Day whatever it is in the back-of-beyond-but-tourist-stricken Languedoc parish of Caunes-Minervois – ‘Minervois’ to distinguish it from the 1,001 other Caunes parishes here in the French Quarter of the glorious European Union – and in one or two odd ways I am relaxing a little more and wishing I – we, as I am here with my brother – had rather more than just another six days on holiday.
But last things last, as they say: my brother Mark has one of those little gadgets which are speakers for an iPod Touch, and we – lately I as he, at the time of writing, has now gone upstairs to watch German TV - have just listened, in order played, to the fourth, choral movement, of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, then Bill Evans playing his own composition Young And Foolish (which I can recommend to anyone dying rather slowly – that’s everyone over 40 – who wants to recapture the emotion of being young but doesn’t want any of the concomitant hassles), followed by Scarlatti’s piano sonata K466 in F minor (and that would be Domenico Scarlatti – there was a whole tribe of them but I am not familiar with the music of any of the others), followed by Purcell’s Dido’s Lament from – I think his opera – Dido and Aeneas, then Ry Cooder with Earl Hines playing Diddy Wa Diddy (or however it’s spelled and I don’t actually think there’s a definitive version of the spelling), then Chet Baker’s version of Autumn Leaves, followed by one of Miles Davis’s versions of the same tune and (now brother Mark has fucked off upstairs) the glorious S.O.S Band with Just Be Good To Me.
That finished several minutes ago and the album is still playing. And how, I hear some of you asking – though most certainly not all of you – can anyone who thinks Beethoven composed some of the best music ever, with his Ninth Symphony being some of the very best even bear to listen to the S.O.S Band? Well, sweethearts, I’ll tell you: it’s just as glorious, though in a very different way (apropos which Weekend Love is now playing and just to spite all the snobs, once it has finished I’ll play Alexander O’Neal’s track Innocent which is just as glorious. Then to persuade you innocent doubters that I haven’t totally lost my marbles, it will be Bach, Mozart or something entirely different – if I feel like it.
Which all gets to tell you: absolutely nothing. Great music to listen to is great to listen to whatever it is. I do so dislike snobs. As my brother has just come down to the kitchen, I thought I would play him Wicked Soul by Kubb. The rest of the album it’s on isn’t much cop, but this track is ace.
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It’s a little late and tonight I’ve had three gins and a glass or two of Chardonnay. Unfortunately, there’s no wine left, so it might have to be a weak glass of pastis and possibly regrets tomorrow. I’ve now put on Karen Tweed, who I’m sure is not well known, but she is a superb accordion player. More great music, as much in keep with Mr Beethoven, Mr Scarlatti, Mr Miles Davis, Mr Chet Baker and the S.O.S. Band as anything else.
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In keeping with previous nights, I did the cooking tonight (as I love cooking) and I roasted on of the most underrated pieces of meat known to man: belly pork. It is not difficult, though a damn sight cheaper than many other cuts. I made a sauce from the juices, a little of the Chardonnay and some crème freche, using the onions I roasted at the same time. The crackling was a little – er – burned, but tasty just the same. Served with roasted par-boiled potatoes i.e. not too roasted, and leeks sautéed in butter. And if the whole shebang cost more than a couple of pence for two, I shall be very surprised. Still holding off from the pastis – a spirit, which is not good news after gin and wine – but I don’t think I can hold off much longer. A cup of tea would do the trick, but what’s tea when there is a glass of – albeit weak – pastis to be enjoyed.
. . .Mark rather surprised me tonight by something he said as we were sitting outside. It has become our habit, for want of a terrace to use for a pre-dinner drink, to sit outside in the very narrow alleyway on two bollards to enjoy our gin and me a cigar. And sitting there, in the alleyway, we are passed, every few minutes, but all kinds of folk, mainly locals who live hereabouts but also tourists, but French and Brist, but, as far as I can tell, every other nationality under the sun, to whom we both always say a polite and friendly bon soir.
