Thursday, 14 September 2017

Sexual Naïvity At Fifteen


[Image description: a seated, strapping man in work-attire, named as Adam Fussell;
no photo credit nor © stated;
found at http://larsfredriksvedberg.tumblr.com/post/141769279326/adamfussell]

I have no idea who this handsome chap is, despite him being named as Adam Fussell. However, the image has made me recall a close-encounter in an Austrian country village's festival Bierhalle (beerhall).

It was 1980, I was fifteen - but looked older, seventeen or eighteen, due to facial features - and I was on my first-ever excursion outside of England, on a school-trip to Vienna and then Göstling-an-der-Ybbs for a few days in each. At said point I had fair communication in German, but still not fließend (fluent). I was bookish & arty & creative & dramatic and hated sports. At the all-boys school I attended, some labelled me a poof or gay; but I had no real idea what they meant. I liked boys as much as I liked girls, but in a completely asexual sense. Only the previous year, whilst queuing for class in the technical block, had fellow classmates P.J. and A.M. sufficiently described the mechanics of masturbation for me to work out what to do myself. So, the reader hopefully has a picture of a sexually naïf chap who appeared older than his actual age.

The tradition in a Bierhalle is for newcomers to fill up the spaces at already taken tables before taking an empty table. My fellow school-mates & I occupied most of two tables, but there was an empty place beside me. I had already attained my maximum adult height of 172 cm. (In the 1990s onwards, after years of yoga, I was and am now 174 cm due to better posture.) So when I say this huge fellow came over and sat beside me, one can gather he had something of the giant in him. He even towered over Jewy, the biggest lad in our group. He was clad in traditional Lederhosen, work-boots and a white cotton shirt opened at the neck. Hatless, one could see his blond straight hair was already thinning, poor chap. But he had friendly, blue, coruscating orbs. Everything about him appeared on the very large side, from feet to hands to head. His skin was fair but had the healthy complexion of one who labours outdoors. His nose, his nape and at least the visible "v" of his upper chest were all tanned where his hat had not offered shade.

I practised my German small-talk; but I cannot now recall his name let alone what we chatted about. We all dined on Wurst & Semmeln (sausage & bread-rolls) or fresh chicken, I drank Wein (wine) along with some other companions whilst others quaffed the offered Bier (beer). The local lad supped from his Bierkrug or Maß (tankard), at a much faster pace than any of us. His complexion became more and more roseate and eventually inclining to crimson.

Obviously from time to time one takes a visit to do one's ablutions and the Austrian chap decided to pursue me. Only I had no idea at the time that he was doing so. His flashing of his member was in hindsight an
obvious come-on; but innocent of sexual mores I mistook it, as he had seen mine whilst I was urinating, as a quid pro quo - I'll show you mine because I've seen yours - and excused it as drunken lack of co-ordination and decorum.

Still later, as some of my peers liked a smoke, we went outside - away from the prying eyes of our teachers - for some fresh air. As my fellows were returning to their beverages, the local youth appeared beside me and all good-naturedly engaged me in chit-chat. He was attempting to get me to go off with him - thank the Maker I did not understand the ramifications of this! However, he had become quite physical and had me in a locked embrace (hug hold), in which I felt decidedly uncomfortable. At the time, I hated being touched by anyone - so the reader can imagine how appalled I was to be hugged by a stranger!

Despite my protestations, he refused to release me. To my enduring gratitude at least three of my classmates including S.D. and G.J. (and I think A.Y.?) came to my rescue. They certainly untangled me from his limbs and ensured I was protected henceforth. I think, I know, that was one of the very few times in my life I ever felt truly protected. (I had an awful home life, so there was certainly no protection there.) To this day, I still view Jewy as a bit of a hero. 

[NB. Names have been disguised to avoid causing any embarrassment.]



 

[The interior of a Bierhalle in Munich]


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Clubbing with Todd Terry*


Clubbing with Todd Terry*




experience
feel the heat
taste the saline sweat
feel the beat
competing
with the inferior in your chest
both subsisting
within the undying constant
pulse of existence
feel the burn
as muscles go into optimum drive
then overload
let your senses overflow
let your spirit free your mind
let your mind release its hold
let your body take control
ignore the destination
just go
dance to the rhythm
bear the cost in your soul
feel yourself flow
the contours in your sight blur
images contort and slow
no human sound can disturb
salient music incessant
and strangely silent
listen to the loquacious angelic hush
the electronic roar
elation kicks in
synthetic drugs
or natural rush
you soar, you soar
existence where there was none
true being has now begun
you become an addict
but just for fun
seek for
demand more
death will eventually come
for sure
your body in motion
one with all flesh here
your spirit sees the light
God is in clubbing
in Oneness is delight
your mind knows
there is nothing to fear
simple love we share
acceptance with joy
our rubric
in dance
in music
our freedom
we let it show
feeling good
onwards we go
forwards to our tomorrow
good being
and feeling good
in our lives we will know
feeling good in every way
whilst clubbing



* inspired by & based on Todd Terry's "Something goin' on" - YouTube link above

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Millenials: the cause of all our woes?

