Setting Out My Stall


With over thirty years of misadventures on the Birmingham gay scene, I have tales to tell of the places, predicaments and people I have been in.

I have socialised and cruised in the bars, pubs, clubs, saunas and secluded midnight nooks that make up Birmingham’s compact gay village since my late teens. Here are my tales of queer encounters on the gay side of the UK’s much maligned second city.

I have experienced the tender, the terrible and the charmingly touching… but most importantly humour and humanity.

Shining a light on the scene unseen.

Tales from Down Under – Return to OZ

I once pulled a guy within hours of arriving on the other side of the planet, something of which I am immensely proud.

It was my first time back in Australia after twentysomething years. I had landed in Melbourne in the early hours but was unable to check into my city centre hostel. Although exhausted from the flight, I decided to wander down the Yarra River and reacquaint myself with the botanical gardens and prestigious arts centre, to prove to myself that I really was back down under.

I walked along the promenade and was blessed with a view of a university rowing team stripping down to their skivies in the warm morning glow. It was then exhaustion hit… and I NEEDED to sleep.

Trudging back to my accommodation, I got distracted by a fit guy working out in a park, shirtless and in very short shorts. The fact that I hadn’t slept for nearly two days wasn’t going to stop me from checking out a hot guy.

He caught me looking and… pulled up the hem of his shorts to grant me a view.

I may have been over two decades older… but I’d still got it.

The offer to return to Australia came late one night at the old Boltz Club in Birmingham.

I was sat in the venue’s charmless smoking area when I received a text enquiring about my availability to work on a future project. I carefully set down my beer on the bench, ensuring it was safely balanced (as Boltz’s outside area had an alarming slope which gave the feel of drinking on a stricken cross channel ferry) and sent a return message saying that I was indeed available.

Moments later I received a response saying they wanted to take me down under (It wasn’t the first time I’d heard something similar in Boltz).

I was quite inebriated, so showed the messages to a mate, “Does this say what I think it does? They are going to pay for me to go to Australia?!!”

The first thing I did in preparation for my return to OZ, before booking flights, looking for accommodation, applying for a new passport or arranging a visa (“Visa? You need a VISA?!!”, was me three weeks before departure), was to Google if guys still cruised in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens.

These Victorian landscaped gardens are located on the south-eastern edge of Melbourne’s Central Business District. One compact area of the park is a maze of intersecting paths and steps, twisting beneath exotic flora (well, exotic for me, but I suppose just common foliage to the locals), which offer plenty of cover for gay hook-ups. The paths are decked with sturdy benches and bathed in pools of warm orange light from ornate lampposts, positioned intermittently amongst the trees. This oasis has a magical quality… and looks suspiciously like it was purposely designed with cruising in mind (Who knew Victorian horticulturists were that progressive?).

I ended up enjoyed many an evening wandering those paths, encountering men from many of the 110 nationalities that make up this superb city’s diverse population (a fun-fact I learned from the pre-recorded tourist information guide that plays on a constant loop Melbourne’s free inner-city circle tramline).

Back in the 90s, I remember falling asleep on one of the park benches and being gently awoken in the early hours by a kindly gent offering me a room.

“You shouldn’t sleep here, it’s not safe,” he told me. “You can stay in my spare room. I won’t try anything on with you.”

I believed the offer was sincere, but declined, as my own lodgings were within staggering distance.

On my third evening back in Australia, I got chatting to a fascinating guy on Fitzroy’s gay beat. He was a smart academic, working in the arts, and engaged me at length about creative projects focusing on hidden aspects of gay culture, shining a light on the scene unseen. There were walking tours of gay cottages and haunts, plus a proposed project to create lover’s nests amongst the bushes, an idea I adored, as a celebration of outdoor pursuits.

I told him of my own fledging blog and he immediately plucked his phone from pocket to take a look.

“I’ll leave you to it,” I said, feeling self-conscious about being stood there as he scrolled through my tales, but before I left, I told him, “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you tonight. If we didn’t live on opposite sides of the world, I think we would be destined to become good friends.”

As I reached the top of a flight of stone steps, I paused to glance back and will never forget the sight of my night-time acquaintance perched on the back of a bench, illuminated in auburn lamplight, chuckling as he read my amateur ramblings.

I was sad that we were unlikely to ever meet again.

The following evening, I had arranged to meet an old university friend, who is now a professional actor and emigrated to Australia several years ago. We met for supper, between the afternoon and evening performances of the play they were appearing in.

