Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Queer Lear

There once was an old man called Lear
Who wrote lots of nonsense, I hear.
With a queer angle too
I post this to you
In this his bicentenary year.

Born on the 12th day of May,
Edward Lear could well have been gay.
Firm proof, though, is lacking,
Yet still there is backing
To make this quite bold claim today.

Biographers tell of his hankering
For a colonial official called Franklin.
Lear’s love for this man,
Forty years it all ran.
Love returned, though, there is not an inkling.

….. That’s about as far as my skills with limericks can stretch. But I think you’ve got the general idea that Edward Lear was born 200 years ago this month. Although he didn’t invent the limerick Lear will always be associated with it. He also wrote other nonsense poems, including the famous “Owl and the Pussy-cat”.

Biographies and literary commentaries have been saying for decades that Lear was probably a closeted homosexual. Various Freudian and other psycho-analysis of his work have been put forward to support the claim and, like Hans Christian Andersen, the evidence is compelling even if not actual proof exists.

The Franklin I mentioned in my little limerick was Franklin Lushington, a colonial barrister. Lear met him in Malta in 1849 on one of his many travels and toured Greece with him. Apparently Lear fell head over heels in love with him quite soon, but Franklin never returned that love and was most likely straight. They did, however, remain friends for the rest of Lear’s life. After Lear’s death Franklin destroyed most of Lear’s papers (looks like he was trying to keep something a secret!).

I’ll end my little bicentenary celebration of Edward Lear with one of my favourite modern limericks. I first heard this on the radio a few years a go recited by the inimitable Kenneth Williams:

There was an old lady of Ryde
Who ate a bad apple and died.
The fruit, it fermented
Inside the lamented
And made cider inside her inside.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Olympic Countdown

For the first time since 1952 the Winter Olympics don’t have any lgbt figure skaters when they take place in Albertville in 1992. Instead we have a biathlete and a speed skater.

American biathlete Joan Guetschow is one of the earliest Olympians to compete openly as a lesbian (Jana Novotná competed openly as a lesbian at the summer games later that year). Joan was well down in the results in 1992, but she came back in 1994 to Lillehammer and came 8th in the 7.5 km relay. What is even more remarkable is that inbetween her Olympic appearances Joan underwent heart surgery for a congenital defect. This and her open sexuality made her’s an inspiring story for the media.

Even with no figure skaters in Albertville the ice introduced another lgbt skater to the Olympics with Belgian speed skater Geert Blanchart. He finished 6th in the 1000m. He returned in Lillehammer 1994 but was disqualified in the first round. Later that year he did win a silver medal – in in-line skating at the Gay Games in New York (he also competed at the Gay Games in 1998).

Another speed skater in Lillehammer 1994 was American Christine (or Chris) Witty. I admit I don’t have definitive information regarding her sexuality, and I’ve only seen her named once in lists of lgbt athletes. Chris earns a special place in the history of Olympians I  that she’s the only lgbt athlete to compete in both winter and summer games.

Figure skaters returned at the 1994 Lillehammer games. Making his final Olympic appearance in 1994 was American Brian Boitano. After the “Battle of the Brians” at the 1988 winter games in Calgary Brian turned professional. But after a while he wanted to return to the Olympics. The rules on professional athletes at the games prevented him from realising his desire. With other professional athletes he lobbied the IOC and sports organisations for several years to change the rules.

The lobbying proved successful. The IOC changed their rules to allow several Olympic sports to admit professionals as “eligible” competitors. That’s how Olympic tennis and basketball acquired so many high-profile professionals. For Brian Boitano it meant that he too could compete in 1994 in Lillehammer. Unfortunately, he missed his favourite triple axel combination jump for the first time in his life and had to make do with an Olympic diploma for 6th place.

Also in 1994 the Gay Games were held in New York to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. For the first time in history the multi-sport event overtook the Olympics in size. In New York 10,864 took part compared to 9,356 at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 10,318 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Competing in New York was Olympic champion swimmer Bruce Hayes. He became the first Olympic champion to become Gay Games champion. Other medallists were Olympians Mark Chatfield and Peter Prijdekker. Also there in New York were Olympic boxing silver medallist Mark Leduc and diving champion Greg Louganis, both making their first official “coming out” appearance.

For more, official, information on the Games go to

Friday, 25 May 2012

Flagging up Mr. Leather

In a week’s time the month of June arrives. In the US June has been called Pride Month. To celebrate I’m going to present a series of posts on something you always see at a Pride event – gay flags.

