The writing blog of James Christopher Sheppard. I am a 26 year old gay male from London, UK. Here I present my experiences, poems, thoughts and opinions...

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Monday, 25 April 2011

Queer names

Queer, fag, fudge packer, brown hatter, bender, bent, faggot, ass bandet, shit stabber... are a few of the names I've been called. Even after ten years of being an openly gay man, the same issues crop up- some people don't know where the line is. What is ok to say and what they should keep in their heads. When it comes to all of the names above, no word offends me any more than the other. I find it is all about the context and the tone. If a mate calls me a shit stabber in some banter down the pub, that does not make them a homophobe. If it is a stranger who is aggressively calling me fudge packer and trying to start a fight, of course I will be offended. I'll be offended they are even looking in my general direction. I have little time for anyone that is homophobic, racist, sexist and everything else of that nature. The problem is, however, that people seem to be taking being politically correct to the extreme. I know a great deal of LGBT people that get so easily offended that, if anything, they are only adding to people feeling like they are walking on egg-shells. People need to lighten up and understand there is a context to everything. I for one, find that being deeply and irrationally offended by a word is completely insane.

Passion and Pain

I was always going to write about passion when I got to blogging about a word beginning with P, because to me, without passion, you may as well be dead. However, I returned from a trip to Nottingham yesterday with a searing pain in my neck and it is worsening by the hour! My mind, therefore, is firmly on the pain of my neck. Forgive my lack of updates- trips to Nottingham + sunshine + pain + last month of university = an incredibly distracted writer.

Whether it is for music, a sport, art, astrology, geography, literature, hiking, cooking or putting together life size models of the Titanic using only matchsticks, having a passion for something is vital to the individual. When you take out relationships and other people altogether, it is our individual interests and hobbies that keep us going. To depend solely on other people to make us feel good is a dangerous state of mind, and one I see too often in those around me.

Some of us will, unfortunately, never find a person to share our lives with. It's sad, but a reality for a lot more of us than I think people are aware of. It's one thing to dwell on being alone, but another to make your whole life miserable because of it. There is so much freedom in being alone. You just need to find that thing that will throw the gas canister on the flame already burning away inside you. It is there- you just need to find what makes it burn brightly. When you discover what drives you and brings out your passion, you may not only find that you are a happier and independent person, but possibly one that draws other people towards you.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Is exactly what I have been guilty of, time and time again, about all manner of things. It's usually this over-thought that leads to trouble. Yet, if we do not question and seek to be educated, surely we are wasting our potential? The trick seems to be knowing what to question and how to satisfy your quest for knowledge.

The over-used universal question of 'Why are we here?' truly baffles me. How, in the 21st century, it is not commonly accepted that we exist due to evolution and the condition of our environment and we are not 'here' for a 'reason', stuns me. And people searching for the 'meaning' of their lives- 'meaning', whatever you determine that to actually propose, is whatever you make it. It is my belief that we have no destiny and that we are no more important in this world that the vermin that lives in the dirt. That doesn't mean that I think that humans have no value, it purely means that I believe there is no truth in religion and that we answer only to ourselves and each other.

Monday, 18 April 2011

No More!

Yesterday marked the end of an era. For the past three years I have lived with my friend, Chloe, and worked part time at Clayhill Halls of Residence as a receptionist around University. When I got up yesterday at 6am, I left the house that contained a sleeping Chloe and made my way to work for my last twelve hour shift. At 7pm, I returned home to an empty house and realised I was now unemployed and alone. Of course, I didn't let the morbid thought overtake me and I went out and met friends for drinks. This is an end, but also the beginning of the next chapter of my life. No more weekends will be planned around what shift I am working at Clayhill and I won't have to give up anymore Christmases or New Years to sit on my own all day behind a desk waiting for the day to end.

Not living with Chloe is going to be strange and take some getting used to, but it's all in the name of progression. I'm leaving Kingston to work and pay off debts and save which will enable me so much more freedom than I currently have. I have learned over the past few years that I am not ready to settle down in one place yet. The longing to have a homely base came about because my Mum moved out of our family home and relocated to Hull at the same time that I first came to Kingston. Although I am all up for change, this meant that I had to always be renting in Kingston and always have a room big enough for all my worldly possessions. By moving back in with my Mum after all these years, I will have a permanent UK base for my belongings and they can live there for as long as I need them to. I don't intend to try and build my own home from home within the next few years. I want to to travel and live and work in as many different places as I possibly can. I have nothing tying me down and I am going to embrace that to the full.