 
Yesterday's Independent ran an article entitled: 'Psychologically scarred' millennials are killing countless industries. This in turn was based on Business Insider UK's item. While there is some truth within this article, it is basically a load of codswallop trying to apportion blame to the so-called Millenials.
 
[Image description: screen-shot of the web-page article in the Indy ©]
 
The writer points to nineteen areas in the US where Millenials are apparently to blame for the demise or destruction of one industry or another. It is gross hyperbole. I am going to take a look at fifteen of the areas from a UK perspective.

Restaurant chains: I reside in a town where the town-centre Pizza Hut and McDonald's closed down years ago, to be re-sited on a retail park on the edge of town. Whilst Altrincham does have some chain restaurants, such as the recently opened Nando's, there are far more independent eateries, especially in our revamped market-hall.
I am middle-class and middle-aged: we despise many of the chains for the way they treat workers and fail to pay their fair share of taxes. Loch Fyne failed to treat their employees fairly and was punished by diners boycotting some of their restaurants. Smaller companies find it much harder to avoid paying taxes and additionally have to compete for the best staff, so wages and terms tend to be better than the zero-hour contracts pushed by the mega-chains.
(The exception here would be Starbucks and the other major coffee-chains, which seem to be an addiction for everyone, including the propensity by nigh on all users not taking in their own beakers but instead using the non-recyclable one-use cups.)
The other advantages to boutique restaurants are: range of dishes available; individualisation of dishes; seasonality; quality; and, service. Small chains such as Carluccio's and Côte Brasserie seem to survive and prosper because they behave much like independents.

Beer: Whilst the internationals & nationals may be registering drops in sales & consumption, there seems to be nary a town these days that does not have at least one micro-brewery pub. Real ales are popular because they use traditional ingredients and as few as are essential to creating a great tasting ale. Who wants mass-produced chemical concoctions, when a natural brew can be had.
Traditional pubs may be dying - partly their own fault for failing to reach out to their communities via advertising or for example not staging community events to draw in folk. The corollary are speciality bars. In Altrincham inter alia we have Riddles which specialises in cocktails in the setting of a jazz-era speak-easy and two specialist European beer bars. Young folk mix with older generations.
Many bars in my town now offer live music, which has been a godsend to the industry and this August bank holiday weekend will celebrate its annual festival attracting hundreds of extra pleasure-seekers. A diverse music scene has led to audiences across the age spectrum coming into the town-centre to enjoy the 'free' entertainment.
Another benefit to this mixing of the generations is a reduction in weekend drunken violence which for a while blighted the town, especially at weekends. Of course there is still trouble, but not to the same extent. If one might bump into one's parents, grandparents, etc., one tends to not want to be caught making a fool of oneself!

Napkins: Paper-napkins are extortionately priced for what they are, so Millenials are not the only ones spurning them for kitchen-towel. These days the latter products have become much better quality and are really good at soaking up spillages. Additionally one can purchase plain or patterned varieties, which look the part of a napkin. Whereas paper-napkins, if they become too wet, leak colour and stain. Kitchen-towel is to all intents & purposes designed for several usages, if not uses for the more expensive versions!
I have to admit that we have a drawer full of linen napkins, which get used whenever we have guests round, except when its a curry - this is one of the few occasions for which we pay for paper-napkins. After all, curry stains never come out!

Cereal: Once again, I know of several of my peers who prefer to have a breakfast bar or biscuit on the go or at work. I have one friend who gets early to work to avoid the rush-hour traffic and then fills her time prior to her official start-time by making and enjoying some toast with her fresh coffee. Porridge-pots (made with oats - which as far as I know is a cereal) have taken off as they can be quickly prepared and the paper carton disposed of without feeling too guilty. So perhaps folk are trying to avoid the gluten-rich wheat varieties?
One of the big issues with cereals is the amount of sugar added to give them a cheap flavour rather than using more expensive natural flavourings like vanilla extract or cocoa.
Another is the increased awareness of gluten-intolerance. I myself suffer terribly from IBS whenever I eat mass-produced bread and rarely from artisan sourdoughs. I have discussed this with relatives, friends and neighbours and across the board others seem similarly effected.
I have to say that the big food brands took the middle-classes for granted for far too long. My town is a mainly wealthy suburb. Our ALDI's car-park though is often filled with recent Beamers, Audis, Volvos and other expensive cars. Whilst I am not a fan of all of ALDI's products, their cereals are way cheaper than the main supermarkets and taste, in some instances, better than top-branded versions. It would be interesting to see whether it is simply the international cereal brands that are finding reduced sales & consumption or whether the small operators like ALDI and LiDL are likewise seeing such falls. Additionally, I wonder whether organic sales are up or down?
 
