Monologues charting the UK gay experience. Alice and her husband share a secret, but with the 1957 Wolfenden Report's publication it may not need be a secret anymore.
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I've had two babies, you see, if you're counting.
I was 16, the first one.
A boy from our street was the father,
though that's a bloody grown-up word for a boy that age.
Of course, he couldn't marry me.
He had an uncle who'd made good in Cardiff as an undertaker and was
going to train him up.
Dad said, "Well, he can probably be trusted with dead bodies."
Mum didn't like that.
I don't see the point in coming up with a name for her.
Dad asked the man at the Home & Colonial to take me on as I'd best earn a living.
Mum said, "Men don't like damaged goods."
Well, they won't if you call them damaged goods!
I liked it at the shop.
All the foods!
After I'd had the baby...
..Mum made me sit at the back in church, away from the family,
to show she was taking our collective shame seriously.
And that's where I met Michael.
They were a bit posh, his family -
well, compared to the rest of the congregation,
not posh compared to what I met after, through Michael, you know.
He was new at the church,
a bit older, but he took to sitting at the back with me so he could make jokes.
Not to shock me. He knew I was hardly a nun.
Michael didn't believe in God, but he liked the singing.
I used to laugh at his singing.
"Do I sing funny?" he asked.
"No, I said, "you sing lovely. That's what's funny."
I says to him, "You should be in the choir."
But he said he liked sitting with me,
and that you can't muck about if you're in the choir.
"Or," he said, "in the case of this choir, sing in bloody tune."
Two months after he first set eyes on me, he asked me to marry him.
I didn't see it coming.
Not because of my...scandal.
It just hadn't occurred.
He was my pal.
We had a laugh.
And it was his little brother, Charlie, I'd got me eye on.
He'd just started in the police, and he had such thick dark hair,
he always looked like he hadn't shaved since yesterday.
He's gone to seed now, Charlie, like some men do.
Dad said it was up to me if I married Michael.
Mum said, "How soon can you do it?"
I just thought...
..well, Alice, it could be fun.
It was his parents got us the weekend in Brighton.
We got in the hotel room, and the curtains were shut tight,
even though it was broad daylight outside.
"I think they're dropping hints," I said.
Michael seemed not to hear that,
and he went and straightened a picture on the wall.
I sat on the bed,
and there was a vase of little flowers on the bedside table,
so I took one out and I put it between my lips, like I'm some sort of...
Oh, I don't know!
Only, cos of the dark,
I hadn't realised the flowers were made of bloody cloth, so I'm sat there,
all demure, spitting fluff and dust out of my mouth.
He laughed at that.
We both did.
So I patted the bed beside me, like this.
But he didn't seem to...
Well, I thought you were meant to get straight to it, see.
What with how people bang on about honeymoons,
with their winks and nudges.
I say people - silly girls who wouldn't know sex from tobogganing.
Michael looks me up and down, like he's taking me in, and he says,
"That bedspread is the same pattern as your dress."
He goes to the window and opens the curtains.
It wasn't a sea view, but he stands there anyway,
peering outside with all the specks of dust swarming round his head.
He must be nervous, I thought.
That'd be it. That's what I thought.
Well, he'd probably not done it before and, of course, he knew I had.
So I said, "Come on, let's go out.
"Out the hotel, I mean."
We had supper and went dancing at one of the smarter ones on the front,
which had palm trees and a band.
He's a lovely mover, is Michael.
When the band stopped, we were both half-cut.
Well, half is an understatement.
So we stumbled back, fell into bed and passed out.
The second night, he said he felt sick.
We lived with Helen and Jack at first -
that's Michael's mum and dad.
Oh, they treated me nice, but...
..I looked forward to him coming home of a night.
I'd stopped working at the Home & Colonial, see,
cos Mr Barrett didn't think it right for a married woman to stay on.
Michael would come in, eight, nine, even ten, sometimes.
A bit of supper, a game of cards.
He said he was funny about sex,
what with his mum and dad sleeping only in the next room.
I'd lie there with him breathing next to me, gentle enough,
and his dad snoring like heavy artillery from through the wall.
Well, it was only for a few weeks.
Now, when we got our flat, well...
should have seen it - Mum's face.
Helen and Jack had helped us out, you see, so it was...
