Autumn

She dances slowly in the wind,
turning her head
to face the sun
and golden shine
to catch a glow
one last time.

She whispers: “The winter is coming,
much too soon.

She slips her sleeve
and bares a shoulder
vulnerable, shy
and with a blush of red
invites the cold
and twilight’s dread.

She whispers: “The winter is coming,
much too soon.

Her garment falls
with grace and beauty
and no recoil or shiver
she holds her breath in silence
naked and exposed
and ponders spring’s valence

She whispers: “Our love has died,
much too soon.


Credits:
Images: Francois Lubbe.
Text: FR Lubbe


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War and Peace

Quibbling does not a good sauce make,
whilst we have bread to break.
T’is why I say, it’s pointless
counting rabbits before they’re baked.
Brother, we have walked this land
in pride and in vain a long time ago.

So, ask again: Why this war?
The bloodshed,
tears and pain?
What are we to gain?

The past is gone
and we must start again
without memory or salute
of our world so pollute.

I command this now: Take my hand.
Accept this peaceful offering,
and build a future side by side
as friends and not as foes –
to love each other without any woes.

** Dedicated to all the lives lost and the broken dreams suffered from all the wars throughout the ages**


Credits:
Text:  Francois Lubbe
Image: Francois Lubbe


Green Door

2

It’s 2004, I’m 29 and new in London. It’s a fresh start for me in a foreign country. I’ve decided to go back to studying and as a means to support myself I’m working double shifts night and day, pulling pints in a pub and doubling as a receptionist at a publishing company.

I exist like a rat in an underground tunnel. My life revolves around studying, working and sleeping, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day. To and fro. To and fro. Knackered most of the time and with very little time or energy to socialise, I make no friends. For all intents and purpose, I don’t exist: My phone never rings and the only familiar face I see is the man who sells me my cigarettes.

On the odd chance that I have an evening off — perhaps once a month — I visit a gay sauna in the naive hope to  find some connection or smidgen of intimacy. This of course doesn’t happen and after a while the seediness and desperation of it all start to wear thin on me.

I open a Gaydar profile. Maybe I’ll have better luck in meeting someone who will show an interest in me… even if it is just for a short while… perhaps we can even negotiate a ‘special arrangement’ between ‘friends’.

It’s the first time that I try ‘online dating’… and I am not familiar with all the ins and outs — ‘etiquette’ if you like… That’s to say, if flashing ones bits and being blatantly sexual can be classified as a display of social graces.

I quickly learn that there is ‘method to this madness.’

Initially, I am fully clothed in all my photographs, but soon realise that less is more… less clothes = profile views. I adapt. It works. Guys actually view my profile and sometimes even leave a Track — the Gaydar version of a Facebook Poke.

I haven’t been held or kissed for nearly a year. Suffice to say, this new form of ‘intimacy’ and the hope of meeting someone in person appeals to me greatly.

Saturday evening 8pm. I log on. Trawl through thousands of profiles. Even behind the anonymity of my laptop screen I don’t have the confidence to instigate any contact. Nothing happens.

Sunday morning, 1am. I’ve been staring at my screen for hours feeling much more intimidated by all the buff bodies and toned muscles than aroused.

“ZOOM!”

A message. The third one since I opened my profile a few months ago.

It’s ‘GingerBoy’… (I’ve always liked a red head!) He describes himself as a ‘Horny boy next door with a bubble but.’

We chat.

The conversation is interesting and even engaging at times. He seems fairly average and normal… well enough to appear human, instead of ‘over-produced.’

5am. He invites me to come over to his house and sends me his address. I hesitate. It’s not in the safest part of London.

I need this.

I’m standing in front of a green front door in a council estate in South London. A fog of marijuana smoke hangs in the corridor. GingerBoy answers my knock. I can barely see inside his apartment through the thick cloud of smoke. It’s strong stuff. I can see he has not slept for days.

His head gestures for me to come inside.

“Is it ok if we don’t do anything?” he asks and closes the door behind me. “I just want to cuddle.”

Blood rushes to my face. I’m relieved. Having sex is the last thing I want… but I am happy to snuggle.

We strip down to our underpants. Pause. Then take them off too.

He has the most beautiful, smooth, milky white skin. Tiny freckles speckle his back… (Bubble butt. Check.)

We lie down. His skin is warm and soft. I fall asleep as he kisses me softly in the nape of my neck.

The coffee next to my pillow smells cheap. Instant. GingerBoy sits on my side of the bed and watches me as I wake up. His apartment is unorganised and chaotic, similar to the look in his eyes… they are blue.