Golf: I am no fan of the sport, especially when areas of historical or scientific significance are destroyed to make way for the courses. The water-consumption to keep the greens up to scratch is immense and a waste of valuable resources, especially in areas where there is a need from farms, the local population or to preserve the local environment.
Furthermore, from the individual competitor's perspective, it is an extremely expensive sport to pursue: equipment; clothing; membership fees; course/ground fees; lessons; practice (practise) fees; and so on.
Whilst the sport is gradually changing, it is still considered sexist, at least on this side of the Pond. As I understand it, Millenials are averse to supporting such attitudes.
Whilst I did try golf prior to becoming disabled, I much preferred to simply go off for a walk and take in my surroundings. Even better if done with chums.

Motorcycles: Back in the late 1980s, early 1990s I loved sitting behind a friend on their motorbike motoring down the empty motorways around Greater Manchester. Nowadays there is a heck of a lot more traffic on the roads and motorways. With the increase in volume has been a concurrent increase in road-rage. Everyone is tired and weary from struggling to make ends meet during this extended period of austerity. The landscape is ripe for accidents. Statistically, riding a motorcycle is the most dangerous form of transport.
Motorcycles are costly, plus all the safety clothing and crippling insurance premiums. Perhaps the blame ought to be laid at the feet of the manufacturers and insurance companies?
Whilst my disability now precludes my mounting a bike, were I able I certainly would not countenance doing so here in England. Spain, on the other hand, between cities has open and quiet motorways - I might have been tempted there.

Home-ownership: Again this issue is not just an issue for Millenials, the vast majority of folk are now priced out of owning their own home in England. Due to the lack of housing supply, house prices inexorably rise further and further out of the reach of the many, especially as salaries have stagnated or, worse, dropped.
Not being able to afford a house in the community in which one grew up is not new. In the 1980s I moved to Sale, one sibling to Salford and the other to Northwich as none of us could afford properties in our home-town of Altrincham. What is new is that this is the current situation for nigh on all folk in the vast majority of English wards. No wonder bitterness & resentment are growing.
I was in some ways fortunate when I purchased my first home in the 1980s. I was able to document and prove that what I would need to pay in monthly mortgage costs was less than what I was paying in rent plus what I was saving each month. The mortgage agent was impressed that I had accounted for my income & outgoings and demonstrated that I contractually expected my salary to increase over the forthcoming few years. I was granted a one-hundred-percent mortgage. I do not think that such are even available now, which is a shame.
In a town like Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, rents are now actually higher than the costs of paying a mortgage on a small home: but laws and financial rules will not permit any flexibility - like that which I was shown. This is a scandal of the financial institutions, the housing industry and the politicos making. Time they sorted out the situation to the benefit of citizens and not big business.

Yoghourt: Well, more precisely low-fat yoghurt. Well, given what we as consumers now know about the lies of the health-benefits of low-fat diëts, this can hardly be a surprise. Recall that Sweden now recommends a diet high in dairy fats but low in carbohydrates, the opposite to what we Brits have been told for the last couple of decades or so.
Add to this the fact that the big companies (just like the cereal manufacturers) added large quantities of sugar to add cheap flavour, rather than more expensive - thus less profitable - fruits or natural flavourings. No wonder sales have plummeted.
Again, though, is it only Millenials who have changed their preferences and thus diëts? I doubt it very much. I also have switched to full-fat Greek yogurts as they are tastier, creamier and more satisfying.
I am old enough to recall the Ski yogourts from the 1970s, wishy-washy and watery. In the 1980s an aubergine was considered exotic, now it is a common-place nightshade alongside tomatoes, potatoes, peppers & chillies.
Tastes change. What is a loss for one part of the food industry is a gain for another sector.

Bar-soap: I have not used bars of soap since the 1980s when liquid-soaps first became widely available. For me it was because I found bar-soap left residue on my skin which exacerbated my eczema and acne. Switching to liquid-soap meant my skin calmed down and my conditions greatly ameliorated. The only time now I use bar-soap is in hotel-rooms for washing my hands after going to the lavatory. In public conveniences (wash-rooms) I will only use liquid-soap if available - I have the same aversion as the millenials to possible germs on shared bars.
Going into the homes of family, friends & neighbours, I cannot think of any that still use bar-soaps, other than in bowls/jars for display only.
This is another of those areas, like the coffee-shops' unrecyclable beakers, where environmental-consciousness takes a back-seat for supposed (?) hygiene.

Diamonds: I have to admit to being attracted to diamonds in the same way I love cut-crystal. I wonder at the reflections & refractions of light. If someone were to give me a diamond ring, I probably should not decline it.
However, to be honest, the ring I have always wanted is a prehistoric creature or piece of flora encased in amber. Magnify everyone's dreams for their ideal ring and I imagine there would be countless variations. It is better for jewellery artisans that this is so.
The diamond industry to all intents & purposes is a "quasi-cartel" per The Economist (15th July 2004). As I understand it, diamonds are plentiful from a global perspective, but the diamond-mining companies ensure supply is restricted so prices remain high.
Millenials, like everyone else will be aware of this, but the economic situation for the majority now is restricted disposable incomes and high debt, from amongst other things, tertiary education fees. In such circumstances it is only natural that folk seek out less costly alternatives.

