David: Full Interview
Interviewed by Steven Hopker
14th November 2018
D: My name is David, I am aged, I was born in 1930 so I am age 88 and I live in West Yorkshire. I am in fact, gay, and, but I’m widowed, my partner died in 2010 and so I am living entirely on my own now. I think the first thing to say, is to give a bit of a background for myself. I was actually born in Wales, in the country, and had an extremely happy childhood living out in the country with very kind, generous, and supportive parents. A very full life as a child, because we lived in a fairly large house with land around it, on which there were ponies, horses, and so I did a lot of riding, also dogs, and those played a very important part in my childhood. My parents were, as I say, extremely generous, and I went away to school, which was a very pleasant time for me. Uneventful, I mean inevitably when I was at school one had certain schoolboy fumblings with other boys, but nothing of any moment or importance.
And I went to university, and there I had a very busy social life, and so again in, almost in a sense, I had no time to think about sex, and my own sex. I think I was aware that there was an interest in other men, and curiously enough I can date this back to a childhood memory when I must have been about six or seven, been taken out to lunch by my grandmother to one of her rather wealthy friends who lived in a large house in South Kensington for lunch. And there was a very handsome butler there, and I formed a tremendous pash on him, and so I think there was this orientation that I looked at men rather than girls from a very early age, but there were no real sexual stirrings, as such.
The life that I lead in South Wales was in fact very busy because when I finished at university, I had to go in to my first job, which was a family firm and I worked my way up through the firm and was extremely involved, and in a sense, learning my trade, learning to become somebody who ultimately would run the business. My father died… and he died when I was twenty-one, in 1951. And my relationship with him was not all that close, not certainly as close as it was with mother, simply because he was a workaholic. And so, he worked long hours and I saw, except at the weekends, I saw relatively little of him during school holidays. But I had a very easy relationship with him, but it wasn’t, as I say, particularly close. With my mother, it was very close. And in fact, after my father died, we did a lot of travelling together. She was an exceptional woman, very open-minded, but she had certain guiding principles about good behaviour, about kindness and generosity to others, which I have tended to keep all my life.
But, I think coming to the important part now, it was only when I moved from Wales to Yorkshire did I first realise that I was gay, in fact. And I was also very lonely because in a sense I’d cut all my roots, I had to build up my social life, I had to create new interests, and I spent a lot of time getting to know Yorkshire, travelling around, but of course I had no, I had nothing to tie me, I did have a dog with me, and dogs have always played an important part in my life. And I made arrangements and I was able to keep a dog where I, although I was working long hours.
SH: Can I just ask how old you were when you came to Yorkshire?
D: When I moved to Yorkshire I was, in fact, about twenty… no, I was… 35. When I moved to Yorkshire I was 35. So, that was a very big change in my life, and it had quite an effect on me, on my personality, on my interests, on the way I led my life. And I think when I had sort of got to know Yorkshire and done all my travelling around and orientated myself, I suddenly realised that I wanted something more. I wanted a companion, and I wanted, I think then I realised that it had to be a gay companion. I had sort of thought a lot about being gay and how I went about finding a companion. And that was a ghastly time for me because I did the usual things of going to bars, which was the most dispiriting pro- process for me. And I can always, I have a vivid image of arriving at the Great Northern Hotel bar in Leeds, and seeing a row of backs facing me, they were sitting up or standing at the bar. Nobody turned round and said, ‘hello, who are you?’ They completely ignored me, and this was the most dispiriting service, feeling.
And because my mother, she actually in fact, I think she went through a period of great loneliness after my father died and, just putting this in, she in fact managed to find a second husband, so she was ahead of me, and he was a delightful man who lived in Shrewsbury and she had a very, very happy second marriage.
