Should old acquaintance be forgot…

Towards the end of the year the Boulevardier’s ponderings are reflective. I embrace sentiment and this time of year lends favourably.

The song that we link hands and arms to, and sing at the stroke of midnight, and usually through an alcohol hazed fog, makes me not only ring in the New Year but think on old acquaintances   – particularly those whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.

When we are young(er) we push forward into life enthusiastically and rarely look back. I think back to the time of leaving school. These were the days before the (American) Prom was born in the UK and we collected our exam results and scattered to the corners of the country/world pursuing our dreams whether travel, education or employment. Of course there are those we stayed in touch with and I am proud to still be in regular contact with several members of my junior school class.

Those that were acquaintances rather than close friends were rarely brought to mind.

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This all changed in 2000 with the advent of Friends Reunited. WOW! A revelation indeed. In the early days of that site you could enter your details against your school year and send messages to other classmates (as long as both had paid for membership).

Social networking exploded thereafter with Facebook and Twitter seeming to take lead positions. Photos, stories, drama and the mundane acts of life unfold in our newsfeeds.

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I have been involved in both attending and coordinating reunions arranged over social media. We have set up school pages and everyone has added school photos.

This simply wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.

I have met, re-met, and become friends with those who were previously acquaintances and realised what great friends we could have been at school too. I’m not going to give myself too hard a time about it though as my school was massive with over 1500 pupils and my year alone was in excess of 250. However, I suspect that irrespective of the size of the school, lots of people who are a similar age to me will report comparable experiences.

Social media comes under the scrutiny of those who believe it’s taking away from real life, person to person interactions. If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘I don’t need Facebook, as I see my friends.’ I would be a very rich man. Some of these sceptics have subsequently become avid social media users.

As long as there’s perspective you can reach a much wider audience than you would through traditional methods and help maintain remote and infrequent friendships.

For example how many postcards would we previously have sent from holidays? Ten maybe? And how many would arrive after the holiday had expired?

My newsfeed on Facebook is awash with shots of beautiful beaches, sunsets, and bronzed (sometimes red) friends in real time.

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I suspect the term ‘friends’ is the reason some became foxed. Not everyone who I connected with on Facebook would be classed as a friend in traditional terms. One definition is someone who you know, like and trust. My connections are a multifarious collection of people from school, work and previous places of employment, work clients, those I’ve played internet- based games with, those with similar interests connected through mutual friends, and some I’ve come to know through other networking sites like Twitter.

When I became ill at the beginning of 2013 and looked for support I went to Facebook. The volume of wellwishers and kind thoughts was overwhelming through my posts and private messages.

Problems start to incur however, when some start to live their lives through Facebook and stop engaging in real life. Social Media addiction is also a recognised condition. But this is a story in itself and not part of my reflection today.

It will be interesting to look back in twenty years and understand whether those who are young and leaving school in the Facebook era stay in more regular contact with a larger group throughout their lives and whether this does impact on real face to face meeting.

In any event I shall post on New Year’s Eve a message of gratitude and well wishes to all those I am in contact with over social media and be grateful for the love, support and laughs we have shared either in real life or online as both are invaluable to me. And that includes YOU, all my lovely blog readers!

May 2014 prosper for y’all!

TNW

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Tis the season to start getting ready for the season

What is it all about? Your Boulevardier loves immersing in the spirit, the smells, the tastes (especially the mulled wine), the sparkle and the music. I have already had celebratory dinners with good friends, attended early Xmas parties, a festive show by Mari Wilson, an orchestral winter concert, a Christmas musical show hosted by the Supreme Fabulettes and a 40th birthday bash. Yet to come are classy lunches, a carol concert at Westminster Abbey and of course the Selfridges sale on Boxing Day.

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But does it really mean anything else to me, something deeper?

It’s quite often said that no one should be on their own for Christmas or not get a hot meal. But there are many people worldwide who are alone and lonely, and without a hot meal on the other 364 days of the year. Do they feed lonelier at Christmas because they are told to?

