30.06.2002 - Dear, dear Johnny...

An anecdote about the late British actor, Sir John Gielgud, has been doing the rounds this last week:

Here are two more Gielgud anecdotes that I heard some years ago: It's wonderful to see that the great man's legend lives on and thanks to bitful and lukelog for reminding me.

29.06.2002 - Elsie and Kath...

Elsie Dee is ill, critically ill and I'm going to have to rely on Kath O'Dray until she comes out of intensive care. It all started yesterday morning when Elsie would not respond to any stimuli, she just lay there - motionless. I've made several attempts at resuscitation again this morning but all to no avail. She'll have to go to the laptop hospital for a few days and Kath will step up to take her place in the meantime.

I want you all to pray for a speedy recovery. To be robbed of life at such a young and tender age would surely be a tragedy.

28.06.2002 - Don't dream it, be it...

While Swishcottage is bragging up the picture searching abilities of Google I am coming to terms with my new found identity. Sometimes it's hard to be a woman...

Today I gave in to my craving for a little retail therapy and bought two DVDs: Dr Strangelove and Alien. I've never seen Dr strangelove from start to finish; at different times I've seen the beginning, the middle and the end but I've never seen the whole film all the way through.

I first saw Alien when it was first released in '79. I was 17 and it was my first visit to London without my parents. A few straight friends and I saw a matinee at the Odeon in Leicester Square. All I remember about it is being frightened half to death, so much so that I left the cinema sweating profusely and completely exhausted.

On the way to find something to eat we stumbled upon The Comedy Theatre in Panton Street at the other end of Leicester Square. It was showing a musical that I'd never heard of but something made me persuade the others that we should book tickets for that night. The musical in question was The Rocky Horror Show and nearing the end of its original London run. This was before all the hype and before the film version attained its present cult status.

My friends loved it, more so than I did if the large number of souvenirs they bought and the endless re-enactments of their favorite scenes were anything to go by. But after all, they were straight friends and you know what straights are like for a bit of high camp gender bending.

27.06.2002 - The Queen Mum's longevity secret is out...

I've tried many foods in my time; most I've liked and would try again, others I'd eat again but wouldn't really enjoy the experience. However, this... I'm sorry but no way..!

Apparently, slugs are an amazing free source of vitamin packed protein. John Neale Baraclough goes on to inform us that the French custom of eating snails began during the revolution by the persecuted aristocrats. And once they'd overcome their inhibitions, attention was turned to slugs which quickly acquired a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Mr Baraclough concludes by confirming that they are still usually only consumed by the crowned heads of Europe.

If they're an aphrodisiac then I'd rather be celebate and if I'm ever invited to dinner by a descendent of the Romanoffs I'll be checking the menu beforehand.

26.06.2002 - Russian dolls..?

Russian dating agencies may have found a gap in the dot com market. For a small fee to one of many matrimonial agencies in Moscow, Russian women in search of Western men can post their resumes to a website. Well, there's nothing new in that! But... what's particularly interesting about the Independent's report is the kind of women sought by Western men (if Chris, a middle-aged US businessman, is indeed representative of the men that visit these sites).

It seems that agencies in the West don't cater for the specialised needs of Chris and his kind. Such gentlemen are not interested in personality, character or compatibility. No, they're looking for "nice ladies," women who've never heard of feminism; women who "want to have a man, a family, the whole old-fashioned trip."

Hello! I am Olga and my hobbies are ironing and sex...

25.06.2002 - I'll name that tune in...

Ooo, now who sang it? Don't tell me. Oh, what's it called..? A new mobile phone service from Shazam takes all the frustration and guess work out of identifying that song that's been bugging you for weeks, months, even years. You simply dial Shazam, hold your phone up to the speaker for 20 seconds and in a short time the name of the song arrives in a text message; it'll even tell you who the singer is.

How cool is that?

24.06.2002 - So while Duncan is not the bastard he is thought to be, he is not by any means perfect...

I like the new game mentioned in Darryl's and Glace's blogs today. Basically, you type your name into Google's search field following it with is, enclose it all in quotes, click search and wait 0.18 seconds (or thereabouts) to find out what you've been up to. It's great fun! Of course you can follow your name (or anyone else's you choose to put in) with is not or thinks or loves or hates. The possibilities are limitless... well almost.

