Josie Crystal!

I’m determined not to let another day pass without getting something in this diary, however dull.

Today, morning: dental check-up. Went so well that the dentist said I don’t need to come back for nine months, rather than six. This is actually quite a big thing for me – I think at the age of 40 I’ve finally managed to look after my teeth.

Afternoon: researching Polari for my talk on Tuesday. It’s at the Camden School Of Enlightenment, upstairs at the Camden Head bar, in Camden High Street. That’s in Camden, strangely enough. More details at:

Learned today: ‘On your tod’ (meaning alone) is rhyming slang. After Tod Sloan, a US jockey popular in the 1890s. Tod Sloan = alone.

Found on the web: the entire Bible translated into Polari, courtesy the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence:

Jesus Christ is ‘Josie Crystal’.

This evening: I attend Miriam Miller’s birthday do at the North Nineteen bar in Holloway. It’s in the same road as the flat where Douglas Adams wrote the novel of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (19 Kingsdown Road, according to the book I Was Douglas Adams’s Flatmate ). Miriam is a comedy fan and promoter. When I pointed out the proximity of this slice of comedy history, she and a gaggle of her comedian friends nipped out to have their photo taken outside it.

(Douglas Adams is actually getting a heritage plaque next year, courtesy of Islington Council. It’ll be at one of his other Islington addresses. I’m hoping to attend the unveiling).

Walked today from Highgate to the British Library: 4 miles, 1 hour. I’m trying to do at least an hour’s brisk walk every day now, in place of jogging or going to the gym. Not quite up to Dickens’s alleged 20-mile walks yet, but I’m working on it.


Recent activity: I spend my 40th not bothering with the stresses of organising a party, but going on an impromptu solitary day trip to Margate and Broadstairs, via the new high speed domestic trains. What better way to celebrate the continuing existence of one’s eyes and legs than to give them new sights to see, new paths to walk?

The sleek nose of Southeastern’s HS train looks too priapic to refuse, frankly, the big trainy Casanova  (Microsoft Word’s spellcheck isn’t accepting ‘priapic’. What can that mean about Mr Gates?). Top speed of 140mph, 82 minutes journey time to Broadstairs, and 88 to Margate. Canterbury is now a mere 56 minutes away: Chaucer’s pilgrims would have to condense their Tales into Tweets (I bet someone has done this).

The town of Margate is, like a 40-year-old person, getting on a bit. One of England’s first seaside resorts from the 1700s, its decades-old amusement park ‘Dreamland’ is now listed and in the throes of restoration, currently hidden behind hoardings and scaffolding: see But also like a 40-year-old, it knows the story is not at an end, and it’d be a shame to just lapse into decay, moaning how things aren’t what they were. The past can be a burden (my ever decreasing energy, my lower tolerance for youthful things like noise and Mucking About, my ‘life experience’ proving difficult to use when chasing conventional employment), but it can also be a tool for building the future, if done carefully and properly. Just a question of knowing what to do.

One man’s regeneration is another’s despoiling. (‘Aw, I preferred it when it was falling apart’). The council rubbish bins are in brightly coloured plastic (red, blue, purple), emblazoned with the phrase ‘margate – the original seaside’ in self-conscious lower case and Helvetica font. One idea of what Taste means. I visit the brand new Turner Contemporary gallery: huge blocks of geometric White Cubes with slanted roofs joined together, a similar feel to the Tate St Ives. Staff in the gallery cafe wear black shirts and trousers: another indication of what Taste means.

I wistfully remember Break In The Sun, a 1981 children’s BBC TV drama based on a novel by Bernard Ashley, in which a young girl runs away from her awful stepfather in London to be with her mother in Margate.

Other Margate sights seen: the incredible Shell Grotto of underground tunnels covered in millions of seashells (discovered in the 1800s and still officially Unexplained), the Old Town shops around the old marketplace (very Brighton), and the town museum based in the old police station and court room (where 60s Mods and Rockers were jailed and called ‘seaside Caesars’ by the judge).

One unexpected memory of the trip: in the Margate museum, in a room of old Punch & Judy booths, a blind woman sits playing Una Paloma Blanca on the accordion.

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