Sunday, 26 March 2023

I Will Not Go Back

I might have mentioned, when writing up my trip report on my recent safari to Tanzania, just how saddened I was by the fact that Tanzania is one of those African nations with a poor LGBTQIA+ tolerance record. Fundamentally, the more comfortable I become with myself, the less comfortable I feel being in the intolerant places.

Uganda, perhaps more than the other places I have visited, has consistently had the most toxic atmosphere when it comes to being gay. This week, they have once more voted to make the laws surrounding homosexuality even harsher than they already are. There's been a lot of hype surrounding the use of capital punishment, but this is meant to be only for "aggravated homosexual acts". Yes, maybe, but the wording is so vague that anything could happen to anyone.

What is much more egregious, however, is the fact that it will be illegal to even identify as gay. Just saying "I'm gay," could leave you in prison. When I travel to Africa with my friends, I'm the gay one. I'm the one with the pride badge on my sun hat and the jacket with rainbow-flag coloured, almost kissing, male lions embroidered on the back to travel in. I travel to Africa because I love the scenery and the wildlife. I don't travel to Africa looking for sex - frankly, with the HIV rates across the continent you'd be insane to do so -  but then I don't travel anywhere else looking for sex either!

Lake Mulehe and the Virunga Volcanoes, Uganda

Uganda is a wonderful country. It has stunning scenery, magnificent wildlife, welcoming people and a vibrancy that is hard to compare. I have travelled with these people, work even now with some of them and would love to go back to those places that I like so much again in the future. Like much of Africa, however, the country is dragged down time and again by corruption and self-interest.

With great sadness, I will not be going back for the foreseeable future. It's bad enough when a place has laws that makes it illegal to love, but when they step over the line and make it illegal to even say who you are, then they've gone too far.

We, the collective West - although these days that really just means Europe and the predominantly white Commonwealth nations, you are getting to the point where the USA isn't a tolerant country anymore either - will not change the minds of the people in power in Uganda. They are driven by hatred, greed and a constant desire to find someone else to blame for their own failings, politically, socially and economically.

They may change their minds, if other nations threaten to review their aid programs. They may say tourists are welcome, whatever their orientations or identities. They will, one day, come to realize that inclusive society is a better option than an exclusive one. There will be pain and there will be suffering before they realize this though.

More likely, they will simply happily stew in their religion-fuelled self-righteousness, praying to God that their wives don't find out about their mistresses and thanking Him fervently for giving them the wealth to pay for one more night with their favourite prostitute.

The world is short-sighted enough without bigotry and the only choice I can make is to leave them to it.

Farewell, Uganda, I'll miss you.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Romance and Love. Heartbreak and Heartache.


I've been reading a lot of romance lately. I don't know what started this change in my reading genre - possibly Heartstopper - but I actually enjoy a good love story now and I'm clearly not ashamed to admit it. Also, rather unsurprisingly, there's a lot of really good gay romance out there to be read. Now, some of it - quite a lot really - gets a bit steamy (well actually really steamy), but I'm okay with that too from time to time. Some of it is a bit to "angsty" for my liking, but you have to take books one at a time - not all will be to your taste. Just like most people though, I do love a happy ending!

The best part is that there's loads of it available for free - or for cheap - on sites such as Tapas.


I do think it's odd though, that I like reading about love and romance, as I don't really relate all that well to the whole romantic attraction thing. Thinking about it, I begin to wonder if I should class myself as "aromantic". That's one of the meanings for the A in LGBTQIA+ - the other being asexual, which I'm definitely not.

Like every term on the queer spectrum, being aromantic can be a matter of degree. Most people, myself included, are not totally one thing or another. I'm most comfortable these days defining my sexual orientation as gay, but for a time I preferred bisexual, as I do have some attraction to the opposite sex - just much more towards men than women. Being aromantic isn't an orientation and can mean different things to different people and isn't an all or nothing state of being. See HERE

So, for me, I can and do feel physical - or sexual - attraction, even though I don't feel it strongly and never really had a crush on anyone as a teen. I don't, or at least only very slowly, feel any kind of  emotional attraction or romantic feelings for someone, even if the physical attraction is there.

