Tag Archives: Kent

MGate. The rebranding of a classic, English seaside holiday resort. By Steve Swindells.

4 Aug

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Suggested listening to accompany this travelblogue is The Enigma Elevations by yours truly.

July the 19th, 2015

On a recent warm, sunny Sunday, I spontaneously decided  to visit a Kentish seaside resort with a bit of a dodgy reputation, both from the past and the present.  I’d heard, however, that the town’s future, if not orange, is probably bright, due to the relatively recent opening of that guaranteed saviour of any run-down town or urban area – an art gallery.

The Turner Contemporary turned-out to be simply magnificent.

Brilliantly cool architecture and judicious curation meld this inspired addition to the cultural cannon of Kent into a massive draw for this surprisingly alluring and aesthetically-pleasing resort.

It was formerly renowned as a tacky ‘kiss-me-quick’ resort for mostly working-class Londoners who were attracted to its golden sands and, later, for its proto-Coney Island, pre-theme-park attraction – the recently restored and re-opened Dreamland.

Then latterly it was on the cultural map as the stomping ground of alleged artistic icon Tracy Emin (sorry, I just don’t get her, beyond the hype) and the late, bipolar genius Hawkwind/Hawklords singer Robert Calvert (I was a member of the band in the late 70s). Margate’s most famous son, however, is indisputably the great English artist Turner. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to have a gallery named after him.

This was to be my first-ever visit to Margate.

MGate. Charing Cross Train to Margate

My journey… no, I really can’t use that reality-TV cliche to describe my excursion (that’s better) from the urban wilds of Willesden Junction, five minutes from where I live (in a dreamy loft apartment gifted by the gods in Central Harlesden), to Margate, by train from Charing Cross (changing at Gillingham), not realising initially that I could have travelled there direct from St Pancras on the UK’s only high-speed train.

Heaven Night Club, now a populist shadow of its former ground-breaking self (owned by supposed gay-culture-spokesperson Jeremy Joseph), still lurks in the arches beneath the station and is, regardless, a great venue that resonates with its long history of innovative and inspirational club nights in the 80s, a couple of which – Bad and Babylon – I instigated and promoted.  Happy daze.

MGate. Shard And Guys Hospital

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The train rattled past South London’s landmarks and emerging neighbourhoods and new architecture, the views from the tracks always offering a unique visual insight into the exponential rewards (monstrous carbuncles n’ all) of London being newly-annointed ‘best city in the world’.

Architecture trackside

The train trundled through Lewisham (now there’s a property hotspot, I imagined, with its DLR terminus, fine Victorian housing stock and new-build blocks sprouting like genetically-modified concrete crops), Blackheath and Charlton (memories of living in some old queen’s little terraced house with a bunch of gay hippies in the early 70s invaded my brain) and then, after Dartford and the great arc of its crossing, at last, the big skies and verdant pastures, hop fields and salt marshes of Kent, along with its power stations, docks, gravel pits, industrial estates, caravan-common parks, Travellers’ camps, mega-shopping centre at Bluewater, and a seemingly randomly moored prison ship, offering no chance of escape, other than a freezing swim to freedom. Or perhaps it’s designated to be converted into a floating Travel Lodge for illegal immigrants (this being the county closest to our often xenophobic French cousins).

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I caught a glimpse of the sea, a silvery sliver in the sunshine, as the train approached Whitstable, already established as Notting Hill-On-Sea, with it’s seafood restaurants and rustic, perhaps now trusticarian, half-timbered housing stock.

MGate. Kent from train

I was reminded of a strange period in my life in the early noughties, when X, my long-term fuck-buddy and muse (he was the nearest thing I had to a lover for many years) revealed that he was in love with someone who shared the same birthday as me (weird), who’d invited him for a day out to Whitstable with some friends.  Great – thanks for sharing. He then revealed that he’d attacked this obsession of his, whom he told me looked like a well-known TV news-reader, in a gay bar in Clapham, because this guy was ‘with someone else’. I advised him to go and seek help at The Maudesley Hospital, South London’s premier mental health destination, whilst wondering why he felt it necessary to burden me with all these strangely disturbing details.  Was he testing my jealousy threshold, or just being a bastard? The latter, I suspect.

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I cut X from my life last year, after realising that he was draining the lifeblood out of me and was a waste of space; someone whom I’d wrongly thought was special to me, by default, in the absence of anyone more substantial or less disturbed. What really ‘did it’ was when he wound-up JJ, my now fifteen year-old ginger tom, by pretending to threaten him with violence. JJ had always hated him, and now this was compounded and X was duly excommunicated.

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As the vistas of Kent sped by like an alt-tourist video on YouTube, I sighed and wondered why I’d been beguiled by X and his wonderful bum for nearly twenty years. Oh yes, it was nothing more than his beautiful bottom, wasn’t it?

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Then the train pulled-in to Herne Bay Station, and I was mentally transported back to a sunny afternoon in said seaside town back in September 2008, when I’d joined several mutual, former members of Hawkwind and The Hawklords at The Kings Hall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of former frontman Robert Calvert’s death with a rather ramshackle, unrehearsed benefit for his last wife Jill, who was very ill.

I recall it being a beautiful day, weather-wise, and ‘a jolly good time’ as erstwhile Hawkwind leader Dave Brock might have said in his favourite cod-colonel voice, had he bothered to attend.

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When I’d played keyboards and sung backing vocals on The Hawklords’ seminal, classic album 25 Years On, and played with them on a huge, sold-out UK tour in 1978, Calvert and I had become very close, so I felt it important to attend and perform, unrehearsed, with a host of other ex-members (apart from main-men Dave Brock and Lemmy) for this anniversary gig. The venue was terrific, there was a great turn-out and the atmosphere was rocking.  I immediately dubbed it ‘Hernia Bay’, which was possibly a bad thing to do Karmically: I got my very own umbilical hernia about five years ago, whilst having particularly vigorous sex.

On stage with former members of Hawkwind and Hawklords at 'Hernia Bay'

On stage with former members of Hawkwind and Hawklords at ‘Hernia Bay’

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I love travelling alone on a train as it evokes memories. which can be something of an emotional roller coaster ride.

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The train arrived at Margate, but no memory buttons were pushed, as this was my first time. I was, I suppose, a Margate virgin.

