Wanda still rocks!

Last nite I met up with Kristof Fabry at the Luminaire, Kilburn to see Wanda Jackson, one of the first female rock’n’roll singers, possibly THE first. The Luminaire was an excellent venue I’d not visited before, but I’d definitely go there again if they had someone of interest on there. Apparently Wanda’s appearance there is planned to be an annual event.

After two quite good support bands, a mixture of Country, Zydeco and Rockabilly, Wanda’s husband of 46 years introduced the Queen of Rockabilly herself. The place was packed as Wanda stormed thru well over an hour of mainly rock’n’roll/rockabilly, but with some nice ballads thrown in. During an Elvis Presley medley, somewhat a misnomer since they were all full versions of the songs, Wanda did the lovely ballad ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’. Wanda talked between numbers, including of how she dated Elvis for several years and wore his ring around her neck.

Wanda was in excellent form for her 69 years, and rocked thru numbers associated with her such as ‘Mean Mean Man’ (which she wrote herself, as nobody was writing rock’n’roll songs for girl singers), ‘Let’s Have A Party’, ‘Fujiama Mama’, etc.. She did the Elvis medley as mentioned, which also included numbers such as ‘Good Rockin’ Tonite’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Baby Let’s Play House’. ‘Riot in Cell Block 9’ was another show-stopper, and another beautiful ballad was ‘Right or Wrong’. Wanda said she’d written this for the only singer she could look down on, literally the short-of-stature Brenda Lee. But then Wanda thought ‘she’s had plenty of hits, I’ll keep this one for myself.’ Wanda’s rendition of this ballad tonite was superb.

‘Fujiama Mama’ was a #1 hit, Wanda’s first, she explained. But it was #1 in Japan of all places. Not surprising you may say, since it mentions Japanese cities. But when it talks about a wild woman wreaking non-stop destruction such as vented by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also mentioned by name in the song several times, you wonder, as Wanda said, whether the Japanese really understood the words to this rather distasteful song. The song certainly rocks, it is just a pity the references to the two atomic bombed cities could not have been removed, as they came across to me as extremely offensive, especially when you think that people are still suffering the after-effects of the radiation today, even generations not born when the bombs were dropped.

Judging from Wanda’s background, the way she looked with a bouffant hair-do/wig, the fact that she recorded a song totally unrepentant about the heinous war-crimes the Americans committed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fact that Wanda always insists on telling people how she ‘found Jesus’ in 1971 and including a gospel number, and the fact that she got a bit political and said she preferred the Japanese people to the French, one gets the distinct impression that she’s slightly to the Right of Attilla the Hun politically. However she did say she liked France more than the French people, and it is where at a Cartier party she had the honor of singing ‘Tutti Frutti’ along with Tina Turner and Little Richard. At one point Wanda said ‘Jerry Lee’ to which I shouted out ‘he must have changed color’, then she corrected her mistake!

I still don’t quite see why she prefers the Japanese to the French. Presumably because Pearl Harbor is long forgotten, and the French refusal to support the illegal American/British invasion of Iraq was fresher in her mind. Also, of course, the Japanese had given her a #1 hit with ‘Fujiama Mama’ back in 1959. Wanda finished this number in a little Japanese gesture, folding her arms at chest level, bowing and saying a few words in Japanese.  (Her husband had explained she has sung in four languages.) I couldn’t help thinking in my bitchy camp way that Wanda looked a bit Oriental herself at a certain angle probably due to cosmetic surgery around the eyes!

During the Elvis medley Wanda picked up a guitar and played it whilst singing, but at one stage dropped the pick. I picked up the pick for Wanda, and she squeezed my hand and smiled as I handed it back to her. A girl on my left was handing Wanda bottled water to drink, and Wanda thanked ‘the water girl’. Wanda certainly came across as a warm and very witty personality. I’d seen her before, but this show was as good if not better than any I’d seen her do in the past. Witty remarks such as, when someone dropped a glass bottle, instantly she made the comment: ‘What happened, did you drop your ring?’ Or, when shaking hands with some of us in the front row, she reached a tall, hunky-looking young man and refused to let go of his hand for several seconds. ‘Oh sorry!’ she said, as she finally let go.

