CRACKANORY: Nanny’s Fanny

We all have stories to tell, so this is the first of a sporadic series where I recount the tales of others.

One pleasant Sunday afternoon, I was sat in Eden Bar with a good friend. The bright sun failed to penetrate the comfortingly dim interior, with its dark walls and heavy velvet drapes, that wouldn’t look out of place in Miss Havisham’s Dickensian drawing room. It was the perfect setting for my friend to tell me a story, although maybe a ghost story would have been more appropriate. In fact, any story would have been more appropriate that this most inappropriate of tales.

My friend and I have a mutual mate called Luke, who speaks his mind with uncompromising directness and is armed with a hilariously sick sense of humour, a character trait that he has possessed since childhood, apparently.

Back when Luke and his brother Jack where aged 11 and 15 respectively, they were staying overnight at their grandmother’s home. There was only the one bed available, so their nan dutifully allowed the boys to sleep in it, while she fashioned herself a nest on the floor from spare blankets and pillows.

During the night, Luke woke up and glanced down at where his nan was slumbering. In her bid to get comfortable, Nan had discarded her sheets and was sprawled uncovered on her makeshift bed. Luke was horrified to see that her nocturnal squirming had caused her nightie to ride up and expose Nanny’s naked nether regions, out there and glistening in the moonlight.

Luke frantically woke his brother, and the two boys descended into a stifled fit of adolescent giggles, as they peered over the edge of the bed at the startling sight.

“Look, look, look… Nanny’s fanny!” Luke sniggered. Suddenly, a twisted idea came to him and, seizing an opportunity to torment his brother in a way that only a sibling could, Luke challenged, “I bet it stinks. Dare you to sniff it!”

Jack refused.

“Go on, sniff it. I dare you!”

“I’m not doing it!!”

“You’ve got to, it’s a dare. Sniff Nanny’s fanny.”

“No!”

“If you don’t sniff Nanny’s fanny, you are a chicken.”

“No way!”

“Chicken… chicken… chicken.”

Finally, after much taunting and goading, Luke managed to pressure his older brother into complying.

Jack crept stealthily off the bed and over to their grandmother’s sleeping form. Egged on by his younger brother, he knelt and lowered his head until his nose hovered just above the exposed region.

Suddenly, quick as a flash, Luke thrust out his arm, grabbed the back of his brother’s head and shoved him face first into the crotch.

Nan awoke in confusion to find her grandson nose deep in her vagina and pandemonium naturally ensued. Jack the ‘Vagina Miner’ vigorously claimed that he had got up to use the bathroom and tripped, while Luke feigned innocence and pretended that the commotion had just woken him up.

So wrong, but so funny.

A few months after being told this tale, I had the pleasure of hearing Luke tell it himself on a packed train to London… much to the distain of the elderly gentleman sat across the aisle from us.

Back on that sunny Sunday afternoon in Eden Bar, my friend and I raised a glass to, “The original Fanny Chmelar”.

Urinal Encounters: Pretty in Pink

I’ve had some odd encounters at urinals over the years. No, not like that! Well… Yes, like that, but not on this occasion.

I was stood at a pub urinal, getting on with the job in hand, so to speak, when an olive-skinned guy with a heavy dark beard came and stood next to me.

Even in gay venues the etiquette is that men don’t tend to engage in conversation while stood next to each other having a pee. It’s the same rule of awkward silence that applies to lifts, bus stops and the waiting room of an STD clinic. They are not the places for chitchat.

I quickly became aware that the bearded guy kept casting, not so subtle, glances in my direction. This certainly isn’t an uncommon occurrence in the lavatories of a gay bar, in fact it’s pretty much standard practice. The unwritten rule book of gay toilet etiquette seems to have deemed that talk is forbidden, but peeking, flirtation and downright lechery are perfectly acceptable or even to be encouraged.

Unexpectedly, my urinal companion dared to disregard convention and said, in a strong Middle Eastern accent, “I like your colour.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your colour, I like.”

I thanked him, assuming he was referring to my hair, as I am ginger with flecks of grey. More ‘Salt and Paprika’ than ‘Salt and Pepper.’

