Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Self Portrait #8

It wasn’t simple for me to come out as gay, because I wanted to be no different from my friends, and all my friends had girlfriends. So I didn’t come out to them until later—some at 18 and some three or four years later. The fact that I found it difficult had nothing to do with being nervous about how they would react. What made it difficult was that I had concealed it from them for so long that I felt guilty. These were my friends, and why would you conceal something from your friends if not because of an underlying fear of how they’d react? I wondered how my friends would feel if they thought that I’d had that fear. Wouldn’t they be distressed? Wouldn’t they think, “But we’re your friends. How on earth would we think any differently of you for that?”

My parents were a completely different kettle of fish, because I just knew it was going to be so hard. My mother found out purely by chance. I’d been having lunch with her and I was meant to be meeting the guy [(B)] who was my boyfriend at the time. We were late and there he was storming up the road and he was so wound up about my being late that when he bumped into me he really exploded. My mother rang me back that afternoon and said that there was just something so wrong about that reaction, that it wasn’t the reaction of a friend. And it was just so distressing and dreadful to her. And she still has a difficult time with it now, 11 or 12 years later. It’s much better now than it was when she didn’t want to know anything about it. It didn’t affect her relationship with me, how she felt about me—I was still her son—but it was something that she didn’t like to talk about.

Her initial reaction was shame and blame. Shame because it was such an awful thing to be a homosexual. I remember she said an absolutely horrible thing to me—I don’t think she realised just how horrible. A couple of years after she found out, when my brother’s wife was expecting their first child, she said, “I hope it’s a girl because that way I’ll get to see my grandchild. If it’s a boy, they’ll be saying, “You’ve got to keep him away from [MadeInScotland]”—because she associates gay people with paedophiles. It has become a bit easier…

I don’t really know about my dad. He was an only child and I don’t think his parents were openly emotional with him. I think he finds it hard to relate his emotions, so he doesn’t like to talk about things; I don’t think he ever has. When I told him I was gay his reaction was that it didn’t change anything—nothing more than that; he didn’t ask anything else about it. And he never asks… He’s polite to Xfe and he’ll call him “son”—I think he just calls people “son”—but he doesn’t talk about stuff.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Poor Keep Breeding

Xfe is watching Question Time. Although I don't do Karen Brady, nor Alan Sugar, I do do Jonathan and Richard Dimbleby.

Usually I'm in bed for QT - it's after my witching hour. (Tonight I didn't get home until after 10pm).

On Friday night/Saturday afternoon, I love to listen to Any Questions/Any Answers on my favourite R4.

I've missed Tennant's vampiric bedtime tale tonight. But I did order the translation of the dissertation from whence it came.

Also bought today:
  • NT tickets for Frankenstein.
  • Panto tix for London's No. 1 panto
Purchases arrived today:

Doctor Who: Action Figure Collectors Set: Revenge Of The Cybermen (Product Image)

(3 sets).

Purchases due for dispatch tomorrow:



But don't tell Xfe. I'll be exterminated - I've ordered 30 of them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gagarazzi

Xfe is watching the Apprentice. But I don't do Karen Brady, nor Alan Sugar.

Instead I'm sitting in the kitchen, listening to R4. My favourite. In an hour or so David Tennant will be reading A Night with a Vampire.
David Tennant reads Antoine Calmet's accounts of real Vampires, gathered from people across Europe who believed they had seen the creatures with their own eyes.
Super.

Work is charging onward towards the car crash that will be Christmas. With too much to do in a limited time, sitting by as clients pass on their hurried (and poorly thought out) deals for the sake of getting them done before Christmas.

Quietly I'm resigned to the fact that I'll have to work through most of my planned holiday time off from the office 9-17 December. I'll probably be in on 9th, 13th-15th.

Already I've given up holiday booked for the days falling between Christmas and New Year, to provide cover.

My latest pleasure is buying books, and putting them in piles. I never get the chance to read them, but knowing I have them makes all the difference.

Yet another manifestation of my inclinations towards hoarding, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Self Portrait #7

Blah, blah, blah. I don't half go on.

Next up - well, we're more than half way through, you and I.

If you haven't snoozed off along the way...

