The Perfect Gentleman Queers


The Perfect Gentleman

Monologues charting the UK gay experience. Bobby is a swaggering man about town, but he has a secret. Can it survive when it really matters?


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Transcript


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Can I tell you something?

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Strictly entre nous.

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I am not what I seem.

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I am not a man.

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That is to say, I was not born a man,

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but I do not wish to be a man, no.

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I like the costume, I like the ease,

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I like the way I'm able be in the world, but I am very much...

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..female.

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Space.

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A gentleman must take up space.

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Head erect, shoulders back, chest proud.

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No hint of apology, no fluttery hands

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or silly, unnecessary gestures.

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One must enter the room and know that one is instantly

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the biggest thing in it.

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Expect that.

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One must sit with a wide stance, knees an acre apart.

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As much to say, "I am the emperor here and you must make room for my

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"enormous appendage."

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If you'll excuse me.

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Keep it under your hat, old bean.

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It's just our little secret.

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She is not what he seems, and she, as he, can rattle around

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as he pleases, and if he so pleases to indulge in a bout

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of beard splitting, then so be it.

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No-one will bat an eyelid and one can carry on being

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a cake-eater till one has had one's fill.

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Did you clock it?

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If so, how so?

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I am a renowned gentleman, you know.

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I pass.

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I pass terribly well.

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Although it seems not as well as I'd hoped.

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CLOCK DINGS

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Not when it matters.

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She's late.

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I've always been outdoorsy.

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My poor old Ma used to say,

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"Ellen Mary Page, you'll be the death of me!

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"Get inside and scrub them knees - you look like a regular Tom!"

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I was always out playing.

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With Lizzie, mostly.

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Up and down Mare Street, nicking whelks off the one-eyed man

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with the seafood stall.

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And she'd distract him by asking for a pint of prawns

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and a blank stare and I'd blindside him and pocket a fistful of cockles.

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Oh, I adored Lizzie!

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And she adored me.

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Every night, when we dragged ourselves away from each other,

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I'd say, "Cash or cheque?"

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And she'd say, "Cash."

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And I'd get a kiss on the cheek.

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Our favourite game was wedding day.

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She was always the bride, of course, and I would be the groom.

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I'd get my dad's best coat.

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Grey tweed, leather buttons, smell of sweat, coal.

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Bits of dried-up tobacco in the breast pocket.

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I'd have to wait for her at the end of the aisle,

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the back alley where our mothers would hang the washing.

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And I'd watch her, holding my breath,

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as she picked her way through the grey sheets and stained drawers,

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a huge, stupid smile on her face.

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And when she reached me and put her arm through mine...

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..I fair exploded.

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I loved her.

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I knew that.

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I longed to take her in my arms and kiss her neck.

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Would she allow it?

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Could she?

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I just didn't know.

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Then bloody William Foyle turned up.

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All big muscles, crooked smile and twinkly-eyed.

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And she fell for him straightaway.

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He bought her a tuppence bag of aniseed balls and she was lost.

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I was heartbroken.

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She still said "cash"

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when we did manage to see each other, but...

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..I could see her heart wasn't in it.

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She looked sad.

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But not for her, for me.

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"Don't be like that, Ellen," she'd say.

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Touching my arm.

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Once, she took me in.

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She took pity on me.

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And we sat by the fire.

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I had my arms wrapped around her waist.

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And...

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..I just let my hand drop lower and lower

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until it was resting in her glorious lap.

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I moved my hand slowly, slowly.

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She froze...

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..then relaxed.

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I waited.

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Minutes groaned by.

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She let me.

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She...

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let me.

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And then, all of a sudden, she jumped up,

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grabbed her shawl and ran out the back door.

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I called after her, but she didn't turn back.

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It was exactly two weeks later that I ran into her

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buying a loaf of bread.

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"Lizzie," I said, "I'm sorry.

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"Please, please speak to me."

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"Don't," she said.

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She sort of hissed it.

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I searched her face for a sign of softness, but there was none.