The whole thing that I found very difficult was these new experiences, I mean for example I remember my first dance with a man. I went to a party, and I had never danced with a man before, and there was a very attractive chap who had a very intriguing personality, very warm personality, and of course before the evening, the party finished, we actually kissed and this again was my first kiss with a man, and this was totally unsettling. It just simply changed my whole way of looking at men, of looking at life, and it created a very unsettling period of time for me because I wanted to know him better, but I think he was put off by my over-eagerness, and I remember he was working some distance away from me and I used to try, and we had a number of telephone calls, and we did meet on one or two occasions but they were very unsatisfactory. We never had sex together, we never danced again, and I always remember a terribly hurtful situation was when, because I hadn’t been able to get close to him, I actually went to his place of work, which was actually in a hospital, and I found the public phone box where he used to receive my calls – and finally stopped receiving them – and I remember seeing a little note pinned by the phone saying: ‘please if somebody called David rings, say I’m out’. And this of course was very hurtful, but the penny dropped, and it was not pursued any further, though I did meet him later, and we had a slightly awkward – because he was with somebody else – and we had a slightly awkward meeting and conversation but of course I completely lost contact with him.
I then realised that I had to get my act together, I had to do something about this, how on Earth was I going to do it? And I remember ringing a very great friend of mine who I was at Cambridge with, who had quite a senior position in the church in Yorkshire, and I rang him and explained on the telephone what my problem was, and he said, ‘well, come over, meet me and my wife’ and I did. Both were very sympathetic, and he said, ‘well, have you thought of contacting CHE?’ and I said, ‘what is that?’ And he said, ‘that is actually the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’. And this was a very early encounter, advice group, which did a lot of good work, and I suppose in a way it was a forerunner of Stonewall.
SH: Can you remember roughly how old you were then?
D: I was in my early thirties then, because I had moved up to Yorkshire at the age of 35, and I suppose I must have been somewhere in the region of 36/37. And I decided that I would get in touch with CHE, and they gave me the name of their Yorkshire representative, and I got in touch with him, and he said, ‘oh my wife and I would be delighted to meet you, will you come over?’ and I thought, ‘wife’? Is he gay? What does this add up to?’ I was mystified by that. Anyway, I did go over and see him, and in fact spent a very pleasant evening with him. He was very friendly very sympathetic, and his wife was there. He worked in a hospital, so did she. And they said ‘well, I think David ought to meet Roy’, who was working in the same hospital, he was a porter there. And I said, ‘fine, fine’. Well, he said, ‘leave it with me’, and I did leave it with him, for some time – he didn’t come back to me. And I got in touch with him again, ‘Where is this wonderful Ray, Roy, that you mentioned to me?’ and he said, ‘oh I’m sorry I’ve been very busy, yes leave it to me.’ And in fact, it happened, and this was a very memorable occasion because I invited them over to my house, one evening, when I say them, a thunderstorm was taking place, and four people arrived in a small plain van in my driveway. And they got out, the pouring rain, dashed into the house, and it turned out to be this chap, his lover, and one other person, plus Roy.
And the first sight of Roy coming out of the darkness was absolutely a revelation, because here was this tall, extremely handsome person, and his very fair hair shone in the darkness. It was mesmerising. And we came in and we had drinks, and something to eat, a snack to eat, and the whole thing went extremely well, and before the evening was over I said to Roy, ‘well look, I’d love to meet you again’, and he said, ‘yes that would be nice’, and he gave me his work phone number and I rang him, and what happened then was I picked him up after work, and he came over for a meal, and we got on right from the start. There was no sex at that stage at all, it was just that here were two very friendly people talking together, making a sort of bond, and from then on, we met regularly. I used to collect him after work, because it wasn’t too far away from where I worked, and we’d go out, we’d either go for a walk or we’d have supper or something like that.
And then there was a bit of a hiccup because he had obviously his own friends, where he was living, and suddenly out of the blue he said to me, ‘they want me to go down south, because they’re thinking of moving and they’re sort of hinting that they’d like me to move with them’, and I said, ‘well what do you feel about that?’ and he said, ‘well I don’t know’, but he said ‘in honour of my friendship I feel I’ve got to go’. So I remember that evening particularly because we went to the theatre, we went to the theatre in Leeds, and the arrangement was that they would pick Roy up from outside the theatre after the show, and they did that, and I had a vivid memory, which I still have, of Roy driving off with them – he was sitting in the back of the car, and waving to me out of the back window. And of course, I was absolutely stricken with fear because I thought, ‘he’s going, they’re going to take him away from me’, and what happened was that very quickly, after – this was a sort of reconnaissance tour – very quickly realised that this was a con job because what they were expecting was that Roy would keep house for them while they went off and pursued their various interests, and did the cooking and so on and so forth. But he soon realised that this was a con trick and he came back to me and he said, ‘David don’t worry, I’m not going’, and I still remember the feeling of enormous relief that I had.