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I emerged from the architecturally impressive station (the facade seemed vaguely art deco and somewhat reminiscent of all those Fascistectural –  I just invented that –  railway stations in Italy) into glorious sunshine and immediately noted that I was a stone’s throw (not a pebble, as the beach is famously sandy, so na na na Brighton) from the seafront.

As I surveyed the scene, my eyes were immediately drawn to the right, where the town’s only tall building, the iconic (if you’re into ‘brutalist’ architecture – which I am) Arlington House, erected in 1964, dominates the town’s skyline, along with the newly-opened Turner Contemporary Gallery and the harbour’s clock tower. I realised immediately that Margate was extremely photogenic – especially on that Sunday, with dramatic cloud formations immediately evoking Turner’s vigorous and vibrant brushstrokes.

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Arlington House

Arlington House

Arlington House could be described as Margate’s answer to Notting Hill’s Trellick Tower, but unfortunately minus the outside spaces. Later research revealed that a small, two bed flat with a sea view (they all have sea views, although one facing West would be best) and needing total refurbishment, could be had for a mere £80K.  Although, apparently the service charge is quite steep.

MGate. Arlington House

Facing Arlington house across a small park is a rundown terrace of houses and shabby hotels diagonal to the seafront – with views across the bay. Ripe for redevelopment, obviously. How great would it be if the terrace could be gradually bought by a housing association, with a good percentage devoted to social housing (funded by the other percentage of better-off buyers).  Don’t hold your breath.

Mgate, Rundown houses with sea views

Then,  heading down to the promenade and looking a few hundred yards to the right, you’ll see the iconic, retro, vertical  signage of Dreamland on its brick tower, which gave me a bit of a photographer’s hard-on, sorry, thrill.

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Next – to the promenade, to take pics of the parading passers-by and the beach and its immediate surrounds. First-up, A nicely-restored pavilion on the prom’. A shelter, I guess you might call it? But it’s rather beautiful.

Mgate. Pavilion on the prom

Then the deliciously retro-tacky-cool delights of the still-faded facades of the newly-reopened Dreamland (which immediately transported me to my youthful memories of seaside, family camping holidays in the 60s) which I didn’t visit this time, as I was more interested in the Turner Contemporary Gallery as my first objective. The exterior visuals of Dreamland made me almost salivate – so who knows what visual joys will captured on my next visit when I take a ride through this vintage amusement park’s living history?

Mgate 7. Dreamland 1

Why can’t I live in a duplex apartment in the tower which hosts the vertical sign? Come on fate – gimme a break! It would be vaguely redolent of a young Woody Allen growing-up in a shack beneath the Coney Island roller-coaster in – what was it? – Annie Hall? Yes.

Mgate 8. Dreamland 2

Apparently, the big wheel and the retro-roller-coaster aren’t open yet, but I love this Instagram shot of a family passing by the still semi-derelict vibe of Dreamland.  Fun for all the family! Kiss me quick! Saucy seaside postcards! Hot dogs, warm cider and unrequited teenaged love and…

Mgate 9. Dreamland big wheel

Now for some random peeps-on-the-prom shots – mostly taken using my Canon EOS 30D. The other shots (can you work out which are which?) were taken on my iPhone 4S using the Camera Plus Pro App – highly recommended.

MGate, Statue on beach

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Now here’s a pic (taken on the Canon) of what appears to be the continuation of another deliciously retro 50s/60s throwback – a bikers’ cafe on the seafront, as I continue my walk along the prom’ towards the Turner Contemporary Gallery.

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Soon after, I came across some serious gentrification on the seafront as I headed for the gallery, whist musing about what fun it would be to set up The Tina Turner Contemporary Gallery as an alternative pop-up, in some derelict art deco lido, or something. Imagine if there actually was one? 😉

Mgate 9. Rickus Cocktail bar

Mgate 10. The Sands Hotel

The view from The Sands Hotel (which is pretty cool, I see from the website, although I didn’t go inside).

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Then next door…

Mgate 11. Retro cool

Retro-modern Beach Reflection

Retro-modern Beach Reflection

Bring on the gallery!

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I really liked the building immediately. It looked totally ‘right’ and beautifully clean and simple with more than a nod towards a maritime, local-fishing-industrial vernacular.

Mgate 13. Turner Contemp

Mgate 14. Turner Contrast

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The next pic looks almost like a Canaletto transported to 2015.

The view from The Turner Contemporary Gallery.

The view from The Turner Contemporary Gallery.

The kinetic installation – or is it a sculpture? – in the foyer features a whole lot of cymbals.  Does that make then cymbolic? The backdrop is real though, that’s a huge window overlooking the sea.  Cool huh?

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I was thrilled to observe that the featured exhibition was by Grayson Perry, a supremely talented and out-there potter and artist – and Turner Prize winner. He’s a very confident cross-dresser, or transexual, with a great deal of style and intellectual panache, coupled with an almost Hogarthian observation of our social mores, laced with satire and affectionate humour.

Mgate14. Provincial Punk stairs

It was called Provincial Punk, which raised an inner smile. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed in this free exhibition, so I bought a postcard of one of his punky pots (featuring Kurt Kobain and Janet Jackson) and a really funny/cool postcard collection entitled ‘Playing To the Gallery’.

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As I left the gallery I mused about the award-winning British film Mr Turner, starring the consistently excellent actor Timothy Spall and directed by the uniquely talented Mike Leigh, whose clever, improvised films I’ve always enjoyed (he doesn’t do scripts).

There’s a Swindells family link to both the movie and the location; as Margate in Turner’s time was recreated in the Cornish village of Kingsand where my family are lucky enough to own an idyllic holiday cottage (which is available for rent) overlooking the beach. And our cottage was one of those transformed for the few weeks of filming, before being returned to exactly how it looked before. Here’s my elder bro Rob looking distinctly un-19th century posing on ‘the set’.

Norcott Starring as Margate

Here’s the cottage returned to normal.

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I walked past the gallery and along the sea shore, wondering what I might discover around the corner. I was not to be disappointed.

MGate. Red boat, white cliff, blue sky

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Mgate 16. Breakwater

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I came across  the crumbling, strangely beguiling facade of a Victorian or Regency building (with art-deco additions), which seemed to me to be hiding an architectural mystery secreted in the stubby chalk cliffs.  I wondered what it might be.

