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Coming soon – Great Sexpectations, the Erotic Awards, The Night of the Senses

(This was also published by Indian news site WSN)

Grace Gelder in Soho yesterday

Grace Gelder in London’s Soho yesterday

It was comedian Matt Roper – currently in India – who first told me about The Night of the Senses. This year, it is being organised by his photographer friend Grace Gelder.

“You’re not actually going to call it an orgy, are you?” I asked her yesterday.

“No. It’s an erotic ball,” she replied.

“A good combination of words,” I said. “Do you have a job title?”

“Apparently I am officially called The Director of Pleasure,” laughed Grace.

We were at Bar Italia in London’s Soho yesterday, talking about The Night of the Senses, which has been run by Tuppy Owens for 25 years to raise money for her Outsiders Trust, the UK charity which aims to raise awareness about sex and disability.

“So,” I asked Grace. “This year it’s you organising The Night of the Senses. Why you?”

“I originally met Tuppy,” explained Grace, “because I had started to develop a documentary film about sex and disability. We worked on that for two years and went to interview Tuppy at her home in Inverness. She’s in her late sixties now and said that, when she started running the event, all of her friends came. A few weeks ago, she said to me It’s the same as you guys. All your friends are gonna come. We’re all over sixty; it’s time there was a new generation of people starting to hear about it.

“A new generation of sensual people?” I suggested.

“Well, it feels,” said Grace. “like there’s a lot more interest in this kind of thing right now. I’m not sure why. But people want really experiential things. The Secret Cinema has taken off. People want to go to an event and be integrated into it. There’s a lot of parties which touch on the ‘erotic’ like people who have hot tubs in the middle of their parties. But I think people are quite scared of putting on something that is so overtly sensual because they’re worried about How do you manage it? How do you handle it? I feel confident that I’m able to do that, especially having done erotic photography with people who start off really scared because they’ve never done anything like it.”

“And you’ve been to previous Nights of the Senses?”

“I’ve been to two.”

“How many people turned up last year?”

“About 1,000. This year’s one is in May with the Great Sexpectations semi-final in March.

“Basically, on The Night of the Senses itself, there are the events and included in that there’s The Erotic Awards, which have been running for about 17 or 18 years. They champion the stars of the erotic universe. People are picked out in different categories – books, films, campaigners – people who are campaigning for sex workers’ rights for example – artists, strippers, live artists whose work has an erotic element.

“The theme for this year’s Night of the Senses event in May is ‘The Zoo’, because Tuppy is a former zoologist, so it’s like a homage to Tuppy and the work she’s done over the last 25 years.”

“But,” I said, “as in movie disclaimers, no actual animals will be hurt during the production of this event?”

“Only humans dressed as animals,” said Grace. “Or zoo keepers. It leaves some space for the more kinky members of the public.”

“What was the theme for last year’s event?” I asked.

Last year's theme at Night of the Senses was 'Equestrianism'

Last year’s theme at Night of the Senses was ‘Equestrianism’

“Equestrian.”

“And you officially only started organising all of this on Monday this week,” I said. “Why did you get involved?”

“Initiating my film documentary project about sex and disability,” explained Grace, “completely opened my world to all this stuff which I didn’t know about. I found it very, very fascinating… which fed into my own life and ended up initiating a sexual journey for myself… of liberation and exploration and that sort of thing.”

“Any details?” I asked.

“What sort of details?” laughed Grace.

“Preferably quirky,” I said.

“Well,” said Grace, ignoring this, “I had to go to The Night of the Senses as research, for example, and that blew me away. Going to the event was a real catalyst. You step into a completely different environment.”

“How?” I asked.

“Just because of the nature of the event. Tuppy has never said to people You’ve got to come to this, because it is still a sophisticated event where you need to have some understanding of being in a sexual environment. To be aware of what you’re going to go and experience. People just being completely open and free with their… fetishes, with their actions… but in a very safe and well-held event.”

“I know nothing about this world,” I said, “but I did once get dragged to the Torture Garden club about twenty years ago.”

