Monday 5 October 2009

Home from the Holidays

September is our month to go on holiday. Our reasoning is simple: we don’t have children, the school holidays are over by September, therefore it’s easier and cheaper for us to holiday then.

This year we went back to Amsterdam, a city we’ve enjoying visiting in the past.

The last time we were there was six years ago (the first time I went there on my own was back in 1994) and things have certainly changed since then. Amsterdam is no longer the sex party capital of Europe that trade (pun intended) has moved to the Eastern European cities; but it’s still a wonderful city. True, that was one of the reasons I first went there, in the 90’s, but I was young and single then (!!). Now we like visiting it for the cultural life, the welcoming and laid-back attitude of the people and wonderful range of places to eat. It is still a city that seems so geared towards welcoming visitors, rather than London that seems to just tolerate them.

Martin took thousands of photographs (I joke not) while we were there (Two of them illustrate this blog) and he captured so many different images of the city. He has an eye for the unusual, as well as the typical landmarks. I spent my time relaxing and writing, though there was a rush to answer emails half-way through our holiday. I have an essay coming out in book, in the States, and it was all the final preparation before it goes to the printers – there’s so many things for me to sign and agree (more about it later when its published).

We also took advantage of the excellent public transport there, it’s so easy to get around and they still have their network of trams. I especially enjoy travelling on trams, I guess it goes back to my childhood (though I’ve never lost) love of trains. We travelled there and back on the Eurostar, though we didn’t get there all the way on it. We got the Eurostar to Brussels and then the International Express from there to Amsterdam.

It may sound as if we did a lot of travelling, there was a bit involved in it, but it was such a relaxing holiday. Both of us were tired and stressed before we left, work and everything had taken its toll out of us; this holiday breathed new life into us. We relaxed, we explored a city we love, we eat in some good restaurants and just unwound.

The only problem, it’s a year to go until our next holiday.


Monday 8 June 2009

Try One Thing New Every Day, Sometimes

On Saturday, two days ago, I did something I’d never done before (pause for innuendo); I rode on the Woolwich Ferry (twice).

The Woolwich Ferry is one of the many of London’s hidden little treasures. It’s a ferry that crosses the Thames between Woolwich Arsenal and North Woolwich. That might not sound very interesting but it’s the only crossing of the Thames between the Blackwall Tunnel and the Dartford River Crossing (if that doesn’t sound impressive look it up on Google Map, it’s no small distance) and it’s free (very important).

We used it becausen we wanted to go to Woolwich Arsenal (the opposite side of the river from us) and both the tube and the DLR were both suspended for engineering works so we decided to use the ferry, a first for both of us. I was surprised at how quick and easy it. The ferry’s got two levels; cars and lorries perch rather alarmingly on the top deck, which in truth is the top of the ferry, while the pedestrian passengers sit downstairs, with some protection from the cold river wind. We were pedestrians, hence it was an easy journey for us while the vehicles had to queue to get on.

The handful of minutes it took us to cross the Thames took me back. I grow up in Liverpool and many times I crossed the Mersey using the ferry, especially as a teenager, and it was quite strange how similar those two journeys were, at least in my memory. When I was teenager I would ride that ferry, sitting on the wooden benches, on my own, and feel so isolated and alone. Back then I was so unhappy and desperate to fit in with the world around me. I would spend hours on my own because I didn’t belong anywhere.

Saturday wasn’t a re-living of those ferry trips, back in Liverpool. The ferries felt very similar inside but I didn’t. I was travelling with Martin, my partner, and I certainly wasn’t alone. I know where I belong and I’m very happy with that. So much has changed since I was a teenager and I’m so deeply grateful for that. Sometimes things remind me of the person I used to be but I’ve got no desire to go back. Not for me is the glorification and desperate longing for my teenage years, I’m far happier now.


P.S. The picture accompanying this blog was taken by Martin, last Saturday.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Words on a Wednesday Morning

Listening to audio is such a pleasure for me yet often I do it as something secondary. It’s on the background as I write or work on paperwork, or else I’m listening to it on my MP3 player as I travel. This morning I found myself just sitting and listening to a radio program, it was so fascinating that it alone held my attention.

