20 November 2009

Cold dead eyes

I feel like I haven't been blogging so much lately about things that are actually going on in my life. That's partly because I haven't been doing that many things out of the ordinary, and partly because my Mum hasn't been quite as mental as usual. She's still mental of course, and she has her moments, but nothing has caused her to have a major freakout for a little while.

So rather than write another review of something I've seen on the television, I thought I'd write a little bit about one of the places I went to while on holiday in Gran Canaria instead. I don't know how it managed to slip my mind in my original post about our holiday - perhaps it didn't slip it at all, and just buried itself as deeply as possible in my brain, hoping never to be recalled.

The place was called the Basement Club, and it's a sex club. It's more than that actually, it's a whole sex resort accommodation thing, much like the set of bungalows we stayed at but with a rather different 'anything goes' kind of ethos. You can spend your whole holiday staying there if you want to.

It wasn't my idea to go to the Basement Club (I know you won't believe me), but it was our first night there and one of the staff of Club Mancha was out with us and offered to show us some places we hadn't been before. I should have realised at that point that there was probably a very good reason why we hadn't been to them before, but alas the considerable amounts of vodka I was pouring down my face and the 13 hours travelling that day impaired my judgement.

I've been in darkrooms before, lots of bars and clubs in Gran Canaria have them, and although they're not really my thing they're usually OK for a quick skirt round and then escape into the bar area trying not to laugh while hissing to your friends "Oh my god, did you see what that man was doing to that other man? He looked like my Dad!"

So when the Club Mancha man said they were having a sex party at the Basement Club that night and did we want to pop in there "just for a quick drink to see", I thought it couldn't be that bad, it's nothing I haven't seen before.

Actually yes it was that bad, and not for the reasons I was expecting. First of all, I think 'sex party' was a rather grand term for what it actually was. I was expecting some kind of porno-esque scene replete with tanned bodies and funky guitar music in the background. In fact, what I got was a group of about a dozen men, mostly in leather kilts and waistcoats, standing around a pool and bar area and not talking to each other. None of them were my type at all, but as they were all of a similar look I suppose they might have been each others' types, so... good for them I suppose. There was high energy club music playing, and a definite feeling of "is this a sex party? are we meant to be having sex? well I'm not starting, someone else can start, I'm going to stand here and wait."

It reeked in there despite being outdoors, possibly the result of a previous sex party or some problem with their drains, and was pretty much one of the least sexy places I've ever been. And the men, oh the men. They just looked so SAD. Not sad as in trainspotting sad, sad as in unhappy. They had lifeless dead zombie eyes that roamed around looking for some sort of connection with another person and not finding any. And if they weren't sad they looked angry, although that might not have been helped by me and my friends standing in the middle talking and laughing and generally not taking the this-is-meant-to-be-sexy thing very seriously.

In the end two men shuffled close enough together that each took it as sign the other may be vaguely interested in them, and they started doing something in the corner. The other kilties were inexorably drawn over like moths to a physical affection flame and decided to cluster around them in silence, and that was when we decided we'd had enough and wanted to go.

It was all so serious, and moody, and angry, and silent. I thought sex was supposed to be fun, and you might even be able to laugh at times during it (although laughing at the moment your partner drops his trousers is possibly not helpful). I couldn't see anything to enjoy there at all, and even though I felt maybe it's just not my thing, none of the other men seemed to be enjoying themselves either.

I don't know, maybe I missed the point or something, but it left me feeling rather sorry for them. I know that's hideously patronising, and I don't really mean it quite like that, but if they look that angry and sad when they're having fun, fuck knows what they look like the rest of the time.

It was an experience anyway. Not one I'd repeat in a hurry, but an experience nonetheless. Am I being terribly narrow-minded? I don't think I am really, most narrow-minded people don't tend to go into sex clubs in the first place. And I don't mind if that's what the people in there want to do, that's up to them. They weren't hurting anyone. They had a rack thing you could tie someone up on if you wanted, I suppose you could hurt someone on that, but I'm almost certain that's normally used in consensual circumstances. I'd be interested to know what their clients get from it anyway, because all it really gave me was the feeling I needed to take a shower.

