Felix Alexander and the very real consequences of bullying

I have had a hard day at work today, and because I felt tired I just cooked myself a pizza and was going to shower and maybe relax and do some painting… but then I stumbled upon a video clip of the This Morning show on Facebook, in which they interviewed Lucy Alexander, the mother of a 17 year old boy who committed suicide on 16 April from being bullied (the day also happens to be my birthday). She was trying to spread awareness of the real and brutal effects of bullying by writing an open letter.

Too many times have I sat by and thought, I will do something about ……. tomorrow. But it doesn’t work like that! If you care about something you commit to it right there and then! If not, it passes you by before you realised it has. So painting will have to wait! I want to support Lucy in her efforts by sharing my story of bullying. It may only be read by 20 people, but I hope that it will have some effect. If one of those readers told their story, or retold mine or Felix’s, then maybe we can do something about the dreadful bullying that happens at schools (and at home) across the country and around the world.

This is the inspiration of this blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkDAdNFyRxo

 

This is the story of a survivor of bullying, mostly accepting of the past, but never able to forget. This is my story.

 

The easy target

I was bullied for a very long time as a kid. It didn’t help that I was abused as a child and had a gay relationship (although we had no idea what it was at the time) with another boy a year younger than me. When I understood my abuse and gay tendencies, which was at the same time as friends of mine who made me feel very ashamed, my world shrank and I become afraid that my secret would come out. I think this was one of the main reasons that I was bullied so much. I was timid, shy and a very easy target.

The bullying actually started at home, not at school. It was 2 brothers who lived close by. I would say though, that the younger of the two, was by far the worst. It started small, just words… cruel and nasty words. I don’t even remember what, but I never felt in any physical harm. But then I became the target of stones being thrown from across the fence and the threats of physical violence. Then came actual violence. The peak of the bullying was when I was hit round the head (like a baseball swing) with a adult sized skateboard. Needless to say, the 11 year old me was knocked straight out.

Much like Felix, I told my mum of the bullying. And I love my mother dearly, but she gave me very bad advice back then. “Let it go over your head”, “forget about it”. Whilst that may work and you may temporarily feel like ‘the bigger man’, you ultimately continue to get bullied! You are still the easy target. My Dad was not so accepting, that day when I was hit with a skateboard he marched round the bullies house, and he was very brave in doing so as they were a family of rough folk, almost like gypsies. They had trucks and caravans and rubbish everywhere. Everyone in the neighbourhood was afraid of them. But march on up he did, and he threatened them. My Dad is a big man, and although they didn’t retaliate and hurt my father, it didn’t stop the bulling either.

The conclusion, I had to be escorted by an adult from my house to my friends home and then escorted back home again. It worked for a time. Although I was caught by bullies without an adult a few times, I was a pretty fast sprinter and I could usually out run anyone who threatened me with violence.

 

The constant eroding that is mental bullying

The real damaging bullying was the mental kind and it happened at school, in broad daylight in front of everyone. Needless to say I wasn’t a popular kid at school. I wasn’t good at sport, I wasn’t good with the girls and I had no popular friends. I was also still very quiet and still in conflict with myself over who I was and what had happened to me in the past. I hated high school, I was bullied from Year 11 – Year 16. Basically until I left. Unfortunately, I had no older family members to protect me, I was all alone. The closet relative by age was my cousin Lee, but he left High School the year I arrived. It wasn’t ideal.

Like most mental bullying it was sometimes just small and pathetic. For instance, I was waiting to get into class and we had to wait in a line. Kids would get inpatient and start pushing and all of the sudden I lost my footing, fell backwards hitting the door and the handle dug straight into my back and knocked out my breath. A guy called Adam said, “what is the matter with him?”, my friend who was helping me up said “he winded himself”! Adam said “what, he wee’d himself?” and laughed. They mocked me all day and called me “wee pants” every day until I left school. Stupid really, but at the time it bothered me. Worst of all, before High School I hang out with Adam, we would play and go cycling together. Then all of a sudden he didn’t like me and in fact wanted to bully me so he could look cool.

I recall having apples thrown at me during break time. So hard that they hit a wall behind me and would explode. I wasn’t fearful of physical violence but I was often the butt of many jokes. I never retaliated, I could hear my mothers voice in my head “just let it go over your head”. So I would shrink smaller and smaller, and it got to the point where I prayed I could somehow blend into the background and no one would notice me, just so I could go a day without being called a name.

I think what made it worse, was that I was still being bullied at home too. I felt like wherever I went I could not escape it. After a time I became to believe that it was justified. That I deserved to be called names and be bullied. I began to look at myself and think I was ugly, I was too fat, I was too skinny, I was weird and no one would want me.

Much like Felix, I hid it from the world. I held together a presence which looked like I wasn’t bothered. I never ran off crying until I got home. I would speak to my parents but nothing really changed accept me. It became normal. I had accepted it. It was always the way it was going to be.

 

The band of misfits

Like most schools, bullying happened to many kids. I was not alone in that respect. There were a group of us, weirdly I know of the 5 who found solace in one another, including myself, 3 are now gay. Perhaps that says that struggling with gay desires as a child makes you even more susceptible to bullying. We became friends and in fact, if I had any friend over  as a kid, it was probably one of the 5. I felt more protective of my friends than I did myself. I would let someone bully me, but I would stand up for them, even if it meant taking heavy fire myself and also getting bullied. I know what it felt like and I didn’t want them to feel it. But I had resided that I should feel it.

It wasn’t until I was 15, that I began to distance myself from my friends. It dawned on me that although I would come to their aid, they couldn’t or wouldn’t come to mine. So I slowly began to feel less stable in those friendships. At the same time, I began to have female attention at school and even dated for a few weeks at a time. But it never felt right, especially as I was still having fantasies about boys. It was a very confusing time and I began to feel pressure mounting below. My bullying began to make me feel angry, and although I never considered suicide, I did feel like something was going to give. I think it was the realisation that high school was going to end in a year, and that I wanted to study hard to get good grades, that kept me from spiralling to far.

I lost contact with all the the friends I had. After high school I completely remodelled myself and I did a big clear out. Unfortunately those friends were attached to a life I didn’t want.

 

The Brighton effect

When I was 16, my mother realised I wasn’t leaving the house much. I wasn’t socialising. I had no real friends. So she rung my older brother (9 years older) and asked if he would look after me for 2 weeks to see if he could ‘get me out of my shell’. He lived in Brighton. This was the best decision she could have made, and I love my brother so much for accepting the challenge. Although, I returned green and with a rebel attitude, and I am sure my mum must have regretted sending me at first. What had actually happened was a journey of self discovery. My bullying was not justified. I was never the same again. I may have chilled out now, but I am far closer to that rebel I returned as, than I was that timid bullied boy.

Apart from a wealth of partying and drugs and nightlife, endless nights of random meetings, DJ booth dancing and Zoe Ball encounters, I found myself in the company of ‘cool people’. People much older, beautiful, they had money, lost of friends, they were crazy and fun… and best of all… THEY LIKED ME! I was literately blown away that these people could like someone like me! And it was there love and friendship which made me realise, I was cool too. I did some nuts things. My brother recounts stories when he would turn his back to check I was OK and someone had given me a joint, or an ecstasy tablet… and he’s thoughts where ‘Oh no! Not again!’, and having to explain to his friends that I was only 16 and had never done anything before. It was a steep and furious journey, but I had friends, girls liked me, I was dancing on speakers and drinking JD and having the time of my life!

Thank you David, without even trying, you gave me a second life. A glimpse of a life with confidence, happiness and no bullying because I was no longer going to put up with that SHIT!

 

The most satisfying grade collection ceremony EVER

So I was lucky to come out the other side of bullying. It was a radical journey in Brighton but I was lucky that people showed me kindness. When I came back I totally changed. I began dying my hair blue, spiking it up, ripping up jeans and wearing the brightest hawaiian shirts. I got my eyebrow pierced and most importantly I stood up tall.