I love the superficial side of Christmas as sited above but struggle with the deeper meanings or real sense of giving just because of the season.

Conversations surround us of anxiety to make certain gifts are appropriate and appreciated. I do actually prefer to give presents when someone needs or wants something, or for an event such as a wedding or anniversary.

Is it a time of goodwill to all men? Or is it a time when people put up a faux happiness and allege a sanctimonious good will to all?

I wasn’t sure.

And then I heard something several weeks ago which has moved me tremendously.

The Haberdashery, an independent café in Crouch End, which I have previously wrote about put out the following message:

We need your help! Please read…

On Christmas day we will be providing Christmas Dinner and entertainment
to about 30 elderly people that would otherwise either have no means to celebrate,
or be lonely.

This will happen at The Haberdashery in Crouch End.

The guests will be chosen by AgeUk, a local charity that looks after
elderly lonely people.

On the day we will provide Christmas Dinner (with all the trimmings),
drinks, Bingo, Secret Santa, music and lots of happiness!

I need your help though.

There are many ways to help:

– donating any amount of money (even £1.00 would help!) to go towards the
food and drinks for the day (any extra money leftover will be donated to
AgeUk)
– donating a present for secret Santa
– donating a bottle of wine or something that would be consumed on the day
(mince pies/Christmas pudding/turkey etc…). Please do get in touch if
you want to donate food/drinks so can organise not to have 20 turkeys and
no booze!
– fundraising through your friends/family/customers/circles… Seriously,
£1.00 each could make the difference!
– by donating any old item you might do not want anymore: we will have a
table selling all the donations at the Christmas Barboot at The
Haberdashery. Books, shoes, clothes, anything will do!
– spreading the word through twitter, facebook, word of mouth…
– putting me in touch with someone that might be able to help with
discounted food or someone that might want to donate for this cause

Any donations would be extremely helpful!

For the first time in years I am looking forward to Christmas day like
when I was a kid!!! Super excited!!!

Spread the love,

Massimo.

It was clear to me then. The religious, and the sanctimonious reasons for Christmas don’t matter. It is a time when the truly generous in our midst get together to be with family and friends, and help those in need.

The elderly in our society are often overlooked unfortunately, and have only their memories of enjoying wonderful Christmas lunches and celebrations in the past. Surely the elderly will rejoice the most in sending and receiving Christmas cards. They won’t be as competent online or use Facebook or Twitter. However, how can they send cards when the cost of a second class stamp is now 50 pence. When you multiply the price of cards and stamps by the amount you send the cost skyrockets.

Family is so important and I wouldn’t miss Christmas lunch at my parents. The time with my ageing parents, aunties and uncles is precious. However, I want to make sure the Haberdashery have all the help they need with this amazing and selfless initiative.

I offered to go and help, but they already have so many helpers on the day, which is fantastic in itself. I have to say I’m not sure my waiting skills would be up to much, but I would make a great welcomer or accompanying Sherry drinker.

So it’s the fundraising that I’ve focussed on. I set about speaking to a number of local retail businesses and was overwhelmed by their generosity to this cause. Any surplus generated will be presented to Age UK.

If you live in or around Crouch End, own a local business or have the means to contribute please let me or the Haberdashery know.

This to me is Christmas. It’s time to help those less fortunate than us and I think a Boulevardier engages in these activities and gives his all…

I even have a few decorations up at home (some borrowed) to really get into the swing which makes the Sherry taste much sweeter!

Have great holidays my lovely readers!

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TNW

Mamma Mia – Here we go again…

Too many times we see and hear about non-acceptance of diversity and difference. And whether it’s about race, culture, sex or sexuality, people can shun, disregard and hate what they don’t understand. They really don’t know what they are missing out on.