And then our relationship got closer and closer, we were absolutely kindred spirits. And then I think it was probably Roy who was, I won’t say pushing, but was making the suggestion, ‘ well I would love to go to bed with you’. And because I had never had sex before, other than the schoolboy fumblings, I was extremely nervous about this, and was very hesitant and didn’t exactly say, ‘no, I don’t want sex’ but I just said, ‘well I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet. I’ve realised that I love you’, and I realised that from the moment we went one day for a visit to Lincoln, and I had my first kiss with him as we were walking round the battlements of Lincoln Castle, and it was a delightful experience and it brought our relationship closer together.
But actually, the first time, I mean I think – I was obsessed by him, I realised that I loved him deeply and this was the person that I was dreaming of meeting, and actually I felt I wanted to wait until the moment was right for us to have our first sexual encounter. And this happened when we went on holiday to Gozo, where my parents had – this when my mother had remarried of course – and my mother and stepfather had a little holiday apartment on Gozo, which they let us use from time to time, and we went out there, and I think it was more or less as soon as we got through the door of the apartment that Roy said, ‘I want to have sex. I want to have sex with you now. I’m going to take your clothes off’. And he did, and I took his clothes off, and then we lay on the bed, and he produced a tube of KY, and we in fact, he asked me to penetrate him, which I did. And I was sort of, very aroused, and it was in fact a very successful first encounter. And it was an enormous relief, all my inhibitions and worry about what would happen if it was a failure, it would make a great difference to our relationship. Well the benefits of good sex were absolutely wonderful. And it strengthened our relationship, and we became closer and closer, and we had sex, I wouldn’t say every time I met him, but what became a kind of very pleasant routine, was when we were back in this country and we resumed our pattern of meetings, which was my collecting him after work, he would come over to my house and then we would have very good sex, we would have a meal together, and then I would walk him up to where the bus stop was, and he would take a bus back to where he worked, or where he lived. And so, it became a very pleasant routine and relationship that we had.
He had this wonderful personality. He was older than me by five years, but I think it was because of his job as a porter at the hospital: he could talk to anybody. Whether they were high-ups, people like me, or people who were, shall we say very ordinary people that he would meet in hospital. And in those days – and I think this was very much a measure of his personality, and the affection in which he was held at the hospital – he would, the whole situation was different, there were none of the sort of severe lines of demarcation that there are today, to the extent – but very often, they would be short-staffed, and he was on duty, they would ask him to go out with an ambulance crew, and I remember him telling me very vividly, about, he managed to talk a man down from trying to throw himself of a railway bridge. He had a wonderful sense of humour, and the other members of staff worshipped him. And one occasion was that, he dressed up, he managed to get hold of some clothes, and he dressed up and tried to pass himself as the hospital matron and rode a bicycle through the corridors and through the wards and had everybody in fits of laughter. He could just put everybody at their ease.
And I remember very well, and this was some years later, we went to quite an impressive dinner party where there was a member of the aristocracy there. And Roy sat next to him. And I realised that these two were getting on like a house on fire. This noble lord was absolutely in fits of laughter because, just simply this personality, this humour, this humanity of the person, and I think what I’m trying to say is he answered my needs in every possible way – as a companion; as a lover; and of course then came a time when we decided, well what is the next move?
I made up my mind that I wanted to retire from my job, which was very satisfying – I was working for a large company in a management position, I was given a lot of responsibility, I travelled all over the world, and it was a dream of a job. But, I realised: leave while you’re winning. And I always had this feeling well I want to retire when I’m 55, and Roy said well I want to retire when I’m 80 [should be 60]. And so, in fact in 1985, when Roy was 80 [should be 60] and I was 55, we found that the ideal place for us to live was a small town in West Yorkshire, where we had a number of friends, it just made the sensible thing, we were lucky enough to get a house, which I still live in today, which had a degree of charm, it had a garden, although a very wild garden, and we had a very easy demarcation of duties. Roy would look after everything within the house, I would look after everything outside. He didn’t drive, but I drove him; he did all the cooking; he wasn’t interested really in gardening though he helped me; and we visited large parts of Yorkshire together, and in fact in the end, decided that we, well we had already decided before we moved, before we finished working, that we would have a tiny cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, which we were lucky enough to find, and there we passed I think some of the happiest times of our whole life together.
