Non-homosensual (and indeed many 'gay') men and women
locked in the well-marked icebergs of their cultural separation
by sex, must think me completely freakish not to like women's
have no firm (or even sagging) idea why this is so - because I
am a woman-respecter, feminist and admirer of my mother and aunt.
Neither of them had noticeable breasts, but my grandmother did.
My grandmother who hated my left-handedness. Could that be the
reason ? Or perhaps some blowsy, big-breasted woman leaned into
my cot or pram at a tender age - even before I was brought to
Belfast - and scared me, thus making me dislike lipstick or make-up
on women ever after - apart from subtle eye-liner and the kind
of make-up that women of the Ottoman court might have had - and
men in Bollywood films. But my cot theory cannot apply to my dislike
of high heels, except as "power-dressing". And it is
somewhat contradicted by my (non-sexual) liking of roly-poly "mother-figures".
I would think that the latter corresponded with the unknown foster-mother
I had for a year (my mother once mentioned a Mrs Gordon) - and
the vampish former remains some kind of interloper.
comes as even more freakish (if not hypocritical) from a man who
had four snakes tattooed in and around his groin, and has worn
earrings for decades. (Obviously I don't mind earrings, even very
dangly, glittery ones.) My one and only girlfriend had very small
breasts and wore no or almost no make-up. My mother hardly ever
wore stockings or a hat - which appalled me at the snob-school's
ghastly Sports Day when all other mothers (it seemed) wore both
and "looked respectable". I never thought of how my
mother might have been ashamed of me, one of the least sporty
of pupils, an intelligent "maladjusted" child who was
intellectually unambitious and bored-lazy to boot.
am always horrified by women's fashions - whether fur coats
or skimpy dresses apparently designed to cause hypothermia. I
think of the poor whores on the rue Saint-Denis in Paris, grotesquely
made up and wearing almost nothing in the January wind - and I
am filled with pity. I want Social Services to give them nice
warm clothes and money to live on. Why do women feel they have
to dress up for men, usually in impractical clothing, either too
skimpy or too voluminous (not to mention downright dangerous as
were corsets & girdles ? Why have the merely cultural norms
of a couple of centuries ensured that men need only dress according
to a very limited number of options (tailcoats, dinner-suits,
business-suits and 'leisurewear') while women are at the whim
of fashions dictated by (usually homosexual) men ? Why aren't
more men behaving like the splendid 'straight transvestite' Grayston
Perry ? Why are homos attracted to uniforms ?
why, in my youth, was a music-hall artiste called Ella Shields
who dressed in top hat and tails for her not-quite-male-impersonations
on stage so popular, rather than treated with bemusement, as I
did when I saw her ? I remember her 'signature' song,
"I'm Burlington Bertie from Bow". She was preceded
by Ella Wesner, and both their careers are worth looking up on
Wikipedia. Why do most women, even "working-class" women
have more than a few dresses and feel that they have to wear different
ones every day, while I can wear the same clothes (and underclothes,
and socks) for a week or two without feeling the need to vary
them ? Why do women let themselves become clothes-horses smiling
with exposed and scary teeth reminiscent of a Francis Bacon painting
? Why do I (and most men) not want to dress up in fur and feathers,
with a fan, and something other than a flat cap on my head ? What
happened to the ethos and æsthetics of late mediæval
times when men in 'Christendom' arrayed themselves in
doublets and hose with extravagant codpieces to show how big their
balls were, while wearing velvet hats with tall feathers, and
men in the Ottoman Empire wore sumptuous robes and equally sumptuous
looked well in an RAF uniform (perish the thought!) In
my early homo-enthusiasm I bought an old Korean War one-piece,
heavily-lined tank suit with lots of pockets, which I found useful
in travelling. I was a striking sight at airports, but had absolutely
no trouble from Security staff, whatever other passengers with
briefcases and suits might have thought. It was so warm that in
Sopring I could wear nothing underneath it, and in Winter my body
(coldrife from Raynaud's Syndrome) was nice and cosy. I guess
it was, typically, a kind of anti-uniform. I have never thought
to wear a tutu or a ball-gown. Although by no means a 'naturist',
and historically ashamed of my scrawny, muscle-less physique,
I would tend to divest myself rather than dress up...though I
once had a Danish friend make me a winter doublet out of a Tunisian
traditional weaving from Ksar Hellal in Tunisia, and I have always
fancied tartan, or - even better - particoloured trews.