As a displaced Boulevardier I always try to embrace diverse and different behaviours and people, and learn to laugh and love our differences. I wanted to share a few experiences with Catia, also known as the Roman Drama Queen. She says that in her native land, Italy, she is viewed as laid back and chilled. I’ll let you decide.

In 2006, and amid an exchange of words, I met my good friend Catia in San Antonio, Texas. We had vehemently disagreed about a situation which had occurred on the forum on which we were both members. However, disagreements in new friendships help us to better understand each other and it’s not the disagreement that matters but the way we deal with it.

She is still a good friend today and we have not disagreed since our initial period. She can’t live without a displaced Boulevardier in her midst and I couldn’t live without a true Italian drama queen in mine. Regular readers of my blog will have seen her appear in the previous entry ‘Breakfast at Prada’.

Let me expand.

A small contingent from various parts of Europe decided to descend on Rome to visit Catia in 2007. We came from Austria, The Netherlands and England. Marc and I stayed at a local hotel on the outskirts of Rome while Martina and Florian resided at Catia’s well-appointed apartment.

On our first evening together we met at our hotel and were all catching up over a glass or six of Prosecco while waiting for taxis to transport us to the centre of Rome for dinner. Catia disappeared and I suddenly saw her in the reception area taking deep breaths with her hand poised dramatically on her brow. I wondered what had happened and mused whether poor Catia had received some dreadful news. I left our party and moved to the reception area.

‘Catia, is everything OK? What’s happened darling?’ I asked in a concerned manner.

Catia took several deep breaths and looked it pain. She threw her arms in the air and declared ‘It’s the taxis. They are going to be twenty minutes late!’ She paused dramatically between the last three words as if announcing a death.

I hugged Catia and asked her to calm down and reassured her we were in no rush and would simply enjoy another cold bubbly Prosecco. Every cloud eh. And there Prosecco comes in the most commodious large glass sized mini bottles. Genius.

She subsequently informed me that this was not really a dramatic reaction and I had yet to see a proper Italian dramatic reaction.

Catia and I have often visited each other. She is passionate about the misappropriation of Italian food. On one of her visits we met some friends in Pizza Hut, Colchester. One of the party declared

‘Oh ‘ow funny. Ca-ia (t dropped in an Essex style) has visited us from Rome and we took ‘er to an Italian restaurant.’ This was followed by cackles aplenty.

Catia did not cackle. She took several of her now infamous deep breaths and announced

‘There is NOTHING Italian about this place. It’s American. That is why I order salad!’

It doesn’t stop there. Italians, or rather serious foodie Italians, don’t allow any consumption of milk after midday. It’s apparently something to do with the digestion of dairy products. I would like to ask how they manage to consume cheese on their evening pizza but would not dare.

I may not partake anymore but I used to enjoy a café latte at most times of the day, but particularly after a meal. Not only is warm milk something of an acceptable evening habit in the UK but I like to dilute the taste of coffee. Yes, I like coffee but not when it’s really strong and lashings of milk make it significantly more palatable.

When in Rome eh.

Catia was quite determined that I would not have a latte after my dinner. I implored and pleaded and basically begged. After many deep breaths and sighs Catia attracted the waitress’s attention and I heard the following.

Catia “Guardi, lo so che e’ terribile, ma potrebbe portargli un caffellatte? Abbia pazienza, sa, e’ Inglese…”

Waitress: “Ma come si fa, dopo i ravioli?!”

Catia: “lo so lo so, non ci faccia caso”

Waitress: “Vabbe'”…

I didn’t need an explanation to know that my request was not appreciated. The word Inglese with the accompanying rolling eyes told me all I needed to know, but the translation is as follows:

Catia: “Look, I know it’s terrible, but could you get him a latte? Bear with him, he’s British, you know”

Waiter: “For god’s sake, after the ravioli?!”

Catia: “I know I know, just don’t mind him”

Waiter: “Whatever'”…rolling her eyes…

This was of course delivered in the best Italian dramatic but good humoured way.

