Tales of the Second City

Misadventures on the Birmingham Gay Scene

  • Something Sweet for Easter II: Size Doesn’t Matter.
    I felt like I was in an arthouse movie… with subtitles and an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Cinematography’ (One of those films that rarely wins an Oscar, but you feel worthy for having seen).
  • The Etiquette of Naked Dining and Other Occasions to Let it All Hang Out
    I had done Grindr encounters and sex parties, but naked dining was a whole new ballgame (so to speak), of which I had no experience or idea of the etiquette.
  • Most Important Meal Of The Day
    Although this vixen certainly isn’t the only toxic character I have met on the scene, he is the one who lingers in my thoughts. It was sad to see someone alienate everyone they meet, people that could potentially become friends, partners, surrogate family and a welcoming community… if only he let them.
  • Cut and Blow
    “Well, I hope I have a sexual encounter this afternoon,” my partner told me in desperation, as I left for work that morning, “or, at the very least, a haircut.”
  • God Save The Queen
    It had been many years since this celebrity had been the lanky heartthrob of my youth, but some bits never change, so I followed him into the gents for a peek.
  • Birmingham’s Busiest Quiet Road
    Months of anti-LGBTQ protests peaked the night thirty masked thugs launched an attack on the road. We didn’t know what was happening… until the first volley of eggs hit our windows.
  • In the Shadows
    Just beyond the bright lights, drink fuelled merriment and music are quiet corners, secluded spots and secret places. A nest of backstreet hook-up hideaways. Birmingham’s gay beat… just off the beaten track. The scene unseen.
  • Urinal Encounters: Revised and Relieved
    The unwritten rulebook of gay toilets deems talk forbidden, but peeking and downright lechery perfectly acceptable.
  • Tales of Christmas Past
    One beautiful lad, dressed in nothing but a snug pair of gold lame trucks, showed off his moves and physique on the small dancefloor, but lost balance and tottered toward the lavishly adorned fir tree.
  • Garden-Variety Landlady
    “While you are staying with me, you are one of the family.” Our landlady turned to ascend the imposing staircase, kaftan swirling behind her, and I turned to my partner and mouthed gleefully, “Oh my God, it’s Mrs Madrigal!”
  • Coming Attractions
    ‘In the disorientating gloom, I managed to open the toilet door into my own face. As I stumbled to the urinals, half asleep and nursing my bruised head, a shadow at the tall window caught my eye. I stifled a scream. Silhouetted in the orange light of the streetlamps, was a figure stood on the external window ledge. ‘
  • That Time I Took My Straight Mate to a Gay Sex Club
    Now, while Jamie certainly is not the first married man to spend an evening in a gay sex club, I suspect he is one of the few to go home and tell the wife.
  • Last One Out Please Turn Off the Lights
    With ever tightening restrictions on hospitality, job losses and venue closures were inevitable, but I was deeply saddened to hear the announcement that Eden Bar was closing its doors for business after 13 fabulous years. I suspect, it will not be the last to fall.
  • A Nightmare on Hurst Street
    The conversation at the Halloween party turned appropriately to tales of ghosts and the unexplained. I told the small group I was stood with about a spooky incident that happened to my father, many years ago…
  • CRACKANORY: Register of Unfortunate Names
    There was the stirring Chinese name of Ting Lee Wang and the painful sounding Chew Kok; the promising Thai tag of Wae Phat Coc; the unintentionally geeky Taiwanese moniker of Wanky Fan; a hot Italian barman blemished by the name Farthi; the poor Indonesian girl branded Windi; and a Polish lad, whom apparently took a friends virginity, with the spectacular name of Fudge Fadge McGadge. It is not known whether he took her up the fudge or her fadge, but I don’t suppose it really matters.
  • Nishant Mallick and the Apartment of Fire
    Apparently, this drama happened in the space of a few minutes. Up he got and off did trot as fast as he could caper and his friend was surprised to see Nishant stagger back into the flat, looking like something from the conclusion of Carrie, when he had only popped out to get a few snacks.