Fabric-conditioners: Interesting that the article fails to point out that much clothing these days specifically advises against using fabric-conditioners (fabric-softeners). I wear a lot of Rohan clothing, which is often constructed from man-made fibres (fibers) or mixes with natural ones. Their labels are very clear about avoiding using conditioners/softeners. If one does so by accident, one is supposed to immediately rinse the clothing again in order to remove the unwanted product, otherwise the fabric might not do what it is designed to do. Natural cotton towels, which do not soak up water as well when conditioners are used, is another example. My woollen jumpers (sweaters) are finally rinsed with a teaspoon of oil; conditioners would ruin the natural water-resistance of the wool.
A further factor is that one can purchase special laundry detergents for specific fabrics or types of fabrics. Using the right detergent for any given clothing item militates against the need for a separate conditioning/softening liquid.
No doubt any company specialising in fabric conditioners is going to suffer; but more generally the detergent industry has been producing more targeted products.

Banks: This is laughable. Hardly anyone trusts the banks or bankers now. Millenials certainly cannot be blamed for the demise of high-street bank branches. That is the fault of profit-before-community attitudes within the financial industry. There is no valid reason why several banks cannot branch-share. Or the banks could jointly pay for free financial centres, where any bank customer could go to try to sort out any problems. It is true that many issues can be sorted out by simply going on-line and reading some advice. However, as anyone who has ever tried to call a foreign help-desk with a complicated issue well knows, nothing can replace face-to face meetings to sort out matters.

Department Stores: I think the day for middle-brow department stores has indeed passed. In the UK we have lost British Home Stores, Lewis', Woolworths, and this probably means chains like Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and most branches of House of Fraser are ultimately going the way of the dodo. Luxury department stores like Harvey Nicholls and Selfridges will probably find a niche vending to the top couple of deciles of the population as defined by wealth.
My housemate & I used to be regular users of John Lewis department stores, but as they have reduced their offerings to more and more own-label produce, we find less and less need to pay a visit. One of our local stores downgraded its food offering - we have not been to eat there since. In fact, we now mainly use JL for their bureau de change because it is convenient to use when our local Post Office is closed.

Designer Handbags: I suspect once again that it is the fashionable brands that are in trouble, for fashions come and they surely go. I imagine that the de luxe end will still be wanted by the very rich.
However, bag-makers and bag-retailers now have double the market they used to have in the last century, for men are now quite content to walk around with a man-bag. We need to put our wallets, mobile (cell) 'phones, cleansing-gel, tissues, etc. somewhere, and, let's face it, trousers are currently too tight to cram everything into one's tiny pockets!
Millenials only turning on designer labels - I doubt it as most folk are having to draw in the purse-strings, are making do with wardrobes bursting with hardly worn clothing. Most of us now have enough. We do not need more.

Gyms: in the last couple of years, my locality has had at least four new gyms open up and succeed. They do not charge joining fees or monthly fees, but rather use a pay-as-one-uses model. From looking in the windows one can see the gamut of ages and rather than being represented predominantly by men, many have sizeable numbers of wimmin users.
I realise this is anecdotal. It may be due to my residing in a middle-class, fairly well-to-do area. However, this may be the model of the near-future at least.
Long-term, I do not know whether gyms will survive other than for hard-core practitioners. My estate has its own community forum. There are: walking groups; a litter-collection group; a weeding group; a planting group; etc. These are activities done with one's neighbours for the benefit of oneself &/or one's community. They involve natural exercise. Folk get a gentle cardio-vascular work-out usually without causing damage to muscles, bones, etc. I suspect this is the way of future exercise.
I know some young chaps who are into parkour, where they use the local environment as their gym. This sport seems particularly popular with younger folk. Again no need for an actual please-pay-us gym.

In my opinion we have all changed our attitude to brands: they had and have no loyalty to we customers, so we now shop around for the best deals, the best products and so forth. Yields in the UK on a whole gamut of goods & services have been way above those of our Continental allies. This is slowly being corrected by consumers who now have the power of the internet to check up, to research and to educate ourselves. Millenials may naturally use this technology, but the rest of us are doing our best to catch up. We are all in this together.

Monday, 31 July 2017

My First Sex-Toy


WARNING: the following blog-post is about sex, using sex-toys; if the subject matter might offend, please do not continue reading.


*


When it comes to sex, whether with female (yes, I have dated women) or (mainly) men, I have been and thus am very vanilla. For those not in the know - and I definitely know there are plenty of you out there - this is a vernacular term for conventional sex. This roughly means, per Wikipedia:

"sex which does not include elements of BDSM, kink, or fetishism."

The links are there, so educate yourself if you so desire.