Given the sophistication of computer games, why is it that a simple find like this causes me so much fun and excitement? I suppose it must have something to do with finding an unintended use for something. It reminds me of the game we played at Claus and Inge's when we were in Denmark recently. You ask a question of importance such as, "When will the world end?" and then you pick a card at random from a bowl. On the cards are written a book, chapter and verse reference to the Bible. You then look up the verse that your card points you to and read it aloud to everyone. Great fun!

Aside from party games, this Google game could be used to overcome writer's blocks, such as those days when you're stuck on how to start your blog. You might even attempt to write a whole story or blog using only what Google throws up. Given the lack of care and attention around examination papers of late it could even become part of the English GCSE exam - Write an essay of 500 words using the phrase below as your starting point:

It all started with a simple shortcut. Nathan had not brushed his teeth using the electric...

23.06.2002 - Canterbury Tales...

Despite the stuffy conservative image of the Church of England (they are sometimes referred to as "the Tory Party at prayer"), Rowan Williams is hotly tipped to succeed George Carey as the Archbishop of Canterbury in October this year. Dr Williams (present Archbishop of Wales) is a theologian with a liberal outlook; he has been outspoken against the recent bombing campaign in Afghanistan, he supports the ordination of women bishops, is gay friendly and is in favour of disestablishmentarianism. He has the support of much of Blair's government and has won endorsments from the likes of former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu. If appointed, it would be the first time in modern history for an Archbishop of Canterbury to be chosen from outside the Church of England and he would be the first welshman to hold that post in over 1000 years.

What, a taffy pinko-liberal to lead the anglicans? Tosh - we can't have that!

22.06.2002 - DVD fest...

This summer sees the release of three 'must have' DVDs - The Man Who Fell To Earth, Cabaret and Koyaanisqatsi.

I think I need to save a few pennies.

21.06.2002 - Thus spake He...

"And He commanded the heavens to bring forth rain and the land to be visited by great floods and upon the face of the earth there came a plague of locusts without number." I actually made that up but I'm sure the man in the sky with white beard did say something like that once. Anyway, that's what we're suffering in Cardiff Bay at the moment; a plague; not of locusts but midges - pale green insects that get everywhere.


20.06.2002 - Big cock up...

Sometimes it's good to make mistakes. Our fallibility is what makes us human. It's how we learn and gain experience about the world around us.

And sometimes it's not so good...

19.06.2002 - Pink froth...

One of the top stories yesterday at gay.com informed us that George Michael is having a new £50K kitchen installed in his Hampstead home. How desperate are they for news stories at gay.com or (perhaps more tellingly) how desperate do they think we are to read such stories? Remember, this was reported on the same day that 19 people were massacred in a bus blown apart by a bomb in Jerusalem and the UK Government admitted that they blundered over proposals to extend surveillance laws. Surely, both these stories affect us all more directly and should be of more interest than George's new country kitchen? Is this what the gay community have been reduced to? It's as offensive as the lisping, limp-wristed faggot image we're all so desperate to escape.

And speaking of the gay community... What gay community? Does such a body exist or is it a fabrication of the big corporations sold to us with the express purpose of selling to us? Have our morals, politics, and souls been auctioned off to the highest bidder? Have our lifestyles been franchised to the tabacco, drinks and music industries? Read what Jhames has to say about the inequalities, injustices and double standards that riddle and plague the so called gay community. Whether you agree or not, it's an excellently written, thought provoking, uncomfortable and honest account. Read it before we disappear in a cloud of that pink froth up our own tiny, gym-toned, sunbed bronzed, DKNY clad, gay-boy arses.

As E M Forster said, "Only connect."

18.06.2002 - R.I.P.A. R.I.P...?

Well, it ain't dead yet but certainly it's a stumbling block with a sizeable public scepticism and also the threat of opposition from the House of Lords if the Government persists in pushing ahead with this ill thought out Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. This extention to laws passed two years ago (allowing agencies of the Government to extend surveillance of e-mail and telephone records) are being excused in the light of September 11th.

But look at any period of history where a national threat is perceived and, lo and behold, you'll find some crackpot, knee-jerk reaction which does nothing to counter the threat but instead threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens and subjects; the Spanish Inquisition, the 17th Century witch hunts through Britain and the early US States, the McCarthy Trials of the 1950's (is a mention of Nazi Germany too obvious)... I could go on and on.

