Cyril Vicious

‘Armando? Are you joining us today?’ Lil was shouting at the wall, the other side of which was the café kitchen.

There was no answer.

Lil waved one hand at me in a decisive manner which seemed to indicate that I should sit.

‘Armando? Are you there?’ Lil was louder and almost trilling her request.

Armando’s head popped out through the kitchen hatch. His hair was messier than usual and a black grease shone from his face. ‘Dishwasher not a-working now, bloody expensive, and I’m a-trying to fix.’

His head disappeared again into the recesses of the scullery.

Lil raised her eyebrows and gave an omnipotent purse of her lips.

‘Armando’s been avoiding me since I asked about his boyfriend. I don’t know why. It’s not as if he needs to be embarrassed to talk to me about it,’ said Lil.

‘How’s your boyfriend Lil?’ I asked.

‘Who?’ Lil knew exactly what I was asking.

‘Bill.’ I answered.

‘He’s not my boyfriend.’ Lil’s response was sharp and fast.

‘Where is he anyway?’ I asked.

‘Now listen here Boulevardier. I know exactly what you’re trying to do and it’s not going to get past me. Bill doesn’t need to come every week. This is my Breakfast Club and as he recently left me for weeks to go and visit his family, I’m not having him here. And don’t try and change the subject.’

Lil lifted the antique china pot and poured the golden liquid into the mismatched vintage cup and saucer in front of her.

‘Armando hasn’t yet told me he’s gay,’ she continued.

‘Is he?’ I asked innocently. I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable having this conversation with Lil. Armando had been open with me but it wasn’t for me to gossip about him, even if it was only with the third axis of our intimate group.

‘Look here. I know these things. Take Cyril for instance,’ said Lil.

‘Who’s Cyril?’ I asked.

‘Don’t you listen to a word I say Wayne?  Cyril, the guy who lives in my block.’

‘Lil I promise you haven’t mentioned him before.’ Lil told so many stories it was difficult to retain the detail. They were invariably colourful, contained drama or tragedy or both. I’m not sure I’d have forgotten hearing about her other gay friends though.

‘Well anyway, he’s in his late sixties and a confirmed bachelor, or so he says.’ Lil released a mammoth cackle, ‘I wasn’t fooled. I managed to wheedle it out of him.’

I was glad I’d ordered a vegetarian breakfast, with a sausage on the side; listening to Lil on a roll was hungry work. I sliced a juicy grilled tomato and pressed it against a sliver of Halloumi. I raised the loaded fork to my mouth and looked expectantly at Lil to continue.

‘He moved in three years ago and wears yellow Marks’ trousers with floral shirts and silk scarves and I knew straight away. He’d lived in Brighton and done a flat swap.

I asked him if he watched Downton Abbey. He said he did, and then I asked who his favourite character was, and do you know who he said?’

‘No idea Lil.’ I didn’t know where our conversation was going or how many clichés we would be embracing.

‘Thomas the Underbutler.’ Lil’s response was perspicacious from her tone but I wasn’t so sure.

‘Thomas is a conniving, sly manipulator. Perhaps Cyril likes those qualities. I don’t think identifying with a character in a TV show gives certainty Lil, although the clothing you describe could tell a different story,’ I said. I started to laugh and thought I’d been funny. Lil wasn’t laughing.

‘No, Cyril is a nice chap. He’s drawn to Thomas as he hides his sexuality too.’ Lil was orating as if a University Professor. ‘And I’m certain that Thomas would be your favourite character too Mr Boulevardier.’ Lil crowed again.

‘I like the Dowager Countess. Maggie Smith has all the best lines,’ I said. In fact I liked Maggie Smith in most of her roles, ‘Tea with Mussolini’ being my favourite.

‘Exactly. That’s precisely the same,’ Lil wasn’t for turning today.

‘Thomas, Maggie Smith, it doesn’t mean anything and I think you’re rather jumping to conclusions Lil.’ I hadn’t seen Lil using stereotyping in such a blatant and shallow way before. She wasn’t being negative or offensive but equally was drawing conclusions from pathways which didn’t link.

‘Let me finish. I also asked Cyril last winter if he’d watched Vicious, you know the show starring Derek Jacobi and Ian Mc’what’s his name, about the two senior gay men who have been together for years. And he said that he was watching it.’

Vicious

‘Perhaps he fancies Frances de la Tour,’ I offered.

‘Ha, don’t be so bloody stupid. Anyway I know these things. Remember I worked in the theatre for years.’ Lil speared a piece of sausage and thrust it into her mouth in an authoritative manner.

Armando appeared from the kitchens looking flustered but clean, and collected a cup and saucer from the counter and sat down.

‘Is it fixed?’ I asked.