Michael got this young handyman he'd met in the pub to come round and put
up a big new mirror in our bedroom.
He came round in the day when Michael was at work.
Nice-looking chap, he was.
All strong in his rolled-up sleeves,
and his shoulders when he lifted the thing up!
I had to stop myself saying something.
He wouldn't stay for a cup of tea after - he had more calls to make.
As he left, he stopped in the door to bid me, "Good day, ma'am," and said,
would I thank my nice husband for him?
When he'd gone...
..I stood looking in the mirror. The room seemed twice the size.
I took my clothes off.
All of them. Don't know why.
Curtains were open and everything.
Dress and petticoat on the floor.
Come on, Alice.
Let's have a look at you.
I can get fat, if I'm not careful.
Fat on my hips and arms and on my neck, and it doesn't look nice on me,
like with some women. Course,
it was natural, with me not being on my feet all day in the shop no more, but...
All I could think was...
..well, I wouldn't fuck me.
Well, it's easily solved, isn't it?
You eat less.
One night - this is five, six months later -
he comes home late, as ever,
he's a few drinks inside him, and he's got this new briefcase -
proper shiny chestnut job with gold fasteners.
"A present," he says.
"Did work give you that?"
He says, "No. It was from a friend."
"You've got nice friends," I said.
"I have," he said, sort of proud and sheepish at the same time.
A few weeks later, it was cuff links.
He was pleased as punch with them till he realised he didn't have any
of the right sort of shirts with holes in.
When he came home the next night, I was waiting for him.
"Is it a woman bought you those presents?"
He shakes his head...
..sits down on the arm of the armchair,
which his mum always told him off for doing cos it puts the frame out of shape.
"It's not a woman," he says.
He puts his head in his hands.
"It's not women."
I knew right away what he meant.
It was like the room shifted...
..like when they cut to a different angle in a film scene
or like how everything seems to settle different after you step off a carousel.
So I go from feeling fat to feeling bloody stupid.
He looks more surprised than me that he's said it.
I tell him...
"I can't be your wife, can I?"
He looked surprised at that, too.
Know what he said?
"I'd miss you, Alice.
"I'd miss you."
Next week, Helen invites me to lunch.
Well, I can hardly say I'm busy.
She gives me a hug right there in the porch.
She's more, um...
Oh, what's the word? Er...demonstrative than Mum is.
And you go along with it but, this time, it's verging on assault.
She says, "We'll eat in the kitchen.
"It's less formal."
Well, it's also the only room in the house that's properly warm,
so it suits me well enough.
On the table there's a bottle of wine.
"I know it's lunch, but I thought we'd be naughty", she says.
"It's a good one, apparently, so don't tell my husband."
Calm down, love! I wasn't thinking to leave him a note.
She's done us chops with cauliflower cheese, which she knows I like.
"How's the flat?" "Nice, thank you."
Her napkin's fallen off her lap onto the floor three times, so she gives up
on it, puts it on the table instead, clenched in her hand.
And then she comes out with it.
"You're having trouble," she says.
"Not me with the trouble," I say.
"We know how Michael is," she says.
It sounds stupid,
but it is really bothering me that the woman has somehow got cheese sauce on her wrist,
and she hasn't noticed. And now I can't mention it cos it's not quite the moment.
"It doesn't mean he can't be a good husband to you," she says.
"Better that than drink or gambling or illness...or women."
Thing is, and this is God's own truth,
I don't give a monkey's what he gets up to elsewhere, but...
Well, what I say to her is, "If it was women,
"at least he might show me some interest, too."
Bugger it! I'm close to crying, but I don't.
She reaches out her hand to me and, before she can touch me,
thank God she finally notices the muck on her wrist.
"He's very fond of you," she says.
"And so are we." And then - this is my mother-in-law - then she says,
"If that's all that's missing, can't you just pretend everything is normal?
"And if you have needs occasionally,
"I'm sure, if you're careful, you can go elsewhere."
They'll look after me well, she says.
I'll have a good life. She says
I won't have forgotten how his brother's a policeman.
And it would all be very difficult for him if word got out,
and how surely, after my own mishap, I, of all people, know how important
it is to appear respectable.
I walk home - hour and a half, even though the wind's up.
I can't face the Tube.
When Michael gets in - nearly midnight, it is - he sees my face and...
..he looks like he's just watched his own death.