There seems to be new lgbt flags being designed all the time, particularly on the internet, and being a vexillologist (a flag studier) I find it hard to keep up at times. To give you a taste of what’s to come next month I’ll begin today with a look at one of the most familiar lgbt flags – the Leather Pride flag. Why? Well, today the finals of the International Mr. Leather contest are being held in Chicago, and the leather flag was designed specifically for it.

The flag was designed by Dr. Tony DeBlase. He was born in 1941 in Indiana. By profession he was a museum administrator and zoologist, earning his PhD with a dissertation on bats. In his 30s he began writing stories and articles with a leather/S+M theme under the name Fledermaus – the German for bat. In 1991 Dr. DeBlase co-founded the Leather Archives and Museum, of which he was Vice-President from 1992 till his death in 2000.

In 1986 Tony bought an ailing American magazine called “Drummer” and the leather-man contest that went with it, Mr. Drummer. He turned both the magazine and the leather contest into leading components of the community on both sides of the Atlantic. One of the titleholders of Mr. Drummer UK was an ex-Royal Marine from just a couple of miles away from where I live called Glenn Marsh. He went into the gay porn industry as an actor and producer under the name of Blue Blake.

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1989, Tony felt that the time was right for leather men and women, who had been taking part in gay pride marches for years, to have their own flag. The first Leather Pride flag appeared on 28th May 1989 at the International Mr. Leather finals in Chicago. It was intended as just a proposal but it was accepted immediately. In fact, within a few days Tony got a phone call from Susan Shepherd, the newly crowned International Ms. Leather. She wanted to take the flag with her to the Gay and Lesbian Pride parade in Portland, Oregon, a couple of weeks later.

From then on the Leather Pride flag has inspired a huge number of other flags used by the leather community as well as the bondage and S+M communities. Its colours are used for the winners sash in the leather contests.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Star Gayzing - Gemini

Some double vision today with 2 identifications for the constellation Gemini.  The common identification of Gemini is with the twins from Greek mythology Castor and Pollux. The ancient Babylonian constellation in the same part of the sky was called The Great Twins. This may have influenced this idea.

A few gay men have kinky fantasies about gay twins, and Castor and Pollux have been mentioned from time to time as being incestuous. This is perhaps more an interpretation of their close relationship rather than an actual myth.

But there are clues to a forgotten identification of Gemini. In the time of the Roman Empire Gemini was sometimes representing Apollo and Hercules. Like Castor and Pollux they were sons of Zeus, making them brothers but not twins. However, an really old name for the constellation was Dioscuri which means exactly that - “sons of Zeus”. Pictured here is one of the many illustrations of the constellation from star maps over the centuries. They are often shown holding a bow, a club and a lyre. This picture comes from a set of cards printed in London in the 1820s.

In Greek mythology each god and hero had their own signs and symbols to help people recognise them. Apollo was the god of music, so he was often seen with a lyre. He was also a champion archer, so you’d see him with a bow and arrow (just like his own twin sister Artemis). Hercules is usually depicted carrying a large club. The picture of Gemini shows just that, and the “twins” have been pictured with these attributes for many centuries, suggesting that the Babylonian identification of the twins was given to the constellation after the Greeks identified it with Apollo and Hercules.

The Roman writer Gaius Julius Hygenius was among the first to actually mention that Gemini was Apollo and Hercules. The great Greek writer Ptolemy supported this view, naming the star Castor as “Star of Apollo” and Pollux as “Star of Hercules”. Interestingly, Castor and Apollo were born immortal gods, while Pollux and Hercules were born mortal humans. Castor and Apollo were renowned marksmen (with arrows and swords) while Pollux and Hercules were renowned for their physical prowess.

So, perhaps Gemini really started out as Dioscuri, bearing in mind that Dioscuri is an ancient Greek word, and Gemini is a Latin word from much later. Later, perhaps through Persian invasion in the 5th century BC, the constellation was given the Babylonian identification of the Twins. This is turn influenced the Romans who renamed it Gemini. But I’m only guessing.

To connect Gemini, as Apollo and Hercules, to our Star Gayzing series I’ll just hint at future posts. Both are well-known for having same-sex relationships. Apollo will be dealt with in July when I describe the Spartan sporting festival founded in honour of his boyfriend. As for Hercules, as said last time he has a constellation of his own, apart from Dioscuri, and his gay conquests and gender crisis will be dealt with later in the year also.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Paralympic Countdown

We must not forget that there are more than one summer Olympic games. A month after the main Olympics end the Paralympics begin, and they begin in 100 days time.