men (locked in their special icebergs of masculinity) generally
seem to like women with lots of make-up and impractical not to
say cruel clothing - whether Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Mae West,
Marilyn Monroe, Jacqui Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Bea Arthur (-
thank you, Malcolm, for this little list). "Gay" men
like horrible mindless music, and some of them like plastic-looking,
Nazi-imitating leather gear. I am in a small minority among the
homos, thinking rhinoceroses and sharks much more beautiful than
Madonna, and horses much more sexy than almost any human. If only
there were more rhinoceroi!
is even odder when I remember I wanted to be a ballet-dancer at
the age of seven, and, because that was impossible, I decided
that "I want to be an actor" - a slot on the children's
programme of the 1950s on the Northern Ireland BBC. This desire
might have been fed by my weekly Elocution Lessons given by a
very nice man called Graeme Roberts who (I think) was the husband
of the carefully-enunciating producer/presenter of the children's
programmes, Cicely Matthews.
have already sung the praises of the BBC, but I have nothing but
contempt for what is now called BBC Radio Ulster. I may be mistaken,
but I certainly have the feeling (along with the "Catholic
Community" that the only audible voices from the impressive
Broadcasting House in Belfast were - until the 1970s - Protestant:
"A Protestant Radio for a Protestant People", to adapt
the slogan of the first Prime Minister of Northern Direland in
1922, "A Protestant State for a Protestant People".
But I digress.
duly auditioned, and was given as tiny a role in some for-children
playlet or other as I was later to be given (as Lepidus) in a
school production of Julius Caesar. I was so nervous that I could
hardly remember my two lines. My voice has always been low, and
I used to stammer (hence the elocution lessons). I still stammer
sometimes in French, especially when upset or angry. I could never
address a crowd, except with the aid of a microphone, and people
who are hard of hearing have great difficulty in interpreting
my low murmur, which, in the days of Gay Phone Dating (the 1980s),
men said was 'sexy'.
to the pernicious notion of "identity", I, the non-identifying
outsider, have never had any need lor desire for it, nor will
I ever - except as "DEAD".
I am Irish, born in England and raised in the British part of
Ireland. Most of my culture comes from Britain, Europe and Palestine
- and more recently, the USA. Only a small part comes from Ireland.
- European, some of my mind-set is African, some is Asian, and
some is "primitive".
The Protective Spirit of my house is Marquesan.
- Homosensual, some of my best friends have been touchy-feely
women (some of them with quite big breasts) and I tend to avoid
the company of men.
As a Whitey, I have always wanted to be black.
As a human, I have more empathy with dogs and donkeys than with
If I am dissident, I believe in courtesy, generosity, tolerance,
openness and changeability of mind...
suspect that certain palæolithic "lone wolf" human
males bonded more easily with wolves than with other humans -
hence the emergence of the much-abused Canis lupus familiaris,
think of all the (fake)
blood that has splattered
and gushed and oozed
through the fake world of films -
and none of it menstrual.
menstrual blood tastes better than many kinds of factory-made
jam, but must can be mentioned even less than suicide-as-intelligent-choice.
Ireland is a land of suicide, much of it rural and sad. Perhaps
there is nowhere that suicide can be joyous.
an Irishman-by-choice I am not ashamed to say that half a pint
of Guinness (which might be a mix of piss, shit and cream) is
quite enough for me - because the deliciousness of Guinness (unlike
wine) is in it first three or four sips. Thereafter is is merely
a means of getting drunk, and neither inebriation nor the places
which encourage it have ever appealed to me. (I have never visited
and am never likely to visit the "Irish Pub" in the
nearby small town of Caussade.) There are exceptions, of course.
I recently found an excellent pub in Newcastle, county Down, whose
Guinness was dreamy and where Malcolm and I shared a large portion
of the traditional French moules & frites - the mussels
in a creamy-winey sauce. Chips (frites, French fries) are
a rarity in my diet - not because I dislike them, but because
I so rarely eat out. Making them in my own home has not been a
success. Thus I tend to eat sautéed potatoes which are
not the same thing at all because they taste more potatoey - assuming
that the potatoes have a taste, which they rarely do in Ireland.
I am a fan of French potatoes, especially Roseval and white-skinned
varieties with yellow interiors. The Irish seem to eat potatoes
only to mop up gravy, so they don't need to have a taste. I eat
them neat, with salad and nothing else but a nice light, dry white
wine. A basic and delicious vegetarian dish.
I first had my eyes opened to the homosexual demi-monde, I was
shy and hesitant in the cruising-pubs like Therese in Patricia
Highsmith's novel Carol, which has a brilliant description
of a homosensual wooing. Like Therese I found the verbal side
difficult, partly because I didn't know what I wanted from a man.