I have not had dozens of partners, and suspect I am one of the odd creatures on this planet who has actually turned down offers more often than accepting. Satisfaction of my libido is not the be-all-and-end-all for me or my life. I am very much a delayed gratificationist (the term is NOT specifically about sex). With one major exception - so the exception that proves the rule - I have not had any kind of sex on or directly after a first date. I am though very happy to explore light kissing.

For me I have to trust a person before I am able to play. (One day I hope to have the courage to write about the abuse in my past and the rapes: but perhaps that gives an indication as to why I am like this. Or maybe it is an age thing?) I personally prefer to take things slow over a few dates. It does not mean I want to settle down permanently with the person receiving my attentions. I however enjoy: the looking forward to seeing the individual; the getting prepared for the dates; getting to know each other; the kissing; the caressing; the frottage; the dry-humping; and on to clothes flying everywhere.

I actually enjoy learning new things about sex, about how my body reacts - yes, at fifty-plus I am still experiencing new pleasures!

After a drought of more than a decade (in which period I had extended ill-health patches, but nonetheless turned down more than a handful of non-out to their wife/girlfriend bisexual guys - read my blog-post Bisexual Blues), in 2015 whilst on my annual health visit to Andalusia, I met a chap and we mutually hit it off. My account of this can be found in this blog-post Coitus at Last!/"White". The chap was quite liberated and had experience of a much wider palette of sexual activities than myself. For example, he offered to fist me, which I politely declined. I did however, later, accept engaging in piss-play (sometimes called yellow), another first for me. However, whilst passing a sign for a sex-shop it gave me an idea. So I dragged him in for moral support. I went straight over to the glass-counter displaying the shop's panoply of sex-toys. I was rather astounded at the range: so many shapes, styles, colours, materials, with whizzy lights, with sound-effects, and so on. I selected what I considered to be a rather elegant, glass toy (images below). In my head I argued that if it was not for me - after trying it of course - it would make a rather lovely paper-weight. Anyhow, the server really insisted I should purchase a larger toy. I, however, was having none of it: there was no way anything bigger than what I had selected was being inserted by either myself or my chum into my cavities. With that I paid up and we went off for dinner, then a gay-bar we both knew and so to bed. Chum broke the toy out of its packaging and gave it a wash prior to giving me a very good time with the dildo, which proved very versatile in his capable and experienced hands, etc.


Chum & I had a fling for three months and then went our separate ways, as we were not (and never would have been) compatible for any long-term affinity, even if either/both of us had wanted one. My glass toy did indeed become a rather pretty paper-weight in my bedroom and I have used it as such over the past couple of years.

This evening I came across a packet of lube (lubricant) I had forgotten about. So my little glass dildo got to give me some pleasure and relight wonderful sensations. Unfortunately, something was bound to go wrong and the whole utensil disappeared inside me, handle and all! Thankfully, after a few minutes relaxation, I was able to retrieve it. But, blimey, that young server back in the sex-shop was right: I need a bigger one!


Saturday, 29 July 2017

I'm Coming Out

 
 
At a later date, I want to talk about representation of older LGBTI folk. Here, I want to discuss my youth in the context of the video above, sampled from Season 3 of the Norwegian (hello Norway!) show "Skam" (https://tv.nrk.no/serie/skam - alas blocked outside of the Scandic countries due to music industry complaints about ©).

In some ways, I wish I could have my youth again. Although, I should want to retain the knowledge & confidence I have now. However, whilst matters are still very difficult for very many queer youngsters (check out school-bullying figures!), in some ways it is easier to come out for folk today. Back in the extremely queer-hating, homophobic 1970s & 1980s, where homosexuals usually died or were the baddies in films (movies) or were over-the-top camp like Mr. Humphries and Larry Grayson (both of whom used to make me roar with laughter!), one would hardly find a single relative or friend, and certainly no organisations, who might support one's coming-out.

Nonetheless, whilst I did not feel I could take affairs as far as today's youth seem able - probably due to my own contingency, ridiculously misplaced respect for authority and the social mores of the time - I do not regret the almost innocent cuddles, embraces, caresses, the deliberate-accidental touches and so forth with my crushes and especially not with my first male lover.

If my life had not followed the trajectory it did, I should not be the person I am today. For all my wistful, wishful thinking (cue China Crisis!) I am a contented and for the most part happy chap, despite what life has sent my way.

To anyone out there reading this, young or old, if you need to talk about coming out, I can be here for you - you just might have to wait a while for a response due to my long bouts of ill-health. There are, however, plenty of organisations out there who can support you both at the personal and professional levels. Come on now, you can google as well as anyone!

