Alarm Cocks!

Paul knew Andrew had always enjoyed cock in the early morning, but the noisy dawn chorus which now woke them for the fourth day in a row at 4.28 am was insufferable to them both.

Andrew had often crowed irritatingly about being a ‘morning person’ but even these avian alarm cocks where too much for him!

Some of the cocky birds began their wooing at just before midnight up on the Mekong, making it clear to Paul that their body clocks were completely out of cock.

This rabble of roosters, at times what sounded like thousands of them, had ironically made it impossible to lay. Paul knew he had over egged the location of their little shack, on the tiny island in the river. He had, what it seemed, booked them into a gigantic organic poultry farm!

The boys were more than ready to move on or a real cock fight was on the cards. And not one of the feathered variety! It would give a whole new meaning to the term ‘battery farm’!

Paul found it quite ironic to discover such a hatred of these fowl creatures. Especially as he was more than proud that his husband had achieved great theatrical success in the past when playing the part of ‘Rooster’ in the hit musical ‘Annie’.  Andrew had been nominated for a prestigious ‘Olivier Award’ that year for his free-ranging, cocky performance, and was amazingly still able to amuse Paul with his uncanny ‘Cockle-Doodle -Doo’!

Alarmingly, it was now a case of ‘Cockle-Doodle-Don’t’!  Or more than a few feathers were sure to fly!

The time was now 5.20am, way before the sun was even considering making her entrance, and Paul sat on the makeshift terrace of the guest house, in the deafening dark.

He attempted to concentrate, tablet in hand, and began to write a blog. The competition betwixt the horny birds was too much, the only tablet Paul realised he could handle was a strong paracetamol. He reverted to reading a Julia Child recipe he’d just found for ‘Coq Au Vin’ , in an attempt to bring some cruel solace. Luckily the ‘sol’ did just that. And as she climbed swiftly into the purple sky, silence reigned.

Finally dethroning the cock of the walk!

It was blissful.

Later that morning, just after the cocks had crowed their last, the boys climbed aboard a local banger and made for civilisation.

The ‘little green bus’ was just as charming and cheap as they had remembered. Paul was a firm believer that if one wanted to truly know a place then public transport was by far the best introduction.

Nong Khai, the Thai city for which they were heading, was a veritable metropolis compared to where they had recently been travelling. He hoped that some relative comfort would provide some much needed ‘shuteye’.

Andrew began to sketch a pencil drawing of the sleep deprived Paul along the way.

The artist chewing incessantly on nicotine gum, until he found a short stop along the way to partake of the real thing!

Paul nodded sleepily, much like a chicken liver on a stick, until the creaky bus pulled into the bus station at Nong Khai.

As he and Andrew donned their rucksacks and started the trek towards their new boarding house, he thought at least now we shall get some sleep – minus the flocking roosters!

After all, he was nothing, if not a cock-eyed optimist!

I Miss Saigon.

Her crown may be glitzier, her gown may have more sparkle, yet her face is almost unrecognizable. Lifted, filled and bulldozed to make up an entirely different visage to the one I met here, almost twenty years ago.

Lucky enough to be sailing and performing on The Q.E.2., we docked here, on the Saigon River,  on two magnificent occasions.  I recall such a colourful connurbation, full of oriental mystery, not to mention some mysterious orientals.

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My great friend, Becky and I, had a thrilling time, being pedalled around the ancient, incensed streets, by Ting, our trusty rickshaw pedlar. At once engulfed in narrow, smoky, lanes of boiling, mammoth pots containing unthinkable cuisine. Animals pulling carts of exotic produce, and children and chickens and dogs, and what seemed like a million other vibrant and virulent actors all adding to the richly foreign pantomime.  We fell in love, there and then, with Miss Saigon.

It was the Saigon I had imagined a few years before, when I saw Andrew at his brilliant best, starring in the show of the same name, at Drury Lane.

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Exhilarating, unnerving, dissarming.  And like Mr Kennedy, utterly enchanting.

And now, I have returned. I have searched in vain for this former enchantress.  The bygone Saigon.  But she just doesn’t want to show her hauntingly, nuanced face.

Sometimes, all cosmetic surgery seems to do,  is mask the true beauty, however uncompromising, that was once plain for all to see.  Seeing the change in Ho Chi Minh City today, does little to make my face lift!

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imageThere are still some character lines to be discovered here, if one looks hard enough.  Alleys of exuberant decadance, where a plethora of temptation and illicit goods, are available for the bad.  All at a haggled fee, of course.  Canals and rivulets of artful iniquity, flow like subtarreanean waterways ‘neath the town’s old boat race.  But these tributaries of tribulation are few and  far between.  The old laughter lines I remember, have been cunningly erased.  The warts expertedly excised.