‘For now, but I think I have to call engineer to check. Staff don’t like too much a-washing up.’ Armando was trying to straighten his hair. His hair generally had a mind of its own but being stuck in a dishwasher had heightened its coiffeur. Armando’s ‘just got out of bed’ cool mess was bordering on just being a mess.

One of the waitresses arrived with a fresh pot of Assam tea.

‘We were just talking about television shows Armando. Do you watch Vicious?’ asked Lil with as much subtlety as a baboon’s backside.

‘Yes, I’ve a seen it. I’m not sure it is good.’

‘I knew it,’ said Lil as she sat back in her chair and folded her arms.

A ringing from Armando’s pocket interrupted Lil’s gloating. The dishwasher repair people were en route and Armando was off and to the kitchen again.

‘How’s Mavis?’ I asked Lil.

That wiped the smile from her smug face.

‘Another tea?’ I added innocently as I held the pot above Lil’s empty cup.

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.

901cb9f7-2048-4531-89ba-c2ace0af50d2

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.

1488296_10152090090208552_1383752839_n

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.

1470367_553626721387827_1156460281_n

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

Lady of the Wild West Hill

A lady of recent acquaintance who also happens to be a phenomenal writer advertised that she was putting on and acting in her first play as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. There was no way I was not going to purchase tickets and enjoy this spectacle.

I marketed my plans to a few friends, and was pleased that three decided to come with me. We plotted to make it an entire day of fun in Brighton.

The morning came, and what to wear? The weather was of course changeable. This is the UK after all! I wanted to dress on trend, but decided that warmth and comfort took precedence as it was to be a long day. Leatherette trousers, Nikki Minaj T shirt, salmon hoodie, and green, cotton, faux denim jacket. Prada trainers, of course, also featured.

We four met at Victoria Station at 11.30am intent on taking the 12.06 express train to Brighton. We headed straight to Marks and Spencers in the station, to get some provisions for a en route picnic! M & S have an ingenious British Summer collection and we excitedly stocked up on such delicacies as Fish and Chips Crisps, and Rhubarb Crumble to be washed down with a nice chilled bottle of prosecco! Once we boarded, chose seats with a table and laid out the picnic the envious looks started from other travellers.

The journey passed quickly and we were soon in Brighton. We took a picturesque walk to the town centre, walking through rows of ample Victorian villas beautifully framed with contemporary shutters. We mused the benefits of living in one of these vast Brighton properties.

After visits to a divine kitchen shop (I know! Why a kitchen shop! We were drawn in by the faux vintage items in the window), Primark (I waited outside), Top Man, (again outside) and H&M, the sun came out and we headed with some urgency towards the beach. The beach area was buzzing with locals and visitors alike. A number of stag and hen parties were present evidenced by their style of costume. The best of which was a stag party adorned in costumes made famous by the Village People, although not sure it was warm enough to be pounding the streets in loincloths! Perhaps the Indian, faux feathered, headdresses added some temperature.

The sun was short lived unfortunately, but we were not perturbed and spent another hour laying on the beach wrapped in coats. We were not the only ones. It would seem rather British to head to the seaside and disrobe with the slightest sign of sun, and then sit on the beach wrapped and shivering.  I pondered it would be useful to have my duvet with me.

Off again and a quick visit to the funfair. Not sure if this Boulevardier knows what is ‘fun’ about the fair as I get sick travelling backwards on a train, let alone being thrown in every direction whilst being insulted with the loudest, latest rap tracks!

After a restorative bottle of Merlot (no sherry) and fish and chips we headed expectantly to the Marlborough Theatre. After getting our hands stamped, thereby allowing us entry to the theatre, we sniffed out the bar and stocked up on extremely large glasses of wine and waited to be allowed to enter the theatre room itself. It was not long before we were hurtling up the stairs and taking some seats in the small but perfect theatre.

VG Lee entered the stage to the tune of Que Sera Sera, and set about her one woman play. VG acted the central character Jean, and introduced us to her friends and neighbours via a series of phone calls, shared coffees and trips to the wool shop. We met Malcolm her neighbour who exuded displaced debonairness, Karen her friend desperately trying to make her romantic endeavours work, straight Stella, and Jean’s distant and married lover Rebecca.

We glimpsed an hour or so of Jean’s life with a number of laughs, but also some tender and touching moments as she tried to make her futile relationship with Rebecca work, all within reach of the wonderful and wild West Hill.

VG has tremendous talent! To date I have adored reading her novels and short stories, and loved her Facebook anecdotes, and can now add loving her playwright and actor credentials. Individually and in person she is a very special lady who I have the pleasure of calling my friend!

I was high with creativity as we left the theatre and headed back to another bar for another quick bottle of red before getting the 10.30 back to London.

A fabulous day filled with laughs, shopping, theatre and sunbathing! What else could one ask for…? (except for maybe ranges of sherry in all drinking establishments)!

TNW