More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

East Sussex

Writing 101: day Twenty. The Things We Treasure

Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure
Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.
It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.
A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Ipswich, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Suffolk, Norwich, Norfolk, Brighton, East Sussex, Bremerhaven, Germany, New York, Amsterdam, my bear has visited them all.

I’m not a hoarder, or into collecting things. In the past people have tried, most notably skulls, which relate to my love of all things Gothic and the many skulls I have incorporated into my tattoos. At one point I hid all the skulls in a patch of garden outside my flat but I removed them when two children told their mum they had found a mass grave; thankfully the mum saw the funny side of it. Those skulls have now found new homes.

Skulls, skulls, skulls

Skulls, skulls, skulls

The only possession from my childhood days to be my constant companion has been my teddybear that my Nana bought me when I was born. Now, this is no Steiff bear, far from it; in reality it has absolutely no monetary worth at all, but to me it is priceless.

When I left home, aged seventeen I didn’t have that many belongings to take with me except my Hazel O Connor scrapbook and poster with everything else, including my bear, in a little black case (So Bronski Beat) and headed off to the bright lights of….Felixstowe!

Hazel O Coonor, me and Jo.

After a short period of commuting via my moped I ended up renting a room in a very big house. My landlady was very strange and I later found out she was nicking my food! This came about when I had decided not to go home to visit my Nana one weekend. While laying in bed with my bear I saw my bedroom door open and in walked my landlady, with her grandson in her arms; not realising I was there she said, “Let’s see what cereals we have.” She then turned, looked at me and my bear and just walked out again.

My next adventure for me and my bear was a move to a little town called Hadleigh, Suffolk where I got a job as a trainee baker. To begin with I once again commuted on my trustee moped, getting up at 11 pm for a midnight start. On one of those evenings my moped packed in before I even got onto the main road and so I packed my bike in the town centre, called up my sister, Dawn and asked her to drive me to work; her reward was a day old Eccles cake!

After my shift I hitched a lift back home. Now, I was very aware that there are all kinds of stranger danger and this I was to find out to be true when I was picked up by a man who talked about his work in computers. I was ready to commit murder by the time he dropped me off!

Now, the thing is when travelling in the middle of the night it was cold and so i was dressed in my duffle coat and scarf, by the time I had finished my shift it was baking hot and everyone else were dressed in shorts and tee-shirts. To make matters worse my moped was now surrounded by a load of really big motorbikes, with all the bikers sitting around in their cut off denim jackets and jeans. I tried my very best to get my bike without much fuss but ended up knocking one bike over which had a domino effect and so all the other bikes crashed over. I think because I looked so odd I was saved a beating as they shook their heads while picking their bikes up.

A bakers life was not really for me and with the help of a man called Tim, I moved from Felixstowe to Norwich and retrained as a chef and silver service waiter at Norwich Hotel School. Here I moved into the college dorm where Norwichmy bear and I where very happy. It was here I was to get my first taste of homophobia. I tried setting up a Gaysoc, but only one guy, called ‘Lumpy Head Steve’ applied and so that never really got off the ground. BTW, Steve got his nickname after two friends decided to give him a hair cut, taking a side each and the hair cut got shorter and shorter until they had to give him a skinhead….

I digress; On my doorplate I had my name under which someone had written “Is gay” to which I added, “So?”

I really can’t be doing with people who try to intimidate me, such bullies are just cowards.

After two years of study it was time to move on once more. Two of my Norwich mates, Davey and Trevor had moved to Brighton and said I should give the town a go and so I upped sticks, got a job at The Bedford Hotel, quickly followed by the Grand when it reopened. I can clearly remember Margaret Thatcher greeting us all when what I really wanted to do was to rush over to the other side of the road and join the throng of anti-Tory protestors.

The Grand was good fun, but there was more adventures to be had when the QE2 relaunched and so I grabbed my bear and took to the high seas. However, for the first month the ship was still in dry dock in Bremerhaven QE2 BearGermany. Each night all staff were given four cans of beer and four cans of coke a cola. Most of the waiters went to the local bar to sing ‘New York, New York’ on loop. For the first week I stayed in my cabin until my bear was kidnapped! I came back to my cabin to find a ransom note, “Come to the bar with your cans of beer or you’ll never see your bear again.”

I went to the bar, paid my ransom and got my bear back!

Since then my bear has been to Amsterdam and back after an ill thought through flight of fancy of a new life over there. And now he sits high up on my shelf with the other bears enjoying a quite retirement.

Home Bear

Posted on by admin in Hazel O Connor, writing 101 Leave a comment

Life is a Pantomime Old Chum.

Okay, first up I’m going to refrain from saying any of those well worn phrases from pantomime land  and just get on with the blog.

(reader’s voice) “Oh no you won’t”

Peter Pan Panto

Oh Yes I will!…Bugger!…..It’s that time of year again where men dress and women, women dress as men and someone warning that ‘It’s behind you”, nope not a regular Saturday night out in Brighton, but Pantomime season is upon us once again. With this in Mind, the Brighton Writer invites you to peep behind the curtain on a couple of the characters that have become two of the mainstays in pantomimes, the Dame and the Fairy Godmother (in a variety of guises) and to see where they are playing over the next few weeks across the South.

 

Every year there is reports of the decline of the pantomime. This year is no different with reports suggesting there is a decline in women taking on the role of the principle boy. In reality, pantomime has always been an evolving production, adjusting to the trends and fads of the day, but always keeping an eye on the traditions of pantomime, including: gender swaps, good battering evil and a rapturous group sing-a-long at the end of the show. Although some characters may come and go, for now the two cornerstones of this years show are the Fairy Godmother and Dame.

