Monday, November 29, 2004

Calendario Romano

Thanks to Tim for this link. The Calendario Romano 2005 is a monthly look at some sexy priests. The Jesuit look has always done it for me and you can understand why so many young men and women are still flocking to the church in Rome. My particular favourite months are March, August and December.

The calendar is available on ebay at about £10/$18. For every calendar sold £1 ($1.86) is donated to The Food Chain, a charity dedicated to improving the health and well being of London’s population living with HIV by alleviating hunger and malnutrition.

I hope that the movie version of The Da Vinci Code features a host of sexy priests, perhaps in their dorms..or the showers....or (wanders off into a Catholic guilt fantasy...)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Have you set a date yet?

With all the furore over the fox-hunting ban in Parliament and the Lords there doesn’t seem to have been very much coverage about the Civil Partnership Bill, which was passed (reasonably) quietly last week. In essence, lesbians and gay men are to be given the same financial and legal rights as married couples. The bill will also allow same sex couples to have their relationship formally recognised with a new legal status of "civil partnership", when it receives royal assent next year.
Once on the statute book, gay men and lesbians will enjoy the same tax, inheritance and tenancy rights as married couples. We will also be able to inherit each other's pension rights, when one outlives the other. Wrecking attempts were made by Tory peers arguing that the bill was discriminatory, giving tax advantages to same-sex couples that were unavailable to sisters, brothers, parents and children who looked after each other.

But the government argued that the bill is the latest step in a long journey which began when homosexual conduct was decriminalised in the 1960s. The reform brings the UK into line with eight EU states and several other countries, which have adopted civil partnerships since Denmark in 1989.
One fascinating debate in the Lords was between Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal and lord Tebbit. Lady Scotland insisted that if a proposed amendment (by Lady O’Cathain ) to extend the rights to siblings who live together was passed it would wreck the Bill, telling peers “there is a clear distinction between these provisions and those of marriage. “To ask for this Bill to be postponed because we cannot deal with the issues would be to perpetuate injustice.”

Lord Tebbit asked for a clear explanation from Lady Scotland adding “you said there was a clear distinction between civil partnerships as envisaged in this Bill and civil marriage. Would you elucidate now what that difference is?”

Lady Scotland replied: “One of the differences is consummation. In relation to marriage, for a marriage to be valid it has to be consummated by one man and one woman and there is a great deal of jurisprudence which tells you exactly what consummation amounts to, partial, impartial, penetration, no penetration. If you wish me to give a dissertation on family law I would be happy to do so. There is no provision for consummation in the Civil Partnerships Bill. We do not look at the nature of the sexual relationship, it is totally different in nature.”

But Lord Tebbit said that if there was no question of consummation in a civil partnership why couldn’t it be extended to people who have close family relationships, such as two homosexual brothers?

Lady Scotland said it was improper for those related to one another to enter into a relationship, similar to that of marriage. The amendment moved by Lady O’Cathain was defeated by 136 to 251, Government majority 115.

This means that my partner and me can look forward to a non-religious ceremony (yet to be determined) that will allow for registration and recognition of our relationship and access to many of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. The cynical part of me wonders if this just a means of ensuring we are not benefiting from the single person’s tax allowance (for what it is worth). On the other hand it is fair to say that at last the Labour Party have honoured a pledge to introduce this legislation. Say what you like about New Labour, they have improved the lot for gay men and women. There is still along way to go, and in some respects this is an example of parliament being slightly ahead of public opinion. I think that there are many people (Hello to any Daily mail readers) who will see this as an erosion of good Christian values and further evidence of moral decline.

And thanks to Lady Scotland, we don’t have to worry that we will be asked for evidence that we have consummate d our partnership – although perhaps that should be an integral part of any ceremony?

I know there are some who will say that this hasn’t gone far enough and that it is not the same as a gay marriage. I don’t want a marriage ceremony. On the whole that is simply a religious endorsement, which I can easily live without. If this approach had been taken in America, perhaps gay marriage wouldn’t have become such a divisive issue on the recent election, with such an extreme reaction that there is actually consideration of amending the constitution to specifically ban such legal partnerships.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

28 Days and Counting

Only four weeks left in my current job and then a fantastic 2 weeks off over Christmas. I start the new job in January and I am already starting to wind down a little. I thought I would be in ‘When do you want it…how about never,’ mode by now, but I have managed to stay pretty motivated, particularly as I don’t want my colleagues to have to pick up too much when I go, given that their workloads are already pretty horrendous.