To be honest, I have never actually come out, as I have never seen the need to do so. I have always gone by accept me as I am or not at all. One of my siblings refuses to have anything to do with me whatsoever, for s/he objects to my 'lifestyle', not that said person knows the least bit about it - unless secretly reading my public writings. My parents never had any respect for me, and I certainly have/had none at all for them - deeply flawed and quite wicked individuals - so I had absolutely no wish to come out to them. This was not out of fear, rather that I have refused to share most of me with them since being a small boy. Yes, I was that bookish introvert who refused to speak to relatives he rarely encountered. Anyhow, today I OFFICIALLY come out as being QUEER. There, I have done it - and publicly. I am fifty-two and out-of-the-closet. Hee, hee, hee… %DDDDD

*

Wishful Thinking


It's time we should talk about it
There's no secrets kept in here
Forgive me for asking
Now wipe away your tears


And if I wish to stop it all
And if I wish to comfort the fall
It's just wishful thinking


I sat on the roof
And watched the day go by
I see the likeness in his smile
And the way he stands
Makes it all worth while



Written by Eddie Lundon, Gary Daly • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


*
 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Talbot Hotel, Wexford, Ireland: a Review


The letter-box rattled and something fell on the mat. My housemate went downstairs to find an invitation to celebrate our friends', Joe & Breda, golden wedding anniversary - that is fifty years together - in Wexford in the "Sunny South-East" of Ireland. I had only ever visited Dublin several years previously for a raucous hen-party around Temple Bar. My housemate, had also only visited Dublin, less than a month previously to obtain a new position. So we were both up for a visit to see something of Eire outside the capital.

We checked on booking.com for availability at the hotel where the party was to be held and were thankful to find rooms were available. The Talbot Hotel is classified as four-star and on the website has a "very good" rating of 8.4. All the photographs looked lovely. The reviewers seemed happy with the hotel. Alas, given our experiences, we could not in all honesty recommend the accommodation in this hotel to anyone. We had an awful experience and told reception as well as showing them the photographs we had taken. All they could apparently do is sympathise and explain that we were in one of the booking-com rooms which were not up to the same standard as the rest of the hotel's rooms. We were appalled, as you might gather.

The Room

When booking we had made it very clear that one of us is allergic to feathers and the other is asthmatic: for these reasons we needed feather-free bedding and a room that had not had flowers in it. On arrival it seemed that our request had been ignored. However, lovely receptionist Ellen, immediately arranged for housekeeping to change.


We were rather astonished that what we were given was a blanket (image above) wrapped in a duvet-cover rather than a hypoallergenic, summer-weight duvet. Recall Talbot Hotel is meant to be four-star.


From the listing for our type of room one can see from the list above what facilities the room was supposed to include.


From our snaps (three images above), it should be clear that whilst there was indeed an air-conditioning unit in the room, which even had power, the control button had long since died, the hand-control was missing and the contraption had not been usable for quite some time. As there was no other means of heating the room, it must be rather chilly in the winter months.

The room with the windows closed was like a sauna. Both my housemate and I were left constantly pouring with sweat whenever in the room. My companion slept under the duvet cover that had surrounded the blanket. I slept under a towel. I say slept: the mattress was the most bumpy thing I have slept on since being a university student. British, cheap chain-hotels at least have Hypnos or other quality mattresses. I managed two hours slumber the first night and the second three separate hours.


The other factor that needs to be taken into account is the constantly roaring-rumbling, twenty-four hour per day, extractor outside our window. If we opened our windows, the room was fresh and reached a pleasant temperature, but the noise-levels were far from tranquil and too disturbing to be able to concentrate on anything. When one closed the windows the room became hot & sticky, but even then the rumbling could still be heard (felt?) via the insufficiently insulated windows (walls?). Ellen, the receptionist, advised that the extractor was supposed to be turned off at midnight. After complaining, the second night it was eventually switched off, to be replaced by the high-pitched whirring of the vending-machine on the other side of our wall. Another incessant, unchanging noise.

Looking out of the window was not to be advised. As can be seen from the image above, not exactly a view, more a dumping ground. I should have disguised this area with some planting that did not require too much tending. Such might also have reduced some of the excess noise.

Over all rating: terrible.

The Restaurant

Note that the restaurant, along with the other hotel eatery, is open to the public not just hotel residents. Whilst there, we saw several locals dining.

Part of our booking included a special offer dinner for two for an extra €35 in total. There was no explanation of what this included, but we knew we should be hungry by the time we reached the hotel, and expected that a four-star hotel would not be serving up gruel.

Due to delay by Aer Lingus, we arrived much later than anticipated. Reception advised us to check in after dinner and to go directly to the Oyster Lane Restaurant, at the southern end of the hotel's edifice. Ellen rang ahead to let them know we were coming and as we arrived the maître d', Maryana, was awaiting our arrival. She showed us to table. The chairs were very comfortable (much more so than those of the Renault Mégane we had hired from SixT!) and padded in all the right places.

The meal-deal included a starter, main, dessert and hot beverage for the both of us. Drinks extra. We ordered G&T's to start - something to refresh us and quench our thirsts. Maryana did not know if any Irish gins were available, so we plumbed for what was offered, Gordan's - something we would never do back home. (We later determined that Ballast Bank Bar & Grill at the north end of the building had a whole menu of gins including Irish ones.) Our cocktails did exactly what was needed. I ordered a bottle of Prosecco to go with our mains. It transpired it was only a Prosecco frizzante rather than the better spumante (higher perlage) and was DOC not DOCG. At €30 the hotel was really profiteering from a relatively cheap wine, approximately more than double local retail (not trade) prices. However, whilst the texture on the palate was poor, the flavour was flowery with a slight violet hint. Rather unusual, but nonetheless quite pleasant.