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There was only fear.

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Only fear.

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She turned on her heel and marched off.

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"Cash or cheque?" I shouted after her.

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She didn't miss a beat.

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"Cheque," she said, over her shoulder.

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And then she was gone.

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Into the fog.

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I was 16.

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My life was over.

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Ellen Mary Page...

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..was dead.

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I moved away after that, went south of the river, found lodgings,

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didn't speak to anyone or go out at all at first.

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I had very little money, of course.

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Only what I could make as a skivvy.

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I washed pots morning, noon and night,

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set fires, peeled potatoes.

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Bored rigid, I was, but dead inside, so it didn't matter.

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"Is this it?" I'd think to myself.

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Then one day, I was told to throw some of Sir's old clothes out.

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Apparently, he was trying to become more a la mode

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and wanted only brogues and Oxford bags.

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I took the package up the scullery steps...

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..and opened it.

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The smell of old sweat, tobacco, soap.

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And I...

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I pressed the white dress shirt close to my face and...

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..breathed it in.

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Trousers, too, high-waisted,

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black satin trim down the legs.

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White silk bow tie, long-line tuxedo, top hat - the lot.

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I stuffed the parcel behind the bin and grabbed it on my way home.

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I went home and I put it all on.

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It was like...

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..a sacrament.

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I felt wonderful.

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And the second night, I got daring and looked in the mirror.

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I must have posed for hours.

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You know, tilting my head this way and that, practising my walk.

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I really thought I was the cat's particulars.

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The frog's eyebrows.

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Well, the third night, I got bold and went out.

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I couldn't look at anyone, I couldn't breathe!

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I was sure, at any moment, someone would point and laugh.

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You know, shout at me, call me, "Nancy boy!"

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But I am tall and broad-shouldered, with a bosom like two bee stings.

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I know the gas light helped, it was foggy and, well,

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the top hat was a touch too big.

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It kept falling down over my eyes.

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But I was a man.

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I went out every night after that, started going to pubs,

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ordering beer, sitting at the bar, smoking.

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Plagued by no-one.

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The odd nod from the other gents, but I liked it.

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I started to feel, well, not happy, but free.

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Free of my misery.

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And the queer thing is, I started to resent my maid's garments.

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I began to feel silly in my skirts,

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as if my pinny were a costume and not my tux!

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Then the ladies started coming in, just one or two,

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only at weekends and always with their husbands.

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It wasn't difficult to spot the unhappy ones.

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They'd sit sipping their gins silently.

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Eyes cast down, fidgeting while their men jawed on.

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I started to catch the attention of the odd lady.

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I'd smile,

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bow my head at them, and they would blush.

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One or two of the braver ones started to manufacture conversation

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when I passed, discreetly.

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The weather, the horses,

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things they thought a gentleman might like to discuss.

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Then one night, a lady called Alice,

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40, plump, sad-eyed,

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somewhat in her cups, grabbed my arm and asked to meet me out back.

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I was stumped, but waited a few minutes and followed her out.

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She was waiting in the shadows and she grabbed me and started babbling

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about how she felt a curious, morbid attraction to me

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and needed to kiss me, just once!

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I pressed my lips on hers and she groaned.

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One thing led to another and before long,

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I was sliding my hand up her skirts every Friday night.

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Others followed.

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Word got round about the Doctor of Southwark.

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They said I could cure hysteria by inducing paroxysms.

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I would tip-toe in, and one by one, I'd give them the nod

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and we'd go out back and I'd shuffle them off.

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I did six in one night one busy Saturday.

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I got cramp.

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Yes, I've read The Well Of Loneliness.

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"That night they were not divided."

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Well, she should have got out more.

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I never let them touch me.

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Even though I had started to pack myself with an old sock.

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Just the one.

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I'm not a crower.

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"You're nice," they'd say.

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"The perfect gentleman."

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Then Sally came.

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No man.

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She breezed in with a couple of other girls, egging each other on,

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fresh from the meadows and longing to be led astray.