We learn to accept each other’s cultural idiosyncrasies and enjoy what had drawn us together and made us such close friends.

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful weekend when Catia visited me in London.

My coffee taste had moved on and I was proud to tell Catia that I now enjoyed Americano. She huffed and called it soup!

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Apparently it’s espresso or nothing.

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We went to a café opening on Friday evening where we were treated to an innovative blue grass band (you don’t see much country in London), and headed on Saturday to Turville, where not only Vicar of Dibly was filmed, but also the windmill from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I can tell you that the windmill is on quite the hill. There is no way that Truly Scrumptious’ car would have made it up there. I guess that’s the magic of film.

We sat in a picturesque pub in Turville along with another great friend, Sarah. I was feeling a little chilly due to the November temperatures and blood thinning medication, whereas the two ladies (of a certain age) were feeling rather warm. They are of a certain age but apparently not of that certain age. They were however experiencing hot flushes usually experienced by ladies of a certain age. I was told in no uncertain terms that both were having earlier than expected symptoms.

It would seem that our differences are not only cultural.

We spoke and laughed and ridiculed ourselves about our differences and differences in culture. Catia said that ‘Brits talk about the weather and Italians talk about food!’

I did manage to persuade her to embrace one cultural difference…

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Isn’t that what we should focus on? Let’s celebrate our differences and find a way to truly love each other. There is too much hatred and negativity in the world.

My shared experiences with my gorgeous Italian friend are superficial and slight, but surely if we learn to love and laugh in whatever situation we find ourselves true karma with find and bless us.

TNW

Hum Buggery and Dyking the Halls

Aren’t Sunday mornings just the best? I always set my alarm for 8.30am to wake and publish my weekly blog, and then try and spend a couple of hours still wrapped in the warmth and protection of my duvet sipping Assam tea and eating hot buttered toast. A boulevardier should relish these moments of extravagance.

As I languished in my decadence my thoughts turned to the evening ahead. I was looking forward to travelling to Brighton to catch up with a longstanding school friend, Sarah, and watch a Christmassy anti Christmas show hosted by the phenomenons that are VG Lee and Rose Collis.

I was ready to Bah Humbuggers or Dyke the Halls and join these two talented lesbians in their show. The title itself had caused some controversy in a more sensitive area of society, but I shall not discuss that here.

After fiddling around with my social media for some time and see Friends of Ally Pally retweet my blog and have it included in an online publication, The Daily Snapper, I could rise happy.

It was 11am and time for daily ablutions.

After a long soak in the bath, and another cup of Assam, I needed to decide what to wear. The temperatures were plummeting as they do in December and I didn’t want to be cold but wanted to be cool. After considering several options I settled upon a pair of grey jeans, grey desert boots with swirling circular patterns, black Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and a multi coloured H&M sweater.

With the trusty quiff revitalised it was time to go. As I closed the front door at 2.30pm it wasn’t as cold as I had imagined, and even better, the sun was low but out. I had earlier thought it was a grey day from my bed. The combination of clouds, blue skies and low sun made some beautiful shapes in the sky. This year we have been most fortunate in England with bright skies. Usually autumn is a grey sunless season. I have quite taken to capturing photos of the cloud formations and posting them through Instagram to Twitter and Facebook.

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A good friend Sammy Jo noticed my passion and text a couple of weeks ago asking ‘Have you given up work and are now a photographer specialising in skies?’ She followed this a few days later with ‘Your sky photos are getting a bit like selfies!!!lol!’

To which I responded ‘Shall we call them cloudies?’ And thus the cloudie was born. Not sure it’s trending yet, but I will persevere.

I boarded the train at Victoria and managed to secure a facing seat with table. I switched on my Kindle and decided to start rereading A Christmas Carol. I thought it rather apt when heading to an event containing BAH HUMBUGGERS in its title.