My starter was fish pâté, wrapped in cucumber slices, served with a finely chopped vegetable salsa and a beetroot coulis. This was an incredibly colourful on the eye dish. The pâté itself had a mild flavour, with no specific fish flavour apparent. The cucumber slices were a cool and welcome addition, but the skin should have been removed (as this is the part that causes folk to have issues!). I have to say that for me the beetroot coulis was the highlight of the plate. Delicious and pretty.

Both my companion and myself selected the beef dinner for our mains. Maryana advised us that as there had been a wedding on that day the cut was sirloin. Oh my, what fabulously succulent flesh and beautifully pink. Fabulous. This came wrapped around, for me the most disgusting mashed potato, although my companion was content to eat it. For some reason mine tasted somewhat metallic to me - perhaps it had clashed with some other foodstuff. The new potatoes glistened appetisingly in their buttery sheen, but were slightly over cooked and had just started dropping. Furthermore, they had a slight earthy taste, which of itself was not unpleasant but neither was it pleasant. The carrots were a deep mandarin orange and were really sweet - quite delicious. Whatever else came with the dish made insufficient impact for me to recall any details. Chef (apparently a lady as the adjective "she" was used) made ordinary gravy for me as I could not consume the actual sauce due to it containing garlic. To be fair, I am not a fan of gravy, excepting the clear juices my Grandma used to pour over meat when I was a child. My Mater made her's with Bisto - absolutely disgusting - and I have never gotten over this muck. So when I say that chef's gravy was okay, the reader can understand that, from me, that is a sort of praise.

We were so full after our mains - yes, the portions are really large - that we changed what we were going to have for dessert. Instead of apple crumble, I selected berry fruit pana cotta. Very good - do try it! My friend opted for what was presumably homemade ice-cream. It had the oddest, dry texture. However, it was icy and cold, so eventually all slithered down his throat.

The food is better than pub-grub, but is not haute cuisine. This said, we both should not be deterred from dining here again. And hopefully next time, we should have the time to digest our courses much more slowly and thus better appreciate chef's offerings.

Over all rating: definitely worth trying.

The Leisure Centre ("Spa")

The Talbot Quay Leisure Centre as labelled within the hotel and on googlemaps, also called Talbot Fitness on the hotel's website, is used regularly by my friends who reside in Wexford. If one stays at the hotel or even the apartments next-door-but-one which belong to the same hotel group, one may use the facilities without incurring any extra costs.

One can walk through the hotel or enter externally. There are changing rooms where lockers for one's possessions can be found. Padlocks, towels and swimming caps can be loaned from the centre's reception. The pool is heated but is not too warm. We met up with friends for some swimming, games, fun and lots of chin-wagging (chatting) (this being Ireland!). I also tried the jacuzzi which was rather too hot for me, so I did not remain in it long. However, the jets therein were really powerful and very relaxing. My companion also tried the steam-room or the sauna (one was closed) whilst I read a gratis newspaper in a chair by the pool.

Over all rating: a facility worth using.

The Slaney Suite

The main purpose of our visit to Wexford was to celebrate fifty years of marriage of our Wexfordian chums, Breda & Joe. The venue was spotless. The Décor was subdued grand. Table-settings, formal and perfect (see image below). The staff friendly and flexible - they wheeled in a whole extra table due to the number of unexpected guests who attended. Chef (a redheaded chap this time, as he popped in to see how matters were going with the buffet) presented us with a fine choice of comestibles. Due to my food allergy, I ended up with a cold, veggie option: bean salad, coleslaw, tomatoes & salad leaves with soda bread & butter. I enjoyed every last mouthful and the bean salad was surprisingly tasty. Once the main buffet was cleared, platters of a quartet of desserts were served. I enjoyed three of the four. The only exception was the chocolate cake, which did not really taste of cocoa. My companion was happy to wolf down an extra portion of sweetness, so it did not go to waste!


One could not complain about anything at the party venue.

Over all rating: excellent.

In conclusion

Talbot Hotel's staff, such as Martin the porter, go out of their way to be helpful and friendly. The facilities the hotel offers are good to excellent. Let down only by the terrible quality of the rooms and beds.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Fostering Failures



I should like very much for the reader to watch the following short, a mere twenty-six minutes, film (movie) called "Home(less)", as it covers the topic of fostering and how the system often fails fosterees.

The description of the film is as follow:
Home(less) is the story of Ben, a gay seventeen year old on the verge of aging-out of foster care. He has been in six different foster homes and three group homes over the past five years. Becoming accustomed to conditional love, Ben has lost hope in finding a forever family. He struggles with establishing a relationship with his boyfriend and finding his older sister.