Meal finished and paid for, we rose to leave, but as I push my chair from the table it collided with that of the diner sat directly behind me. I turned to apologise, but instead let out exclamations of surprise.

It was my chum from the night before.

“I never bump into people I know in the city centre,” he gasped.

“I told you we were destined to be friends.”

The following week, I was heading out to Melbourne’s suburbs on a train with two colleagues. I was just telling them of my nocturnal activities in Fitzroy Gardens and the inspirational artist I had met there, when the train stopped at a station, the doors slid open… and he got on.

We stared at each other aghast.

I introduced everyone, and we chatted affably, as the train trundled on.

When we mentioned our destination, he announced, “This is the wrong train, I’m not even meant to be on here!”

He bid a hasty goodbye and jumped off at the next station.

I never saw him again, but I knoe he will be reading this blog… possibly on a bench in Fitzroy Gardens.

I continued to cruise the gardens every night of my stay. No matter what I was doing that evening, I would ultimately end up there. All paths lead to Fitzroy.

When I cruised that park in my youth, I was a timid gazelle, ready to bolt. When I returned, having amassed over twenty years’ experience, I prowled those paths as head of the pride.

I felt a tad guilty about not actually frequenting Melbourne’s legitimate gay venues, but Fitzroy was so convenient and busy.

On my final visit, I was stood in the walm night air, beneath a sprawling palm, with a handsome Greek (Melbourne being the second largest Greek population outside of Athens – Another fun-fact purloined from the circle line tram): The scent of eucalyptus pervaded my nostrils; flying foxes circled above; possums waddled by or stared with curious orbs from the trees; and insects chirruped incessantly.

This place couldn’t get any better, I thought.

At which point the conclusion of a live concert, in a stadium on the other side of the river, blasted out the sound of Adam Lambert and Queen performing We Are the Champions with such volume and vigour that it sounded as though we had front row seats.

It had just got better.

Here’s to the joy of Fitzroy. X

Tales from Down Under – Tricks of the Trade

I was once mistaken for a rent boy… something of which I am immensely proud.

It was my first night in Australia as a twentysomething backpacker. I had landed in Sydney in the early hours and checked into one of the numerous hostels in Kings Cross. Although exhausted from the flight, I was determined to see the famous bridge and opera house, to prove to myself that I really was down under.

I walked around the headland and was blessed with a view of Sydney harbour in the dawn glow. It was then exhaustion hit… and I NEEDED to sleep.

Trudging back to my accommodation, I got distracted by Grace Brothers department store. The fact that I hadn’t slept for nearly two days wasn’t going to stop me from checking out the namesake setting of classic BBC sitcom, Are You Being Served?

Unfortunately, there was no fey Mr. Humphries or mauve haired Mrs. Slowcombe working the shopfloor, but I did spot a middle-aged woman whom I thought I recognised. In my disorientated sleepless state, I forgot I was on the other side of the planet and assumed she must be a friend of my mother’s, so smiled and wished her a, “Good morning.”

The woman was attending to her fussing toddler, but she still managed a pleasant smile and returned my greeting.

It was only then I realised it was Debra (Pippa Fletcher) Lawrence, Australian soap opera legend from Home and Away.

Finally headed back to my hostel, chuffed that one of the first people I had spoken to in Australia was star of a show I had watched every weeknight as a student. In fact, an ex-university housemate had dropped me off at the airport 48 hours earlier and the last thing she had said was, “It you get into any trouble, go find Pippa Fletcher, (as a fictitious foster mum) she’ll take in any waif and stray.”

I’ll have to send Zoe a postcard, I thought, and tell her about the encounter, but that would have to wait, as I melted into my dormitory bed and dropped fast aslee…. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

What has any of that to do with being mistaken for a rent boy? Absolutely nothing, but I met Australian TV royalty!!!

When I awoke that evening, relatively refreshed, I decided to check out Sydney’s famous gay scene. I glanced at a map and memorized a route from where I was staying to Taylor Square on Oxford St (The beating heart of the city’s gay village).

As I left the glittering Coca-Cola sign and glut of backpacker hostels of Kings Cross behind and walked along Williams Street, I was approached by a prostitute.

She propositioned me with the clichéd, “Looking for a good time?”

I replied, “Yes… which is why I’m heading for Oxford Street.”

“Oh, I see,” she smiled, realising she was barking up the wrong tree, “then have fun.”

Funnily enough, something very similar happed to me outside New Street Station in Birmingham only a few weeks back.

