Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trafalgar Square Vigil For Ian Baynham

Whilst I was on holiday in Berlin, the GLBT Network at work was formed. Having put my name down for it, I was invited to our first "event" which was to go as a group to the vigil in Trafalgar Square in honour of the life of the recently murdered Ian Baynham and all other recent victims of hate crime. There was only 4 of us (Stephanie, Paul, Cosimo and I) plus Stephanie's partner, so after gathering ourselves at First Out Cafe, we headed down to Trafalgar Square where a very large crowded had gathered.

Sandi Toksvig led the events with various friends of Ian Baynham, Sue Perkins and many different representatives of organisations including the only politicians, Labour ministers, Chris Bryant and Maria Eagle.

It was deeply moving and the musical tributes by both the Gay Men's Chorus' of various cities and the London Gay Symphony Orchestra were touching. We did our part by distributing candle's (and card to protect one's hands!) around the little part of the crowd we'd found ourselves in.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wo ist mein Werwolf? Part Three

Our last full day in Berlin was Sunday. I hate last days. Anyway, we started the day as we meant to go on.. with a currywurst from Curry 36!! Despite the rain, today was the day to be a proper tourist, so we made our way to the Brandenburg Gate.

As soon as we got out of the U-Bahn station we found ourselves in the middle of a tourist bedlam (and weirdly a group session of people meditating for peace). The tacky side of the tourist industry was very much on display here with Turkish men dressed as Commissars and Red Army troops, ready to have their picture taken or stamp your passport with a DDR stamp (for a price of course). It was extremely depressing, given that this place was the setting for a great deal of deeply moving history, to see the area abused in this way.

After this underwealming experience we went to the Reichstag, which several people had recommended to me. Don't get me wrong, the architecture of the new dome is astounding and the history of the building is fascinating. But was it worth an hour and half long queue? No. It wasn't. I learnt more reading the free pamphlet they give it in the queue about the current workings of the Bundestag, than I learnt in the brief time I was on the roof. Next time I would love to book to see inner workings of the Bundestag, but if you've got a limited time in Berlin I suggest you enjoy this building from outside. It'll be far more satisfying.

After finally getting away from the Reichstag, we headed to Potsdamer Platz. Very modern and nice, but our meal at Corroboree (an Australian restaurant) of crocodile, kangaroo and blackened chicken was a major disappointment.

After what felt like a rather deflating morning we headed back to the apartment for a brief rest before we headed back out again with one mission in mind... go to Prenzlauer Berg and get drunk. We headed to our newest favourite watering hole, Thüringer Stuben, and settled in for a meal. The English language menu was... amusing. But despite the unintentionally hilarious English, the real shock was the food. It looked like hearty Thuringian fare and I didn't know whether to be excited or worried.

I ordered home made tomato soup, with home made bread, a venison gulash and for dessert apfel krapfen. For an out of the way pub what followed was truly amazing. The food was absolutely divine. Helped down with ever more Thuringian beer, and eaten in the pleasant company of a rather cute barman, it was a really lovely evening and even when Jim didn't have money to pay the bill (they don't accept cards, meaning I love them even more being an old fashioned cold hard cash sort of a man myself) it was all good.

Back to Mehringdamm and another drink in the Vogt's Bier Express and yet another currywurst at Curry 36.

And then it was Monday and once more the dream of a different life in another country was brutally extinguished by something called reality. Berlin. I loved you!

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wo ist mein Werwolf? Part Two

Saturday morning was grey and dreary but that hardly matters when you're on holiday! Jim and I woke up studiously early and headed across the road from our apartment to "Curry 36", a veritible palace of dreams. We had zwei Curry-wurst mit brotchen which was absolutely the most delicious currywurst I've ever had in my life. Gorgeous.

After this we caught the U-Bahn to Zoo Berlin, which is in keeping with what is rapidly becoming a holiday tradition of visiting zoos and aquariums, and I was absolutely astounded at the quality of the exhibits there. There is no doubt it is the best zoo I've had been to. The ape house might not have been quite as good as the gorilla house at Port Lympne but it had gorillas, orangutans, chimps and bonobos. Most exhibits were open and the barriers very unobtrusive which gave the impression you were walking among the animals rather than just viewing them through cage bars. Particularly effective was the heron and pelican pond where dozens of herons flew through the sky above you and covered every tree nearby. Amazing. And of course there were the polar bears! Totally awesome.