Coming back to fictional romance, I can now see why some of the protagonists have a hard time with that big declaration of love. Saying "I love you" in a romantic situation is a big deal for many, and possibly an even bigger thing for someone who is - knowingly or not - aromatic.


When I first told someone that I loved him, it was because I though I was losing him. I told him that I loved him as a way to make him understand how I was feeling - of course - but, also, as a way to articulate what I though I was losing. Now, I know he didn't feel the same way, but for me, even thinking about our relationship in terms of love was something of a difficult concept to grasp.

We'd been in our comfortable, fairly casual, mostly uncommitted physical relationship for a couple of years. I really hate the term "friends with benefits", but in some ways that does describe what we had fairly well. When he decided he wanted to step back from the physical side of our relationship - he wanted to be straight (or at least thought he did at the time) and was going to date a girl - I spiralled because I though I would lose my friend as well. It actually took me a while to realize that I was actually in love with him and he was breaking my heart by - in my mind - abandoning me and what I thought we had.


Alfred, Lord Tennyson may have been genuine in his feelings when he wrote " 'Tis better to have loved and lost" when speaking about the sudden loss of a dear friend, but most scholars accept that he was talking about brotherly love, not romantic love. That's "brotherly love" in the sense of friends and family.

Whatever Tennyson thought, having one's heart broken is a very real and painful thing. I took more than two years to recover to any real degree. I needed therapy and I needed medication, to deal with the associated depression and anxiety. This despite the fact that we soon returned to our normal friendly, beneficial relationship status.

I had taken years to fall in love with him - or at least, years to realize that I loved him - and only moments to have my heart broken by him. There is no blame here. He said and did what he felt was best for himself - and maybe even for me - at the time. I cannot and do not blame him for being him.

Our relationship was never quite the same afterwards. We still sometimes needed each other physically, but we just seemed a little distant. Very slowly, we drifted further apart and finally just stopped even contacting one-another for several years.

When we did, after a long break, finally talk to each other again, it was a very different dynamic and it was clear that much had changed between us. He was gay, out, open and in a long-term relationship. I was still me. It is possible to still be friends after being more, but it really is difficult and almost seems to be too - I want to say tentative, strained, anxious - forced. He did make me realize that it was okay to be gay though and that helped greatly with my own decision to come out and be more comfortable with myself.


So, I might be aromantic, but given time - and, of course, the right person - I can feel love and be in love with someone. Sadly, that also means that I can have my heart broken.

Heartbreak turns into heartache in time. For me, just as I was so slow to love, so am I slow to recover and the heartache remains - perhaps for all time - as a dully remembered pain deep inside my chest. Sometimes, the related depression wells back up to the surface and, perhaps for a few days when the nights are long, dark and lonely, I feel the heartache more strongly and struggle to think of the good times rather than the bad.

The worst part is that, having loved, I now miss the feeling. Even if, for me, the feeling can take so long to develop, I sometimes wish I could feel love for someone again. All my other anxieties and fears make this highly unlikely - I'm never going to get out there and socialize, am I - but now I have a few nice romance novels to lose myself in when the need arises.

Tennyson may have been right, but a part of me still thinks that, if I had never fallen in love with someone, I wouldn't now have to live forever with the heartache of losing him. And, sometimes, randomly, it does still hurt - and I hate that!

Therapy is HARD

This is one of the hardest posts I've written in some time. Any that are tagged as self therapy or mental wellbeing are deeply personal and emotionally draining. I'm afraid that that's the point of what makes them therapeutic. The writing process here gets this stuff out of my system and, ultimately, I find this helpful. even if no-one reads them, I still have the knowledge that I bared my soul to some degree.

