As you may have already seen, last Monday Civil Partnerships became available in the UK. For those who haven’t been following this piece of legislation, it’s basically gay marriage — the rights and responsibilities are the same, just the name is a little different. It’s a massive step forward for the UK and I was proud to be part of the campaign that helped bring it about.

For those of you wondering, Elly and I are indeed one of the 80 couples already signed up with Newcastle City Council. We’re getting married in October next year and going to sign the papers and things this Wednesday. Amazingly, last week the Registry Office was TOO BUSY for any more appointments, because there was so much interest!

I must admit, I was a little worried about the public reaction. Civil Partnerships haven’t got an awful lot of press since the legislation was passed last year and I was worried there might be some backlash. When we were looking for wedding venues I was expecting people not to understand what I was talking about, or to get huffy when I explained. I was pleasantly surprised that the opposite was true — most of the wedding coordinators were both informed and enthusiastic. I suppose they might be having a bit of a wintertime boom thanks to all the pink pounds being spent, so perhaps that accounts for a lot of it.

Equally, though, when I called the Registry Office to get an appointment, the lady on the other end of the phone was virtually SELLING Civil Partnerships to me. She was asking me to make sure all my friends knew about it and that there were really valuable rights that they would get by entering into a partnership. It was really quite sweet.

The reaction that surprised me most, however, was actually on Monday itself. I needed to travel down to London and on the way to the airport in the taxi, the news headlines were on. The first headline was something along the lines of “Gay couples allowed to marry from today”. I immediately cringed, imagining that the taxi driver (who had just been telling me about the goldmine of a council house he was sitting on) might object. I was pleasantly surprised when his reaction instead was “About bloody time! Ridiculous that they haven’t been able to before now…”

Seems that somewhere along the way, a lot of the UK just grew up and got used to people being gay. I suppose that an island with the history of invasions and assimilations that this one has, is rather used to this kind of thing by now. I shouldn’t really have been surprised 😉

I’ve been travelling a lot more since I took the new job in Newcastle. The resulting additional time in airports has been equal parts frustrating and interesting. One thing that has impressed me is the number of new eateries popping up in pretty bog standard locations. Yo! Sushi at Gatwick in particular gets my vote.

That said, sometimes the cultural sensitivity of the British public isn’t quite up to scratch enough for the new eating experiences on offer. Case in point: on Tuesday morning I was sat happily enjoying my toasted sesame bagel, when a gentleman came up and made quite a scene because they couldn’t do him a bacon bagel.

Funnier was the discovery, a few weeks prior, of a ham and cheese Challah in a specialty sandwich store.

I suppose perhaps mainstream production/consumption and sensitivity to the cultural background of a dish don’t necessarily go hand in hand…

Since we bought the new flat, things like cleaning mirrors and windows are suddenly a much more important part of my life.

Sad, I know.

Nevertheless, this brought me to a realisation — the only time I actually MISS hardcopy newspapers is either when I want to get a streak-free finish when drying a glass surface, or when the dog is sick on the kitchen floor.

I’m sure the editors of The Times will be delighted to hear this.

Another year, another 3 million deaths. Today is World AIDS Day.

According to Avert

  • 40 million people are living with AIDS today
  • Since 1981, 25 million have died of AIDS — 3 million this year
  • Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans
  • 5 million people were infected this year
  • More than 6000 young people (15-24 yrs) are infected EVERY DAY
  • Of the 6.5 million people in developing and transitional countries who need life-saving AIDS drugs, only 1 million are receiving them.

That there is a terrible disease that threatens you, your family, your friends and your neighbours is not the most horrific thing. That I have not yet seen ANYONE wearing a red ribbon today isn’t either. The fact that there are women, men and children out in the world who could be living with this disease rather than dying from it is what is really horrific.

Why do you care? You should care because you are human. Because however far away this problem seems, it isn’t. Check the statistics — even first world countries have big AIDS problems these days. People there are more likely to live a longer, fulfilling life, but they have still contracted a horrible disease. This is no longer just an issue for the gay community. This is no longer an issue just for third world countries. This is all of our problem, all of the time.

What can you do today? Well, take a look at some of these:

  • World AIDS Day — spread the word
  • 46664 is the charity signified by Nelson Mandela’s prison number trying to raise the profile of the HIV/AIDS crisis — donate
  • Avert provides information and services about HIV/AIDS — donate
  • The Terence Higgins Trust has also done a lot of great work over the years in the UK and deserves your support
  • CWAC is the Children With AIDS Charity helps children & their families in the UK if you prefer your donation to stay local
  • On the other hand if you want to support AIDS children in Africa, SOS Children has a comprehensive programme of support for AIDS orphans and those infected at an early age — you can sponsor a child or simply donate

Support World AIDS Day