  • Do You Know Who I Am?
    The girl looked like she was on the verge of storming off when a thought occurred to her. She pointed out one member of their party, who stood out already with his cool head of bleached twists and said, “Hang on, you can’t turn us away. Do you know who this is?”
  • qaStaHvIS wa’ ram loSSaD Hugh SIjlaH qetbogh loD
    Messages pinged back and forth across the city all morning as the stunned gay community checked in with each other and reassured everyone that we were lucky enough to be safe and unscathed.
  • Relieving the Grind of Grindr
    Most conversations on Grindr go from ‘Hi’, or sometimes the awkwardly accurate typo of ‘Ho’, to an exchange of cock shots in under a dozen messages. Not that I’m complaining. I wholeheartedly believe that this is what Grindr is there for. I get a little irritated with pithy profiles that whine, ‘All anyone wants is sex on here!’ or ‘If you are only after hook-ups, don’t message me.’. If you ain’t after a shag, then don’t go on Grindr! It is like boiling a kettle then moaning that the water is too hot. That’s what it’s there for.
  • Pimping My Partner
    “I make the most money selling top end, designer underwear,” he told me, but went on to explain that there was a market for budget Primark pants too. “Different people want different things. Some guys just want them used in a general sort of way, so I take several pairs out with me, change them throughout the day and then pop them in the post when I get home. Sometimes, I whip up an express order by pulling on a pair and going for a jog. Instant used pants. Job done.”
  • The Siege of Dennis Road
    There were shouts and screams coming from far end of the street, vehicles screeching into the cul-de-sac, and masked men were yelling insults and hurling eggs at the houses and cars of those that dared display the rainbow flag, while that ‘General in a war’ agitator was orchestrating the ‘battle’ from a conveniently deniable distance.
  • Voice of the Nightingale
    The Nightingale Club has been at the heart and in the hearts of the Birmingham gay community for over 50 years.
  • Flying the Flag
    The following week, the protests at the school gates started. Every evening, as the pupils were heading home, a crowd of parents and their supporters would gather in Dennis Road to wave banners and shout about their rights to decide what aspects of modern British society their children would or would not accept. Every evening this small cul-de-sac was filled with chants of “Our Children, Our Choice,” “Head-teacher Re-sign,” and, my personal favourite, “We Will Not Tolerate Intolerance!”
  • Back in Business
    I suspect Ruru was like an excited child on Christmas morning when that Saturday arrived. I imagine him up at the crack of dawn, washed, dressed, sprayed with far too much cologne, man-bag packed and sat on the bottom step of the stairs, impatiently counting down the minutes until his pre-booked Uber arrived to take him to our 4 o’clock slot at Missing Bar.
  • The Art of the Flirt
    So anyway, everywhere I go, I radiate smiles in all directions. Miles of smiles. This makes me look like the friendliest person on the planet… or possibly a bit simple.
  • A Babe in the Woods
    I had heard somewhere that assailants are less inclined to attack if they can relate to you as a person rather than just a victim. I think I had picked that up from watching Silence of the Lambs. He listened to me in ominous silence (just like those lambs) and didn’t smile.
  • Veil of Ignorance
    An opportunistic agitator, took advantage of parent’s concerns, spreading misinformation and incorrectly claiming that a gay lifestyle was being promoted at the schools. He hijacked any legitimate parental concerns and aggressively exploited them for his own agenda of distrust and division.
  • The Boy with Hearts in His Eyes
    Meet Ruru… the Marmite of the Birmingham gay scene. Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him. A beguiling Yemini, capable of going from sweet boy to sassy bitch in just one of his faint heartbeats.
  • Birmingham Pride. Part 3 – Slipping in the Backdoor
    After chatting with the Unit 2 staff for a while, we wished them a ‘Happy Pride’ and departed, but as we re-emerged onto the street, I got the devil in me.
  • Birmingham Pride. Part 2 – For the Love of Cock
    The first year I wore the ‘This Man Likes Cock’ T-shirt, I was skirting around the perimeter of the Pride enclosure (I don’t tend to buy tickets for the main event anymore, choosing instead to troll between the half dozen or so venues that are on the periphery of the scene.), when I was clocked by a group of policemen.