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I noticed that an exit door was open – it would appear that some sort of matinee performance had just ended. Was it a theatre? I wandered in unchallenged to investigate.

Mgate17. Winter gdns

Welcome to The Margate Winter Gardens. An absolute gem, both culturally and architecturally.

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The original Edwardian building (later research revealed that it was constructed in 1911) was obviously re-styled in the 30s.

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As I wandered around taking pics on both my iPhone4s and my Canon, I noticed a kind-of pantomime throne with a cheap cardboard ‘crown’ on its seat cushion sitting randomly on the edge of the auditorium. So I couldn’t resist taking a deliberately silly ‘royal selfie’ of ‘King Stephen’.

MGate. King Stephen

Sometimes, I wonder how many people actually get ‘double irony’. Then again, having probably invented the term myself, I guess it’s in its cultural infancy.

To me, as I wandered lonely as a kiss-me-quick postcard along the nether regions of Margate’s enchanting seafront, I felt I was acknowledging not only the genius of Grayson Perry, but also all those faded, end-of-the-pier stars of British variety and comedy that had been part of my youth.

I was mentally transported back to my childhood holidays with three maiden aunts who shared a tasteless little modern bungalow in Polegate near Eastbourne in Sussex.

The lovely, subtle scent of sweet peas, geraniums and pinks in the outside space of my loft apartment in North West London immediately transports me back to those halcyon days spent in their little garden (I recall making a puppet theatre out of a stool), when I used to travel unaccompanied on the train (it was still STEAM – and I remember my train once being powered by that awesome, blue, iconic modernist loco the Mallard) from Bath Spa, aged 7 and 8, to London Paddington.

The ‘Aunties’ as we called them (I wonder if they might have been lesbians?  Nah. No way) used to meet me there, then we would travel on the wondrous and magical (to little me) tube across to Victoria, to get the train to Sussex. They used to spoil me rotten, and special treats included going for afternoon tea at a wonderfully glamourous (to me ) Italian cafe called BonDolfi’s (which, with hindsight, was an art deco delight) in Eastbourne, where my favourite indulgence was a Marron Glace – a delicious confection of meringue, chestnut puree and whipped cream.

Then they would take me to shows at the end-of-the-pier theatre, where the big star was a tame, but rather charming old drag queen called Sandy Powell, or a variety revue called The Fol-De-Rols, which inspired me to dance along the promenade afterwards and jump-up and swing around lamp posts, like a wannabe Gene Kelly.

Then I wandered into the delightfully tasteless bar, with its plastic plants and awesome views.

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As I left the Winter Gardens and continued my walk, I was reminded how blessed I was with good weather and great views.  Margate was being rebranded in my mind into MGate. I began to wonder if I might live here one day.

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OMG – what the hell was this wonderfully evocative, semi-derelict building? All my entrepreneurial instincts started to automatically kick-in as wondered why such an apparent gem had been allowed to go rack and ruin.

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Mgate19. Abandoned Lido

As I turned the corner I realised what the fascinating derelict building was – the bar, restaurant and nightclub attached to what had been Margate’s (now abandoned) art deco Lido, which had originally been a Victorian sea-bathing resort.

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Later research revealed that the local Council, Thanet, have indeed mooted redevelopment of the Lido, but I didn’t see any evidence of regeneration.

The sound of raucous, youthful laughter echoed from the remains of the walls. So I shot a suitably ironic mini-art movie to try and capture the elusive MGate zeitgeist *add pinch of irony to taste*.

 It turned out to be a bunch of Spanish students hangin’ out in the ruined Lido, who, noticing my camera, asked if I’d take their pics. I was happy to oblige.

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Then I took one on my iPhone and gave them my name on Instagram, so they could check it out.

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Mgate23. Lido bar

This is MGate’s second iconic ‘vertical logo’, after Dreamland, and it’s damn beautiful – and still so well-preserved, unlike the derelict buildings and mysteriously beguiling subterranean aquatic facilities beneath it.

Mgate21. Lido sign

I crossed the road to check out the run-down-yet-charming Cliftonville area, where it soon became evident that this was a bit of an ‘immigrant ghetto’ and obviously somewhere where seaside bargains might be had, if one was in a position to invest.

I reminded myself that the local UKIP candidate for Thanet had been a favourite to win a seat in Parliament at the last election, but, thankfully didn’t.

So fuck you Farage!

I only wish I’d been able to see inside Frank’s club, but there was no sign of life.  Then I imagined the tacky, 60s flats above, with their direct sea views could be bought and refurbished very cheaply and turned into something rather special.  I would relish such a challenge.

Mgate24. Frank's Nightclub

I reluctantly turned my back on the sea to check out the Victorian and Regency terraces (along with some modern ones copying the vernacular) of Cliftonville and entered a square with a kid’s play area in the middle, where I captured this lovely moment.

MGate. Immigrant football

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The area was scruffy and run-down, but had a certain charm and some interesting architecture, along with great views of the sea as the shadows lengthened on this gloriously sunny, late afternoon. Then I turned the corner into what seemed to be the High Street, which was parallel with the seafront a couple of blocks away – lots of fast-food outlets and Asian corner shops – I could almost have been in somewhere like Bradford if it weren’t for the bracing fresh air. Then my inner gaspomoter went off the scale as I spotted a beautiful Victorian Warehouse behind a Car Wash and wondered if it was empty and, naturally, er… when I might move in!

Mgate25. Carwash and warehouse

I turned the corner, back towards the seafront, and was astonished by the facade of this magnificent building, obviously a former storage facility for a removals company. I saw a man about my age coming out of the main entrance and asked him what went on inside and he replied that the building’s spacious rooms were let out to local artists.  ‘Are the rents cheap?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘very cheap really.’

‘Lucky local artists!’ I responded and he smiled enigmatically.

Mgate26. Depository

As I walked down the hill I saw a group of young girls coming towards me, dressed in colourful, ethnic clothes, which seemed to be a cross between Romany and Middle-Eastern.  They had rosy cheeks and olive skin and were laughing a lot. One of them pointed at my camera and they giggled as she asked in broken English ‘Can take picture of we?’ I was excited to smilingly agree but forgot to click the auto-focus; so, unfortunately, what could have been a great photo later turned-out to be all blurred.

When I’d asked where they were from, they’d all happily chorused ‘Slovenia’.