We then headed into the Aquarium was was sadly less exciting than most aquariums I've been to. The aquatic exhibits were dull, the reptiles exhibits were far too small (for the reptiles that is) and I was astounded at the awful state of their bearded dragons.

The Amphibian exhibits were, characteristically, rubbish (mainly as amphibians are marvellous at hiding) and the insect house had displays of ants from which ants were actually escaping! It was a big let down after the zoo, but thankfully we'd got a combi ticket at a discount so only paid about 2 euros for the experience. Phew!

We took a stroll around the nearby area, seeing the  Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche which was destroyed during the Second World War and left as a memorial (there's a similar if much smaller clock tower memorial in my own home town).

We returned to Alexanderplatz so Jim could buy a belt as thanks to his weight loss he was having a hellish time with his trousers. We headed up to Eberswalder Straße, and had our second currywurst of the day (for scientific reasons of course!) at Konnopke Imbiss. Jim had been telling me this was the best currywurst in town, and the queue certainly was long. It was lovely, but I think Curry 36 just pips them at the post on quality. We headed down towards the cafes off Danziger Straße, getting a "Thai burger" on the way. Definition: heaven in a bun. We then settled in at a cafe we'd like the look of the day before; the Cafe Anna Blume for some hot chocolate and some cake (in my case carrot cake!). Very nice, and the atmosphere in there was brilliant. A great place to go for an intimate chat (in busy surroundings).

A quick beer in Thüringer Stuben, and then we were headed down to Alexanderplatz again to try to catch the 350 protest but we seem to have missed it. So instead we bought some Stollen and then went to the DDR Museum. Despite my fascination with Communist history, this was a bit of a let down focussing mainly on the social and cultural aspects of the DDR. The set up of a "typical" East German house seemed a lot like the houses I lived in in the 80s. If anything this exhibits just made the DDR seem like a normal place to live. I don't think that was the intention.

I found an Ampelmannchen shop and bought myself a wonderfully kitsch mug before we moved on (yet again, this was a busy day!) to our next destination: north, via S-Bahn, to AugustStraße. Here, Jim assured me, we were to find a restaurant he had booked for us, called Rodeo Berlin. It was at number 5, number 4 was there and so was number 6. All that seemed to be between them, where number 5 should be, was a graffiti and poster covered industrial fence with a small gate in it. On the other side was a just a dark courtyard surrounded by old warehouses. Jim suspected this was the place, so we bravely entered the large courtyard and walked across to the light from a door. Through the door was a stairwell, again graffiti covered as is everything in Berlin, which looked a lot like the sort of stairwell you get in run down student halls. We decided this was obviously the wrong place, and turned around to go when we encountered a middle age couple making there way over to us "Wo ist Rodeo Berlin?" they asked. We made it plain we were wondering the same thing and we continued off back towards the gate but stood and watched where they went in case they could enlighten us further.

View Larger Map

They disappeared up the stairwell and didn't come back... which got us wondering so we returned and headed upwards. There was a large locked door with some credit card stickers on the glass, and a doorbell next to it on the second floor. Jim bravely pressed the buzzer and after some interrogation from the cute guy who opened it (what is your name? Do you have a reservation??) he revealed this was indeed Rodeo Berlin but they weren't open yet (we were booked for the first sitting and were there half an hour before that)

To ponder our next step we withdrew to a nearby bar Keyser Soze, where Jim discovered his love of Berliner Pilsner. After a brief discussion we decided that despite Rodeo's very weird set up we would be adventurous and give it a go. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Well weren't we glad we went through with it? Despite it's location, the inside is more than just sumptuous. It was pushing towards worrying levels of luxury. The large dome of the dining hall almost made it impossible to drag your gaze down to room level. But I was glad I did as the eye candy among the waiter's was high. And finally, the food. It was expensive but not horrendously so, and it was one of the nicest meals I've ever had. I know, I say this after my previous day's decision that I'd already had the nicest meal ever but the fact it was surpassed so soon just show's how good Berlin's restaurants are. I had:

Starter: Feines von Étoufée – Täubchen: Praline, Terrine, Räucherbrust

Main: Wirsingcrépinette vom Frischlingsrücken, Ragout von Wildschweinbacken mit Backpflaumen an Pastinakenpürree und Rosenkohlblättern

Dessert: Orientalischer Quittenstrudel an Kaffeeparfait

Afterwards we headed back to Mehringdamm and had a late night session in Vogt's Bier-Express and an early morning currywurst before we fell back into the apartment absolutely exhausted.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Wo ist mein Werwolf? Part One

Or, more appropriately, Berlin: The City Of Graffiti. So we are back from our Berlin trip, and I personally am totally depressed by this return to reality. It's a shame fantasies can't go on forever.

