In the confessional spirit of a recent posting I was once more reminded of that day many, many years ago when I became a man. It seems so long ago now, back in the days when I was ploughing my way up and down the sweltering, mosquito-ridden coast of the faraway Philippines. I was a lowly deckhand aboard a rackety old tramp steamer, called 'The Bastos Batang Babae', a big name for a small boat. The Captain, a grizzled old salt called Henri One Eye, swore blind it meant 'Cheeky Girl', but his monocular oaths were unreliable at best. There certainly wasn't anything cheeky or girlish about this rusty old bucket. We carried contraband from one illegal port to the next, no questions were asked and no prying eyes saw us as we slipped into each filthy harbour at the dead of night only to skulk away before dawn and the scorching sun that would betray our shameful trade.
I decided to jump ship at Tacloban, it was the kind of port where a callow young deckhand might find a little relief, he might also find his thoughts wandering and wondering if the willing arms of Consuela della Maria d' Glorioso Handfullio might be his tonight. This vision, this goddess, this siren of the rocks, haunted my every waking hour. I only glimpsed her once, in the shadows her eyes burned like fiery coals, her angelic face spoiled or was it improved by full lips that looked like they were capable of what a boy dreamt of only at the dead of night. I had decided, I had to have her. I had the money, each precious pesos, hard earned was slipped into the folds of my grubby, sweat stained vest.
She would be hard to find in the filthy alleys and crumbling havela's of downtown Tacloban. It was the kind of port where a boy sailor might just melt away, vanish, only to re-appear the following morning, yawning with dark eyes and a shy smile, nothing needed to be said, his aching limbs, shadowy bruises and empty pockets, were words enough. Rumours suggested that Consuelo was to be found in a room down an ink black alley off the Ria Santa d'Angelo del Popocorko. After much stumbling and cursing, reeking of cheap rum and Dutch courage, I finally found Consuelo's lair. Before me stood an old dark door, stained and scratched just like any other, it gave no clues as to the luxuriant delights that lay within. Gathering myself up, a tremor running through my chest, my eager heart pounding like a hammer on an anvil, I gasped, raised my trembling hand and prepared to enter paradise. First one weak rather hesitant knock, then another this time a little louder, finally a third, bold, desperate and urgent thump. In the darkness wet rats paused from feasting on fat clogged drains and a sour smell permeated my feverish brain. As though in a trance I heard distant footsteps, soft but insistent, surely these must be the footsteps of my angel, my dark-eyed, full lipped angel sent to deliver me to my own private heaven, transcendent at last, the curtain of virginity would finally be ripped aside to reveal the sun soaked uplands of glorious manhood...........
Talking of Joseph, you would be hard pushed to find a finer specimen of manhood, he's a lovely model who brings the best out in all of us. Patrick has gone down the Grayson Perry route and decided on a trans gender narrative, very contemporary and I wouldn't expect anything less from Patrick although it might prompt a few more gym visits for Joseph. Steven meanwhile has re-dressed the balance with a lovely pencil drawing of a man's man, all bulging biceps and taut calves, in our own magic mirrors every man looks like this. Barry, Mati and Haydn have toned down the muscles for a more poetic, lyrical view of Joseph. Jane has gone for introspection, Roger leads the charge with Sandra not far behind in the Head Emerging Stakes, it is just about neck and neck at the tape. Catherine is all colour in a kind of Tahitian / Gauginesque combo with Sue eschewing such excesses and joining the Monochrome Gang alongside Roger, Tony and Ivan, they are the ascetics of the life room frisking one another should an errant pastel slip through. I am embarking on a project so this format will be all I will do for a long time, sorry to be so boring but I'm hoping a tedious means will be justified by a worthwhile end but we shall wait and see, May 2015 is my deadline.
Oh, yes and we had a birthday on Thursday, Sandra was the Birthday girl and we all drank champagne and ate cake. The wonderful exact replica of Sandra's allotment shed was fashioned with loving care by our resident cake sculptor, Sue. Bravo Sue and Joyeux Anniversaire, Sandra! I wonder what she's like at sweaty vests and ruffled beds Sue not Sandra!
by Tom Wood
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Catherine, Haydn, Ivan, Jane, Mati, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Steven, Sue Tom and Tony.