  • Birmingham Pride: Part 1 – A City Filled with Love
    I love how the inspiring parade represents all tribes of the LGBTQ community in full debauchery and glory: gay parents, with children riding on their shoulders or in buggies, stroll side by side with drag queens and half-dressed stilt walkers; floats of spinning pole dancers follow representatives of the emergency services; leather clad clones march behind the military; same-sex ballroom couples are just one – quick quick slow – step behind Caribbean steel-drummers and bhangra beats; corporate companies, cashing in on the kudos, are represented alongside political parties and genuine civil rights campaigners. All are represented in the colours of the rainbow.
  • Nishant Mallick and the Half-Baked Scheme
    Every time our paths crossed on the scene, Nishant would tickle me with some yarn about his life or antics at the Birmingham College of Food, all told in his sing-song accent and with an endearing wiggle of the head, so characteristic of South Asia.
  • Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson
    Sarah is a vibrant, dynamic, caring, progressive, determined woman, with her own striking style. Imagine Mrs McClusky with a dash of Sue Pollard.
  • Play It Again… Max
    He must live his whole life like a goldfish, coasting around the bars of Birmingham with no lasting memory of anything that occurs. He can keep doing the same things, with the same people, over and over again and each time is like the first time. The perpetual virgin.
  • Last Orders At The Bar, Please
    I unexpectedly found myself out on the tiles to see the doors close, the shutters come down and the lights go out on Hurst Street. Last orders at the bar, please!
  • Something Sweet for Easter
    Easter Sunday, my partner and I popped into our local supermarket to pick up a few things for dinner. I immediately headed to the shelves of discounted Easter eggs. “You don’t need any more chocolate,” my partner chastised me, like a disapproving parent. “Haven’t you got enough eggs at home?” … Continue reading Something Sweet for Easter
  • CRACKANORY: Nanny’s Fanny
    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.
  • Urinal Encounters: Quite the Predicament
    The door opened inwards and was on the side of the cubical, rather than facing the toilet, so it was easy to flatten myself against the wall and remain concealed behind it.
  • Urinal Encounters: Taking the Piss
    I barrelled into a pub toilet and stepped into the only available space at the long communal urinal. A friend’s boyfriend was stood on my immediate right, so I greeted him with a friendly, “Hello… No peeking!” He is Chinese and, although his English is good, it isn’t perfect, so … Continue reading Urinal Encounters: Taking the Piss
  • Urinal Encounters: Upon Reflection
    There were only two porcelain urinals in the Gents, both tucked into a very small alcove.
  • Urinal Encounters: Pretty in Pink
    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.
  • What Goes Around…
    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.
  • Puppy Love
    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.
  • 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 … Continue reading Daring to Bare
  • Queer as Fuck: An Audience with Russell T Davies
    I have always hoped that the T in Russell T Davies stood for Tiberius, as in ‘James Tiberius Kirk’. I suppose I could just Google it to find out, but I would only be disappointed to learn that it was something more mundane… besides I had the opportunity to ask … Continue reading Queer as Fuck: An Audience with Russell T Davies
  • 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 … Continue reading To Sir, With Thanks. X
  • Please, Don’t Let Me Trip
    I didn’t exactly explode onto the Birmingham gay scene in ‘glorious rainbow technicolour’, but more ‘creep apprehensively down a flight of steep stairs’…  and straight into a mortifyingly familiar face. At age 18, my Friday nights were usually spent with a group of school friends, alternating between several pubs that … Continue reading Please, Don’t Let Me Trip
  • Finding the Gems
    I looked up to see a petite, South Asian lad beaming a wide grin at me from the other side of the rectangular bar that dominates the core of the club. The lad turned his large, doe like, eyes bashfully to the floor. I waited the few self-conscious moments that it required for him to muster the confidence to look back up again, then returned his smile, picked up my drink and walked around the bar.
  • 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 … Continue reading Setting Out My Stall

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