The Drag. July 2016.

Dear Rowley,

I’m quite fastidious about printing-off photographs snapped on my iPhone if only because I’ve poleaxed enough MacBook Airs with glasses of red wine to know that technology is not infallible and the iCloud is about as reliable as the Israelites who chose Barabbas.

It was while going back to Titanic that I discovered photographic evidence of my sole experiment in drag since childhood Christmas pantomimes. It was a paid gig I hasten to add. Back in the day when Fanny was still by gaslight a girlfriend of mine ran an art gallery in the East End called The Agency.

One of my friend Miss Schepke’s artists, David, had the idea of recreating the Rolling Stones album cover for Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadow? in which les boys appeared in World War II Coronation Street-style drag. Miss S commandeered a gaggle of us boys who had served in the trenches together aka a salubrious watering hole in Soho called The Yard.

It was a low budget shoot I grant you but actually I thought the result was a pretty fine homage to the Stones as did the Italian collector who bought the piece from the Berlin Art Fair. But it wasn’t the final piece that gave me great pleasure to find in the old album. It was the outtakes of me and Mistress Keegan hamming it up like Minnie Caldwell and Elsie Tanner on the streets of Hoxton.

Anthony and I are old, old, old, ooooold friends. We’ve had more adventures than the Mouseketeers with the third cog in the wheel Mr Brown. Between us we’ve rocked London by the heels, cried a river, laughed like jackasses and broken hearts … both ours and other people’s. Dragging-up in the East End was just one of many magic moments that we’ve enjoyed together. We all speak weekly and I’m off to spend two weeks with Anthony in Toronto in August.

So after false start holiday plans to Delhi and Jaipur last Christmas and New York/Toronto earlier this month, I’m packing my little leather Gurkha holdall and will be off to Heathrow in a couple of weeks. Not going on holiday in the past years was all a part of the ‘because I’m not worth it’ mind set that manifested itself in my not investing money in Bloomsbury Towers and not justifying spending £20 on a pair of Uniqlo jeans … despite splashing out twice as much on Prosecco in a single night.

Speaking of depression, it does tend to turn one in on oneself and the focus is entirely on what’s wrong within. It is a form of self-obsession and arguably the most damaging kind. This makes you inured to what’s going on immediately around you and in the wider world.

Not that what’s happening in the wider world is any cause for optimism or celebration. Within the month, we’ve witnessed terrorist murders on the streets of Germany, mass killing in Nice and most recently the beheading of a French priest within the precincts of his own church. British Muslims swiftly distance their religion from the activities of lone wolf terrorists but that’s the ticket these fanatics are killing on, no?

I would argue that in world history more blood has been shed in the name of religion than colonial ambition and politics. I am with Queen Elizabeth I on religion: why make windows into people’s souls? Why can’t we all be allowed to follow our beliefs whatever they are in private?

But sadly those of a religious persuasion don’t tend to keep themselves to themselves or even to their communities behind church doors. No, they want to spread the word and preach to the non-converted. I do wish they wouldn’t. I believe Marilyn Monroe is my guardian angel and that Judy Garland and I have a celestial hotline but I do not stand on the corner of Holborn Circus in a blonde wig singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic now do I…

Wouldn’t the world be a much more peaceful place if people channelled their fanaticism into something harmless such as horticulture or tap dancing rather than deities? I admire anyone on a mission as long as it is a life-enhancer not a divisive, bullying belief system that I can’t subscribe to.

What else is new on the Rialto? Well, I am smoking more than  Dot Cotton since losing the booze and it has to be addressed before I end up with a voice like Bea Arthur and a cough like Lotte Lenya. Are you getting excited about the Rio Olympics? No, me neither. I could balance on the parallel bars bouncing a beach ball in the air with my toes but I’m far too busy.

Did I tell you I’m turning into a class warrior? Well, not quite but like most decent British people I have been quietly seething about ‘Sir’ Philip Green and the damning Commons committee report about him raping BHS, pillaging the pension fund and buying a new £100 million pound yacht for he and his greased pig of a wife Lady Green to bob up and down on the Med while his ex-employees starve.

The Greens are the ugliest, commonest face of capitalism and pig-in-trough greed. Anyone who did business with him be it the big banks and financial services sharks or the D-list celebs and minor royals who sup with him like flies round S.H.1.T. deserve our contempt. If My Theresa doesn’t strip him of his knighthood, I will lose respect for her fledgling government. Personally, I’d like to see him in striped pyjamas.

On that note, I shall Bobby off for a swim, sauna and steam. Until next time…