Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adventures of a Couch-Hopping Scribbler Part 3: Brighton Go Boom

So, after the awesome experience of Chicago, I arrived back at Heathrow with the strike still going on. No flights back to Glasgow, but what the fuck -- my Helsinki flight was via Heathrow only three days later, so I'd been furiously scheming about how I could stay down south for the intervening period, hopping from couch to sofa bed to couch. There was that nice young queer punk anarchist in Brighton to visit. There were my friends in Reading, whose 13 month old wee yin I was yet to even see. And there were a fistful of London mates I was determined to catch up with if possible. So, plans were afoot.

Plans that are afoot can sometimes trip over those afeet, right enough, so as it was the first stop on the itinerary -- Brighton -- fell through, with a text message on my arrival at Paddington, talking of dreaded lurgies and quarantine situations. OK, I exaggerate, but my mate down there was under the weather, so it didn't seem terribly good form to inflict my jetlagged, mindfucked blethering on him. And as he pointed out himself, probably not a wise move to expose yerself to the dreaded lurgy a few days before the Helsinki holiday. Cause arriving in Finland only to spend a week wallowing in diseased misery, with said lurgy probably being passed on to one's gracious hosts... yeah, not good. So, it was London or Reading, Reading or London, cause, uh-oh, Brighton go boom. I had crash space lined up in London for the next night, and the overnight stay in Reading organised after that, but where I was staying tonight was pretty much going to depend on what was easiest for whoever could put me up. Time to start texting!

This was, naturally enough, the point where I realised my phone was now on one bar of power. A few unanswered calls to my friends in Reading (to a mobile phone that, I was later to learn, had been lost during crowdsurfing shenanigans at a Rage Against the Machine gig) and even that bar was looking faint. Never mind. As I discovered, there's a rather nice park just outside Paddington, surrounded by little hotels; and not all of those hotels have security on their wifi, heh. So, with my trusty MacBook still carrying a decent charge, it was just a matter of firing out some emails via Hotmail and hoping things would work out for the best. It was a warm sunny day, barely even lunch time yet, so I wasn't exactly under any pressure. Besides, the ever-wonderful Al Robertson and Heather Lindsley had offered to put me up that night before the plans were concretised with Brighton first on the agenda. So as long as I had power for a couple of texts and/or access to wifi, I was probably sorted. Probably.

I'm not very good at that worrying thing, I think. I'm pretty much a binary creature when it comes to fretting, flicking between raw panic in one set of circumstances ("They canceled my flight to London?! FUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!") and bodhistavan serenity in another ("Hey, I'm in London with nowhere to stay arranged, fuck all money for a hotel, and no power on my mobile phone. It'll be fiiiiine.") This isn't always a good thing when it comes to finances, *ahem*, but the ability to click into a state of Ed Woodian optimism does seem to work to my benefit on occasion. Unfazed by my potential vagrancy, I just sent out some hellos through the aether and rolled me up another cigarette.

It would make a much better story if something went horribly wrong here, but sadly, no. I'd barely sparked up my nicotine fix before Al answered back, bless him, and before I knew it, I had blow-by-blow detailed instructions on how to get to Al and Heather's place in Hackney, with alternative routes for simplicity versus scenery, and even a sneaky wee way of getting me into their flat in their absence. If ever a man was a gent, tis Mr Robertson. As it was, I decided to fortify myself with some lunch first (an all day breakfast and good Italian coffee in a wee greasy-spoonish cafe... mmmmm) and take the scenic route, by way of the new overground line to Dalston Junction, so Al was already home by the time I arrived, but the thoughtfulness was seriously appreciated, given I was just off a transatlantic flight through the night, a flight that had begun on the Sunday after that somewhat inebriated cast party for the musical. Hangover and jetlag... come to think of it, I may have just been too whacked to worry.