The program was called Midweek, on BBC Radio 4, and is basically a round-the-table chat show. The host, Libby Purves, invites a group of people on and they chat for 45 minutes. What makes this program so interesting is Libby Purves’ skill at getting her guests to talk. This isn’t the usual format of question and answer, she actually manages to get an interesting conversation running.

Today her guests were the actress Penelope Wilton, Colm O'Gorman (founder of One in Four charity, ), Donald Reeves (Rector of St James's, Piccadilly and whom Margaret Thatcher call “a Very Dangerous Man”) and Bradley and Soren Stauffer Kruse, the Sugar Dandies.

Penelope Wilton is an amazing actor; her performance on Doctor Who, as Harriet Jones, stood out, amongst so many excellent performances. Her character went from hero to villain and back to hero again, finally sacrificing herself to save the Earth. So much of her character’s arc was down to her own performance. But, over the years, I’ve seen her deliver many standout performances on the stage.

The highlight of the program was Colm O'Gorman. As a child he was abused by a catholic priest in Ireland, which left such deep scares with him especially because no one would believe him. He was one of the first people to speak out publically about what had happened to him. He successfully sued Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ferns for allowing the abuse to occur (in light of the Catholic Church’s shameful practice of covering up an abuse by priests) and won. He later tried to sue the Pope, for the worldwide cover-up of abuse by priests. He failed but I deeply admire his courage in doing so. (In a previous blog I have written about what happened to me as teenager at the hands of Christians, ). He spoke so passionately about the wall of silence around the abuse he suffered, something I recognised, that blind reluctance by Christians to admit that they can cause harm or that other Christians do. (Colm O'Gorman’s own website is and the Irish branch of One in Four is ).

Donald Reeves talked about the way he has been marginalised by the Anglican Church, especially the Evangelical branch, for his political stance. He also talked about the way religion wants to keep people in a very childish state, to be very reliant on their leaders for their intellectual answers and needs, how this perpetuates the power of religion. I have seen this a lot in religious leaders, people who are addicted to the power of their position.

Lastly came Bradley and Soren Stauffer Kruse. As the Sugar Dandies they are a gay male ballroom dance act. I have never been a fan of ballroom dancing. I find it soulless, their dances in no way reflecting the music they dance to, instead being far too concerned with performing the “perfect” step. After listening to Midweek I watched a clip of the Sugar Dandies dancing ( ) and was so impressed. They were opposite of all the things I hate about ballroom dancing. They were joyous, fun and intentionally camp; they could have only danced that dance to that piece of music.

BBC webpage about that episode of midweek:

Listen Again to that episode at:


Thursday 2 April 2009

Time Makes Liars Out of All of Us

Only a handful of days ago I was complaining (though trying to do it in a gentle tone) about noting having anything published (in print or on the web), well today that changed.

In the post I received my complimentary copy of Nursing Standard, complimentary because in this week’s copy I have had an article published. The article is giving advice to nurses (though the advise can apply to all works in the UK) about what to do if they find they are being transferred from one employer to another (The TUPE legislation here in the UK). This might sound a dirt subject but it’s still a very important one, many nurses are facing a change of employer as yet again we’re facing re-organisation in how healthcare is delivered, also those working in the private section are facing this with the credit crunch as one company takes over another.

The article itself can be found in this week’s edition of Nursing Standard (April 1-7 2009) or via their online edition at:

Just receiving this magazine gave me such a boost. It is so affirming to have something of mine published because it shows that I can write something that people want to read, that I’m not just playing at this.


Sunday 29 March 2009

And The World Slows Down.

For my writing getting out there, into the world at large, March has been a very quiet month. So quiet I feel ashamed to admit it. I have had nothing published but it’s not for want of trying.

I have been sending out so many different pieces, to different publications, but with no success. Whenever I have got a reply, and that can be very infrequently, it has been that my writing isn’t what they are “looking for”, though they don’t mention how my writing could be altered to be “their style”. So often, I wonder if they fully read or even begin to read what I have sent them.