Now I was in a very attractive square surrounded by gorgeous Georgian, Regency and Victorian terraces – I was obviously in MGate’s renowned Old Town – but it was far more appealing than I could have imagined.

I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign at the end of an alley that widened into a little square and saw a very strange little house that seemed to have been designed in the sixties in a cod-Tyrolean vernacular – overlooking the Morrison’s supermarket car park. A friendly-looking woman got out of her car to go into her adjacent cottage and she said hello with a smile. I grinned-back and said ‘Hi,’ then pointed towards the little house: ‘I saw the For Sale sign and just wondered what it was…’

‘Oh it’s been for sale for ages.’

‘It looks tiny – maybe just one bedroom.’

‘Yes, minuscule.

‘This is my first visit to Margate – what’s it like living here?’ I asked.

‘Oh, I love it.’ She replied. ‘Quite a lot of locals moan about the immigrant population but I like the cultural diversity that they bring to what would otherwise be a rather dull, sleepy little provincial, seaside town.’

‘Has the Turner Contemporary gallery made a big difference?’

‘It’s been a total game changer,’ she enthused, ‘now there are lots of artists moving here and independent galleries are springing-up in disused spaces. It’s breathed new life into the town – and it’s made property a good investment too, although it’s still pretty cheap…’

‘Compared to somewhere like already-gentrified Whitstable?’

‘Absolutely – and a lot less pretentious!’

Mgate 27. Retro Shop

Now I was in retro-vintage heaven!  This was the third such shop I’d seen. I was drooling over both sideboards in the window.  I made a mental note to come and visit again on a weekday, when the shops would be open, but I did notice that the fabulous Seventies one sitting on top of the Sixties (?) one below was priced at £150 and looked to be in very good nick.  If that had been in a shop in Shoreditch, Islington or Clerkenwell, it would have been about £600 at least.

Then I came into the main Market Square and noted that there were several art galleries and bistros housed in various beautiful old buildings.

Mgate 28. Mkt square

Mgate29. Mkt square 2

I headed back towards the seafront, intent on getting some fish and chips, which I would accompany with the decent bottle of Chilean Merlot I’d bought with me (half-price at Tesco), along with a plastic glass, before reluctantly getting the train home. This being a Sunday, I didn’t want to get stranded. On my way, I noticed some cool development opportunities. Ah – if only I was in a position to implement them.

Mgate 30. Blue boarded-up

I later found out that these two beautiful houses with direct, Westerly sea views, one comprising four flats; the other a three-bedroomed house, were priced at £475 (which is what my two-bedroomed, London loft apartment might cost if I could buy it) and £450 respectively.  Drool.

Mgate32. Albert Terrace

I found a fish and chip shop that was just about to close (at dinner time?), but this meant that the affable owner gave me a huge piece of cod and loads of chips for just £3, as, he said: ‘That’s me last bit of fish mate!’

Mgate. Alfresco dinner

I ate my dinner on a park bench in the West-facing square overlooking the beach in front of Albert Terrace, where the two aforementioned houses were for sale (the fag-ends were not mine!). I was trying to work out how I was about to see the sun going down, when I was on the North-Eastern tip of Kent. The mystery was solved when I got home and found that MGate is actually situated on a promontory and faces West. I screwed the cap back on my half-consumed bottle of wine so that I could finish it on the train home, then ambled back to the station taking pictures of the sunset and it’s reflections, both on my iPhone and my Canon.  The next Instagram photo looks like it could have been taken in St Tropez!

Mgate31. St Tropez sunset

Mgate33. sunset Beach

That was another Instagram – now for some taken on my Canon EOS 30D (with its 50mm lens).

That’s the setting sun ‘illuminating’ the big wheel.

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Turner would have liked this cloud formation.

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When I reached the station and checked the departure board, I was delighted to discover that I could get a high-speed ‘Javelin’ train direct to St Pancras  – and would only have to wait ten minutes. Excellent!  That meant I could sit at a table on the train and charge my phone, which was nearly dead, despite me having brought an extra battery (because of the scores of pics I’d taken), then process my Instagrams via the Camera Plus Pro app that I use, whilst finishing the rest of my Merlot.  Happy daze again!

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Mgate34. Hi-speed train home

And finally, Rochester Castle silhouetted against the sunset, taken from the train.

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All photos © Steve Swindells.

BTW – the etched-glass sleeping pod for two people in my live-work loft apartment is available to rent via airbnb for just £49 a night. I’ve had eight five-star reviews so far!

The Diary Of Tran Frank.

30 May
'Femon' By Finlay Cowan

‘Femon’ By Finlay Cowan

Click for more on Finlay Cowan

 

*Warning!  Not for kids or the faint-hearted!*

 

There is a true back story as to what inspired this badly-behaved little collection of yarns, but it’s so so unbelievable that I won’t even try to explain.

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So… about *cough* Tran Frank…

Industry Arts
Occupation Professional Stalker
Location Little Withering, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Introduction Well, modesty prevents me from revealing the size of my willy, but post-op, I’ll keep it pickled in a large jar displayed alongside my You Too memorabilia and karaoke trophies (my specialty is singing ‘Bloody Bloody Mary’, that well-known You Too anthem about ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, where I studied philosophy and physics at Queens Uni). I’m a single tranny and live in a picture-postcard village in a bijou 50s, council-owned studio flat.
Interests An Irish rock band called You Too, lingerie, midi-skirts, lavender talc, Boots (the chemist), collecting cuddly toys, making my own pot-pouri, transvestites, transexuals, transgendered, travel, wigs, make-up, nuclear physics, the early recording of Cilla Black, existentialism, lateral thinking, the songs of Jimmy Webb, crochet, Burt Reynolds, windowbox gardening, origami, cocaine, champagne, becoming a real woman… one day.
Favourite Films Ooh – anything glamorous and featuring female-bonding, like Thelma And Louise, Some Like It Hot, Pink Flamingoes and Carry On Screaming.
Favourite Music You Too.
Favourite Books The Diary Of Tran Frank, by Frank Lynne-Mint

You forgot your mom’s birthday! What can you make out of super glue and olive pits?

An organic dildo!

 

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The Diary Of Tran Frank

 

Monday

 

Woke, up got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. My wig came off.

Tuesday. 

