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

Norwich

In the beginning…

The way many of us saw the corona virus as something on the other side of the world, was how many of us in the UK saw the onslaught of HIV and AIDS. For me it was something that happened in Africa and America then we started to hear that gay men in London were falling ill. 

In Norwich, we were in a bubble, I can’t imagine anyone would be putting there hand up to say they had HIV. The reason why became very apparent when two gorgeous American solders came to the only gay club in town, and much to my shame none of us spoke to them, they just stood in the corner for a bit and eventually left.

Do You Understand?

I used to think that AIDS happed to
Africans and Americans
Well, that’s what I was led to believe
and with that knowledge I felt safe.

Do you Understand?

I heard that the plague was rife in London
so it was best for a provincial queen like me
to stay clear of any East End Rough

Do you Understand?

I once heard of a friend of a friend who
knew someone who had died of cancer
It was best not to call it AIDS

Do You Understand?

I’ve sat by the beds of friends who looked
starved and grey, who shit themselves and could
not tell me it hurt and degraded them

Do You Understand?

I heard today I’ve got five years to die
to join the statistics on some government list
I prepared to pack away my Go-Go Boots and fans

Do you understand?

Seven years on, I’ve still not gone, I’ve decided
not to take my doctors advice
I’ve kept my boots and fans, i’v decided  to give
death a miss, for a bit….and I’ll dance to
some HI-N-R-G song

Now, do you understand

written 1995

Do You Understand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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Writing 101: (Day 4) Loss, Part 2.

Loss (part 2)
15 min free writing.

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Things I have lost.

My mother at 18 months old through a divorce, my cat Sooty through either Sooty getting fed up of being dressed up in dolls cloths or he died. Loss of animals, budgies, rabbits, gold fish. Nearly losing the school tortoises who was penned in with the homemade rabbit run (chicken wire and canes, but found a hole and could move at some speed for at tortoise. Losing the fights against a group of bullies at school, which only came to an end when I left school, losing out to jobs and not knowing where to go next. Went back to College to stud catering. Lost my inhibitions on the dance floor when I move Norwich (to study at Norwich Hotel School). Lost my Ipswich accent when I moved to Brighton. Lost any longing to move back to my home town when I realised Brighton was the place I was meant to live. Lost the need to work at The Bedford Hotel when The Grand Hotel reopened after massive refit following the Brighton bombing, lost the need to work at The Grand when I got a job as a steward on the newly revitalised QE2. Lost more inhibitions when I teamed up with my mate Mark on the QE2 and formed a cabaret style show for the crew, which was so successful we were asked to perform regular shows for the passengers too. Lost in time and missed the QE2 in New York, stranded, but got home safely. Lost the number of times I have laughed till it hurts with my mates. Lost the urge to work in catering, started working and retrained with adults with severe learning difficulties. Lost the urge to work with adults with learning difficulties, retrained as a reflexologist. never really lost the urge to give help with reflexology, but moved on to retrain to be a writer.

Posted on by admin in Ipswich, Suffolk, writing 101 Leave a comment

I Love Trish: A Cautionary Drug Tale

I Love Trish

I Love Trish.
I love Trish, it is one of my favourite tales from the Blanche Street Tales. This story was originally written as a trilogy, paying homage to those 1970’s style horror tales: Doctor Terrors house of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and the Karen Black classic, Trilogy of Terror. When I was putting this collection of Blanche Street Tales together I revisited this story which was about a group of friends taking a new street drug and each experiencing some mind bending horrors. As I began to rewrite the tale I decided for all the horrors to happen to one person, Howard.
From the very start I wanted to create an environment that would alienate my protagonist, and so I have Howard on a train journey from Norwich to Ipswich and then of course on to Blanche Street where he meets the main villain of the piece, Chef. In the same way that horror films have the audience shouting to the victim “Don’t go into the wood/attic/cellar” I want my readers to be shouting the same to Howard as he gets in ever deeper all in his pursuit of Trish.

I wanted to create a new street drug and chose Trish in the same way other street drugs are given moniker, like Charlie for cocaine. The drug I made up takes the user into another realm altogether, dependant on what’s on their mind.
(spoiler alert) Unfortunately for Howard he keeps thinking and seeing an animal that will lead to his horrible demise by the end of the tale.
Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.” (I Love Trish).

I remember reading an article around the same time about an 80’s pop star talking about his drug addiction to heroin. He felt that because he was snorting the drug his drug use wasn’t as hardcore as those who injected; for me this was an interesting paradox that I wanted to include in my story. So I have Howard continuing to get in an ever deeper situation with the reader looking on as a concerned bystander, hopeful urging him to just get on the train back home.
He then reached back into the sports bag and produced a sterile wrapped syringe. For Howard, the whole situation suddenly got turned on its head. “I, I, I, wasn’t thinking of injecting it, I, I, I, mean I’ve never done that before Kes never mentioned needles.” (I Love Trish).

Most of the Blanche Street tales interact with each other, giving some extra information to the reader. (Spoiler alert) In the previous story, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Derrick’s home is flooded by the Chefs rubbish which has a distinctive smell of rotting flesh. My hope is that this will get the reader to think that the last scene in I love Trish is not only a horrible hallucination, but that the Chef is in fact chopping his victims up for his dinner. Howard also hears the painful cries of Derrick  calling out for his long dead sister, Madeline, as he passes number seven.
With his last ounce of energy, Howard threw his head to one side and stopped dead. The sound of a large kitchen knife being sharpened behind him became his soundtrack. (I Love Trish)
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench. (The Fall of Derrick Houser)

From the point of Howard taking Trish, things get very strange, A strong influence comes from the hallucination scene in Trainspotting. A key scene in the film is when Renton has his nightmare as he goes cold turkey. I can still conjure up that scene very clearly now and wanted to have a go at creating a scene that the reader wouldn’t forget in a hurry. With feedback from fans of the book, I believe I achieved what I set out to do. *Throughout this story I wanted to pull the reader into a deeper, disturbing world which gets grimmer and grimmer as Howard spirals into his drug induced hallucination. For some reason at this stage I was reminded of Charlotte Bronte when in her novel Jane Eyer she address the reader directly: “Reader, I married him”, (Chapter 38) and it felt like a great device to use in this tale.
all he could manage was a flutter of his wings as he waited for his neck to be snapped. “If only dear reader, if only.” I Love Trish.

*want to know what that scene was? Just download the book to find out: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00OWFK1SA.9

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Good Cop, Bad Cop (GScene post)

My first ever encounter with a policeman was when I was aged eight. The policeman had stopped me for riding my pushbike along a path that had clearly stated, “No Cycling”. The Policeman put the wind up me by saying next time he’d remove the inner tubes on my bike; a strange threat, but I always walked my bike down the path from that day on.

Some ten years later I encountered the type of police you saw on episodes of the Sweeny…. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Gscene, Human Rights Leave a comment