Sun 25 – Sat 31 Jan
As Madge said ‘Holiday!’
The key thing to reflect on is that I went on holiday to Gran Canaria last Wednesday. It’s my regular annual late Jan / early Feb vist to escape the weather in London and put some sun into that dreary period between New Year and Easter. It all started swinging into gear last Sunday morning after my jog-run when I spent time with Dave packing our bags using my own personal tick-list I created several years ago and always refer to in order to make sure I have not forgotten anything. Two days of work followed which are reflected on below.
Another power cut and a stranger in our hotel room
After work on Tuesday, I met Dave at Victoria and we got the train to Gatwick where we had booked into a hotel so we would be ready for our 6.30am check-in. But guess what? We got to the hotel to find it had a power cut. All the guests had been gathered in the hotel lobby lit by emergency lighting and, of course, no check-in was available. What is it with me and power cuts; the hotel one follows on from the one at home the previous week. Perhaps this is this my secret (and utterly useless) superpower – I am Power Cut Creator! About 45 mins later, the electricity came back on so we could check in and then venture into the main airport for dinner. This was pretty rubbish but then who goes to an airport for a nice evening meal? Plus I had some stomach problems and probably should not have tried to eat at all, a dodgy tummy before I had even got abroad.
So after crap dinner, we went back to our hotel room and dozed in front of the television. Suddenly the door opened, Dave started shouting ‘Who is it?’ and I jumped out of the bed. A young woman with a case was standing there – reception had given her the key to this room. I made clear it was our room and she went downstairs to sort it out. I tried to phone reception but no answer and she did not come back so must have been resolved. Sleep was pretty rubbish due to my bad tummy and concerns about not waking up on time. We got up at 5.30 and showered. Check in went well and the flight itself was absolutely fine with the plane busy but not 100% full. Obviously I dozed during the four hour flight and read. As usual on these flights, it was me and Dave plus a few other gays but the plane was dominated by rich old people presumably using their heating allowance to go on holiday.
Arrival but to a different hotel
Flight arrived on time and transport from the airport went well. But on arrival at our booked hotel, it was announced that they had ‘blockages’ meaning some rooms were not available including ours so for one night we would be staying in the apartment hotel next door. Not a major inconvenience (although a lower quality residence) but we did have to carry our luggage ourselves further down the street and obviously could not unpack properly. I was on holiday so we popped out to the ever wonderful Yumbo Centre for a glass of wine; it was still early afternoon as we had been on a very early flight and there is no time difference. Then back to our room and a very refreshing three hour sleep. That evening we wandered around the Yumbo again and went out for dinner at one of our favourite German restaurants ‘Bei Lelo’. I had not eaten all day because of my stomach upset and it’s usually a very efficient restaurant. But that night it was weirdly very busy so that we waited ages for food (which I had to leave a large part of) and the bill which we had to ask for three times. Annoying because we were meeting up with my old friend Brian and his Danish partner Rene for the last night of their holiday. They reported fab sunny weather and we had several drinks together before Dave and I went back to our temporary hotel for bed and they went back to do the packing for their return flight the next day.
The first proper day of our holiday
Thursday morning and I was awake by 7 largely due to the surfeit of sleep the day before. My stomach felt better and I went for a walk around the usually heaving Yumbo Centre which was eerily quiet populated only by cleaners. Dave and I went to our proper hotel next door to nab a couple of decent sunbeds by the pool (it’s populated primarily by Germans who get up very early to reserve their spaces) then we went for our breakfast before out to sunbathe. Around noon we had the fun of leaving our sunbeds to check out the temporary hotel then move all our stuff to the proper hotel and check in again there. Back to the poolside with the weather being a mixture of pleasant sun and cloud. We had an afternoon snooze disturbed by very loud banging on the door with a hotel present of fruit and a bottle of wine to apologise for our inconvenience. This night we ate at a steak restaurant recommended by Brian and Rene. Very nice though I had the escalope as I’m not a big steak fan unlike Dave. Drinks on the ground floor of the Yumbo watching the displays by the gymnasts and the clown before back to bed at a decent time.
Four nights, four different beds
Friday morning came after a good night’s sleep and we went down to claim our sunbeds before going to breakfast; I love the scrambled egg. Dave pointed out that last night had been the fourth different bed in a row that we had slept in. Not as exciting as it sounds: Mon – home bed, Tues – airport hotel, Wed – temporary hotel, Thurs – proper hotel. Even better weather than the day before – sun with no cloud but a gentle breeze. Basically I spent the whole day lying in the sun and either reading or listening to i-pod. We had a wander around the Yumbo late afternoon including coffee and cocktails. Then in the evening back out to the same steak restaurant as the night before followed by cocktails in one of the ground floor bars. I decided to stay out at a club and Dave went back to the hotel. I eventually arrived back around half past midnight so definitely not a big night out.