The religious song was Hank Williams’ ‘I Saw The Light’ which is a good rockin’ gospel number and had people clapping and singing along.

Wanda, and her husband, also made a plea for people to log on to her website, www.wandajackson.com, where they’ll find details of how to write to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame which have, so far, refused to induct Wanda into their hallowed halls. Wanda, her husband, and everyone present felt this was a disgrace and an insult, and we want the First Lady of Rock’n’Roll inducted next year, whilst she’s still alive and able to tour, as the lady herself said.

It is rather ironic that Wanda is in the Country Hall of Fame, but not in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, whilst Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the first inductees into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, but is still not in the Country Hall of Fame despite all his huge hits in the Country field. These included the unprecedented two double-sided #1s in succession with ‘Me & Bobby McGhee’/’Would You Take Another Chance On Me?’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’/’Think About It Darlin” in the ealry 1970s. No other Country or Pop artist has achieved this feat, to my knowledge. In fact Jerry was rarely out of the Country charts in the 5 years from 1968, and continued to have big Country hits right into the 1980s, and hit #4 with his 2006 album ‘Last Man Standing’.

But back to Wanda Jackson, who closed her show with a medley of Jerry Lee’s ‘Whole Lotta Shakin”, during which she mentioned ‘my friend Jerry Lee’ and did his ‘wiggle it around’ bit complete with wagging finger, ‘Rip It Up’ and a reprise of ‘Let’s Have A Party’.

A great show from a great performer who fully deserves to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

Who lost, or stole, our dreams?

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‘It well recalls the triumphs past, it gives the hope of peace at last,

The banner bright, the symbol plain, of human right and human gain’

     (From ‘The Red Flag’, British Labor Party anthem)

‘Then comrades come rally, and the last fight let us face,

The Internationale unites the human race!’

     (From ‘The Internationale’ Socialist/Communist anthem)

‘Over your face a web of lies is woven, laws which are falsehoods pin you to the ground

Labor is mocked, its just rewards are stolen, on its bent back sits idleness encrowned’

     (From ‘England Arise!’ English Socialist anthem)

‘Bandiera Rossa la trionfera, Bandiera Rossa la trionfera,

Bandiera Rossa la trionfera, eviva el communismo et la liberta’

     (From ‘Bandiera Rossa’, ‘The Red Flag’ Socialist anthem of Italy)

‘Unbreakable union of freeborn republics, great Russia has welded forever to stand,

Created by struggle by will of the peoples, united and mighty our Soviet land.’

    (From ‘Anthem of the Soviet Union’)

For well over a century men and women all over the world dreamed and strived for a better world, following the blueprints laid down by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century. Exploitation of the proletariat by the ruling classes would be ended for ever, the workers would seize control and take into public ownership the entire means of production, distribution and exchange.

Socialists and Communists everywhere were united in this goal, from the British Labor Party which had these aims printed on every membership card, to the mighty CPSU, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, where the workers seized control under the leadership of Lenin and the Bolsheviks under the slogan ‘All power to the soviets’, or workers’ councils. Communist parties swept to power all over the globe, to liberate the peoples forever from capitalist exploitation and wage slavery.

In countries like Britain after the Second World War, the Labor government brought into public ownership huge industries and services like Steel, Coal, the railways. Electricity, gas, the telecommunications network, the Post Office – all were owned by the people with no shareholders to syphon off profits. The Cooperative movement, founded by Robert Owen, was strong, giving the British people another form of common ownership. The National Health Service was established to give people free access to medicine and medical treatment.

In the Soviet Union,  under the leadership of Lenin, Stalin and others,  the backward country was industrialized, the farms collectivized, and it became one of the most powerful nations on Earth, but at tremendous cost. After the defeat of the Hitler fascists in 1945, Soviet-style Socialism spread to Eastern Europe and beyond. Huge Communist parties were established in countries like France and Italy. Communism spread to China, Africa and the Far East, and to Cuba on America’s very doorstep. It seemed there was no stopping the march of Socialism.

But all was not well. In Britain the Socialist state started to be dismantled by both Labor and Conservative governments. Charges were introduced into the NHS, and in later decades whole industries were privatized – stolen from the people and handed back to their exploiters by a Labor government in many cases.

