Rory’s Boys – Alan Clark

RB(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This is no great work of literature but it does make a point and has several tragic back stories. It is easy to dismiss old people unless you know their history.

The opening scene, in a gay sauna, is realistic. So is the depiction of people going to waste in an old folks’ home.

I once remember an elderly couple discussing care homes and how even married couples are sometimes spilt up and it would be a good idea if there were gay care homes. (I gather that the first such home opened in Berlin in 2008)

Even for people with plenty of money, the outsourcing by local authorities of care homes means little choice is available.

Many gay men hide their sexuality so people are unaware of their need. As old character explains: ” They were criminals till they were thirty or forty. Some of them have never got the chill of that out of their bones, however cosy things might be now. The shame may have gone, but the embarrassment’s still there like a ball and chain. They learn to drag it around but they never entirely lose it”

To a bigoted bishop who thinks castration is the answer, this man replies: “…he wasn’t a huge fan of God’s. He wasn’t impressed by God’s CV…..God not having turned up for work a few too many times”

He captures accurately two experiences I have also had: I stood on the topmost gallery and looked down on the danc­ers. The body-heat rose and hit you in the face. It was like looking into a cauldron seething with gorgeous grubs, slithering around each other, high as kites on fuck-knows-what……The ghetto stereotypes were all there: the skin-deep machismo of the leather men who probably worked in the fabric department of John Lewis, the pot-bellied bears with their beards and tats, the shaven-headed, anorexic waifs, the screamers in eye-liner. Every one of them instantly flagged their sexuality to the world and his wife without embarrassment, defiant in their right to be respected. And wasn’t that exactly what my lot had battled for? Why should I be jealous of that? Fuck it. I still deserved a place here. I’d earned it…….I headed for the exit via the loos. The urinals were crowded. ……when a gruff voice murmured in my ear. `Shame to waste that mate.’ A big leather guy beside me had pushed an empty half-pint beer mug under my cock. ……I watched my warped reflection pissing into the beer mug, chipping away at my very soul. `Cheers mate,’ he said.

I don’t think he can get away with using the word ‘Paki’ and ‘nigger’ in 2011.

His description of the homophobic views of an African bishop is only a slight caricature.

I didn’t know what ‘nixed tea’ was – apparently it is some sort of herbal concoction.

I’m not one for grace before meals but I did like: .He bowed his head and began what was possibly the first grace ever spoken over cod and chips on a Southwark Council bench. It wasn’t a short one either. Frankie not only thanked God for what we were about to receive, he also thanked the fishermen who’d risked their lives on the deep and the farmers who’d planted the spuds.

I liked the description of the cruisey part of Hampstead Heath: I suppose it’s the unfortunates who go there?’ she asked. ones who’ve not found anybody?’ I shrugged as if I didn’t know. I didn’t want to disabuse her that notion, to tell her that lots of nice respectable people found places like this unbelievably exciting, a brief liberation from lives inhibited by conscience, religion, partners or wives. Nor was I going to tell her that some regarded it as an untouchable part of their human rights, a grubby Mecca to which every self-respecting gay had to make at least one pilgrimage. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to grasp the sophistication of that argument just after she’d had, presumably, her first glimpse of fellatio and been up to her knees in used johnnies.

Talking about being thrown out by parents: if you’re thrown over the cliff, you can either fall or fly. I flew. And the more you fly, the stronger you get.’ (Then the juke box plays ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings.’ – this is an uncanny prediction of an event at the end of the book)

A dentist criticising someone else’s work: The mouth is like a magic garden from which spring the fruits of civilized thought, the words of poetry and passion, the sound of sweet music. What a shame if the garden gates are grubby, uneven or coming off their hinges. We’ll talk later.

A loose end – Rory looses his car keys in a thunderstorm. The next day he drives his car away without having found his keys.

And we all know places like this: Whatever the village might once have been, it had forgotten long ago. Perched on a bluff above a winding, unpretentious river, the Chilterns crumpled on the eastern horizon, it ought to have been appealing, the apple of an estate agent’s eye. There was a decent Norman church, a sprinkling of thatched cottages, even a Georgian manor house mentioned in Pevsner. But it was blighted by a thirties council estate, bus-shelters doused in graffiti and a playground with peeling swings, where hard-faced young moth­ers smoked their fags while their kids screamed expletives in competition with the birdsong.

Some telling comments:

Of a young doctor, `’He was Mother Teresa with an arse to die for.”

After an apology to a clergyman, `’He forgave me with that irritating condescension which makes you want to kill believers in anything”.

The narrator’s first encounter with his daughter, `’As I glugged the whisky, I felt a sudden easing, as if some tiny muscle inside which has been in spasm for years had relaxed itself.”

The author doesn’t know much about women’s bodies, writing as he does about a ‘clitoral fart’. Maybe he means ‘fanny fart.’

Towards the end, a few skeletons tumble out of their closets.

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