Clayhill has represented a lot of great times and a lot of bad. I lived there for a year in 2007-8 and had one of the most... dramatic years of my life there. I met some wonderful people who I will always treasure, like Chloe and Lucy, but I also became very close to a group of people that had no interest in Uni and every intention of getting fucked on drugs every night possible. The result of the year was some very important lessons. I learned to be independent, what my priorities were, how and when to recognise when the people around me are impacting negatively on me, and I also realised that I should be studying Creative Writing and not Sociology. So with the bad, ultimately came good. As a work place, there have also been some wonderful friendships as a result- Zoe, Jemma and Sharon and many more. I couldn't have afforded to live and study in Kingston for the past three years without it, so it has been a blessing. I am glad it has come to a close now, however. Time to move on. I can't wait.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Music makes the people come together...

But what the hell has happened to Lady GaGa? First there was the camper than Greame Norton 'Born This Way' that sounded so much like Madonna's 'Express Yourself' that I found myself wondering around actually singing Madonna rather than GaGa after having the melody rammed into my skull. Now the second single from her new album, 'Judas', has been unleashed onto a world of unimpressed listeners.

The opening is ripped straight from her own 'Bad Romance', but when the hard edgy beat kicks in, things begin to look promising. However, when the obscure and horribly flat verse begins, which also seems to even be out of time, although that's probably the desired effect, it is clear that this is just as car crash as her last single. The chorus is simple enough and as unoriginal and 90s as 'Born This Way'. The overall effect of the song is a wall of chaotic sound that clashes and sounds like an artist desperately clutching at straws.

Where has the sleek innovative production and brilliant song-writing gone that was featured on every track on 'The Fame Monster'? Listen to 'Dance in the Dark' or 'So Happy I Could Die' and then 'Judas' and tell me that the quality here hasn't taken a considerable nose dive.

To make matters worse, Lady GaGa unveiled the new artwork for her new 'Born This Way' album today, which features a cheaply photoshopped image of herself as a motorcycle and quite possibly the cheapest nastiest font ever used for the album's title.

Both the song and album will undoubtably be a hit as GaGa's loyal 'monsters' surely will love just about anything she puts out right now, but for those of us that are music lovers and have until this point enjoyed Lady GaGa's work, I fear the mighty has taken an almighty fall from the credibility tree. It will be interesting to see if American audiences will make it as huge as they made 'Born This Way', which spent six weeks at #1, despite all the controversy surrounding the track. I think they just lap up any positive message and anything by anyone they are currently obsessed with. In the UK, the song peaked at #3, which isn't bad by any stretch, but was a big disappointment considering her label expected it to shift in it's millions and two of her last three singles made it to #1.

Oh dear GaGa. Stop trying so hard to alienate those that like you.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The L Word

For years my flatmate and friend, Chloe, has been badgering me into watching her favourite TV Show 'The L Word', and for years I resisted. A few weeks ago, however, I arrived home quite late and was a little drunk. I grabbed some drunk food and found Chloe sat in the lounge watching the very show I had avoided all this time. I didn't intend to sit and watch, but within ten minutes I was completely hooked. Two episodes of series six passed in a flash and Chloe has a smug look on her face. 'You love it, don't you?' she asked. And yes I did. I needed to know what happened to these well written characters. They seemed realer than anyone at that moment. I felt compelled, so she gave me six boxsets of DVDs and told me to watch.

Over the following weeks I effortlessly worked my way through all six seasons of this brilliantly written lesbian drama. Watching a show that circled entirely around women was surprisingly a breath of fresh air. Each character was completely different, totally plausible and absolutely fascinating. Bette, played by Jennifer Beals is this intense woman with a passion for art. She is a strong, confident business women, but we see her crack several times and then pull it back together. Her journey is remarkable and compels you to watch. Never have I felt such compassion for characters on a TV show. Jenny is a troubled and intricate writer, who is incredibly deep and messed up, yet successful. Shane is the hot androgynous woman that even I, a gay man, fancied. Alice is the witty, bull in a china shop. Dana is the famous tennis player that gets cancer. Helena is the rich girl that ends up in prison. It's just brilliant! What makes the show so fantastic is the humour. The show is a drama through and through, but the both the humanity and humour really lets this show into your heart. Highly recommended.