I was approached in the early hours by a woman asking for a light.

When I explained I didn’t smoke, she directly asked “Would you like sexy fun?”

“Not unless you are a guy,” I responded, hastily clarifying, “I don’t thing you might be a guy by the way!”

Back in Sydney, I meandered along unfamiliar streets, heading roughly in the right direction of Oxford Street, via a few wrong turns, one of which, took me unknowingly through the rent boy district.

As I passed a trio of guys, one of them nodded in my direction and commented, “I’d pay for that”.

I automatically glanced around to see who he was talking about, then glowed with pride… realising it was me!

He wouldn’t have to pay, I thought, he’s hot.

I suppose, in my early 20s, shuffling down a dark backstreet dressed in leather jacket and hoodie, I did have the look of local trade.

The compliment certainly bolstered my confidence as I sauntered into my first Sydney gay bar.

Six months later, I was searching for work in Melbourne.

I spent several days plodding up and down the grid of wide boulevards that form that city’s grand centre, calling at various businesses I assumed would have high staff turnover. My main targets were cafés, department stores and hotels.

I was struck by the brutishness of a doorman outside one hotel. He resembled the bouncer of a dodgy nightclub more than a concierge.

The brashy harridan on reception did little to improve my impression of the establishment. She looked at me as though I had just farted (both loudly and aromatically) when I politely asked if there might be any casual work going.

“Doing what, exactly?!”

“I don’t know,” I gulped. “Maybe, cleaning rooms?”

She sneered with barely concealed contempt and snapped, “NO!”

As I scuttled back out, I noticed the décor for the first time. I hadn’t registered the interior style on the way in, distracted as I was by the brutal thug on the door, but now realised the heavy velvet drapes, gawdy gilt mirrors and blacked out windows could only mean one thing… I had just enquired about a job, cleaning bedrooms, in a brothel! She must have assumed it was my kink.

Later in my trip, I travelled with a woman who worked as a dominatrix in a house of ill repute, where they actually did have one client who got off on performing basic housekeeping chores. He paid them for the privilege of cleaning, making drinks and doing the washing up.

I spent several drunken nights in Bangkok quizzing her about life on the game.

“I realised that I enjoyed the rough stuff,” she told me, quaffing a bottle of Chiang Mai beer, “so, I figured I might as well get paid for it.”

She went on to regal me with stories of unusual requests she and her colleagues had received.

I asked, “How do you not laugh?”

“We do,” she explained. “Why do you think we wear masks?”

Apparently, in the Australian state in which she worked, houses of domination were legal, but full-blown brothels were not.

“There are certain acts that we are not allowed to perform,” she explained. “We can spank, whip, abuse, titillate and tease… but full penetrative sex is not permitted. There are government inspectors that come undercover to ensure we are not breaking regulations.”

Who knew the sex trade had mystery customers?

“I’m sorry miss, but you are to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure for giving too much… erm… pleasure.”

“I sometimes meet her after work at the house,” her girlfriend told me. “If I am early, I just hang around in the staffroom. The girl’s rooms have doors leading straight into the communal area, so I hear muffled moaning and slapping. Occasionally, her door will open, and she’ll mouth, “Put the kettle on, I’ll be done in five minutes.”

“I’m lucky,” my dominatrix friend told me. “I make a living doing something I really enjoy.”

It is just another job at the end of the day, with all the same highs and lows, slings and roundabouts.

I did ultimately get a job cleaning rooms in Melbourne… working for an agency that supplied cover staff for mainstream hotels.

The agency required experienced staff, but as I had never worked in the hotel industry, I spent the interview recounting experiences I remembered from my sister’s period of working at Penns Hall Hotel in Sutton Coldfield (Location for long running and much derived Birmingham based soap opera, Crossroads).

The interview went well, and I was offered a position, pending references from my fabricated employer. The worldwide web was just on the horizon, and I guessed the agency would never bother to phone the UK to check, so I returned to my hostel and commandeered the manager’s computer to rattle off a glowing testimonial… signing it Noele Gordon (Crossroads‘ star and day-time TV diva), of course.

Nolly Gordon lived for short time on the top floor of Cleveland Tower, one of the twin ‘Dorothy’ Towers that stand as sentinels over Birmingham’s gay village and house a good percentage the city’s queers. Having Dame Noele in residence was probably the gayest period in those tower’s history.