The Soviet Union and the Eastern Socialist bloc collapsed, and again the people’s assets were stolen from them and handed back to their exploiters. All their social security and all the gains of their flawed and imperfect Socialism were lost overnight.

The dreams of world peace were shattered, first when the two Socialist giants, the USSR and the People’s Republic of China, fell out and skirmishes broke out on the border of these two countries. How was it possible for two Socialist countries to become enemies? Because each accused the other of not being truly Socialist, and in fact neither of them were. Both had ruling classes which were looking after their own interests whilst exploiting the masses.

Then, after the fall of the Soviet bloc, American imperialism seemed to rule trimphant for a while, till extremist religious movements such as the Islamists challenged Western hegemony, and the world was plunged into a new age of terror.

Where did it all go wrong? What happened to our dreams of a utopia on Earth and world peace? It started to go wrong right at the very beginning, when Lenin, Trotsky and other Soviet leaders allowed bureaucrats to take over the Soviet Union and award themselves luxuries and privileges, and then crushed the Krondstadt uprising which tried to restore the aims of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The masses failed to support the Krondstadt sailors, and so a new ruling class gradually took over, turning the Socialist State into a new means of exploiting and repressing the masses.

When the workers got too lazy to attend meetings of the local soviets and defend workers’ power. When careerists and opportunists joined the CPSU and its sister parties in Eastern Europe just to further their careers, award themselves and their families privileges, and use the system as a means of exploiting the people again. When Stalin turned on genuine Communists and revolutionaries and created an atmosphere of fear and terror, whilst allowing the new ruling class of State bureaucrats to retain their power and privileges. When Mao Zedung tried to defeat this backward slide to a class society by launching the disastrous Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards, but only anarchy, terror and famine was ever achieved; the ruling class of bureaucrats retained power, and have now turned China into a capitalist country again in all but name.

A new ruling class had arisen in the Soviet Union and all its allies, and finally the system collapsed but the same ruling class stayed in power in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

In Western countries, Socialism was abandoned as it had been in the Communist countries. Communist parties around the world collapsed, and Social Democratic parties, such as the British Labor Party, removed all traces of Socialism from their agendas and set out on a path of out-and-out Thatcherism, the most right-wing Tory or capitalist doctrine ever. This taught that market forces should be given free rein, taxation kept low, public services starved of funds, and every commonly owned industry or service should be privatized.

The result has been total disaster all over the world. Globalization, which is merely international capitalism unrestrained and left to run riot, is destroying the planet. Factories and services are being moved from high wage economies to those in the developing world where labor is little more than slavery, the wages and conditions are so bad. Child labor is used to produce a lot of these goods. The environment is being destroyed, people are being thrown out of work or forced to accept lower wages, wars take place so the capitalists and imperialists can grab more of the developing world’s dwindling natural resources.

We have all lost our way. Who is to blame? We all are. Communists like myself who got the formula wrong, Social Democrats and democatic Socialists who allowed Tories like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the New Labor crowd to infliltrate the Party, the workers in the former Socialist countries who refused to join the Marxist-Leninist Party and actively root out the careerists and opportunists, leading comrades like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedung, etc. who allowed a new ruling class to take over, and who failed to realize that a new multi-party electoral system was essential since the one-party system wasn’t working, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Lenin for putting too much faith in the toiling masses, and underestimating the cunning of the exploiting classes. Communists everywhere for being so naive as to believe the one Party system would lead to a classless society where the State would wither away and a utopian self-governming Communist society emerge. We are all to blame, but we must learn from our mistakes.

We must not take the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin as gospel. The system they devised did not work. But with slight adjustments, it WOULD have worked. Most of what Karl Marx wrote is still valid. The trouble was the way his theories were put into practice in the Soviet Union and other countries. All that was needed to make Socialism work was pluralism in both politics and the Socialist economy. This means free elections with many Socialist parties competing under a Socialist Constitution, and a Socialist economy in which cooperatives and rival publicly owned companies compete in the market place. In short, the combination of the best elements of Western democracy with the best elements of Socialism. It is as simple as that.