18 November 2009

Changeling - excellent film, stupid title

I watched a film called Changeling last night, on rental from LoveFilm, and I have to say that it was GREAT. It was so much better than I was expecting, and in actual fact it was nothing like the film that I thought it was.

The one-line description on LoveFilm read: "A mother's prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn't take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers." Based on that, and on the fact that it is called Changeling, I got it into my head that the boy who returns to her is not only not her son, but is actually not a boy at all, and is probably an alien or a demon or something like that. So I was expecting a thriller or a horror.

I could not have been more wrong, and I'm blaming it largely on the title which is thoroughly inappropriate for the film. Yes the boy is not hers, but the film isn't about that specifically, it's about the mother's struggle to convince a powerful and belligerent police force that he's not her son, and to find out what has really happened to him.

I'm not going to say much more because I don't want to spoil it, but it's a great story, even if that short description of it makes it sound like it'll be boring. Angelina Jolie is excellent in it, and I actually didn't realise it was her until about halfway through. I always quite like that from an actor - where the first thing you think isn't "Oh that's Angelina Jolie", because you're solely concerned with the character they're playing and not the fact that they're famous. Reese Witherspoon and Hilary Swank both wanted the role apparently, but didn't get it.

It's even more gripping to watch when you know that it's based on a true story, with very few of the details changed. The plot doesn't actually need much spicing up for the big screen, it's all there already, and knowing that it's true is fairly horrifying. It was nominated for three Oscars, and even though it failed to win any I'm surprised I didn't know more about it.

I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't seen it. Yes it's written by the man who wrote Babylon 5, and yes it's called Changeling, but ignore those two things - they're a distraction and they don't tell you anything about what this film is going to be like. It's very rare that I finish a film and think "Wow, that was really good", but I found Changeling really exceptional.

09 November 2009

Trinity and the old bait-and-switch

A while ago I blogged about the new ITV2 series Trinity and its nudity-laden first episode. The series finished last night, with a sort of semi-cliffhanger 'will we get renewed for a second series?' finale.

Overall, the series was fine, and was reasonably entertaining. It was rather confused and muddled about what genre it was hoping to be, because it seemed to veer wildly from racy romp, to teen drama, to thriller, to comic sci fi. At times it was fairly gory (including someone blowing their own brains out with a big red splatter last night), and at times it was farcical and ridiculous (particularly the comic relief 'fools' characters, who added nothing to the series except a bit of padding).

Christian Cooke was alriiiight in it, once you got used to his dodgy posh accent. His character even gained some depth, as he became more vulnerable later in the series. And the hammy characters managed to settle down a bit after the first couple of episodes, so it was fine really. I even got quite into the story.

It has to be said though that they used a blatant nudity bait-and-switch to hook you in during the first episode, in much the same way that Queer As Folk did years ago. There was LOTS of sex and nudity in the first episode, Christian Cooke was barely clothed for most of it, and then there was pretty much nothing of the kind for the rest of the series. It was quite annoying to tune in dutifully each week in the hopes of seeing him nekkid again, only to be completely unrewarded. I think they owed us faithful and pervy viewers a bit more than that, and he should have at least done a shower scene halfway through the series or something.

Apparently there is a DVD boxset of it coming out. I won't be buying it of course, it wasn't that good, but I hope they do get a second series. They left a lot of stuff open for further explanation at the end, and so it will be frustrating if they don't. Like the whole Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles debacle, which had JUST got good when they suddenly cancelled it. Network executives are idiots.

06 November 2009

I don't like the Blood Service

I don't like the Blood Service because it is discriminatory and unfair. I've read through all their arguments, and I've read why the Terrence Higgins Trust supports their view (albeit accepting that it is discriminatory), but I still don't like it because it makes me feel like I am inferior because of who I am.

For those of you who don't know, the Blood Service doesn't allow gay men to give blood. Ever. We're banned for life. They don't phrase it specifically like that, in fact they deliberately make it not about being gay but about sexual behaviour. Otherwise I suspect it would be illegal under equalities legislation. The question they ask you is:

'Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?'

And if the answer is yes, then you're out.

You can, however, be a woman who has had oral sex with a man without using a condom, and that's fine. You can also be a man who has had sex with 300 women in the last year. Even if it was in a back alley after 14 shots of vodka. Not if she gave you a tenner in payment for it though, that makes a whole world of difference.