The normal routine of the previous two days changed on Saturday. I was a bit pink in places from too much sun. So I decided to have a non-sunbathing day. I took a walk down to The Dunes for a wander. The Dunes are what they say they are. The Canaries really are Saharan islands and part of Gran Canaria has been preserved as sand dunes. It’s a big area and wonderful to wander around in peace and quiet although walking up and down sand dunes can be hard work. It’s so quiet though every so often you bump into other people wandering about and it is very popular with naturists. There are patches of vegetation and in one of those I came across three black lizards, the longest about half a metre long and it looked like a family group of two big ones and a little one. A bit like iguanas and very friendly. Dave had also gone for a long walk along the beach and we met up later at the hotel. I paid attention to the footie in the afternoon whilst having my cocktail – QPR lost again away from home. My friend Philip arrived from London but (suprize!) his room was also not available either and he got moved to a hotel about 20 minutes away. A different steak restaurant followed by drinks with Philip before hitting the sack around 11.30.
Somebody once said ‘nothing concentrates the mind like a holiday’ and they were right. I was in the office on Mon and Tues with lots of remote working on Sunday to make sure the decks were cleared before I went away. Mon morning saw an excellent digital session I arranged with my grants team colleagues on how not-for-profit agencies can do digital well and how funders should best fund it. Presentations came from Nominet Trust and James (another James) – our digital evaluator for the Innovation Labs initiative. I finished two committee papers in first draft for comment whilst I am away and dealt with a string of e-mails. My ‘Out of office’ went up first thing Tues morning so people would know I was away from the following day for two weeks. Also before I went, I had a ‘cuppa chance’ catch up with a new person in the organisation. Cuppa chance is the way two people in the organisation are randomly selected each month to meet for a half hour coffee break to talk about whatever they want. It is a great way to meet people you have not necessarily met before. I also attended a talk on our ‘team temperature’ (I do admire our team leader – she has weaknesses but hears criticism honestly, doesn’t bear grudges, and fights for her team; I think she really is one of best managers I have ever had) and gave feedback to the media team on the five North East projects I visited earlier in the New Year.
Health and fitness
Last Sunday I achieved my best ever jog-run result: 26.30 mins, 4.52 km, 5.52 pace, 329 calories! I was left with a slight ache in my Achilles but not too bad and I would be doing / have done no real exercise for the rest of the week. Another bit of cracking news was that when I weighed myself on Monday, I was down to 13 stone 4 pounds. This is a great achievement and a big step forward in my aim to be 13 stone by the end of March. My dodgy tummy meant I was eating less generally and on holidays I find I do eat less because I am not so stressed; I can go without food and even enjoy the slight hunger feelings. I have been trying to cut down at home through eating smaller portions particularly and that continued on Gran Canaria with my routine of a small breakfast then a main dinner in evening. No lunch but perhaps a small cake or biscuit during the day to deal with my sugar craving if necessary. The only fly in this ointment could be the significantly higher levels of alcohol intake including many creamy and full fat cocktails.
Classic Gay Literature and Power Reading
I continued with ‘Aphrodisiac’ (retro gay lit) started last week and it was a typical short stories collection – some lovely little ones, some dross, and many completely forgettable. Best ones mainly came from authors who went on to become very famous – remember this collection was published in 1980: Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Christopher Bram, and Felice Picano – all highly recommended novelists. But there were several authors I had never heard of who were also good (the extra info comes via Wikipedia):
- Jane Rule (who turns out to be a famous Canadian lesbian writer) with a story about an old lesbian basically with dementia
- George Whitmore writing as much a bitchy story as Tennessee Williams but far better about Fire Island, a place of such significance in modern gay history that I really must find out more about it
- Ron Harvie with a story about a Hell’s Angel attracted to men in suits
- Robert Emmet Long, about a son pressurised to win by his father
- Peggi McCarthy, first love between a boy and his friend who is a policeman’s son
- Daniel Curzon writing about an orgy (this writer turns out to have a large bibliography)
- Noel Ryan with his story about family tensions
I intend to follow up on some of these authors and read their other works. Indeed part of the beauty of reading retro literature is finding lost classics.
My aim for holiday is to read about a book each day – this is my time to power through the books I keep meaning to get to. Thursday, I read a classic fantasy work – ‘Replay’ by Ken Grimwood. Written in 1986, this is a great time travel story. A man gets the chance to go back and live his life several times over taking different options in each life. This is a feeling we all share of ‘what if I had done (or not done) something in my life at a key point?’ There is no real moralising about right or wrong choices but it did make me think that we do have points in life where we can take what has happened and make choices to do things differently such as learning from previous mistakes to make a current relationship work, based on previous work situations deciding how (if?) we want to make an impact at our current job, and so on.
Friday I moved onto the highly recommended Damian Barr’s ‘Maggie and me’. Written in 2013, it is autobiography about a difficult childhood in Scotland during the Thatcher period. It’s very well written though a bit short and I suspect many people have got shit childhood stories to tell (I certainly have about being part of a homeless single parent family for several years). The key thing for me to take from the book was how awful Thatcher period was and the need to remind people how bloody dreadful it was especially being gay or lesbian and dealing with the rise of AIDS. Everyone can admire Thatcher to an extent, first woman PM, etc but she was unnecessarily nasty in many ways. Indeed, it annoys me when people say Cameron is awful, both he and John Major were liberal socialists compared to Thatcher at her worst. I actually think I could have a chat with Cameron or Major whereas Thatcher would just look at me like something she had trodden in – after all she thought no-one had the inalienable right to be gay.