Although my family had seen this change, everyone at school had not! I was too busy changing my life and having fun with people 10 years older than me to care about confirming attendance to my grade ceremony. In true rock and roll style I did confirm, but too late to change the order so I had to go up last to collect my results and shake the principles hand. I will never forget that day! Most people did not recognise me in my get up (probably exactly how I described above). Those who did begun whispering in ears and looking my way. I was thriving on this attention, using its energy to make me feel even taller. The principle called my name. Now those who didn’t know it was me, soon would. I strolled down the middle between row and rows of students. I could literally hear gasps and whispering and I enjoyed every step! I very casually and confidently shock the principles hand, completely obliviously to his reaction as I was more focused on the students.

I hung around for a bit after, I think it was a rebellious streak that kept me there. I wanted someone to say something. I wanted some to try and belittle me. No one did, I think the most someone dared to say (in a group) was “what happened to you?”. “None of your fucking business” I replied. I also recall telling a girl student crying because she had eleven A*’s and one A, but she wanted twelve A*’s, to “shut up and stop being so stupid”. I was happy and I only got three A*’s. Part of me wonders why I didn’t stay longer to rub it in peoples faces and take on the bullies, but I had actually matured. I realised I didn’t want to waste any time on these dooche bags and I wanted to spend time with the people who really mattered. People I care about.

 

My advice

Lucy is so right! People really need to talk about this stuff. There is no use sweeping it under the carpet or telling yourself its normal for kids to get bullied! That is a load of shit! No one deserves to be bullied. That shit is not OK! As parents you need to raise your kids to know that bullying is damaging. I mean in extreme examples, like Felix, kids take their own life! This is serious shit! I am lucky I surround myself in awesome people, people with kids who would never dream of letting them bully another.

To the parents. You know if your kid is nice to others. There is no being nicely, nicely about it and just sending them to their room with their iPad. Find something they hold dear and then squeeze. The only way a kid will learn, is if they really feel like what they are doing is bad and that there are repercussions.

To the teachers. You know this is happening in your school. I know as teachers you may have little power but if you can see that a kid is quiet and struggling, you must know deep down their is a reason. Kids want to play and laugh. A timid child could be a scared child. You have a overview of all the kids and you can intervene and just show the bullied children someone is seeing this, someone cares, someone knows that its not right and that they will help you. Bullying should not be accepted in school. Stamp it out.

To the bullied kids. Don’t just let it go. It is not justified. It doesn’t matter if your gay, ginger, short, goofy, wear glasses… whatever. YOU ARE FUCKING COOL! When your older you will really see this and feel it, but right now, just know its not OK and fight back. If you stand up in a bullies face and give as good as you get… 9/10 times they will stop. Bullies prey on the weak. So keep strong, or at least look strong and they will stop. There is no reason you should put up with this. If you really can’t stand up for yourself, talk to people, your family or your teachers. Anyone. You are not alone. This happens all the time and it will end, but when you make it end. You can’t always wait for someone to save you, you have to have the strength to save yourself. People can help, but you need to help your self.

To the bullies. You are not cool. Do you know why you bully? It’s because you are not cool and you do this SHIT to feel cool. When you leave school all that power you think you have disappears and if you don’t get your shit together and do something with your life you will be the looser in the end. I am 32 now, I am happily gay and getting married. I am buying a apartment in Cambridge, I have amazing friends, travelling the world, awesome job… I am happy! I see my bullies and they are druggies with crap jobs and no money. They are going bald and fat and are alone. Some are in relationships they hate, some living at home with their parents still, some drinking in the same pub with the same losers every night!  Just as people like me can turn their life around from being bullied, you can turn your life around from being the bully. Don’t be a SHIT and give people SHIT, give A SHIT instead!
Written by Craig

In search of my true identity

Imagine a life where your true identity gets stolen … a life where you can’t be the person you were meant to be …  a life where loving the way you love is prohibited.
Imagine a life where your opinions are better left unspoken …  a life where you can’t choose how to groom yourself, the type of films you want to watch or music you want to listen to.
Imagine a life where celebrating they day your mother gave birth to you would get you into big trouble.
Imagine a life where you are forced to be someone else … someone you don’t identify with.
This is the kind of life I had to put up with for the first part of my life. But fortunately, I was able to break free from it.

I can’t believe it is already a decade since I made the big move to relocate to one of the greatest places where some of the greatest minds have studied … the city of Cambridge.
I can genuinely say that this university city with such a wealth of history and fascinating buildings that remind me of a Harry Potter film set has become my home … a home where I have met some of the greatest people who have stood by my side through my transformation in search of my true identity. Yes … a beautiful and memorable transformation from a very closeted “straight” man into a happy and free gay soul.

This journey was an extremely tough one …  but surely with a positive ending and definitely worth it! I would like to share this story with you … especially with those that are in the same situation I was in a decade ago and want to start their personal journey in pursuit of their true identity.

I was born and raised in a very strict religious family. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I decided to become a baptised member of that church when I was 12. It just felt the right decision at the time due to my upbringing. I was a very devout Christian and had a strong faith in that religion. Throughout the years my responsibilities within the church grew to the point that I helped found the first English-speaking congregation in Seville (Spain).
Through my missionary work, I became known as Pastor Sam within the African refugee community. I devoted my time proselytising about my faith and genuinely  thought I was saving people’s lives by trying to convince them that if they became part of my religion they would be entitled to an extremely difficult to acquire ticket to God’s Kingdom on an Earth turned into a Paradise.
But first, they would have to be considered worthy to be part of that Kingdom by studying the bible, obey all the doctrines established by the religion and then become a dedicated and baptized Witness of Jehovah. Only then could they escape God’s wrath on his apocalyptical day called Armageddon where all evil would cease to exist and evil doers would be annihilated from the surface of the planet.

Even though I was convinced I was doing the right thing at the time, there was a big conflict that divided me from my religion. It was my sexuality.
As many other extreme religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept homosexuality as it is believed that God hates homosexuals. Therefore, for 28 years of my life, I pretended to be straight. I tried really hard to hide I was sexually attracted to men to the point that I really believed it myself. I dated girls and pretended to be someone I wasn’t. This lead to me leading an unhappy existence as my heart was filled with shame and guilt .
There is only so much you can hide and pretend … but the truth will always be revealed in due time. They say that sometimes you need to reach bottom in order to start going up. That was certainly what happened to me .
When I moved to Cambridge I was at the lowest point of my life. I had finally decided that I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I just couldn’t handle going against my nature anymore … yes … the way I was born.
As being a homosexual and a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t go hand in hand (you get disfellowshipped and shunned by the community) I decided to not to be part of it anymore.
Believe me, that was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Not only did it mean I had to turn my back to that God I believed in during my entire life and say goodbye to all the friends I had made within the religion, but I had to start searching for my true identity. Who was I?

The first few months were extremely difficult acknowledging I was a homosexual as I was taught homosexuality was an abomination. I felt disgusted and very disappointed with myself. I was emotionally so confused that death felt more appealing to me than life. I realised I couldn’t do this journey of self-discovery all by myself. So I mustered the courage to seek professional help.
With the support of a counsellor and some new friends I had made, I started my journey to self-acceptance.
Oh boy, did it feel good not having to pretend anymore! That sense of freedom progressively cured me of that lack of self-esteem and self-loath.

I am very aware that within the Jehovah’s Witness community there are quite a few gay people who are afraid to come out. Mainly it is because they are terrified of losing their family and friends who will make them feel like an outcast. They are afraid to lose everything they have!
I know this is a really hard and personal decision to make and I can’t advise anybody on how to live their lives. I can only share my story and tell them there is a light at the end of the tunnel if they muster the bravery of coming out. Yes, you will lose everything that you are familiar with. But you will also gain your true identity and experience a new life of freedom surrounded by friends who genuinely love and accept you for who you are.