“That’s very much more specifically fetish and power games,” said Grace. “The Night of the Senses has all of those elements, but more as well. There’s always a dungeon-type place, but there’s also a tantric space where people can get a massage and put their name down to be tickled with feathers: that type of thing. A lot of sensory stuff. So it’s a lot more… You don’t have to be into power games. And there’s a bit more of a theatrical aspect to it as well. There’s a sensuality chamber for couples where live musicians play along.”

“You said your eyes were opened…” I prompted her.

“I’d never been in a situation like that,” said Grace, “where there was every spectrum of people – people with disabilities, people who were older, younger, gay, straight, all spectrums with all sorts of fetishes. Apparently one year they had a turtle-neck jumper fetish corner. They have their own clubs.”

“For people who have a fetish for turtle-neck jumpers?” I asked.

“Apparently.”

Ed Wood, fan of angora

Ed Wood, movie fan of angora sweaters?

“I seem to remember,” I said, “ that the film director Ed Wood had a fetish for angora sweaters. I think he had an angora sweater in every one of his films. Or it might have been his refrigerator that he had in every film. I have a very bad memory.”

“Interesting,” said Grace.

“When is your event happening again?” I asked. “I’ve forgotten.”

“Two events,” said Grace. “The Night of the Senses is in May with the final of the Erotic Awards as a stage show as part of it and, after that, everyone goes upstairs to play – or just watches – it’s up to you.

“But the first event is Great Sexpectations – in Bush Hall, Shepherd’s Bush on 22nd March. It’s a beautiful old music hall. Great Sexpectations is a sit-down table event, including the semi-finals of the live part of the Erotic Awards. The judges decide who will be finalists at the main event in May.”

“Is it like ice-skating?” I asked, “where you get awarded points on style. content and artistic interpretation?”

“It’s not like The X Factor,” laughed Grace. “Our judges watch and take notes and decide afterwards. Best Stripper and Best Live Artist are the two categories for the live aspect – It’s a cabaret, basically. I think we’ll also include a comedian and a singer, whereas the ‘stripper’ is anything from pole dancing to burlesque and boylesque. But then there’s also the author, photographer and the other categories at The Night of the Senses in May”

“Where is the main Night of the Senses going to be held in May?”

“The location of the venue is always released much later on to everyone who has bought a ticket. There has been trouble with the event in the past because of people campaigning against it or ringing the local council because of the nature of it. Some venues have an issue, but most people are totally fine with it: they know what it is and that it’s a fundraiser, so…”

“And,” I interrupted, “there’s no illegality of any kind. It is not ‘outraging public decency’ because it’s a ticketed event and people know exactly what they’re buying the tickets for.”

“Exactly,” said Grace. “You have to choose to go. You don’t just pass by and say Oo-err! I think I’ll pop in there and see what’s happening. And there’s a very clear code of conduct which is on the website.

“I’ll be updating the website in the next few weeks. Like I said, I only officially started organising all of this on Monday. There’s more to come.”

Grace asked me to say: “Any enquiries to gracegelder@gmail.com.”

I am not sure this is necessarily wise, but what do I know?

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The link between the giant pseudo sea slug of Canada & 3 British comedians

Death of 17 in the boiling waters of a copper chamber pot

The savage slug war being waged in my back garden continues with increasing ferocity. Last night, at about one o’clock in the morning, my eternally-vigilant un-named friend went out, encountered, captured and dispatched seventeen – count ‘em – seventeen – of the ghastly gastropod molluscs, picking each up with two twigs, as if eating with chopsticks, then tossing them into a copper chamber pot and pouring boiling water onto them.

An ignominious death, but no less than they deserve.

Meanwhile, according to Anna Smith – one of the So It Goes blog’s increasing number of foreign correspondents, who has previously suggested drowning slugs in beer – the slug threat to the economically-vital marijuana plantations of Canada (a part of the economy unconnected to her) has lessened. She told me yesterday, from her home in British Columbia:

Giant sea slugs emerge from the waters off Western Canada? (photograph by Anna Smith)

“The slugs have subsided for the moment. But a large creature appeared on our dock which resembled a gigantic slug. It turned out to be a rare Ringed Seal from the Aleutian Islands. These are not rare in Alaska, but we have never seen one here before. It may have gone off course, trying to avoid the Japanese Tsunami waste, which has now started to arrive on these shores. You might want to avoid showing the attached picture to your eternally-un-named friend, as it could give her more nightmares.”

