i remember the day of my first prostitute encounter
it didn't take long (no this isn't going there – get your minds out of the sewer and at least join me in the gutter) before my dad realised that i was safe to go to the west end on my own.
once allowed to travel freely the weekly pilgrimage to dark they were and golden eye in wardour street, and later st. anne's court, became the thing to do. every weekend was like all your christmases rolled into one. new comics every week – who would have thought it – i mean after years of searching for the odd comic here and there in the local newsagents or being lucky enough to find a second hand bookshop that dealt in back issues (always with some great big stamp on the front telling you it was from 'dave's books' or some such. instantly turning a pot of gold into a lump of lead – but i didn't care, partly because i didn't know and mostly because i just wanted to have the thing in my hand, ownership was key not resale value).(if you were really lucky the same second bookshop would have a supply of old paperbacks: nel, james bond, film/tv tie-ins all the goodness that would never ever be accepted by school – and if that was the case i was farting rays of sunshine all day long).
in fact places like dark they were (because as i would later discover there was more than just one shop doing this there was a whole industry) took the fun out of it, no longer did you have to hunt for these rare gems, now you were able to pig out each and every week. i had gone from little choice to too much choice.
all which is beside the point of this little remembrance.
the trips to west end and soho were mostly to do with comics, but soon stretched into buying records. true my local area had the most wonderful sellanby record store – a place where i started many long term love affairs – with musicians such as frank zappa and king crimson. like any young man i was happy to have dalliances with other record stores. and lo it came to pass we found one close to dark they were that specialised in cheap remainder records. sure there might be a bit of the corner missing to the cover, sure there might be a bit of a warp on the record – but they were cheap, and i liked cheap.
once we had bought comics we would walk through soho going towards piccadilly to get to the record store. while this was not the hey day of soho – it was still pretty wild for boys who were still dealing with raging hormones and lived out in the sticks. you could give yourself a neck injury with all the head turning and you. looking at shops that sold all sorts of interesting material that you could not mention in polite society not even in a postmodern ironic sort of way. looking at all the door signs that advertised all sorts and sizes of women doing all manner of things – if only you wanted to walk up those stairs and ring that bell. all of this went on around a vibrant street market selling fruit, veg and fish.
it was a very busy place where the curious mixed with the local.
the journey to the record store would take you past numerous sex shops all with windows crammed with magazines and toys of every description – just from looking you could get an interesting education into the myriad possibilities that human sexuality offered.
on this particular occasion the route we were taking meant we went by a road where there were two casinos. the only interest to us in the casinos were the nifty frontage they both had. no way we could have gotten in to them and i have never been interested in gambling. the casinos meant it was a busy street, even though it was one of those streets that said there is nothing here for anyone other than gamblers. it was pretty much a through road – went through it to go somewhere else.
we were chatting about the comics we had just bought, we were thinking about the albums we might buy. the usual chit chat that kids who were still worried about their 'o' levels (it seems an appropriate reference given the circumstances) would chit chat about. the only care in the world we had then was did we have enough money for the comics and records we needed (listen i may never have done drugs but i was addicted to paper and vinyl).
key here is that i am yet to do my 'o' levels i am young dumb and full of not much of anything. i was also probably the last generation of kids who were still 'innocent' where sex and all that went with it was still a smutty joke rather than a life choice (not that we could have sexted back then but people did pass naughty notes in class, not me though i was still naïve). the closest i got to a meaningful relationship with a girl was with jean grey of the x-men.
bag of comics in hand, about to add an album or two to that stash and then head off home to read and listen.
just as we get to the record shop we have to cross the road the casinos are on.
right at the corner is a flash car – i am slightly impressed. i know fuck all about cars now, knew less then but i can appreciate a sleek line and a shiny (get your mind out of the gutter) hood. draped over the cars are several women, and when i say draped i pretty much mean draped. as we got closer one of them slinked off the car and stood to speak to us.
polite as ever we were ready to tell her the time or answer her question – because that's the sort of people we were.
'do you want to fuck?'
it wasn't the question we expected and it wasn't the sort of question we could answer, after all we had just bought comics and were about to buy albums. sex was the furtherest thing from our minds especially sex with attractive but forthright in your face ladies.
cue some blushing.
cue some shuffling of feet.
cue some speeding up.
cue some clutching dark they were bags as shields.
cue some spluttering.
we moved on double quick time.
i am not sure if the girls laughed or not, they must have known we were under age and just not ready for their assault on our sensibilities.
in the many years since then i have been approached by numerous prostitutes as i wandered around soho and the liverpool street/ commercial road area and quickly developed a 'no thank you – have a nice night' style response – sometimes it led to conversations mostly just a nod as they looked out for the next potential punter.
i can't remember what albums i bought that day – but i am pretty sure it was cheaper than sex with those ladies of the afternoon, and i know i have more pleasure from it than i would have had from a dirty fling.