Few men had the élan, chutzpah - or vehicle - to whisk
me away, pull my clothes off and start loving me in every which
way. The raising of the eyebrows, the flash of interest in the
eyes...the little shock which makes the heart beat faster, the
whole body vibrate and the face suddenly get warmer unblushingly
often ended in bathos. Few men could (or were prepared to) talk
either about any of the many things which interest me, or about
the psychosensual delights ahead. Most 'gay' men are too
clogged with expectations to be spontaneous and open. In a way
I was lucky not knowing what to expect, and thus so open to suggestion
that I ended up having half my forearm up a lovely Turk's
backside. (As I write, Malcolm is doing the same to a long-dead
pheasant that his neighbour parked at his door. I am not a fan
of pheasant.) The few men who encouraged and harvested my shy
sensuality tended to be 'alternative, hippyish, psychotropic
or entheogen-receptive. They did not find me 'lover-material',
but they offered me their generous (always bearded, sometimes
even long-haired) sensuality, by which I remain gratefully enriched.
think sex flows more sluggishly in all of us than we care to believe,
especially men care to believe," says Carol in Patricia
Highsmith's book. "The first adventures are usually nothing
but a satisfying of curiosity, and after that one keeps repeating
the same actions, trying to find - what ?" [...] "A
friend or a companion or maybe just a sharer. [...] I think people
often try to find through sex things that are much easier to find
through other ways." Maybe not easier to find,
but more findable. Or perhaps we realise that they are not worth
seeking, that the game (as in sex) is not worth the emotional
candle. Experience or the finding might be entirely due to chance,
and if it doesn't arrive easily it might be best not to bother,
since the searching might actually preclude or impede the discovery.
How many men I have wasted time, money and emotional energy on!
Not that they were vampires...
a homosensual male and a 'self-taught' (that is to say,
not college-perverted) painter I am appalled by the celebrated,
vampiric, bullying Francis Bacon. With Malcolm I watched an excellent
television documentary on his sordid and destructive life. He
seems to have been an utterly loathsome man, with a single talent
for the grotesque almost entirely based on Picasso's meretricious
painting Guernica. Picasso had never been to Guernica,
so his pseudo-political painting of 1937 was a mere doodle on
news reports. Bacon had not seen action in the second world war,
unlike the great painter-commentator on war, Otto Dix, whose works
radiate authenticity. Bacon's grotesqueries (most of them
very well composed) are predictable, easily-identifiable - hence
very marketable. Galleries dislike painters whose work is unpredictable,
as I learned from the Belfast painter Colin Middleton, who (along
with Hugh Brody) encouraged me at the beginning of my small output
and short career.
paintings are pleasing, they are very superficial.
There is no "bullness" (tauricity ?) about them. His
only painting of a dog (from 1952) similarly has no dogginess
will be understood by comparing this dog with the sensually pro-canine
portraits by the contemporaneous Lucien
course, Bacon (like his opposite, the transcendental Rothko) was
not painting for cosy homes, but for large, preferably public,
spaces. Delacroix and David likewise, with their extravagant and
also somewhat meretricious set-pieces such as the magnificent,
racist, decoratively-sadistic Death of Sardanapalus in
the Louvre. Bacon's sado-maso pictures do have a certain decorativeness
(mainly in their repetitious, static composition), but whereas
I could have a grisly Dix or Goya in my house, I could not have
a Bacon. I would end up destroying it. Both Dix and Goya saw the
actual horrors of war; Bacon cleverly fantasised rape, dismemberment,
disembowelment and agony, which was then marketed to a frankly-degenerate
creamy clientèle of the rich, thick and cruel.
palette is incredibly narrow. He seems never to have used greens,
the most difficult colours to use, but stayed with stark and crude
pinks, reds and blacks. I wonder also if he was influenced by
the two Dalí-Buñuel films. Something unsubtly Daliesque
lurks in his paintings, but without any of the technique of the
Catalan squanderer of genius. Both painters were truly creepy.
comes as no surprise to learn that Bacon did not like cuddles
or affection. One of his unfortunate lovers committed suicide
(famously on a hotel lavatory the day of the opening of Bacon's
prestigious exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris) seemingly
because his affection was repaid by violence and contempt. It
is a pity that the Francis-George relationship had not worked
out as the relationship between Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell
did. The effervescently boyish Orton had so much more to offer
than Bacon. Somehow, like the admirable Jean Genet, he was not
unwholesome in his lifting of rugs and antimacassars. Should 'art'
be 'wholesome' ? Is this an Alan-Bennettish question ?