Or just blasted into submission !

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And if you are lucky enough to spot one of the broken veins that reveal this city’s former bones, Lady Chi Minh turns, all too swiftly, to give you her good side once again.  Seemingly underconfident in her once, magnificent bone structure.

imageThe odd pocket of grand, French, colonialism can still be found, as one stumbles across a faded parade of shophouses, or a wan pastel mansion on a shady, tree lined avenue.  But there are less of these dinosaurs now,  crumbling discreetly, like antique, Gallic, gout-ridden, dukes.

Once splendid.

Now revolutionised.

Like the rest of the place!

image

Despite the rampant, and sometimes, irritating commercialism that is ever present here, the city still feels like she’s had a rosy, red, facelift!

Her brash, near-perfect, Hollywood smile disguising some of her less palateble home-truths.

The Vietnamese government control every news outlet in this country. image Every television channel. All of the press is state managed too,  and the government imprisons anyone who dares to sling mud in it’s face.  Including bloggers !  At least a hundred writers were banged up last year for simply having a point of view.  Not such a pretty face now eh?

There are always several facets to every major world city.  So it is not surprising the reigning Miss Saigon is ever so slightly two faced.

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But I prefer the old, fading, beauty queen of a town, when I was a gentleman caller in my prime. She definitely wore too much slap, and was less, well, red!  But she had a surfeit of eastern promise and allowed her resident scribes much more expression.

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A Miss Saigon played by Norma Desmond.  Always ready for her close up – however revealing!

As much of my acquaintance will know, I am the first in line for a spot of Nivea and a touch of peroxide.  After all,  everybody can sometimes do with a little tarting up in some districts.  A little gentrification can do wonders for a tired surburban face.  But major surgery?

Is almost every, up and coming, oriental starlet of a city, destined to metamorphosize into every, ordinary, aging, L.A. Socialite ?

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Ageless. Devoid of character. Lifeless.

Yet it seems another urban, oriental, grand-dame is to slip disgracefully into old age.

Out with the ancestors. In with the new !

What a load of old botox!

image

I miss Saigon!

I Miss Saigon.

 

Her crown maybe glitzier, her gown may have more sparkle. Yet her face is almost unrecognizable. Lifted, filled and bulldozed to make up an entirely different visage to the one I met here, almost twenty years ago.

Lucky enough to be sailing and performing on The Q.E.2., we docked here, on the Saigon River,  on two magnificent occasions.  I recall such a colourful connurbation, full of oriental mystery, not to mention some mysterious orientals.

image

My great friend, Becky and I, had a thrilling time, being pedalled around the ancient, incensed streets, by Ting, our trusty rickshaw pedlar. At once engulfed in narrow, smoky, lanes of boiling, mammoth pots containing unthinkable cuisine. Animals pulling carts of exotic produce, and children and chickens and dogs, and what seemed like a million other vibrant and virulent actors all adding to the richly foreign pantomime.  We fell in love, there and then, with Miss Saigon.

It was the Saigon I had imagined a few years before, when I saw Andrew at his brilliant best, starring in the show of the same name, at Drury Lane.

imageimage

Exhilarating, unnerving, dissarming.  And like Mr Kennedy, utterly enchanting.

And now, I have returned. I have searched in vain for this former enchantress.  The bygone Saigon.  But she just doesn’t want to show her hauntingly, nuanced face.

Sometimes, all cosmetic surgery seems to do,  is mask the true beauty, however uncompromising, that was once plain for all to see.  Seeing the change in Ho Chi Minh City today, does little to make my face lift!

image

 

imageThere are still some character lines to be discovered here, if one looks hard enough.  Alleys of exuberant decadance, where a plethora of temptation and illicit goods, are available for the bad.  All at a haggled fee, of course.  Canals and rivulets of artful iniquity, flow like subtarreanean waterways across the town’s old boat race.  But these tributaries of tribulation are few and  far between.  The old laughter lines I remember, have been cunningly erased.  The warts expertly excised.

Or just blasted into submission !

image

And if you are lucky enough to spot one of the broken veins that reveal this city’s former bones, Lady Chi Minh turns, all too swiftly, to give you her good side once again.  Seemingly underconfident in her once, magnificent bone structure.

imageThe odd pocket of grand, French, colonialism can still be found, as one stumbles across a faded parade of shophouses, or a wan pastel mansion on a shady, tree lined avenue.  But there are less of these dinosaurs now,  crumbling discreetly, like antique, Gallic, gout-ridden, dukes.

Once splendid.

Now revolutionised.

Like the rest of the place!

image

Despite the rampant, and sometimes, irritating commercialism that is ever present here, the city still feels like she’s had a rosy, red, facelift!

Her brash, near-perfect, Hollywood smile disguising some of her less palateble home-truths.

The Vietnamese government control every news outlet in this country. image Every television channel. All of the press is state managed too,  and the government imprisons anyone who dares to sling mud in it’s face.  Including bloggers !  At least a hundred writers were banged up last year for simply having a point of view.  Not such a pretty face now eh?

There are always several facets to every major world city.  So it is not surprising the reigning Miss Saigon is ever so slightly two faced.

image

But I prefer the old, fading, beauty queen of a town, when I was a gentleman caller in my prime. She definitely wore too much slap, and was less, well, red!  But she had a surfeit of eastern promise and allowed her resident scribes much more expression.

image

A Miss Saigon played by Norma Desmond.  Always ready for her close up – however revealing!

As much of my acquaintance will know, I am the first in line for a spot of Nivea and a touch of peroxide.  After all,  everybody can sometimes do with a little tarting up in some districts.  A little gentrification can do wonders for a tired surburban face.  But major surgery?

Is almost every, up and coming, oriental starlet of a city, destined to metamorphosize into every, ordinary, aging, L.A. Socialite ?

image

Ageless. Devoid of character. Lifeless.

Yet it seems another urban, oriental, grand-dame is to slip disgracefully into old age.

Out with the ancestors. In with the new !

What a load of old botox!

image

I miss Saigon!

Birds Of A Feather.

Back in ‘Blighty’ for the first time since spring and  Andrew and I seem to have brought the spanish  sunshine with us.   As torrential storms batter the Costa Del Sol, we have been more fortunate – basking in the warm glow of a beautiful british autumn.

imageWe are returning to our home shores for a mini UK Lola Boy tour – Seddlescombe, Hastings, London, Liverpool, Emsworth and Brighton.

Beyoncé eat your heart out !

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We began our trip in Battle.  That famous spot where good King Harold famously came unstuck, or rather unseated.

We had a booking for a private show to celebrate a wonderful lady’s 70th birthday at a quaint village hotel close to the town.

Of course, as is always the case when Andrew and I are preparing for a performance, we had a little skirmish all of our own.  A sort of, ‘Lola Boys’ Battle Of Hastings !image

One of us had forgotten to pack something or other, as is usually the case, once we’ve opened the case!  Andrew blamed me, and of course, I was certain it was his fault.

Fortunately, there was no bow and arrow nearby, or one of us would have no doubt suffered the same fate as that of  poor King Harry.  image

It could have been one in the eye for Andy !

I was still angry with him for flirting outrageously with a handsome frenchman  on the flight over – one Norman invasion he was far too keen on in my opinion.

The show went without a hitch or an injury however, and we then moved on to visit our old friends who reside nearby.

Peacetime resumed and we spent a wonderful time reminiscing and recounting bygone drama school dramas.  All terribly theatrical – and theatrically terrible later on, after we all consumed a little too much of the wine of friendship!

It is always so good to catch up with old amigos that know you far too well – Juliet is truly a touchstone.  And in this case, a touch stoned.  Marvellous.

Then to our old stomping ground – London Town, and a brief stopover with lovely Cousin Lucy in S.E.6.  imagePie and mash with lashings of liquor – followed by more lashings of liquor, only this time in pint glasses.

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When we first arrived in Catford a few years back, this part of London had literally gone to the dogs.  imageNow the dog track has been put down and replaced with trendy ‘affordable’ housing – a two bedroom apartment, a mere snip, at four hundred grand !

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Kennels for the posher pooch !

Wednesday evening saw us taking a taxi to Pinewood Studios to see the filming of a great british sitcom, starring our great friend Lesley.

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Unfortunately the green room was awash with free beer prior to the programme, and being unable to resist,  Andrew found himself cross-legged for much of the recording,  just managing to nip out during a quick hiatus in filming for a ‘Jimmy Riddle.’

The biggest riddle to me is why he always manages to imbibe so much liquid prior to situations where he knows there will be an inconvenience when ready to expel it!

Aircraft are a common problem for him .

Although he may suffer from water retention post-flight, there is certainly no retaining it whilst belted in up onboard!

After the show we attended a small gathering in celebration of the last episode of the series, and twenty six years of the show’s first airing.

imageMore hops drinking ensued and Andrew was forced, (the facilities now closed), to relieve himself round the back of the famous set where the latest James Bond flick, ‘Spectre’,  has just been  filmed, making a right ‘spectre-cal’  of himself !

Lesley and I pretended not to notice and made for the car quickly, fearful of being chastised by ‘M’.

And now we head for Liverpool.

On route, I find myself most amused on the train when using the lavatory. The recorded announcement reminds me that along with  nappies, paper towels and sanitary pads,  one should refrain from chucking one’s car keys, old jumpers and lost hopes and dreams down the  pan too.

It seems as though someone on Virgin Rail has a sense of humour.  But then I should have realised that when I saw how much they’d charged us for a bloody ticket !

The same price on a budget airline could have got us to New York’s east side – as opposed to the north west’s Merseyside !  
But hey, I shan’t complain,  as it is always a pleasure to ride on a smooth Virgin engine, and even more of one to spend time in ‘The Pool’.  image

A crafty puff !

We find the ‘Scousers’ unremittingly welcoming, so we always look forward to our shows here.

During this little trip we shall also be celebrating a big anniversary – that of our spanish nuptials.

We cannot believe that it is three years since we held the occasion down at our favourite haunt on the beach with our friends and the family that could make it.

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T’was a blast.

We shall be celebrating in Brighton next week with a rare trip to the pictures to see Daniel Craig strutting his stuff as the gorgeous James Bond goes into action once again.

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Like Mr Bond we have been both shaken and stirred over the years, but we remain  true  birds of a feather.  Still sharing the same nest, albeit rather small and prickly at times !

Hopefully we’ll be flocking together for some time to come.

I shall let you know – the rest of the tour ain’t over yet.

Time to get to work.  Feather the nest.

And, as they say, it’s not over til the Lolaboy sings – or something like that !

Theatrical Digs!

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And so we hit the uneven boards at our local chiringuito last night, with sand and french toddlers under our feet.

A somewhat crazy night, awash with absolute, sincere appreciation shown by some, mixed with a little disbelief from others, and just a dash of disrespect from a few more.

A strange, and not to be repeated, cocktail. I’m afraid if I knock it back again, I may knock a child out as the result!

Not the best idea to let your kids run riot when there are two, nearly high-kicking, six foot homosexuals in the vicinity.

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It was nearly death by Can Can for the little garcon who approached my five inch stilletto during ‘Send In The Clowns’.  Send in the nanny, I beseeched inwardly, before we have a  ‘crime passionnel.’  Well, it is a passionate song.

Not my favourite performance.

Still – we were paid!

And earlier in the week, to make me even more theatrical and irate, we were called upon to sell our services, as comedy poofs, at some jumped up cow’s fortieth – sorry, thirtieth!

She didn’t want us to sing, just make merry and be gay.  Cheek!

When we told her the cost of selling our arse-souls to her up-your-arse pretentious mates , she was far less keen, informing us that she could get a sport’s pundit for the same money.

Well good luck love. I’d like to see Claire Balding strutting her stuff with ten inches under her, or Gary Lineker! (Mmmm – actually thinking about it Gary could be good…)Gary-Lineker

Still, it is most aggravating when people presume to judge you alongside others, when what you do, is you. No more, no less. How dull this girl appeared,  when attempting to get us to reduce our fee she informed us that she could employ some sports’s hack – at a cheaper cost.  That’s like hiring a shotputter to do the 100 metres.  They are quite different sports!

And therefore have quite different recompense! Ignorant woman.

It is at times like these I always try to remember, a little self worth is a good thing – it takes a whole lot of angst to appear this confident and believe me, it’s gotta be worth it!

I remind Andrew, ignore the silly cow, you were in Miss Saigon once!

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And wonderful you were too.

I doubt we shall hear from our lady inquirer again – I very much doubt she was in our audience last night.

She therefore never got to witness the sheer electricity that Andrew created , when he put his fag out ,literally,  and dazzled with ‘Empty Chairs At Empty Tables’ from ‘Les Mis’.  Not a camp laugh in sight!

So much better, in my opinion, than the shitty film I had the utmost misfortune to sit through the other night. Zut alors!  Please, if you’re going to film a musical, at least find actors who can sing.  Clue is in the title – musical!  I mean, Russell Crowe – Russell No!

Or as Andrew put it – Russell crowed!

The best bit was when Russell croaked!!!

Sacreblue!

Never again – we found it more than a little miserable. Apart from the outstanding work by Miss Hathaway as Fantine.

Otherwise, dans me ‘umble opinion, it was le pits.

Truly merde!

Less crappy, at the weekend, we saw an old flatmate of mine.  Mike Stirling and I shared digs when he was rehearsing Les Miserables in London and I was modelling nude for a group of snobby painters in Chiswick.  We were both sure of our true talents.  Even back then!

Mike has played over a thousand performances as the phantom in the eponymous West End’ musical.

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This night, he was superb.

Yet, he still had to contend with audience members crossing in front of him stealing his spotlight, and worse, screeching  over him – and not even in the same key!

Some nights we know how he feels.

It is amazing, but, hey, that’s showbiz.

It’s not always appealing.

Ya love it, then ya hate it.

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But then again.

There sure ain’t nothing like it!