Tag Archives: gay

I must be getting old

I remember the time when London Pride was the highlight of my summer, especially the two years it came to Clapham. What better way to have fun than spending the day in the park with mates, getting drunk, going on the funfair, seeing bands on the stage, dancing like and idiot and generally marvelling at the diversity of 200,000 gays and lesbians partying together without a care in the world.

London has changed so much in that time, getting so much more liberal, to the extent that I just don’t feel the need to go to London Pride any more, it just feels a bit pointless now that no-one cares if you’re gay anymore, and the party itsself just feels a bit like a retreat back into the ghetto. Although I must admit I think it may be more that I’ve changed more, and it’s just the idea of several hours of unbridled hedonism in the streets of Soho surrounded by people half my age has for some reason lost its appeal.

But despite all that I’ve kept going to Brighton Pride – it’s nice to get out of the city and head down to the coast (even if that bit of the coast is just London-on-sea), the party is still in the park, and it just seems so much more friendly and laidback compared to the insanity of the London one. So as usual, I travelled down with mates for the weekend, and do you know what? I hated it. Far too many people, too much noise, too many queues for absolutely everything – and ended up leaving the park after an hour to head back into town and found myself a nice straight pub to settle down in for the evening to avoid the mayhem going on around me. As I sat there, it suddenly dawned on me that the problem was clearly not Pride, but me: I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.

I have no idea how that crept up on me – it’s only a couple of months ago that I was enjoying myself in far bigger crowds at Glastonbury – but I discussed it with friends and they all agreed with me. And pointed out other symptoms I hadn’t considered. Drinking real ale instead of lager? Old. Choosing weekends walking in the countryside rather than getting pissed in London? Old. Finding myself agreeing with Tory politicians sometimes? Old (and scary).*

The whole thing made me want to go and do something crazy in attempt to fend off the ageing process. And then I realised I will be: I’m quitting my job to head round the world for a year, with nothing to come back to. Which made me feel a whole lot better.

*the alternative explanation for all of these symptoms would have been even scarier: I’m finally turning straight.

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Oil Wrestling

When I first booked the holiday to Istanbul, I had a look on the Turkish tourist board website to see if anything was going on while I was there, and found that my visit coincided with the annual Kirkpinar oil wrestling festival in Edirne, a couple of hours away from Istanbul.

Intrigued, I tried to find more info online, but there was very little available. I found this surprising – these days, you expect to be able to find anything on the internet. To find almost nothing about one of the oldest sporting events in the world was odd, to say the least. But ultimately I wasn’t all that bothered, so gave up.

One night while we were out in Istanbul, we got chatting to another group of tourists from Finland, who it had come over partly for the festival. It turned out one of them was an expat Turk, so I mentioned the difficulty I’d had in finding information, and he explained that the reason there was so little available in English was that in recent years the event had been attracting increasing numbers of western gay tourists. So the organisers apparently decided to stop promoting it to (English-speaking) tourists – which is quite a step when the event in question is apparently the oldest continuously held annual sporting event in the world (this year was the 647th).

I find it amazing – surely even without the presence of large numbers of drooling bears, the locals must have noticed the spectacle of large hairy men covering themselves in olive oil and shoving their hands down each others tight leather shorts as they grapple with each other on the ground was a tad homo-erotic?

I also find it sad – obviously Turkey is a more conservative country than the UK, and I understand that an influx of gay visitors may make some people uncomfortable – but the fact that they’ve now stopped publicising such a historic event means people are missing out.

Anyway, here’s a not-at-all gratuitous shot of this year’s tournament I snapped from this year’s TV coverage:

Any sport fans reading may be interested in these far better shots of this year’s festival, from Flickr.