Even though the Canadian slug threat may have temporarily subsided, other dangers lurk in our Western Colonies.

“The most exciting thing to happen in Canada recently,” Anna tells me, “has been the theft of thirty million Canadian dollars worth of maple syrup from a storage facility in Quebec.

“The police stated that it would be ‘difficult to trace’. My first thought was that it might have been a special order from China (or North Korea!). Most Canadians (myself included) had no idea that such vast amounts of maple syrup were being stockpiled in gasworks-sized tanks. I thought they just took the buckets from the trees and bottled the stuff. We are now being warned that syrup might appear on the black market. I fear it may result in a shootout in Saskatoon, involving tanker trucks of maple syrup and railcars exploding with bales of marijuana.”

Anna is shocked by the size of Canada’s syrup reserves. I am more shocked by the fact that the police accept there is a lively black market in maple syrup. I always thought Canada was a relatively law-abiding place. But, no, Anna continues:

“There has also been a large scale theft of potatoes in Canada. We are wondering if the next thing to go missing will be bacon.”

According to a C-FAX 1070 news report:

Richmond RCMP are scratching their heads after hundreds of pounds of potatoes were uprooted from a farmer’s field. 

It’s not just a few potatoes that have been pilfered, but a football field full of spuds.  Richmond Police are investigating the theft after a local farmer reported that someone had moved in overnight and removed an estimated 5,000 pounds of taters. RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski says they are stumped.

“Someone has gone and uprooted all the potatoes in this particular area and gone off with them to, I don’t know, make French fries or vodka, but they are missing and we have no idea who’s done this because it certainly isn’t something we regularly patrol for during the night.”

Even Richmond’s Mayor has spoken out about the crop thefts saying it is a “disturbing offence”.

This easily-disturbed, potato-thieving area of Richmond is where Anna Smith lives. It is a suburb of Vancouver. She tells me:

“It is located on Lulu Island, the largest island in the Fraser River Estuary. Lulu Island is named after Lulu Sweet, a sixteen year old actress/singer from San Francisco who visited these shores in 1861. She was famous for appearing in public with bare arms, which in 1861 was probably the equivalent of doing a naked balloon dance in London in the 1980s.”

In London in the 1980s, Anna encountered (separately) the anarchic comedy triumvirate of the early Tony Green, the late Malcolm Hardee and the late Ian Hinchliffe, so I suspect there are more stories to emerge from this blog’s foreign correspondent’s desk in British Columbia.

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Crime, Drugs, Gardening

“When I went down, it was about six inches long!” she said, still horrified

The horror… The horror… and they are getting bigger…

After the Edinburgh Fringe finished, I drove back to London from Edinburgh on Monday night – Well, actually the early hours of Tuesday morning. My eternally-un-named friend was looking after my house while I was away.

When I phoned her at 2.00am on Tuesday morning, there was initially no reply. This was because she was out in my back garden with a torch and a two twigs. She had looked out into the garden from my back bedroom and there, illuminated in the light from my kitchen below was what she described as a scene of horror.

“When I went down, it was about six inches long!” she said, still horrified by the memory.

She told me the full details yesterday.

“Hold on, hold on,” I said, scrabbling to turn on my iPhone’s audio recorder, “The slugs are getting bigger and now they’ve developed an ability to re-grow their heads?”

“They always had this ability,” she replied. “I just read about it on Google.”

“And they’re getting bigger?” I said. “Why are they getting bigger?”

“Because they’re eating a lot,” she said “and it’s been raining a lot.”

“They’re drinking a lot of water and they’re bloated with rain?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “they’re eating all the little plants.”

“And you said something about squidginess,” I prompted.

“No, no,” she said. “No more! Another subject. Let’s find something jollier.”