I want to get up and leave. I also want to stay. It’s awkward. I don’t know him. It’s Sunday. I don’t want to be alone.

He feels the same.

I stay for a bit. It’s the first cup of coffee someone has given me in bed since… God, I can’t remember.

Six months pass. I have been ramming the hours working and studying and have  forgotten about my Gaydar profile.

I get a moment and I log on… Loads of messages are waiting for me. I feel flattered.

They’re all from GingerBoy:

New Message: “I really enjoyed last night. We must do it again.

New Message: “Would be great if we could hang out again, I liked your company.

New Message: “Hey I haven’t heard back from you. I think you are a lovely guy. Let’s try to see each other soon.

New Message: “Hi, is there anybody out there?

New Message: “? 😦 !

That was the last message… he left it three weeks before I logged on again. I try to reply, but get a notice that his profile is ‘marked as inactive.’ I never saved his number and deleted the text message with his address.

It’s 2007. I am meeting a friend for brunch at his place. I’ve never been to his place before. When I get there, I recognise the building.

I’ve been here before. I once spent a lovely evening with a handsome redhead. I think he lived on the 6th floor.

I knew him,” my friend says, “he committed suicide.


Credits:
Images: Francois Lubbe.
Text: FR Lubbe


The Student Prince

1

I’m 10 years old. It’s Sunday and I’m watching the film The Student Prince on television. I love it! Prince Karl Franz is the most handsome and dazzling man I’ve ever seen, with his black hair, golden voice and tailored trousers… (sigh). What fascinates me even more are the laced dresses the ladies and bar maids are wearing.

I notice how, when they stand at the top of the staircase, they pick up their dresses just a teeny-weeny bit and glide down the stairs. WOW.

After Prince Karl Franz marries Princess Margaret instead of Katy the bar maid (who by the way, was his real true love), I lie on the coach wondering: Will I ever be able to wear a dress like that.

It’s a new term, in a new school. I haven’t made any friends yet, but am perfectly happy playing on my own in a world of make-belief.

I know that if I want to look great in one of those big beautiful lace dresses one day, I will have to practice to walk in one… and for that I need a staircase.

We’re in class and the bell goes. I must switch classrooms and be on the top floor in my Geography lesson. I walk down the corridor and when I take the corner, I stand at the bottom of the staircase… This is my moment:

I take my grey school trousers, pretend that they’re my very own pretty frock, and I pull them up slightly. I run up the stairs. I’m beautiful!

When I reach the top of the stairs one of the older boys look at me and says: “What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you walking like a little girl?

I look at him and say: “What  is wrong with YOU? Haven’t you seen The Student Prince?


The original New York run of The Student Prince (608 performances) represented the longest of any Sigmund Romberg operetta. The operetta is now a classic of the American theatre, repeatedly revived. In 1954 CinemaScope turned the operetta in a color film musical featuring, as the credits read, “the singing voice of Mario Lanza“. Lanza had become embroiled in a bitter dispute with MGM during production and the studio dismissed him. Under the terms of the settlement with Lanza, MGM retained the film rights to the soundtrack that Lanza had already recorded. The songs from this film (including “Beloved” – written specially for the movie – and the well-remembered “Serenade”, from the original show) would become some of those most identified with Lanza, even though they were mouthed in the film by Edmund Purdom, who took over the role of Prince Karl.


Credits:
Images: No Copyright
Text: FR Lubbe


Perfect Flat White and Halloween Tricks or Treats

‘… Oh no my dear friend, I tell you now, a good coffee won’t do you any harm… it’s the kisses and after thoughts that do the damage…”

– Francois Lubbe –

Celebrations for Halloween started a bit early this year. It’s Saturday and the streets are all a buzz with strange creatures appearing eerily in every nook and cranny of the city, making it look like a scene from a bad horror comic strip. Capes, daggers, spiders, webs, coffins, monsters, goblets, elves and witches flood the streets, buses and trains. There’s even a horny little devil next to me on the platform waiting for the train. Seconds later, a vampire joins the little devil and they board the train wickedly evil… death is all around us.

It’s 12 in the afternoon and the festivities are steadily growing to the climax that will happen much later in the evening. Brilliant!

However, the souls passing, along with the dead and all our yesterdays, which have no undoing, is not part of my quest on this beautiful day in London. Instead, I’m searching for the illusive ‘perfect’ Flat White.

I was first told about Flat White coffee, from a Kiwi who owned a coffee shop in New Zealand, about 12 years ago. The way he described its taste, made it sound like one of those temptations one wouldn’t easily forget. Ever since, I have been searching. On this wonderful caffeine induced journey, I have, so far, had some pretty darn good coffee and I think I  know where to find my treasure… but I am not convinced.