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There is nothing like a dame, and in particular a pantomime dame. For years the pantomime dame, played mainly by a man, has been a dominate figure, maximising the role through outrageous dresses, extravagant expressions of emotions along with having some of the best lines in the show. When you learn that before the pantomime dame, the main role was taken by the harlequin and then the clown, such attributes make perfect sense that they should be the show stealers. However, the other main character vying for our attention in many of this years pantomimes is the fairy princess, (which traditionally is played by a woman) whose main weapon of mass “look at me look at me”, comes down to her super sweet attitude,  a heart bigger than a shed load of care bears and customs so glittery that even Sindy would get glitter envy, Hey! What’s not to like?

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These main characters continues dominate many pantomimes as there role is to act as the glue for the whole production, standing as they do between the goodies and the baddies and are given equal pegging in this years round upon pantomimes on show throughout out the south coast in the coming weeks.

This year we have a fair few familiar favourites popping up, including the most well known dame in panto-land, Widow Twankey, in Shoreham-by-Sea’s production of Aladdin. This particular dame first hit the stage in Convent Garden’s 1813 under the name Widow Ching Mustapha. Gradually the name evolved into the more familiar Widow Twanky, which itself comes from the Chinese province of Tuan Ky (or Twan Kay). her original role was as a taylor, but that role changed to a washer woman, given the charter lots of scope to get a bit messy with soap and suds, and one made popular in the past by many including, Les Dawson, Danny La Rue and John Iman.

Worthing are rolling out the Pantomime favourite, Jack and the Beanstalk, where the traditional dame is John Imna as widow twangynamed, Dame Trot. way back when this dame was known as Dame Durden, Mrs Simpson and even Mrs Halleybutt, but in most productions the name Dame Trot is the one most used. Now, there are times when you think, do I really need to know this, but here goes. The word trot comes from the 18th-century slang word for vagina, which somehow or other then got turned to mean ‘old hag’. Don’t have a go at me, i’m just reporting the historical facts.

Close to the knuckle humour has always been part of the pantomime, allowing the adults to get into the fun, while such naughtiness goes over their siblings head. That is unless you are going to Brighton’s alternative pantomime, Cock Robin and his Very Merry Men, produced by the brilliant Brian Ralfe, (who has been producing Brighton’s Alternative Panto for the past 11 years), while Andrew Stark returns to writing/producer duties in this years pant. The other great thing about this particual production is you get Maid Marion played by Lee Tracy, a nurse (Phil Harlequeen) and Wesley Sebastian in the duel role of Fairy godmother and fortune teller. If you think you have grown out of pantomimes, this is one to get you back in the mood.


1476584_10202845181760777_155006876_nElsewhere, Cinderella is playing in both Crawley, Working and Brighton. Crawley has Stephen Mulhern dominating all of the publicity, with little said about the supporting cast, and Working has the brilliant Dave Lynn and Miss Jason as the ugly sisters, while the Brighton’s version which, unusual for pantomimes, has a near all female cast in their production of Cinderella. In this production, as in the original Brother Grimm tale of the same name, it is the fairy godmother who steps into the role of the pantomime dame, although early pantomimes of Cinderella only had the wicked step mother and not the now traditional ugly sisters in place. According to Peter Lathan’s book, “It’s Behind You, The Story of Panto” the (un-ugly) sisters made their first appearance in Rossini’s opera, Le Cenerentola (1817) under the names Clorinda and Tisbe. Since then they have been a mainstay in the Cinderella story and are always known to the cast and crew as “The Uglies” with topical names of the time, which in the past have included, Pearl and Dean (1970’s cinema fans will get that one), Posh and Scary (girl power!) and most recently the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury has caused outrage by having their ugly sisters named, Beatrice and Eugenie… I wonder if those sisters will be wearing ‘that’ fascinator?

Cinderella, Brighton

Back to the Brighton production at the Emporium their ugly sisters are names the less contentious names, Init and Thou (which the Brighton Writer rather likes!). Lucy Bundy, better known on the Brighton Fridge scene as Fake Bush, appears (in a flash of glitter perhaps?) as the Fairy Godmother at the Emporium, Brighton, Charlie Dimmock is appearing at the Worthing Theatre production of Jack and the Beanstalk as Fairy Organic (What is the betting that get’s mispronounced before the pantomime season is over?) Meanwhile over in Hastings, Sheila Reid, (aka ‘Madge’ in the ITV sitcom Benidorm), stars as Fairy Bowbells in the White Rock Theatre’s pantomime, Dick Whittington.

So there you have it. In no time it will be 2014 and before you know it, it will be pantomime time all over again.
th-2
“Oh no it won’t!”
Posted on by admin in Brighton & Hove, Gay Leave a comment

Tim Procter, Welfare Rights Advisor. Terrence Higgins Trust (Brighton)

Welfare Rights Advisor, Terrence Higgins Trust, Brighton

Tim first became involved in welfare rights for people with HIV back in 1985. He volunteered for THT (London), providing voluntary support and advice once a fortnight to people who where struck down with HIV; a condition that at the time was deeply misunderstood.

You have to remember in the early 1980’s, if you disclosed your HIV positive status to a member of the benefit agency, it was quite likely that you would be evicted from the building; such was the fear of the condition at the time. Tim Procter.

Tim continued to volunteer for THT, while working full time as an interior designer. By 1988, the increasing demand for welfare advice, allowed Tim to take on the role as a fulltime, paid worker. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh Leave a comment