Bought lovely, mushroom-coloured pleated midi-dress in Dorothy Perkins. Sooo very feminine. Went home to my bedsit in Acacia road, Milton Keynes. Well, I like to call it a studio flat. Rearranged all my lovely, cuddly toys on the end of my futon sofa-bed. Listened to Heart FM. Sprayed on some lavender talc – no time for a shower – and went to Uganda.

Wednesday. 

Went to LA. Met a film producer on Sunset who said I looked like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie! Could stardom beckon in the remake, Tootsie Too? Bought some specs in Rodeo Drive, a snip at $500! Went to my seedy motel and got raped, doggie-style, by the pool boy. What a hunk! Offered him a part in the movie.

Thursday. 

Flew back to London and went and dusted You Two’s 20-bedroomed penthouse in Dagenham. It’s a very up-and-coming area. Their penthouse used to be the Ford factory! They’ve got a Ford Mondeo hanging from the roof – how post-ironic and rock n’ roll, eh?

Friday 

Went to Dublin, sold some cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh! Then had a meeting with the Real IRA in the Presidential suite of The Florence, You Two’s sumptious, boutique hotel. Shagged the bass player with a dildo. He said it reminded him of Noomi a bit. Sprayed myself with Lavender talc and went to Boots to buy some suppositories.

Saturday. 

Beano came to the suite with a bottle of Bailey’s and an ounce of coke. That’s what I call breakfast. We talked very fast and raced each other round the room. Then the Reverend Ian Paisley came to tea. Did he wear paisley underpants, I wondered naughtily? He drank the rest of Beano’s Bailey’s and started shouting obscenities about gays and catholics. Beano called President Bush and told him to save the starving in Africa, then we read the collected works of James Joyce by candlelight.

Sunday.

Went to church in a fleet of limos. Beano distributed grams to all the needy urchins pressing their dirty faces to the blacked-out windows of the limo. How thoughtful and kind he is at times! Flew to SA to meet Nelson whatshisname. He patted my butt and whispered ‘Would U like to come back to my cell on Robben island?’ Oooh! What a naughty fantasy! I felt like Venus in chains! It’s true what they say too…

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The Diary Of Tran Frank Two

 

Monday.

Woke up with a terrible case of TB.  Went to Swiss Clinic, paid for by The Boyz.  Only €20,000 a day, with champagne and cocaine included!  The nurses all wanted to shag me, until they found out about my little testosterone problem.  Stayed up all night in my sumptious Tyrolian-style suite playing Pokemon and listening to old Marlene Deitrich 78s on a wind-up gramophone. The two-speed Elvis vibrator sent me off into the land of nod.

Tuesday.

Ah! The wonders of that alpine air!  Knocked-off a few mathematical equations before breakfasting on muesli, cocaine and my own urine.  Beano came to visit, bearing a huge bouquet of white lillies.  He said they matched my ashen complexion.  Adam took me to lunch and I gave him a blow job under the table – he nearly choked on his schnizel with noodles.  The Leibfraumilch went down a treat.  These are a few of my favourite things, I mused.

Wednesday.

Felt well enough to don some leder hosen, grabbed a concertina and performed Tyrolean folk songs to an eager audience of local youth (such marvellously Ayrian blond tresses!).  Larry played the bongos.  My mother called from Holloway demanding more phone cards and rolling tobacco, and complained about lesbian warders harrassing her. U should B so lucky, I hissed.

Thursday.

Made miraculous recovery from TB and flew to the US to plan You Two’s triumphant appearance at the Super Bowl (why they were playing at a cookery competition is quite beyond me).  Well, ISH is a bit of a whizz in the kitchen.  Dined with Robert (De Niro, silly), Madge and The Duckess Of York at TriBeCa.  Robert was feeling my leg under the table until Madge shot him a glance that could’ve melted ice!  Fergie kept going on about her ‘Italian estate’ in Tuscany. Hah!  They saw her coming!  A former concentration camp, I believe.

Friday.

Flew to Barcelona and started anti-globalisation riot with a few petrol bombs.  Assembled a private army of around 300,000 and was carried shoulder high through the throng. I felt just like Joan Of Arc!  Then the idiots dropped me when the tanks started rolling towards us and I broke my arm!  Dined with Melanie (Griffiths, silly) and that greasy hubby of hers, Antonio Banderas.  Some fat, old queen came over and I asked for a bottle of Marques De Caceres Reserva, 1935.  Well, how was I to know it was Pedro Almodovar?

Saturday.

Went to recuperate at my country (council) estate in Cambridgshire, surrounded by all my lovely cuddly toys. I felt the words of that delightful Atomic Kitten song were spookily appropriate: ‘You Can Make Me Whole Again’. Indeed.  So I rang for the gardener and he was happy to plant his seeds in my flower beds!  Took a nostalgic look through my digital photo album of Beano in compromising poses, then demanded more money by email.

Sunday.

Went to church after a late lunch of pot noodles and caviar and a browse through the Sundays –  there I was in Barcelona.  I really shouldn’t have worn THAT wig, but hey, the camouflage hot-pants looked sensational in the Mail On Sunday.  Father (Phil) O’Sophical was a little concerned about my health, but I assured him that it was nothing that a little communion wine and confessional-role-playing wouldn’t cure.  We retired to his manse, or whatever it’s called, and re-enacted scenes from The Thorn Birds – he does rather resemble Richard Chamberlain. I thought he overdid the crack a little though.

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The Diary Of Tran Frank Three

 

Wednesday

Went to Cornwall with my friend the incredibly famous DJ and her two lovely sons.  Tried to have lesbo sex on the train, but a babysitter wasn’t available.  We managed a quick snog in the toilet anyway. Does that mean we joined the 250 mile-long club? Dabbed on some lavender talc and ate a Great Western Trains cheeseburger instead. Arrived at our caravan and threw up all over the children, then smoked loads of crack.

Thursday

Our initiation into the ‘white trash’ ghetto improved by the hour as the chicken nuggets cooked in the microwave. Went to the disco in the caravan site clubhouse with the kids at 11pm – hey, that’s early for them – and demanded You Two tunes from the DJ.  He refused, saying that he only played pop like Steps and S Club Junior.  Well purleeeze!  Grabbed the mic and insisted that DJ Snatch play all the housey You Too remixes and threatened to kill all the people on the site with my suicide bum.  They eventually gave in and I played the bongos.  But it was all a fiendish MI5 plot and I was arrested by armed police!  Came in my pants (aka knickers).