My first stop, is an obvious choice. Someone – a coffee amateur – told me that a certain high street chain does a good Flat White. I must admit, amid the syrups and artificially sweetened cakes and cookies,  it is hard to believe anything remotely authentic and delicate can be found in this over-rated high street monster. Unsurprisingly, I was right and had to fight back an anaphylactic reaction after just one mouthful. Needless to say, the 2 bucks spent there was a complete waste. Their muddy and weak concoction  should not be branded as a… Can’t even think about it…

I am left disappointed and thirsty for more.

My next stop… back to the east-side of the city, Shoreditch — the REAL London. Crazy-looking people are laughing down the alleys in their make-up, hats, feathers, exotic gloves and painless faces. Exhilarating!

Coffee stop number 2 was mediocre but tolerable… from a smaller high street chain, a bit more discerning and cosmopolitan. Their version is creamy… almost thick enough. Still, it misses the lingering earthy delightfulness that stays on your tongue for a while… like a good kiss. Admittedly, if it wasn’t for the refreshing lick of rain outside, I wouldn’t have stayed to read the newspaper.

A crowd of friends arrive. We change venue and without the least resistance, switch from coffee to wine.

Viogner is on the menu and since it’s one of those white wines with which one cannot go wrong, we drink a few bottles… This fruity variety is a temperamental  temptress. She’s alive with mysterious flavours and aromatic surprises hidden in every sip.

A little girl dressed like a skeleton and wearing a pointy witch’s hat, runs in to the restaurant and shouts, “Trick or Treat!” before she shoots off again.

We laugh.

The lady opposite me says “Take your treats now kid, after this it gets very tricky.

I want to see Soho‘s version of All Saint’s Day… and rumour has it, Soho has a secret spot where one can get a great Flat White. The best in town, I’m told.

Halloween Robin Hood

Halloween in Soho is delicious! It’s the one day of the year (except for Gay Pride) when pointing at the gays and drag queens are perfectly acceptable and staring is almost compulsory.

A well-toned, young, muscular Robin Hood struts past me in the street… I feel a rush of endorphins through my body. Mr. Hood walks hand-in-hand with and equally buff Superman. Robin turns around with a naughty smile for me.

Goodness’ I think ‘what fun one would have getting both of them out of those outfits…

A quick turn into Covent Garden and there it is. A hint of spice and soil flirts barely noticeable in the air. Here they serve only organic and freshly grounded coffee. The sugar is unrefined, sticky and clunky. The spoons are wooden and the cups, caramel coloured recycled paper. When you enter the narrow little Australian coffee shop you’re embraced by the knowing that you will have great coffee there.

My heart stops. I’ve been down down this road before. I hesitate. There is that doubt again. I ponder for a moment.

Alas, I will give it a miss. I always do this… go back to the same old thing. I must break the cycle… afterall, something tells me there is more out there.

Then I remember, that another Kiwi from Christchurch, more recently told me about a secret little piece of ‘coffee heaven’ where, it is said, you leave enchanted and spellbound after drinking their Flat White.

That is where I will go.

Evening has set in. It’s brisk out in the streets and the crowd is getting geared-up to make this Halloween a memorable one. Back through the allies of Soho, I trip over Mother Teresa before I find the place.

Unassuming, hidden and not in the least pretentious.

Inside, Hadar Manor sings in the background… Her voice is like liquid sunlight streaming across the patron’s faces…

‘I am gonna cook a man in my kitchen tonight… I’ve got the pot on the stove and my spices and my knives. I’m gonna slice his cute bum cheeks off and make it to a stew of stroganoff…’

The honest earthy smell of grounded coffee engulfs me and I am slowly becoming intoxicated.

Things become hazy and almost a blur…

The barista passes me my Flat White, I take a seat at a table and take my first sip in anticipation…

It is immaculate and monstrous in it’s simplicity. Just the right fluffy, slightly heavy, creaminess I was looking for and it lingers with such a tease in my mouth that my tongue begs for more… Pfff.

What will elude me now.” I wonder, “Now that I have found my perfect Flat White?

Hey Stranger.

Out of nowhere he is sitting next to me… Robin Hood.

Where’s Superman?”, I ask.

He hooked-up with Hulk.” says Robin and shrugs his shoulders.

I think he really likes green, so I forgive him.

I smile at his joke.

By the way” Robin says as he takes a sip from my cup “I like your fangs”.

He smiles.

Thanks” I say, “they’re my own.”


Credits:
Images: FR Lubbe
Text: FR Lubbe