My ruse paid off and I ended up working in the faded grandeur of the Hotel Windsor and the sleek edifice of Hotel Sofitel for six weeks.

The member of staff I was partnered with clocked that I had no experience of housekeeping on my first day. She kept my secret and taught me all the tricks of the trade. By the end of the shift, I was making up rooms like a pro.

I wonder if the pros at the brothel would have been so supportive had I secured employment there.

A Nod and a Wink

Depending on speed, angle, duration and even eyebrow placement, the charming wobble of the head, known as the ‘Indian nod’, can subtlety convey different meanings, from ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, ‘respect’ or… ‘indifference’, but for me, no matter how it is done, it means only one thing… I am smitten. X

The nod is a rare treat in Birmingham, as it tends to be a gesture that has faded with successive generations of Brummie Asians, so I relish the times I encounter it.

There used to be a member of staff at Tesco Express on Hurst Street who was proficient at the nod. I would regularly go in to ask assistance in finding items that I didn’t need, just to bask in the joy of his head movements.

I frequently encountered the Indian nod on an extended backpacking trip around Asia in the late 90s.

Upon arriving in Calcutta, I found a suitable roof terrace where I could enjoy my first meal in India and take in a view of the city.

I glanced at the menu and asked for, “Mutter paneer.”

The waiter smiled politely and gave a subtle shake of his head.

There must have been a lunchtime rush on ‘peas & cheese’, I assumed, so selected another option, “Gobi Allu?”

Again, came the same head shake. Apparently, they were out of cauliflower and potato too.

I tried a third option… only to receive the same response.

I had practically worked my way through half the dishes on the menu, before it dawned on me… the waiter wasn’t shaking his head ‘no’, but Indian nodding his head ‘yes’, while presumably thinking, greedy pig has ordered enough to feed an entire family!

I sheepishly explained my cultural misunderstanding and reverted to the original order, of which they had plenty.

I used to regularly call in at the Wolverhampton branch of my bank to deposit paycheques.

On one occasion I noticed a handsome teller, with doe-like eyes and thick dark lashes, so I selflessly allowed several customers to cut in front of me in the line until I was guaranteed service from him.

Judging by his particularly pronounced south Asian accent, he was a new arrival in the UK, and I was delighted when he began to enthusiastically pepper his sentences with energetic head wiggles.

I handed the teller my cheques through the slot in the security screen and, to my amusement, heard him trying to master the pronunciation of my admittedly tricky surname. After attempting several variations, he wobbled his head in approval and told me, “I like your name very much.”

I would have loved to ask, “How do you think it would sound double-barrelled with yours?”

One of the oddest head wiggles I witnessed was delivered by a lad lying flat on his back in the grass.

I was walking my dog around the streets of Balsall Heath, which can induce panic in the dog fearing Pakistani community.

We passed a group of three teens sat on the low metal rail surrounding a rough looking park on Stoney Lane. The lads were all engrossed in their mobile devices and didn’t spot the dog until she was directly in front of them… They erupted in a turmoil of screams and wild flailing.

One lad performed a camp little jig then jumped over the rail to perceived safety. The second boy’s legs spun impotently beneath him on the gravel, like Scooby-Doo, until he gained traction, then fled up the street, but not before giving the last lad a parting shove to gain the boost he needed to make good his escape, sending him sprawling backwards off the rail with a shriek. He landed on his back in the grass with both legs sticking up in the air, phone clutched in his hands.

I stood with the dog, laughing in bemused amusement.

When I got my breath back, managed to ask, “Are you OK?!”

The other two regrouped around their fallen friend, who assured us, with the most dignified tilt of the head he could muster, that he was fine… “Just a little surprised.”

I was once subjected to a stroppy teenage nod in Birmingham’s Balti Triangle.

Out for dinner, I was delighted to see the restaurant served my favourite vegetable, karela/bitter gourd. Often referred to as Crocodiles by Asian children, because of its rugged reptilian-like green skin (I know, tempting, eh?!). This ultimate acquired taste is sooooo bitter that each mouthful makes multiple orifices pucker.

When I ordered, the young waiter responded with an involuntary wince, and subtle sideways nod.

“Not keen then?” I observed.

“I hate it,” he stropped.

“Apparently, it is really good for you,” my partner offered.

“Yeah,” the boy sulked, with dismissive tilt of the head. “That’s what my mom says.”.

“So karela is the Asian equivalent of brussel sprouts?”

“I prefer sprouts,” he mumbled.

We gave him a good tip for being grumpy cute. 

