Saturday, July 29, 2017

A reflection prompted by the anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act

The following was posted to Facebook this week, and prompted a huge response. I have been asked to make it available elsewhere, so the easiest thing to do was make it into a blog post after all.

This should have been, perhaps, a blog post, but no one reads my blog posts! So, here we go.
With all the media attention on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, I am moved to write my own post about the subject, or, as my parents would have said, put in my two-pennorth. And speaking of my parents, I was an only child. We lived in a large flat in London, in a divided Victorian house. On the ground floor beneath us was another single child family. Bernard was older than I was, but we got on probably better than a brother and sister would have done, even when he took me to the zoo and lost me. As we both grew up it became obvious that Bernard was gay, although I had no idea what that was at the time. However, I was very well aware of it by the time his current boyfriend, a Sicilian, told me. My parents must have been aware of it, too – we were like one big family – but there was never a hint of disapproval. In fact, there was an occasion when a neighbour who had been trying to persuade my father to join the Masons (and failing) came to him with the story that Bernard had been arrested for cottaging. He was full of moral outrage and certain my father would join in his condemnation and, incidentally, keep me out of harm’s way. My father gave him the telling off of his life and never spoke to him again. Believe it or not, this was AFTER the Act, but the arrests and entrapment were actually increasing. My dad must have been even more remarkable than I thought.
By the time I met my husband-to-be, the Act had been in force for a few years, but acceptance was a long way off. A friend who was first trombone in the orchestra at the Coliseum used to get me tickets and got me two for a new production of Verdi’s Masked Ball. He told us to meet him in the interval and he’d take us for a drink. Brian had never met him before, but happily followed him to a little door at the side of the theatre, and upstairs to a drinking club. Within seconds, he realised it was a GAY drinking club. I’ve never seen anyone so uncomfortable in my life, especially when someone tried to chat him up. You can imagine his reaction to Bernard. But over the next couple of years I “educated” him, and Bernard was one of the ushers at our wedding. He had always been part of my parents’ wide circle of friends, and was a born entertainer. Sadly, I can't find any photographs of him, but if I unearth my wedding album, I'll put one in.
But one of the things I was stunned by was the fact that even into the seventies both drugs and electrical therapy were being employed to “cure” gay men. I knew it happened earlier, and even today in the States there are doctors who profess to be able to do it, but here in the seventies?
I was born to incredibly tolerant and open minded parents. My early jobs, model, air stewardess, nightclub DJ, brought me into contact with a wide variety of people, and being gay seemed normal to me and always has. But I still see intolerance and discomfort around the LGBT community and it appals me. It saddens me that we have to HAVE a separate community – why not just people? We’ve got a long way to go.
Below: two pictures of my terrific Dad.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Arrivals and Departures news

It's Sunday morning, sunny and very warm. And I have to work.

Just over a week ago I finished Murder By The Barrel and sent it to my editor. Friday evening he sent me back the edits. I was expecting practically a full rewrite, but no, bless him, he was as encouraging as ever, although there is a fair amount to do. Unlike almost all other writers I know (except my friend Bernardine Kennedy, who does what I do) I don't like rewriting and creating multiple drafts before submission. For a start, I don't have time. For instance, this book is due out on October 8th, and the next one in June 2018. You work it out. And the edits are to be in by Wednesday...

So this week, while waiting for the edits, I started the research for book 19. Yes, we have the title. I thought of it, liked it, put it to the powers that be, who all liked it too, and that was that. Then I realised I needed a story to fit it. Difficult. A challenge, in fact. There are certain subjects about which you think you are well informed; perhaps they constitute a part of your particular interest (that'll give you a clue) so that you know quite a lot, until you realise that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sorry about the cliché, but, all fired up, I thought I had the perfect basis for a plot, until I realised that it now posed more problems than it solved. So there's a lot more research to do. Auspicious sources have been emailed, I have received a modicum of encouragement, and now I've got to stop while I work on the Barrel.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I have committed myself to a little theatrical enterprise, directing three women in three linked monologues at an event on September 9th. The trouble is, the monologues are still in their original form as short stories that all appeared in magazines years ago and subsequently in my short story collection, Bad Behaviour.

This means they have to be rewritten. And, as you can tell, there isn't that much time for the girls to learn them, or rehearse. So that's got to be done fairly sharpish, too. Luckily, I know the three actors well (two of them actually have cause to be grateful to me - and I know how to pull in a favour) so I don't anticipate too many problems, but nevertheless, it's an added pressure.

On top of that, my dear old laptop is on its last legs, and this very morning I have bitten the bullet and ordered a new one. This will obviously necessitate a lot of re-learning, as, although I have been a dedicated Mac user for as long as they've been in this country (blame the old man - he was one of the first "Apple Trainers" over here), each new one has different features and a different operating system. And my brain is very like the laptop - not accepting any new systems. So I'm hoping eldest son Miles, who arrives back in Whitstable some time today after a week's jolly in the South of France with his sister, Phillipa, will find time to help me get to grips with it. Sadly, youngest son Leo is currently residing in temporary domestic bliss with his girlfriend in New Jersey, but if I'm still having problems in September, he'll be back then and I shall force him to help. Luckily, kids were trained by their dad, and Miles actually worked in the industry for a few years. 

So there you are. One book going off, another one starting, and me getting back to the theatre - in a small way. Kids going away and coming back (yes, they're all fully fledged adults, but...) and me not actually going anywhere - no Turkey this year. (See new laptop above.) And in the last six weeks we've had the funerals of one much loved cousin and one old friend. However, to balance that, Louise and I (and grandchildren) will be attending the wedding of another cousin in a couple of weeks. So more comings and goings.

I shall try and remember to let you all know if anything startling happens in the next few weeks, meanwhile, roll on October.