Their argument, based on their scientific advice, is that by allowing any men who have any kind of sex with men to donate blood, they would greatly increase (by 60% they say) the chance of blood-borne viruses entering the supply. They can't take that risk, nor can they jeopardise public confidence in the Blood Service.

I can understand why they have to keep patient safety rather than my feelings as an overriding concern. But as a gay man it feels HORRIBLE. They'd rather take blood from a tramp on the street than from me.

Even worse, without wanting to bore you (or enthrall you) with too much detail, the kind of sexual activities I have enjoyed during my life to date could not be classed, in my opinion, as being in any way risky. In fact I'd go as far to say that I'm at less risk than the average person of having contracted HIV. On top of that, I actually know my HIV status, which is more than lots of people can say. I doubt many of my straight friends have ever had an HIV test. But none of that matters. They don't have the "resources", they say, to obtain detailed sexual histories from every potential donor, so the kind of sex you've had or how recent it was doesn't matter.

But what of that feeling you have, and that is implied in the adverts, that they always need to people to give blood, they're crying out for it, and that people would die if you didn't? Well they don't care about that either. In fact if pressed, they say "there has been a safe and sufficient blood supply in this country for many years". Oh, so I don't need to feel guilt-tripped into giving blood by your adverts after all? Well I wish you'd said, there was me hoping to be a good citizen and "do something amazing today".

I'm not arguing particularly for a change in policy, although I do note that other European countries take a different view. If I were to argue for it, I suppose it would be that they should consider each person's individual history, and not impose a fairly arbitrary and harshly-phrased lifetime ban. But I would like them to acknowledge that their policy sucks ass (which would presumably preclude you from giving blood if it's a man's ass), and for them to show a bit more sensitivity as they trample over my feelings.

02 November 2009

Sun, vodka, boys and insects

I had a lovely time in Gran Canaria, and the weather did indeed stay nice for us. It was closer to 80 degrees sometimes I think, so I was even grateful for the bit of cloud we had towards the end of the week.

We were only there for five days, but to be honest that was quite enough for me. It's a rare occasion now that I'd want to go out two nights in a row, so going out five nights in a row was quite a struggle for me. Thank goodness all I had to do in the daytime afterwards was lay on a plastic sun lounger in my skimpies for hours in end (see photo).

For those of you who haven't been to Gran Canaria before, it really is your basic sun and booze holiday. There's not actually that much else to do there, although you can hire a car and go inland if you want to, which we've done in previous years. But all we did this time was get up late, sunbathe, go out for dinner at reasonably priced restaurants where you have to sit on patio furniture, drink vodka from the Spar, and then go out bar hopping around the Yumbo Centre. It was great. The only thing that could have been improved really was that there weren't that many fit boys there this year. There were some, mostly fit waiters, but I think some people have been put off by how expensive the euro is right now. Plus of course it was half term, and what kind of fool goes on holiday in half term unless they have to? Such is my lot as the wife of a teacher.

Oh yes, and the other thing that could have been improved was that they could have put a tent over the whole island and fumigated it before we arrived. I got SO many mosquito bites! I had about 20 in the end, and some of them have only just gone down. So with them, plus the cockroaches who occasionally scuttle across your bungalow floor, I'd had quite enough of insects by the time we left.

Our accommodation was nice, we stayed at Club Mancha which is right by the Yumbo Centre where all the gay bars are. It's a small complex of about 12 bungalows around a pool. The staff there were really friendly, and I couldn't fault it really. I'd definitely go there again, but having been to Gran Canaria about four times now I think maybe we should try another destination next time we go away.

I was exhausted by the time we got home from all the going out, so it is actually sort of nice to be back at work where I can sit down all day and drink tea. I've got a bit of tan but not loads as I didn't want to burn, but at least it has given me a bit of colour for the winter. Chris, of course, has turned into a sub-saharan African again because he tans really quickly, so he'll probably still be tanned long after mine has faded. It's a shame I can't really pull of Nicole Kidman-esque pale beauty, it would be so much easier for me! I just go pink in the sun. No danger of that though now that I'm back. Still, Christmas is just around the corner, so I shall look forward to that now instead.