In his History Boys the Art Mistress mumbles to herself:
"The best way to teach art would be to ban it. Put it Out
of Bounds. That way they'd be sneaking in here all the time.Art
is furtive, unofficial; it's something on the side."
And as unwholesome as weed-smoking is even now considered
to be ? No. Art is an expression of the numinous, which presumably
cannot be unwholesome (pace some of the piously-revered
works of Michelangelo). Yet Bacon's output is considered to
be Art. The excremental walls of The Maze prison beyond Belfast
were not, though Alan Bennett and I would both give them the benefit
of the doubt.
artists are all will," notes Alan Bennett in his 2007 diary.
(even less genuinely Irish than I am) claimed he was typically
homo in hating to grow old. I, on the other hand, rejoice in it.
I am entering the best years of my life. I am finally almost an
adult - a "Senior Citizen" proud and happy to be senior,
even if I reject the very idea of citizenship with all the bile
than I can spew! Technically speaking, Irish citizenship and French
residency suit me very well. Ireland is a constitutionally-neutral
country (like Switzerland) which has never had National Service.
On the other hand, abortion is still illegal in both parts of
the island. France is still a militaristic state, but the quality
of its rural life (especially in the very distinct south-west)
is very high. Both countries will remain in the experimental European
Union as long as it lasts.
worst thing about violence in our culture is the reluctance or
refusal to talk about it dispassionately, seriously. It is the
same with menstruation. Is this because violence is at the centre
of all civilisations (which are by definition compulsory and compulsive)
? Of course, all though it is mentioned to death, love is not
much analysed, either. I once thought I had 'found' it
with Lone, the Danish girlfriend of my twenty-first year. But
she probably thought she was the victim of mere infatuation by
a very immature and naive adolescent. She took up with my then
best friend (Alan Lowry from Belfast) who was utterly fake but
very worldly-wise and manipulative, and seems to have made some
films. I never got over it, and only with one out of
scores of men I met was "the sex" as sensational as
to remember, I think Alan was rather handsome in an obvious kind
of way - though I can no longer picture him in my mind. We had
met through the Folk scene in Belfast. Curiously enough, though
this was the early sixties, he had an openly gay and friendly
friend who was an accountant, whom we both visited several times.
I remember not being able to get my head around the idea of kissing
a man, besotted as I was by a woman. Alan had a dreary dead-end
job in the Dole Office, and probably 'latched on to' me as an
escape from Northern Direland - which indeed I turned out to be.
It was I who returned there with my tail very much between my
legs, not he.
freeze-out end of my little love-affair was indeed 'traumatic'.
I was miserable for years - before I rescued my first dog. When
she died under my eyes in an electrocution-box, I had an even
greater grief. Many years later my last dog, Oscar, was killed
by my psychopathic landlord. These were the only three times in
my life that I existed through continuous low-level misery. Otherwise
I have always thought of myself as a Man Without Problems, physical
death of Oscar led directly to my compensatory acquisition of
a home in France - so evil doth from time to time bring forth
(i.e. shit) good. The end of my naive and sentimental, joyful
enthusiasm for the homo demi-monde, as it was taken over by crudely
macho "American Values", marked the end of my brief
passion for painting. There were times when I had an idea for
a painting, then got out the paints, spread newpapers on the floor
of the warm living-room, and, with Vincentian fervour, had it
almost finished within a few hours, making minor alterations later
- sometimes even several years later. I painted on bits of board
(often chipboard) which I found and then primed white. One of
my best is actually painted on chipboard covered with bitumen.
It is based on a Romanesque tympanum in North Derbyshire, which
is an interesting amalgam of Norse and Christian iconography.
Instead of Christ in Glory, I painted a self-portrait. The devil's
head in the groin is rubber, and detaches, and is a comment on
a rejected title of my unrewarded thesis for George Zarnecki:
Satan in the Groin.
in the Garden of Eden. Click the picture for another.
self-portrait (of which, inspired by both Rembrandt and van Gogh,
and for similar reasons, I painted several) is inspired by several
12th century (and later) church roof-bosses.
Since I started this essai, I have read some memoirs, biographies
and the diaries of Alan Bennett. A great many memoirs are deadly
dull - for example (and surprisingly ?) Edna O'Brien's A County
Girl. Alan Bennett's diaries, on the other hand, are full
of humour and amusing or telling observations which the lack of
punctuation does nothing to diminish. His life has been the direct
opposite of mine, except in his finding a beloved companion in
his later years. So I am now emboldened to copy chunks of my homo-diaries
(or, rather, notes), which the reader (if any exist) can skip.
(to be continued)