“Yes,” he continued. “Very pink!”

“Pink?!”

He now had my full attention.

“Your face is very pink. I like very much.”

Being fair haired and light skinned, I do develop a flush in my cheeks after a few beers. It was undoubtedly one the least common compliments I have received, but it was so sincerely meant that I was happy to take it.

They say that opposites attract, so it makes sense that someone with his swarthy looks would be intrigued by my pink blush.

A Sicilian friend once told me about spending a summer holiday on the nude beaches of Italy, surrounded by his naked countrymen.

“It sounds like heaven,” I sighed.

“No, it was boring,” he replied. “They all looked like me!”

To each their own. For me it would be a beach full of exotic looking men, for him it was like looking into an infinity mirror.

What Goes Around…

There is an oft quoted claim that gay men have more sexual partners in a single year than their straight counterparts do in a lifetime. I find this very easy to believe, considering that a recent survey concludes that heterosexual men only have an average total of 14 partners. The gay guys I know could clock up that tally in a slow month, good week or busy Sunday afternoon in the sauna.

Responsible gay men opt for a regular sexual health MOT. I usually take advantage of the pop-up clinics that appear in bars, clubs and other venues on the gay scene. With a couple of unobtrusive swabs, a few samples and a prick of blood, the job’s done and the results are efficiently text to you over the following week. It is free, quick and simple, gives you peace of mind… and more importantly ensures that you are not out there spreading the ‘love’.

Over the years I have had the luck of the Devil, other than a couple of infestations of crabs, I have managed to avoid any sexually transmitted diseases. That was until last year.

I initially noticed a faint burning sensation when I urinated, which got more intense over a few days until I dreaded having to take a pee. It rapidly got to the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I phoned in sick and took myself to the drop-in clinic in the basement of Boots the Chemist in Birmingham city centre.

I was immediately struck by how attractive my fellow patients were. I suppose the more attractive you are, the more opportunities you get to catch a sexually transmitted infection.

My partner told me about how he was once cruised by a hot guy while waiting for a sexual health check-up at the Whittall Street branch, but decided that the clap clinic was the last place that you wanted to pick up a guy. What else would you pick up?!

The brilliant Umbrella services provide daily walk-in appointments, but places are limited and are offered on a first come, first served basis, so I was told to arrive as the store opened and wait in line until the clinic itself raised their shutters an hour or so later. It proved to be good advice. I arrived early as instructed and there was already a queue forming.

I had a long wait, made marginally more interesting by a mouse scurrying across the waiting room floor creating brief pandemonium.

For a while it looked like they were going to have to close the clinic due to health and safety concerns, but the decision was left to us patients. We were told that no vermin had been seen in the self-enclosed medical area so, if we were happy to proceed with the appointments, the clinic would remain open.

There was a resounding, “YES!!!”

All I could think was, Please God, don’t make me wait any longer! I’ve had to take a day off work already… and my cock is burning off!!

Finally, I was called to an examination room by a pleasant woman wearing a hijab. I had hoped for her handsome male colleague, but I suppose it is best not to be intimately examined by someone you find attractive, as the uncontrollable effects could be awkward.

The nurse explained that, before she did any tests, she would have to take me through a series of questions relating to my recent sexual history.

The first question was about my sexuality, “Do you identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bi?”

“Homosexual.”

“Do you engage in anal sex?”

“Yes.”

“Do you engage in oral sex?”

“Oooooh yes!”

A hint of a smile played at the corner of her lips.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so enthusiastic.”

The questions moved on to sexual partners.

“How many do you have on average?”

I thought about it for a moment and then estimated, “Around… half a dozen?”

“I’ll put you down as ‘Six a month’.”

“A month?!!” I spluttered, “I thought you meant a week!”

She professionally tapped this information into the computer without comment.

When a mate of mine was once asked this same question about numbers of partners, he casually replied, “Well, there are three of them currently sat in the waiting room, if that’s any indication?”

My nurse continued with her questions and, handing me a sheet of paper listing the continents of the world subdivided into separate regions, she asked, “Have you ever had a sexual contact with anyone from any of these areas?”

