Missing Alice Queers


Missing Alice

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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Transcript


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I've had two babies, you see, if you're counting.

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I was 16, the first one.

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A boy from our street was the father,

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though that's a bloody grown-up word for a boy that age.

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Of course, he couldn't marry me.

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He had an uncle who'd made good in Cardiff as an undertaker and was

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going to train him up.

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Dad said, "Well, he can probably be trusted with dead bodies."

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Mum didn't like that.

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I don't see the point in coming up with a name for her.

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Dad asked the man at the Home & Colonial to take me on as I'd best earn a living.

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Mum said, "Men don't like damaged goods."

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Well, they won't if you call them damaged goods!

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I liked it at the shop.

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All the foods!

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After I'd had the baby...

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..Mum made me sit at the back in church, away from the family,

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to show she was taking our collective shame seriously.

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And that's where I met Michael.

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They were a bit posh, his family -

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well, compared to the rest of the congregation,

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not posh compared to what I met after, through Michael, you know.

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He was new at the church,

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a bit older, but he took to sitting at the back with me so he could make jokes.

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Not to shock me. He knew I was hardly a nun.

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Michael didn't believe in God, but he liked the singing.

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I used to laugh at his singing.

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"Do I sing funny?" he asked.

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"No, I said, "you sing lovely. That's what's funny."

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I says to him, "You should be in the choir."

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But he said he liked sitting with me,

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and that you can't muck about if you're in the choir.

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"Or," he said, "in the case of this choir, sing in bloody tune."

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Two months after he first set eyes on me, he asked me to marry him.

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I didn't see it coming.

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Not because of my...scandal.

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It just hadn't occurred.

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He was my pal.

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We had a laugh.

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And it was his little brother, Charlie, I'd got me eye on.

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Charlie!

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He'd just started in the police, and he had such thick dark hair,

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he always looked like he hadn't shaved since yesterday.

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He's gone to seed now, Charlie, like some men do.

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Dad said it was up to me if I married Michael.

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Mum said, "How soon can you do it?"

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I just thought...

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..well, Alice, it could be fun.

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It was his parents got us the weekend in Brighton.

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We got in the hotel room, and the curtains were shut tight,

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even though it was broad daylight outside.

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"I think they're dropping hints," I said.

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Michael seemed not to hear that,

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and he went and straightened a picture on the wall.

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I sat on the bed,

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and there was a vase of little flowers on the bedside table,

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so I took one out and I put it between my lips, like I'm some sort of...

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Oh, I don't know!

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Only, cos of the dark,

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I hadn't realised the flowers were made of bloody cloth, so I'm sat there,

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all demure, spitting fluff and dust out of my mouth.

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He laughed at that.

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We both did.

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So I patted the bed beside me, like this.

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But he didn't seem to...

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Well, I thought you were meant to get straight to it, see.

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What with how people bang on about honeymoons,

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with their winks and nudges.

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I say people - silly girls who wouldn't know sex from tobogganing.

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Michael looks me up and down, like he's taking me in, and he says,

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"That bedspread is the same pattern as your dress."

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He goes to the window and opens the curtains.

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It wasn't a sea view, but he stands there anyway,

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peering outside with all the specks of dust swarming round his head.

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He must be nervous, I thought.

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That'd be it. That's what I thought.

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Well, he'd probably not done it before and, of course, he knew I had.

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So I said, "Come on, let's go out.

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"Out the hotel, I mean."

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We had supper and went dancing at one of the smarter ones on the front,

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which had palm trees and a band.

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He's a lovely mover, is Michael.

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When the band stopped, we were both half-cut.

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Well, half is an understatement.

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So we stumbled back, fell into bed and passed out.

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The second night, he said he felt sick.

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We lived with Helen and Jack at first -

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that's Michael's mum and dad.

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Oh, they treated me nice, but...

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..I looked forward to him coming home of a night.

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I'd stopped working at the Home & Colonial, see,

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cos Mr Barrett didn't think it right for a married woman to stay on.

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Michael would come in, eight, nine, even ten, sometimes.

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A bit of supper, a game of cards.

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He said he was funny about sex,

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what with his mum and dad sleeping only in the next room.

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So...

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I'd lie there with him breathing next to me, gentle enough,

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and his dad snoring like heavy artillery from through the wall.

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Well, it was only for a few weeks.

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Now, when we got our flat, well...

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should have seen it - Mum's face.

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Helen and Jack had helped us out, you see, so it was...

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You know?

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Michael got this young handyman he'd met in the pub to come round and put

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up a big new mirror in our bedroom.

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He came round in the day when Michael was at work.

