Saturday, June 8, 2024

Stranded on the Island of Dogs

London, June 1993

Sorry if you love London, or call it home.  I'm not a big fan, in spite of the architectural marvels and the 15 Public Penises.  I always get lost.  It's cold.  The streets are all dirty.  Everyone is rude all the time;  I've never seen anyone in London ever smile.  And the food's not great.

June 1993: My partner Lane was a delegate to the World Congress of GLBT Jews, to be held in London!  He invited me along as his guest.

This isn't him.  I have lots of pictures, but I'm too lazy to scan them.  But he was a husky, hairy bear with nice arms, like this guy.

I had been to Colombia, Japan, Australia, Turkey, and India, and he had been to Israel and Bermuda, but for some reason neither of us had ever been to Britain before, except to the airport.  So we planned lots of sightseeing: The Tower of London, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Stonehenge, The Rude Man of Cerne Abbas, Canterbury Cathedral.  Not to mention the Gay Village of Soho.

1. The problems started from the moment I arrived.  At customs I was questioned extensively about my reasons for coming to Britain, who I was staying with, did I know anyone there, and again why was I there?????.

The customs agents simply could not believe that anyone would come to their country as a tourist.  They had never heard of such a thing.  There was nothing in Britain that could possibly be of any interest to outsiders!   Obviously I was a terrorist.

2. If you were planning a World Congress with delegates from all over the world, most of whom have never been to Britain before, wouldn't you pick a hotel that was centrally located?

Nope: The Royal Britannia Hotel was on the Isle of Dogs, an industrial sleugh on the East End of London, surrounded by the Thames on three sides.  No subway.  You could catch a bus into town -- about 6 miles to the Tower of London -- but it stopped at different places, depending on the whim of the driver, anywhere between six and twelve blocks from the hotel.

It stopped wherever the driver wanted.  So you were standing at a bus stop, and it would drive past you and stop two blocks away.

3. And it stopped running at 6:00 pm, and it didn't run on Sunday.

So I spent all day Thursday and Friday chasing after a bus and getting lost trying to find my way back.

4. As a guest, I was not allowed to go to any of the meetings, or any of the dinners, so I was stuck at the hotel's restaurant.

On Thursday night, there was an evening boat tour of the Thames, with box dinner provided.  Except for guests.  I stole one to avoid starving to death.

Saturday was the Sabbath, so not much going on. We went sightseeing, got lost on the way back, and had dinner at the hotel.

5. The Conference hosted a dance that evening (the Sabbath is over at sundown), but as a guest, I wasn't allowed to attend.  I spent the night watching television.

6. On Sunday we walked the six miles into town, but by the time we got there, we were too tired for sightseeing.  We returned to discover that the hotel restaurant was closed on Sunday.  And there's no pizza delivery to the Isle of Dogs.  Lane could go to the Conference dinner, but I couldn't.

I would have starved to death again, but someone with a car drove into town and brought me (and the other guests) some fish and chips.

Is this any way to run a gay Jewish conference?

On Monday the conference was over, thank God, so Lee and I spent a few days in Oxford, Stonehenge, Cerne Abbas, Bath, Canterbury, and York.

7. In Oxford, the shops that were supposed to be open were closed as the owner decided to "pop out."

8. In Bath, we stayed at a gay B&B, where in the lounge an old movie was playing.  I thought I recognized the actress, so I said "Is that Marilyn Monroe?"

"Of course it is, you twat!  What kind of faggot doesn't recognize Marilyn Monroe?"

"Um...the kind who is not interested in women?"

9. We couldn't tell which train was leaving for York.  There were two, on two tracks, with no signs.  So we asked someone.  And he deliberately directed us to the wrong train.

10. In York, we stayed in a straight B&B, where they absolutely would not believe that we wanted a room with one bed.  "Oh, no, duckie, there's been some mistake.  We'll fix it right away!"

I've been to Britain two or three more times since 1993.  Always nothing but problems, impossible rules, buses that go where they want, and incessantly rude poeple,  especially in London.  Give me Paris, or Amsterdam.  Or Osaka.  Or Irkutsk.


  1. Wow. A truly miserable experience -180 degrees from mine. London is my absolute favorite place. Indian food, uncut guys who like furry men, and lots of great places to explore. A very friendly big city. I'll have to play tour guide for you sometime. ;)

    1. I imagine that there are some rude Londoners and some nice ones, like everywhere else,but for some reason I usually run into the rude ones. Maybe it's just expectations.



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