One good thing about having a holiday be it well deserved or not, is that you’re incognito – no one’s wife, husband or parent. You could do whatever you want without fear of what the Jonesses would say; As long as you let your hair down within reasonable bounds. So, when recently I set out for a Friday night out in London with Iris and Maggie, my friends from way back when the idea was to visit some of the fun spots that were once a must do ever weekend in our younger years. The problem is we’ve all been married and divorce and Iris and Maggie are grandmothers! “Don’t even mention that word to me”, Maggie hissed. Her first daughter got hitched at 19 and now has three children from two `partners’. Aggie, who now runs her own pub suggested Iris and I meet up with her at the pub for the evenings’ `appertiff’.
Her current par6tner, with whom she runs the pub, is younger than her by almost 10 years and his eyes married as we sauntered in, dressed to the nines. We ignored him as Maggie slipped us miniature bottles of Asti and glasses topped with ice. When she emerged minutes later, her partner looked at her disapprovingly but she gave him a kiss and warned him not to wait up for her. In fairness to the poor chap, we three looked like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, in our efforts to look young! We’d earlier agreed to do some naughty window shopping and giggling, we found ourselves in the King’s Road branch of Ann Summers – the sex toy shop. It was difficult to keep a straight face at the garish merchandise in front of us – a lot of improvement from when I fish visited one of the outlet a few years back. There was an eye boggling display of coloured vibrations =and names such as the Jelly Green giant, Purple Pulser and Black Prince (nice to know manufacturers now have their coloured customers in mind.
Shortly after we came in, a whiff of expensive perfume hit the store. I turned round to see this woman standing behind us. She was about our age, well groomed but conservatively dressed. She seemed a bit at odds with the colourful displays she looked fascinated at. I was curious – what on earth was a woman like her doing in a place like this? But then, I quickly reminded myself – what were we doing in a place like this? She reminded me of the first time a date mischievously shoved me into a porn house in a sleazy Soho side street. Both a bit sloshed, I recalled dimmed lightings, crudely displayed gadgets and musty smell of dirty and leering attendants. The shop we were now couldn’t have been more different, yet we all felt a bit self-conscious – especially our dear Lady Jane.
Ignoring us, the assistant clearly used to putting women at ease, showed the nervous woman through to the back room )entry is forbidden to the under 18s) passing her a black bag into which she’d put her purchases. We were right behind the pair! Here were even more varieties of what are now known as sex toys – including Jiggle Balls! The idea really is to make women more adventurous, and less concerned with ‘juggling’ (work, children, home) and more adept at ‘juggling’. Hopefully, more relationships could benefit from a little role-playing in order to find out who could be the more dominant in relationships.
As the assistant showed the now interested lady around, she mistook one of the shops best-selling items – freshwater pearl thong with matching nipple tassels – for a choker and matching earrings. As I suppressed a giggle, I couldn’t blame her – the prices of the items were eye-popping. As she paid for her ‘finds’ with her credit card, she muttered to the lady behind the till that she came in by mistake because “‘it was just next door to Marks”. In fairness to her, a lot of the merchandise underwear, at least – was not that much adventurous than Marks ranges, but as the cheeky lady behind the till told her: “I don’t think Marks do split crotch panties yet, love”! As we left the shop, the ‘girls’ told me of rival and better shops than good old Ann Summers, shops like Myla which they said were much more sophisticated and female friendly. There is also Shi, where men are only allowed in if they’re accompanied by a woman and Coco de Mer where I was assured their endearingly bohemian atmosphere encourages women to ask daring questions, chat and occasionally laugh out loud, if they so wish! The more they talked about all these liberating ‘helpers’, the more one of our watering-holes in the good old days came to mind. Doggie’s Hideaway in Archway for a start. Tucked in the basement of a wine-bar, it didn’t come to its own until around mid-night with a live band and a strip-tease to complete the entertainment.
“Whatever happened to Doggies?”, I asked. Both my friends shrugged as Irish pointed out, `even if the place still exists, punters are bound to be much younger love, but there’s no harm in checking the place out.” I was all for it. You know how it is believed that criminals who never get caught like to visit the scenes of their crimes again and again? But it was still early days yet, so we went into a wine bar to have a pub dinner and more booze. Both my friends are Irish and it was good to know they hadn’t outgrown their zest for booze. By he time we left the bar, we were merrily sloshed and hurried off to Doggie’s. We did a double take when we approached the venue, the place looked really run=down and there wasn’t anything like entertainment going on. Instead, a few men who looked more like yobs gave us curious looks. “There used to be a wine bar here”, Maggie asked an obviously `high’ youth. It was called Doggie’s hide-away”. “I have no idea”, he drawled, eye glazed The owner of a kebab shop, which now occupied good old Doggie’s, told us that the place packed up years ago.
We were hit by nostalgia, as we recalled all the mischievously lovely time we had a Doggie’s on Friday nights. This was often followed up with lazy afternoons at Dingwall’s in Camden Town on Sundays. It was an abandoned ship cleverly converted into a fun-fair with all manner of activities going on until early evenings. Sadly, that too had given away to God knows what. We finally ended up in China Town for a Chinese meal and that put paid to the evening. I was sure Maggie’s partner would be relieved to have her back quite early.
A few days later, I was window shopping when an excited male voice called my name. It was Naidu, an old classmate at college. Gosh, did I look as old as he now did? He had a good suit on and was obviously pleased to see me. “Do you have time for a quick drink?. He asked, “gives us time to catch up”. Well, why not> Now that pubs could open 24 hours, there wouldn’t be a shortage of where to find a quick afternoon drink. To my surprise, Naidu steered me across the busy street into Mac Donald’s! It was then I remembered he was a Muslim . “Now, what would you love to drink? Coffee, tea or milk shake””, he asked expectantly.
Surprisingly a groan, I settled for tea and an apple pie as |I tried to look interested as he rattled on about good old college days. He now ran his dad’s firm in India, he told me and was only in Britain to close some deals. Wasn’t it a stroke of good luck how we ran into each other? Yeah, right. I vowed there and then to give a wide berth to the so-called good old days. Encounters like I just had always make me hanker after the busy Lagos social life whenever I’d been away a few weeks.