Starting A Christmas Carol on the 1st Sunday of Advent seemed fitting when en route to a Christmassy anti Christmas show. I smiled to myself and popped another Minstrel in my mouth. I tried to remember the original advertising and I think it was ‘They melt in your mouth and not in your hand.’

It was a little after 5pm and Sarah and I met and went straight to the Emporium Theatre. We were so early that the afternoon tea dance had barely finished. We found a comfortable corner booth and caught up on the last six months’ news since we’d last seen each other.

The Emporium Theatre started life as a Methodist Chapel at the end of the 19th Century but looks more like a gothic church. The main café area is where the main church aisle and alter once lived and is a wonderful large open space with high ceilings. Rather than pews there are less uniform booths, long worn leather sofas and dining sets. The serving area is abundant with lots of home cooked cakes and goodies. We ordered in abundance.

Our creamy, hot, yellow and plentiful scrambled eggs soon arrived which tasted delicious and was washed down with several large glasses of hearty red wine.

The team looked distinctly aloof and anti Christmassy before the show.

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It wasn’t long before we were called forward to enter the theatre at the back of the building. The stage was simple with two chairs, a small table with a half full bottle of Sherry (I knew VG was in the house as she is, like me, rather partial to Sherry), another table with a jar of pickled onions on a potty on it, a couple of music stands and Bud the Banjolele (Rose’s instrument).

It was rather chilly in the theatre and all patrons pulled their scarves and coats back on. Was this to add to the Christmassy anti Christmas atmosphere? No, it appeared that the heating had failed. The lovely Emporium served up free hot drinks at the interval to help warm everyone up.

Rose entered the stage looking very smart in a formal tuxedo with tails. Rose treated us to anecdotes about her famous pickled onions and a number of facts dispelling the myths of Christmas. Did you know the concept of sending cards at Christmas was a shrewd business move from the originator of the Penny Post?

Rose then picked up her Banjolele and beautifully sang a couple of feet tapping numbers.

Val (VG) Lee entered stage right with a richly tapestried dressing gown, rollers and her fluffy pussy. Val had previously, and rather salaciously, advertised her fluffy pussy. I might call it a stuffed cat.

Val mesmerised us with an epic tale of friendship amid her friend Deidre’s worship of department store bed linen. Val’s delivery as ever was animated and full of comic timing. The audience roared with laughter. Val even mentioned that she could hear my laugh above all others. I think this was a compliment.

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Val then sat down with Rose and interviewed her in a Parky kind of way. Rose gave us some more facts including some wonderful gift suggestions. My favourite was the Christmas pudding shaped juggling balls on offer from Marks and Spencer.

In the interval Sarah had more mint tea and I had more refreshing wine. Micra Mary, a good friend of Val’s, who drives a Micra was attired as an Elf and handed around delicious mince pies.

As the second half started Val treated us to information regarding her worst ever present which was a hot water bottle. She tried to trump the gift giver the following year with a tea cosy.

There were more tales and songs from Rose and VG read her solo erotica story, which had the audience blushing and roaring with laughter in equal measure.

We were on a high and when Rose picked up Bud the Banjolele and started playing Merry Christmas Everyone (accompanied by VG’s backing harmonies while wearing Elf ears) we all joined in the merriment and raised the rafters with our rousing chorus’.

After a brief encore and a couple of extra choruses we all left with a fine Christmas spirit. Had they failed in their mission to Bah our Humbug? Not at all. These great raw performers had put on a great show and we understood them both a little better and left sated with wine, food and song.

The show is on at The Hideaway, Jazz Club, Streatham on 15th December. There are tickets still available and your Boulevardier highly recommends you see it. If you’re lucky you might even see some of Val’s on stage dance moves!

TNW

A turn around Ally Pally

Following my second bout of pulmonary emboli two months ago it’s been a challenge to pick up and hold my Boulevardier head high.

Exercise is so important to me from a health, fitness and mental health point of view. However, I knew it would be a couple of months before I could enjoy being an Active Virgin again.