Kylie Minogue- My favourite singer.

Music has provided my ultimate escapism since I can remember. I got my first album on vinyl when I was only five years old, and it was a copy of Kylie Minogue's debut album 'Kylie'. I had been in love with Kylie since she was Charlene on 80s Australian soup Neighbours. As I only had a cassette deck, my Mum recorded Kylie's first album onto one side of a blank cassette and 'Enjoy Yourself', Kylie's 1989 second album, onto the B side. For years, my Kylie tape was my one and only source of music. When we went on holiday, I would listen to my Kylie cassette over and over on my headphones while daydreaming in the back of the car.

It used to feel like a lifetime between albums. Waiting a year between 'Enjoy Yourself' and 'Rhythm of Love' was excruciating, but when I would unwrap the new Kylie albums, usually at Christmas, it would be the most exhilarating experience. New Kylie music. Of course, until I was around nine years old, I only knew what I was given. It was in around 1992 that I started to go rummaging in music shops for what I could find and I discovered the joy of uncovering unheard gems, like the 1993 Kylie megamix compilation 'Kylie's Non-Stop History 50+1'. I would then save and save every coin I was given until I had enough to go back and buy a copy. '50+1' became the first album I ever bought myself on CD, which was before I even owned a CD player. Like with Kylie's first two albums, my Mum recorded the CD carefully to cassette for me, which I then played over and over.

Throughout the mid to late 90s, Kylie released two albums, 'Kylie Minogue' in 1994, featuring 'Confide In Me' and 'Impossible Princess' in 1998, featuring 'Did It Again'. Being under 14 and loving Kylie Minogue at that point was not a cool thing to openly admit, but I did anyway. Throughout my teens I became more attracted to heavier, angrier music, like Alanis Morissette, Hole, Lostprophets, Incubus and Glassjaw, but I still continued to listen to my favourite Ausie pop princess. In 2001, I saw Kylie perform for the first time on her 'On a Night Like This' tour. I then attended her 'Showgirl Homecoming' tour and 'Kylie X 2008' tour, but nothing compared to her 'Aphrodite World Tour' that is happening at the moment. Of the five nights Kylie played at London's o2 Arena, I ended up going to three shows and loving every second of each one. I was closer than I have ever been to my all-time favourite performer and it was magical.

Having loved her since I was a child, she represents a graceful, flamboyant, joyful image of perfection to me, and so I don't think meeting her would improve upon that little fabrication of my mind's metal image. It's this sort of admiration that leaves me confused as to why people willingly read awful publications like 'The Enquirer'. Why anyone would want to know the apparent sordid details of their favourite performers personal lives is completely beyond me. I love watching official Kylie documentaries, but when there's an ex-lover selling their tell-all story to The News of the World, I cannot comprehend anyone wanting to read such trash. I don't want to know what Kylie is like in bed or what time she fell out of a nightclub (not that she does), I am interested in her public persona and her music- what she puts out there for us to enjoy.

Response to the comment on my GAY post.

I logged on today to read a slightly alarming comment on my 'GAY' post. I replied to the comment, which demonstrated major naivety and quite a serious case of missing the point, and thought I would also post my reply here, just in case anyone shared this person's opinion. If you want to read the original post and comments, go here: http://jameschristophersheppard.blogspot.com/2011/04/gay.html?showComment=1302781845017#c5340163418719714227

I felt the need to respond to your comment, as it looks to me that you have completely missed the point of it. To clarify what I meant in response to your comments:

1. It is unfortunate, but a reality for gay people that not everyone responds to the knowledge of our sexuality with such indifference. Of course, on the grand scale of things, you experience less intolerance than tolerance, but it is still very much a part of our lives and we are faced with homophobia on a regular basis. I don't go around introducing myself as 'Hi, I'm James and I'm gay', but it is obvious that I am, and some people react negatively to that. I'm sure people never ever respond negatively to the fact that you are a heterosexual man, unless perhaps you are being inappropriate to them.