I am very proud of myself for having found the strength, determination, and courage to embark on this journey of embracing my true identity. I never look back with any regrets. Instead, I focus on the present and work towards a peaceful and happy life with the man who will soon become my husband.

the-cramuels-in-marbella

No matter who you are or what your sexuality is, I hope you get to live your life spontaneously, cheerfully and without any regrets making every present day count.

Shalom to you all.

Samuel Rodriguez Leisdovich

Internet Dating – A Numbers Game

I bring a message of hope for any internet dating readers. My message is do not despair. Samuel and I met online, on a gay dating app. Being gay means you are a minority… so we already have a smaller pond to fish from. However, we found each other using ‘Scruff’ and in fact we were the only 2 in Cambridge (at the time). So, you can find love and happiness in the most unlikely of places.

However, internet dating for me was not an overly pleasant experience. It was full of hidden mines, shady characters and enough heart ache to cripple even the most optimistic person.

 

I came out at 21, in a very quiet rural village called Soham. I didn’t know anybody else who was gay. Although, after a time, I found 2 others who were also out and open, finding a soul mate or a long lasting relationship was never going to happen. Although I frequently travelled into Cambridge to go to the gay clubs, events and pubs… I went infrequently and joined the mass of other country boys who did just the same. So naturally, and like almost everyone else, I turned my search online!

Now, to give the gay community its dues, when I first downloaded an app and talked to guys I never felt pressured or humiliated for my lack of experience. My picture and profile must have screamed ‘late bloomer’. Everyone seemed nice and I chatted to lots and lots of guys. However, to now criticise the gay community, most of this was simply a smoke screen. I was too young and naïve to see that these guys did not have my physical and emotional wellbeing in mind. It wasn’t until they realised that I was too scared to meet them that their true colours came through and I discovered they were simply trying to groom me and ultimately have sex with them. We have all been there right? No one comes out of the womb gay and experienced! We all have a first time! So I am not sure why people could not show me compassion back then. I suppose people who have been hurt tend to hurt others. It’s a vicious cycle!

When you get your heart broken enough times you learn to toughen up and protect yourself. I began to follow the droves of other gay guys and wouldn’t talk to people without profile pictures. I would avoid people with very explicit photos or who were too old or too young for my preferences. I began, what I thought was, shortening the list to make it easier. Sure, there is a certain level of judgement but I had an idea of what I wanted, and I think we are all allowed to have types. It’s just as normal as preferring mint choc-chip ice cream over strawberry.

 

How about the rest? The ones that passed my initial review? Well, anyone who has been on Grindr, Bender, Gaydar, Scruff, Recon all know these apps work by proximity. Of course, most are looking for the closest and easiest shag… but there are always pages of profiles to go through. Like a million others I began to get messages like ‘hi’ and ‘whats up?’. Not a good conversation starter I admit but usually you follow it up with something else no?…, not just ‘nothing, horny, you?’. So I began to politely avoid these guys. But at least these guys tried to have a conversation, even if brief. The guys that really annoyed me are the ones that just say ‘cut or uncut’, ‘big dick?’, ‘hung?’, ‘top or bottom?’. I mean WOW! I know it’s good to filter your list but really? Is that the most important thing? Would you do that in person? What if you went to an interview and the interviewer said ‘are you a smart or dumb? What is your IQ?’. I mean, this stuff doesn’t happen in face-to-face conversations! Where the hell is the decency? Where is the romance?… So if you take all of these into consideration, that vast ocean becomes a small fish tank! And a stagnant fish tank at that too…

 

A year or so passed and finally I decided to just play the game! I knew most guys where not looking for love, but looking for lust. And that was OK. Sure, we all have needs and the ones that were open and honest (and obviously hot) I met with and just had fun with. I kept the inner workings of my mind a secret. For me sex required some sort of emotional attachment. That’s what really makes sex good, in my opinion. The mental and physical attraction are one and the same! Figuring things out, testing boundaries, explorations… So yeah, I got attached to some guys and other guys got attached to me. I tried lots of stuff, stuff that I am proud of and some I am not. I even, knowingly, met a few guys in straight relationships. As far as I was concerned, it was them cheating not me, but after a time I knew this wasn’t right. Plus, I didn’t want to waste my time and energy on something that was never going to be more than secretive sex!

 

Then I met my first boyfriend, probably on Grindr or maybe GayDar… either way… I fell in love with him too quickly, and not just him… I also fell in love with the idea, the promise of a relationship. It was something I always wanted. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it was a spectacular fail and the end was very strange and I didn’t get the closure I needed and it was generally a really messy situation! This is a story for another time, but after a year or so I tried (properly) the dating game again.

The second time around I had more confidence, I was more experienced and a year off gave me new chances and opportunities. Again, I played the game, I decided that my best chance was to meet someone for sex, if they were hot and nice I would try to change their mind by charming their pants off! But that didn’t happen, a made a few pleasant connections and some friends but mostly I just had doomed dates. I had worriers, stalkers, sleaze balls, criers, liars… and so on! But it wasn’t all bad! I did have a few accidental gems who were usually  ‘currently unavailable’!

 

All in all, internet dating is just a numbers game all gay guys have to play. Looking for love and using online dating apps is just like the old saying… you have to kiss loads of frogs to find your prince! And I am so lucky I found mine! And I knew he was a prince from the moment we met, I just knew it deep down and I had high hopes from the beginning (although I didn’t tell him of course).

So why was Samuel so different?…. Well he didn’t have an explicit picture or profile bio. He was handsome but normal. In fact, he actually listed some interesting hobbies on his profile! When we chatted, there were no cock shots, no ‘whats up?’, ‘top or bottom?’ or just ‘hi’. We had real conversations about interesting things. He asked questions ‘oh cool you paint! What do you paint?’. I must admit, I was so used to sending naughty pictures and playing the game… I may have showed my tattoos and a lot more in the process, but it was tactful and I quickly knew he did not like it. I was patient, I took my time because I saw something more. Someone like me. And boy, did it pay off!

 

 

So my advice to all you single online daters… Do not loose heart! You can’t go looking for love from the word go. Some people smell this and run a mile. Nice normal people run a mile… why? Because they don’t know yet! And knowing someone else has already decided ‘you’re the one’ almost forces you to make a judgement call immediately… So, play the game, but get really good at knowing the ones bad for you. The liars and the cheats, the flakey meet-ers and sleazy talkers.

Look for someone like you, someone different from the rest. If you find someone, just be yourself, be patient, take your time. Spending a month or two cultivating a good date and experience could leave you with a long life filled with love… and don’t worry about having fun along the way. Just because you have an ideal destination, doesn’t mean you can’t park up and enjoy the scenery and sample some local produce from time to time! It could be a long drive after all! Don’t be afraid, but protect yourself. Approach each person with an open mind and an open heart and once you find out whether or not you want to pursue something, make that decision and tell them either way. Perhaps you don’t like that person enough and realistically you do not feel satisfied… then you move on and respectfully tell that person that it’s not working.

 

You will not get out of this without having your heart crushed at times and breaking a few hearts yourself. You just can’t. Everyone has their own agenda and ideals… the key is just to identify someone who is compatible with yours (and hot!, I can’t stress enough the importance of attraction).

Now go, go out in to the world and do some mathematics!

Let’s get naked!

WARNING: this article contains nudity!!!

Yeah, let’s get naked! No, I am no pervert. No, I am not trying it on with you.

I am not talking about sex either. I am talking about nudity … remember the way we were brought into this world? Oh, I’m sorry … I didn’t mean to embarrass you.

For some reason, many associate nudity with sex. Is it because we are exposing our reproductive organs or body parts that cause us sexual pleasure? It is very intriguing how for some the mind associates nudity with embarrassment, shamefulness and sex.

I have to admit I used to feel the same.