I don’t see myself first and foremost as a gay person with everything else being incidental to that. I’ve come across people whose focus is being gay, for whom everything else follows from that. I’m just somebody who happens to be gay: it’s just one part of my life. It’s become a much larger part of my life since I came to London, though. I was open about it before, but it’s been easier to live more openly as a gay person in London. I don’t consider myself to be a very political person in terms of gay and gay rights, but I had my civil partnership in May. Xfe and I got married primarily so that he would have legal protection if something were to happen to me, but once we decided we would do it, it took on a deeper emotional meaning, became much more of an emotional journey than I ever thought it would be. I remember thinking just before or just after the civil partnership, how awful and how wrong it was that gay people had previously been denied the vehicle for publicly expressing or showing their love for someone by marrying them.

me and my pals Russ and Mattie.

I see now that, as a gay person, I have some kind of duty to make things better. There’s still a bit of a journey to be made, still some ground to gain, in the treatment of gay people, although not as much as there was 20 years ago. And that’s something that makes me want to continue with the Chorus, although I do it principally because of my love of singing. I do feel I have a duty to give something back and help where I can and break down prejudices where they still exist, and being in the Chorus lets me do that, to a greater or a lesser extent.

I don’t think anyone would choose to be gay, because it’s a tougher lifestyle. It’s easier not to be gay. It’s becoming easier to be gay, but you still risk facing abuse in the street, or professionally you still risk… In my firm in Aberdeen, there was a huge debate at partnership level about whether they should promote me, which revolved around my sexuality and how clients might perceive it. I was given this talk and the person who gave it was uncomfortable and terribly embarrassed about it because he felt it was slightly hypocritical on the part of some of the others (not him I should add) who had asked him to tell me to be discreet and to give assurances that I’d be discreet—whatever that meant. One of the things he said was that it might take me a bit longer to become a partner, but two or so years later when my name was being put forward for partnership there was pretty much no discussion about it. There were a couple of people who felt strongly about it for religious reasons, but that was it: it was so much less of an issue than it had been two or so years previously. I think for a lot of them it was the first time they’d had actually encountered it. They maybe knew someone who was gay but it wasn’t a person they worked with or were connected with. So I think it was the first time for a lot of them, and it was about them seeing that, actually, my life was no different from theirs. I went through that experience and people will still go through it in the City where there’s this real atmosphere of machismo, where you have to be this super-hero, this real he-man. There are people who hold back on their sexuality because they are worried that it will inhibit their career progression. That goes on still. I do wonder why anyone would choose to be gay, if they had any choice about it, given how tough life can be at all levels.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Are What They Breed

I've known it long enough. I recognise that there is no escape either.

I preferred to deny it to myself, or at least, to hide it. (From myself).

Though I've now accepted it, I've only accepted it quietly.

But there is little point.

I am what made me. Some good bits, probably, but at the moment the worst bits too. Even more.

Those bits I despise about my father, well, they are too me. All the bad bits.

And the bad bits about my Mum (those tend to be health problems). I'm sure I have them in some shape way or form as well.

C'est la vie!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Charity Begins At Home

But where should it end?

Tonight is the BBC's annual Children In Need telethon. I hadn't realised that it was tonight - I thought it was next week. So, I hadn't yet donated.

Xfe wanted to watch it. Usually I don't. I find it difficult, upsetting.

Even although I hadn't donated to the telethon today I did actually donate today (as I do every month):
Each month I volunteer at a legal advice clinic, giving advice to those who cannot afford to pay a solicitor. The first time I advised it was difficult to distance myself from the hardship of a client. With a stroke of a pen I could have written a cheque, spending what I spend on a good weekend out, sorting out her problem.

I support various arts organisations. Each year I give over £500 through "friends of" schemes and subscriptions.

Even so this evening, when I sat down in front of the television, I felt guilty that I had not donated to Children In Need.


To celebrate Xfe's return after his mini-break up north, tending to our niece and nephew, I had bought a bottle of champagne. I felt guilty opening and drinking it.

But I did, and I haven't yet.

Should I feel guilty?

A Self Portrait #6

This picture was taken after I had my eyes done, hence the shades indoors.

The phone is the last but one.

The calendar is probably the last but two.

I notice plenty grey creeping in the sides, the beard. Perhaps I should keep clean shaven at all times.

The channel from my nose to my lips looks pronounced. But not over pronounced I think.

The ears a reasonable proportion. Perhaps slightly small?

The flat looks like... Well, a distant memory now.