One former Olympian brings the first identified lgbt influence to the Paralympics in Barcelona in 1992. Ex-Cuban swimming champion Rafael Polinario competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He defected to Canada in the 1980s and became involved in the Canadian national paralympic swimming team. He coached many swimmers with disabilities in Toronto, and the first of these to compete at the Paralympics was Elisabeth Walker in Barcelona. Elisabeth went on to compete in 3 further games.

Rafael continued coaching, and in the early 1990s succeeded in persuading his disabled daughter Anne to get out of Cuba and move to Canada. She, too, was to become a Paralympian – the only Olympian with an lgbt Olympian parent.

There are even fewer identified lgbt Paralympians than there are Olympians. In fact the only one until London 2012 was equestrian rider Lee Pearson of Team GB. What places him at the top of my lgbt Olympian list is the fact that he has won more medals than anyone else on the list, a total of 9 – and all of them are gold.

Lee made his first Olympic appearance in Sydney in 2000. Always open about his sexuality he often jokes that he’d come out of the closet long before he told his parents before his 21st birthday! Born in 1974 with a muscular disorder I can hardly spell Lee was bundled by the nurses into a cot in a broom closet in fear of upsetting other young mums with his distorted body.

Horses are in Lee’s blood – his great-grandfather was the local horse-whisperer. As a child Lee wasn’t allowed to have a BMX bike like his brothers, so parents David and Lynda bought him a donkey called Sally to ride around the yard on. Lee’s love of riding began from that moment.

Lee first attracted national attention in 1980 when he was given a Children of Courage Award by Mrs. Thatcher (who carried him up the staircase in 10 Downing Street to the ceremony). It was the 1996 Atlanta games that inspired Lee to begin competing as a Paralympian.

For more, official, information on the Games go to  

Friday, 18 May 2012

Olympic Countdown

Things were really heating up at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, in more ways that one. The heat of the host city was uncomfortable at times as the athletes gathered.

So much had changed in the world since 1988 – Germany was united, apartheid in South Africa was abolished, and the USSR and Yugoslavia had disintegrated into separate new states.

And the voice of Freddie Mercury was everywhere. Specially written in 1988 for the games, Freddie’s song “Barcelona” became a games anthem, even helping to create a popular tourist attraction as accompaniment to the dancing fountains of the city (specially renovated for the games). Unfortunately, Mercury, who was to have performed the song at the opening ceremony with Montserrat Caballé, died of an AIDS-related illness 8 months beforehand.

Yet again, more lgbt athletes took part – 13 active competitors in 9 sports. Only one athlete was “out” at these games, Jana Novotná. She had come out publicly in 1991 during the Australian Open and arrived in Barcelona hoping to improve on her silver medal from 1988. Again she played in both singles and doubles, but failed to get to the quarter-finals.

Two other lgbt Wimbledon champions had better luck - Gigi Fernandez and Conchita Martínez. Even though competing officially for the first time, Gigi had taken part in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when tennis was a demonstration sport. In Barcelona Gigi and her tennis partner Mary Joe Fernandez beat Wimbledon champs Martínez and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario to the gold medal in the women’s doubles.

Another gold medal went to swimmer Mark Tewksbury in the 100m backstroke. To this he added a bronze in the 4x100m medley relay. Mark’s involvement in the Olympics continued after Barcelona. He was an athlete representative on the IOC but resigned in 1998 over corruption within the movement. After the bribery scandal surrounding the awarding of the 2002 winter games to Salt Lake City Mark became prominent among many Olympians who called for reform. Reform did indeed come about. Today Mark is looking forward to London 2012 as Chef de Mission of the Canadian national team.

Mark became involved in another sporting controversy in 2004 when the Federation of Gay Games and the organisers of the 2006 Gay Games in Montréal argued over financial control. The Federation dropped Montréal and gave the games to Chicago. Offended by this insult to their city the Montréal organisers set up a rival games – the World Outgames. Mark Tewksbury was appointed co-president.

The last lgbt gold of 1992 went to Petra Rossner of Germany. She was the reigning World Champion in the 3km pursuit track cycling event, and it was in this that she won gold. At about this time she started dating fellow cyclist Judith Arndt who made her own Olympic debut in 1996, but they didn’t compete together on the same team until Sydney in 2000.