“You could be part of my increasingly prestigious blog,” I said. “Just the sqidgy reference. Give me the squidgy.”

“Well,” she relented, “I was a bit tired with putting boiling water on them, you know, to kill them. And then you have to drain off the boiled water and then I was adding salt and washing powder, because they seem to be able to come alive again even after all these terrible things. You find one that’s crawled out of the pan before dying.”

“Crawled out of the pan?” I said, surprised. “The pan?”

“Or a bird’s come along,” she continued, ignoring me, “and tried to lift it out and decided they didn’t like the flavour of washing up liquid or salt.”

“Pan?” I repeated.

“It turns out that copper,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “is really good for killing black mould. So we’ve now got to look for a lot of copper things on eBay.”

“Is black mould relevant to the slugs?” I asked.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Well, it is slightly. There was a point where the grossness of everything and the looking round… I did try to spread coffee over one area at one point, because they don’t like coffee.”

“Slugs don’t?” I asked.

“The egg shells have worked a treat,” she continued, cheering up. “They can’t climb over egg shells. It’s too jagged. Egg shells are very sharp. You can cut things with egg shells.”

“I’m surprised chickens can get out of them,” I said.

“Anyway…” my eternally-un-named friend said, “there came a point where I couldn’t be bothered putting them in the water. I thought I’ll just squidge them to death… because I’m not actually touching them… So the end of a plank or something… bashing them and trying to rub them… And they ended up in little pieces, which I left there… Only to return a day or so later and it was like seeing half a thumb lying there, which had suddenly grown a head.”

She paused.

“It was gross!” she said, and started laughing uncontrollably.

“The pan,” I eventually interrupted. “There was a reference to a pan.”

“Well,” she said, “the pan is what I’ve been putting them in, with the boiling water.”

“Out the back door?” I asked, with visions of slugs being cooked in the frying pan on my cooker.

“Well,” she explained, “I gave up with the salt and washing up liquid. It was costing a fortune.”

“Do you pick them up with tweezers?” I asked.

“Sometimes I pick them up with sticks,” she explained. “You know how I’ve been eating with chopsticks a lot? I’ve been getting a bit more dextrous.”

“You’ve been using my chopsticks from Beijing?” I asked, slightly worried.

“No,” she reassured me, “I’ve been using twigs like chopsticks, only it’s a bit tricky.”

“Surely slugs are slimy and slide off?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “you pincer them between the two sticks and lift them up. Do you remember nothing of chopstick technique?”

“And you have a pan of boiling hot water out the back door?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “I stick them in an empty, dry, copper pan and then I just pour the… I’m usually making myself a cup of tea, wander out into the back garden… See one… Oh blimey! There’s a slug!… Next thing you know, I’m having to go into full operational mode and pour my boiled water which was going to make my cup of tea over a slug instead. By the time I’ve finished the whole awful procedure, I have had no tea and wander round the garden to see if there’s any other things out there. The biggest drag of it all is when you have to pour off the boiled water so you can tip the little bodies into the green bin. It’s all geechy and slimy and they all look quite gross.”

“How many have you killed in the four weeks I’ve been away?” I asked.

“Maybe thirty,” she told me.

“That’s around one a day,” I said. “Can’t we eat them?”

You eat them,” she replied. “in a frying pan of your choice. I’m not going to have anything to do with them.”

“You can probably make a fortune selling them to some foreign restaurant,” I suggested. “They’re probably a delicacy in Norway or Burundi or Sarawak or somewhere.”

“I’m sure you’ll love them,” my eternally-un-named friend said.

“I’m still not clear about the washing powder,” I prompted.

But then she changed the subject. Intentionally. Successfully.

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Why I had to eat half a grapefruit for my birthday breakfast today & for the slugs

The British Olympic team parade in their gay Abba costumes

I was slightly unsettled last night by the sight of the British team at the Olympic Opening Ceremony walking round the track wearing what appeared to be gay Abba tribute costumes. Now I have to face dead slugs. Only time can tell which will leave the greater psychological scar.

