Involuntary memory

You know how Proust goes on and on about recollections of the past that are triggered by simple things in your everyday life, like a taste or a smell? Or maybe knickers?

Edinburgh escort's knickers
Exhibit A

I recently got myself a pair of red silk French knickers – exhibit A. In case you wonder what they look like in real life, think boxer shorts but red, silk, sexy and evocative of the words “drawers” and “Edwardian”. I didn’t go out of my way to find them, I just came across them online one night and thought ‘may as well. Together with that black lace thong’. They arrived, I put them on, looked in the mirror, and the memory took me back a decade or so.

I was 22 – the “poor student” years I mentioned a few times here. I made friends with Allie, a beautiful blond girl of my age and one-of-a-kind personality. Allie worked as a stripper. She shared a small flat in Pimlico with 2 of her colleagues.

One Saturday afternoon we wanted to go to a gallery together, and she said I could come to pick her up. I found the door and rang the bell. For a while, nothing happened, and then the lock clicked, a sleepy-looking girl appeared and welcomed me in. She was tall, slim and busty, with masses of long fair hair, slightly tangled from sleep. She was wearing blue silk French knickers and fake eyelashes. Some glitter was smudged over her shoulder.

‘Are you for Allie? She’s in the bathroom,’ she said, rubbing her eyes. The fake eyelashes didn’t mind in the least. ‘Want to come in?’

Unsure of what I may see if I venture further from the door, I declined. The sight in front of me was enough.

‘I’ll wait with you then, I need to pee,’ said the girl and leaned on a wall. She rubbed her eyes again, looked at her hands, saw the nail polish on one of her nails was chipped, and started picking on it.

‘Allie! Out!’ she hollered 2 minutes later without warning. I jumped, and someone deep inside the flat snored in disgruntlement. There was no sign of Allie, so the girl started chatting to me. I don’t remember what about. I remember looking at her lips as a way to avoid looking at her breasts.

I had never seen other women’s breasts before. I mean I had, like in a gym change room or on TV, but those breasts were never so real, close and, well, available to look at. I was fascinated. Thinking of it now, this was probably the moment my attraction to women found itself deep inside my ovaries. I’d only just discovered sex, as you know, didn’t know much about it and, frankly, didn’t realise it was possible to have it with people of other than opposite sex. No, I wasn’t naive, just disinterested in sexual matters and thus mostly uninformed.

At the time, I thought it was her lifestyle: you know, sleeping till midday, being beautiful and wearing silk bloomers. But now I know the lifestyle wasn’t the real attraction factor. I have it now – I’ve got the underwear to show for it! – and I’m nowhere near less attracted to the girl as I remember her. It was her utter naturalness, and femininity, and those breasts. And, of course, the ease/ mental disorder with which she opened doors to strangers without bothering to cover up.

And yes, starting with Proust gives me a touch of chic, but the truth is, as a teenager, I opened Swann’s Way, read greedily a few pages, said ‘oh what bollocks!’ and never went back to it. Maybe the translation wasn’t too good. But at the time I couldn’t read the original. Still can’t. Not Proust. I don’t know the French for “bollocks”.

Tales of Stupidity: WOMEN

I’ve a collection of special stories – Tales of Stupidity. All the stuff that my civilian friends do under the impression that they improve or create a relationship. I’ve done some idiotic things too, but unfortunately not too many as my work soon provided me with enough experience to avoid silly mistakes. Some of these stories are sad, like a married woman getting pregnant after a one night stand with a sportsperson she had been a big fan of. He took off the condom without telling her. And some stories are silly. So I thought I’d share some of them just for the fun of it. I’ll also tell you about stupid things men do, but ladies first.

I have this friend (let’s call her Friend) who has recently started dating online. She’s a lovely woman in her late thirties, with a mature mind and a responsible attitude. She is happily divorced and works for a major bank (so no bimbo). She registered with a paid dating site: she reasoned that men who pay for membership will be serious in their intentions. So she came across a male member there (let’s call him X) whom she liked, and it appeared to be mutual. Besides, he worked in the bank across the road, so after a few e-mails and a couple of phone conversations they finally met for a dinner. This is what she tells me:

Friend: He picked me up after work and took me to a little restaurant nearby. We spent 3 hours there, just talking! Why do they say online dating doesn’t work? I had so much fun!

Jewel: (yawning) Aha.

Friend: He’s never been married, but he had 2 relationships, both lasted about 10 years; now that he’s 40, he’s ready to find someone to spend the rest of his life with. I told him I was planning to move outside London because it’s better for children to grow up and he thinks it’s a great idea! He even suggested XYZ area because he already has some family living there! [15 minute long monologue about all the ideas and values that X seems to share with her.]

Jewel nods (off) silently.

Friend: So we shared the dessert and he asked if we could go to mine! Can you imagine!

Jewel: (putting the book away) I know! The cheek!

Friend: But you know I couldn’t take him to mine (luckily for her, she really couldn’t that week) and we couldn’t go to his because I wasn’t really ready to meet his parents yet, besides it was too late in the day for it.

Jewel: He told you he lived with his parents???

Friend: Yes, and because there was nowhere to go, we had sex in his car.

Jewel silently picks up her mandible from her lap – the unlikely bodypart meeting facilitated by the word “car”.

Friend: And it’s been 2 days now and he still hasn’t called!

Jewel: Well, if I were him, I wouldn’t call you either.

Friend: Why do you say this? (pause) You think I acted like a prostitute?

Edinburgh escortsShe could have used so many other words. But she chose “prostitute”. And I haven’t met a single prostitute who’d have sex with a man in a car for a promise to bring up children together in XYZ area. So I reassured her that at this rate she will never come even close to a prostitute, and pointed out that a 40-year-old banker who still lives with his parents is either not worth meeting, or is lying to conceal a wife and kids in XYZ area.

For me the real issue here is neither the parents nor the lie. I’ve had sex with 50-year-olds who spend all their holidays at their parents’, and I’ve had (bags of) sex with married men. They showed more respect for me, a prostitute, than X ever had for Friend. None of them even dreamt of suggesting their car. If they couldn’t invite me to theirs, they either rented a hotel room, or paid me to do so. And it’s not even the car sex. I won’t be seen dead having sex in a car, but it doesn’t mean I judge others for doing it. I don’t care where you do it and with whom, as long as you enjoy it, use a condom and make sure your morning-after expectations match the occasion.

To be fair, he e-mailed her eventually to say “sorry, but I’m sure you noticed there was no spark”.

My restaurant business

It’s odd but this part of London I have not visited before. From the cab window I can see little boats and large willow trees, bridges above the canal and ducks in the water; everything in Little Venice looks cute and laziness-inducing even in the hail – up until the moment I suddenly think “And how is this different from the Water of Leith?”

I’ve lived in Edinburgh long enough to be unable to enjoy London again.

By the time I check in and unpack, the raging torrent outside turns into an ordinary rain and then disappears altogether; the sky is bright and clear blue and my mood is better. I put on my new grey jumper and set off to explore.

I walk down the path along the water for quite a while before I suddenly realise I’m in Paddington. By now it’s well past 6 so I pick a restaurant for an early dinner.

In front of me, a couple of empty tables away, a man is sitting on his own, nose in a newspaper, picking at something on a plate with his fork now and again. He raises his eyes from his paper and instead of looking at his fork he looks at me. I acknowledge his gaze. Half a salad later I catch his eyes on me again. I look back. He smiles. Must be the new jumper. I smile back. With pleasure.

He looks like someone who would work in Central London and live in Watford with a wife, 2 kids and a dog. Only he’s clearly just finished work and instead of rushing home for dinner he’s idly reading a newspaper in a restaurant and making eyes at a strange woman. Either not married or something is rotten in the state of Watford. His plate is long empty and he’s still there, looking at his newspaper.

He stands up eventually, picks up his raincoat and briefcase, and waves good-bye to me. I wave back. He leaves.

What an English way to go. Sometimes I wonder how this nation still reproduces. You see a woman, you show your interest, the woman reciprocates – what do you do? You leave! Why not come up to the woman and tell her that her smile made your dinner and that you’d like to buy her a hot chocolate*. Or at least pay for her salad. Ah, romance is dead…

Independent Edinburgh escortsBack in Edinburgh, a few days later, I’m having lunch at my favourite restaurant. The waiter, who had previously endeared himself so much by totally looking at my bum, brings me a hot chocolate. In the centre of the thick cinnamon-sprinkled froth I can see a little, uneven heart-shaped opening. Clearly custom-made, not a result of a mould or some froth-arranging device. An analogue of waving at me? Or just re-creation of something memorable?

* I sometimes have a feeling men don’t understand the concept of offering a drink to a woman. By buying her a drink you buy her time. If she accepts your offer, she agrees to give you her attention for as long as the drink lasts. This drink should be enough for both of you to decide if another drink is a good idea or if you’d like to move on. See, nothing scary! Yes, you two enter into a sort of social contract but it’s not a commitment to spend the rest of your lives together. Not even an obligation to exchange phone numbers. Just an opportunity to get to know each other a little to decide if it’s worth it.

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As you no doubt have noticed, I’ve been very quiet lately. August is a mad time anyway, plus I’ve been working on a personal problem so I didn’t have that much time left. I am sorry about any disappointment caused and I will try to resume the semblance of regularity on this blog. To make up for my online absence, I looked at some of the old drafts and here‘s a new old entry for your amusement.

J or The Fortunes of Vice

In some inexplicable way our demonstration on Friday reminded me of her. She had the name of one of the infamous sisters from Marquis de Sade’s writings. I’ll call her J. Edinburgh escorts

I met J in the early summer of 200X. I had just joined a little agency run by an old gentleman. That evening I was sent to Savoy. I was told there would be 2 clients and one other lady. A man opened the door of a little suite and I joined the company in the sitting room.

My client went to sit down on a sofa, I sat next to him. The other man was sitting on a chair opposite us and she was on another chair, three quarters to him, I couldn’t see her face. She was wearing a plain black shift dress and low-heeled square-toed black shoes. Her hair was dark, very short and curly – the hair that I would have if I ever allowed myself to have it cut above my shoulders. She turned to me and stretched her hand.

‘I’m J,’ she said, and smiled.

‘I’m J,’ I replied and touched her hand.

I showed off my new shoes; I bought them the day before, they were made of fabric that was identical in colour and pattern to the bright summer dress I was wearing. My client, the host, served drinks, there were snacks, the men were talkative and funny and soon the conversation was flowing. J spoke little and always very softly; to hear her, everyone had to go silent. I thought it was a great trick.

After a while, the clients went to another room for a quick chat and we were left alone. J turned to me. Her eyes were blue. This is the closest I’ve ever been to falling in love. I looked at her.

‘I love your hair,’ I said and my throat went dry.

‘I love your shoes,’ she replied. And smiled.

The men came back and she left with her client. I ended up staying with mine for the whole night and didn’t get to see J for almost 2 weeks.

Next time it was a little hotel in Park Lane. I had met that client before, when he went on and on about how he would like to see me with a woman. This time I expected to hear it again because this talk seemed to be his favourite fantasy, but it turned out he decided to put his money where his mouth was (erm, yes, both puns). I walked into the room and J was sitting there on the bed, in her black shift dress and square-toed shoes. A couple of months later the old man who ran the agency would tell me that J asked him for that. Her lips and skin were soft and cool. She did everything slowly and quietly, concentrating fully on what she was doing.

She was kneeling between my legs as I stretched out on the bed. With her finger she traced the outline of my thigh. Then she squeezed it.

‘This is amazing. You’re thin and at the same time so fleshy. So succulent.’

Charles, the client, first got bored, then jealous. Men with this fantasy sometime don’t realise that watching 2 women together means you’re left on your own. He asked J to leave and I stayed for another half an hour. When I walked out of the hotel, J was waiting outside in a cab. I came up and opened the cab door.

J shared a squat in Baker Street with half a dozen other people. When she wasn’t working, she was up all night smoking hash and drawing horoscope charts for political events or daydreaming of the Vestals dancing around the sacred fire. Hedonism wasn’t her hobby, it was her way of living. She liked that I was so determined, she said I added structure to her life. She brought chaos into mine. Her company was a pleasure but I could never know when I would have it again. Eventually I left the agency and soon after that I moved to Newcastle. J was unwilling to keep in touch. Or incapable of it.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I came across her photos on a website of a little parlour in south west London. The rota said she was there every Saturday. A year later her photos were removed.

Last summer, walking along Princes Street, Violet and I passed a girl dressed up as air hostess giving out leaflets. She was about my height, slim, with blue eyes and fair skin. I came up and asked for a leaflet.

‘What do you need it for?’ asked Violet when I caught up with her.

‘I don’t need it. The girl was pretty.’

Violet laughed.

My clients

Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. It’s my clients who make me a prostitute and they do a brilliant job. Again and again. They even write poems about it.

Ever since Rhoda Grant published the results of her consultation (and for some time before that) I kept wondering what was going to happen. Quite naturally, my feelings ranged from “We’re all gonna die!” to “Nah, this ain’t gonna happen” depending on the day of the week. At the end of June, a few days before the bloody Bill failed, I went through my accounts for the first half of 2013. Ms Grant kept stressing that prostitution can’t go further underground, that if clients can find us then so can the police. So I made a list of everyone I saw in the half a year and did some simple mathematics. I admit that it’s not a representative half a year as I was off for 5 weeks with a kidney infection and then took time to get back to work*, but I wasn’t bored enough to go through 2012 accounts to verify my 2013 findings. The short of it is that out of all my dates in these 6 months only 28.5% were with new people. Others were repeat clients. Don’t know about you, I arrived at 3 conclusions:

  1. I seem to be good at my job
  2. I seem to be bad at marketing
  3. If forced, I could take down my website so the police can’t find me, and live off regular clients. Neither ideal nor impossible but does smell of underground.

And then, having made the list, I thought I could look into other things. The new clients. 50% of them I met while in Brighton, Cambridge and London (i.e. wouldn’t have met if hadn’t travelled. Definitely need to put more energy into marketing) and 25% of them all I have already seen again within this half year.

And out of curiosity I also had a look at my clients’ jobs. To be fair, I don’t always know what new clients do, and sometimes with clients I know well I only have a vague idea (e. g. something boring in marine policy making that neither me nor him want to talk about), but I know where the vast majority of my benefactors get the money to pay me, and the two general groups that came up first were

  1. IT dudes**
  2. Academic professionals

I have to face the fact that I mostly attract geeks and nerds. And geriatrics. The group that came up third was “pensioners”. Or I can choose to believe that I tend to attract mature and intelligent men whose unique preferences (and tastes in women) set them apart from the majority.

And finally here are the results of the Limerick Competition:

And in case you’re wondering, the people who took part are:

  • 3 IT dudes
  • 1 academic
  • 1 pensioner
  • 1 sweet man I’ve never met so don’t know what job he has if any.

And the winner is Leonard with

A woman of fixed virtue price

she’ll bind up your heart in a trice

from the top of her head

to the foot… of her bed?

Fuck virtue, let’s celebrate vice!

I’ve been doing exactly that. Right after him we have Walter with

There is this fine lady named Jewel

Whose stubbornness matches a mule.

If you call her a whore 

You won’t get past her door

(AND you’ll have to face ME in a duel).

Leonard gets a free dinner with me as promised. Walter gets a kiss for his knightly inclinations and, quite possibly, something else on top of the kiss to encourage the right type of behaviour and further literary endeavours. And on the subject: am I really that stubborn? I mean, people dedicate poems to my stubbornness! And so many people voted for it! In fact, some people in SCOT-PEP voted for this limerick exactly because of this line. And there was I thinking they’ll go for the one about the parliament… Here’s George’s (SCOT-PEP co-chair) take on things:

Done and chosen my two

Although there were quite a few

That were very clever.

I thought “Well I never!”

Jewel’s so popular. Who knew?

Indeed.

Many thanks again to everyone who contributed to the competition and also to those who took the time to vote. The new poll is here, please vote if you feel that it’s relevant to you in any way.

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* I have a limerick for that

There is a Jewel in Auld Reekie

Who’s lately been feeling quite peaky

And men everywhere 

Wept with despair

‘Cos they couldn’t meet her for a quickie

 

** I’ve a limerick for that, too!

I’m a man who can’t wire plugs, 

I’m a programmer with software bugs.

I cry in the night,

But everything’s right

When Jewel arrives and gives me hugs.

A man, a woman and a suitcase

My cab stopped in the hotel’s driveway and a porter ran up to open the door. He grabbed my suitcase by the handle, pulled it and lifted his eyes at me.

‘Yes, I know. Sorry.’

He tried harder, managed to pull it out of the cab and then heave it up the steps to the front door. There I took over. On days like this you want to shake the hand of the bloke who invented the wheel. And also that of the genius who suggested to attach it to a suitcase.

The Nutter meets me inside. We kiss and he takes the handle of my suitcase as we make for the lifts. And stops.

‘Exactly how many thongs have you packed?’

‘Six. No, wait, I’m wearing one, so it’s only five inside.’

His eyebrow is still raised as he pulls my suitcase into his hotel room and positions it on the floor. I open it straightaway: I can tell he can’t wait to see my thongs. What he sees is rows and rows of carefully packed books*.

‘Well that explains some things but raises another question. I didn’t realise you’d been to the Army.’

‘I hadn’t. It was the Navy.’

He looks at me.

‘Oh alright! It was prison!’

Now he smiles.

‘I’ve a CDO,’ I confess.

‘Ah. That explains pretty much everything.’

We need to be in the National Theatre for 7.30 so I rush to the bathroom. Out of the shower, I put on some make up, arrange my hair, get dressed and we’re out. All in all, it took me about 40 minutes to get ready. As the cab drives off, the Nutter turns to me.

‘All this time I looked at you getting ready and thought “Why won’t she just get a move on!” Why do women go through all these needless things when they get ready?’

‘Exactly what would you rather I skipped? The shower? The make up? Getting dressed? Brushing my hair? Kissing you between all of these?’

‘Well, when you put it this way, I’m not sure.’

We get to the theatre just on time. It’s The Captain of Kopenick with Anthony Sher. I think both of us enjoy it, even if for different reasons. The Nutter holds my hand throughout the show and lifts it to his lips now and again.

It’s a dry frosty night as we leave the theatre. The cloudless sky is full of stars. We walk across Waterloo Bridge, stop for a late dinner at a small restaurant and get back to the hotel.

In the morning, the Nutter stays in bed and watches me rushing around the room packing. His present of the date is, ironically, a book. A large and heavy book. The first edition of The Making of Classical Edinburgh. He knows how to please me but not my suitcase. Eventually we agree that I’ll leave a few books with him and he’ll pass them to me the next time I see him. I quite enjoy loading him with a Mosby’s Dictionary and a couple of textbooks on anatomy and pathology of a similar size. Now there’s enough room for his present and I don’t even need to jump on my suitcase.

He looks very comfortable and relaxed in bed, even though his eyes keenly follow my erratic movements around the room. I’m packed and getting dressed when suddenly he asks if he can see me off to the station. Why ever not? As the bathroom door closes behind him, I shout ‘And get a move on, will you! My train’s in 40 minutes!’

This is the first time I see him out of the shower. Independent Edinburgh escortsWhat a transformation! His wet hair brushed back looks much darker than ordinarily and gives him a sudden sharp look; his features so clearly defined, he resembles young Clint Eastwood with the square jaw, prominent cheek bones and piercing blue eyes on a face that now appears much thinner. But his long white fluffy hair dries within minutes and soon Clint is gone, replaced by the soft face with a timid smile that I know so well.

The Nutter pulls my suitcase out of the front door and the porter runs up to him.

‘Let me help you, sir.’

‘No, thank you, I’ll cope.’

‘But this is what I’m here for, sir!’

The Nutter looks at him and smiles a little.

‘Oh no, young man, this is what I am here for. Why don’t you get us a cab.’

Unusually for Kings Cross, the gates for platforms are open and the Nutter takes me all the way to my carriage. He shoves my suitcase under the baggage rack and kisses me good-bye. My thoughts still revolve around saloons and cowboys when I arrive in Edinburgh.

* I don’t usually travel with a suitcase full of books. This case is too surreal to try to provide a believable explanation.

February in London, Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

The following morning the Nutter comes to pick me up from my hotel. The weather is slightly better and we walk to the Royal Academy of Arts to visit the Manet exhibition. We queue outside in the snow for something like an hour: the Academy is very English and very Royal in this respect. The exhibition is a joy.

I’ll be honest, I’m not big on art. My favourite movement is Pre-Raphaelites, that should tell you enough. But I am captivated by portraits and figure painting. Now, before you accuse me of neglecting the beauty of nature in art – you’re right. It’s true, landscapes bore me out of my skull. Seascapes – not so much, but close. Still life, on the other hand, is fascinating as long as it’s a flower painting. Anything other than a bouquet in that composition and as far as I’m concerned, I’m looking at a landscape again. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a whole room dedicated to flower paintings. If there is anything the Dutch are good at…

Anyway, figure painting. I’m not a connoisseur, I don’t care much for brush strokes and techniques. I enjoy the story the painter tells me. Figure painting is like blogging. When I blog about a client, I tell you how I see him. I’ve never seen him at work, or with his children, or at a funeral, so my blog entry is not a well-rounded and truthful depiction of a man, it’s a description of my experience of him. I can bet all you want that his wife would tell a very different story. Similarly, looking at a portrait we see the person the painter saw. We can only guess about the actual poser. The painting tells us more about its author than about its object. Olympia, the notoriously controversial painting of a prostitute. It’s not like she’s the first hooker to ever be painted, far from it. But very few of the thousands of sex workers painted before her looked so unrepentant, unashamed and unabashed. She wasn’t caught unawares when dressing or spied on when bathing. No, her accessories show that she’s naked by choice and she’s very comfortable with it. Moreover, she looks dominant. She knows what she’s doing. I guess that’s the real controversy. What do we know about her now? Nothing but her job. The way she looks here is the way every other sex worker would look when naked (I am now really curious to see Dana’s photos of me). Does it tell us anything about Manet? He is evidently very comfortable with female sexuality. He doesn’t want to own it, he celebrates it.

Independent Edinburgh escorts

Fair enough, the woman in the painting is a model, but any real life sex worker could be painted very differently in the context of her job by another painter. Of course, not all painters are good story-tellers and not all portraits are there to be heard. That’s why the exhibition was a beautiful learning experience. And I was taken by his signature: “Ed. Manet” on most paintings. It was hard not to poke the Nutter in the ribs with my elbow and say loudly, pointing my finger: “Look! Another good one by Eddie!”

Out of the Academy, we walk a little around Piccadilly and then he takes me to a little restaurant in Jermyn Street for lunch. The lunch conversation is an eye-opener: we go through our “history” of 5 dates. First time he came across my website, he thought “She’s bloody arrogant!” First time he came to see me, he assumed I was older than the website said. And I have to say that the first time I saw him he looked and acted much older than the Nutter I know now. So maybe it’s all in the eyes of the painter. Has he changed since? He says he has. He is now more sensitive and considerate to others’ needs. I don’t know about that. I notice his increased confidence around me (and his new talents in bed) and his attention to his clothes. Unlike the first time, he’s now a tasteful dresser, understatedly elegant. If I were to paint him, you’d see a very sexy 60 year old man.

Time flies when you’re happy and it’s 2.45 before I know it. I have to leave the Nutter at the table and rush to Praed Street clinic for my appointment at 3. This is the first time I am at the clinic dressed for going out (shirt+skirt), not for blending in with the other clinic attendees (jeans+T-shirt) and suddenly I am treated differently. Even my reply to the same old question of “how many clients a week do you see?” (why do they have to ask every time I’m there? To check if I’m lying?) doesn’t inspire a raised eyebrow.

Thankfully, the Nutter leaves for his hometown from Paddington, 5 minute run from the clinic, and I make it there just 10 minutes before his train leaves. We walk to the gates, stop to say good bye and I reach to kiss him. As our lips touch, he drops his suitcase. He bends down to pick it up, mumbling something along the lines of “clumsy old fool” and I give my usual line of “I tend to have this effect on men”. But I can only wish. This is the first time a man drops something other than his trousers when I kiss him.

February in London, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

The Old Nutter opens the door and I sneak in with Dana in tow. He plants a kiss on my cheek and steps back a little, opening his arms:

‘I made an effort this time,’ he smiles.

I laugh. It’s a reference to our second date and I’m pleased he remembers what I taught him. And, just as that time, he looks very presentable indeed. I do have a thing for a well-dressed man.

I introduce him to Dana and disappear in the bathroom for a few minutes while they are chatting. I told him what taking part in the project involves (nothing except being photographed. In a way that doesn’t show his face) and he agreed, but I still expected him to be apprehensive. He wasn’t. He looked as relaxed as I’ve ever seen him in my presence.

I return to the room to find him talking to Dana pleasantly, something about the political situation in Romania. It’s unclear if the Nutter is gone all professional because of anxiety or because the concept of small talk is beyond him. Either way, if it’s not about me then I’m not interested, so I tell them we are ready to start and Dana moves to the corner of the room where she found a good spot to take pictures from. She sits down on a chair by the window, opposite a mirror on the wall. I sit down on the bed next to the Nutter. Dana watches us in the mirror.

This is probably the hardest beginning to a date that I’ve ever had. With the camera winking at me, I find myself unable to do any of the things I usually would when meeting a client I’ve seen a couple of times before. Talking about the weather is just too silly but bringing up a personal subject is impossible because we’re not alone. I’ve always known I take responsive clients very close to heart but I never realised just how close. It feels like something between us will evaporate if shared with an outsider. So for a few minutes we just sit on the bed, him waiting for me to take the lead (as always) and me not knowing what to do (as never). But it can’t go on like this for hours so I ask him for a glass of water hoping to get a minute to collect myself.

As he gets up, I pinch his bum and, without turning to me, he tells me to stop objectifying him. I giggle. He pours me a glass of sparkling water, I quickly finish it and… pull off his pullover. The sooner I do what Dana expects to see, the sooner she’ll leave. This isn’t fair to her: she is looking for the authentic experience and she most certainly doesn’t want to be a burden, but I brought her all the way here and I don’t want to kick her out with nothing. It isn’t fair to the Nutter either: he is looking for the authentic me and he most certainly deserves neither empty conversation nor a hooker show. But he can wait a few minutes while I sit in his lap, kissing him and unbuttoning his shirt. I make sure I hear a few more camera clicks from Dana before I tell her that now would be a good time for her to go.

She quickly shows us the images on her camera so the Nutter can make sure his face isn’t there. One of them she points out as a particularly good one.

‘Mmm, I look good!’ I think, looking at it.

‘I didn’t realise I am that bald,’ says the Nutter with a sigh.

Dana leaves and at last I can be myself. We fool around a little and then I remove the rest of his clothes. Now it feels natural and effortless. With Dana watching a prostitute at work this same action was an act of prostitution. On our own, it’s just a man and a woman doing what men and women do. For me, the difference is almost palpable. For the camera – I don’t know. In her project Dana wanted to show women who happen to be sex workers. Maybe she got exactly what she wanted after all: on my own, getting ready, I happen to be a sex worker. With a client, I clearly am a woman. It’s rather sad that it took me years and help of another woman to find out how I really see my work.

Some time later we get dressed and go to a restaurant close by for a late dinner.

‘Did you really feel objectified when I pinched your bum?’ I ask as we walk and the wet snow gets into my boots.

‘Are you kidding? I’ve never been so flattered.’

The morning in the gallery will be in Part 3.

February in London, Part 1

February seems to have brought out the creme de la scum that was dormant throughout the winter. I had people calling to ask how much I charge, people showing up without bothering to ask how much I charge, and – the highlight! – a young man who, when I eventually pointed out that he still hadn’t given me the money, said that it was because I hadn’t yet undressed to show him what he was paying for. I took sadistic pleasure in showing the door to him free of charge.

But somehow all this was insignificant in view of my coming date with The Old Nutter. The Master Plan involved a dinner date on Sunday night and a gallery visit on Monday morning which is tantalising as it is, but the whole affair was spiced by the presence of another woman! And before you drool all over your keyboard – it’s not what you think! The woman wasn’t there to take part, she was there to take photos. Again, stop drooling, it’s not what you think.

You most probably forgot by now but this lady, Dana, was mentioned here before. Dana is a photographer who finished a project on victims of sex trafficking a few years ago (here is the project and you can listen to her interview explaining the stories behind the images and her work) which helped her see the difference between women who are forced and women who choose prostitution as work. So now she is working on a project about women who chose sex trade, our work and our selves.

We’ve been in touch all this time but somehow things just didn’t work to our advantage until now. The date with The Old Nutter was booked well in advance and Dana happened to be free on that day which was more than we’d had before but why not take it further? I texted The Old Nutter saying that I had a very indecent proposal and it would be great if he could call to discuss it. He duly did and, to my great surprise, he easily agreed to take part in the project. Just like that. I still can’t believe that.

Dana arrived 3 hours before the start of my date. The idea is to present the public with images of a woman who is cheerfully getting ready to sell herself. Don’t know about Dana, for me it was exciting.

Getting ready for a date is that part of my work that not all clients are aware of. Some men assume that we wake up all made up and dressed up, and spend the day playing with our mobiles in expectation of their call. Thankfully, my clients know better. But even those who get in touch days and weeks in advance still don’t know what getting ready to see them is about. There is this popular belief that the process of dressing up for a booking is this magical transformation from an ordinary woman into a working one. Now you’re yourself, and the next moment you put on your working clothes and suddenly you’re this embodiment of sexuality. Well, I don’t know. I can understand why some women would choose to feel this way. It probably helps to keep your work life separate from your private life through different sets of clothes and an established routine for a metamorphosis there and back again. Personally, I find this too complicated. Besides, I don’t feel to be a different person when I’m with a client. The clothes I wear for work are the same clothes I wear for myself. My wardrobe is limited even from a man’s point of view: just as with clients, I’d rather have a few quality pieces than a lot of stuff but nothing to wear. So getting ready for work is simply a very long and boring process of scrubbing up, at the end of which my eyelashes are slightly longer and my legs are slightly smoother than they would be otherwise.

This is why I was so excited to have Dana there. First time in my career I had someone to help me choose what shirt to wear with this skirt and what lingerie would look better under it. She took a few pictures of me in the shower, shaving my legs and scrubbing my back. Then in front of a mirror, with powder puffs and mascara. Then by the wardrobe, getting dressed. All this time we were chatting, her asking questions about my work and me explaining things and rolling eyes here and there.

– You look almost like an executive.

– What do you mean – “almost”?

– You need one of those briefcases.

– I see (slowly, mentally noting to self to buy one).

 

– I look at you and I can understand, but then I think of the women I see in the streets in Kings Cross and they look so different… and I wonder…

– If I were to stand in Kings Cross dressed like this, how much business do you think I would get?

– I see (slowly).

Eventually I am ready and we set off to The Old Nutter’s hotel. Continued in Part 2.

London

Euston, Thursday 28th June, midday

A text from H(ugh): “Jewel, Midnight Tango on at the Playhouse on Saturday 7.30. Will you be back from London in time?”

Does he need to ask? I walk to Kings Cross to change my train ticket so I could arrive to Edinburgh earlier than planned to be in time for the show.

Kings Cross, Friday 29th June, 7pm

I’m having dinner in a gay restaurant (it’s a largish restaurant, it’s literally across the road from 2 main railway stations, it’s Friday night and there’s me, 11 other customers altogether (all male) and 4 male staff. Gay is the only explanation). My phone rings.  It’s the client I’m seeing in Edinburgh on Sunday for lunch and lust making his introductory call.

– And by the way, Jewel, it’s tomorrow you’re travelling back, isn’t it? Have you heard of the train disruptions? I don’t know the details but because of the bad weather in Scotland some trains have been cancelled.

Well, it was bound to happen. There hasn’t been good weather in Scotland since last Christmas. Still, my dinner over, I go across the road to Kings Cross station. A very disinterested young lady in the information booth tells me she hasn’t heard of any disruptions of East Coast services. She looks like a highly unreliable source of information but the only one, so I walk back to my hotel in Euston.

Euston, Saturday 30th June, 6.08am

“This is so exciting!” – a text from J, the client who’s already on the train to Euston to see me at 7am before work. I open one eye, read the text, roll the eye and text back “You can say that again!” Drop the offending beeping device on the floor by my bed, bury my face in the pillow and give myself 10 more minutes.

Do you know how long an average healthy and youngish person needs to get a good night’s sleep? Just 10 more minutes.

Euston, Saturday 30th June, 7am

J is outside my hotel with a cup of hot chocolate for me. I’m running around my room in panic, still only partially dressed, shoe in one hand, mascara in another, trail of loose powder on the carpet behind me.

Euston, Saturday 30th June, 9am

I’m drinking the cold hot chocolate from the paper cup courtesy of J when an e-mail from Walter arrives: if, as my site says, I’m going back to Edinburgh this week-end, I’d better take a plane because of the severe disruptions to East Coast services. I’m not even seeing him this week-end, yet he bothered to check things out and e-mail me!

This is the second warning, and much as I hate browsing Internet on my mobile I do that, just to see that according to East Coast website very few London trains make it past Newcastle to Edinburgh, and those that do, run up to 90 minutes late. I’ve H(ugh) waiting for me with tickets outside the Playhouse at 7. I love tango. I love my clients. I love being paid. I hate being late for dates because of East Coast. Besides, H(ugh) always insists on giving me a lift home. Here’s his chance.

“Morning, H(ugh). East Coast trains being more unreliable than always, how do you feel about picking me up in Newcastle to give me a lift home?”

“Jewel, my dear, you are one of the few friends I would do this for! When are you due to arrive in Newcastle?”

Aww. I still have this text. I’d print it out and frame it if I could. Yep, I’m that sad. I e-mail Walter to thank him for the warning and to express my surprise at how much my clients seem to care. His reply arrives almost immediately: “you’re like L’Oreal – you’re worth it”. Another aww.

Euston, Saturday 30th June, 10.30am

I meet Dana Popa in the lobby of my hotel. Dana is a photographer working on a project which I hope to be part of. The aim of the project is to show women who happen to be sex-workers. I like the way it’s put. After all, I never think of myself as a sex-worker. This word may bless me with a certain lifestyle but it does not define me. First and foremost, I am a woman. I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend, and then a prostitute. Dana tells me about her project. I tell her about my clients (because that’s the thing on my mind), how unbearably sweet they are. Typical girlie chat.

Kings Cross, Saturday, 30th June, midday

I get on the train. Luckily, it takes me all the way to Edinburgh so H(ugh) doesn’t have to go to Newcastle to pick me up. He picks me up from Waverley though.