But I don’t think I was born feeling that way. Through my very conservative and religious upbringing I was made to feel that way.

I recall a quite upsetting experience when I was a kid that engraved into my brain that nudity was very wrong. I was probably 9 years old … and I walked into the bathroom and saw my mum completely naked whilst she was having a bath. She was extremely upset about the incident, gave me a good slap in the face and told me off big time. You can imagine how awful and embarrassing this whole situation was for a little boy!

On another occasion, I found a book at home that contained images about the female anatomy. As a child, I was very intrigued and found it fascinating. But that fascination soon ended when I was caught. I was forced by my parents to describe exactly what I had seen in the book. Once again I was made to feel embarrassed and ashamed … and I got punished. No surprise their son turned out gay! I bet my parents now wished I had seen more breasts and pussies. I don’t harbor any resentment about those experiences as I am sure my parents tried to teach me those moral values that had been passed on to them for generations… however it did influence me when I grew up.

The truth is … my curiosity as a child about the naked body had nothing to do with sex. I hadn’t developed that part of me yet.

As I grew older, wiser and wilder I asked myself “why the hell do I need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about showing certain parts of my body that are called ‘private’ but it’s totally fine to show other parts that are acceptable. Who made up that stupid rule? Is it a society that has been influenced by culture or religion?” Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by traditions and cultures … as long as they don’t interfere with people’s free will to be who they want to be.

One day when I was in my late twenties, by complete coincidence I ended up in a nudist beach in the South of Tenerife when I went for a hike. It was a gorgeous wild beach full of naked people.

It felt awkward not to be naked and I felt out of place. I was a very religious young man back in those days (I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness), but I decided to rebel and put my Adam’s suit on. At first I was extremely nervous. My heart started to beat faster than normal. But after a short while I started to enjoy my freedom. It was absolutely liberating! I was Adam in the beautiful paradise of Eden the bible talks about. What was wrong with that? I swam with tropical fish and had an amazing day with my life time companion that was forced into the dark for way too long and had never seen day light … Mr. Willy. It felt so normal, so good.

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One of my first visits to a nudist beach (Pescara, Italy)

After that experience I have seized many opportunities to be naked … but it was usually around people I didn’t know. Until one day a good friend of fine asked me to go to a Spa in Holland. It had the most amazing saunas and whirlpools. You were only allowed naked in the saunas (with a towel to sit on). I had never seen my friend naked … but the awkwardness only lasted for 5 minutes as we enjoyed an unforgettable, pampering evening. In all fairness, we both had a penis hanging … so what’s the big deal?

When I talk to certain friends about going to a clothing optional place, I see their eyebrows frown before they decline the invite. Or sometimes they say “I don’t mind if you are naked, but I will keep my clothes on”. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed about being naked that energy is transmitted to us nudists.

I get it when people feel a lack of confidence about their body … a few extra kilos here, a smaller dick there, a body we don’t embrace. I used to have serious issues about my body too as I am quite hairy and don’t have that six pack that all guys seem to have when you open a Men’s Health magazine.

But us nudist don’t care about that. We don’t judge people for their appearance as we don’t want to be judged in return. We just enjoy the freedom of being nude!

My fiancé used to be one of those shy guys … but last Summer a couple of good friends in LA took us to a clothing optional gay resort in Palm Springs … and we spend 3 days walking, swimming and eating naked. It was an amazing experience … one I would like to repeat soon. And yes, we made love under the stars on one occasion … just because it felt right. And again, it felt so liberating!

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Escape Resort in Palm Springs (www.escapepalmspring.com)

In all honesty, I like watching naked bodies. You might think it is a perversion … or you might call me a voyeur. But I must disagree with that. When you go to a museum you can admire the beauty of a naked body on canvas, or a sensual body on a picture. It’s art. So why is it different when you see it right in front of you? I’m sure everybody is in one way or another curious about nudity whether you want to admit it or not. Our first natural reaction when we spot a naked body is to look , then look away out of embarrassment, and then perhaps look secretly back without it being too obvious to satisfy your curiosity.

I absolutely think it is hilarious how we have started to use “full frontal nudity” as a warning. I honestly think we need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves: why is a penis or a vagina worse than glutes? Who decided that?

There are certain tribes far from human “civilization” that wander around naked without any issues. Why has the so called Western world gone to the other extreme of hiding themselves behind clothes as if there was something very abnormal that had to be kept covered? I really wonder whether the Western world can claim to be “civil” as it seems they are distancing themselves more and more from their natural desires.

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Nudist beach in Riserva di Capo Gallo (Sicily)

This article started with a warning saying “article contains nudity” … and your curiosity impelled you to read this blog post. And you know what? There is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Embrace that curiosity, explore it and be free. I am very proud of you … and so should you.

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Nudist beach in Riserva di Capo Gallo (Sicily)

The intention of this this blog post isn’t to convert you into a naturist (or whatever you want to call it), but I would recommend everybody trying to be naked outdoors at least once in his or her life. See how it goes. If you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why? Is it because of your upbringing, your culture, your religion or because you really love having clothes on at all times? In the end of the day, remember we all have either a dick or a pussy. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Embrace yours. I am sure it’s not as bad as you think it is.

Written by: Samuel Rodriguez

Brexit

First of all…. I have to say this… all of the EU referendum social media stuff circling for the past few months made my headache! It simply felt like it was trying to scare me into a decision. I for one don’t respond well to such tactics. In fact it makes me more skeptical.

 

The first thing I read was from Boris Johnson on why England should be able to make up it’s own rules and have complete control over it’s shores. It gave some ridiculous EU rules as examples, rules which effect the UK. He also pointed out that a lot of people on the EU commission board are not English! He made a good point, right?! I personally want to feel like I have some say, as an English man, about what happens here. I didn’t like the idea that a group of people in Brussels could essentially change rules here without us having any say! I posted this content on my Facebook page…

 

Then someone on Facebook sent me another campaign about why we should stay in the EU. The initial campaign from Boris Johnson did not highlight any of the benefits of staying in the EU. This second article talked about the economy here, what effect it would have upon leaving on the EU, travel perks, brits living abroad in the EU, the positive effects it has on preventing another war in Europe and generally saying that staying in the EU makes the UK greater!

 

Each thing I read is totally in favour of itself and against the other. Of course it would be like this, but it is really confusing and both arguments are trying to scare me into a decision. I see many people in my social circle in favour of leaving the EU, and these are people I respect… But I must admit I know more people who want to stay in the EU…

 

So where do I sit on this? Well, as a gay man living in the UK I am blessed with many things. The ability to get married. To feel safe walking around the Cambridge holding hands with Samuel. I feel I am well represented in law and have the support of the local police. Something generations before us worked so hard to achieve! My first impression is that the EU, as a whole, is really pushing for gay equality and rights for all EU citizens. In fact we have seen a domino effect in the EU where country after country is legalizing gay marriage! Now… what if UKIP get into power? Bad news for the gays I think! It’s clear that UKIP are not pro-gay rights or marriage! So if UKIP came into power now, we would be protected by EU legislation. But what if we left the EU and then UKIP came to power??? Well I very much doubt life would be as enjoyable and I would feel as safe and as free as I do today! So this is one of the main reasons I am voting to stay in the EU.

 

However, there are others. Most people who support Brexit (that I see) say that leaving the EU will enable us to regain some control over our borders. I totally get the frustrations of some people with the welfare systems and the everyday working man getting shafted! But people coming from the EU are not getting priority over jobs! They work hard and make a life for themselves. I know so many who have done so. The people who tend to think their jobs are stolen by immigrants are usually bloody lazy to be honest and I see it as an excuse as to why they cannot get their dream job. When in fact they just don’t work hard enough! Might sound harsh, but I live opposite a council estate and some of these families have a flat, just as nice of ours, in fact it’s the same flat but they get it for free! We work hard to buy this flat and make ends meet… but some of them steel, play loud music, do drugs, do not work and get loads of benefits and all have a fancy TV and phone! It is a joke! These people are British!! The foreign people who live opposite us, who do get the same treatment do not take it for granted and not the trouble makers. So no, I don’t think EU citizens are stealing our jobs. In fact I work for a new startup who’s founder is not from the UK. Without her I would not have a job!