I scanned the two columns of geographical regions: South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, North Asia, Australasia; United States and Canada, Central America, South America, Caribbean, etc.

Antarctica was not included on the list, as presumably no one sleeps with penguins… apart from other penguins, if they play their cards right.

Handing the sheet back, I simply replied, “Yes.”

The nurse gave a soft sigh and explained in a patient tone, “No, you are meant to identify which of those regions you may have had a sexual partner from.”

“Yes, I understand,” I replied. “All of them. I have very eclectic tastes and I’m a sucker for an accent.”

She shook her head and grinned, “You are refreshingly honest.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? You do this every day and have seen and heard it all. You aren’t going to judge. I may as well be totally upfront.”

If you are brazened enough to catch the infection, you need to be confident enough to discuss it with a professional. The STD clinic is no place to be bashful… or pick up guys, apparently.

Puppy Love

There is one relatively new tribe within the LGBTQ+++ community that had always baffled me, the ‘Human Pups’. This is where like-minded folk don full-face dog masks, rubber body suits, harnesses or collars and meet at ‘Pup Socials’ to play, fetch ball, fight and receive walks and petting from their handlers.

I just could not understand the appeal and although I had bumped into pups in various bars, I have never felt the desire to roll over or sniff butts with them.

I did once unintentionally affront one handler when I casually greeted his pet with, “What’s new… Scooby Doo?”

Ironically, it was the handler that snarled, “He doesn’t look like Scooby Doo!”

I looked from handler to pup and back to handler again and said, “Weeeeeeeeell… he does a bit.”

The pup cocked his head in an approachable manner and let out a series of friendly yaps, which I took to mean that I hadn’t put his cold wet nose out of joint.

The handler did have a point though, the pup didn’t really look like Scooby Doo… more Dynomutt or Ace – The Bat Hound (Yes, Batman really does have a crime fighting dog. Google it.).

The costumes are actually very cool… and I was about to have my views of this subculture within a subculture turned on its head.

I was going out to the cinema with Robin, a mate that I have known for more years than I care to mention. We had arranged to meet at a bar on Hurst Street before the film. Unbeknown to me, a pup social was taking place upstairs in a separate function room, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a litter of human canines coming and going around the place. Although I may not have understood the appeal of this fetish, they always added welcome variety to a night out.

As Robin and I stood chatting, two pups scampered up behind my friend and started to scratch him behind the ear. Without turning around, Robin immediately leaned into the scratch, stuck out his tongue and began to pant in appreciation.

The two guys departed, and Robin carried on as though nothing had happened, but then, registering my perplexed expression, said, “Oh, you have probably just learned something new about me.”

Robin is someone for whom I have a great fondness and respect. The winner of ‘Best in Show’ at Chuffs in my opinion. When we first met him, my partner and I both agreed that he was perfect boyfriend material for some very lucky man. I now had an opportunity to talk to someone that I held in high esteem about this strange new world and learn all about a dog’s life.

Robin explained that it wasn’t necessarily all about sexual fetishism, as the events attract a mix of gay, straight and bi men and women. It is more a form of escapism. A way of taking on a role, separate from the normality of everyday life and entering a fantasy, devoid of responsibility. It’s not unlike attending the increasingly popular Comic Con and cult TV events and losing yourself in the role of a Starfleet officer, Minecraft character, superhero or favourite incarnation of a particular Timelord.

The more I listened, the more pleased I became that this unique practice was represented by the many stripes of the all-embracing Rainbow Flag.

I knew it was an ignorant question, but I had to ask, “Do people pick up poop?!”

“At some events… but that’s hardcore.”

“Are there feeding bowls?”

“Yes, but they are hard to drink out of when wearing the mask. You need a straw.”

“Do you own a mask?”

“No, not yet. They are really expensive.”

It must be a costly business. The masks can cost hundreds of pounds then there’s the suits, the harness, collar, chain, toys… worming tablets, pet insurance, vet bills and kennel costs… not to mention tins of Chum, dry food and maybe the treat of some pâté if they are good.

