Here’s Looking at You, Kid. September 2016.

Dear Rowley,

As of Toronto, I have been very reluctant to go an awful lot further than the front door to Bloomsbury Towers. Yes, Mum and I had a terrific lunch at Wiltons (my London home-from-home) on gammon Thursday and a walk around Westminster but I am something of a homing pigeon at the moment.

Apropos home making, Bloomsbury Towers now looks like the Chelsea Flower Show what with all the ‘welcome home’ bouquets. None from my birth family I might add. I had four cushions to cover so went to Liberty and bought four mis-matching prints that are going to look super when this Sewing Bee has done his work.

I had a super Saturday morning in bed with the concert pianist then continued to recline and watch Casablanca on telly. Isn’t Casablanca one of the most superb films from the golden era? It was made in 1942 and is indirectly a World War II propaganda picture. I always tear-up when all the goodies in Rick’s stand up to sing the Marseilleuse drowning out the Germans singing an oom-pa-pa patriotic song.

There were rumours that Humphrey Bogart was not the first choice to play Rick Blaine. As Judge Judy would say, ‘Baloney Sir!’ Bogart was the only actor who could portray Rick’s crumpled ennui just as Ingrid Bergman simply is Ilse Lund. Paul Henried is just arrogant enough to make Victor Laszlo a prig and Claude Raines is simply sublime as corrupt police captain Louis.

Of course it is the script co-written by the Epsteins (identical twins) and Howard Koch that lifts the picture to the heavens. The zingers simply flow: ’round up the usual suspects’, ‘of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine’, ‘we’ll always have Paris’ and ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship’.

Casablanca won three Oscars: Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Why the acting laurels weren’t won by Bogart and Bergman is a mystery. The winners that year were Paul Lukas for Watch on the Rhine and Jennifer Jones for The Song of Bernadette. Considering the stature of the supporting cast – Rains, Conrad Vedit, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson – it must have been a blow that they didn’t win an Academy Award either.

After Casablanca I thought all my Christmases had come at once because it was followed by That’s Entertainment III: a compilation of out takes from classic MGM movies. What I love about MGM is the speciality acts such as million dollar mermaid Esther Williams and the Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda who would always perform sans panties.

As with the previous two films, That’s Entertainment III saves the best until last. Mickey Rooney lead a tribute to the late, great Judy Garland who made the studio millions and I suspect since her death billions. That woman had talent coming out of ever pore. Even when she was half dead, Judy was better than any other lady singer-dancer-actress on the MGM lot.

As you know, Judy is something of a guardian angel for me. I could probably be her understudy in every picture she ever made. I get every nuance and wobble in her vibrato, dearie.  Judy Garland has seen me through some very dark nights of the soul and some very happy times.

My Saturday ended with a new friend met on Grindr who came with me to the opening night of Aussie  boylesque troupe Briefs at the London Wonderground on the South Bank. Briefs are so talented and so gorgeous. When the boys were selling raffle tickets before the show, the hunkiest diva’s eyes lit-up when he saw me. ‘Hello lave’ he cooed. I felt like the Queen of Sheba.

I know what you’re thinking. Tis pity he’s a whore. Well, I don’t mind you telling it like it is. To quote Cabaret, a tiger is a tiger not a lamb mein herr. And, incidentally, I didn’t sleep with my Briefs date. He was happily married and I am not a home-wrecker.

What people don’t get about sex apps is that you can phone a friend in any city in the world and be 90% sure you will have a fun evening when before dating apps you would have been alone. I love Grindr. There is always a boy to talk dirty to when you have insomnia and someone waiting outside if you’re at a loose end.

As you well know, my novel Tomster, KitPlay, Starboi & Me is nominally about Grindr and Scruff. Actually it is about friendship and helping young people find their self confidence but you’ll have to judge for yourself when I finish part two before the end of the year. You can’t make it up but the risqué novel is currently on the Kindle of Hilary Mantel’s agent.

Admittedly, I woke with a slight Prosecco hangover but honit soit qui mal y pense after the fucking August I had. Apropos Toronto, I found a poem that perfectly describes the monster friend who landed me in the worst situation I have been in in living memory. Here’s how it goes:

O why do you walk through the field in gloves, Missing so much and so much? O fat white woman whom nobody loves. Why do you walk through the field in gloves, When the grass is soft as the breast of doves, And shivering to the touch? O why do you walk through the fields in gloves, Missing so much and so much?’

Says it all really. Until next time…