I like how the French don’t work so hard. On Sunday I was reading about someone who’d gone over from England. He had a French wife and they were both made redundant at the same time and they went over to France. He said it was fantastic because they had a statutory five-week holiday period and all their bank holiday equivalents on top of that. I like that. I like the food there. I like the weather there. The French people I can take or leave: I don’t like them that much; I don’t dislike them that much. I like eastern European more. But I guess that’s because the French aren’t really that bothered about British people. They don’t really need anything from British people. They don’t really think they have anything to learn from British or western culture. They see it as the same as theirs, so they’re not that interested. They know they need to speak English but they’re not needy about speaking English in the way that eastern Europeans are. So my liking for France has more to do with the place than the people. It’s not that I dislike the people: I’m just ambivalent about them.

The company I feel comfortable in has changed. The interesting thing is that majority of my best friends are straight. They’re my best friends because we went to university together and did all this stuff together. We see a lot less of each other than we used to, partly because I’m here in London. And we’ve moved on not only geographically but in other ways. Their lives have become quite different from mine, because they’ve all got kids now and their kids are a focus they all have in common because they all started having children at around the same time and were going through the same experiences as their babies grew up. And of course that’s not part of my life and I don’t connect with it any more.

So as I’ve got older, I’ve found I’ve had more in common with gay people. The fact that we don’t have families makes us a bit freer. It’s easier to go out with my gay friends because they don’t have to get baby sitters; they’re freer to do stuff. It’s not a case of, “We’d love to but we can’t because of the kids.” I do a lot more with my gay friends than with my straight friends purely because it’s easier to continue doing the things I do. There are people in the Chorus I have round to dinner. I love to entertain at home and typically the people I entertain at home are a mix of Chorus people and friends from elsewhere, but not my good friends, although a good friend and his wife come from time to time. And then there are a few other people that I have met since being in London, people that you went out on a few dates with or something like that, but I am not very pro-active in looking for new friends because I don’t really feel that I need to.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comfy And Cosy, Side By Side

Really it's way past my bedtime. But I don't want to go to bed. Not yet.

Though, really I have nothing to write about. Nothing new to bring to the party.

American clients are being demanding, though in a reasonable and nice way. That said, they are entitled to it. After all they pay £410 per hour of my time. Though not to me, I hasten to add.

What gets me is the time difference. I want to be going home as they start the day.

I'm taking a client to the football on Saturday. I have to admit, I rather like the football, but at £150 per club level seat I'd certainly not be going at my expense.

It's Arsenal -v- Spurs. For me it's my first derby, given (and let me just check after I've typed it) I'm more or less equidistant from both. Well, let me first say I think I'm closer to Emirates...

I was right. Not much, much further, it seems. But Arsenal (at "B") are still my home team, with Spurs (at "A") coming a close second. Well, it's 1/3rd to 2/3rds really.

Phew wow! Means I don't need to learn any new chants.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1,500 Posts

The last one was my 1,500th post. Imagine that. I can't.

Xfe is up north visiting our nephew and niece, doing familial duty. I'm home late, with a lamb kebab in a roll (should have had pasta/pesto).

I could be watching Kirsty's Homemade Home. Instead I think I'll go off to bed and read.

1,500.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Self Portrait #5

DSC02055

I feel extremely comfortable going to places where I can communicate and be understood. So I feel extremely comfortable going to France. I feel extremely comfortable going to eastern European countries because my best friend lived in Prague for seven and a half years and I used to go about nine times a year and became familiar with the place, felt safe and secure, thought eastern Europeans were safe people to be around. I’m going to America for work in October, and I’ve no interest in going because I’ve let myself become so intolerant of George Bush and his policies. I don’t identify myself as a person who’s political in any great sense, but I don’t look forward to going to America because I can’t tolerate the people anymore and principally because I see that a lot of the problems that the world faces revolve around America.

I think of myself as being Scottish first, and then European—before being British, certainly not English. There’s a humorous level to that, which is that people are always having a dig because Scotland never do well at the football or whatever. Also I think I’m more aware of being Scottish because I’m a Scot living outside Scotland. I am quite proud to be Scottish. I don’t feel not at home in London, but I think that has more to do with being gay than with being Scottish: there are so many more gay people here, so it’s easier to have a gay life here.

I don’t think London is an English city really. I consider it to be totally cosmopolitan, even beyond being full of British people: it’s just so full of people from everywhere. It’s only when there’s a national sports event like the world cup and you’ve got all the flags in the cars and so on that it becomes English rather than British.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blu Ray, Come What May

It was a night out they were going to remember for a very, long time.