Setting out on Friday we arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 terrifyingly late (i.e. on time in normal persons "speak") and after checking in had a rushed breakfast at Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food. It was lovely, but not exactly stunning.

The plane journey was as pleasant as can be expected given my love/hate relationship with flying. Thankfully the journey to Berlin is only an hour and a half, so my nails were not bitten into nothingness.

We landed at Berlin Tegel Airport at about 11.30, and I was immediately struck by two things: 1) Berlin appeared to be stuck in the 1980s (not a bad thing) and 2) the German efficiency was in full swing here with passport control, customs and baggage collection all being down within 10 metres of the gate. We were out of the airport in mere minutes.

We got ourselves a 72 hour Berlin Welcome card which gives discounts on places to visit whilst doubling as a travelcard for the local transport. The place we were staying at was down in West Kreuzberg so we took the X9 bus and U-7 straight there. Berlin underground trains are so bloody fast! Gotta love it, none of that slowing down when coming to a stop either which makes for an exciting journey.

We arrived at Mehringdamm station, and it was just a short hop, skip and a jump to our place of slumber for the weekend. Which turned out to be an apartment belonging to two cats and their two gay pets. Andreas and Gall, Andreas being taller than me and Gall being a stereotypical bitchy queen. Our room, Hong Kong was nice but sadly was not en-suite. Good point in it's favour was that it was next door to a comic shop. We headed out after dropping our bags off and took a walk around the block before catching the U-6 and U-2 to Alexanderplatz. On the way there was a couple of goths on the train (I haven't seen a goth for years!), Jim tells me the guy had a collar and lead on and was lead off the train by his girlfriend. Berlin = mega cool.

After walking around Alexanderplatz, staring boggle-eyed at the ginormous TV Tower and searching for a donkey postcard (don't ask, don't tell) we decided to take a walk to Prenzlauer Berg, which was where Jim hung out on his previous trip to Berlin. It was also where Nettie, Greenwich's resident German, had given us some tips on some lovely little cafes to hang out in.

On the way I spotted my first Ampelmännchen, and got very excited. Following Nettie's marks on our map, we headed down Kollwitzstraße, where we discovered a Philately shop (that was two comic book shops and a Philately shop in one day, Berlin is like the land of Jae's dreams!) and several cafes. After criss-crossing the intersection at Sredzkistraße several times we decided to have a look in Zum dritten Mann, which turned out to be an Austrian restaurant.

It was, and I kid you not here, one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. My main was Wiener Schnitzel (absolutely divine with a gorgeous potato salad side) and dessert was Kaiserschmarrn, washed down with Radeberger, Absolutely amazing.

From there we headed even further east in search of a bar Jim had been to. We found it had been closed and replaced so went exploring. At the intersection of Dunckerstraße and Stargarder Straße, we found a little pub and decided to go in for a quick beer. As we entered I spotted the rainbow flag on the door and knew we'd made the right choice.

Thüringer Stuben is a very surreal place. A large cactus in one corner, a long line of bunny rabbits on one windowsill, toy vans on one wall, maps and pictures of the Free State of Thuringia on another. In the back there are animal skins and a large stags head hanging on the wall. In other places wooden flowers, mushroom ornaments and strange baby statues with apples for hats adorn the surfaces. All in all, it's an absolute delight place.

After a quick drink (a Thuringian lager "Wernesgruner") we returned to the apartment, pretty tired given that we'd been down our local until the early hours of the morning before heading for our flight, and a quick snooze quickly turned into an early night.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Schonhauser allee

Home tomorrow. Don't make me come back! I heart berlin. P.s. I'm drunk.


At an aussie restaurant in potsdamerplatz. About to indulge in kangaroo and crocodile.