 

What about the transport system, healthcare and housing? Well lots of hospital workers are from the EU for a start because we had a shortage…. but that aside, all of these systems can be approved. If people coming here from the EU work and pay taxes then we can put money into these services. If this doesn’t happen then it’s a problem with our government, not the EU! Many hands make light work after all? What I really think we should look at is why people leave their native lands in the first place? Why come to England? How will it make their life better? I think if more countries were like the UK then people will not want to come here so badly. I am sure most want to stay in their homes and towns but come here for the chance of a better life.

 

Another point I think about is UK citizens who are living in EU countries. Take Spain for example. I am damn sure the British people retiring in Spain don’t want us to leave the EU. I think people here tend to forget about all the people who move abroad. Some people only see the negative. They just see the EU people living here!

 

Anyway, when you take all the politics away and I listen to my gut, I share a view very similar to Stephen Hawkins, and I am proud I said these words before I heard him say them… If the earth and humanity is going to succeed and flourish in the future we need to unite, not hide away on own own. We cannot just fret about what happens on our soil. What about global warming? What about war? What about hunger and famine and poverty? What about our brothers and sisters who need our help? I think it is easier to change something from the inside than it is out. These people who are pro Brexit and ‘we want to make Britain great again’… I wish they had as much passion, drive and commitment to helping other people and the world. Seems not though, seems like they want to shut their doors and try and ride the storm and think that worldwide issues will not affect them. I want to stay in the EU, make it better, get more countries on board and make them better and eventually we can unite the whole world. Not saying Europe will become the world but if we band Europe and unite the America’s and Asia and Australia – well we really would be able to make a difference on a global scale. And this isn’t just about Syria and people fleeing war, it’s about financial, legal, commerce, environmental and so much more. I know Syria is another issue but I still think supporting the EU to support other countries is the way forward.

 

I implore everyone to exercise their right to vote and whichever way you vote I will respect you but that does not mean I will stop being a campaigner and being a fighter.

Your friend the skeleton

So, we all have baggage! If there is one thing I have learned about people it is that everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, has something wrong with them! Even the most balanced people have baggage, but the big difference is that they made peace with their demons and live with them rather than hide from them and feel haunted.

So this is going to get quite serious, quite quickly, because I am going to jump in head first…. I was abused as a child. I was under 6 when it started but the reason I cannot be specific with time is that I made myself forget. I have no idea if this is even medically provable but I spent so many years willing myself to forget and ignore the abuse, that I actually did forget all of it and about 90% of my childhood too. I have just a few childhood memories and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember.

I know I was under 6 because I remember sitting in pre school and… how can I say this… pleasing myself in secret. I was sitting in morning assembly with teachers and other children all around me. I knew how to do it and although I don’t know when I figured out how or even how I learned to do it, but I knew I had to keep it secret. I also know I wasn’t the only one who knew this. To protect this person’s identity, I will call this kid Alex. Alex was only 1 year younger than me and throughout my childhood we were often together and sort of friends, although never best friends. We both knew the same things. In fact we had a sexual relationship as children. I believe our sexual relationship lasted twice as long as the years of abuse we both received. We only stopped when the sexual relationship was discovered by another kid, a friend of us both.

I was 11 when this other kid discovered our sexual relationship. Looking back we were playing a dangerous game and found ways to incorporate sexual practices into seemingly innocent kids games. We would pretend to be mum and dad, and you could say we took our role quite seriously in terms of accuracy. It was only a matter of time before someone found out. We often did it in quiet places in otherwise open spaces and always in broad daylight. I mean, we were kids, we couldn’t meet at night!

Once discovered there was a sense of shame. We knew we had to keep it secret and although I didn’t feel emotionally burdened whilst in the relationship, the reaction of being discovered made me feel ashamed. However, I seemed to deal with it well at the time adding logical thinking to explain to myself and the person who discovered us. I remember saying, ‘we were young when it started… we didn’t know what we were doing… we can’t feel ashamed of something that we didn’t understand’. Alex didn’t take the discovery well at all. Our relationship was definitely mutual. There was no force. No negative emotion. But no love either. It was pure lustful desire. We did it because it felt good, for both of us, and we both shared a passive and dominant role equally. However, after we realised this relationship was ‘gay’, Alex took it very badly. I knew the word ‘gay’, but it was often used to offend someone. So, I can see why Alex didn’t like discovering that we were gay! I had trouble myself later down the line. After this day, me and Alex never spoke again. Only once in passing in our late 20’s, and that was just a hello.

With Alex’s reaction and the realisation of being gay, I soon followed suit and that’s when the shame took over. I never considered why or tried to make sense of it, I was stuck on this shameful feeling of being gay. I became very introvert; I was always scared of my secret getting out so I kept my head low. Being quiet like this meant I was very much susceptible to bullying. High School was a complete nightmare. My ego and self esteem was non existent. All waking moments I willed this feeling, my past, my past sexual relationship to disappear. It took a good 4-5 years but at the age of 16 I finally managed it. I completely erased those memories and although I knew I had done so, I could not and still cannot recall specific memories. I then hid the secret and tried to live a normal life. Something that was doomed before I even begun trying.

I stayed this way for around 5 years and I considered myself a straight boy. I was going to find a girl, get married, have children and live in Soham with all of my family and get the whole white picket fence thing. That was always the way. All my family did this and I felt there was never an alternative for me. There were no other gay people in my life, in fact I knew no one who was openly gay until after I came out and attempted to date. So this never even entered my head as a choice I could make as a teenager. I spent years trying to make relationships work with girls. All the way until I was 21, I refused to believe I was gay and I just kept trying to make it work with girls. This time of my life is too much to write here. This process of realisation could fill its own blog post. All I will say though is that whenever I got intimate with a girl, alarm bells rang in my head. Much like Spiderman’s ‘spider-sense’, my whole body tried to escape this intimate situation I was forcing myself to do! It felt so wrong and I was completely tearing my soul apart. There was this force from my logical brain telling me I needed to do this, to get rid of the fear and my heart and subconscious brain telling me this was not me and not what I wanted!

In all honestly, for as long as I can remember I have fantasised about boys. Every time I pleasured myself I was thinking of boys. When I looked at porn as a teenager, it was always gay porn! And although I did this, after it finished (or should I say, I finished) I told myself that I was straight, it didn’t happen and wont happen again and I will find the right girl for me! Ironically when growing up, all the boys would lie and say they had sex with girls at the ages of 12-15, and in my head I knew I had been having sex for years by that point. I remember masturbating and the complete shock of sperm. I had masturbated for years and years and then one day I was horrified about something coming out afterwards!

This 5 years of continued failed relationships with girls ended with Grace! Grace was my ultimate girlfriend. I adored her almost as much as Samuel. But I still had these alarm bells with sexual intimacy. So after 8 months of dating at the ripe age of 20, and no sex for the entire time, I decided that enough was enough! I had to admit something was wrong and I needed to figure it out and went on a soul searching mission.

It may sound like I have deviated from my story on abuse, but on the contrary… this was a pivoting role in figuring everything out. A journey which ended where it started, at my abuse at the age of 6! So I left Grace and I began looking into the possibility of being gay. I began admitting it to close friends and then after a few weeks of ‘I am gay’, ‘no I am not gay’ back to ‘I’m gay’… I finally settled on I AM GAY at the age of 21. But I didn’t stop there, I knew this was the tip of the iceberg! So I dug deeper and brought to the surface of these hidden feeling and memories of my abuse. I took this heavy, chained and locked box out and shook the contents out. I talked to everyone, even my parents and asked them if they knew I had sexual relationships with Alex as a kid.

