Monday 14 March 2022

Walking the time tunnel of gay youth

To London without a cat

London was a destination over the weekend by reason of an error in my hotel booking last month where I had inadvertently made a non-refundable hotel booking for March when I was planning for February. A situation not helped by the fact that the first 28 days in a non-leap year are the same for both months, you have to be alert, or you will be caught out.

It reminds me of a time when I booked a flight to depart in the third week of the month and the website automatically presented the next month for my return that when I finally saw what I had booked, I was going away for 5 weeks instead of a week. Were it not that I had booked a ticket that allowed for alterations, I would have been paying through the nose to sort it out.

Shorn a sandal to scandal

Now, I only discovered I had booked a hotel for the wrong dates when I was checking for the address to give a black cab at London Euston Station, it came up that my booking was in 28 days. There wasn’t much I could do than to immediately make another booking for that weekend whilst planning that I would return to London in 4 weeks.

As I told the black cab driver, I was going to Dolphin Square, he did not need giving any directions, it was until later that I realised I was going to a place of political scandal and notoriety, famous for the Profumo Affair amongst other notable controversies. If it once housed 70 MPs and 10 Lords, you only needed to speak the language of the walls to hear some intriguing and hair-raising stories. O was not planning on contributing to the list of ignominy.

The apartment was quite well-proportioned, with sash windows, no air conditioning, or modern conveniences as a dishwasher or a washing machine. There were flat-screen televisions in the living room and the bedroom, ample storage space, but wireless internet came on one voucher for one device. I had to tether other devices off my mobile phone. It was at best a bachelor’s pad on the fifth floor.

To memories of youth wasted

Its proximity to the north bank of the Thames made for an easy route for my walking exercises as I walked up Grosvenor Road then crossed Chelsea Bridge to the south bank onto the Thames path to Battersea Power Station to veer off onto Nine Elms Lane, past the US Embassy and to my left I was surprised that despite all the new developments there were parts of an old gay haunt still standing strong.

About 30 years ago, on Sundays, we attended the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to watch drag acts including Lily Savage, until the pub closed at 2:00 PM and off we went to Market Tavern for the afternoon, a darkened venue that served a Sunday lunch of chilli-con-carne and rice whilst we danced away until the pubs opened again at 7:00 PM. Whilst the Market Tavern has long since gone, the memories did come flooding back.

To memories of lives wasted

Then I walked past Vauxhall and the MI6 headquarters where for the first time, I did see someone, a lady, leave the building. You always had the feeling the workers there secreted themselves into the building by some secret passageway, but that would be a little farfetched, it is people like us who work there, not an alien lifeform.

Walking on toward the St Thomas’ Hospital where the wall facing the Thames hosts the National COVID Memorial Wall and a veritable sign of government ineptitude in the handling of this pandemic that has to date claimed 162,738 lives.

I took my turn back over the Westminster Bridge, by the Houses of Parliament at Westminster Palace, the scaffolding was now taken off the bell tower of Big Ben and wended my way to my accommodations to start my day of social events. My 10,000 steps done and a bit more too.

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