At the reichstag

I survived a most wonderful dinner last night and am now standing in a queue with a rather bored jim.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jae Kay Is Away

I haven't done one of these posts in far too long! I'll be back from Berlin on Monday... until then I leave you in the obviously capable hands of Fabian Elsner, a rather attractive German. Play nice!

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Inland Revenue Win A Quiz!!

First there were Jason and the ArgoNUTS. Then came The Tailenders. Last quiz we were known as Slash and Burn. The joy that was had at nearly beating The Tax Dodgers inspired Jim to come up with a new name for yesterday's quiz at the local... the Inland Revenue. And we won! I know, we've won once before but that was after a tie break question. This time we won easily. Mwhahahahaha.

Oh how things have changed from coming consistently and embarrassingly last. Mmm... £20 drink/food voucher is ours! :D

So as a present, here's a picture of my current favourite rugby player, Danny Care!

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Family Drama

Joy. Last night I foolishly put my head above the parapet to get my feelings across to two errant members of my family. As I've said before my Mum and step dad are smack bang in the middle of a divorce. There is some conflict over housing occuring at the moment and Mum is pretty stressed out about it.

A few weeks ago two of my Uncle's (on my Mum's side of the family) arranged publicly to go out with my step Dad for drinks. I let that pass, but found out from Mum how upsetting it had been to see it.

Yesterday Jim pointed out they were doing it again. This really angered me and I felt it was so totally thoughtless. So I dropped them both messages through Facebook expressing my displeasure pretty forcefully and telling them to be more discrete. I didn't tell them to stop seeing my step Dad nor demand they issue heartfelt apologies (and said "I'm not telling you to stop seeing him"). I just wanted them to spare a thought for Mum.

One Uncle came back and expressed his sorrow for any upset caused and admitted it had been pretty thoughtless and they wouldn't arrange things so publicly any more. But my other Uncle was totally taken aback by what I had said, decided I was telling him not to see my step Dad and he was very unhappy with my suggestion he wasn't fully supporting his sister. His reply on Facebook actually ended up annoying me even more the problem had. Then today, rather than phone me directly, he phoned Jim to discuss the issues.

1) I found that insulting. I love Jim dearly, and he is very much accepted as part of my family. But he wasn't the one who sent the message and I felt totally disrespected when Jim told me my Uncle had phoned him and not me.
2) Rather than accept that what I had suggested was an issue, he made claims that it was being blown out of proportion (which I actually predicted in my original message to him, go me!), and was worried others in the family might find out and be upset.
3) The way Jim told me the conversation went I felt he was being pretty unreasonable.

I felt that I had no choice in sending a message to them to protect my Mum's feelings. But instead of any sort of understanding of how I feel about it, I get excuses and reflected blame. Well I've said my piece and I'm keeping well out of it now, but God I'm fuming inside today. Absolutely livid. It's not helped by the need not to argue back in order to preserve family goodwill. Grr...

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ooo... A Free "Quality" Paper

The Evening Standard became free today! Despite once getting a column in the London Lite (or perhaps because of), I've always been morally against free newspapers (1) because of the owners and 2) because of the readers who seemed to believe they were doing a service leaving their FREE newspapers on trains for others [who usually already have them!]). And I've never been a fan of the reactionary, right wing Evening Standard. But still I couldn't turn down a free version! I doubt it'll succeed but they had run out well before the end of the working day in Hammersmith.

Now can we get a free version of the Guardian please? Thanks.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Sunday, October 11, 2009

RIP Stephen Gately

Stephen Gately sadly passed away yesterday. He was one of my first crushes, and someone who always... intruiged me. 

Stephen Chapman has a nice tribute here. Check out my favourite Stephen Gately song here

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Folkestone Reconnaissance

Jim and I have spent the day walking around Folkestone (and then Sandgate) in order to give Jim (and sometimes me as well) an idea of the areas he has been looking out for renting properties.

We started off along the Stade (Folkestone Harbour for those not in the know) to look at a few properties there, one of which has the view seen to the left. Then Mum and Beth arrived and we had some fish and chips from Chummy's (could have been better, should have gone to Papas on Sandgate Road!). They left and Jim and I walked around the harbour to where the old Rotunda Amusement park used to be. It is truly awful there, and a total disgrace that not only was the Rotunda removed but the remaining concrete area has not been redeveloped or landscaped. I'm hoping this is all part of Roger De Haan's grand plan. Thankfully this did put Jim of Marine Terrace (hurrah!). 