It was an idyllic spot in a small village, and the interesting thing was that the villagers took to us. We were known as ‘the boys’, but there was never any sort of whispering or snide comments because we made a point of getting involved in the village because we loved the village, we loved the activities going on, we were accepted, we went to Christmas parties, parish walks, and things of this kind, so we led a very full life there and we were respected, and I think people were extremely fond of us, and we went and visited farms and talked to the farmers.
My stepfather sadly died in about nineteen… sorry 2006, I think it was, and my mother… no, I’m sorry it was earlier than that, he died when he was 86 and my mother continued to live on her own. Now just – this gives me the opportunity to just talk a little bit about how my mother regarded the relationship. I never said – I never made a declaration to my mother: ‘Look mother dear, I think you ought to know I am gay.’ But I know that she realised the depth of our relationship together. She loved Roy, and in fact ended up, and in fact she managed to, she said to somebody, and I overheard this conversation – they lived of course some distance away from us, my mother and stepfather – but she did say well I look upon Roy as my second son. So that was something which was an enormous relief to me… because I think if I had said to her, declared my sexuality in bold terms, it could’ve created an embarrassment for her, and so for me. So, it was just accepted that we were two extremely good friends, very fond of – well we loved each other, but there was no question of two gay men in a relationship, that my mother sort of dwelt on, and that was an enormous help.
We used to visit my mother and my stepfather, while he was still alive, frequently, and we all got on extremely well. My stepfather was in many ways like my father. He was a surgeon, and so he was used to dealing, like Roy, with all sorts of people; he could get on with anybody. He had a warmth of personality, a lovely sense of humour, he was very fond of Roy and they would often go off shopping together while I stayed with my mother who was then in her late 80s almost getting on for 90. No, late 80s, then of course my stepfather died, and my mother was left on her own, and this was a very difficult time for her and for me. And, also for when we used to go and visit. And then ultimately, she came and moved to where, we were able to get a place for her in a very good nursing home, not very far away, and we used to visit her at least twice a week, and Roy again, she, you could see that there was a tremendous bond with them.
Now, the other thing which is, I think, important to note is that we had – and this was one of the reasons why we moved to this little town in West Yorkshire, was that we had actually a lot of gay friends around us who had taken to Roy, who regarded him as a new dear friend. Now, of course by that time – homosexuality of course had been decriminalised, and we never really, and I think looking back – just to make this important point at this stage – I never was in fear of being found out. I never, I never sort of – to people who weren’t gay, I never introduced Roy as my lover. I just introduced him as my friend and then as time moved on, of course, introduced him as my partner.
And we in fact had a civil partnership ceremony, I’m afraid I can’t remember the date of that, but it was pretty soon after it became possible to have this civil partnership, and that was another milestone in our relationship, and I think Roy was very proud of that, and we had the ceremony with just a few people at Leeds City Hall, Leeds Town Hall. Now, only a few because we’d had a very big, very successful party a few weeks beforehand, so we didn’t – we may well have announced the fact there and then that we were going to enter a civil partnership, but we never made it a big issue.
We led a very active social life. We went to a lot of parties, we entertained a lot, because, as I’ve already said, Roy was a very, very good cook. He loved doing it, and in the house where we lived one of the focal points was the kitchen, where we had an Aga, and it was just simply very appropriate that that seemed to be a meeting point. Anyway, we entertained a lot, in returning hospitality.
I think I would mention to say, that as a couple, we were very popular. But I think this was mainly because of Roy’s personality and the way he could deal with people and put them at their ease and make them laugh, because he had this wonderful sense of humour. There was never any awkwardness, and there was never any awkwardness with non-gay friends. We were just simply treated as two men who lived together, who were the best of friends, and if people wanted to jump to conclusions about what we did in bed together, well that was up to them. It was never raised in conversation by anybody, and we never raised it. So, it was an easy relationship to present to people.
