the portrayal of gay men in films has upon him; firstly the negative and homophobia images from Hollywood films, then the moment of revelation when he sees a positive and honest portrayal of a gay relationship – in the film My Beautiful Laundrette. I sent it off to Chroma and then thought little of it. With writing there’s far more rejection, or total silence from publication I submit work to, then anything so I try not to get my hopes up – beyond that point is madness.

When they said they wanted to publish Things You See in the Dark I was over the moon, a literary magazine of their standard actually wanted to publish something I’d written, it was amazing. Shaun Levin, Chroma’s editor, worked with me to re-write Things You See in the Dark and to knock it into shape. That was also something new to me. Prior to this I’d had so little feedback from editors, mostly it was just them telling me my writing wasn’t their “style” or wasn’t what they were looking for – without any indication how I could write something that they were looking for. Shaun was a great support, helping me to rein back my tendency to over-write and to get to the heart of the story. Good editors are worth their weight in gold and can so help a writer make their work shine; it’s such a shame that I’ve met so few of them so far.

Chroma had a launch for that issue and followed it with several readings to promote it. I read from my story at both the launch and at a reading in one of London’s largest bookshops. I’d never read from my own work like that before, at a public event were people had come only to hear authors reading. I’ve taken teaching session to all sizes of groups, I’ve given speeches on more then one occasion, often to large audiences, and I was never so nervous as when I read at those two Chroma events. Suddenly I was there, in front of all those people, and reading something that I had written, all my own work. It was scary and exciting at the same time, when it was over it was so humbling because those people there had been listening to my words.

At the end of the day, I’m still very proud of Things You See in the Dark, as a story it works well and I like what it has to say for itself, that films have a great power behind them, especially their negative images.

Link to this edition of Chroma:[1]/4514793029?version=long


Wednesday 11 April 2007

Breaking My Silence.

I haven’t posted anything for weeks now and that has simply been because of our move. We had the usual chaos that comes with moving home, we’re living out of hundreds of boxes, we’re still having large problems finding things (we’re playing the guessing game of “Now Which Box Could It Be In?”) and we’re painfully short of furniture (this is what happens when you move from a flat to a house). The worse problem was that we had no internet for so long. It seemed that a “block” was put on our telephone line stopping us getting internet access; they said that this “block” was because the people who lived here before us had cancelled their internet connect and the “block” was while their connect was cancelled – strangest thing was this was going to takes weeks to be removed until I threaten the telephone company with complaints and the “block” was removed in five minutes. This “block” was a nightmare, I didn’t realise how much I use the internet until it wasn’t available. Well, now we’re finally connected and I’m back in the 21st Century.

Our new home means that I now have an office to write in (well one corner of the front bedroom), which at the moment I share with a lot of boxes. Since we moved here my writing has been really invigorated, I’m certainly writing more, so hopefully I’ll have more news about pieces I’ve had or will have published. It’s certainly a pleasure to have somewhere were I can simply come and write.

Recently I had a flash fiction short story (a short story under 1,000 words) published on Gay Flash Fiction online journal ( It is called Those Moments and is about a man (the narrator) at his father’s funeral and looking back at his relationship with his father, their relationship right at the end of the father’s life. It’s one of my usual happy little tails. It also deals with a theme I have always been interested in, the relationship between fathers and sons. It seems such a basic and natural relationship, yet it is often such a difficult and complex one.

Unfortunately I can’t give a direct link to Those Moments, because of the way the website has been created all the pages have the same web address. If you to Gay Flash Fiction, click on the link to Stories then the link to Those Moments is listed there.


Friday 16 March 2007

A Room of One’s Own, as Virginia Wolfe said.

It was Virginia Wolfe who said it was important to have a room of our own, I would add that a home of our own is equally as important.

The flat we lived in, here in Notting Hill in West London, was my first real home, twelve years ago now. Before moving here I lived in shared flats and rooms in Nurses’ Homes, none of them ever felt like my real home, they were merely places I lived in. Moving here, at the time changed my life and finally gave me my first real home, a place I could leave my mark upon and shape to my life. It has certainly given me a stability I never knew before.

Unfortunately, with two of us living here it has grown far too small. I lost my writing desk many years ago to the pressures of space. As a one bedroom flat we are now living on top of each other. Finally found a lovely, two bedroom house in East London that we could actually afford just before Christmas and, tomorrow, we finally move into it – the progress of buying it was a nightmare. When we are finally in there I’ll be able to have an study were I can write and work, and that’s a dream I’ve had since I was a teenager.

I’m so excited about the move, it will be a wrench living here, my first real home, but we’re moving to a beautiful house were we’ll have all the space we need to live. With a study I know my writing will triple in output and hopefully I’ll actually be able to finish the novel I’m trying to write.

Of course, before all that we have to move from to there, oh joy of joys, moving…


Friday 23 February 2007

A Blast from The Past

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Nursing Standard’s Gay History Month Special

Welcome to the first entry on my new blog (Yes, yes, I know well behind everyone else, even Paris Hilton was here before me). I intend to keep it as a journal of my writing career to date so, if you’re interested, you can follow it. I’ll try and keep this updated as regularly as possible but no real promises.

The most important thing I have done this year is act as guest editor, for the second time, for Nursing Standard magazine ( on their Gay History month special. I wrote the editorial, a career’s article (on gay men’s barriers to accessing health) and a book review. It’s hard to say what a privilege this is, Nursing Standard is one of the biggest British nursing magazines and they asked me back to be the guest editor again – I guess they like me. I learnt so much from being the guest editor first time, doing so gave my writing career the kick start it needed and gave me a much appreciated boost of confidence. So often I write and write, finally screw up my confidence to actually send off one piece and then never hear anything back about it, or worse still get a two line rejection letter (“Your writing does not fit our style”!!) months down the line. With Nursing Standard the feedback was there and then and they were more then happy with my work.

Afraid my novel has been pushed to the back burner, somewhat, but watch this space, as they say.