Eurovision Wrong Contest

The FA Cup Final is today, but I am naturally more interested in the Gay FA Cup Final, namely Eurovision, which kicks off at 8pm tonight.

There’s lots of chatter about the UK’s entry this year. After several years of lacklustre performances, earning few points from either the jury or televote, the BBC has changed direction. This year, the UK has gone with an innovative, risky strategy of entering a decent song with a likeable performer. It seems to have paid off, as Space Man is actually being talked about as a possible winner. Sam Ryder immediately piqued my interest in his song by releasing a lyric video based on teletext, albeit fake teletext that was just unrealistic enough to annoy me.

But I don’t want to talk about the front-runners. No, I am far more interested in the poor artists who poured their heart and soul into their song and performance, only to get perfunctorily booted out at the semi-final stage. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the performances that failed to get through because Europeans apparently wanted a load of tedious ballads instead.

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The Birdie Song

Firebird is a new film which has been doing the rounds on the LGBT film festival circuit for the last year or so, garnering mostly positive reviews. It has finally had a wider release, hence why I trekked out to Cheshire Oaks last week with a voucher code in my pocket.

Set on a military base in Soviet-occupied Estonia in 1977, Firebird tells the story of Sergey (Tom Prior), a young soldier in the Soviet army, who falls for his new commanding officer Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii). The pair embark on an illicit love affair, forced to keep it secret from everyone, in an era when homosexuality is very much illegal.

The film is based on the true story of Sergey Fetisov and his memoir A Tale about Roman. Sadly the real Sergey died in 2017, but he was able to provide his input to the cast and the director, Peeter Rebane, while the film was in pre-production, and the film is dedicated to his memory.

An added poignancy came from the knowledge that Oleg Zagorodnii, who plays Sergey’s clandestine lover, Roman, is not on the promotional tour for the film. Instead, he is in his home city of Kyiv, helping to defend Ukraine from another occupation.

Firebird is a wonderful piece of work. Beautifully filmed, with great performances from the cast – Prior and Zagorodnii are excellent and utterly believable as a couple.

Disappointingly, the film seems to be only on very limited release, but it is well worth seeking out.

Also… Tom Prior. Just look at him.

Firebird is on limited release in the UK, USA and probably some other places. Go to firebirdmovie.com for tickets and showtimes. It is released on DVD on 6th June.

Oops

One of the perks of work is that I get a TasteCard. Not only does it provide 2-for-1 offers on a range of restaurants, it also provides discounted cinema tickets.

So, when my friend Boris suggested we go to Vue Cinema on Sunday afternoon to see the new gay film Firebird, I naturally thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to use the card.

I logged on to the TasteCard website on Sunday, just before I left the house, to see how to get the offer. Unfortunately you cannot simply flash the card at the ticket desk. I needed to purchase a voucher code, which I would then redeem at the cinema.

So, I went through the purchase process and bought a code.

“Your code has been sent to your registered email address.”

Ah. There is a problem here: because I got the TasteCard through work, it is registered to my work email address. And our company email is locked down so the only way to access it is on my work laptop — which was in the office.

(I will add at this point that company policy is that employees should take their laptop home with them every night, but… meh)

Now, a lesser person would have just written off the £13 cost of the voucher codes. But not I! My security fob gives 24/7 access to the office building, and I had a twenty minute window between getting off the train and getting the bus to Cheshire Oaks. Would that be enough time to get from the station to the office, then to the bus stop?

As it turns out — yes! A quick speed-mince across town and I was in and out of the office in less than five minutes. It would have been even less time, had I not had to wait for the laser printer to warm up.

So, if the security guards at the office were watching the CCTV on Sunday and saw someone dash in, leg it up three flights of stairs, dash into the office, turn on his laptop and the laser printer, quickly print off a voucher, and leg it back down the stairs, they don’t need to worry – it was just me.

What is the point of this blog? Nothing really, except to illustrate the lengths I will go to in order to save a few quid.

