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

QE2

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

Remembering….

Maurice, Ann and Peter, Hankie Quilt Project

 

Today I saw a message on Facebook from Maurice, one of the founders of the Hankie Quilt Project, reminding us that it has been a year since the launch of this brilliant idea. HIV isn’t just about on World AIDS Day, it’s here 365 days of the year, and so are the memories of the people we have all lost to AIDS; here is my memory of one of those people, my lovely friend, M.

When I was twenty years old, I ran away to sea; well I got a job on the newly refurbished QE2 and2013-04-24 13.09.20

joined the ship in Germany. On my first, night, while sharing a small cabin with three straight men, I began to wonder if I was the only gay on board, when I heard someone shout, “M’s in the corridor and he’s wearing a dress!” My heart leapt as I ran out to see my saviour in sequins!

M and I became friends instantly and I quickly packed my belongings and swapped cabins with a straight guy (both of us were greatly relived) and moved in with M and two other gay men.

Apart from having to wake up in shifts to shower and avoid any squabbles over the one mirror in the cabin, sharing that cramped space was filled with much fun and laughter.

During our time at sea, M said he wanted to put together a drag revue show for the staff party. M’s passion for the show saw him enrol our cabin mates and we became The Ruby Sisters. M was the type of person who made things happen; he gained us a budget for our drag and wigs (which we bought in New York) had our dance routine put together by two of the women from the Peter Gordino dance troupe and our wigs where back combed to heavenly heights and make-up thickly applied by the prestigious Steiner Salon hairdressers/beauticians.

2013-04-24 12.42.42

The show went down so well, we were asked to perform it again that same night for the customers. Just as we had brought the house down for the staff do, as we came dancing down the sweeping stair case to “We Are What We Are”, the effect was even greater when our customers suddenly twigged that their professional stewards, who had given them a five star service in the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, were now transformed into glamorous drag queens. The show was such a successes, that we performed it for next few transatlantic crossings.

M and I worked together, played together and shared a cabin 24/7 for eight months, then we both came back to dry land. M and I stayed very close, with me visiting him in London or him coming down for a weekend in Brighton and even doing a few ad-hoc shows for friends and one memorable alcohol fuelled show in a London bar.

The months flew by with so many laughs and boozy nights out, we thought it would be like that forever; then one day I had a call to say that M had been taken ill.

AIDS swallowed M too quickly. Within a month he was taken into the Mildmay Hospital. M was defiant to the end, propped up in bed, cigarette poised just above his left shoulder, delivering his ever cutting wit, but it was obvious I would never see him alive again.

At his funeral he had a flower tribute of the QE2 on his coffin and a pair of red high heels, while his favourite song, ‘Cabaret’ played as his body  was brought in.

Even after all these years I still miss M a lot. I guess I just want to say. ‘Thank you’ to Maurice and Peter for creating the Hankie Quilt Project, it has been a privilege to make a panel for M, a lovely, lovely, man who will never be forgotten.  

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