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She caught my eye and held it.

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I fell instantly in love.

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She was 18 and never been kissed, but she was bold,

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hungry for her life to start and, I found, so was I.

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I walked her home three miles, floated back to Southwark,

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saw her every Saturday.

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She was working at Boots in Piccadilly,

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and on my day off, I'd go in to make her blush.

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I'd ask her loudly for, "A little something for the weekend."

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The other girls would laugh at me, say,

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"Here he is, Burlington Bertie!"

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If only they knew I was more Vesta Tilley

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than they could ever imagine.

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"I walked down the Strand with me gloves on me hands

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"and I walked down again with them off."

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Did they know?

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Could they see?

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Sally didn't.

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Or didn't seem to.

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Or didn't want to.

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Until last night.

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I am such a fool.

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Such an utter idiot!

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I don't know why I thought it would ever work.

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We'd been intimate for some weeks, three, four.

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But she wasn't like the others.

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She wanted more.

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A lot more.

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She said she loved me and wanted us to go steady.

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I was so deliriously happy...

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..I asked her to marry me.

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Marry me?!

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And she said yes, straightaway. She didn't even want to wait.

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"I want to marry you now, Bobby Page, right now!

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"I want to wash your socks and have 12 babies and make you

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"steak pudding and kiss you every night," she'd say.

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Smothering me with her mouth, trying to pull on my flies.

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I managed to push her away, but she only fought harder, laughing.

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Saying, why was I so shy?

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And surely a handsome chap like me had had scores of girls.

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She became more and more insistent.

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She started borrowing filthy books from a dirty girl at work.

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The language!

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I'd never heard the like.

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"I've got standing room for one," she'd whisper.

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Or, "I need my chimney swept good and proper."

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Well, it was me blushing then, but...

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..it did things to me.

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I started to get nervous that she would leave me.

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I tried to break it off, but I couldn't.

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I loved her.

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So I did something...

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..utterly insane.

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Such sheer folly.

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Oh, God!

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And that's why I'm in this pickle.

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You see, the big house has a lot of candles,

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and yesterday I was replacing the old ones in the dining room -

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she likes fresh every night.

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And it got me to thinking, what a waste!

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Don't laugh, but I whittled one down at the end.

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I've never seen a real one - had to avoid the urinals

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for obvious reasons,

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but I've seen dirty puzzles, filthy books, so I had a good idea.

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I stuck it in my underwear.

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It kept slipping out.

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It was quite a queer gait I had walking down the street, but...

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..I liked it.

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I went to pick her up from work, waited round the back.

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As soon as she saw me, she grabbed me and kissed me,

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pushed me up against the bins,

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fumbled for my privates and I let her.

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And she smiled, reached to my flies and let out a gasp.

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And then she pulled up her skirts and said, "Stick it in me!"

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Just like that!

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Well, it was dark.

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"Why not?" thought I.

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Why not?

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So we did it.

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And after, she said,

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"Thank you," and looked so pleased, I could have died happy.

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Her clinging on to me,

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her hot breath on the back of my neck as she calmed herself.

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And then it fell out.

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Slipped out of my hand.

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She screamed.

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For a moment, I think she thought she'd broken it,

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but then...

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..she saw what it was, and her face, it...

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..folded in on itself.

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And she gathered up her skirts and ran.

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I mean, how could she not have known?

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Surely, a candle is just...

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..the wrong kind of stiff.

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I don't think I can do this any more.

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And then this morning...

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..a note.

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"Who are you? What are you?"

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She said to meet here.

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"I'm Bert, perhaps you've heard of me.

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"Bert, you've heard word of me.

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"Jogging along, hearty and strong,

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"living on plates of fresh air.

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"I dress up in fashion and when I'm feeling depressed...

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"..I shave from my cuff all my whiskers and fluff.

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"Stick my hat on...

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"and toddle up west."

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BELL RINGS

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Bobby is a swaggering man about town. But Bobby has a secret. Can it survive when it really matters?