Much later that night, as we left the cinema, two guys spotted Robin from across the street and barked out a loud, “ARF! ARF!””

Robin responded in kind.

I suspect it was the same two guys from earlier in the bar, but minus their masks.

I loved the fact that they had this secret signal that allowed them to acknowledge a fellow pup while out in public in their civvies. It was like the masonic handshake.

Back at the bar, Robin and I had one last drink together, but I could tell that the pack was calling and he really wanted to be upstairs playing with his friends. It was time to release him back into the wild.

“Go on, go have fun! I’ll be fine down here on my own.”

Robin hugged me goodbye and headed for the stairs.

As he reached the threshold, I called, “Hey Robin!”

He turned.

“You be good dog.”

His eyes narrowed into a hard stare more associated with Paddington Bear than Scooby Doo… then left.

Months later, long after Robin had moved to London, I saw an advert for discount pup masks. Remembering how expensive he had told me they were I forwarded the link. Moments later I received an image in reply of Robin and his new boyfriend tucked up in bed, both wearing dog masks. The response had come back so quickly that it left me wondering if this was just their standard bedwear?

Way back when my partner and I first met Robin, I recall him saying that one day he hoped to have the same settled lifestyle that he perceived we had. He wanted the partner and the dog. It looks like he’s got both… in the same person.

Robin changed my attitude to a facet of the gay community that I didn’t previously appreciate. It took this young pup to teach an old dog new tricks. Xxx

Daring to Bare

The first Sunday of every month, the dresscode is naked or underwear at Birmingham’s self-proclaimed ‘Horniest Club’.

This event is one of the club’s biggest and most popular events, packing the place out with a mix of men in their underwear or just naked. Every ages are in attendance and all body types are on show.

The heating is on full blast during the winter events, but I have been known to head straight for the biggest and busiest darkroom just to huddle together with the other guys, like a colony of penguins, until I acclimatise.

I was once trying to persuade a friend and colleague to come and bare all with me, once the weekend conference that we were working on together was over. I was having to shout to be heard over the hubbub of the noisy staffroom.

“You don’t have to be fully naked,” I reassured him at the top of my voice, then added, precisely at one of those odd moments when all noise simultaneously ceases, “YOU CAN KEEP YOUR PANTS ON!”

There was one occasion, several years ago, when the event coincided with Easter Sunday. I still think that the marketing team missed an opportunity. ‘Naked or Underwear: The ResERECTION. Hallelujah, He Has Risen Again’.

Every month, without fail, I see my old form teacher at the event. He’s now in his late 70s and still baring all. The first time I saw Mr G there, he was stood with his back to me at the bar in nothing but a pair of baggy M&S boxer shorts, so I sidled up, stood behind him and said, “Excuse me sir, I’ve been sent to see you.”

He offered to buy me a pint, which he has kindly continued to do on all subsequent encounters and rarely allows me to buy him one back.

Standing there at a bar with Mr G in the near buff, the conversation meandering through various everyday topics, seemed so normal that it felt like I was in any backstreet boozer but had spontaneously developed X-ray vision.

On another occasion, my chat with Mr G was interrupted by the arrival of my neighbour from several houses down. It took me a moment to place the face, as I didn’t recognise him without his clothes on.

After we talked and he headed off to mingle, I turned to Mr G and said, “This is going to be a challenge. I’ve fancied him since he first moved in, but I can’t go there, as that would be too close for comfort.”

We both agreed that it would be unwise to have sex with a neighbour, as you don’t ‘shit on your own doorstep’.

Well… my resolve lasted all of 20 minutes.

There was one occasion, when myself and a handsome mixed-race guy caught each other’s eye. He flashed me a dazzling smile and vanished into one of the dimly lit cruising areas. I immediately followed.

I soon found him waiting in the gloom. Although they are referred to as ‘darkrooms’ there is adequate light for you to find your quarry, although not always enough to easily negotiate the twisting corridor. I once saw a guy collide full speed into a wall that he had mistaken for a doorway and stay there, like Wile E. Coyote slammed against a fake tunnel entrance painted onto a rockface.

