Eddie Gray, the first English person I became good friends with after moving to the UK fifteen years ago, passed away last night in hospital after a long illness. He was a very kind and generous man, an accomplished artist and musician, with a beautifully silly sense of humour and many many stories to tell – about 1970s Soho, his close friend Francis Bacon, and his many other acquaintances.
London has lost a great person, his partner Gary has lost a long-term companion, my partner Matthew has lost a great musical collaborator and all of us have lost a true friend. Ed will be missed deeply by many others.
Eddie re-awakened my interest in painting and drawing, and whenever I went to visit him in his little flat near King’s Cross, he let me sketch him, offering kind yet honest feedback at all times. I love you, my dear friend, may you be jumping and running about wherever you are, rather than just rest.
Eddie on the left with friend and Francis on the right.
I just spent five exciting days in my old home town, where I left 15 years ago this year. Usually back once a year I tend to satisfy childish cravings for Schnitzel and all sorts of cake, and less childish ones such as overdosing on Große Braune. This year, however I got so much more than I bargained for.
Vienna has changed beyond recognition since my departure – sure, the grumpy old pensioners, the rather hap-hazard service still being offered in some quarters, and the generally idiotic establishment all still have their place.
On the other hand there are now more than 250,000 newcomers, Turks, Serbs, Russians and many many Germans – and they all have added something good to the fabric of life. Markets that once were stagnant little slums in the outer districts are now brimming with life. Clubs and nightlife is as varied as it hasn’t been in a long time. Vivienne Westwood has opened a shop; Helen Mirren is shooting a film, and the next generation of Viennese are making the town their own.
Should the solipsistic UK establishment ever decide that leaving the EU would be a good idea, for the first time I would not be horrified of the thought of going back to Vienna. Perhaps that city’s lost century has finally come to an end, and Wien can continue being a global, vibrant and deeply creative place.
…and in with the new – drag queens competing in a synchronised ironing competition.