With the benefit of the experience of 20th Century Socialism, both in the Communist world and in countries like Britain, we can learn from past mistakes and create this new form of Socialism for the 21st Century. Already countries in South America are embracing Socialism. It is time for the pendulum to swing to the Far Left elsewhere and for private enterprise (which increasingly means multi-national monopolies taking over the world economy) to be abolished, or restricted to small family businesses. For the exploitation of others to be swept aside in a vast explosion of true democratic Socialism which will guarantee the people own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange, that the industries and services are efficiently run, that healthy Socialist competition ensures freedom of choice and spurs initiative. Also that different political parties are able to try out their brands of Socialism,  that public services are maintained at a high level with social security for everyone (including good pensions when they retire), the elimination of low wages and unemployment, and the creation of a classless society with no exploiters and no ruling class.

I still believe such a world is possible. It is up to the toiling masses to take Karl Marx’s advice: ‘Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!’ Only this time, once we’ve got control, never let anybody take our power away from us again. 

1967 – 40 Years On

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Channel 4, and Film On Four, are showing a series of programs and films this week to mark 40 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was passed supposedly decriminalizing male homosexuality (lesbianism was never made illegal in UK because Queen  Victoria apparently could not believe women would do such things.)

Last night they showed a dramatized documentary about a landmark court case in the 1950s, which started to change public opinion. In those days the situation for gays in UK was horrific. If you were a practising gay living with your lover, the police could break into your home and arrest you. The maximum sentence was life imprisonment, although in practise most gays got a few months or years, but it meant all gay men lived in constant fear of arrest or blackmail.

The documentary said that, largely due to the change in public opinion following the court case above, the Wolfenden Report of 1957 recommended decriminalizing male homosexuality, although it took Parliament another 10 years to actually pass any legislation. What the program did not mention was that it took a further 35 years or so for the law to be substantially changed. UK was one of the very last countries in the developed world to have a fully liberated gay community.

What the documentary brought out very clearly was that before the passing of the 1967 Act practising gays were paranoid, afraid to give their real names, using a secret language (polari) to communicate with each other, and that the illegal gay clubs which existed were all part of a very secret underground. What it did not make clear was that this secret gay underworld was hidden, not just from the general public, but from many gay men themselves.

I knew I was gay from the age of 13 back in 1958. I didn’t discover that there was anyone else like myself until 1967, when the publicity surrounding the changing of the law made me aware for the very first time that there were other people like me, and that there was a thriving gay scene in London.

Eventually I found this gay scene, with great difficulty. As there was no gay press in UK I had to get a list of gay places in London by writing to an address in California which I found in an American magazine. Even then the gay guide was full of errors.  And when you found the gay clubs, you could not gain admittance unless introduced by a member. Not knowing any other gays, I was refused entry.

Even if you found a gay bar where membership was not necessary, you had to be ‘in the know’. You had be aware of a certain gay dress code, how to behave, and be able to make eye contact. I am still unable to make eye contact or pick up subtle or even not-so-subtle signals, and I still don’t look, act, wear my hair or dress like a gay man, so I’m told.

A work colleague who was gay took pity on me and took me to a gay bar in the late 1960s. Next day he said to me: ‘You just haven’t got a bloody clue have you? You’ll never ever pick anybody up in a gay bar dressed as you were last night in a huge overcoat. Your clothes, hairstyle, everything was totally wrong, and you weren’t making eye contact with anyone. You looked like a straight guy who’d wandered in by accident. Gay men wouldn’t come near you with a barge pole.’ Or words to that effect.

I did eventually find places where dress codes and making eye contact weren’t necessary, but I was always breaking the law, as defined by the 1967 Act. I have never been able to meet any other gay man and remain ‘legal’ under this Act. It was not until the early 21st century that changes in the law made gays totally legal. In fact friends active on the gay scene before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act say the decriminalization of male homosexuality led, not to gay liberation, but to repression and a big clampdown on the gay clubs and places which did exist.

After the 1967 Act the police and courts had a strict legal guideline to go by, which in fact made all gay sex or even public shows of affection totally illegal unless in the privacy of your own home with no other person present. So after the 1967 Act gay clubs and other places were regularly raided and closed down. Before the Act, so I am told, it was all underground so much more went on and the police tended to turn a blind eye.