Much like a jigsaw I began to put the clues together. I knew someone had shown me how to pleasure myself and another boy. I knew this because I knew I had to keep it secret. Someone told me I should not tell anyone or get caught doing it! I knew Alex had something to do with it too. The best clue I had was from my sister who said she never saw anything directly but that Alex’s older brother was always a little bit weird with us. That was the apple that fell and hit my head and cleared up all the confusion. Alex’s brother was mentally ill. He was an adult man but had the brain of a child. So I pieced together the parts and I made a conclusion that I was going to stick with and make peace with. Alex’s brother must have had sexual desires subconsciously, he had the body and hormones of an adult but the brain of a child. I never felt threatened or in danger. It always felt like a game and I only remember it feeling good! So this makes me think that Alex’s brother just played these games with us and in turn we played with each other. It made the most amount of sense. Of course, the only person who could have helped me understand this properly was Alex. But with no contact for over a decade it was obvious he still did not want to confront this. So I left him out of it. I made my conclusion and I decided I was gay, I had been abused and I made peace with it.

So fast forward to today. Obviously I am openly gay, (I mean I co write a gay blog with Samuel, my future husband), but I can also openly and freely talk about my abuse. When I asked all those questions at 21 I was actually surprised that lots of other people had also been abused. Even the other day, an old friend of Samuels told us he was abused. I decided it was OK, Alex’s brother did not realise what he was doing and I strongly believe he meant us no harm, so even if he hadn’t passed away years ago from his illness, I would not harbour ill feelings towards him. I decided that my abuse did not make me gay, my attraction to boys makes me gay. Although the abuse also led to many years of depression and low self esteem it had made me the person I am today… and I am proud of the man I am today. So I made peace with it. Obviously I wish it didn’t happen, but it did and shit happens and we can’t control what happens to us… But we can control how we deal with it.

If your reading this and you have similar skeletons in your closet, I suggest you free them. You take them out, you shake them, you ask, you get it all out in the open and then you make sense of it. You only need one attempt to sort the shit out and you go to the very end of that path, until you can take it no further. After you’ve done all the digging and hurting you find the conclusion you need, or the best one you can make. You make peace with it, accept it, put it with your other memories in the box that is called past and you move on and move forward. Believe me, once you let something like that go, you can really make deeper connections with people and feel better about yourself.

After I started dating boys and realising that gay sex and gay love just makes so much sense – it felt awesome and liberating. I stopped letting people bully me. I started dressing and behaving however I wanted and didn’t care what people thought. I had no secrets. I told everyone everything because that way I had nothing to hide, no secrets, no fear of uncovered hidden truths. I became the man I am today!

Written by Craig

I’m sorry, I’m thinking about cats again.

So you must have seen it… that hilarious staged video of a young girl making an eHarmony video? She gets very emotional about cats and they cut and edit the video and create a crazy song about cats?… No? If not, you have to watch it….

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP4NMoJcFd4

So that explains the title!… ‘WE LOVE CATS!’

This blog post is about cats, or more specifically cat in flats and our cat being like our child. Rukia is our little babe. She is our daughter and a little princess. Like most cats she owns our flat! We are simply her servants! Although Rukia is her official name, she gets called ‘ella’, ‘mi niña’, ‘monkey girl’, ‘princess’, ‘prince’ and ‘moo moo’. She is part of our life and she is a Cramuel!

So, let’s start from the beginning… I was living in a shared house with 5 other gay guys in Cambridge! Yes 5! The landlord and his boyfriend had two cats. Several months after living in this shared house one cat fell pregnant. She had 2 beautiful kittens which I called ‘Gizmo’ and ‘Toni’. Gizmo was named after the famous Gremlin and Toni was inspired by the Frosties mascot, Tony the tiger. As she was a girl though we spelt it with an ‘i’. I fell in love with Gizmo especially, he was naughty and daring. A real character. A few months after they were born, Gizmo and Toni were sold to friends of the landlord. MY HEART WAS BROKEN! I knew deep down this would happen but I was so happy having them around the house, I was really, REALLY sad to see them leave. Before this happened, the other cat ‘Lily’ also fell pregnant. After Gizmo and Toni were sold I promised myself I would not get attached to the new kittens!

Lily had a litter of 4 kittens. Beautiful grey and white kittens. I upheld the promise I made to myself – I WOULD NOT GET ATTACHED! And for a few weeks it worked. I avoided them at all costs! After a few weeks though they started becoming adventurous and climbing on my lap and running around the house. I fell in love – AGAIN! I named them ‘Smokey’, ‘Yoda’, ‘Rukia’ and ‘Renji’. Smokey was ash coloured all over. Yoda, well… looked like Yoda in facial features but was grey and white striped. Renji was also striped but browner. Renji was a male character from a popular Japanese manga I liked called ‘Bleach’. Rukia looked just like Yoda but a girl. Rukia is another character from Bleach, but female (and bad ass!).

A month or two later, Smokey and Yoda were sold! I WAS DISTRAUGHT. I couldn’t do this again so I bought ‘Rukia’ from my landlord impulsively one evening. I decided I would rather live the rest of my life responsible for her than I would saying goodbye. Shortly after, I also bought Renji for my very best friend Katy for her birthday. Possibly the best present I have ever given her. It turned out Renji was actually a girl, so after adoption Katy called her ‘Tily’ after he mum Lily.

So began the story of Rukia and Me. Rukia’s full name was Rukia Kuchki. In the manga she was this beautiful but deadly girl and a secret softie. Rukia is exactly the same! She fits her name perfectly. It was clear early on that I had imprinted on Rukia, and even now I think she considers me her father. She would climb up my jeans and t-shirt and sit on my shoulder as I cooked. She would sit and play for hours. You could never shut a door on her. She wanted to wonder around but she had to be able to get back in to my bedroom to see me. If not she would cry for hours at my door. I quickly got used to sleeping with the door open and she would sleep in my room with me. I could (and still can) pick her up like a baby and cradle her. I can wrap her around my chin and call her my ‘cat beard’. She is so trusting. As long as she is the focus of attention, she is happy!

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This all sounds like the perfect little kitten. But early on she did live up to her deadly name. She would kill rats, mice and birds. She even took on pigeons 3 times her size! She was a killing machine. Whilst still living in the shared house where she was born, we had to put a collar on her with a bell. It was an early warning for all of neighbouring creatures! It helped!

We lived this life for about 1 – 1.5 years. Then The Cramuel’s happened… Rukia now had to share me.

I was spending a lot of time around Samuel’s when we first dated. Several days at a time. I would just go home to get clothes and make sure Rukia was OK. My flat mates were great and looked after her. But I felt very bad being the absent father. I was also paying to rent a room I was hardly in. That’s when me and Samuel decided I should move in.

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Ironically Rukia was the first to move, about 2 weeks before me. It made sense as I had to finish a full months tenancy but as I was always around Samuel’s, so she moved in first. The move was OK! I know most people recommend that you keep a cat indoors for 5 weeks before letting them out. However, Rukia is very clever. The first few days she disappeared into hiding. She often cried, I think because she was totally unfamiliar with her surroundings. She would cower and skim walls and skirting boards and tentatively explore. We careful watched her as she adjusted. Thankfully Samuel works from home a lot and could keep an eye on her. After 3 days though you would have never known she just moved. She was strutting around the place like she owned it! However, coming from a house with a garden (which she was always in), being stuck inside clearly aggravated her. You could see she wanted to escape. So, after adjusting so well we braved it and let her out. She was absolutely fine!

