Sunday 31 January 2010

A Little Catching Up...

Sometimes I have items accepted for publication and they only appear months later, other times they appear and I only find out about it weeks later. The latter happened to me this week, I found that my short story, Prince Charming, had been published in the Christmas Edition of ABCTales Mag ( It’s about a middle aged woman who discovers her masculine side when she cross-dresses to play Prince Charming in her local amateur dramatics’ production of Cinderella. It has one of my familiar themes, finding our real selves, though it has have a Christmas setting, so happy reading.

Here’s something different. Martin, my partner, has started his own blog ( ). He’s a keen photographer and his blog is a showcase for his photographs (his pictures have illustrated many previous entries on this blog). He has set himself the taste of taking at least one photograph a day and publishing it. As you can see, if you read back through his blog, that he certainly has a good for a picture.


Sunday 24 January 2010

The True Meaning of Christian Equality?

Today, Church leaders in Britain have called for an exemption from the Equality Bill, because they claim it will force them go against their beliefs ( In reality, they already have an exemption, they can refuse to employ someone as a minister or priest if the person is gay or transgendered or a woman, but they are now demanding the right to refuse to employ anyone in any role for the same reasons. Put bluntly, Christians want the right to be prejudiced.

The Equality Bill is a piece of very just human rights legislation. It says that someone cannot refuse any one person goodies, services or employment because of their sexuality, or their perceived sexuality (“They looked gay”). This is for me, as a gay man, a wonderful relief. For so much of my life I’ve had that shadow hanging over my shoulder, that I will be turned away because I’m gay. The hotel owner will refuse me a room, a taxi driver will refuse to let me into their cab, a doctor will refuse me treatment all because I’m gay. It’s not some paranoid fantasy, for so many people it’s been a reality of life, I’ve been on the receiving end of it. The Equality Bill offered a chance to halt this, a welcomed protection to many of us.

Almost before the ink had dried on the Equality Bill Christians were up in arms about it, demanding first its repeal and then exemption from it. They have mounted legal attempts, the Christian Institute has bankrolled several legal challenges to people who were dismissed for refusing services to gay men and/or lesbians, without much success. There have been also constant Christian campaigns, in the media, on videos, etc… against the bill. It now feels as if Christians only have two subjects they’re vocal about, homosexuality and how they hate the Equality Bill.

Christians are now actively campaigning to limit human rights protection. For a religion that professes to be based on love their actions show very little of that, but I feel there seems very little care or compassion coming out of the Christian Church. All Christians seem concerned about is sexuality, especially homosexuality, and sex, though much more about gay sex. Christians seem silent on so many other subjects. On the Credit Crunch and the question of Bankers’ Bonuses the church has been very quiet, they could have given needed moral guidance. The same can be said on the subjects of binge drinking, the way young people are portrayed in the press, swine flu and the lies in the press about the vaccination, and how government resources should be spent in light of our county’s deficit. But no, all Christians seem interested in is homosexuality and pulling down the Equality Bill. Christians have completely lost their moral compass, turning into the stereotype of the homophobic bigots.

The final irony is that the Equality Bill was extension to LGBT people rights, under law, already enjoyed by Christians and other faiths. You don’t hear of lesbian and gay charities and companies refusing to employ someone because they were a Christian, if that happened the Christian Institute would be screaming blue murder. There are deep double standards at play here. Christians appear deeply reluctant to give up their traditional homophobia, but they have been forced to do so with their racism and Anti-Semitism.

What would Jesus do…


Saturday 23 January 2010

Florence, Mary and Me

In 1883 Florence Nightingale initiated a nurse training school at Charles Hospital, Ladbroke Grove, London. It was housed in a building called Nightingale House. This was after she founded her famous nursing school at St. Thomas Hospital, but there were many other schools of nursing carrying her name. This week I was at Nightingale House, the one at St Charles Hospital, teaching an Infection Control Update. As I left the building I saw a plaque commemorating Florence Nightingale opening the nursing school.

The plaque played on my mind, as I returned home. Several years ago I worked at St Charles Hospital and at the time never knew the history of Nightingale House. Now I did and it fascinated me.

By profession, I’m a nurse and for all my nursing career I’ve disliked having Florence Nightingale held up as the figurehead of nursing. I can’t deny that she made nursing a respectable job, but she didn’t make it into a profession. To begin with she was against educating nurses. I also feel that her deference to powerful men lead to the role of nurses, for so long, as “doctors’ handmaidens”. I question how much relevant she is to modern nursing, she certainly wouldn’t have approved of someone like me as a nurse.

During my nurse training, I vocally resented the image of Florence Nightingale held up before us, much to the annoyance of the nice gals in my intake. Then, after qualifying, I came across Mary Seacole. She was a contemporary of Nightingale, but from a very different background. She was Jamaican, her mother ran a boarding house for disabled soldiers and Mary carried on in the same business, she also used her experience of herbal remedies and folk medicine to treat people. Though, Nightingale rejected Mary as one the nurses she took to the Crimean War, but Mary funded herself and got to the Crimea. There she set up a cantina, were she provided food and clothing to the soldiers. She tended to the ill and wounded ones in her own right, not waiting for the instructions of the doctors there.