I then got rinsed for £3.99 for a Coke Zero at the cinema refreshment stand. BAH.

(Firebird itself was excellent, look out for a separate post about that soon)

The Shrine on Lord Street

I was rightly told off for posting this on Twitter, because it contained spoilers for Killing Eve. It was an honest mistake – I thought the series had finished, but it actually has one episode to go if you are watching weekly on linear TV.

So, if you have NOT finished watching the series, or are waiting for the final episode to be shown on BBC One rather than binging on iPlayer, STOP READING NOW!

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Two years

Will it ever get any easier?

As someone who couldn’t see my mother in hospital until the very final hours of her life, and then could only attend her funeral with six other people, I am naturally enjoying the “well actually the rules were silly and everyone broke them anyway” discourse in Toryland over the past few days. Shitheads, the lot of them.

No context iPad

Apple, at one of its periodic “look how great we are” events, has unveiled a new iPad Air. It’s the 5th generation model! It’s Star Trek: Enterprise!

I’m probably going to buy one to replace my iPad Air 2, which has served me well over the years, but is now on its last legs. It’s slow, turns itself off at random points, and last week the screen suddenly developed the weird affliction seen below. It’s great if you’re a fan of psychedelia, less so if you want to browse the web.

iPad screen showing various glitches, including incorrect colours and parts of previous screens remaining on screen

Apple’s marketing likes to tout the benefits of the iPad as a creative powerhouse, a complete system for work and play. Me, I use it mainly to browse the web and find memes to post on Twitter. Every time I see an amusing or strange photo, I save it in the library, ready to drop into an @-reply, clock up those likes and retweets, and release that sweet, sweet dopamine.

The thing is, half of the pictures I find, I never actually post for one reason or another. The photo library on my iPad is now full of stuff that has accumulated over the past seven years. I’m sure they would have made excellent Tweets, had I remembered to actually post them, but in many cases the reason I saved them is lost to time.

BUT… it seems a shame to waste all these images, so here for your entertainment is a selection from my iPad photo library. There is zero context for any of these images, because I don’t have any. Enjoy!

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Ukraine

I can’t say much about the horrendous scenes in Ukraine that hasn’t been said more eloquently by others. I am not qualified to comment on world affairs, so unlike pretty much everyone else on Twitter, I will refrain and point you to the BBC, who are doing an excellent job of reporting from the scene.

The pictures on the news, showing terrified children caught up in this conflict, affected me particularly strongly, and I was glad to find a UNICEF appeal to help them. If, like me, you feel completely helpless in the face of the news, that is one small thing you can do.

Man goes to Gran Can for five-day span after travel ban. The plan? Get tan, ride catamaran

Photo of three palm trees against a clear blue sky

Nearly six years after my previous visit, it was time to reacquaint myself with Gran Canaria. When my friend Andrew used his impressive travel booking skills to obtain cheap flights and a bargain self-catering apartment, I was only too happy to accompany him, and escape rainy Brexit UK for a few days.

And then, as the departure date approached, I felt a little twinge of fear. Omicron COVID was still very much a thing. Gran Canaria was at Alert Level 4 (the highest level in Spain). I did not want our holiday be spoiled by the faff and inconvenience of COVID restrictions, necessary as they may be. Matters weren’t helped when the Spain Travel Health website kept giving cryptic errors as I tried to upload my vaccination certificate.

Even as I packed my T-shirts and shorts the night before, I had to ask the question: was going at this time a good idea?

As it turns out… the answer was absolutely (I speak Spanish now).

Continue reading “Man goes to Gran Can for five-day span after travel ban. The plan? Get tan, ride catamaran”

Fax the way (aha, aha) I like it

At the beginning of January, a story went around the news websites about a recreation of Ceefax. Nathan Dane, a broadcasting enthusiast and hero, has painstakingly recreated the erstwhile information service, using code that scrapes content from the BBC website and translates it into authentic, up-to-date teletext pages.