Two lgbt silvers were won in 1992. First, the macho world of boxing produced Mark Leduc. Starting out on the wrong side on the law, jailed for 6 years aged 15 for armed robbery, he was able to pursue his passion for boxing in prison. After his early release he won several Canadian championships. After Barcelona Mark turned professional for a year then retired. He came out in tv documentary in 1994. After that he became a familiar face on Toronto’s gay scene. Mark died in 2009 in a Toronto sauna, apparently of heat-stroke.

The other silvers went to New Zealand’s equestrian Blyth Tait, who also won a bronze. Three other gay equestrian men were in Barcelona: Robert Dover, in his third games, who also won a bronze; for GB Carl Hester competed, and the Canadian team was managed by Peter Tayler.

The remaining medals were 2 bronzes – German heptathlete Sabine Braun, and Dutch judoka Irene de Kok. To name-check the other lgbt athletes – Craig Rogerson (Australia, diving), and hockey players and future life partners Alyson Annan (Australia) and Carole Thate (Netherlands). Not able to compete on home soil was Spanish athlete Maria Martínez Patiño. The reason why is given here.

Finally, an innovation which only really took off in Vancouver at the winter Olympics in 2010 was a Pride House. At Barcelona it was unofficial and organised by local lgbt community groups. It proved very successful with over 1,000 people visiting the Pride House every day. The Vancouver Pride House was also set up by the community. Hopes of a Pride House in London 2012 were dashed because of lack of funding and sponsorship, and the Russian courts have already made it clear that a Pride House at Sochi 2014 will not be lawful. Looks like we might have to wait till Rio in 2016.

For more, official, information on the Games go to  

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Tomorrow is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – IDAHO. Here is a link to the IDAHO website. Pictured here are some logos used by them over the past few years.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day

For some of you reading this, today is Mother’s Day. In the UK we celebrate Mother’s Day on Mothering Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent. Today America celebrates Mother’s Day so I thought I’d bring you a heart-warming story.

I’m very lucky to have had a mother who accepted me the way I was. I realised that she was okay with me being gay when she started sharing jokes on the subject. Her only disappointment was that I didn’t want to have children.

I know some gay people who have had no happy relationship with their mother. Some have been disowned by both parents just because they were gay. But what about children who were adopted? For those who feel a need to find their natural parents it can be like déjà vu – coming out to 2 sets of parents is a big challenge.

With 75 days to go before the Olympics here’s a story of Randy Gardner’s search for his birth mother. Randy was pairs figure skating World Champion in 1978 with Tai Babilonia, and 2 times Winter Olympian.

Randy had been given up for adoption shortly after his birth because his unmarried mother had been raped by a family friend and couldn’t look after him. There was a social stigma at the time to both being unmarried and raped.

Randy only learned by chance in 1998 that he was adopted. He spent 5 years looking for his birth mother, being careful not to reveal his actions to the adopted parents he loved dearly in case they felt he was disowning them. It’s a fear that a lot of adopted children go through.

Eventually Randy found out that his birth mother was alive and well and living in Idaho. He wrote to her, Mrs. Dottie Baca, and they corresponded regularly. Randy told her he was a “performing athlete”. The penny didn’t drop at first and Dottie suddenly realised who her son was in a flash one morning. Of course! she realised – Randy Gardner, the figure skater! She had seen him skate with Tai Babilonia many times on tv.

Since then, Randy and Dottie have been getting to know each other. He went through the “coming out to my parents” experience again, and had a whole new family to get to know.

After Randy’s adopted parents died Randy had the rare privilege of having another mother who was proud of him.

I wish Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Flower Power - Hippy Aztecs

There’s an old English saying which goes “March winds and April showers, bring forth May flowers”.
picture of Xochipilli from an Aztec

So far in this little series on lgbt flower-lore I’ve concentrated on individual flowers. As a contrast today I’ll celebrate the arrival of May flowers by bringing you what appears to be a transsexual flower god of who was also a patron deity of gay sex.

The name of the Aztec god Xochipilli translates as “flower prince”. Several Aztec gods have a dual nature – both male and female. Both natures existed separately but together, each with slight differences in function. Imagine it as a twin brother and sister being one person.