Writing about this man who played such a big part in my emotional and physical life is also hard. I'm very conscious of not saying too much and have even gone back and forth for several days now, unsure of whether to post or delete this. Wellington may have said "Publish and be Damned!", but I don't seek damnation or notoriety. I don't just write a stream of consciousness and press post. I, hopefully, pick my words carefully.

Very few people even know that there was anything more than a friendship there and no-one knew at the time. There doesn't need to be a name here. It's not my place to say. If he happens to read this, I hope he understands that it's a commentary and not a condemnation.

Saturday, 11 March 2023

The Pride Pride Updates

I've just been doing a little work on The Pride Pride website. It is always a work in progress, but I do like to keep things up-to-date when there's the possibility of a new book (or books) in the works.

Hop over using this link or by clicking on the option on the main toolbar above to get all the latest.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Tanzania 2023 Trip Report

As always, there is a comprehensive report on my latest Safari trip to Africa. It's been more than three years since the last one and I've worked hard to get this one done quickly.

I found it a very hard trip - I am older every time after all - but much of that was soon overcome by some fantastic mammal and bird sightings. As a big bonus, the camera and lens that I'd worried so much about spending a small fortune on worked wonderfully and helped me capture some of the best pictures I've ever managed.

Follow the link to start reading: Tanzania 2023

(Note: I updated the text on 8/3/23 to bring it in line with my master for the upcoming paperback version and the version available on

Thursday, 21 July 2022

A New Toy - Ricoh Pentax K3 Mark III

Couldn't Resist

I'd pretty much always planned to replace my main camera at some point, but particularly if I was going to go back to Africa. I had resigned myself to waiting until the end of the year and seeing if there might be a bit of an offer around Black Friday. It was always going to be expensive, but the current camera is more than eight years old and starting to get a little bit twitchy in the buttons. It really doesn't owe me anything, having been to Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Uganda and Zambia with me and taken almost 60,000 photos.

So, I've splurged far too much money on a new one, as the prices were heavily discounted and inflation is rampant. This is a Pentax K3 Mark III, and it's better than the old K3 in just about every field except perceived battery life. I'll need a lot of time to get used to it, but I've still got a full six months until I head off to Tanzania and I should be used to it's quirks by then.

I'm starting off slow with a few simple landscapes and lots of plants to test out the colour response, but so far, it is nothing short of fantastic. Everything is quick, intuitive and very smooth. I've got to do lots of adjustments to get the Autofocus response and the colour settings just how I like them, but that shouldn't take too long once I spend a few hours just taking photos.

Sadly for my bank account, I couldn't resist finally getting something to replace the venerable - but now long gone - Sigma 50-500mm zoom as well. That something is the Pentax 150-450mm HD D-FA F4.5-5.6ED DC AW. (That's quite a mouthful, but it describes a 150mm to 450mm zoom lens designed for full frame with fancy glass in the lenses and special coatings on the glass). It's been back-ordered, so a good job I decided to get it now rather than in the autumn.

That's by far the most money I've ever spent on a single item without wheels - twice in a row. The lens is even more expensive than the camera body and I've now got to try and get my money's worth out of the combination.

A Few Samples

I'll add a couple of photos here to give just a hint of the quality that comes right out of the camera. They are all taken with the K3 Mk III and my trusty but compact Tamron 18-200mm walk-about lens. I'm starting off slow, trying to get a feel for the colours and focussing abilities first.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Tests and Trials of Life - Paths and Choices

A Basic Philosophy

It seems to me - and it has taken me a long time to realize this - that life is just a series of trials that you have to pass in order to be happy. Everyone is different and some people cope with these trials better than others. I think I'm one of those who struggles with every one of them, but seems to get there in the end.

Life - a series of endless binary choices.

Learning by Trial and Error

As a child, you have limited scope to manage the changes in your life, as most of them are outside your control and the trials and upheavals you face are mostly only faced by going with the flow. I don't know if I had a difficult childhood or not - looking back now, I think I was happy more than I was sad which can't be too bad.