But then, sadly, in December 2009 Roy had a massive stroke. He was 84 then, and he was in hospital only six weeks. There were signs that he might have got better, although he’d lost his speech, he couldn’t swallow, and that raised all sorts of medical difficulties. But he had the most wonderful care, and very sadly round about Christmas 2009, he got pneumonia, and very shortly afterwards, in January, it was January 23rd, he died. And, of course the shock was horrendous, and that somehow was a sort of stimulus to me, to get on and settle his affairs, to finalise his estate as quickly as I could. And, because we had never had any secrets regarding our financial affairs, it was relatively easy to do, and the settlement of the estate happened pretty quickly. But that was – almost a kind of diversion, the awfulness of the situation had not really sunk in, to any great degree.
I would mention, very briefly, that we’d always had a dog. Roy worshipped the dog we had at that stage, but sadly because she had become very infirm, and Roy was in hospital during one of the worst winters we had, I had to have her put to sleep because I just simply could not manage her safely in the garden, but that’s just simply a note. But, I – because he couldn’t speak, he in fact was not able to ask me about her, so I never had to answer an awkward question.
Then, of course became the fullness of the bereavement, a time which was hell because old age was approaching me fast, I’d had my 80th birthday in 2010. Friends were extremely supportive, but I think a lot of them had the difficulties of dealing with male grief. And this is a thing which I have noted very strongly, that it is much easier for women to deal with grief than men. Men are much more inhibited; men try to bottle it up. I did have some help, and it worked to a certain extent, with counselling. And this was provided for me by an extremely good, very nice gay counsellor, which MESMAC introduced me to, and that did help.
But I realised that now I was an elderly man – old age was, well had approached me, and was approaching me with ever-increasing speed – that my social life was diminishing. And this was a big problem for me, and it’s one of these curious things that I believe there is a kind of latent ageism in some gay people, and there’s also this curious situation with gay entertaining. As I say, before, we had this very active social life with a lot of dinner parties, but now because I was on my own, I realised that I was a bit of problem. Because it’s a curious feature, that gay people like to have dinner parties for couples. They like to have an even number – and I’m not exaggerating this – round the table.
Now that is not to say that I was dropped by my gay friends, because I wasn’t, but I sensed that the same involvement wasn’t there. I had become, in a curious way, marginalised. I was almost like, and this might appear to be a somewhat fanciful image, a wounded animal at the edge of the pack. And, although, I mean I was invited out, but certainly the invitations were not as frequent. Though, when they came, the warmth was there, the kindness, and help.
I’ve always felt that, we’re now living in the age of emails and digitalisation, but I’ve always felt that phone calls are enormously important, and have become very, very important for lonely, elderly, gay men. I’ve studied loneliness quite a bit, and have written about it, and have taken part in various gay initiatives, locally, but never finding them particularly satisfying, or leading anywhere where there were positive, practical, results. The loneliness commission, which was established by Jo Cox’s relatives after her murder, has made strenuous efforts, and there is this new organisation in Leeds called Friends of Dorothy, who made very strenuous efforts to reduce the gap between older gay men and young gay men, socially, so this inhibited ageism, which does exist amongst certain parts of the gay community, can be diminished as far as possible.
I come back to this point that you as an individual have to make the effort. You, as a gay man in his 80s, as I am now, have to take the initiative. I remember my GP, after Roy died, saying to me: ‘Keep busy’. And this is something that I have strenuously tried to do. I’ve tried to participate in many social activities happening around where I live, which are not specifically gay, but nevertheless trying to be involved in those, and if anybody wants to come and see me and talk about problems, I’m always immensely open, and welcoming, and happy to do so.
Something which also has been a help is this, I did manage to – two things – I did manage to get a new dog after our last dog died when Roy was in hospital. I got a retired guide dog, a dog which made all the difference to my life, because there’s nothing worse than coming back to an empty house. And this dog, who I had for about four years, and then she died in her sleep, made all the difference to me, and so did her successor. I had another, second, retired guide dog. Which she, she was to my mind a perfect dog, and that helped tackle my loneliness, which never really went away, it’s like a slow-burning pain, and I’ve entered in, there’ve been one or two gay social events, where I live, trying to get a social group of gay men off the ground. And, it’s interesting – this has never really succeeded, and I sense that other gay groups, social groups, won’t succeed all that well. They succeed where there is an overriding interest. And one of the most successful of course has been the GOC, because you have your walking group there, that’s been very successful.