In defence, the Government claim that such legislation would, for example, have brought the Yorkshire Ripper to justice earlier, thus saving the lives of his later victims. The fact that e-mail and mobile telephony were a few years away at the time, they seem to have overlooked.

It's not too late. Tom at Plastic Bag explains the background to RIPA and what you can do to stick a spoke in its wheels. A little less conversation, a little more action please.

17.06.2002 - Lads...

Today sees the release of Oasis' new single, Stop Crying Your Heart Out. It's sure to hit the number one spot given the support from all UK lads - after all, they're a lads' group making lads' music for a group of lads. Their laddish antics are legend, threatening photographers, airline staff and anyone else who has the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or just hurling laddish insults at other bands they perceive to be a threat to themselves; remember the jibe against Blur, "I hope they catch AIDS and die." It's not funny and it's not clever. I once had the misfortune of sitting opposite Liam Lad on a train from Manchester to Cardiff. I had to ask him to move his laddish feet off the last available seat so I could sit down. I didn't know it was the lad himself until after he got off - I didn't recognise him. I'm glad because, otherwise, I might've been tempted to ask him if he thought that the AIDS remark was really that funny or really that clever and then the lad might've punched me.

You've probably guessed that I won't be one of the lads rushing out to buy their new single; I think there are far better bands out there. If I want to listen to a bunch of lads singing, I'll go the local pub with the lads.

16.06.2002 - Bang a gong...

Apart from Sir Mick, whose knighthood's been hitting the headlines everywhere, another new knight in the Queen's Birthday Honours List is Sir Jonathan Miller. I've long been a fan of Dr Miller but I was unaware of all the different careers he's made a success of. Since he first entered the public eye in 1961 with the hugely successful Beyond The Fringe, he has carved a career as a satirist, actor, theatre director, opera director, film director, TV producer, TV presenter, sculptor, physician, medical consultant, public speaker, lecturer and author.

No stranger to controversy, he once called Britain "a mean and peevish little country" with its "acid rain of criticism and condescension". Other remarks include an icy put-down for the Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, with whom Miller has constantly refused to work. "There's no point in trying to build a production around someone who's so massively inert," he once said. He also descibed the Royal Opera as "a kind of wife kennel" for rich men. An extremely talented man blessed with a more than average serving of charm, wit and common sense.

How does he fit it all in?

15.06.2002 - The mathematics of life...

When I was in school, maths homework was littered with questions such as "Apples cost 64 pence per kilo. How much would 3.75 kilos cost?" How times change. A Winnipeg teacher has found himself suspended after setting maths questions such as, "Rufus is a pimp for three girls. If the price is $65 per trick, how many tricks per day must each girl turn to support Rufus' $800 per day crack habit?"

What I'd like to know is, how much does Rufus pay his girls?

14.06.2002 - Tempus fugit...

All of the above were either posted on June 14th 1997 or refer to events that took place on that day. It is also the day that I met the bf. The last five years have passed (Duncan clicks his fingers) like that.

13.06.2002 - 1945 and all that...

You would be forgiven for thinking that WWII had not ended in 1945. Judging by recent articles in Der Spiegel, The Spectator and The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, there seem to be enough warmongers in both the German and British press to rekindle a global conflict. This war of words seems to have started in Der Spiegel's (less than flattering) serialisation about the future of the House of Windsor. This was then followed by The Spectator hitting back, calling Germans, "the second fattest people in the world." Who the fattest are, it doesn't say. Perhaps The Spectator is saving that amunition for another battle.

Evidently, those old war wounds aren't quite healed.

12.06.2002 - The Dame is back...

He can shed his skin like a snake, change his colour like a chameleon and swim faster than a sailfish (actually I made that last one up). This week sees Mr Bowie release Heathen, his 25th studio album, and by all accounts it's a goodun. The bits and pieces that I've heard sound pleasant enough but over the last few years (and I don't know if I'm alone in thinking this) the Dame has moved away from singing to commentating his way through his songs. I don't dislike this style but it doesn't have the same excitement that first drew me to his work in the 70's.

With that in mind, I've pulled together my favorite tracks from the 70's albums when he was the epitome of cool.

11.06.2002 - Inevitability...