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Not much notable happening during this time except THE FLEAS! OMG, the fleas were terrible. We battled with them for about a year. Rukia did occasionally have fleas before I moved in with Samuel. But here she got them all the time. We brought the best de-flea treatment and applied it like clockwork. They were getting more and more out of control and we kept finding flea eggs on anything material based. We brought spray and aerosols and frequently decontaminated areas. A few times I even sprayed the entire house from top to bottom. Still they came back! It was definitely the dark days. We decided to start showering Rukia. As you can imagine she hated it! She smelt great though (we washed her with Treseme) but cried the whole time. We never did get it fully under control, as many fleas as we killed, she picked back up again. We think she got them outside in the garden because the minute we moved out to our current flat, the fleas disappeared and we haven’t seen a single flea or egg since! She was also very naughty and scratched the wall paper in the hallway!

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Then we moved again, the second time in Rukia’s 3 years on this planet. This time to a flat! She did the usual hiding and tentative exploring but this time we didn’t have to worry about letting her out! We are on the 4th floor! This is something we worry about for 2 reasons; 1) is the lack of outdoor activity harming Rukia and 2) will she ever jump? She seems pretty content though. We play with her and let her explore the hallways and she loves watching the world go by from the balcony. I think the key is stimulation, Rukia requires much more attention now. But lazer pens, tunnels and towers are great! I think she is happy. Previously she had been bullied by other cats when she ventured outside but now she owns this place. What she lacks in outdoor action we try to make up with love and toys.

There is one thing about Rukia which I think a lot of cat owners can relate too…. she vomits ALL THE TIME! So much that I often call her ‘pukia’. We were forced to strip Rukia’s diet back to certain cat food brands and types. Rukia is very fussy. She likes jelly cat food which has been in the fridge. She likes fish flavoured biscuits and she LOVES Weebox cat yogurts. She still vomits though. We also found smaller portions and clean bowls help reduce vomiting. It is possibly the most frustrating thing about Rukia. She has vomited in some really awkward places, like in-between wood floor panels, down walls and over furniture.

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If you have a cat and any of this sounds familiar… perhaps try our top tips below!

CATS IN FLATS:
1] Towers – Rukia loves her tower. She sleeps on it and its the best scratching post and saves almost all of our furniture from becoming claw sharpeners.
2] Lazer Pens – You’re tired but the cat isn’t. Lazer pens are an easy way to entertain your cat without having to get up!
3] Variety  – If you can, allow the cat access other area’s. We let Rukia roam the halls and for a good 6 months we even let her call for and visit our neighbours (who adored her, but they now have a cat which Rukia hates lol).

CATS THAT PUKE:
1] Give them dry food – we notice Rukia is 10 times more likely to puke wet food over dry
2] Small portions – we notice that when Rukia eats, she barely slows down to draw breath. Smaller portions and more regular feeding help us control how fast she eats
3] Clean bowls – keep all food bowls clean. It seems when Rukia has old food, it definitely leads to vomiting. Oh and hairs too. A hair in the bowl is not good!

CATS WITH FLEAS:
1] Showers – cats hate them but so do fleas. Water can kills fleas just as well as chemical treatment
2] Change – change the environment. They may be from the garden or another neighbour’s garden
3] Persistance – Don’t give up. Keep tackling them everyday if possible. If needed seek help from the professionals

NAUGHTY TRAITS:
1] Change your voice – cats can’t understand what you say but they regonise how you say it. Change the tone, pitch or volume. They will understand
2] Water – it’s no surprise cats hate water. A small spray can tell them off, minus the guilt
3] Be consistent – if you don’t want the cat on the table, tell them off EVERY TIME. They will get the message

SPECIAL CONNECTION:
1] Get them young – Rukia was born in my house. It’s the closest bond I have ever had with an animal. I know some would argue that plenty of cats need homes, which is true, and you shouldn’t encourage everyone to get the kittens… but I have never had a cat like Rukia and I think we are so close because she has known me since birth
2] Pick them up as kittens – Get them used to affection and hugs, it becomes the norm
3] Let them get away with some stuff – pick your battles, we let Rukia rule the roost, but in return we get kisses (well… when she feels like it lol)

Craig

 

 

California Love: Being in Love is like being in Quick Sand

In September, the Cramuel’s visited California. It was a roller coaster ride. We explored different landscapes in various levels of undress. We visited San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs (soon we will put up our guide to CA!). This may sound like a expensive holiday on paper… but it was actually quite cheap for us because we stayed with friends. This leads me nicely onto the main reason for this blog post! An interview with our friends about LOVE.

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So first, some context… Our friends live in Los Angeles. For the sake of animosity lets call one Fred and one Ben. Just before me and Samuel began to date, I visited them. I first met Fred on a dating app and after a few years it was apparent that we were more than just pen pals. You could say that Fred was an old flame of mine, but that is a story for another time… What’s is more important for this blog post is the relationship Fred and Ben had.

The couple met in 1977 somewhere in California. Fred was originally from New York and had recently finished his studies in Music. Actually, I hear he was quite the composer! Fred was 19 and Ben was 24 at the time. They have been together ever since and soon it will be their 40th anniversary.

1974 was a very different time. Stonewall had recently happened and gay communities were fighting oppression. They were fighting for freedom. In fact, just a short walk from my friend’s house was a bar called the Black Cat. This was the place where the first real gay rights stand took place against the Los Angels Police Dept after repeated gay bar raids in the 70’s. This stand soon swept across the country and prompted other such riots.

The story of these young lovers begins here, at this time. At a party Fred sat on Ben’s lap and asked for a kiss. It seems this really was a fairytale case of love at first sight. Two weeks later they were living together.

The Cramuel’s are really interested in gay rights and what it was like to be gay, and in a relationship, in the 70’s. So we kindly asked if we could interview our friends whilst we stayed in their house. This is how it went…

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view from our friends’ house

Question 1: What is love?

(Both start singing various love songs)

FRED: Love is caring about someone else more than you do yourself.

BEN: I don’t know what it is, but I know what you get… you get enough germs to burst your bubble.

FRED: I don’t know… you only know when you’re in it!

BEN: …Like quick sand

Question 2: How old were you when you first fell in love? What was it like to be in love at that time?

(Ben gets up and leaves the conversation, it was not obvious at the time, but it was because Fred was going to recall a story of his first love… and it wasn’t Ben)

FRED: I was 16 and it was 1974, and it was overwhelming. At first, I was more in love with the idea than I was the person. I was openly gay to friends. I didn’t fear being openly gay. I was fearless. I had a ‘bring it on’ attitude. At that time, it was a few years after Stonewall and it felt easier to be openly gay to people my age.

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Stonewall protests

Question 3: What is the key to a long lasting relationship?

FRED: If you don’t break up or die  – you stay in a long lasting relationship. Love is not enough though, love doesn’t fix anything!

Question 4: If you could rewind the clock and be 16 now – what would you do?

FRED: I would take advantage of my advantages. I thought little of myself at 16. I look back now and realise how smart I was, how good looking I was, how confident I could have been… and I would have applied to some IVY league schools.

Question 5: What do you think the hardest thing of being in a relationship is?

FRED: I don’t know. Family I suppose. You cannot choose your family and you also take on your partners family too. Priorities too – a relationship becomes a third party, two sides of globe stuck together and people can gravitate around it but can never penetrate it.

FRED: People confuse marriage and weddings. Marriage is between two, but the wedding is for everyone else!

[After the interview Fred leaves to get something from the house and Ben returns. It seemed he had things he wanted to tell me]

BEN: People who want relationships, deep down… will find each other and make it work! People who cannot find relationships or can’t make relationships work, secretly do not want to.

[Ben asked why I wanted to interview them both. I said I wanted to understand the differences between being gay and in love in the 70’s and now. I think we have it so much better now, so why do young gay people find it so hard?]

BEN: What surprises me is why any gay man would get AIDS now? Acceptance is still real. Gay people still want acceptance. Men like to f*ck around,that has never changed. I find it ironic that the first gay riots in Los Angeles were about a sexual revolution. Guys wanted to have sex with whoever they wanted, without prosecution. But now it’s all about marriage and kids and same sex rights.