I commented in the section on YouTube below the video, along with other commentators from across the globe. The comments come from fosterers, potential fosterers, fosterees and other interested parties.


I think the acting by the two leads is terrific. We are led to understand why Karen is so concerned and why Ben is so self-protective. I love that we are given background info on both these characters - Karen's home & work-place; Ben's disappeared sister & romantic attachment - as it gives them more depth.
Being passed from pillar to post is, lamentably, not uncommon for such youngsters. Foster homes have to work for all concerned, including the foster-parents and foster-siblings. I should like to see different ideas explored for fosterers and fosterees to meet socially prior to placement, to see whether there is compatibility with the foster-family. Studying & learning from systems that are more successful might help; but I suspect in many systems it is [the] lack of funding which is its downfall.
I think the design of care-systems around the world tend to be proscriptive and inflexible. In the UK, due to constant cuts to budgets, there are insufficient staff to adequately check on children's welfare. Despite many high-profile cases of abuse & even killings and subsequent investigations making countless recommendations, rarely is anything done in actuality to ameliorate the situations.
My housemate & I are both queer, well-educated and financially sound. We have the space to home a youngster. However, I am disabled (requiring some carer support) and chum works during the day. We are not deemed acceptable as a potential foster-home, because the social-workers cannot tick ALL the necessary boxes.
Instead, thousands of children are left in a system that ultimately means they will, on average, do less well educationally, at work, in relationships, are more likely to become involved in crime and even die younger.
Most families are far from perfect; so the system ought not to only want perfect environments!
I hope the sequel you are planning gets off the ground and is successful.
May I ask for a listing at the end of the film of organisations which might be able to assist?
My thanks for a touching film & wishes for future success!

The company that produced the short are hoping to create a feature-length film exploring the issues in greater detail as well as progressing the narrative. If the reader would like to financially contribute the film-makers, please do contact On-Ride Entertainment, LLC. directly. Thanks.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Cachitos, Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona: a Review


On my fourth day in Barcelona, with the wonderful heat, I felt sufficiently well to leave the barrio of Poble Sec and explore the city; although, admittedly, pushed in my wheelchair by my ever sturdy assistant.

Initially we thought of dining in the restaurant of El Corte Inglés at Plaça de Catalunya; but on arrival on their top storey, we discovered that only a self-serve cafeteria was available, requiring one to queue for each and every course and drinks separately. For a chap in a wheelchair, even with an assistant, this would have been an arduous experience. It was a no-no.

So, we set off to explore Eixample, the shopping area of the city. It is also nicknamed Geixample (pronounced gay-shample) due to the concentration of LGBTI businesses and residents. Obviously any eatery we selected had to be wheelchair-accessible in the first instant, but also it had to appeal to the tastes of two different individuals. After a wonderful amble, we stumbled across Rambla de Catalunya. This had covered terrace eateries up and down its length. My pusher pushed and we scoured menus. We spotted a lovely fish restaurant and held it in reserve. However, there was a table on the edge of the covered - thus shady - terrace, which meant I could tuck under the wheelchair and transfer to an ordinary dining-chair, so Cachitos it was.

[Image description: the writer, his wheelchair at his side, at table with a glass of cava rosé]

The maître d' was warm and welcoming. Funnily he assumed I was French and my chum English. Not the first time my Spanish has been assumed to be spoken by a Frenchman. Richard glanced through the wine list and made his selection. Alas, the poor waiter had to return to inform us they had run out. Rico opted for a Juvé y Camps Cava rosé. This was priced at €22, approximately double its price in a Spanish wine-merchant's.

We were not so hungry that we wanted a three-course repast. I selected tuna tartare on an avocado base (below, top left). My companion opted for lamb cutlets with potatoes (below, bottom). Both meals cost €24 each. To share we chose a goat's cheese & pomegranate salad at €10.90 (below, top right), which was very tasty and priced about right for a city centre.


My plate was delicious, the quality good; but was definitely not worth the price paid. This was no cordon-bleu dish. My companion ate all his ration; but, similarly, it was the kind of dish that can be bought for far less in many a Spanish eatery.


For dessert I had to try crema catalana (image above). The vanilla custard was exquisitely light. The sugar-toffee topping ultra-fine. By far the best example I have ever had in Spain or anywhere for that matter. At €5.30 completely worth the price.


Richard chose cheesecake with a blackcurrant coulis (image above). At €6.00 this is more expensive than pâtisserie prices. It was good - but again, not that good, so did not represent value for money.

Service was very good and both our waiter and the maître d' were extremely enthusiastic about their offerings: we were made very welcome. The service level was spot-on, neither too lax nor too fussy.

The total bill with gratuity came to €100. Admittedly we were sitting in a wonderful location and really enjoyed our meal; but the price compared to the standard & quality of cuisine, with hindsight, was far too high.

We had a lovely time and do not regret the experience. However, I cannot recommend Cachitos to you, unless of course money is no object to the reader.