The guy’s name was Kayden and we stood and chatted in the bustling corridor.

“Do you mind me asking, but how old are you?”

“I don’t mind you asking at all. I am forty-seven,” I told him. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-three,” He replied. “I hope I look as good as you… when I get to your age.”

I thanked him for the compliment but explained that he really didn’t need to add the last bit.

Kayden looked sheepish.

“So,” I asked, “have you been to here before?”

It was my turn to look sheepish when he replied, “Yes! You fucked me last month.”

I apologised and gave the feeble excuse, “Well it was dark.”

“That’s OK. I’ll let you make it up to me,” he said, taking my hand and leading me into a cubical.

Once the door was closed, Kayden dropped to his knees and got on task.

I automatically placed my hand on the back of his head and was surprised by the softness of his hair. Being mixed white and Afro-Caribbean, his hair naturally had a pronounced curl, but it had a particularly luxurious feel, like a deep plush carpet.

“Your hair is amazing!”

Kayden paused what he was doing and looked up at me.

Still cupping me in his hand, he gave me an incredulous stare and said in a stonic deadpan, “Yeah… You said that last month.”

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to iron my underwear. 😉

To Sir, With Thanks. X

Being sat at a bar with my form teacher wasn’t exactly how I had expected my first night on the Birmingham gay scene to turn out… but I could not have wanted for a better introduction.

It was a relief to finally have another gay man to confide in and even better that it was a familiar and trusted figure. Here was an opportunity to talk to someone with experience of a world I was taking my first steps into and who had no agenda other than just being there to listen and support.

Although being caught in a gay bar by Mr. G had been a shock, I myself had not been surprised that he frequented such establishments, as rumours about his sexuality had circulated around school for years. The shaved head, handlebar moustache, penchant for a leather jacket and the general ‘Village People’ vibe had always been a bit of a giveaway.

Predictably, I was not the first (or presumably the last) pupil that Mr. G had encountered on the scene during his decades of teaching. It even transpired that only a few weeks earlier a fellow classmate had come to see him in school to confess that he was gay and ask for advice.

Mr. G never revealed the identity of this mystery pupil, as he had been approached in confidence, but several years later I would discover that it had been a good friend and someone on whom I had a schoolboy crush. How different things could have been if we had both come out to each other while still at school. First kiss? Secret affair? Fuck buddy? Prom date?!

As the evening progressed, it was suggested that we move on to ‘The Nightingale’, the city’s only night club in the 1980s. Mr. G was a member of the club and offered to sign me in as his guest.

At this point in ‘The Gales’ history it was a single level venue situated near the stage door of the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. It was accessed through a heavy door set at the end of a short alleyway. You had to ring the bell, wait until a pair of eyes were revealed behind a sliding slot and then confirm that you knew what type of bar it was, before being admitted.

Once inside, I recall an entrance space with a cloakroom, a small bar and I think a gaudy fountain, but I may be mistaken about the water feature. The main room had a large dancefloor at its heart, another bar and plenty of seating. On the far side of the dancefloor was a more private dimly lit area, partitioned off from prying eyes. I remember being baffled as to why anyone would want to disappear into a dark subdivision of a busy nightclub. How naive! So much to learn… and so much fun learning.

At the end of the night, Mr. G drove me home. He dropped me off a few streets away from where I lived, so as not to arouse the suspicions of potentially insomniac parents, awaiting their son’s late-night return.

I am eternally grateful to Mr. G (not actual name) for looking after me on my first night out on the Birmingham gay scene. He was the perfect gentleman… and continues to be so to this day.

Here’s to 30 years and counting. X

Setting Out My Stall

With over thirty years of misadventures on the Birmingham gay scene, I have tales to tell of the places, predicaments and people I have been in.

I have socialised and cruised in the bars, pubs, clubs, saunas and secluded midnight nooks that make up Birmingham’s compact gay village since my late teens. Here are my tales of queer encounters on the gay side of the UK’s much maligned second city.

I have experienced the tender, the terrible and the charmingly touching… but most importantly humour and humanity.

Shining a light on the scene unseen.