Xochipilli and his trans/twin Xochiquetzal were the gods of art, beauty, flowers, dance – and sex. They presided over one of the Ages of Mankind, specifically the one preceding our own. They called it the Age of Flowers, in which the Aztecs abandoned the “manly virtues of warfare, administration and wisdom” and pursued the joys of love and sex. Sounds like 1960s Flower Power hippy movement – and they thought they were doing something new!

Xochipilli’s various manifestations reveal a very positive image compared to the more blood-thirsty gods. He was one of the 2 “excellent” Lords of the Night and one of the Lords of the Day. In this latter aspect he was the god of pleasure symbolised by a butterfly. What is appropriate is that the Spanish word for butterfly, mariposa, is often used in the Spanish-speaking world (including Mexico) for a gay man. It’s a bit like the word “pansy” in the 20th century. I wonder if the butterfly’s association with Xochipilli, the patron deity of gay sex, is the reason?

As a Spirit of the South Xochipilli was also a god of voluptuousness, and with his brothers presided over good health, well-being and pleasure – perfect role models for the message of safe sex. Xochipilli rules the 11th day of the Aztec week, a day also associated with pleasure. Statues of him are often decorated with garlands of  flowers and butterflies – again I’m reminded of 60s Flower Power.

Xochipilli’s female aspect, Xochiquetzal, was the goddess of fruitfulness. She personified love, beauty, domesticity and physical love. She is said to have given birth to the human race. She too also rules one of the Aztec days, the 20th and last in their week.

Gay sex was not unknown in the Aztec world, and Xochipilli’s place as its patron deity seems to represent the non-procreative, pleasurable nature of sex among gay men, all part of what they called the Dance of the Flowers.

Aztec gods were celebrated in ceremonies which involved consuming large quantities of an alcoholic drink called pulque. Drinking to excess was believed to produce magical powers – drunken hallucinations, no doubt. In fact, the more I think about it the more stereotypically gay Xochipilli seems!

Xochipilli as envisaged by California student
Gloria Gonzaga.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Olympic Countdown

The Seoul Olympics of 1988 were first to return to some form of normality, with only 3 countries supporting North Korea’s boycott.

It was also when we really begin to see the variety of sports that lgbt athletes participate in at a high level – track and field, rowing, cycling, equestrianism, diving, swimming and tennis (4 sports with more than 1 competitor). Even though 13 lgbt athletes in total competed, none of them were out at the time. Returning to the games were Robert Dover, Beate Peters and Greg Louganis.

Greg is remembered more for his accident than becoming the first diver to win springboard and platform gold at consecutive games. While competing in the finals he hit his head on the springboard. What the public and officials were not aware of was that earlier in the year Greg have been diagnosed HIV+. No precautions were taken to stop the pool, doctors, officials or fellow divers from being infected from his bleeding wound.

With hindsight keeping his HIV status secret seems irresponsible, but at the time the AIDS crisis and general homophobia within sport scared Greg into silence. On the other hand, was it right to assume Greg was straight and not infected, and should the IOC not have taken precautions anyway? It wasn’t until 1995 that Greg admitted he was HIV+, only a year after coming out publicly at the Gay Games in New York.

Away from the controversy was a welcome addition to the 1988 Olympics. After and absence of 60 years tennis was reintroduced to the games after being a demonstration sport in 1984, and tennis players form the largest group of female lgbt Olympians, 6 of them being Wimbledon singles or doubles champions.

The first official lgbt tennis Olympian was Jana Novotná. In 1988 Jana was earning a reputation as an emerging star of the doubles circuit, winning the US and Australian Opens that year. In the Olympic final Jana and doubles partner Helena Suková were beaten into the silver position by Zina Garrison and Pam Shriver.

Back in the pool we have future Olympic champion from Canada Mark Tewksbury making his debut. He was to create ripples in more ways than one, as we shall see in future posts. But for now the ripples he was making were also silver ones. Mark was Commonwealth Games backstroke champion, a stroke he excelled in. At the Olympics he could only get a diploma for 5th place in the 100m backstroke, but he did win a silver with the 4x100m medley relay team.

Competing against Mark in the 200m backstroke was American Dan Veatch. Dan finished in 7th place in the final while Mark finished 4th in the B final (12th place overall). Dan Veatch went on to compete in the Gay Games, winning 13 gold medals.