"I'm so sorry," he says.
"It wasn't my idea."
I just run at him...
..hitting him in the chest over and over and over until I crumple, and...
..and he holds me tight.
"You got so bloody skinny," he says.
He asks, will I let him make me tea
and put me to bed and, in the morning, I can think what I want to do, and
he will help me, whatever I decide?
Well, I don't have anywhere else to go - that I'd want to go.
We don't say a word until I'm in bed.
He gets in, too. I don't stop him.
in the dark and safe, with my back to him, I say...
"It was your brother I always fancied."
He snorts into my neck.
"Yeah, you and half of London," he says.
He puts an arm round me, his hand warm and flat on my tummy,
like he sometimes does.
A minute later...
..he's cupping my breast.
Usually, he stays well clear, but...
And he shuffles himself up close behind me so...
I can feel that he's hard.
My heart's bloody pounding, so loud I can hear it.
I keep my eyes shut, even though it's dark,
and I can hear the clock ticking from his side of the bed,
slower than my heart's beating.
Everything out of pace.
But it's nice.
His hand slides back down from my breast to my stomach...
..and further down...
..till he finds me.
And his mouth is hot on my neck.
I don't respond to any of it...
..until I do.
So, now we were what you'd call properly husband and wife.
A month later...
..the doctor tells me I'm to start feeding myself properly...
..and that I'm pregnant.
That's Salim over there, just come in - the Arab-looking one, obviously.
He's very charming.
Not unflirtatious with me, either,
considering he usually walks in here with one man and leaves with another.
I'll say hello in a minute.
He'll ask what I'm doing in here by myself.
He's very direct, you see, with his being foreign.
In here without Michael is what he'll mean.
Well, why not?
It's as much my pub as his these days, in a way,
especially since Violet moved out and that's...
God, nearly ten years.
Can you believe it?
Violet - that's our daughter.
When she was a couple of years old,
I suggested to Michael he might bring friends over more often,
if he wanted.
Better that than not seeing him.
Better that than nights in without him.
He was shy about it at first.
He'd always been very discreet.
Couldn't fault him.
But we soon had men about.
They come over, one or more of them, play cards, have a few drinks.
He does very well for himself, Michael.
He didn't go to seed, like his brother, see.
Don't know how he finds them.
Well, who cares?
I should go. I only came into town to buy theatre tickets for his birthday.
I know - fancy!
Me and him and Tony - he's Michael's current...
friend. Been a few weeks now.
Older than he usually goes for, more settled, you know.
Then Violet and her fella.
Oh, and a couple we're friendly with - George and Pierre.
Pierre's not French - he's from Carlisle.
He said to me once, he said, "Alice,
"me and George is just like any other normal long-time couple.
"We ain't had it off in years. At least, not with each other!"
..it was, in the afternoon, when I found out it had become...
How would you say it? An appropriate subject for public discussion.
Tony came round, Michael's Tony.
He'd left his wallet at ours.
Michael was at work. And Tony puts a newspaper article into my hands that he's cut out.
"What do you make of this, Alice?
"The report on homosexual offences."
The headline's just three words - Crime And Sin.
"Imagine that, Alice," he says.
"Two men being allowed to do what they like - legal.
And he goes.
But, you see, for Michael, it's not like with George and Pierre.
They CAN do what they like.
George is an actor and Pierre cuts ladies' hair.
Michael's got a respectable job.
It's been nice for him having a wife, having a family.
Anyway, even if things were legal, normal, even,
he wouldn't want to go off and live all happy couples with a man.
Not at his age, not at our age.
It wouldn't make him happier, would it?
He's got all he needs.
Well, this was Friday, like I say,
so it's cinema night and we were going to see The Bridge Over The River Kwai.
It was very good, actually, it's our sort of film.
We don't go for the romantic ones, though there's usually a bit of that, isn't there, for the ladies?
And as we're knocking back a quick supper...
..I nearly ask him, what do you think about this Wolfenden report thing?
Not cos I'm...
Not because I'm worried, just interest.
But I don't say anything.
And we go to the pictures and he holds my hand.
As we're walking home, about halfway,
without stopping or looking at me or anything...
..he says, out of the blue...
"I'd miss you, Alice."
Alice and her husband share a secret, but with the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 it may not need to be a secret anymore.