We were sitting there when Mark announced that they all, the locals and tourists, probably think we are a couple of woofters (his word, not mine). And it was that which surprised me. Mark is both gay and my favourite brother with whom I get on, 99pc of the time, extremely well. I’m not gay (or at least not the last time I looked, but I do rather think these things are settled. I have never felt like a touch of rumpy-bumpy with a guy and I really do doubt that life has any surprised in store for me on that score). What surprised me was that Mark, who is now 54, should worry about such stuff. I should better add that the only member of my immediate family who reads this blog is my sister, who knows the score, and, as far as I know – with two exceptions – no one else who knows me reads it, either, and both of them – one a former colleague and friend, the other a guy who went to my school but who I have so far never met (hello, both) has never met Mark. So there is little chance that by writing what I am I am in in danger of embarrassing him, which I wouldn’t want to do, anway. The odd thing is that he makes loads of camp, gay jokes, yet doesn’t seem keen on anyone thinking he is gay. Any suggestions as to why?
LATER: Actually, perhaps I can make my own suggestion: I fell asleep last night with the radio on and woke at about 3.15 our time to a documentary about how gays are simply being murdered in Iraq. It was quite horrific. One guy told of being held at a checkpoint, then raped by nine policemen before being set free again. Sounds contradictory, but according to Iraqis interviewed, the blame for being gay attaches wholly to what they regarded as the ‘feminine’ partner. The police do nothing because, according to the documentary, many of them are in the various religious militias when they are off-duty. Generally speaking , life for gay men and women in Iraq is utterly miserable from the point of view of the state. Ironically, gays were freer and less hassled in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in Syria Assad dad and lad.
Things have progressed by several centuries in Britain and Western Europe, but it was only 50 years ago (these timespans don’t seem quite as large when you are, as I am, 102) when any kind of sexual relations between men were illegal. So maybe I should accept my brother’s point of view on this one and not see things quite so much through my own eyes. And my apologies to anyone reading what I originally wrote who felt offended. At first, I was going to remove it, but then I thought that not doing so and adding these few paragraphs might have more point, especially as many will not know quite how nasty and brutish life can be in some parts of the world for gay men and women. Africa is especially intolerant of lesbians some believe a rape or two will help them see the error of their ways. I don’t mean to be po-faced, but perhaps we in the West should count our blessings just a little bit more.. . .
Talking of any suggestions, I always look at the Google blog stats to see how often the most recent entry has been read and where they are. So here’s a request: why don’t you – that is those three (see above) who haven’t already done so – make yourselves known and tell me a bit about yourselves. That request goes out to several readers in the U.S., several in the UK, and as far afield as Australia, Indonesia, Chine, the Ukraines and Russia. Come on, lad and lasses, get in touch.
One last statistic for our American cousins: Mark told me yesterday that he came across an interesting statistic: Mitt Romney and his backers are keen to do well in Ohio in the coming presidential election. Well, it seems that a survey of Republican voters there established that almost one in five of those surveyed are astonished that Mitt isn’t getting the credit he deserves for the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
On that note, I’ll raise my glass of pastis and drink a toast to all those glorious folk keen on introducing democracy to the rest of the benighted, undemocratic world: we’re glad we are safe in your hands. Perhaps bin Laden will do you a favour and have himself resurrected so that Romney can have another shot and this time get the recognition he deserves. Bon nuit (as they say in the more pretentious parts of North London.)
PS A late plea for all and sundry to listen to Alexander O’Neal and his numerous cracking good tracks. OK, so I’m an 80s freak but... Hearsay, Criticise, A Broken Heart, Never Knew Love Like This - fucking classic. What first got me hooked? If You Were Here Tonight - 24-carat bollocks, lovers’ rock crap. I love it. And I’m really not joking. Yes, Beethoven's Ninth, Bach's St John Passion, squeaky gate music and If You Were Here Tonight. It all fits. Somehow. And don’t get me started on Freddie Jackson. Fuck the 90s.
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I posted the above and then read it through and started amending it. And then I thought it really did need a little more: Freddie Jackson? Alexander O’Neal? Beethoven, Scarlatti – and, I might add, Hildegard von Bingen, Schuman, Schubert, Haydn (especially Haydn, who was born to early in an odd sort of way), Mozart, Steely Dan, Teleman, Purcell, Vaughan-Williams, Dave Fiuczynski, Kid Creole, Johnny Winter, Dylan, Elgar, Delius, Shostakovish Pink et al – is the guy serious? Well, of course I am: music is music is music is music. And if you disagree and start coming the cunt about ‘serious’ music or any such nonsense I hereby officially ban you and your kind from ever reading this blog again. Ever.. . .
Finally, a public service announcement: Is your partner missing? Has your bed been cold these past few hours? If you recognize the character below, please get in touch and we might be able to re-unite you.