Moreover, any possible way of approaching another man with a view to starting a gay relationship of any kind remained totally illegal until the early 21st century in UK. Plainclothes police used to regularly pose as gay men to try to entrap people. If you so much as smiled at a plainclothes policeman in a gay bar or offered to buy him a drink, you were in danger of being arrested for ‘importuning for an immoral purpose’. Of course all cruising in public places such as parks and public toilets was, and still is, illegal. Even putting contact ads in the new gay press was illegal if the ultimate objective was gay sex of any kind.

So the only people the 1967 Act protected really were gays already in a relationship and practising in the privacy of their own homes. All ways of meeting other gay men usually fell foul of the law, and the definition of the term ‘in private’ was so restrictive that many gays lived as criminals for nearly another 40 years.  Certainly when my gay life-partner, George, moved in with me and my mother in the early 1970s, we were breaking the law and liable to arrest.

The 1967 Act put male homosexuals in the same category as prostitutes: the act itself wasn’t illegal, but every possible way of meeting another person to perform the act was against the law.

It is interesting that the court case which eventually led to the changing of the law involved a Daily Mail reporter who met a serving member of the RAF. This remained illegal until the early 21st Century, as members of the military were excluded from the 1967 Act. The way they met also remained illegal until the early 21st Century, since meeting a strange man outside a Tube station and inviting him back to your flat was clearly ‘importuning for an immoral purpose’ in the eyes of the law. The activity which took place at Lord Montagu’s palace, around which the court case centered, also remained totally illegal until the early 21st century, since more than two people were present on the premises.

Despite the passing of the 1967 Act, Britain lagged behind the rest of the developed world as regards gay liberation until the early 21st Century. Even East Berlin in 1968 was far more liberated than London at the time. Gays were walking down one of the main streets of East Berlin hand-in-hand without anyone batting an eyelid. In London you would have been liable to arrest for such public shows of affection ‘offending public decency’. Also there was a gay bar in this East Berlin street which would have been immediately raided and closed down had it been in London, even a year after the 1967 Act was passed.

With my gay life-partner, George, I visited gay cities like Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s and they were streets ahead of London at the time. All the clubs that existed in these cities would have been closed down by the police in England.  We told a guy in a Sydney gay club this in 1990, and he said: ‘Well England is still in the age of Queen Victoria. You are the laughing stock of the Western world!’

So finally Britain has been dragged kicking and screaming straight from the 19th century into the 21st century, as far as gay liberation is concerned. But there is very little to celebrate about the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act 40 years ago since it clearly did NOT make gay men and their clubs legal at all. It simply decriminalized certain gay acts inside a home where only two people were present. How on Earth these two gay men were supposed to meet in the first place put them in danger of entrapment and arrest for another 35 years or so.

Readings at Clapham Spiritualist Church

I had booked two 15 minute readings for myself and my friend Frank, mainly because I feel Frank needs to make more progress in moving on since his life-partner, Len, passed over suddenly in March 2006.

The readings were with an elderly medium, who I believe was called Dorothy Chapman. Mine was fairly accurate. She identified my father in spirit and described a lot of his character traits – very argumentative all his life, and richer than at times he made out. This was certainly very true. Every time we met he would lecture me on everything I’d done wrong in my life, and he was like this with most people. He’d argued with all his family and wasn’t even on speaking terms with his sister.

When my mother claimed maintenance for herself and my brother and me, after the separation, he always made out he was broke whilst renting a luxury flat, running a big car, owning a very popular restaurant and going out gambling most nights. In court it came out how wealthy he really was, and how little tax he had paid in the past year, somehow convincing the tax authorities as well that he was as poor as a church mouse.

On the other hand, the medium said he liked people to think he had money. This was certainly true with people he wanted to impress or influence. It didn’t include his family in England. It was people from his village in Cyprus mainly he wanted to impress. Although he was a professed atheist, he gave a lot of money to the Church, especially so they could build a church youth club in the village. They even erected a monument to him whilst he was still living, he was such a benefactor to the village, sending many of their sons to England to study at university. I never got to university, and my brother only got there by luck, and with no help at all from my father.

The medium said there were a lot of changes in my life about now, that I had a lot of things to sort out, and that there was a change of job in the offing.  Actually I have taken early retirement, am trying to sort out my company pension, any benefits I may be entitled to, fill in tax forms, I have re-drawn my Will, etc.. As regards the change of job, she said my father was saying I need to do something to get an income. At the moment I’m just living off money left me from his Estate, whilst I wait for my pension to come thru, which won’t even be enough to pay my council rent.