Between work and Boulevarider duties I’ve struggled to fit in any exercise, and haven’t had the energy either. However, with working days further reduced, and this time on a permanent basis, I decided to propel some energy into a power walk to Alexandra Park and Palace.

I woke with a headache, which seemed to be a theme that week. Assam tea would revive me, it always does.

So after two large mugs of Assam and a bowl of porridge with peach slices I attired in jogging pants, t shirt, hoodie and trainers and set off.

I walked along Park Road and started to get out of breath quite quickly, which is expected. I smiled at the healthier looking joggers coming toward me. I am not sure I completely understand the code of recognition between runners. Last year when I upped my running, or rather progressed from walking as I lost weight, the nods from passing runners increased. I am back to walking and the runners no longer nod at me. I keep smiling however.

There are black railings at the entrance to the park and they also seem to act as a traffic noise barrier. Park Road and the junction with Muswell Hill are so busy and one must endure the constant whoosh of cars along with the associated exhaust fumes. Once beyond the railings the concrete avenue opens up with large swaying trees either side without the vehicular sounds.

One man jogged passed with his spaniel in tow. I smiled but did not get acknowledged.

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I walked along the base of the hill and was following the route I would take when running. The trees disappear from one side to reveal the expanse of open fields, and the trees break also on the other side revealing a path directly up to the Palace. The path is steep and I took the turn. The effects of the incline are instant, and walking becomes laboured. I looked up and could see the empty arches of Alexandra Palace in the distance as a red double decker passed the front. It reminded me of an early evening run last November. It was a typical foggy London evening and as I rounded the same corner the yellow of the street lamps thickened the appearance of the fog. In the distance I could see the empty arches and two double deckers passed from different directions. With the dark and the fog vision was restricted and the lights within the buses shining through the window gave a skeletal appearance. Two moving skeletons passed across Alexandra Palace in the dark fog. I wished I had taken a photo.

I made it to the top of the hill and up the two flights of steps and rested, completely out of breath. There were a few tourists taking photos. It doesn’t matter the time of year, there are always people taking photos towards the city.

I moved on, and didn’t pause to skip where I would usually throw the rope under my feet and jump fifty times. I carried on and around the boating pond. Some silly people were feeding the pigeons, geese, ducks and moorhens. Please see one of my previous blogs to understand my feelings for our feathered enemies.

The path then sweeps down toward a wooded area where they are paddocks containing deer. I walked down the slighter slope, turned at the ‘Welcome to Alexandra Park’ sign and walked back up the hill and rounded to the front of the Palace. There was a solitary man conducting or practicing something like Tae Kwando. I am not familiar enough with the gentler martial arts come dance move practices to be certain and name it correctly.

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There are four sets of steps and usually I would run up and down three of them a fair quantity of times. This day I decided to climb two sets ten times and another twenty. On the third set there was an older lady who had paused for breath or to take in the view and we smiled at each other.

‘I should try something like that. It looks like fun!’ she said.

‘It is.’ I responded trying to smile, sound friendly and not out of breath while trying not to fall on the step. I am not the best multi-tasker.

Earlier in the year when running the same route with my friend Marina we encountered a small film crew at the first set of steps who suggested we move along quickly as they were filming. It was delivered with an air of self-importance. Marina started to move on and I gently pulled her back and announced.

‘We’re fine thank you. We only have twenty sets to do and then we’ll be out of your way.’

Marina and I smiled at each other knowingly. They were being unreasonable and we would only be a few minutes. We completed our sets nodded politely at the three strong crew and moved along. Indeed we would have made a fine addition to their film.

I walked back down the steep part of the hill and along the avenue before joining the throngs of Park Road.

I was pleased with my effort and so glad to have such a London landmark and heavenly vista within a short walk of home.

I walked into Crouch End and purchased swede, carrots, onions and beef for a winter stew which would heat in the slow cooker.

TNW