Anyway, in the end it was fortunate that Brighton fell through, as otherwise I wouldn't have had the chance to catch up with Heather -- who wasn't going to be about the next night. Being in London a day earlier than aniticipated, I actually got to see her -- hurrah! And we had a veritable feast of a barbecue on the roof of the converted hospital their flat sits in (and, man, the view from the roof is fucking incredible.) And we had monstrous artichoke hearts the size of a baby's head, one of which I had fun turning into a strange dissection experiment. And there was wine, wine and more wine! But most of all there was some great conversation on all manner of things, with Heather giving me a whole nother perspective on The Oresteia -- me having, I'm ashamed to say, never really thought of it from a particularly feminist perspective. And hey, I got a sneaky peek at, and the lowdown on, Heather's novel... which sounds very cool indeed, I gotta say. For all the jetlag, I found myself feeling perfectly alert with the splendid company and all, and we yammered away into the wee hours before finally crashing out fuck knows when.

The next day, with both Al and Heather having their actual lives to get on with, I headed out for a wander round the general vicinity, strolling through Hackney Downs and up Stoke Newington Road. Ended up grabbing a sandwich and discovering that Abney Park was quite a nice place to munch it down. Quite a nice place just for a general wander, actually. I didn't realise the thickly wooded park with its little winding dirt paths was a cemetery until I was inside, among the gravestones, a few here and there relatively new, but most dating back a century or so, crumbling and faded, tumbled and broken, overgrown with ivy and brush. I discovered the derelict chapel at the heart of it -- a fucking excellent location for a story, I rather thought.

I also discovered the place was a serious cruising zone, twice managing to pick up rather persistent followers as I strolled the narrow trails, spectacularly failing to find the exit I was aiming for and instead ending up back where I started -- i.e. the derelict church. This, it should be noted, does not really help when you're trying to project a purpose other than... well, doing the circuit, so to speak, in the hope of finding some hot guy to suck your cock. No, when a rather metrosexually dressed young man has given you a long, long look at the derelict church, when he's set out after you as you wander off down a particularly overgrown path, when you've gradually realised what's going on, and you're now trying to project an air of certainty in your stride, a sense of destination, it really doesn't help when you end up back at that church, with nowhere to go except down another particularly overgrown path.

(You know, I'm really a rather rubbish gay at times. I had at least an hour to kill, and he wasn't bad-looking, so I probably should have just went for it. Damn it, one of these days I'm going to end up getting my Gay Card revoked. And they'll probably take the toaster too. Ah well.)

Anyways, having escaped the second follower I managed to pick up in shaking off the first (and it was a crap exchange, the second being old and fugly,) and finally found my way out of the park, after a little more wandering and a brief return to Al and Heather's place, it was time for the gathering of the clan what I'd been arranging over Twitter and email. Which is to say, a chance to catch up with Tim Jarvis and Sébastian Cevey, and to introduce them to Al and each other. Beers were had in the Rochester Castle. Then there was more meat feast action in a great little Turkish restaurant on Stoke Newington Road -- Teste. If you find that name suggestive, by the way, you're not just being infantile; it is in fact named after its signature dish of testicles... and delicious they are too. Hey, I had to try them. How often do you get to munch on -- no, don't answer that, and especially not with reference to previous escapades in Abney Park. Moving along...

So, yeah, a fine time was had by one and all, I think. It was great to catch up with me writer mates in London, and better still to see them all getting on. It was short but sweet, over all too soon, but a blast while it lasted, and I'll look forward to seeing em again. Here's hoping they make it up to Glasgow, so's I can take them round the haunts up here for some return hospitality.

The next day it was off to Reading, to a brief sojourn with me old mucker Dr Arturo and family. There was beer and blarney, needless to say, in the style of the Oakfield, in the scruffy rock ambience of the Purple Turtle and in a bona fide olde-fashioned snug of the Hobgoblin, but the blether ain't my business to be blogging about really, and wouldn't mean anything to yez anyways, so all I'll say is that it's kinda awesome to be there -- this would be the next day, I mean, in sobriety -- to be there when a kiddy takes his first more-than-a-few unsupported steps towards his dad, and even better when he then does the same to toddle to you.

It's neat to be reminded, when you're in the middle of some Grand Adventure, that some are just at the very start of theirs.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, bless.

You are such a man, did you never read that comp copy of the Ladybird Book of Gays that you should've received when you came out? Page 6: "Old graveyards are SO cruisy, said Daisy." If I remember rightly.

6:52 pm  

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