For the uninitiated, Ceefax was a teletext service, consisting of pages of information broadcast in the hidden parts of the TV signal on BBC1 and BBC2. A decoder in the TV set could convert this data into text and chunky graphics, selected by entering a three-digit page number on your TV remote.

NMS Ceefax page displaying a news story in teletext form: "Thousands of homes without power as Storm Corrie hits"

If you want to view Ceefax redux, a web teletext viewer will render the pages in all their 7-colour, 40×25 text resolution glory. For the truly dedicated, it’s possible to connect a Raspberry Pi to your TV and generate a teletext signal, allowing you to view the service as God intended.

Continue reading “Fax the way (aha, aha) I like it”

Minding the Gap, continued

Some of you may be surprised to hear that I did leave the house several times during 2021, and was even able to take in some live theatre – no mean feat, considering that for a big chunk of last year, gathering in a poorly-ventiliated auditorium was a no-no.

Y’MAM (Young Man’s Angry Movements) (Liverpool Everyman)
Former Hollyoaks cast member Luke Jerdy (or his real name, Majid Mehdizadeh) put on this brutally honest one-man show, talking about his life growing up as a half-Iranian teenager in Derby, and the pressures placed on him by toxic masculinity and the expectations of society. Tales from his life were punctuated by dance, rap and a hilarious segment where when he read out a pompous, self-important email that he sent to the manager of the Everyman theatre when the bar closed early and he couldn’t get a drink.

Our Lady of Blundellsands (Liverpool Everyman)
This new Jonathan Harvey play was running at the Everyman in March 2020, when the world got Rona’d, so it was great to see it return in the Autumn of 2021. The tale of a faded actress, whose brief burst of fame (an appearance in Z-Cars) is long behind her, and she now inhabits a fantasy world, supported by her long-suffering sister. Various family members return for a birthday party, and skeletons start tumbling out of closets. A fabulous cast led by the peerless Josie Lawrence brought this story of a dysfunctional Merseyside family to life. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments interspersed with genuinely affecting moments of pathos.

Rainbow Monologues (Liverpool Theatre Festival)
Sitting in a marquee in St Lukes (the Bombed-Out Church), surrounded by the noise of the city, was perhaps not the best way to enjoy some theatre. Nevertheless, this set of LGBTQ-themed monologues – 12 performed over the space of 70 minutes – was excellent. Taylor Illingworth in particular gave an affecting performance in his monologue “Blocking out the Sun”, the heartbreaking story of an HIV-positive man coming out to his family.

Swan Song (Unity Theatre)
It’s that man Jonathan Harvey again, this time with a one-man show about a middle-aged gay teacher who is struggling with life at an underfunded secondary school. Andrew Lancel played the teacher, with cynicism and world-weariness hanging off every line of dialogue, as he juggles office politics and the politics of the 1990s. Wonderful stuff.

Hold Me Close (Salford Arts Theatre)
A tale of a mother reunited with her son, who returns to the family home after an extended period away. The play follows them as they get to know one another again. Very entertaining, alternating between comedy and drama, although the twist at the end that perhaps wasn’t as big a surprise as the show thought it was. The real unexpected moment came when the seats in front of us collapsed beneath an unfortunate audience member, sending him crashing to the ground.

Rajesh and Naresh (Unity Theatre)
Presented as part of Liverpool’s annual Homotopia festival, this story is set against the background of India’s decriminilisation of homosexuality in 2018. Rajesh, a banker in London, travels to India where he meets Naresh in a nightclub. They quickly strike up a relationship but of course things don’t go smoothly, especially as Rajesh isn’t out to his mother. Brahmdeo Shannon Ramana and Madhav Vasantha not only play Rajesh and Naresh, but also take on all of the other roles in the play too, leading to a unique experience. This was an excellent show, and I felt like I should have paid more than £8 for the ticket.

Thanks to my friend Phillip who came to most of these shows with me, and without whom I would probably have stayed at home.