Friday

Plymouth Police Station.  The pigs tried to torture me into admitting I was Yasser Arafat’s secret love child, but I hung on in there and stated emphatically:  ‘I’m fookin Oirish, you fookin’ dickhead pigs and a nuclear physicist!’ (well, the prozac was still firing).  Got out on bail after Beano flew down by hang glider and put up 50 million Euros.

Flew with him to Uganda.

Saturday

Went shopping in Harare’s lovely bazaars – so many feminine-yet-ethnic gowns to choose from – and those were just the ones for  men!  Felt so empowered that I went to visit a witch doctor, but only after consulting Which magazine (the Ugandan version). I mean, which witch doctor?  They recommended Ongobonolarryedgeirlando.  Lovely mud hut!

He suggested that I get sectioned then shagged me senseless.

Sunday

Flew to Jerusalem to liberate the Christians from the evil clutches of the Palestinian fascist dogs who’d saught refuge in the church of the nativity in Bethlehem.  Unfortunately, I was too late, as Blair n’ Bush had sorted it.  Got there in time to seize a photo op in my new ethnic robes with some Palestinian wannabe suicide bombers and some Jewish settlers at their annual karaoke night.  Hot gig dudes! The meze was rockin’ too!

Monday

Was invited to Afganistan by the British army to press the detonator to blow up the Al Queda arms cache in the caves.  My, what a rush!  So much so, the force of the blast blew off my wig, but one gallant soldier thought I looked like Sinead in the ‘Nothing Compares to You’ video. So I shed a tear, albeit somewhat theatrically, as he fucked me up the ass in a genuine army tank.  Not very comfy though, I mean, where’s the upholstery?

Tuesday

At last! Back home in Milton Keynes!  I cuddled my cuddly toys, put on the kettle, turned on East Enders and thought of my life in the fast lane.  My! The lows, the highs, the fast food joints, the libraries, the bus stops, the supermarkets, the wheely bins, the cornflakes,   the trashy magazines… the… emptiness of it all.  And I hadn’t had time to bathe all week, what with the drama of it all!  Thank goodness for aromatherapy in the form of Lavender talc!

Next stop: Boots!

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The Diary Of Tran Frank Four. 

 

Monday.

Beano drove us to Heathrow in his bullet-proof Smart Car – so eco-dinky (it runs on Irish peat) – as we were going to Thailand to publicise the terrible plight of the eight (eight!) people who’d so far caught some mystery disease there. I went on Thai TV to explain that it was in fact a WMD originating from that axis of evil, North Korea (or should that be ‘North career?). Had marvellous anal sex with a commie spy posing as a Taiwanese chef in a lady-boy bar in Phuket. Almost ripped my tie-dyed sarong!

Tuesday.

Caught malaria in the floating market from a swarm of mozzies whilst shopping in vain for lavender talc (do these orientals have NO class?). Larry rented the entire island of Kay Hole to aid me in my recovery. Beano decided to build a designer, boutique hotel featuring Thai-style teepees thatched with recycled glass noodles on the beach and You Two performed a benefit concert for the victims of SARS (now numbering ten and a half) to an audience of gay, Aussie backpackers and a posse of mixed-race, South African Lesbos, who were having a conference about the political relevance of the strap-on.

Wednesday.

Flew with ‘The Boyz’ to Hong Kong to distribute thousands of free You Two designer face masks to the few remaining residents. Had a great Chinese! ‘Dim sum lights!’ I squeeled, making exaggerated slitty eyes at Beano, as he plunged his Ming vase (BC 394) into my nether regions whilst shoving an opium pipe under my grateful nose. Flew to Antiqua for a few day’s treatment at Erica’s (Claptout, silly) lovely re-hab clinic-in-a-genuine-tin-roofed-shack. Watched millions of Chinese peasants dying live in the paddy fields (but where was the peat?) on cable TV. ‘It’s the opium of the people!’ Said Erica, whilst her guitar gently wept.

Thursday.

Went into the disabled toilet sporting the pink, towelling trackie that I’d liberated from Madonna’s Oxfam bin-liner and who should be coming out but that perma-tanned hunk David Dickinson! ‘I didn’t know you were disabled…’ I cooed, fluttering my eyelashes at his orange-tinged, craggy features. ‘Oh no!’ He replied, looking like the cat that had got the cream, ‘That’s where Erica keeps her secret stash!  Then he led me tenderly to his rented vintage Bentley Convertible and took me for a drive through the sugar cane fields, scattering terrified workers in all directions as I gave him a lovely blow job. ‘This is what I call The Antigua Road Show!’ I gasped, as I came up for air.

Friday.

Got bored of Erica’s shack and flew to Basra to organise You Two’s benefit concert for legless people (I didn’t know Muslims DRANK! Like FISH darling!) and cleared a few token mines with Lady Heather Hills-McDonald (she was sooo ‘method’, I thought: how selfless to actually stand on a REAL mine and lose another leg, just for the cameras!). The support act, Saddam Kool, performed for the assembled media pack in a huge bathroom (lovely gold-plated bidet! Tasteful, erotic murals!) in Saddam’s burnt-out palace, and were brill. You could really believe they were him! Eight of them! All identical! Their version of Bohemian Rhapsody was classic (was it the moustaches that made it so authentic?)! I wouldn’t mind finding THEIR weapons of mass destruction! They would definitely win Iraq Has Talent!

Saturday.

Decided to board the Trans-Siberian express and gasped in awe at the disused labour camps (what a waste!), whilst sipping frozen vodka martinis and shovelling caviar into my mouth. The soldier opposite offered me ten Roubles to give him a blow-job. ‘Make it twenty and I’ll tweak your nipples too!’ I trilled, in perfect Russian. ‘Perestroika!’ He intoned, eyes rolled heaven-ward, trousers round his ankles, in the ornate, almost baroque elegance of the toilet. I reached into my Fendi bag for my dwindling supply of Lavender Talc and sprayed some down my knickers.

Sunday.

Went shark-hunting in the Caspian sea with President Putin and Tony Blair. We didn’t catch any, which is hardly surprising, seeing as sharks don’t actually live there. Tony made jokes about Bond villains (pointing at Vladimir) and said I looked like a bit of a Bond babe (it must have been the white, leather catsuit and the purple, vinyl kinky boots). ‘Can I try your rod Tony? I asked coquettishly and grabbed it in a girlie sort-of fashion. ‘How do I look?’ I asked demurely. ‘Oh Frank,’ He giggled manfully, sweat starting to stain his Marks And Spencer shirt. ‘Are you fishing for compliments?