Sooner or later it had to come. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I posted something directly about The World Cup. And no, it's got nothing to do with spunky footballers, spunky footballers or indeed the numerous references to spunky footballers that seem to be invading every other blog I've got bookmarked. No this is about water consumption, exhibitionism and changing room tidyness.

...and now back to the spunky footballers...

10.06.2002 - What do you buy the woman who's got everything..?

The Britsh Cabinet are in a bit of a fix. They want to get the Queen a present to celebrate her Golden Jubilee but what should they get?

...a decent smoke alarm, maybe?

09.06.2002 - Have you heard the one about the Englishman and the Welshman sitting in a pub..?

A Welsh pub is offering customers a free drink every time a goal is scored against England in the World Cup. The pub's landlady says that it started as a jokey response to the suggestion from some English customers that the pub should award free drinks each time England scores during the tournament. It seems now that the whole story has escalated with former Racial Equality Commissioner for Wales, Ray Singh, criticising the free drinks offer, "Friendly banter is one thing but to encourage people not to support England is wrong," he added, "It brings about divisions between the Welsh and the English."

Hello...? Mr Singh and, no doubt, the press have helped blow this story out of all proportion. Let's not forget that it's only a joke; nothing more than a bit of lively banter between regulars standing round a bar. Let's also not forget that if there's one nation on this earth more than able to absorb such banter, it's the English; they have a superiority complex second to none and a long and sad history of oppression of other nations to match.

OK, so a bit of a non-story then? Yes, except that the most damaging aspect of the article is that in using the term, racist to describe these events we devalue the term and take the focus off the real race issues.

08.06.2002 - Made to measure...

What can't you have designed to your own requirements and specifications nowadays? The made to measure list grows daily and, of course, the internet plays an ever increasing rôle in product personalisation as we move away from the one size fits all culture of the late 20th Century.

Whilst surfing the internet the other day the bf found a link to Xytex from a Danish news website. Xytex is a US based company that specialises in donor semen services. Of course, we all know that such companies exist, and have done for some time, but when you actually trawl through the profiles it gives you such a wierd feeling. I'm poking around the site as I write this and it's so strange knowing that human beings can be produced whose genetic makeup is dependent on the whim and mood of the surfer, the stability of their internet connection and the promotion of the company's donor of the month page (oh yes, and this month it's the gorgeous AFM9618 - who decides the donor of the month and what are the criteria?). Incidentally, I've just noticed that one of their page files is entitled semenhome.asp; now there's an interesting domain name - www.semenhome.com ...and it's availabe too!

Whilst I'm sure there are many advantages with the made to measure method; for spontaneity, fun, and the sheer thrill of it I think the traditional off the peg approach is better.

07.06.2002 - What's in a name...

Today is the first full day in my new home at welshcake.com. But then I guess many of you already knew that or else you wouldn't be here reading this. It's certainly a des res I can tell you, all mod cons and great views. Be sure to update your address books and drop by again.

So, what's with the domain name, welshcake.com? A welshcake is a traditional Welsh tea time snack (a bit like a scone). I've placed a link to a welshcake recipe in my menu bar for when all the Welsh ex-pats and US Welsh Societies come a-looking. When the bf and I first met we used to joke about fantasy email addresses: he's from Denmark and so his was danishpastry@wherever.com and, being Welsh, mine was cyberwelshcake@whatever.com. When looking to buy a domain name over the weekend I could find nothing available that I liked with either Duncan in it or Alexander ...and the name generators are crap. Who wants easy-alexander.com (makes me sound like a bit of a slapper) or alexanderontarget.org (sounds like a disease)? One suggestion from a domain name generator was duncanal.info! Think about it: dunc anal info... yeah, and you can wipe that smirk off your face. Takes me back to the time when my school teacher asked the class to research what our names meant. Excitedly, off I went only to find that Duncan (originally Irish Gaelic) means Brown Warrior! I was mortified. To me it may as well have translated as Shirt Lifter or Arse Bandit; in my head it sounded the same. It took me years to forgive my mother for dreaming up such a cruel name for me.

So welshcake it is; well, I could hardly go for beefcake without risking prosecution under the Trades Descriptions Act.

06.06.2002 - The school bully...