I have started to attend the odd meeting for my new job and I am now in the ‘Shit, why did they hire me’ mode wear, as I begin to wonder what I will actually be doing! I know what the job is, I have read the job description, but there is still that apprehensive ‘what will I do when I arrive?’ vibe going on. I have met lots of people who are all ‘Looking forward to you starting – there are certainly plenty of challenges!’ I had forgotten how scary starting a new job can be. I have only had about 6 different jobs before now (excluding bar work, waiting on, rent etc) and I would have thought it would get easier each time. As I have tended to always move organisation as well there is always a new culture and ‘This is how we do things’ mentality to adjust to. In my new role I have decided that nothing is sacred. I will use the current systems to begin with, but won’t be rigid about keeping to them if there are better ways of doing things.

In the meantime, I still have deadlines here to attend to. I know I am slipping a little. In a meeting last night at 6.30 there was a debate about whether to continue the work or leave it until this morning. My comment of 'Actually I am tired and want to go home' may have not been received brilliantly but was appreciated by the junior staff who are on fixed hours and not expecting to be there at that time. I cannot afford to rock the boat to much as I may want to return here one day, but the time has definitely come to take advantage a little!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tom and Nancy

Last night we had some friends over for dinner (lets call them Tom and Nancy). They haven’t been around for a while as we have been living in a bit of a building site and didn’t want to really have people around to sit on boxes and ingest plaster dust. We also haven’t seen them out and about as they have tended to skip most social functions (including my birthday earlier this year!)

Last night they confided that Tom’s business has had a really hard 12 months with him taking no money out of the business and Nancy’s parents paying the mortgage for the last 12 months. They have been surviving off Nancy’s small salary and are now putting their house up for sale to downsize. It explains an awful lot as Tom has looked painfully thin and stressed for a long time and their dream wedding last year ended up as a small, intimate affair at their house.

They were pretty upbeat about things as they have been through the worst, Tom’s business is doing better now, and they are happy moving. It was a real eye opener to me about how much we take for granted. Me and my partner are not rolling in cash as I am still paying off previous debts and we are paying for work on the house, but we don’t usually think twice about going out for dinner or meeting friends in the pub. I know that, comparatively, we are pretty well off and are in a far luckier position than many people, but I have a better appreciation of the opportunities available to us. To be fair, a lot of that is through hard work in achieving the positions we have now, which included sacrifices in the past to re-train and undertake additional education. For many people this is not an option as the immediate priority is to meet the monthly outgoings, especially for families with young children who are very expensive.

I think that Tom and Nancy will be fine and I think it a relief for them to be able to share their problems. It is probably particularly hard as before the downturn Tom was pretty minted and money was never a problem. Making the change from their past lifestyle to their current one must have been hard but they are still happy together. A lot of relationships wouldn’t survive this kind of pressure and the temptation for many is to bail out. I am glad that this was never an option for them and their love has seen them through everything.

Lesson for the day: Be grateful for what you have, you may have worked very hard to achieve it, but you never know what is around the corner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sorry Everybody

Over 27 million people have accessed sorryeverybody, where Americans who (presumably) voted for Kerry can apologise to the rest of the world. There are over 2000 pictures so far – probably more by now. I especially like apology number 544 (OK – I think he is hot in a Ben Stiller kind of way!). It is a great site for putting some real faces to the people who didn’t want Bush back and shows the world that a lot of Americans share our concerns about another 4 years of Bush.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Blunkett Voting Record

Nixon queried Blunkett's voting record on the age of consent votes in 1998 and 2000. This is an issue that is close to my heart as the votes were during the days when I wasn't as cynical about being able to influence political decisons as I am now. There were 2 votes:

  • 22/6/98 Vote to reduce the age of consent to 16, which was passed in the House of Commons, but then defeated by the Lords. Blunkett is recorded as not voting.

  • 10/2/00 Vote to reuce the age of consent to 16, whichy was passed. Again, Blunkett didn't vote.

Through the Whip's Office you can check the voting record of your MP. This links to and the They Work For You site. This is a great site that lets you search your MP's voting record and the speeches they have presented since 2001.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Words that inspire the killer deeds

Many Bloggers (see Honeytom) have discussed the tragic and violent death of David Morley, in far more eloquent terms then I can. Surviving the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub he lost his life when a group of teenagers kicked him to death on 30th Octoober. Honeytom points out how this should be a wake up call to all those people who believe that gay men are an accepted part of society. The fact the Queer Eye has hit our screens and gay men are featured in many TV programmes, films, adverts etc doesn’t mean that the whole of society has accepted us yet.

Goinguphill has brought an article by Gareth McLean in the Guardian to my attention that makes you realise the power of language. McLean draws parallels with the recent American reaction against gay marriages and the pronouncements of Rocco Buttiglione – the aspiring EU Commissioner who was forced to step down when confronted by resistance from many member states. McLean suggests that allowing a culture where homophobic language and behaviour is allowed results in violence and discrimination against gay men and women.