The remaining lgbt athletes were all making their Olympic debut. They were Sherri Cassuto (USA, rowing), Patrick Jeffrey (USA, diving), Brian Marshall (Canada, athletics), Inger Pors Olsen (Denmark, rowing), Craig Rogerson (Australia, diving), and Petra Rossner (East Germany, cycling). I’ll be saying more about some of these in the future.
For more, official, information on the Games go to  

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Out of Their Trees - Alan Turing

In this centenary year of Alan Turing’s birth I couldn’t pass up the chance to present his ancestry. Is there anything is his background that hinted at his genius? There are two things to look at – maths and sport.

Obviously, maths is what Turing is remembered for today by producing the mathematical theory behind the computer and the mathematical logic he used when working as a war-time code-breaker. But he was also quite sporty. At Cambridge University Alan didn’t relax with the literary and academic circles but spent a lot of time running, rowing or sailing. He would run along the banks of the Cam and Ouse rivers training as if for a marathon. In this his centenary year several athletic clubs are holding special Turing running events to celebrate.

Apart from that the only sporting connection in the family is through his father’s brother Harvey. Harvey dabbled in engineering in Canada, but after World War I he turned to journalism and writing. He became editor of the “Salmon and Trout Magazine” and wrote about other sports.

The Turings were basically a colonial administrative family. They originated in Foveran in Aberdeenshire, going back to the time of Robert the Bruce in the 13th century. In 1638 John Turing of Forevan was created a baronet by King Charles I for helping support the royalist cause in the north. John’s brother was Alan Turing’s ancestor.

When we reach Alan Turing’s grandfather the family story moves to Sherwood Forest. Rev. John Turing was vicar of Edwinstowe and Ollerton, right in the heart of Robin Hood country. He was vicar of the church where legend says Robin Hood married Maid Marian. Rev. Turing took a maths degree at Cambridge in 1848, but he wasn’t particularly gifted and became a clergyman. This seems a too small a spark to set Alan’s mathematical mind alight, so perhaps he got it from his mother’s family.

Julius Turing, Alan’s father, was Rev. Turing’s second son. He was born in Edwinstowe vicarage. He entered the Indian Civil Service and it was on a voyage from India to America via Japan that he met his future wife Ethel Stoney. Before they reached America they were engaged.

Ethel Stoney came from a family of engineers. Her father was Chief Engineer of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway. Two of Ethel’s uncles were colonial engineers. Maths is essential to engineering, and Alan’s understanding of the use of maths to create the computer is evidently inherited from his mother’s family.

As for the rest of Turing’s ancestry there is more Celt than Anglo-Saxon. His father’s family were predominantly Scottish and his mother’s were predominantly Irish. Rev. John Turing’s mother (Alan’s great-grandmother) was of royal blood. Her grandfather Arthur Dingwall-Fordyce (1754-1834) of Bruckley Castle in Aberdeenshire, was descended from two children of King James IV Stewart of the Scots (1473-1513).

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Reluctant Spy

A month ago today I told you about spies. Spies are still very much in the news at the moment with the mysterious death of Gareth Williams being investigated. I’m sure his equally mysterious obsession with women’s clothes will also be a matter of much debate in future years. At the time of his death Gareth was hoping to leave MI6 and return to GCHQ.

On 12th April another spy died, this time naturally. He was Mark Frankland. He too was a somewhat reluctant spy, and his sexuality was not so grey as Gareth Williams’.

His espionage work for MI6 only lasted a year in the early 1960s, but it meant that wherever he went and whatever he did was seen as suspicious by both sides.

Here is his obituary from The Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Return of St. Valentine

On February 14th I wrote about St. Valentine’s Day. Today I’ll do the same, because today is the REAL St. Valentine’s Day.

As I said in February the reason we celebrate love and romance on St. Valentine’s Day is because Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem to celebrate the marriage of King Richard II in 1381. His theme was picked up by his great friend and gay courtier Sir John Clanvowe in a poem called “The Book of Cupid, God of Love”.

Richard II’s marriage took place on 2nd May 1381, the feast day of St. Valentine of Genoa. As I mentioned in February I believe the reason we celebrate Valentine’s Day on the wrong date is because the Catholic Church didn’t want to associate it with the pagan festival of prostitutes called Floralia which was held in Roman times during this week. It was moved to the feast day of a different St. Valentine on 14th February in 1641.

St. Valentine’s Day is now always associated with Cupid and his arrows of love. I his original persona of Eros he was worshipped as the patron of recreational sex – specifically gay sex. More on this can be found in my earlier post here.

So if you Valentine’s Day plans on 14th February fell apart you can try again today!