Ah, the joys of HD & Blu Ray. I was inducted to the cult that is Rocky Horror over 25 years ago. Hence my excitement having it in my man-bag, ripe for playing.

I asked Xfe if he would like to watch it with me. Of course, he didn't. Well, he didn't want to put up with me singing all the way. Getting louder and loUDER and LOUDER.
(there's a light)

So, he went to shower, I substituted the DVD and now he's in bed and I'm singing along to the blu-ray version, with new arrangements I think. I'm sure.
It seemed fortune had smiled on MadeInScotland and Xfe...

p.s. I also bought, and can't wait to watch, Moulin Rouge (blu-ray)!!! Though I will no doubt have to wait until the velvet darkness, of the blackest night.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Shopping...

...is well underway. I actually started in January. Here.

The problem, inevitably, is that I forget what I have, for whom.

Yesterday evening I was at RADA (they seem to rather like me there). On my way I did some Festive wallet clearing. When I came home Xfe took me to task, reminding me that with the house purchase we had endorsed a Christmas-lite. As if there is such a thing.

I think that, come Christmas, I'll certainly be in his bad books.

We even have our Christmas tree. Not the main one, though!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Self Portrait #4

It's more ME ME ME ME time.



It is really hard to have a social life Monday to Friday. I can’t plan, can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do anything. Sure as fate if I have something organised I’ll have to cancel it because something will come up at work—a deal I’m working on will reach a critical point where everything needs to be done really quickly. Many’s the time I’ve had tickets to go to the theatre, dinner plans with friends, and have had to cancel or arrive extremely late.

Another thing is that because you work so hard you play much harder. Less so now, but I used to go out and get hammered. It’s the work-hard, play-hard culture. I’d drink far too much purely because it was a way of dealing with my stress. I guess you felt this really great pressure to have a good time when you went out because you didn’t often get the chance, certainly during the week. Or is it just that because you work so hard and you work at this great, huge rate you continue at that same rate when you are socialising? I don’t know.

I have become really conscious of it partly because my partner’s French. Quite often we’ll be in Paris having dinner with his friends and a bottle of wine will be opened at dinner and by the fourth course there will still be wine in it to be drunk. Put that in the context of four people having dinner in Britain and the wine is just guzzled, glasses are topped up all the time, out comes another bottle. At least, that’s how I do it. So I’ve become a lot more conscious of it. I think it’s a British thing as well. I don’t think it’s necessarily because of the profession I’m in. I see all these programmes about binge drinking, so maybe it’s not just a professional thing. But then what do you do with your clients? You entertain your clients a lot, and what does that entertainment revolve around? Well, going out and getting pissed. Wherever you’re going—whether you’re going to the football with them and going for dinner afterwards or going to some other sporting event or whatever, it all revolves around having lots of alcohol.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Self Portrait #3

Well, probably it's time for the next segment of my Self Portrait in Words (with a self portrait picture to accompany the text).

Remember, the text is raw, unedited. So, the pictures should match, showing me honestly, as I am...

Do remember as well that the interview was given some 4-5 years ago, so my opinions may well have changed slightly!

Last time I was talking about life in the City.

In the City it’s all about making as much money as you can. And you can see how that happens. People get accustomed to a certain lifestyle. If they’re straight, they have children and they all go to private school, which is expensive. The wife probably doesn’t work. They have a housekeeper or whatever. The status, the expensive lifestyle… How else can it be sustained other than by maximising your income?

The whole thing is self-sustaining and relative. If everyone moved down a couple of gears, everything would move down a couple of gears around them. But that’s not going to happen because although 80 people out of 100 may be prepared to move down a gear or two the other 20 will see it as an opportunity to maximise their profit or return by continuing to offer that bit extra so that they’ll get more clients. Then you’re back where you started. You have to compete on a level footing with everyone else. So it’s self-perpetuating. And if UK law firms didn’t do that, there’s the American law firms …

I’m sure things can get harder still. People are always looking at ways to make that much more, squeeze that much more out. What’s happened—I’ve no great direct experience of this but I’ve been reading about it in the legal press—is that these days fewer people aspire to becoming partners because they’d have to give up too much of their life to do it and they prefer to have a reasonably comfortable salary and an okay work-life balance, and a lot of people are just about-turning and leaving the profession because it’s just too much. But, no, people will continue to try to make as much as they can. Absolutely. That’s what it’s all about.
This picture is how you find me, right now, taken as I'm finishing this text.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Five On The 5th For My 5th

I've missed a few Five/5ths lately, but was determined I'd get back onto the case this month.