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Now looking for The Diary Of Tran Frank Five and Six…. buried somewhere deep in the broken heart of my hard drive.

Found Them!

 

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The Diary Of Tran Frank. Chapter Five.

Sunday

Woke up feeling very wobbly, and realised I was bouncing around in a circular water bed, not a giant bowl of vomit. I felt seasick, or maybe it was the drink and drugs of the night before, or both, or… where the fuck was I? I wondered, lonely as a cloud. I looked out of the floor-to-ceiling windows and that was all I could see – clouds. ‘Clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee – you’re so vain…’ I found myself humming. Perhaps it was somehow appropriate. Or not. Where was I? I wrapped a lovely oriental silk sarong around my finely toned body, slipped on some Jimmy Choo flip-flops and staggered through double Egyptian-style doors into a vast hallway lined with what looked liked spatter paintings done by chimps. What a load of old pollocks, I mused. Where was the kitchen? ‘Can I assist madame?’ Asked a somewhat posh voice suddenly. I turned to find a tall, handsome young uniformed black butler smiling at me inquisitively. ‘Well, er, yes…’ I replied, trying to stop my eyes travelling downwards towards an impressive-looking package. ‘Could you tell me where I am?’. 

‘Certainly madame, ‘replied the butler. ‘My name is Chapsworth, and you are in the penthouse of You Too Towers in Shanghai. Would madame care for some coffee – fair trade beans, naturally?’ A strange, muffled whimpering noise made me feel slighly uneasy. Perhaps it was my stomach. 

‘Ooh yes please, I croaked. And where is ah…?’

‘Mr Lil is feeding his favourite pet, it’s called Anna, Anna Condo, ha ha, and this package…’ He pointed to the large parcel he was carrying, ‘is a litter of live puppies for Anna to – ahem – play with! Follow me please.’ How very odd!

Mr Lil – Shanghai? It had a certain ring to it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, as it were. Chapsworth led me into a vast, hi-tech circular kitchen set inside a glass pyramid. ‘I bet the knives stay nice and sharp naturally,’ I muttered to the butler, who merely nodded with a hint of a smile, and pressed some buttons on a black and chrome machine, having placed the box full of puppies on a table. ‘Would a double espresso be suitable for madame’s requirements?’ He asked. ‘That would be marvellous, ‘ I replied, eyeing his sturdy forearms; they were like mahogany covered in soft, black silky gossamer. His huge hands found some Phillipe Starke cups – was he was going to join me perhaps – ooh-er! My back bottom twitched involuntarily (my front bottom still hadn’t quite ‘settled in’ to having sexually-triggered muscular spasms, despite the best efforts of Mr Federico Feline, Beano’s plastic surgeon). Chapsworth placed two espressos on a silver tray and beckoned for me to follow him through some double doors into another vast pyramid, which was like an enclosed rain forest in the sky, surrounding a huge artificial pond.

‘Ah so, my dear Flankie, ‘ said a voice with a strong Chinese accent, ‘I am seeing that Chapsworth hass tekken care of you. You seemply moost meet Anna.’

The tiny, Buddha-like Mr Lil was standing on a bridge that spanned the ‘lake’, holding a little puppy. ‘How adorable!’ I cooed, ‘is Anna a Pekinese?’

‘Oh no – Anna is positively Amazonian’ giggled Mr Lil, holding the puppy out over the water and whistling. Suddenly a huge snake’s head lunged out the water and towards the bridge, but instead of grabbing the whimpering puppy it wrapped itself around Mr Lil and dragged him screaming into the foaming depths. Somehow, the puppy had managed to jump back onto the bridge. ‘Do something Chapsworth!’ I yelled hysterically (some might say my screaming was, well, hysterical, but that’s ‘cos it’s soooo deep. Hmm. Goes with the territory). Chapsworth just stood there and winked at me, passed me my espresso and said ‘Oh well, there goes Shanghai Lil. Fancy some bird nest soup madame?’ 

I slurped down my coffee, scooped the pekinese puppy into my arms and followed Chapsworth back into the kitchen. Somehow my antique silk sarong slipped to the floor. Chapsworth’s trouser crotch seemed to twitch and grow… and grow. He took me in his manly arms. ‘Wait!’ I whispered, putting the Pekinese down, ‘The poor, adorable little puppies!’. 

I tore open the large box and out tumbled five little bundles of joy, snatched, indeed, from the jaws of death. ‘Meat! Chapsworth, Meat!’ I exclaimed urgently. He started to unzip his fly. ‘No, for the adorable little puppies first!’. 

Soon, we were all feasting on prime steak. The puppies got fillet, and I somehow made do with Sir Loin, once I’d got the butler to call the police about the horrible accident and ghastly death that had befallen Mr Lil. 

Monday

Fate is strange sometimes, I mused, as I sprayed lavender talc between my somewhat sore thighs. Thighs and whispers, I whispered into the deeply vulgar ormulu mirror in one of the opulent (after the Dubai school of interior design) bathrooms in ‘lil ol Lil’s palatial master suite, checking my lippy. Boots #7 – so reliable and economical too. I’m sure Joy Borge SWEARS by it. I fucking love Boots, she might bellow, apropos of nothing, other than the pain in her builders’ arse. I sashayed back to the bowl of vomit to find a pleasantly arousing site: Chapsworth lying face down in his butlers white shirt. Only. His magnificent legs spread like mighty oaks, his tremendous buttocks protruding alluringly through the white cotton. Shame he was asleep.

Still, I had plenty to take care of, like my newly acquired billions. Just a few legal niceities to sort out. It had all been such a tragic accident – but we were so very close, even after such a short romance. That’s why he left his entire fortune to me, and a lovely island called Battee, well more of an atoll really, with a lovely palm tree and a litle beach bar called Crusoes, to the adorable Chapsworth! That’s when I came up with the idea of the floating atolls in the Carribean – a bit like the Maldives, but with drugs and studs, hookers and hoodlums just to add some real retro-romantic-rumpy-pumpy-for-the-old-the-rich-and-the-humpy-dumpy. But only in cyberspace, of course. http://www.tranfrankia.tv became a legend in its own launch time. And Tran Frank became ruler of all before her. Chapsworth changed his name to Merc Anthony and got murdered by a rent boy on crack. So much for a dull Monday eh? Virtual reality is so much less stressful than hateful, horrid real life, espcially when you’re the queen as well! 