Hitting the news in the UK is this story of Bill Beales, headmaster of Cwm Carn High School here in South Wales. He recently hit out at homosexuals, single mothers and divorcees in one of his weekly school assembly speeches, saying that we are "flaunting God's rules", blaming all three groups for the erosion of traditional Christian values. And there's me thinking that Christianity was all about inclusion rather than exclusion; and labouring under the misapprehension that it's got something to do with love thy neighbour? I must've been off the day they read out the list of exclusions in Christ's teachings.

Consider how every pupil from a single parent family felt as they filed out of his assembly hall that morning. Imagine the thoughts running through each gay student's mind as their headmaster pointed the finger of blame at them.

Mr Beales is behaving like the school bully, picking on the vulnerable and preying on those he thinks least likely to complain.

Most good schools today have policies on bullying, Cwm Carn High School probably has one of its own. All of these policies will urge the individual being bullied to report the abuse they're suffering; teachers insist it is the only way to stop it.

So let's report this school bully to the authorities and demand that he stops abusing those he thinks less powerful than he.

05.06.2002 - Ultra cool...

Hey, look at what they're proposing to build in Cardiff. It's a transport system called ULTra (Urban Light Transport), an on demand system of driverless automatic taxis travelling on their own guideway network. When it's completed in 2005 it'll be the first of its kind in the world. The developers claim that it's clean, quiet, efficient, and emits less pollution than conventional transport (and more importantly, there's a stop planned within a few hundred yards of my house).

Quite refreshing, if not a little surprising, to see Cardiff take the lead in something for a change.

04.06.2002 - Republic = Good / Monarchy = Bad..?

In an article in the Independent David Aaronovitch puts forward the view of a Reluctant Monarchist. He, quite rightly, points out that many of the European countries that we think of as modern, liberal and progressive states are indeed monarchies. Many British anti-monarchists like to think that republicanism is a panacea for all these islands' ills. Ask yourself do you really want to live the likes of Tim Richard's simplistic, school debating society vision of republicanism? Yes, our monarchy could be better; yes, it needs rationalising and modernising but to get rid of it altogether would be throwing the royal baby out with the royal bathwater. At the very least, this weekend we got two good concerts and an extended bank holiday out of it and, more importantly perhaps, a reason to come together and celebrate.

Rebublic ≠ Utopia.

03.06.2002 - It's my party...

Betty Windsor may be the richest but she certainly isn't the luckiest woman in the world. The fire at Windsor Castle almost 10 years ago, over a decade of problems with royal marriages culminating in the premature death of your daughter-in-law, the recent deaths of close family members and now her home catches fire at the height of what's supposed to be a celebration; you'd be forgiven for thinking that she must've done something really bad in a past life. The Royal Family really do seem to be dogged by the worst luck. By all accounts, yesterday's fire was not a serious one in terms of causing structural damage, such as the Windsor Castle fire did. However, even if nothing of importance was burned and the smoke and water damage is minimal to the numerous works of art, antique furnishings, fabrics and other objets d'art; she must be near the end of a fast shortening tether. She must be tempted to throw her arms open heavenwards and scream at the Gods, "Why me?" It's like a Greek tragedy or an American soap; forget The Colbys and Dynasty, meet The Windsors.

What do they say about fact often being stranger than fiction..?

02.06.2002 - Truly, a prince amongst men...

Continuing this weekend's right royal theme - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, was born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu on 10 June 1921; the only son of Prince Andrew of Greece. His paternal family is of Danish descent - his father was the grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg and he adopted the family name of Mountbatten when he became a naturalised British subject and renounced his Royal title in 1947. The Queen and Prince Philip both have Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. They are also related through his father's side.

Some choice quotes straight from the horse's ass:

I don't think I need to add any comments...

01.06.2002 - Gawd bless yer Ma'am...

Today marks the start to the Golden Jubilee celebrations; 50 glorious years of Betty Windsor. It's everywhere you look; there are street parties, concerts, charity fund raising events, radio and TV programmes and more websites than you can shake a sceptre at. This weekend we are spoilt for choice when it comes to celebrating half a century of servility. However, if you're not an ardent monarchist and you're not rabid with World Cup fever (the other event that's eating up the bandwidth), what is there to do over the next few days? Beyond staying in bed - not a lot unless you fancy three days of debating Welsh socialist republicanism at the Anti-Jubilee Republican Festival in Pontypridd.

Urrrrr... no thanks; I think I'll stay in bed.