It’s a complaint that I’ve made before but as a writer I am so much in the hands of editors. The good ones can really bring out the best in a writer, unfortunately they do seem rare. The majority of them seem to be of the type that label a piece “good” because they like it and don’t go much further than that, often you can be lucky if you get a reply out of them. Editors aren’t a “necessary evil” but a very important part of the publishing process, unfortunately good ones are so rare.

I carry on writing, though. At present I am working on several short stories revolving around murder, but my usual dark take on the subject. These are stories were murder is messy and destroys lives. Also, I’m working on non-fiction articles about modern nursing. I’m keeping myself busy writing, it’s still so important to me.

(The picture attached to this blog is one of the photographs taken by my partner Martin, it’s of one of the ornaments in our garden)


Thursday 12 February 2009

Some More and More of My Writing

Here are some links to pieces of writing that I’ve had published, some of the recently. Most of them are short stories, my non-fiction writing is usually published in print format and takes longer to get onto the internet, but I have managed to include one of my opinion pieces.

Praying in The Stock Cupboard
This story features one of my favourite themes, the clash between Christianity and homosexuality. This one revolves around Joe, a gay officer worker, who finds one of his colleagues praying in the office’s stock cupboard and the effect it has upon him.

One New Message
Receiving emails can be a joy or a chore, a personal email from someone can be so enjoyable and a pain when it’s scam. This story is about a man who posted a profile on Friends Reunited and then gets a message from the only person he would want to contact him...

The ending of relationships is another subject that fascinates me; I’ve been on the receiving end of it enough times in the past. This story features a man who has finally decided that the time has come to end his relationship with his girlfriend, they are so very incompatible, but he also doesn’t want to hurt her. He hasn’t set himself an easy task...

Things You See in the Dark
This story has a special place in my affections. It was published in the Spring 2006 edition of Chroma magazine. Chroma is a lesbian and gay literary publication and it was an amazing honour to get one of my short stories accepted by them. This one traces the growth of one gay man’s self-identify, during the seventies and eighties, through the films he watches and the different images of gay men he’s exposed to.

'The NHS should help obese people change their lifestyles to lose weight – blaming patients is dangerous'
This is an opinion piece I wrote for Nursing Times magazine. The subject here is very plain from the title but it was based on something that actually happened to me. I was bluntly told, by a doctor, that I was overweight and had to lose weight but that was all the help I got. He bluntly told me that and then I was expected to leave, no further help or advice offered. So this was one of my responses.

Happy reading.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

It’s February and it’s LGBT History Month

This year I have again been involved with Nursing Standard to mark LGBT History Month. Unfortunately they didn’t run a special edition to mark it but I was invited to write an editorial for them, and naturally I said yes.

The theme of it was The Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, the legalisation that makes it unlawful to deny anyone goods or services because of their sexuality or even perceived sexuality. This is a revolutionary law for lesbians and gay men, it takes away the shadow that I’ve lived with for most of my life; that shadow of worry that I would be turned away because I’m gay. “We don’t want/allow your sort here.”

One of the first effect we have witnessed has been the Lillian Ladele case. She was a registrar who refused to preside at Civil Partnerships because she said they went against her Christian beliefs. She was eventually dismissed and took her employer to an Employment Tribunal, claiming she was the victim of religious discrimination. She lost on appeal, the judge saying her behavior was discriminatory. We’ve repeatedly seen this, Christians claiming they are the “victims” of discrimination because they can no longer use their traditional homophobia. (Naturally, my editorial wasn’t as blunt as this)

I was so pleased to be asked to write this. Healthcare, in Britain, is still not the friendliest place for lesbians and gay men but Nursing Standard has been very positive in tacking homophobia in it. Their LGBT History Month specials have been wonderful and they have repeatedly promoted lesbian and gay rights. To be part of that is so important to me. Being involved with them has also benefited me, it has pushed my writing career up so many levels; I wouldn’t as well published as I am now with the experience they gave me. But most of all, I feel that their coverage of LGBT History Month is so important for moving nursing forward, and I’m so proud to be involved with it.

More about Nursing Standard can be found at: