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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Can I tell you something?
Strictly entre nous.
I am not what I seem.
I am not a man.
That is to say, I was not born a man,
but I do not wish to be a man, no.
I like the costume, I like the ease,
I like the way I'm able be in the world, but I am very much...
A gentleman must take up space.
Head erect, shoulders back, chest proud.
No hint of apology, no fluttery hands
or silly, unnecessary gestures.
One must enter the room and know that one is instantly
the biggest thing in it.
One must sit with a wide stance, knees an acre apart.
As much to say, "I am the emperor here and you must make room for my
If you'll excuse me.
Keep it under your hat, old bean.
It's just our little secret.
She is not what he seems, and she, as he, can rattle around
as he pleases, and if he so pleases to indulge in a bout
of beard splitting, then so be it.
No-one will bat an eyelid and one can carry on being
a cake-eater till one has had one's fill.
Did you clock it?
If so, how so?
I am a renowned gentleman, you know.
I pass terribly well.
Although it seems not as well as I'd hoped.
Not when it matters.
I've always been outdoorsy.
My poor old Ma used to say,
"Ellen Mary Page, you'll be the death of me!
"Get inside and scrub them knees - you look like a regular Tom!"
I was always out playing.
With Lizzie, mostly.
Up and down Mare Street, nicking whelks off the one-eyed man
with the seafood stall.
And she'd distract him by asking for a pint of prawns
and a blank stare and I'd blindside him and pocket a fistful of cockles.
Oh, I adored Lizzie!
And she adored me.
Every night, when we dragged ourselves away from each other,
I'd say, "Cash or cheque?"
And she'd say, "Cash."
And I'd get a kiss on the cheek.
Our favourite game was wedding day.
She was always the bride, of course, and I would be the groom.
I'd get my dad's best coat.
Grey tweed, leather buttons, smell of sweat, coal.
Bits of dried-up tobacco in the breast pocket.
I'd have to wait for her at the end of the aisle,
the back alley where our mothers would hang the washing.
And I'd watch her, holding my breath,
as she picked her way through the grey sheets and stained drawers,
a huge, stupid smile on her face.
And when she reached me and put her arm through mine...
..I fair exploded.
I loved her.
I knew that.
I longed to take her in my arms and kiss her neck.
Would she allow it?
I just didn't know.
Then bloody William Foyle turned up.
All big muscles, crooked smile and twinkly-eyed.
And she fell for him straightaway.
He bought her a tuppence bag of aniseed balls and she was lost.
I was heartbroken.
She still said "cash"
when we did manage to see each other, but...
..I could see her heart wasn't in it.
She looked sad.
But not for her, for me.
"Don't be like that, Ellen," she'd say.
Touching my arm.
Once, she took me in.
She took pity on me.
And we sat by the fire.
I had my arms wrapped around her waist.
..I just let my hand drop lower and lower
until it was resting in her glorious lap.
I moved my hand slowly, slowly.
Minutes groaned by.
She let me.
And then, all of a sudden, she jumped up,
grabbed her shawl and ran out the back door.
I called after her, but she didn't turn back.
It was exactly two weeks later that I ran into her
buying a loaf of bread.
"Lizzie," I said, "I'm sorry.
"Please, please speak to me."
"Don't," she said.
She sort of hissed it.
I searched her face for a sign of softness, but there was none.
There was only fear.
She turned on her heel and marched off.
"Cash or cheque?" I shouted after her.
She didn't miss a beat.
"Cheque," she said, over her shoulder.
And then she was gone.
Into the fog.
I was 16.
My life was over.
Ellen Mary Page...
I moved away after that, went south of the river, found lodgings,
didn't speak to anyone or go out at all at first.
I had very little money, of course.
Only what I could make as a skivvy.
I washed pots morning, noon and night,
set fires, peeled potatoes.
Bored rigid, I was, but dead inside, so it didn't matter.
"Is this it?" I'd think to myself.
Then one day, I was told to throw some of Sir's old clothes out.
Apparently, he was trying to become more a la mode
and wanted only brogues and Oxford bags.
I took the package up the scullery steps...
..and opened it.
The smell of old sweat, tobacco, soap.
I pressed the white dress shirt close to my face and...
..breathed it in.
Trousers, too, high-waisted,
black satin trim down the legs.
White silk bow tie, long-line tuxedo, top hat - the lot.
I stuffed the parcel behind the bin and grabbed it on my way home.
I went home and I put it all on.
It was like...
I felt wonderful.
And the second night, I got daring and looked in the mirror.
I must have posed for hours.
You know, tilting my head this way and that, practising my walk.
I really thought I was the cat's particulars.
The frog's eyebrows.
Well, the third night, I got bold and went out.
I couldn't look at anyone, I couldn't breathe!
I was sure, at any moment, someone would point and laugh.
You know, shout at me, call me, "Nancy boy!"
But I am tall and broad-shouldered, with a bosom like two bee stings.
I know the gas light helped, it was foggy and, well,
the top hat was a touch too big.
It kept falling down over my eyes.
But I was a man.
I went out every night after that, started going to pubs,
ordering beer, sitting at the bar, smoking.
Plagued by no-one.
The odd nod from the other gents, but I liked it.
I started to feel, well, not happy, but free.
Free of my misery.
And the queer thing is, I started to resent my maid's garments.
I began to feel silly in my skirts,
as if my pinny were a costume and not my tux!
Then the ladies started coming in, just one or two,
only at weekends and always with their husbands.
It wasn't difficult to spot the unhappy ones.
They'd sit sipping their gins silently.
Eyes cast down, fidgeting while their men jawed on.
I started to catch the attention of the odd lady.
bow my head at them, and they would blush.
One or two of the braver ones started to manufacture conversation
when I passed, discreetly.
The weather, the horses,
things they thought a gentleman might like to discuss.
Then one night, a lady called Alice,
40, plump, sad-eyed,
somewhat in her cups, grabbed my arm and asked to meet me out back.
I was stumped, but waited a few minutes and followed her out.
She was waiting in the shadows and she grabbed me and started babbling
about how she felt a curious, morbid attraction to me
and needed to kiss me, just once!
I pressed my lips on hers and she groaned.
One thing led to another and before long,
I was sliding my hand up her skirts every Friday night.
Word got round about the Doctor of Southwark.
They said I could cure hysteria by inducing paroxysms.
I would tip-toe in, and one by one, I'd give them the nod
and we'd go out back and I'd shuffle them off.
I did six in one night one busy Saturday.
I got cramp.
Yes, I've read The Well Of Loneliness.
"That night they were not divided."
Well, she should have got out more.
I never let them touch me.
Even though I had started to pack myself with an old sock.
Just the one.
I'm not a crower.
"You're nice," they'd say.
"The perfect gentleman."
Then Sally came.
She breezed in with a couple of other girls, egging each other on,
fresh from the meadows and longing to be led astray.
She caught my eye and held it.
I fell instantly in love.
She was 18 and never been kissed, but she was bold,
hungry for her life to start and, I found, so was I.
I walked her home three miles, floated back to Southwark,
saw her every Saturday.
She was working at Boots in Piccadilly,
and on my day off, I'd go in to make her blush.
I'd ask her loudly for, "A little something for the weekend."
The other girls would laugh at me, say,
"Here he is, Burlington Bertie!"
If only they knew I was more Vesta Tilley
than they could ever imagine.
"I walked down the Strand with me gloves on me hands
"and I walked down again with them off."
Did they know?
Could they see?
Or didn't seem to.
Or didn't want to.
Until last night.
I am such a fool.
Such an utter idiot!
I don't know why I thought it would ever work.
We'd been intimate for some weeks, three, four.
But she wasn't like the others.
She wanted more.
A lot more.
She said she loved me and wanted us to go steady.
I was so deliriously happy...
..I asked her to marry me.
And she said yes, straightaway. She didn't even want to wait.
"I want to marry you now, Bobby Page, right now!
"I want to wash your socks and have 12 babies and make you
"steak pudding and kiss you every night," she'd say.
Smothering me with her mouth, trying to pull on my flies.
I managed to push her away, but she only fought harder, laughing.
Saying, why was I so shy?
And surely a handsome chap like me had had scores of girls.
She became more and more insistent.
She started borrowing filthy books from a dirty girl at work.
I'd never heard the like.
"I've got standing room for one," she'd whisper.
Or, "I need my chimney swept good and proper."
Well, it was me blushing then, but...
..it did things to me.
I started to get nervous that she would leave me.
I tried to break it off, but I couldn't.
I loved her.
So I did something...
Such sheer folly.
And that's why I'm in this pickle.
You see, the big house has a lot of candles,
and yesterday I was replacing the old ones in the dining room -
she likes fresh every night.
And it got me to thinking, what a waste!
Don't laugh, but I whittled one down at the end.
I've never seen a real one - had to avoid the urinals
for obvious reasons,
but I've seen dirty puzzles, filthy books, so I had a good idea.
I stuck it in my underwear.
It kept slipping out.
It was quite a queer gait I had walking down the street, but...
..I liked it.
I went to pick her up from work, waited round the back.
As soon as she saw me, she grabbed me and kissed me,
pushed me up against the bins,
fumbled for my privates and I let her.
And she smiled, reached to my flies and let out a gasp.
And then she pulled up her skirts and said, "Stick it in me!"
Just like that!
Well, it was dark.
"Why not?" thought I.
So we did it.
And after, she said,
"Thank you," and looked so pleased, I could have died happy.
Her clinging on to me,
her hot breath on the back of my neck as she calmed herself.
And then it fell out.
Slipped out of my hand.
For a moment, I think she thought she'd broken it,
..she saw what it was, and her face, it...
..folded in on itself.
And she gathered up her skirts and ran.
I mean, how could she not have known?
Surely, a candle is just...
..the wrong kind of stiff.
I don't think I can do this any more.
And then this morning...
"Who are you? What are you?"
She said to meet here.
"I'm Bert, perhaps you've heard of me.
"Bert, you've heard word of me.
"Jogging along, hearty and strong,
"living on plates of fresh air.
"I dress up in fashion and when I'm feeling depressed...
"..I shave from my cuff all my whiskers and fluff.
"Stick my hat on...
"and toddle up west."
Bobby is a swaggering man about town. But Bobby has a secret. Can it survive when it really matters?