2. Yes, being gay is an issue because unfortunately a lot of people ARE homophobic. Even those that aren't and are simply naive, like yourself, impact our lives. It is from shared experience that I write about having the same 'so when did you realise you were you were gay?' conversations with people that have no clue. This really does happen. They instigate the mind numbing conversations, not us. It is incredibly boring for us- that is my point!

3. Of course there are frustrations of being straight, and frustrations come in all shapes and sizes for everyone- but I am writing here about the frustrations that come with being me- a 26 year old gay man in London. I'm not saying that gay people have it worse than anyone else, I am merely writing about my experiences, and it appears that all of my gay friends have had similar experiences, meaning this is a shared experience for those that are homosexual.

4. Your statement: "I find it odd that a person would use a fake voice or pitch to publicly exclaim their sexuality, as for public shows of affection I often find this embarrassing with anybody". Firstly, I agree, people faking any part of themselves is annoying. However, most 'camp' people I know, are naturally camp. That IS their personality. I am often called camp, which I am, and I am at ease with this label. My voice is quite clearly gay and I am quite flamboyant. I can assure you that I am not FAKING this and the fact that you would even consider that all camp people are faking it further illustrates your naivety. As for your comment about public shows of affection, I find they are all about context, not the sex of the people 'displaying' it. That is completely different argument and has nothing to do with this one.

5. Your statement: "I don’t need it rammed down my throat." ...wow.

I'd also like to point out that my original 'GAY' post was not a straight-bashing piece. Many of the frustrations are actually about what it is like to BE gay and what other gay people are like. It also finishes on a positive note, which is the point of the whole post. How it can cause such a dramatic response has surprised me somewhat. I hope this has clarified matters.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Heroin. Possibly the most ironically named drug, and regarded as the most lethal and addictive substance out there. I'm currently reading 'Junk' by Melvin Burgess, the controversial book published in the mid 90s with an intended teenage audience. Reading the book has brought up several questions- how much information should be presented to young teens? Is more information better, or should we 'protect' them for as long as possible? Surely keeping impressionable teens in the dark is more of a risk than informing them of the realities out there? Who gets to decide who censors what? Does being a parent automatically qualify you to decide what is suitable for another human being to know? When we are all progressing at different rates, who decides what is appropriate for us and when?

The Internet- for better or worse?

The internet has enabled so much- we can do our food shopping at the press of a button and have it delivered to our doors; we can find out virtually any piece of useless information we decide that we randomly need to know in a matter of seconds and we can make friends with people that we have and will never meet. Yes, the virtual world now seems as big as the real one and to some people it may even be more appealing, but have we made life too easy for ourselves?

In a land where people are getting fatter and dying younger, do we have too much at the push of a button? If information is so readily available, is the same thirst for knowledge appropriately rewarded? If we can apparently find love by creating an online profile with all our positive traits and best pictures on display for perspective lovers to see, are genuine connections being made? Are we too dependent on technology? Have we lost the pleasure of fresh air and gaining the satisfaction of our own hard work? Is it better to take the easy road and sit stewing in a hot room staring at a small flat screen? Will it dominate the future? Only time will tell.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hospitality and how it sucks

Having spent the best part of the past twelve years in the 'serving' industry, I have observed that it is possibly the closest thing we have to slavery in the UK today. Whether you're in customer service behind the counter at Argos, you take someone their roomservice in a hotel, you pull someone's pint, or sit behind a desk at a reception, you will be, at times, horribly mistreated and underpaid. In all of the hospitality orientated jobs I have taken in the past, I have never earned more than a few pounds above minimum wage and been unpleasantly treated by my employers and customers. I'm not saying this is the case in all of these jobs, and I too have had some highly enjoyable experiences in some of these jobs, but considering the amount of work I had to do in some of my past jobs for the tiny amount of pay I received is insane.