The trials were there though. Losing Dad was something I've never managed to shake off. I never really got to know him, but remember enough to miss him and think about him often - saddened by the fact that I'm now the only member of my family to remember him at all. Even though I was only four, that day is etched in my memory and fundamentally changed the course of my life forever.

Life does go on, though, and Mum meeting someone who I am now proud to call Dad - he has done the job for almost 50 years after all without complaint - lead to us leaving the Island for a time and having a new life in Salford. This came with a whole set of new trials - trying to make new friends and fit in to a place where I was the odd one out with the strange accent and parochial, country kid outlook.

I don't think I made any friends in my time there really. I was isolated, still grieving, shy, nervous and self-absorbed. I was often drifting through my own fantasy worlds and just let the real world pass me by. I was moody, aggressive and a real handful for my teachers, but they showed a level of patience and understanding that I didn't realize was there at the time. I was bullied for my isolation and lashed out at anyone who tried to help. Was there a hint of my sexuality in all of that, even at that age? Well, with hindsight, perhaps a little.

So, I faced the trials of being "Away" and made many errors in how I faced them. Only by taking these wrong turns can you hope to learn the right path. There's no Satellite Navigation for Life!

Coming Home

One of the big reasons for our return to the Isle of Man when I was eleven was for me to be able to go to a better school than was possible in Salford. But, for me, this was just another set of trials to be faced. I'd been away long enough to have been forgotten by the few friends I had made at school here years before and just had to start all over again. Once more I was the unknown new boy - maybe not as bad when the Grammar School has an intake from so many different junior schools, but there still. Now I once more had a different accent - I never lost my Manx one totally, but it has been softened by those five years away from the Island and is now fairly neutral north-west England. My vowels are shorter than I remember they once were for example.

I never really did make friends - well I don't think so anyway - I hung out with mates, but we've never kept in touch and most of them moved away. I certainly didn't have relationships -  I'm not sure I even ever had a crush on anyone at school, although it was sometimes fun to watch the struggles of others.

Still, you cope and you make mistakes, getting some trials wrong and some trials right, learning to understand the system and how to navigate better. And boy, did I make some big mistakes. I may not have been forgiven for them, but I feel I have paid for them and moved on.

The Fear Factor

I've said before that I didn't want to go to University. Sure, I could have tried hard and worked more and done so if I wanted to, but I would never have coped with the first day and deep down I knew it. It can be really difficult to explain just how powerful this anxiety about new things can be, but I'm going to try and do so here.

Just imagine I've had a phone call from a new customer - out of the blue they've been given my number by someone else and told I'm the "Computer Expert" who can solve their problem. No worries!

Well, actually, there are a whole big bowl of worries right there!

  • Where do they live?
  • Will I find the house?
  • Will I be on time?
  • Can I fix the problem?
  • And on and on...?

This list bounces around in my head from the moment the call ends until I arrive at their door, building and growing into a cacophony of fear and dread. This fear is real - not quite on the level of the lion roaring in the darkness just metres away - but gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing, adrenaline-pumping fear. The full-on panic attack is only moments away and I have had them a few times over the years.

Now, this is just another trial, one that has to be faced and overcome like any other. And, I do overcome these trials. It isn't easy, but it does get a little easier as each trial passes. It never goes away though and it clouds my life with a thin veil of permanent anxiety. The fear of change forces us onto the path of isolation and the safety of doing the same thing every day.

The Working World

I left school at 18 into a world of massive unemployment, social unrest (more in the UK than here!) and rampant inflation. I struggled for a couple of years and eventually Mum sent me to see the RSM at the army camp because they needed a boilerman urgently. It took me almost ten minutes to step over the threshold of the office block, but I knew that this was just another trial and I had to pass this one.

Five minutes later I was working at my first real job. (Thanks Brian, but I know you were desperate!) Within a few years I was in the Civil Service and learning to drive, but even then I hated the monotony of working for someone and am happier now working for myself and keeping my own timetable. I am lazy - I do the minimum to be content - even if I sometimes have to work 14-hour days to be lazy the next. So, I have that part of my life sorted - apart from the anxiety of every call-out and work visit of course!

