Etched on my brain from last weekend is the memory of my wife reacting in astonishment at the sight of a boat sponsored by the Dutch National Railways floating past us as we watched the 2014 Amsterdam Gay Pride Boat Parade with the slogan "all you need is Faith, Trust and Fairy Dust", a boat full of posties from the Dutch Postal delivery service wearing sparkly orange Trilby hats dancing to a grinding beat with not an ounce of rheumatism in their hip joints and a boat from the Dutch National Bank getting down and dirty in white summery T-Shirts led by triumvirate of cross dressing beauties in gold dresses and tiaras. It was part of a flotilla which included boats of the Amsterdam Gay Swimming Club (swimming but not as you know it), a notable Gay Club in Rotterdam, a boat load of lesbians celebrating something or the other (which enabled me to tick off "watch a boatful of lesbians go by" from my bucket list) andy a Dutch Fetish shop called Mr Bs (who I am sure must have a website should I want any barbed wire etched stocking fillers). There were also boats organised by the major political parties, the Water company, the Dutch Central Bank,the Armed Forces, Vodafone, Google and a company that provides funeral planning products.
Not to be outdone, a bunch of enthusiastic Christians made some noise along the route proclaiming that "Jesus loves you". This was self defeating because it was essentially the whole point of the Parade. It was just another example of how God (whoever he or she may be) should never be invited to parties.
In a bid to provide confirmation (if it was needed) of their sexual preferences, a certain proportion of the spectators and participants held paddles sporting a choice of affirmatory slogans including "I like boys", "I like girls" and "I like drag queens". There was an anomaly between "I like boys" and "I like drag queens" in that technically speaking the former are the latter although may only be thought of as seedlings. To illustrate this, I made a catastrophic gardening error this year confusing pots growing hollyhocks with pots growing courgettes. My garden therefore represents the boy/drag queen issue - sometimes you get a hollyhock, sometimes just a bloody great courgette.
There was more to the word "like" also than at first sight as technically I would have had one of each in every day life (although I am currently lacking drag queens within my inner circle). Though I like boys and drag queens, I know the "like" would die when you take them home, in the same way that goldfish do when you win them at a fair and do the same (particularly if you have sex with them).
I witnessed too how the gay community worldwide celebrate developing their torsos. Boats were awash with bodies so full of muscled definition that they resembled subjects for an anatomy lesson. Some were glistening with such oil drenched pride that to manoeuvre them would be as difficult as shepherding a startled young salmon. This is in contrast to the British male who tends to focus on extending the lower part of his abdomen only, a practice driven by gluttony and lack of care and will normally lead to premature death. They too are very difficult to manoeuvre owing to their gluttonous overhang and the fact that they are usually off their faces.
The British could not even touch the impact, acceptance and sheer sense of fun of Amsterdam Gay Pride. While we pretend to be a diverse country, we are not which results in us removing a layer of richness, perspective and value from our lives.
Just imagine if Royal Mail or the Armed Forces took part in a similar event in the UK. There would be uproar led by the Daily Mail complaining about the waste of investors money post privatization in needless frivolity and declaring that it would not happen if the Post Office was still Government owned. Headlines would reflect this - "Poofta Posties on Parade - we demand an inquiry". For the Armed Forces "Tinker, Tailor, Hello Sailor - What has happened to our Boys."
Every participant in the Amsterdam Parade had just cause to be part of it. Their attendance reflected a Country that is more comfortable with itself and mature enough to communicate challenging messages protesting against non acceptance and discrimination. And to quote from the iconic Beastie Boys song, the Dutch knew that "(you gotta) fight for your right to party".
The most recent boat parade I can think of in the UK was the Diamond Jubilee Boat Flotilla on that May afternoon in 2012. It was similar in that it had a real Queen with her own eyelashes rather than several hundred lavishly dressed ones with eyelashes that would put the archetypical Essex Girl in the shade both literally and metaphorically. It was stately, reflecting a Britain that no longer exists and a value system stubbornly dragging its feet like a disillusioned teenager who has never had a girlfriend. Not everyone celebrated the event with two million British people leaving the country to take advantage of the four day holiday created especially for it and a vocal anti monarchist group provided the yang to the ying of the occasion. And, it was raining. It was not a gay day.
The morale if the story is to reach for pink items in your drawers, sprinkle fairy dust among those around you and camp it up a bit - it does not mean you need to subject yourself to beard on beard action (unless of course you have a very hairy girlfriend). Then look into the mirror and declare "I am fabulous". There is chance that it may become true.