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Nice-looking chap, he was.

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All strong in his rolled-up sleeves,

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and his shoulders when he lifted the thing up!

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I had to stop myself saying something.

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He wouldn't stay for a cup of tea after - he had more calls to make.

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As he left, he stopped in the door to bid me, "Good day, ma'am," and said,

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would I thank my nice husband for him?

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When he'd gone...

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..I stood looking in the mirror. The room seemed twice the size.

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I took my clothes off.

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All of them. Don't know why.

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Curtains were open and everything.

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Dress and petticoat on the floor.

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Come on, Alice.

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Let's have a look at you.

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I can get fat, if I'm not careful.

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Fat on my hips and arms and on my neck, and it doesn't look nice on me,

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like with some women. Course,

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it was natural, with me not being on my feet all day in the shop no more, but...

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All I could think was...

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..well, I wouldn't fuck me.

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Well, it's easily solved, isn't it?

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You eat less.

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One night - this is five, six months later -

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he comes home late, as ever,

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he's a few drinks inside him, and he's got this new briefcase -

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proper shiny chestnut job with gold fasteners.

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"A present," he says.

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"Did work give you that?"

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He says, "No. It was from a friend."

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"You've got nice friends," I said.

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"I have," he said, sort of proud and sheepish at the same time.

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A few weeks later, it was cuff links.

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He was pleased as punch with them till he realised he didn't have any

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of the right sort of shirts with holes in.

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When he came home the next night, I was waiting for him.

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"Is it a woman bought you those presents?"

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He shakes his head...

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..sits down on the arm of the armchair,

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which his mum always told him off for doing cos it puts the frame out of shape.

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"It's not a woman," he says.

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He puts his head in his hands.

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"It's not women."

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I knew right away what he meant.

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It was like the room shifted...

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..like when they cut to a different angle in a film scene

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or like how everything seems to settle different after you step off a carousel.

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So I go from feeling fat to feeling bloody stupid.

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He looks more surprised than me that he's said it.

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I tell him...

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"I can't be your wife, can I?"

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He looked surprised at that, too.

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Know what he said?

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"I'd miss you, Alice.

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"I'd miss you."

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Next week, Helen invites me to lunch.

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Well, I can hardly say I'm busy.

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She gives me a hug right there in the porch.

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She's more, um...

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Oh, what's the word? Er...demonstrative than Mum is.

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And you go along with it but, this time, it's verging on assault.

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She says, "We'll eat in the kitchen.

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"It's less formal."

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Well, it's also the only room in the house that's properly warm,

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so it suits me well enough.

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On the table there's a bottle of wine.

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"I know it's lunch, but I thought we'd be naughty", she says.

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"It's a good one, apparently, so don't tell my husband."

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Calm down, love! I wasn't thinking to leave him a note.

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She's done us chops with cauliflower cheese, which she knows I like.

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"How's the flat?" "Nice, thank you."

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Her napkin's fallen off her lap onto the floor three times, so she gives up

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on it, puts it on the table instead, clenched in her hand.

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And then she comes out with it.

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"You're having trouble," she says.

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"Not me with the trouble," I say.

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"We know how Michael is," she says.

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"Oh."

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It sounds stupid,

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but it is really bothering me that the woman has somehow got cheese sauce on her wrist,

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and she hasn't noticed. And now I can't mention it cos it's not quite the moment.

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"It doesn't mean he can't be a good husband to you," she says.

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"Better that than drink or gambling or illness...or women."

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Thing is, and this is God's own truth,

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I don't give a monkey's what he gets up to elsewhere, but...

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Well, what I say to her is, "If it was women,

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"at least he might show me some interest, too."

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Bugger it! I'm close to crying, but I don't.

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She reaches out her hand to me and, before she can touch me,

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thank God she finally notices the muck on her wrist.

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"He's very fond of you," she says.

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"And so are we." And then - this is my mother-in-law - then she says,

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"If that's all that's missing, can't you just pretend everything is normal?

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"And if you have needs occasionally,

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"I'm sure, if you're careful, you can go elsewhere."

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They'll look after me well, she says.

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I'll have a good life. She says

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I won't have forgotten how his brother's a policeman.

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And it would all be very difficult for him if word got out,

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and how surely, after my own mishap, I, of all people, know how important

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it is to appear respectable.

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I walk home - hour and a half, even though the wind's up.

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I can't face the Tube.

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When Michael gets in - nearly midnight, it is - he sees my face and...

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..he looks like he's just watched his own death.

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"I'm so sorry," he says.

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"It wasn't my idea."

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I just run at him...