Only the day before someone had said to me I should try to get some of my short stories published for money, instead of giving them away free on the Internet, and I took steps to do just this. I felt this message meant my father was encouraging me to do something like this. Always he was talking about making money, so it would be typical of him.

Other things weren’t quite so accurate. Or at least were imprecise. She seemed to think my father and mother had a long marriage. Yes and no. They were probably legally married more than 30 years, but only lived together for about 10 of those years, if that. She said that they lived together long enough to have a family, which was true, but she then talked about a sister and children. When I said I had no sister, just a brother, she said it could be a sister-in-law. I do have a sister-in-law, but they have no children. However she is surrounded by children as she is a primary school teacher.

The medium talked about a lady very close to me with whom I could discuss almost anything. She assumed it was a wife, but as I am gay and single at the moment, I can only surmise it is my mother, with whom I am very close. We do indeed discuss almost everything, and do a lot of things together, especially now I’ve retired.

The medium said my father passed with a chest complaint, such as pneumonia, and that he coughed a lot near the end, and had to be propped up in bed to breathe. I couldn’t verify any of that, since I didn’t see him in his very last days. My mother and I visited him in the clinic where he died in Cyprus some weeks earlier. He had a terminal brain tumor. However, as with many people who die in hospital, he could well have succumbed to pneumonia near the end. I don’t know, I never saw the death certificate, which would anyway have been in Greek, a language I don’t understand.

Frank said his message was fairly accurate as well, describing many women acquaintances, which was true, one of which is currently in hospital very ill. The medium said Frank should visit her again, and indeed she had asked Frank to visit her every day if possible. He’d only been once I believe. It was his next door neighbor, who is probably terminally ill, since she is of advanced age and sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.

The medium also apparently brought Frank’s life-partner Len to him, saying he felt it was his time to go, but was staying very close to Frank. I hope this brought some comfort to Frank and will help him to accept what has happened and move on.

Dorothy Chapman is no Colin Fry or Tony Stockwell. Most mediums are not able to be so precise as these TV mediums, who are extra talented. But she was accurate enough to be convincing. She couldn’t have known about those character traits in my father, for instance – being very argumentative thruout his life, and making out he was poor when it suited him, and flashing around his wealth when he wanted to impress people.

A satisfactory reading, one of many I have had thru the years which have brought to me my father, my partner George, my grandmother and many other less close acquaintances.

Pride Weekend, and why I wasn’t there

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Usually when the London Gay Pride parade and festival takes place, around the first weekend in July, I’m at the Wildest Cats In Town rock’n’roll weekender near Lowestoft. This year I didn’t go to the weekender, but neither did I feel inclined to join in any of the Pride celebrations. Neither did most of my gay/bi friends and acquaintances.

In the early days, Pride-type marches organized by the Gay Liberation Front were protest demonstrations demanding basic gay rights. At that time, despite the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act supposingly legalizing homosexuality, most things gays today take for granted were still illegal. In fact almost every way of meeting or flirting with another gay man was illegal, and you also had to make sure you were both over 21, not in the armed forces, and if you planned to be intimate, that no other person was present on the premises. This even applied if you were lucky enough to live in a palace or a 30 room mansion. If your poor old granny was fast asleep in her bedroom in the West Wing and you took your gay lover to bed in a room in the East Wing, you were commiting a crime. Indeed my mother committed a crime by allowing my life-partner to move into her council flat and share a bedroom with me – we could have all ended up in court.

Nowadays we have won more LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) rights than could ever have been imagined all those years ago. Gays can now get married (civil partnerships), divorced, even join the armed forces if they so wish. There are gay clubs where all sorts of activities take place on the premises. At one fetish club, when someone tried to take the club to court, it was the protestor who was fined and ordered to pay the court costs because the club was licensed for such way-out activities. Even Britain’s pornography laws have been liberalized, and now almost anything goes, whether gay or straight. There are, in fact, very few rights for gays to win in Britain.