We then wandered up to the Leas and all the way along and then back through the back streets (Grimston Gardens etc.) Jim and I were both taken with parts of that area, especially the quiet ones. Very nice.

After a brief detour into the Bayle, we got into the car and headed down to Sandgate where much working was done and much "Hmm... not really our scene" was heard. (P.S. my love for Gee's remains undimished by this statement).

Returned home and continuing a very naughty non-Paleo day we have ordered a curry. Mmm...

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Music Quiz

Another late night session in the local last night where Jim and I were corralled into doing the monthly music quiz. Whilst we are occasional dabblers in the normal quiz, as The Tailenders, we have avoided the music quiz like the plague since the first and only time we did it. That time there were questions like "Listen to this song" *plays 1950s obscure song* "What was the B side?"

But this time Denis was doing it so it was hard but not impossible (unlike that quiz I did...) and with a little help from a random stranger called Richard our new "team" Slash and Burn didn't come last! Quite an achievement given our terrible quiz history ;)

So the news from the Eastern front (i.e. home) is not good. The break down of the marriage has not gone at all well and the usual family drama is playing out in the ever so predictable fashion. Money, power and jilted spouses do not a pretty divorce make.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

What Is It With People??

Sitting on my train at Cannon Street, watching a documentary on my iPod, it slowly dawned on me we were running late. Mere moments later the driver came over the tannoy to report that a "member of the public" (for which read "dullard") had walked off of Platform 1 on to the tracks.

Of course this meant we weren't going anywhere until he was safely off of the tracks. Much blowing of whistles and shouts from station staff followed but the idiot was having none of it. Shortly after the transport police arrived and he was quickly dragged off the tracks, behind a platform barrier and just barely out of view much to the frustration of the neck craning passengers. And off we went 10 minutes late.

Why do these people do this? What caused this maniac to think it was a good idea to have a wander on the tracks of Cannon Street bridge? People truly are stupid. I used to have faith in humanity. That probably makes me just as stupid as everyone else. Grr.....

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Little Things

Despite being a highly secretive person, my life is (almost literally!) an open book. My loves, my hates, the time I ran away, all are recorded here for you to read. Well, Dear Constant Reader, you still don't know everything! So I thought I'd give you a helping hand with some tidbits about me, things most people don't know.

1) For all my primary school life I was known as Jason Martindale. Even after the end of my Mum's disastrous first marriage, I continued with that name until I began secondary school whereby I took up my mother's maiden name once more and decided never to change it again.
2) One of my oldest memories is of being at a nursery in New Hythe, near where my Mum worked. I wouldn't have been any older than 3 years old. I can't remember precisely what happened but I do remember that I had somehow persuaded myself it was pool day and that was how I found myself naked in the paddling pool in front of everyone else who obviously knew it was jungle gym day not, not pool day! I don't think the embarrassment has left me yet.
3) Another embarrassing memory from my youth is standing on the hill at Sharnal Lane overlooking Saltings Road estate and scream "My wings are a shield of steel" ala Batfink. A decade later I returned to Snodland and was walking through Saltings Road with Melly when a guy came out of his house and went "Look, it's Batfink!". Fame at last!

4) I gave up my Christianity when, whilst going through a period of typical teenage Jae mental instability, I decided that if the church doors at the next church I went to were locked then God obviously wasn't listening. After following this route I discovered he really wasn't when I came across a locked church in Newington. It was still a few years before I worked out there was no God at all.
5) I used to keep a tally of every time I saw my crush at school in the back of my homework diary. It puzzled some of my friends as to what I was doing leading only to awkward questions. Those were the days!

P.S. Notice my new design. I likes.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

The Evans Brothers: Two Related Reasons Rugby Is Better Than Football

Thom and Max Evans are rugby players who seem really rather close. Well actually, their closeness makes me rather uneasy! :p

More of these pics can be found here (NSFW of course)

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

Thursday, October 01, 2009

You've Forgotten How It Started

This week marks 1 year of working for Plan B. I've settled in well by becoming deeply cynical and jaded about the workings of the company. So basically, an old hand!

Last night Jim and I had an evening in the local, chatting with the usual suspects and getting rather merry.

All in all a rather nice day.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist