Friday, 30 March 2012

The Gardens of Delargo Towers - March 2012

What a warm and sunny March - everything in the garden is moving on, seeds are sown and the pear is about to blossom and we have even managed to sit out in the sun and have a glass of wine.

The campanula and wallflowers are filling out



A Regal Pelargonium has "arrived" on the table...

I am going to make a bit more effort with herbs this year. So far we have flat Parsley, Rosemary, Basil and Coriander.

 Alistair's monster scented Pelargonium (above) is doing well and trying to flower.

 The pear tree is trying to blossom.

The Delphiniums have survived the slugs.

Anemones are looking fab and jolly.

Snake's Head Fritillary is looking promising.

Our pot of Tulip Ronaldo and Narcissi Thalia are too.

...and to close, a sweet little Virginia Stock which has managed to seed itself in the paving!

Roll on April


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Memories of Gay Old Plymouth

February is LGBT History Month, which was particularly interesting this year here in London.

However on returning to the capital after a family do in Plymouth a couple of weeks ago, I wondered just what LGBT history has been recorded about that city, my own home town.

There is indeed a group, the 'Plymouth LGBT Archive'

Click here for a look

They are attempting to create of a 'permanent physical and on-line LGBT history archive for the city of Plymouth'. I wish them well and look forward to the results of their work, as at the moment information on that closed and closeted world is sparse and fragmented.

Having 'come out' in Plymouth in the 70s, I thought I would try to list the gay pubs I have known in Plymouth - from the Lockyer Tavern up to the Swallow.

These jottings are from my recollections of the time and not meant to be a definitive account of the period.

We start in 1976 with my first visit to a Gay pub

The Lockyer Tavern

I have very happy memories of this pub. I believe that it had been a gay bar from the 50s. I was introduced to it after joining CHE (the Campaign for Homosexual Equality) when I was a student, and I remember it looking just as it does in the above photo. 

The world-famous local artist Beryl Cook (RIP) captured the atmosphere perfectly in her paintings - I knew her then, and remember dancing with her to the jukebox in the back bar. I had entered a new world, and knew it was home.

Then came the dreadful day we were expelled; and gay people were not welcome any more.
The Lockyer was later knocked down for no reason I can think of - nothing was built in its place::

Thus came the "Great Diaspora."

The loss of our pub was a disaster for the community. There might have been bitchiness, fall-outs and gossip but it was a community; everyone knew everyone and we all had a shared sense of identity. Now we had nowhere to meet, chat, share our stories and to escape what could be a very unfriendly heterosexual world.

Temporary 'homes'

Queens are not passive creatures. It takes courage to walk down Royal Parade dressed head to foot in pastel green with a silk scarf to match.

We did not sit back and bemoan our fate - we set out to conquer new territory - in a world without Twitter, Facebook or even mobile phones, just word of mouth. Advance parties went out to various venues (usually ones without many customers, in the assumption the landlord would be glad of the "Pink Pound"). We would descend on the selected pub en masse and see if we could make a new home for ourselves.

Several pubs were tried and eventually we settled in the back bar of the Grand Hotel (above).

...and also in the basement bar of the Strathmore Hotel (Atheneum Street).

The Gypsy Moth

However we found a more 'permanent' home in the Gipsy Moth IV (now called The Yard Arm).

The Gipsy Moth was on the Hoe and was lucky to have more than a couple of customers during the winter  - they were very glad to take our money.

But they were never sympathetic to 'the cause'. Once they had taken enough they too threw us out and had a major refit as a 'theme pub'.


The Tradesmans and Mr Harry's

In this blog I am supposedly only covering gay pubs rather than clubs - which might have excluded me from mentioning the extraordinary Mr Harry Greenslade, but as he had a pub off Union Street, The Tradesmans Arms (19 Octagon Street) so I can. It was a good pub to meet friendly "Royal Maureens" (Marines).

However Mr Harry's Nightclub was a wonderful place. I used to sign in under the name  'Bette Davis' or 'Joan Crawford', depending on my mood; no one seemed to mind.

I used to know almost everyone in the painting by Robert Lenkiewicz below - now other than myself (back row, 4th from the right), I can only remember the names of Kim, Peter and the lovely Glyn.

The Grand Duchess

Back to the story and to another new 'home' - The Grand Duchess (now the oddly named 'Fresher and Professor), 34 Gibbon Street. This was a cosy pub behind the library.

The Swallow

At last - in 1989 Plymouth got a gay-owned and gay-run pub, The Swallow.

Click for their website

Still going strong and still owned and run by Colin but sadly no longer aided and abetted by the unforgettable Peter (RIP).

Sunday lunch at the Swallow was an unmissable event, and I am sure many people have fond memories of Peter camping it up doing his raffle, Gladdy teetering on her stool at the bar and the glamorous Jan and Malcolm at their reserved table.

Photo from the Swallow website (link above):

There is no photo of old Gladdy, unfortunately...

It is easy for people to take the Swallow for granted, but it has given the LGBT community stability and a centre for many years. I can remember even in the 90s the hostility and verbal abuse from 'the straights' - let alone the eggs thrown at the windows by the children from the Moon Street flats. The flats have gone but the Swallow remains. Cheers Colin!

Along with the Swallow there have been a few other gay pubs.

The Clarence

Always a little dodgy but I had some great times there when it was run by Dave and his lovely partner Jack. Still going, apparently.

The United Services and The Friary

When Dave and Jack's relationship broke up, Dave took over the United Services Inn, Lambhay Hill. We had many a happy Sunday lunch there.

When that went, Dave took over the The Old Friary Inn (51 Bretonside) - too close to the Swallow for comfort, and that went under too.

Notable mentions

Stonehouse Wine & Spirit Vaults (1 Caroline Place): this was a fab venture, unfortunately doomed to failure. Managed by two boys from up North, it was very friendly, played great music and was an all-round jolly pub. They even converted the upstairs to a club but some people didn't like going down to the area around Millbay (the Red Light district) and I think they had licencing problems too.

Bretonside - Hawkins Meeting House: I have only been in once and that was more than enough.

The Lesbian scene

While the girls were welcome in the pubs above, lesbians also had their own gay pubs from time to time.

I remember going to the Melbourne Inn (76 Cecil Street) with my friend Sally. I had been "adopted" by lesbians so was allowed in unharmed. Girls' pubs could be rough indeed. I can remember a group of Marines coming in for a 'bit of a laugh'. They were soon sent packing with their tails between their legs.

Others I remember included The Penrose (in Penrose Street), and the Olive Branch (15 Wyndham Street)  where the landlady's party trick was to lift a full beer barrel on to the bar!

I hope my recollections have been interesting. If anyone has memories or even photos to share I would be very pleased hear - also, if there are any inaccuracies, please drop me a comment.