Meeting People

This may seem obvious, but in my chosen profession, I get to meet lots of people. I get on with people - I talk too much, but I like to think I'm nice and kind and considerate so that balances out. I do like to have friends, but I also know it is hard for them to get to that position. They have to make the effort to be a friend because I just can't take that step. The few people who are my friends know who they are and I'm grateful for them all.

Meeting Someone

I'm going to be a little vague here - not because I have no memory of events, but rather because what started out as a secret relationship is still mostly a secret, even though we haven't been together for years and we are both now safely and happily out of our closets.

What do you do when a cute guy - much younger, more gregarious and confident than you - wants to hang out with you with a work related pretext. Well, I didn't know what you do, but I think I really wanted to find out.

I was told, when I came out, that it was obvious I was gay. Well, some people could see it was obvious, apparently even when I couldn't see it in my self, and some people were totally surprised by it. This guy could, I think, see this too. I knew him from work, setting up the computer for his family, so, sure we could spend a little time together if he wanted to. I'd be happy to help with his work and college stuff if I could.

Anyway, we spent some time together and then a little more time not really working - you know, watching a movie, going for a drive and a walk with me taking my camera - the social stuff I never normally did. That watching TV would be usually at my place, in my room with a massive projection TV at the foot of the bed. It's just where it was, no hidden agenda. I guess that's how it is though. You're getting on well and - with hindsight - things are a little flirty between you - nervous but flirty!

So, I could tell he was gay and clearly he could tell I was gay. Well, in that case, there's no harm in watching a romance on the TV - is there? And yes, one thing does lead to another - not necessarily right away or in a giant leap of passion, but the path is there to be taken. I was clearly attracted to him, but I'm not sure I understood that at the start - after all, I'd never really been attracted to anyone before.

I think I settled into the role of a gay person much easier than he did - although I still wanted no-one to know. I'm a bit bisexual, but much prefer men to women and prefer the label of gay now. He was young enough to not be sure and I was strangely happy to let him find out in his own way at his own pace. In some ways, he tried his best to break my heart, but for almost ten years we kept coming back to spend time with each other in a kind of comfortable never-quite-close-enough-for-me relationship.

I loved him - and I told him so - but he never really felt quite that deeply about me and we eventually just stopped communicating for about four years. I think, perhaps, that he was ready to accept himself and come out of his closet and feared that I wouldn't be able to do the same or that I would be outed by accident because of him. I hold no grudges and few regrets. This is another trial of life that must be passed or failed. I didn't fight for him because deep down I knew that I wouldn't win. Perhaps I failed this test, but I like to think that I just managed to scrape a pass. We are, I think, still friends and that is perhaps the most important indicator that I did pass this particular test.

Keeping It All Together

If there is a reason for this rambling post, it is a fairly simple one. I find the act of writing this stuff down cathartic. It makes me feel better to get it "off my chest" and out of my head. These days I do that by writing, mostly because I enjoy it, but also because I hope that perhaps one person's experiences can help another person to understand a situation better. Once, in the past, this sort of stuff would be written in a private, secret, journal or diary, but I'm too modern for that and my handwriting is bloody awful after writing thousands of vehicle logbooks before they were computerized.

When I had to see a psychiatrist - yes the depression and heartbreak can get that bad - she was perceptive enough to see that I would be best served by being told how to analyse and help myself. Of course, she listened to me and encouraged me to talk about my feelings as well, but you only get so much of their time and the anti-depressant drugs only help take the edge off. She told me to read some stuff, try some NLP (I never did), recognise your mood and take action to stem the negative thoughts.

So, that's what I do - in my own way.

That's why, when I was feeling so bad about being secretly gay, I knew the only way to fix it was to come out and stop worrying about it. I wasn't seeing anyone and I could keep it to myself, but knew I needed to say it out loud. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do - and there have been some very hard things in the last 50+ years - but I did feel instantly better for it. Thank you Enid and Michael for being there to hear it first and not judge!