SH: And the GOC is?
D: The Gay Outdoor Club.
SH: Right, thank you.
D: And, we used to go there, Roy and I used to go on the walks that they organised in West Yorkshire, which were highly enjoyable. But curiously enough we’ve never had, as a result of that, any very close enduring friendships. The original friendships, which we made when we moved up to West Yorkshire, have expanded, and are maintained, but, in different circumstances, with the limitations which I have already mentioned. So, I’m well aware of that.
I must say that I am not a happy person. I miss Roy dreadfully, in the same way now, it’s curious to put it on the same – it’s not on the same level obviously, the second retired guide dog I had which made all the difference to me, she died, aged 14 which is a good age, but I miss her terribly because she made all the difference to me. She filled a tiny part of the huge gap in my life now that I no longer have Roy with me to share my life.
And, one thing which has always stuck with me, and that is that after Roy died, and it was obvious to friends both gay and non-gay how devastated I was, one woman said to me – not a gay woman but she was a very good friend – she said, ‘your grief is your tribute to Roy’, and I think that’s a wonderful way of putting it, and it makes it easier for men in particular to express their grief, because it is a tribute to the person who has died. And it somehow makes it easier in talking to people. I don’t say that I go out of my way to do this, but I’m very anxious that Roy’s name should be kept alive. And, I do always bring him in to conversations, like I remember Roy and I had this fantastic holiday in Venice or wherever. Because, I’m well aware that some other groups of friends, a gay friend of theirs has died, and it’s curious, although they were close friends, his name is never mentioned. And, I think this is awful, because people shouldn’t just disappear like a puff of smoke, and I’ve made very sure that as part of my growing old, growing very old now, as a gay man, that this is something – the love of my life should not be forgotten. Because, Roy was the love of my life. We were absolutely faithful to each other. I know that Roy had not had any meaningful sexual encounter with anybody before he met me, and so it remained. And it’s something which I am enormously grateful to him, because in a sense, apart from his stroke and his death, I have never had a problem in my life as a result of knowing Roy. It was the perfect relationship. Any questions?
SH: Well yes, there’s a few, just to go back a little bit, if that’s okay?
SH: If I could go back and work forwards a bit. You mentioned I think, that the late ‘60s, which is I think when you met Roy.
D: Yes. 1969.
SH: 1969. You mentioned that decriminalisation had happened then. Do you remember much about how you felt? Did you know much about decriminalisation before it? Did you know it was illegal before?
D: Oh, yes, I did. But, in a curious way, it was never a problem because I was not a promiscuous gay person. I was somebody who was – until I met Roy – very, I suppose, inhibited, guarded. I never really, I never went out of my way to say to people, ‘oh I think you ought to know I’m gay’. Of course, I found any social encounters that I had in gay bars were always very unsatisfactory, and I never disclosed the sort of sex life – which was non-existent really – that I had. So, it wasn’t an issue. If I’d have been out on the town, then I think probably it might have been. But it was never really a problem for me. I never volunteered the information that I was gay, so I felt that I was not dicing with danger.
SH: Can you remember the names of any of the bars you went to?
D: Well the Great Northern was one of them, which I thought was an awful place. I went to a bar in Sheffield, the name of which I can’t remember. I went to a bar in Bradford, the name of which I can’t remember, and likewise one in Halifax. Because I think, possibly because, apart from the Great Northern, which I went once or twice to, these places were so… intimidating, so unpleasant, unsatisfactory, unfriendly, that I never wanted to return. So, I sort of wiped them out of my social life.
SH: How did you find out about them as being quote ‘gay bars’.
D: I think I had probably asked – maybe – this guy that I met through CHE. As far as I remember I may well have sought advice on that. Possibly I had raised it in conversation at one of these bars and said to somebody, ‘well, do you find this place as unfriendly as I do? Do you go to any other gay bars which are better?’ I think I sort of absorbed the information almost accidentally.