Then I got out of the shower and realised that it had all been a dream!

 

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The Diary Of Tran Frank Six.

Squirrels Ate My Crack.

Monday.

It was buried in the garden under the begonias. In Liddle plastic bags. 

Then it  all turned into The Liddle Shop Of Horrors! 

Allow me to explain it all as best I can – even though it couldn’t possibly ever make any sense.  OMFG!  The pain, the humiliation, the addiction, the squirrels, the fluffy tails, the Hitchcockian horror, the desecration of my sunflowers by dark, animal forces (on crack) and… well…

A hunky mixed-race rapper (or should that be wrapper, as he was initially so sweet?) was something of a fuck-buddy of mine for the occasional drug-fuelled, long weekend through the summer of 2009.  I believe he called himself Crackatoa professionally. I’d love to think that his moniker was inspired by my very own, uptight little burning volcano of love. 

Then there was my bank manager, Mr Panini, who once offered me a loan at zero percent, after I’d absent-mindedly dropped my handbag under his desk and tasted his assets, as it were.  Actually, Crackatoa’s ‘professional’ name has bugger all to to with Mr Panini… or does it?  You see, I took Crackatoa, better known as Colin Dale,  to meet Mr Panini, who was most accommodating.  Naturally, I filmed it all on my iPhone.  Mr Panini wouldn’t, or couldn’t have noticed – as he was face-down; getting royally rogered by Colin. Crackerjack! You could say, although not exactly a ‘Crackerjack pencil’.  Crackatoa was hung like a horse on Ketamine. That’s why he needed the Viagra.

Mr Panini was soon innocently ‘banking’ Crackatoa big-time – Those ‘pregnant’ Yardie mulettas  don’t come cheap, I can tell you – they cost at least £50 per kilo in real terms!  Quite good value, generally, I’d say, apart from the unfortunate ones who suffered ‘miscarriages’ on the plane. Cheap condoms eh? 

Lets talk eco-friendly shall we? No, not white people with dreadlocks, but Trains.  Personally, I think EuroStar should have ‘Miss Carriages’, where only females (and, perhaps, conveniently, mulettas) are allowed to wear their Hijabs-and-or-dread-hats, pleated maxi- skirts and-or-burkas, and, of course, the holy Christian cross, bejazus!  A haven for the modern-day Mata-Hari, where I, Tran Frank, could become a martyr!  A true martyr for the cause… the cause and effect of the effectiveness of You Too being the main factor in the recovery of the Irish economy/the second potato famine.  I mean, look at Abba (and which tranny wouldn’t drink in their iconic style?) and the fact that they were actually more important to the Swedish economy than Vulva!  Such lovely, safe cars!  Just like driving a Smorgasbord with a dashboard through the mountains and by the Fjords. Pickled herring anyone?  Although, for some strange reason, that makes me instinctively reach for the lavender talc.  Oooh, don’t! 

I can’t wait to visit Dykea on the ever- romantic North Circular to catch-up on my cheap rug-munching and to pick-up closetted couples in the scented-candle dept for heavenly threesomes!  

Surely, there must be a dogging site near to Dykea?  The bleakness and total lack of any aesthetic pleasures would surely suggest that a once handsome, dusky,  ex-premier-league footballer would be ineffably drawn to the car park of the Trollyday Inn, along with hundreds of other extremely attractive suburbanites in ill-fitting, cheap ‘bondage’ gear, as they activated a complicated, multi-texting-thingie-event and headed towards some suitably discreet-yet-foreboding, dark, industrial wasteland in which to invade each others’ spaces by mutual agreement.  It’s not really my thing, I have to say – as I don’t drive a Range Rover, or anything with wheels (other than my pink and purple Tyson  – I call it Mike – with its dual thermosuckerthingie). It was a bit of a bargain in my local Ukip charity shop where I like to stock-up on lovely, feminine, pleated, pink maxi-skirts and diaphanous  purple, fuscia and mauve rayon blouses. 

Don’t even suggest that a hint of  the hot flushes had affected my state of mind!  My taste has always been towards a Thatcherite look.  Sensible,  mumsy, practical, yet subtly vaguely dominatrix-esque.  My lovely local yokels just adore it – especially when I talk dirty (this lady IS for turning!). Most of them work at the local call-centre (most of their clients are Indian companies looking to ‘out-source’, so my guys have to watch hours of Bollywood movies and pretend that called Shiva or something).  The other phalanx work at the local Service Station on the M whatever – the Costalotta Cafe, Bugger Queen and Travel Dodge. All class acts, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, back to Colin Dale’s begonias and those fluffy-tailed space-invaders!

Gerbils?  Richard Queer?  Hey, this is way beyond that particular urban, ahem, ‘myth’. The squirrels, however, weren’t up a crack, they were on crack, having dug it up from Crakatoa’s back garden and consumed it, presumably in small measures (like little nuts); otherwise the crazy-paving patio would have been littered with little fluffy, dead tree rats who’d OD’d.  Not quite the cull that the local council had in mind. But, little squirrel cracky-wack had had years of experience of storage and gradual partaking of his chosen ‘five a day’.  Clever. Controlled addiction – rather like me and my lavender talc. And You Too.  Giving Larry blow jobs,  and my frequent trips to Uganda with Beano. 

After a while, of course, the supply of crack ran out and the squirrels had to go into animal rehab with some sunflower seed remedies and a load of pecans and almonds that they’d nicked from the allotment belonging to Al Queerda, a radical, underground Muslim gay club, in my local village!  Not that the locals didn’t notice all those ‘women’ in Bhurkas disappearing into the local ‘cottage’ hospital, which had been recently shut down by the coalition.  Rumours soon began circulating about them being funded by Foamali pirates.  As if!  A bit of a training ground for suicide bummers, I’d suspect.  Nothing like a hairy butt in your face as you pray in the erstwhile mosgue in a light, white cotton gown to get you inspired to become a martyr.  Seventy three virgins!  And all of them  trannies!  Bring on the holy strap-ons!

© Frank Lynne-Mint.  2011.

iPhone Phinger Painting © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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