The brilliant Velvet Page Book Club and a great book

Mon 29 April – Sun 5 May 2019

Funny old week outside my own personal existence:

  • Mediocre weather with a slightly chilly weekend
  • Tommy Robinson gets milkshake chucked over him 🙂
  • Gavin Williamson gets sacked (smells fishy to me)
  • We got another new Secretary of State for International Development
  • The Admiral Duncan bombing was remembered
  • Yet another study confirmed U=U: people with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus to anyone else through sexual contact
  • Labour admits it is trying to bail out the Tories on Brexit
  • Tories and Labour have dire local election results; Lib Dems, Greens and Independents make gains, apparently it signifies we all just want Brexit to happen 🙁

But probably the personal highlight of last week was a very good meeting of the Velvet Page Book Club. And the meeting itself was based around an excellent book. 🙂

Books and Reading

‘Drapetomania’ by John R Gordon

Velvet page

This is the book we discussed at our lovely meeting of the Velvet Page Book Club at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Thursday evening. Wonderful that the author was there to talk to us. Doesn’t always happen (and it can be difficult if the book isn’t popular) but on this occasion it was excellent.

The title word itself is one from the past which describes the ‘condition’ where slaves have an obsession to escape from their masters. One of those words important at the time that has become redundant and we have even lost the definite way it should be pronounced.

The author speaks

The author John is a really nice guy and gave us the details on his 10 year journey in writing this book. As well as the thoughts that went into the process of creating the story. It is always fascinating to dissect what makes a good book. And this is a very good one.

It’s an epic

It is a huge, sprawling Southern States epic. A bit like Gone with the Wind or Giant in terms of films. But this is a book focused on two male slaves in love with each other. It is fictional but we know gay people have always existed everywhere so why would there not have been slaves in the American South in love and having sex?

The journey

There is a mass of drama in the book but it does not feel contrived. Rather it is also a ‘journey tale’ like the Odyssey or Pilgrim’s Progress. We follow the individuals’ journey as they meet different characters and adventures. Fascinating how the author relayed the research needed particularly on everyday things not generally recorded like daily routines and mundane bodily functions such as what was eaten.

The sheer horror of slavery

And one of the big things for me is that the book brilliantly shows the horror and cruelty of slavery. In a world that has become accustomed to easy living and denial (hello Brexit), we have lost the sheer horror of how black slaves were treated. It is akin to the Holocaust the Nazis unleashed on the Jews. The way people were perceived as sub-human and there just to be used for economic value until they died. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which horror and suffering are deliberately down-played.

Altogether, an excellent book and well worth the read. Indeed, good news that it has won a prestigious LGBT literary award. 🙂

‘Melmoth’ by Sarah Perry

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This is the second book I read last week. I loved ‘The Essex Serpent’ by this author and looked forward to reading this one. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s good but just not as good as the previous book. It is the story of Melmoth the Wanderer (one of the damned who denied Christ) and her inter-action with various humans.

Some really fascinating stories that entertain and engage in their own right. But, overall, the book is hard to follow at times and, generally, a bit messy. 🙁 In its style, it reminds me enormously of a couple of other contemporary women authors I love who also write on ‘spiritual’ themes: Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker. Overall, good but I was simply expecting it to be better. Still, worth having a go.


A large part of last week was taken up with going to Scunthorpe to see my mother-in-law for her birthday. Train up on Tues morning and back again on Wed. Train up was a bit of a pain as there were faults on the Doncaster-Scunthorpe line due to a faulty canal bridge! I don’t like being outside big urban areas and that sort of typifies why.

The birthday itself

It was great to see la belle mere (as the French say, tongue in cheek me thinks). The big garden centre at Brigg for a light lunch and a wander around this huge, multi-focused site. Then in the evening it was local fish and chips. I controlled myself having a small fish and chips with mushy peas plus no bread and butter – important not to have food blow-outs.

Not really my cup of tea but good totty 🙂

Wed morning it was the local cafe my mother-in-law goes to every day and a wander around the local charity shops. If you like that sort of thing, there is an amazing sense of community with people constantly starting conversations with you. I find it a bit too suffocating and prefer the anonymity of cities. But it was wonderfully ‘northern’ with some incredibly rough, sexy men who had no concept of themselves being perceived as objects of desire in a gay context LOL 🙂

Health and Efficiency


lady running in cold weather

Up early coffee on Thursday morning but my early-opening Starbucks wasn’t open – staff failed to turn up! OK time, just over hour and six minutes. All one kilometre stretches under 7 mins bar one. Overall, I still feel I can push down the time in the future.


Still heading in the right direction even with my lapses last week like fish and chips in Scunthorpe. Under 14 stone which is a big achievement and very good news for my fatty liver. But I must maintain this and continue to push it down. Losing weight (and keeping it off) is bloody hard work.

Details on jog-run times and weight patterns can be found here.

Pilates, massage and gym


No yoga last week simply because of lack of time particularly with the trip to Scunthorpe. Last Monday was busy with another basic Reformer Pilates session and then my mate practicing his newly-learnt massage skills on me in the afternoon. Some good pilates moves that really impacted my legs and then various trial strokes.

Jog-run on Thursday so the rest of the day recovering with Velvet Page Book Club in the evening. Friday was a rest day though with a long purposeful walk from Olympia to Victoria. Two gym sessions were both squeezed into the weekend. Neither too long but great to work on parts of my body I felt needed focus. 🙂

World's Strongest Man

Personal Development

Finished watching the YouTube film on Node.js which really stupified me at times. I decided to move onto another Free Code Camp film on CSS. This relates to the online exercises I am doing but probably isn’t pushing my learning as much as I need.

Cup of coffee

Languages saw some progress especially Spanish vocabulary based on the use of the Drops app. But both coding and languages were interrupted by the trip to my mother-in-law for her birthday. Routine is important in creating space for learning though it does undermine spontaneity.

Emails were kept on top of. But no time to do any art work nor to visit any cultural places or have cultural experiences. 🙁

The Week Ahead

  • The first May bank holiday. My favourite month of the year because of the weather and 2 bank holidays 🙂
  • Yoga, jog-run, massage, pilates and gym all lined up
  • Me and Dave off to the ‘Place in the Sun’ exhibition on Friday
  • Should get through 2 books
  • Planning to make personal development progress
  • Next Sat is the big annual church fayre at St Peter’s Eaton Square. Hopefully our friends Patrick and Stephen will also be going 🙂

And Finally…

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