I blogged last month about my eternally-un-named friend’s triumph in building a better mouse trap and drowning one of the diminutive rodents overnight in my living room.

Now she has turned her attention to species cleansing my garden.

Planks and an unexplained copper chamber pot in my garden

She likes plants, which means she dislikes slugs, which is why there were three short wooden planks lying in my garden yesterday morning. And an unexplained chamber pot.

“They crawl around all night, doing their heinous things,” my eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday morning. “The slugs. Eating your plants and then, before dawn starts, they need somewhere to hide.”

“Like vampires?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed, laughing in an unsettling way. “Like vampires and Daleks,” she said. “They need somewhere to hide that’s damp and away from the sun, because they dry out. The slugs. The whole thing about them is they go round on their slime everywhere and they don’t like to dry out. That’s why they do their eating at night.”

“I know you put the planks down,” I said, “so the slugs will hide under them and you will find them in the morning. But there is a chamber pot involved. I didn’t know I had a chamber pot.”

Oddly orange and very dead slug barely visible in chamber pot

“The chamber pot,” she explained, “just happens to be the only thing I can use to put the salted water in. And it has a dash of washing up liquid. I don’t want to use saucepans and plates – obviously.”

“But I didn’t know I had a chamber pot,” I said. “The first I knew of it was ten minutes ago. I know I have a bad memory, but… And it’s metal!”

“I got it on eBay,” my eternally-un-named friend explained.

“But why a metal chamber pot?” I asked.

“It’s copper. It’s a lovely colour,” she said.

“But you will hear the sound of your own plops,” I said. “Why did you buy it?”

“Well,” she said, “I like copper and a chamber pot is always useful.”

“For killing slugs?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “You either lay planks down on the ground near the plants – which they will hide under when the day comes – or you can use half a grapefruit.”

Grapefruit: weapons of mass destruction in the slug war

“You drop the grapefruit on them?” I asked.

“No. You cut the grapefruit in half and then eat the middle out,” she explained, “then over-turn it  and put it on the ground near the plants like a little hut for the slugs… And you maybe put some water around the area because they are drawn to anything that’s damp and then they hide under the hollowed-out half grapefruit and think Oh good. I’m not going to dry out during the day. But you find then the next day and, em…”

“You kill them?”

“Well, only one fell for my plank ruse this time,” she said, “but I read an article on Google that said, in one hour, you can collect one hundred slugs.”

“In a small space?” I asked.

“It didn’t say…” my eternally-un-named friend mused, “It didn’t say what size of space. But I suppose, if you had a very large garden…”

“Like the back garden of Buckingham Palace,” I suggested. “If the Queen did it, she’d probably get a hundred. I think I read somewhere that she likes grapefruit.”

“I would think, in your garden so far I’ve easily caught twenty odd.”

“Yesterday?”

“Over a period.”

“I don’t suppose Prince Charles would approve of his mother stalking and killing slugs,” I said, lost in my thoughts. “You had that dream last night.”

“Mmmm…..” my eternally-un-named friend said, also lost in thought. “About a giant…”

“Slug,” I said.

“Ye-e-e-s,” she said.

One casualty in the on-going back garden war of attrition

“What was it doing?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just had to find a bucket of water big enough to stick it in. The chamber pot was not big enough… And then there are the eggshells…”

“The eggshells?” I asked.

“Well, an alternative is – though you can use all these at the same time, of course – and I think you should – Slugs don’t deserve to live if they eat my sweet peas… Look at the size of my sweet peas! Can you remember what size they were last year?”

“I… I…” I spluttered ineffectively.

“They’re less than half the size!” she told me, her voice rising.

“What’s happened to the top half?” I asked.

“The slugs have eaten them,” she told me.

“But slugs don’t eat from the top down,” I said. “They can’t levitate.”

“Yes,” my eternally-un-named friend agreed, “but that’s why they don’t grow any further, because someone went and ate them when they were starting. They’re half the height and that bush which is supposed to be a pom-pom bush is…”

“… now only a pom?” I suggested.

“Every little sprout!” she said, passionately. “They chew on the new sprouts. A new sprout can’t turn into an older sprout if someone’s gone and eaten it.”