BEN: The reason our relationship is healthy is that we never labeled it. It was organic. We were just together.

CONCLUSION:

So, what is the key to a successful long lasting relationship? I actually did not find a concrete conclusion from these answers. Perhaps I asked the wrong questions?! It seems that any conclusion I have is still based on opinion. This is not science!…. So perhaps that is my conclusion. There is no science.

Fred and Ben have an open relationship, they did not for the first 20 years, but still now, they have other men in each other’s lives. For them it works. It seems when they were together, gay rights was just about sexual liberation. Many relationships didn’t last back then because guys just wanted to screw around. In fact, Fred told me that if you didn’t go out and leave with another guy each night, people considered something was wrong with you! Is this still true? I find it hard to believe. We can have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want, and have been able to do so (pretty openly) for decades. So why do gay guys hurt each other?

Personally I think its all to do with us… not everyone else. You are the master of your own happiness. It seems young gay guys still feel oppressed. I know in some countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, being gay comes with pretty dramatic consequences. And yes, revolutions are needed here. But in western cultures, why can’t gay guys just enjoy the opportunities they have? Will we ever be content as a community? Will we always feel that we have to protest about something? I hope not. If you live in a place like Spain, Italy, UK, US (thankfully this is such a long list now), you can be gay openly and safely. Enjoy it! Don’t waste time hurting each other. Don’t look to fulfil only sexual desires if what you really want is something emotional. Just be honest. Be open. If you can be openly gay, be open emotionally too. Yes, a lot of people are messed up. The Cramuel’s are messed up! Everyone is messed up! There is a time to fight. Fight for world peace. Fight for global warming. Fight for gay rights in foreign lands where being gay can be met with death. But also enjoy what you do have. After all we are VERY LUCKY!

If you want to know the secret of a long lasting relationship… you will never find it, so stop looking. It is not an exact science. Do not label things. Do what feels natural and organic. What feels good. If you really want it you will find it and you should be able to see it in someone you meet. Do not change people to make them what you want them to be. Look for someone who wants what you want.

Love is like quick sand… you’ll know your in it, when you fall into it!

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Written by Craig

This little piggy stayed at home…

Business Trips – the stay home piggy view….

When Samuel first went on a business trip, I was somewhat distraught. If I am totally honest, I look back and realise that 50% of this distraught was actually jealously. Samuel gets to travel to some really cool places like Chicago, Boston, Hong Kong and Paris.

However, it wasn’t just jealously, our relationship progressively intensified and we began spending more and more time together. I had never lived with a partner, so moving in was like a dream come true. I loved our little life together. Those first business trips where very hard for me to deal with!

How badly I took Samuels business trips must have seemed obvious to everyone around me, because everyone rallied around me, every time he went away! As it turns out Samuel asked all of his friends to keep a look out for me. Very sweet and it certainly helped but it did make me realise how dependant I had become on Samuel and our relationship. I had lost my independence and some of the activities and desires that made me, ME!

I then made an oath to myself that I would not just sit around and feel sorry for myself when Samuel went away.

This was the beginning of a shift in my outlook. I had realised that I naturally began adopting some of Samuels likes and personality traits. All of these were extremely positive; I started dressing better and taking better care of my physical appearance and possessions. I began eating better, exercising and drinking less wine. I began spending less impulsively and saving money and paying off debts.

However, I felt like I was loosing a bit of myself as I never made time for all the activities I enjoyed when I was single. I began using Samuel’s business trips as opportunities to do things I couldn’t find time to do otherwise. I began watching more sci-fi and manga, I began painting for hours at the weekend, I began running and cycling every day and often went to bed much earlier and caught up on missed sleep.

When it came to social activities and our friends, I realised that life doesn’t need to just stop just because your partner is away. I didn’t need to stay at home and simply wait. So I began accepting and arranging activities with our friends. Dinner invitations, movie nights, painting sessions, cycling trips to St Ives and even short weekend breaks to the coast. I felt balance return to my life and I noticed that I began feeling more settled when Samuel was away.

In fact, during the week I found myself so busy and distracted it was only in the evenings that I began to really miss his presence. Weekends were the exception. Weekends I really noticed I was without him. So although I was having fun it still wasn’t exactly the same. I am still without my best friend, my greatest ally, my partner in crime.

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So my advice to you is this… If you have a partner who travels a lot, and you find this travelling to be difficult to deal with… try and take a step back and think about why you find this so hard. Like me, it may be that you’re jealous deep down, or perhaps you have lost yourself and your independence.

Being reflective allows you to identify why you feel the way you feel. If you’re honest with yourself in this process, you can begin making positive changes. If you’ve done that and it really is as simple as you miss your partner… then try to look at the positives. You are going to miss them whatever happens and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Worrying and making it an issue, will only add fuel to the emotions inside of you and potentially put unnecessary strain on your relationship.

So keep yourself busy. See your friends, go for dinner, spend hours on your hobbies, go away for weekends, go for walks, take pictures and catch up with old friends.

A relationship is the joining of 2 lives, 2 personalities, 2 social circles, 2 careers and 2 families, but you are still 1 person. It is important you don’t loose yourself in your relationship and the love and admiration for your partner doesn’t push all of what makes you, YOU – out of your head.

🙂 Craig

How Business Travels affect relationships

As I work for a global company, I have the great privilege of travelling the world through work. This year only I have been to Florida, Paris, Hong Kong, Chicago, Boston and very soon San Francisco.

The question is, how do business travels affect a couple’s relationship whether they are gay or straight? I can only speak for ourselves.

Initially, it was quite hard because our relationship was new and quite intense … and we were together almost 24/7.  We got so used to being together every single day and going to bed lying next to the one you love.

At one point, my partner got a little bit worried that this might affect our relationship. I must confess that I had the same concerns. Our relationship is the most important and most beautiful thing that has happened to us both and I wouldn’t want my job to put that in jeopardy. So we decided to lay our cards on the table and have a serious chat about it. I must confess that I enjoy my work very much … especially the travelling bit. Ever since I was in high school, I dreamt of having a job that involved taking planes and discovering different parts of the world. Never in a million years dared I to imagine that this was going to happen for real. You might understand why I was a little reluctant about giving this all up.

So, how do we manage to strike a balance between business trips and our relationship?

Even if this might sound very cheesy, we make sure to say how much we miss each other. It is important to let your other half know that you are not indifferent to being apart of one another.

We take advantage of the power of technology. Even if we are physically apart, we still keep in touch almost on a daily basis. We use Whatsap to send each other free text messages, voice messages and picture messages. We also take advantage of Facetime/Skype where we can see each other for free.

FaceTime

– My partner and I FaceTiming whilst I was on a business trip in Boston –

Working from Chicago

– On a business trip in Chicago –

As most of the time I am in a different different time zone, I make sure I have a chat with my partner either before I go to work or when I return to the hotel. I also try to share my travels with my partner by making videos and taking loads of pictures so he can be virtually part of my travel experiences.

I also realise that being apart for a certain amount of time does have it’s positive sides as well. Craig can focus on things that we don’t really have in common and take advantage of this time of solitude. For example, he is very passionate about his Japanese cartoons. And he also loves to paint. When I am away, he devotes himself into these kind of activities that I wouldn’t be able to get involved in anyway. He can also spend some quality and one to one time with his family and close friends.

I have come to the conclusion that giving each other a certain amount of space is also healthy for our relationship. We definitely don’t get bored of one another when we are back together under one roof as we have loads to catch up on. And during those weeks we are together, we make sure to enjoy ourselves and make the most of our time. On a more intimate level, after having been deprived from sex for a certain amount of time we seem to make up very well afterwards 😉

As far as we are concerned, business travels don’t necessarily need to have a negative impact on relationships. It can actually strengthen it as long as you keep your private and professional life balanced.