SH: And you say the gay bars, would anybody have known they were gay bars?
D: Oh, yes. I think so because they were predominantly male – well, totally male, and it was obvious that the denizens of these bars were, you know, very much dressed in denim, and there were some who of course were very feminine, so to speak, and were dressed almost flaunting their sexuality. And, this was something which I could never have done myself, I just was not made that way.
SH: Just thinking any other questions… over the years you found out, I think you mentioned, there were some gay people in the area where you settled. How did you find them?
D: It just sort of happened somehow. I think it all stemmed, funnily enough, from GOC, Gay Outdoor Club. It was, and still is of course, a very useful organisation for gay people who want to meet other gay people, and I think it’s probably one of the most effective organisations of its kind. I mean there are a number, and of course MESMAC does a lot of wonderful work, in both its sort of missionising and also its help, and I have been to one or two of the AGMs. But there are occasions when I’ve found them still, even though, you know, I’ve become as socially adroit as I possibly can, difficult, because I’ve found people do not come up to you and say, ‘hello, not seen you before’, and start a conversation.
I think ageism of course now comes into the picture very much because I’ve got no, no vanity about me, but I realise that I must look as an elderly man, increasingly an elderly, very elderly man, and so maybe the sort of casual encounters of a non-sexual kind are not as easy for some people. And I think, I feel it is a big disappointment. I make an effort when I meet new people to go up and say, ‘hello, I’m David’, and then they say, ‘well I’m so and so how do you do’, but there is this, a little bit, perhaps it’s my manner, perhaps it’s my age, nothing follows through from there. Though, I’m lucky that I’ve found, where I live now, that I have quite a number of people, who I won’t say are close friends – non-gay people – but are always very friendly if I’m out for a walk, or they’ll stop in their car and say, ‘hello David how are you?’ Or I’ll meet them on, you know somewhere where I’m walking, and I’ll meet up with them and they’ll say, ‘oh hello’. But I think this is something which is being picked up by organisations like the Jo Cox commission for loneliness.
As a race we are rather inhibited. Unlike the Italians, for example, who will welcome anybody and will talk to them as easily as anything, and I mean there are pretty inhibited Italians who don’t, but I just think that somehow it is easier in a country like Italy than it is here. And it is also – women are better. I mean there are a lot of very lonely women, but I think they do get out more. I mean, men have their social groupings like a golf club, but they’re not places where you go, as I have found in the past, I used to play a tiny bit of golf when I was living in Wales but I never felt them to be particularly satisfying from a social point of view, and so I’d never sort of depended on organisations like that.
SH: Fine. Is there anything else that you think you’d like to mention that you haven’t?
D: I can’t think of… anything… I really, no, I mentioned about this question of dealing with grief, or dealing with serious problems. We Brits are very inquisitive about other people’s problems, but we’re not very helpful about helping other people deal with them, particularly men. Women, it’s different, and I’ve got a number of women I know who have always been extremely supportive – and who know the score as far as Roy and I were concerned, and that has just made no difference to them they just talk about him in the most natural way. A lot of my male friends or male acquaintances – it’s not quite the same, there is a difference, sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on it, but it does exist. So, I think we’ve got to be much more forthcoming.
And another factor too, I find – and this is a general social point – but I think that gay people are not very good at expressing thanks and gratitude to other people. It’s a point which I find is enormously important and as far as I am able to do so I will go out of my way that people know that I have had an enjoyable evening, at a party or a dinner party or whatever, and will go to immense trouble to write a letter or a postcard or something. A lot of people don’t, and a lot of people, I find, are not very good at initiating conversations, whether they’re gay or straight, with strangers, which I think is a great pity, and I mean I’ve got to be careful that I don’t become effusive or obtrusive in my attempts to get into conversation with them, because I think they would only back off, and a lot of people do back off because there are a lot of people – and this applies very much to, I haven’t been in gay bars for years, but my memories of the thing, but the main reason, or one of the main reasons for going to a gay bar, was to find sex. It never was with me, I wanted to find companionship. What followed from that would be a different matter.
SH: Well, thank you, thanks very much indeed David.
D: Is that alright?
SH: That’s fine. I think I’ll stop it there, thank you.