OK, so we’ve got our gay rights, so we should go on the annual Pride parades to celebrate our lifestyle, so the argument goes. That’s fine, if you want to do this, and many do, so go ahead. But please behave yourselves and act in a responsible manner. My life-partner and I stopped going on these sort of parades nearly 20 years ago (he’s been dead for nearly 16 years) because of the few exhibitionists who insisted on shouting out obscenities in order to shock members of the public watching, which included little children. Others dressed or acted in an obscene fashion, for instance by wearing trousers which exposed the backside. Even going to and from Pride celebrations, some of these exhibitionists act in a disgusting manner on the public transport system, evidently because they feel strength in numbers and know there is little chance of them being arrested.

It is true Pride is the one day we feel this strength in numbers, and that might well give us the courage to walk with our partner hand-in-hand or give them a little kiss, activities which heterosexual couples take for granted. But in Pride-type events around the world, some gay exhibitionists go much further than this, committing obscene acts in full view of the public. Many of us don’t want to be associated with this kind of exhibitionism. It does us no favors, and can only turn members of the general public against us.

Heterosexuals don’t go on public demonstrations shouting out to all and sundry what they get up to in bed, or demonstrating it on the streets. We have won our gay rights, now let’s shut up about them and get on with enjoying them behind the closed doors of our homes, clubs, pubs, saunas or wherever. If we want to demonstrate for LGBT rights, we should be directing our protest at those countries and societies which have yet to embrace such notions. In some countries you can still be executed just for practising your gay sexuality.

Another reason I am reluctant to go on Pride marches: It is fine if you are with your life-partner, or even a short-term partner. Or with a group of gay friends. If, however, you are widowed or single, Pride marches can be a very lonely place to be. Nobody will talk to you or befriend you, and you’ll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples holding hands and kissing, which will make you feel excluded and maybe lonely and depressed, even if you didn’t feel such emotions before you went on the Parade. The LGBT community is not renowned for reaching out to lonely people among their number, especially if they are older and perhaps widowed. Pride weekend, for such people, can be a very lonely place to be.

OK, I’ve been on lots of marches and demonstrations for all sorts of causes, and you tend to be alone on all of them. Nobody befriends single protestors on anti-war demonstrations for instance, so unless you’re lucky enough to meet up with some friends, that too can be a lonely experience. But at Pride we are supposed to be celebrating a gay community, and as described above, seeing happy LGBT couples holding hands, etc. can make single or widowed gays feel excluded, lonely and unhappy.

Then there are the festivals and special events put on thruout Pride weekends. Unless you fall into the LGBT mainstream who worships Kylie Monogue and other gay icons, loves boy bands and house/disco music, then these events hold little for you. In the early Pride celebrations there seemed to be more variety, my partner and I used to enjoy the wit of old-time cabaret artists like Lily Savage or Dockyard Doris. Now many of these have died or, as in the case of Lily/Paul O’Grady, moved on to TV. There are younger acts taking their place, but the emphasis at Pride festivals is on the kind of pop music which some of us have little interest in.

So how did I spend Pride weekend? Saturday I cooked a meal for me and my mother, who’s 92, and spent some time with her. Then I went to a reunion of ex-staff members in a pub near where I used to work. From there I went to Virginia Creepers, a rockabilly evening where, incidentally, I met up with two other gay rockabillies who also don’t appreciate the kind of entertainment laid on by the Pride organizers. I finally ended up in a gay club that night where the music was atrocious, but I didn’t go there to listen to the house music! Sunday I spent quietly at home watching TV, including bits of the Diana concert from Wembley.

So no Pride activities for me or most of my gay/bi friends. Those of you who just live for Pride, go ahead and enjoy yourselves, but please remember we are out to win over the general public, not to shock and alienate them. There were terrorist bombs in London and Glasgow over the weekend, which fortunately did not go off. The last thing we want is for gay clubs to be targeted again by extremists because of the obscene behavior on Pride marches by a few stupid exhibitionists.

On the contrary, the reaction we want to provoke is respect. I well remember walking with my partner, George, down Fifth Avenue in New York City on a Gay Pride parade where an old lady stood on the sidewalk waving a placard reading ‘Grandma for Gays’, with people cheering and clapping us from windows and balconies, and with a full-scale ticker-tape New York welcome raining down from the skyscrapers as we marched along. This is the kind of support we need to encourage from the general public in London, not disgust or violence because of the activities of a minority of exhibitionists.