Lest we forget, he points out that our current Home Secretary, David Blunkett, abstained in the votes to equalise the age of consent in 1998 and again in 2000 - hardly the sign of a home secretary committed to equality for all.

All this reminds me of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and their song Language of Violence. Worth checking out if you have never heard this.

Language of Violence - Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

The first day of school was always the hardest
The first day of school, the hallways the darkest
Like a gauntlet
the voices haunted
Walking in with his thin skin, lowered chin
He knew the names that they would taunt him with
Faggot, sissy, punk, queen, queer
Although he'd never had sex in his 15 years
And when they harassed him it was for a reason
And when they provoked him it became open season
for the fox and the hunter, the sparks and the thunder
that pushed the boy under, then pillage and plunder
It kind of makes you wonder
how one can hurt another
But dehumanizing the victim makes things simpler
It's like breathing with a respirator
It eases the conscience of even the most conscious
and calculating violator
Words can reduce a person to an object,
something more easy to hate
An inanimate entity, completely disposable,
no problem to obliterate
But death is the silence
in this language of violence

Thursday, November 04, 2004

D'OH - 4 More Years of Dubya

I have a lot of sympathy with the coverage in the Daily Mirror today: “Were I a Kerry voter I'd feel deep anger [at republican voting Americans], not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets.

The self-righteous, gun-totin', military lovin', sister marryin', abortion-hatin', gay-loathin', foreigner-despisin', non-passport ownin' red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest dick in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land "free and strong".

I do feel sorry for the millions of Americans in cities like Washington, Boston, Chicago, New York and Hawaii who voted to kick Bush out. This is the side of the electorate who recognise a dunderhead when they see one. As for the people who put him in back into power for 4 years, across the Bible Belt and the South, I can only feel surprise and disbelief.

They have chosen a president who belittles the rights of other nations. A president who has withdrawn from international treaties on the environment and chemical weapons. Kyoto could have made a real difference to the world climate; even the previous sceptical Russia is on board now. But Bush and the republican senators would rather keep the big payouts from business than take action to save the planet.

America has chosen an economic amateur who came into office with a $2billion surplus from Bill Clinton and then diddled it away it on tax cuts for the rich and turned the US into the world's largest debtor nation. A president who promotes trade protectionism for American industry and than backs an Israeli government, which ignores UN resolutions and continues its actions, condemned across Europe, secure in the knowledge that the Bush administration will support them. America has chosen a menacingly immature buffoon who likened the pursuit of the 9/11 terrorists to a Wild West, Wanted Dead or Alive man-hunt.

“A radical Christian fanatic who decided the world was made up of the forces of good and evil, who invented a war on terror, and thus as author of it, believed he had the right to set the rules of engagement.” Does Bush not recognise that a true Christian would be trying to find non-violent solutions to these problems.

I could go on. Many other are more eloquently expressing their disbelief and horror at this result.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Another few busy days with us. The upstairs sash windows have been re-fitted with new weights, cords & draft proofing. It was pretty expensive, as we have paid for a system that allows us to easily remove the window for painting. Worth it though – they no longer rattle in the wind and the draughts have finished. Added to all the painting and frantic tidying before the familial visit we have had a manic few days.

The house is finally coming together – nearly 18 months in and we have done enough work (electrics, plumbing, building, plastering etc) to start decorating and thinking what we want the house to look like.

Normally, our interior design wouldn’t stretch much past IKEA as it is about the best we can afford at the moment. However, early this year the Marks and Spencer Lifestore opened. This was chock full of beautiful furniture and accessories in the kind of style we had in mind. Some quite contemporary furniture, traditional ceramics and glass and a few unique show pieces that we hadn’t seen anywhere else. Needless to say it would all have cost way too much.

Until, that is, Peter Green launched an unsuccessful takeover bid of the Lifestore earlier this year. The M&S board responded by announcing a radical shake-up including closing their Simply Food stores and the first Lifestore at Gateshead. This has meant that a lot of the items we wanted are being sold off at bargain prices, some at 75% or more reductions. We have bought the sideboard for the dining room we wanted (in lovely high gloss white) for £99, rather that the original £799. Needless to say, we have a huge van of deliveries arriving soon – so at least a couple of rooms will be finished before family and friends descend over Christmas and New Year.

While this is great for our bank balance it is a real shame as well. We now know a lot of the staff on first name terms, they even ring us at home to let us know when the stock we want has arrived and hide it away for us. Most of them will be redeployed in other M&S stores but they all felt like they were joining a new era for M&S and have seen the beautiful store, complete with a full size Pawson House, reduced to a clearance warehouse with stock piled high and vultures descending.