Needless to say I totally forgot until this morning when I realised it was the fifth anniversary of my blogging (give or take a day or three).

This month's theme is Recycled. I had another couple of pics I wanted to take, but by the time I got home it was too dark. I might add them tomorrow.

Instead, I've had to go through my archives to RECYCLE some of my old pics. Hope Stephen doesn't mind. It's not quite in keeping with the spirit of things, but given the anniversary, I'm sure he'll excuse it as an appropriate anniversary indulgence.

That said I'll offer up something taken today, on the 5th, for starters. On my way to the station heading to work.

Recycled

As tempting as the concept of recycling may be, here's something that, despite the donor's best efforts, I doubt is going to ever find it's way onto the recycled circuit.

Second hand crapper, anyone?

This lane, which extends from N8 to N4, often has fly tipped junk strewn along it.

Not for me, I'm afraid. Not even as a planter for the garden...

Next, I have to dig into my archive of blog posts and photos.

From November 6 2008 here is a picture taken the year before, celebrating le quatorze juillet in Annecy.


Les feux d'artifices.

Fireworks.

Today is after all the 5th November. Bonfire Night.

I hate fireworks. Rather, I hate fireworks in the hand of irresponsible people. I think all but public display use should be banned.

Chavs should not be allowed to use.

My cats would cower in fear at the squibs (a good Scottish reference) banging every other moment....

The cats. It's almost a year since Chadwick had to be put to sleep, and Cecilia followed shortly after. They hated fireworks. So I did too!

Next, it's a trip to the Tate in October 2003. Some recycled sunlight, showing as Olafur Eliasson's spectacular Weather Project installation.

With its mooted "trippy" chemical haze, this was a real winner...

Next up, from December 2009, here are some Christmas decorations on the Southbank, by Royal Festival Hall.

Actually, really and truthfully recycled.

Shredded recycled plastic bottles.

Rather effective, methinks.



Finally, thrice recycled. Some Old Street graffiti at a recycling site en route to Hoxton and Shoreditch. I do miss living by there.

Happy 5th

Who would have thought it?

I been blogging for 5 years now!

My first hello here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Self Portrait #2

Continuing the unpublished "self-portrait", here's the next part. Last time, I finished on the subject of how I got stuck being a lawyer; how it happened.

Here I'm talking about what else I might do if I had the choice...

The scary thing is that I have no idea what I’d do if I had the choice. These days I don’t waste my time thinking about what I would or could have done. I’m very conscious that there’s no about-turn, that it’s too late for that. Not that I’m trapped: I’ve become accustomed to the way I live.

I qualified 16 years ago, in 1991. That’s a long time to be doing what I do, and it’s a really high-pressure job. When you’re in negotiation and you do really well and win what your client wants, you feel pretty happy and impressed with yourself. I still take myself by surprise from time to time. But that’s about it. I do feel kind of burned out having done it for 16 years. That’s extremely common. So many people leave the legal profession these days because it’s become hugely stressful, and they’re just burned out. You get paid very decently, but at what cost?

Of course there are things that could be done. Law firms could look to make less profit and employ more people to do the work. Naturally though, it’s all about making a large profit—partners in some City law firms are taking home annual earnings in excess of £1 million—and the only way to sustain that is by taking a high volume of work and working overlong hours to meet extremely tight (and sometimes unrealistic) deadlines. Generally the whole thing’s driven by the desire to bring in more fees: it’s all about making a profit. Some firms are reasonably happy to make a reasonable amount and have a decent work-life balance. Fortunately, my firm—my department—is okay and are considerate of the work-life balance.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Manchester

Off to Manchester for a couple of days...

On the train/Forever hypo

This morning I was reading the Independent. I picked up a copy in the lounge at Euston. I read an article by Cathy John about coming out (as an MS sufferer).

My symptoms remain mostly invisible to others: pins and needles in the hands, blurred vision, fatigue, muscle weakness and imbalance (I often give a brilliant impression of being drunk when I am not). Prior to being diagnosed the symptoms seemed so negligible, I was convinced I was a raving hypochondriac.
It caught my eye. I've been having slight problems with my vision; I have difficulty concentrating. Most telling, I often get pins and needles in my hands and lower arms.

NOTE TO SELF - must get checked out!

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