“Won’t the poison just kill them?” I asked.

My eternally-un-named friend has been spreading little blue poison pellets around my back garden for the last few weeks. When we returned last week after a week in Milan, there was a small mound of dead and decomposing slugs under a an up-turned flower pot.

“Another thing which will apparently kill them is coffee,” my eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday.

“Coffee?” I asked.

“I will try pouring coffee – obviously not hot – over the plants… I don’t think it will damage the plants but, anyway… slugs don’t like it and they’re not sure why…”

“The slugs aren’t sure why?” I asked.

“The experts,” she told me reprovingly. “They think it’s maybe because of the caffeine drying-out the slugs.”

“There’s always cocaine,” I suggested. “They’d run around so fast they’d burn their stomachs off and die in screaming slug agony. But why eggshells?”

“I told you,” my eternally-un-named friend said patiently. “They’re like the Daleks. They need a flat surface.”

“Daleks can levitate now,” I pointed out.

“They can’t climb over sharp edges,” she said, ignoring me. “So you put broken eggshells round the bottom of the plants like an impenetrable barrier.”

“Like tank traps,” I said.

“Yes,” she said supportively. “Well done.”

“And it is true,” I said. “You never actually see Daleks at the bottom of plants, do you?”

“Well, in your garden you do,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

A Dalek hides in the undergrowth at the bottom of my garden

“But won’t the poison pellets just kill them?” I asked, persisting. “The slugs, not the Daleks.”

“The blue pellets are very ugly on the ground,” she replied, “and they don’t work when it gets wet, because the whole thing of killing them is with the dehydration. And apparently the poison pellets work by attracting them. So, if they don’t eat the pellets and you haven’t managed to kill them, then you’ve gone and attracted a whole lot who are going to lay eggs around everything and you’re going to have the whole same problem keep happening and, basically, you’re doomed.”

My unexpected birthday breakfast today – half a grapefruit

“I’m doomed?” I said.

“Death and taxes and slugs,” she said.

So it goes.

Happy birthday to me.

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Flower Power! Prince Charles vindicated! – How to receive television signals using an indoor potted plant

When satellite television was first starting up, I remember watching an edition of BBC TV’s late and much-lamented science show Tomorrow’s World. They said you didn’t need a dish to receive satellite television: just a roughly parabolic dish-shaped object aligned towards the satellite and a feed antenna (the little box suspended in front of the satellite dish). They demonstrated this by using a metal dustbin lid and received a perfect television picture. (That’s a trashcan lid, if you are an American.)

Last night, I was standing at the checkouts in a local B&Q store, waiting to pay, when my friend suddenly said:

“Wait here, I’m just going to see if I can find a busy lizzy to use for my TV aerial.”

And off she went.

No explanation.

It seemed a little odd, but I try to be understanding.

She came back a few minutes later, before I reached the till, but she had not managed to find any busy lizzy plants in the B&Q gardening section.

She told me that, in the late 1970s, she saw an edition of Tomorrow’s World in which they demonstrated that, if you connect a wire from the aerial socket of your TV set to an indoor plant, it will receive and display a picture just as good as any normal metal TV aerial.

Tomorrow’s World successfully demonstrated this with a busy lizzy and my friend tried it herself at the time – baring the wire at the end of the lead connected to the aerial socket of her TV and sticking it into the 12-inch high stalk of her presumably slightly surprised busy lizzy.

It worked. She got perfect TV reception.

“You mean you feed the wire right down inside the whole stalk of the plant?” I asked her last night.

“No,” she explained to me. “You just stick the end of the wire into the side of the stalk.”

“At right angles?”

“At right angles. A busy lizzy has quite a fleshy stalk.  You just stick the end of the wire at 90 degrees into the stalk and the plant acts as a TV aerial for the set and receives signals.”

I looked at her.

“It makes me think Prince Charles might be on to something,” I said. “Talking to plants… What about sticking it into a cannabis plant?”

“Too weak and weedy,” she told me.

“I rather like him,” I said.

She looked at me disapprovingly.

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