Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Attitude problem

I have never really been interested in reading the gay press. I don’t know if this means I am a traitor or trying to deny my sexuality or whatever but the truth of it is that I find all of it, without exception, maddeningly dull.

Whether it’s the po-faced reporting of the Pink Paper or the scary zoom lens-obsessed freebies you find in Soho, I’ve carefully avoided as much of this reading material as I can.

One magazine I have been unable to evade is Attitude. My other half occasionally buys it and so it finds its way into our living room. When it does, I usually pick it up and give it a cursory glance. The formula remains the same across most of the issues I’ve seen: smatterings of consumer porn; reviews; fashion shoots with underweight men in their late teens wearing clothes only Elton and David could afford; interviews with supposed gay icons along with the most icky part of all- an interview with a straight, attractive male celebrity.

Now, why the ick, you may ask? Am I so shallow as to assume that the gay readership of this magazine wouldn’t be interested in a straight celebrity? Well, of course not. The problem lies in the content of the interview. The interview will usually be accompanied by a ‘shirtless’ photospread, always really badly shot and photoshopped and showing the subject in a variety of poses that someone who had never had sex with anyone other than themselves may find alluring. Said photos will then be adorned with pull quotes which highlight anything remotely homosexual the straight celeb may have hinted on during the interview. The copy itself will be shallow and badly composed, with over half of it asking questions desperate to tease out the tiniest smidgen of homosexuality, and most of the rest of it concerned with how the star feels about getting his kit off and casting aspersions on his sexual prowess.

This month’s celeb- an airbrushed Steve Jones- is photographed as if he were a juicy steak in a butcher’s window; one image shows a close-up of his chest and nothing else. The questions he is asked are adolescent and, frankly, boring, and the ‘revelation’ that he kissed another male friend when pissed and for a bet (clearly included to help on their way any reader who struggled to orgasm over the chest shot) seems forced and was probably proffered so that Jones could end the interview sooner. After all that, tagged onto the end of the interview is a question about growing up in Wales, which is notable only for the fact it is completely out-of-step with the rest of the piece.

Attitude, and other magazines like it, have done a lot of good work in raising awareness and promoting acceptability of homosexuality, as well as encouraging unsure young teens to take that terrifying step out in the wider gay world, but drivel like this overshadows any merit and that’s a shame. Is this the kind of press that is supposed to inform and inspire me?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I'm a slave for you

I’ve spent some of tonight watching a very odd TV programme on Channel 4. Entitled ‘Personal Services Required’, the Apprentice-style show sees three potential house servants spend a couple of days with their prospective employers. After a couple of days’ trial with one couple or family, the potential hired helps move on to the next set of employers. I had never seen it before, but I was open-mouthed within a few minutes of watching. Our three servants, Andrew, Vivian and Wendy Ann, were due to spend 48 hours each with both the Grassos, a couple working long hours and living in a ridiculously big tacky house with a spoiled daughter in Bedfordshire as well as the Walshes, who run a dog luxury hotel and spa. The job up for grabs was that of housekeeper

The Grassos, who were clearly trying as hard as they could to distance themselves from their tower block upbringings in some sink estate in London, made short work of disdainful uber-bitch Vivian, despatching her off into the sunset after less than a day. As the Grassos slobbed around their ‘executive mansion’ and rolled their eyes at prim and proper Vivian, salt-of-the-earth type Wendy Ann was refusing to take a resident of the luxury dog spa for a swim. It was fascinating to watch the wannabe housekeepers recoil from the tasks they were being asked to do. As Vivian’s forked tongue pointed out: “they want a cleaner, not a housekeeper.”

Vivian then decamped to the dog hotel and wonderfully drove the Walshes to distraction by twittering ‘By The Light of the Silvery Moon’ while she cleaned shit off the carpet. Over at the Grassos, slightly camp Andrew took his place in amongst the lions’ den. Seemingly-spoiled daughter Sasha took an instant dislike to him and mother Gabriela seemed to revel in having a servant. She asked meek and mild Andrew to wear chauffeur’s livery, including a hat, to which he took offence. To be fair to him, Andrew said he thought they would look ridiculous walking around with a chauffeur in full garb. The upwardly mobile Grassos then took Wendy Ann into their home and, as she was the kind of subservient, grateful person that people with a few noughts on their statements loved, proved very popular, The teenage daughter, who didn’t even have to make her own bed, campaigned hard for Wendy Ann to be hired, arguing like a real svengali that they could ‘mould her’. Sure the parents worked long hours but all the child had to do was go to school; couldn’t she tidy her own shit up? The house was the kind of house that would have had my mother clutching her chest in shock: scruffiness masquerading as bohemia. Andy proved to be a smash at the dog spa but ultimately thought animal magic didn’t really have as much sparkle as he thought it would.

I watched this programme in awe. For a long time, I’ve considered having a cleaner ad have searched in vain for a recommendation. Now, I’m not so sure: do I really want to be like the self-indulgent sloths on this show, bitching because my serf didn’t want to clean my toilet and wear a uniform?

The end of the programme saw the potential housekeepers swap notes. Surprisingly, they all disagreed about their servitude, with Wendy Ann defending the Grassos, while Andrew and Vivian surmised they were simply lazy.

In the end, Andrew turned down a position at the dog spa and Wendy Ann tired of the Grassos’ supercilious interview style and declined their offer of £16,500 for a week of 16 hour days.

I now know for sure what I suspected all along: the only person I want doing my cleaning is me (or my mum, ho ho ho). My working class guilt wouldn’t have it any other way.