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..hitting him in the chest over and over and over until I crumple, and...

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..and he holds me tight.

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"You got so bloody skinny," he says.

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He asks, will I let him make me tea

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and put me to bed and, in the morning, I can think what I want to do, and

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he will help me, whatever I decide?

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Well, I don't have anywhere else to go - that I'd want to go.

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We don't say a word until I'm in bed.

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I'm shattered.

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He gets in, too. I don't stop him.

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And then,

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in the dark and safe, with my back to him, I say...

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"It was your brother I always fancied."

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He snorts into my neck.

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"Yeah, you and half of London," he says.

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He puts an arm round me, his hand warm and flat on my tummy,

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like he sometimes does.

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A minute later...

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..he's cupping my breast.

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Usually, he stays well clear, but...

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..no mistake.

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Feels electric.

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And he shuffles himself up close behind me so...

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I can feel that he's hard.

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My heart's bloody pounding, so loud I can hear it.

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I keep my eyes shut, even though it's dark,

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and I can hear the clock ticking from his side of the bed,

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slower than my heart's beating.

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Everything out of pace.

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But it's nice.

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His hand slides back down from my breast to my stomach...

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..and further down...

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..till he finds me.

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And his mouth is hot on my neck.

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I don't respond to any of it...

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..until I do.

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So, now we were what you'd call properly husband and wife.

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A month later...

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..the doctor tells me I'm to start feeding myself properly...

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..and that I'm pregnant.

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That's Salim over there, just come in - the Arab-looking one, obviously.

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He's very charming.

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Not unflirtatious with me, either,

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considering he usually walks in here with one man and leaves with another.

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I'll say hello in a minute.

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He'll ask what I'm doing in here by myself.

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He's very direct, you see, with his being foreign.

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In here without Michael is what he'll mean.

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Well, why not?

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It's as much my pub as his these days, in a way,

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especially since Violet moved out and that's...

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God, nearly ten years.

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Can you believe it?

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Violet - that's our daughter.

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When she was a couple of years old,

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I suggested to Michael he might bring friends over more often,

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if he wanted.

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Friends or...

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You know.

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Better that than not seeing him.

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Better that than nights in without him.

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He was shy about it at first.

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He'd always been very discreet.

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Couldn't fault him.

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But we soon had men about.

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Still do.

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They come over, one or more of them, play cards, have a few drinks.

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He does very well for himself, Michael.

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He didn't go to seed, like his brother, see.

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Don't know how he finds them.

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Well, who cares?

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I should go. I only came into town to buy theatre tickets for his birthday.

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I know - fancy!

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Me and him and Tony - he's Michael's current...

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friend. Been a few weeks now.

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Older than he usually goes for, more settled, you know.

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Then Violet and her fella.

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Oh, and a couple we're friendly with - George and Pierre.

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Pierre's not French - he's from Carlisle.

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He said to me once, he said, "Alice,

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"me and George is just like any other normal long-time couple.

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"We ain't had it off in years. At least, not with each other!"

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Last Friday...

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..it was, in the afternoon, when I found out it had become...

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How would you say it? An appropriate subject for public discussion.

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Tony came round, Michael's Tony.

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He'd left his wallet at ours.

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Michael was at work. And Tony puts a newspaper article into my hands that he's cut out.

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"What do you make of this, Alice?

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"The report on homosexual offences."

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The headline's just three words - Crime And Sin.

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"Imagine that, Alice," he says.

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"Two men being allowed to do what they like - legal.

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"No pretending."

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And he goes.

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But, you see, for Michael, it's not like with George and Pierre.

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They CAN do what they like.

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George is an actor and Pierre cuts ladies' hair.

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Michael's got a respectable job.

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It's been nice for him having a wife, having a family.

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Anyway, even if things were legal, normal, even,

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he wouldn't want to go off and live all happy couples with a man.

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Not at his age, not at our age.

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It wouldn't make him happier, would it?

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He's got all he needs.

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Always has.

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Hasn't he?

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Well, this was Friday, like I say,

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so it's cinema night and we were going to see The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

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It was very good, actually, it's our sort of film.

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We don't go for the romantic ones, though there's usually a bit of that, isn't there, for the ladies?

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And as we're knocking back a quick supper...

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..I nearly ask him, what do you think about this Wolfenden report thing?

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Not cos I'm...

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Not because I'm worried, just interest.

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You know.

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But I don't say anything.

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And we go to the pictures and he holds my hand.

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As we're walking home, about halfway,

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without stopping or looking at me or anything...

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..he says, out of the blue...

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"I'd miss you, Alice."

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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.


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