How anyone manages to survive on a retail wage without the assistance of all sorts of benefits is beyond me. For example, I worked at Choices Video, which has now merged with Blockbuster, as an Assistant Manager in my early twenties. While I enjoyed the job, I worked in excess of 70 hour weeks at times, was responsible for a team of ten people, as well as sales, merchandising, stock taking, stock ordering, banking all the money and more. I worked between 8.30am and 10.30pm, bank holidays, easter, boxing day, new years day- never with any extra pay. And what did I do this for? Less than £13,000. Now here I work part time at a privately owned halls of residence for Kingston University and see people working 37 hours per week, having far less responsibility that I did and no additional qualifications and they're earning up to £40,000. Something is not right in the way wages are decided. I seriously don't see how the work or responsibility is reflected in the money up for grabs.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


As a gay man, there are several frustrations to deal with.

1. When people say excitedly 'I've always wanted a gay best friend!' when first meeting you, without having said more than two words to you.

2. The misconception that all gay men are just fabulous! Wonderful to shop with and tell all your girly secrets too. Some men do seem to love their fag hags, but there's nothing quite like feeling like a stuffed fury animal that some needy girl has just won from a fair ground game.

3. The reality that in a lot of environments, gay men actually aren't very nice at all- particularly to each other.

4. All gay men want other gay men to label themselves- twink, bear, chub, skins, prep, geek, biker, leather man... the list goes on. If you don't easily fit into a category, finding a club where you feel comfortable can be difficult. In a twink place I feel old and unattractive, in a bear place I feel slim and too young, in a leather place I feel simply uncomfortable.

5. Having the same conversation with straight people that are 'just asking 'cause I'm interested' over and over again. 'So when did you know you were gay?' 'How long have you known though?' 'When did you come out?' 'What did your parents say?!' 'What's it like taking it up the arse?' -Really people? I am attracted to men. Get a fucking grip and get over it! I encounter these mind-numbing conversations at least once a week and I've been out for ten years. Yawn.

6. Your friends watching out for you in certain surroundings incase you 'go too far' and piss some straight boys off. It's always nice to be told after a party 'I think you were really getting to so-and-so and making him feel really uncomfortable, and he's the kind of guy that I could see was about to react.' WHAT? To me being myself at a party?!

7. The assumption that as a gay man, I will only listen to Kylie Minogue and go to gay clubs. Yes, I adore Kylie Minogue and do occasionally go to gay clubs, but I also love heavy metal and heavy rock music and would rather go to a simple pub and play pool any day.

8. Some people seem to have completely forgotten claus 28 and can't understand why I would never vote conservative. Um... because they made homosexuality a forbidden subject at school and made it ILLEGAL for two men to be affectionate in public... The obscure law only ended in 2003.

But saying all this, the past few days have been a joy to be a gay man in London. I went to see Kylie Minogue live in concert at the o2 Arena on Thursday and Friday and on both occasions met some wonderful gay men who were the friendliest I have met in a long time. The atmosphere was electric and was dominated by gay men, mixed with straight couples and some mature women. No-one gave a shit what anyone was, everyone was there for the same reason; to enjoy a night of unashamedly camp escapism. On the first night I was stood close to the stage and ended up in a little group, chatting to everyone around me. On the second night I was waiting for my friends outside the o2, when a guy approached me as asked me take a photo of him and his friends. When they learnt I was alone, they insisted that I joined them for a drink and wait inside. Experiencing such warm friendliness has restored my faith in the gays somewhat. I know I am pessimistic, but I think some of that comes from the stigma that was attached to homosexuality throughout my childhood and teens. It's time to let it go and move on and make the most of having the freedom of being a gay man.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Because this evening I am seeing KYLIE MINOGUE live in concert at the o2 Arena in London. I have been a huge Kylie fan since I can remember. When I was three years old, she was acting in Neighbours as Charlene and I had to watch it every lunch time. She had me mesmerised. When first album 'Kylie' came along, I was given it for Christmas on vinyl and it was decided- I would be a loyal Kylie fan from then on.

Throughout the 90s it was not cool to like Kylie as a pre-teen. She was evolving as an artist, collaborating with Nick Cave over Pete Waterman and no-one at school could understand my unashamed love for her. On every no uniform day I wore my Kylie shirt with pride and was always armed with a handful of cassettes on the days that our teacher allowed us to play music while we worked.