When I have thoughts that won't go away, I drop them onto a keyboard and they fly out of my head and into the world where they can't harm me any more. There isn't a cure for mental illness. There is only management and control, but that can be enough to leave you happy.

Also, if you can't fix it, don't worry about it!

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Back to Africa - 2023 Tanzania Plans

Remembering Tanzania

I first went to Tanzania in 2010, flying out of a snowy Ronaldsway to an even more snowy Manchester in January. My friends, Fred and Elizabeth had been there since before Christmas with a third friend, Chris who I was yet to meet, but would be sharing with. I managed to negotiate Manchester and Amsterdam airports and eventually arrive late at night at Kilimanjaro International and meet my pick-up for the short drive to the airport guest house.

I woke early, as the sun was rising and soon found the view I had dreamt might be possible from the airport. Mt. Kilimanjaro looms above the plains to the north of the airport, with Mt. Meru off to the west as well.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, capped with snow, appears through the hazy dawn.

For the next sixteen days, we would visit some of the most iconic safari destinations in Tanzania and Africa, doing a tour of part of the northern circuit. After my first trip to Africa, I was already hooked, but this would be the trip where I would finally get to see the big game that I craved: a trip that would more than match my expectations and leave me totally addicted to the safari experience.

Black Rhino with calf, keeping their distance in Ngorongoro Crater.

A few of the million or more Wildebeest at Ndutu.

Lions devour an unfortunate Wildebeest just south of Ndutu.

My first Leopard, dozing in an acacia in the heart of the Serengeti.

I didn't know when I might get back to Tanzania, but I really enjoyed the first trip and hoped to return one day.

Thirteen Years

I never thought that it might be thirteen years before I would be able to return to Tanzania, but many trips to other countries in Africa and then a global pandemic have all marked the passage of time.

But, in a very quick decision process, we have made our plans (or rather, Fred has done sterling work and made plans) and we are returning to Tanzania at the start of February 2023. Although I would love to revisit some of the places from my last time there, we have decided to head further into the wild and concentrate on some of the southern destinations this time.

Tanzania is home to some of the largest and wildest National Parks and Reserves in the world and it's time for me to see some of them.

We'll fly with KLM once more - still my favourite - and land at Dar Es Salam very late at night on 3rd February, where Fred promises us a "modest B&B". I've had experience of Fred's modest bookings before and we'll be fine because anywhere is better than the Hotel Vanilla in Bundibugyo or the UWA Bandas in Semliki!

Tanzania with Parks and Reserves marked and our
destinations highlighted

A comfortable 300km drive to the south will take us to Mikumi Safari Lodge, for a couple of nights at one of the smaller National Parks, but with the promise of plenty of game. We'll also spend a day visiting Udzungwa National Park - mountains, forests and waterfalls with endemic primates and birds.

Next we head another 280km to the south-west and then spend time in and around Ruaha National Park, the largest in Tanzania at more than 20,000km². We'll start at Ruaha Hilltop Lodge which promises spectacular views over the plains and plenty to see and do. We'll then head to Tandala Tented Camp and probably just sit on our veranda and watch the comings and goings at the waterhole below. There's the tantalizing possibility of Painted Wolves (Wild Dogs) there in the back of my mind.

Finally in the Ruaha area, we'll spend a few days in the park at Mdonya Old River Lodge, right in the heart of the park for epic game drives in a true wilderness.

Finally, we fly from Ruaha to what is, for me at least, potentially the highlight of the trip. We're heading to Lake Manze in Nyerere National Park - the new park formed from the northern part of the Selous Game Reserve. The park is newly formed, but the Selous reserve (all 54,000km² of it - if it was a country, it would be somewhere between Croatia and Costa Rica, about two-and-a-half times the size of Wales). The Selous forms one of the last great wildernesses in Africa. I'm looking forward to the game drives and the possibility of a boat trip on the lakes and rivers looking for birds.

As you may be able to tell, I'm pretty excited to be returning to the Dark Continent once more and getting the camera back into action.