In her lifetime, Mary Seacole was also lauded as a hero of the Crimean War; but after her death she was soon forgotten. Her reputation was soon eclipsed by Nightingale’s with Nightingale becoming the image of nursing in Britain. But how different would it have been if Mary Seacole had become our role model?

Mary Seacole was a practitioner in her own right, she treated people with her own knowledge and skills, not waiting for a doctor’s instructions. She also took a holistic approach, not just tending to the soldier’s injuries, she also proved food and rest to the uninjured soldiers. Her approach was certainly not that of the “doctors’ handmaidens”, she might have helped to push nursing into a profession in its own right far sooner then it took us, using our skills in our own right.

These are only pipe dreams, I can’t change the past or slip into an alternative reality, but it is a nice thought.

What I do get annoyed about is how, until only recently, Mary Seacole has been completely forgotten, and is only now is beginning to be slowly remembered, while Florence Nightingale is held-up as an almost saint. The International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. Yet, it wasn’t Nightingale alone who created the profession of nursing and modern nursing has moved very far beyond her narrow vision of the role. I would like to celebrate more of the people who helped create and form my profession, not just one Victorian woman.


Monday 18 January 2010

Some More Examples of Me.

Last week I had another review published in Nursing Standard magazine. This one was of The Coalition on Men and Boys website. There was an interesting premise behind it, looking that the unique problems faced by men in this society (whether that is health, emotional or physical), unfortunately there was little resources on the site. I had fun stretching that to 200 words.

Here’s some more of my writing that has been published in the last few months.

Boxing Day 1975
This story is a coming of age story about a seven year old boy. On the day in question, he realises he is far more attracted to handsome men then pretty women, thanks to a television showing of the film One Million Years B.C.

The Pizza Boy Cometh
A cautionary tale about a man who is faced with the reality of his sexual fantasies. He works delivering pizzas and has that porn story fantasy about a customer giving him that “extra large” tip, but the reality is far different...

Saying Goodbye To Mickey
This horror story uses that old cliché of the Ouija Board, but this time it isn’t about a group of teenagers. Four friends gather for a dinner party. One of them, George, has recently lost his partner, Mickey, to cancer. The Ouija Board is used to help George to say Goodge to Mickey, but some things should be left unsaid…

His Story
This story, of linked shorter stories, follows the experiences of one gay man as he tries to come to terms with his past. As a teenager he was involved in the Ex-Gay movement, Evangelical Christians who believe they can change gay people’s sexuality by questionable means, and the long damage that they have left within him.

The full story of how I came to write this story can be found in my earlier blog, Based on A True Story ( It was originally published on the Rainbow Network website, but since they folded I was able to move this story to the above link.


Saturday 16 January 2010

Nostalgia on a Cold Tuesday

Tuesday this week I was working in Camden and thanks to the scheduling of the session I had over two hours free in the middle of the day. I was at the south end of Camden High Street, so I took myself off for a walk along it. I walked right up to Camden Lock, passed Camden Market and the eclectic mixture of shops there.

In the 80s and early 90s I spent a lot of time in that area of Camden. I’d often buy clothes from Camden Market and the collection of shops around there. At Camden Lock I’d regularly search through the second-hand book stalls looking for an “interesting read”. When I first came to London, back in the 80’s, Camden was this wonderful and exciting place. The market was full of all the different clothes I’d longed the wear and at prices I could afford (very important because I was doing low paid care jobs). There was also a buzzing gay life there, long before the rise of gay Soho. There were gay clubs and pubs, and even gay shops. Especially the old Zipper Store at the top of Camden High Street, this was more than just a sex shop (though not everything it sold was squeaky clean) and I brought many different novels there.

Moving to London was a great liberation for me, not just being to explore what it was to be a gay man but I was also able to live my life without anyone looking over my shoulder. I was my parents’ youngest child and while I lived with them they always wanted to know where I was going and when I’d be back. They also cast their opinions over all I bought. They weren’t cruel but they were over-protective. Leaving that was such a liberation and finding Camden, and all that went with it, was part of that.

In the mid 90s I moved to West London and less and less I went to Camden, also this time saw the rise in Gay Soho, an alternative place to go, and my meeting Martin. Things change and Camden wasn’t a place I visited regularly.

What was most surprising about walking through Camden this week was how little had changed. The pavements were new, wide and even, and some of the shops had different names, but it seemed so familiar. The Zipper Store had gone but so many things on sale were the same as when I was shopping there. The Arabic scarves, the same pre faded and pre ripped jeans, the same bright tee-shirts emblazoned with slogans. My taste in clothes has changed but it was strange to be confronted by my old taste on sale, on mass. 80s fashions are making a big comeback, so of course they’d be on sale in there, but it still felt as if Camden Market hadn’t changed at all over the years. That gave it a slightly unreal feeling.

The 80s and 90s have been very much been in my mind recently. I’m writing a series of linked short stories, set between 1984 and 1994, about the events in a young gay man’s life as he leaves before the Evangelical Christianity he grow-up in. It’s a theme that does crop up in my writing. So there I was, walking up Camden High Street, confronted by all that 80s revival, as my mind is going over the stories I’m writing set in the 80s. Hey, my life’s like that.