By the time 'Spinning Around' was released in 2000, I was 15 years old and working on the entertainment counter at Woolworths. I bought the single on both CD singles that were released with different remixes and b-sides, much to the surprise of my colleague, Holly, who couldn't believe I adored Miss Minogue. In early 2001 I saw Kylie perform at Hammersmith as part of her 'On a night like this' tour, where she would perform 'Can't get you out of my head' for the first time. It was a magical experience and only furthered my love for the icon I had used as my escapism for many years. Over the past decade Kylie has become an unquestioned icon and the master of female fronted pop, with record breaking world tours, international number one albums and a bigger following than ever. Looks like I was right all along...

Kylie, I salute you.

Economy effect

I spent yesterday exchanging emails and running about town paying a huge amount of money to have my belongings sent all over the world. Yes, in my final semester at University, my money seems to have completely run out and I am exploring the benefits of Ebay. I'm selling all the clothes and shoes I don't wear much so that I can eat this month.

As hard financially as it has been, it has been the experience of a lifetime. Forget lifestyle, in terms of education, I am a more satisfied person and feel I am reaching my potential. After seven years of working in frustrating industries such as retail and hospitality, it is my time to use the skills I have worked hard on and blossom.

The main worry is that as you complete your degree, more and more lecturers are telling you to do a masters or masters of arts degree, which means studying for at least another year and spending in excess of £15,000 for the privilege. There seems to be little direction on offer for those of us that are content with our personally funded extra few years of education, other than looking for jobs that ask for a degree at 2:1 or above. If you get lower than a lower second class degree now, it appears to totally useless in the workplace.

Thankfully I have a place to live arranged that is very cheap and will allow me to pay off my thousands of pounds of debt, work at what I want to work at and grant me the freedom to go anywhere, anytime. This is the time to explore and find my feet and I am very very excited.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Deconstructing popular lyrics

I am currently studying a module at University called 'Smells like teen spirit- writing popular lyrics'. As you can imagine, we study popular song lyrics and write our own. I have looked forward to this module for years as I am a keen poet and a massive music fan, so I thought this would be right up my street. For weeks, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't write a decent lyric that stuck to the very rigid structure of ABCB rhyme and 3/4/3/4 stress. I had a meeting with my tutor and was told I was being too poetic and putting too much into the lyrics and that I should write things as simply as I possibly can, and to channel universal regret- something that everyone will relate to. I was told to listen to Adele and other very popular artists at the moment. I did so, and was struck by the simplicity of almost all of the commercial music I listen to. Some of these songs are quoted and quoted and appeal to millions of us, but it seems the art is really to say something as simply and vaguely as possible. I have learned from this that I am definitely a poet and not a song writer. Now I am writing these simple lyrics, I just laugh when I read them back because they are so bad- but that appears to be what is wanted from me.


With age, comes wisdom. But does age give us the right to censor what others see/read/learn/know? It is my opinion that those that 'protect' children from homosexuality are only adding to homophobia and self hate. If a child understands from a young age that some people are gay and some are heterosexual, then they will accept that as normality. If it is never explained to them, when they do eventually encounter it, they will react to it. Also, for children that do identify as being gay, if they are not educated that homosexuality is normal, they will go through all sorts of confusion and perhaps even self- hate, as I did as a child. What are we 'protecting' children from? Knowing the simple fact that some men love men, some love women, and some women love women, and some love men? Why is this STILL an issue?

Sunday, 3 April 2011


We all have baggage of some kind. A criminal record, an ex boyfriend that knots your stomach whenever you hear his name, the stand out embarrassing moment at school when you never thought your erection would go down and then the wrong person notices, points and laughs at you. The eternal victim of ones' terrible childhood experiences, the unplanned kids that we couldn't live without, yet they have ruined what our lives could have been. Yes, moments from our pasts brought about by split second decisions will forever impact our futures.

My attempt at sounding slightly Mary-Alice... More to come.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Alcohol Musings

As I approach the last few weeks of my University degree, I near not only the end of being a student, but the end of life as I know it- living in Kingston Upon Thames. Four incredible years have been spent here; there's been some intoxicating laughs, some body aching heartbreaks, many lessons of life learned, many many friends and enemies established, but most of all I seem to have cleared the path and discovered the road that leads to me. The me that knows his mind, his goals, his standards, his ambitions and his strengths.