During an afternoon at Boltz, I was chatting to several south Asian guys of my acquaintance and happened to mention my passion for the nod.

One cheeky joker immediately began to wobble his head vigorously and asked, in an exaggerated accent, “You mean like dis?”

Next thing I knew, all three were wobbling their heads in gay abandon.

“Guys, you have to stop,” I blushed. “You don’t know the effect this is having on me.”

“Ooooooh, I think we do,” the ringleader smirked.

They had my nod of approval.

Eat Out to Help Out

You don’t have to just window shop when you find yourself horny on the high street… as there are a surprising number of places to go down in downtown.

I know one obliging shop assistant who will pop into your changing cubical and gladly lend a hand should you require one. He makes a show of nipping in and out to fetch various items, maintaining the illusion of diligently tending to customer needs, for the benefit of supervisors and CCTV.

One way to get ahead in retail.

In one recently closed department store, I visited the restrooms and found myself distracted at the urinals by a fellow shopper.

Our furtive fumblings were interrupted by the arrival of store security. We quickly rearranged ourselves and tried not to look too flustered.

It became apparent the security guy was interested in the same thing we were when he flashed more than his ID.

He motioned me to join him in an empty toilet stall.

“I’m not sure,” I hesitated, “I don’t want to be caught in there.”

“Who’s going to catch you? I’m security … and I’ll be in there with you.”

Unconvinced, I pointed to the bodycam at his chest and asked, “What about that?”

“It’s only turned on when needed.”

Which was more than could be said about him, I thought.

I was relieved the camera wasn’t on constant feed. I didn’t want to provide a show for anyone watching the monitors back at HQ.

There are spoilsports who scupper instore shenanigans.

I bumped into an acquaintance out shopping one afternoon. At a loose end, I joined him as he searched for a new T-shirt for that evening’s planned misadventures on the gay scene.

Having found a selection of shirts he liked, we headed to the changing rooms. I moved to follow him into a curtained cubical, only to be stopped, by a member of staff.

“Sorry, but only one person allowed in a cubical at a time,” she informed us.

Our intentions had been vanilla innocent. I was only going to offer my opinion as he tried on each item… whilst admittedly admiring his smooth buff bod’ as he changed.

I ended up waiting outside with the bags.

When he emerged, he had made, what I thought, the dubious choice of a floral print of leaves and flowers, which put me in mind of the wallpaper at Equator (but without the monkeys), a style that looks funky on the walls of a bar, but I wasn’t convinced worked on clothing.

I bumped into him later that night, wearing the T-shirt… and had to admit it did suit, although he would probably be best avoiding Equator for risk of fading, chameleon-like, into the decor. No one wants to be a wallflower.

I’d heard rumour of a Pakistani lad at a family run furniture business who was grateful for any distraction from the tedium of manning the store.

I called in to see if I could provide relief.

After several minutes of me feigning interest in flatpack furniture, the guy asked, “Are you on Grindr?”

The next thing, he popped a ‘Back in 5 Minutes’ on the door, manhandled a mattress into position to block the view through the shopwindow and led me to the rear of the store.

We were getting down to business (at the family business) when he suddenly cocked his head and anxiously listened for sounds.

“Is everything Ok?”

“Yes, I think so,” he replied. “I thought for a moment my uncle was back from the warehouse.”

I had unexpectedly found myself in that scene from My Beautiful Laundrette, where Daniel Day-Lewis and his mate nearly get caught in the act at the back of the laundromat.

It was a false alarm. 

One evening, I received Grindr messages, inviting me to meet a guy at some location in Birmingham’s Southside District.

When I arrived, it turned out to be a fast-food outlet. I could see the guy stood at his post through the shop’s floor to ceiling glass frontage.

I walked in and joined him behind the counter, where he unzipped and invited me to play in plain sight of the wide window and unlocked door.

I dropped below counter height.

For anyone passing it would look like the guy was on his own, but I did wonder, What would I do if a customer came in?

I decided, if they had only called in for takeaway, I would remain hidden. If they were dinning in, I would have to reveal my presence. I couldn’t remain crouched behind a counter for the entirety of their meal… my knees wouldn’t take it!

I would just pop up and declare something along the lines of, “Well, your wiring seems in working order. I’ll send you my invoice,” and stroll out.

“Let’s go upstairs,” the guy suggested.

He locked the entrance and led me to a door at the back of the shop.

“I can’t turn on the lights,” he explained, “and we will have to be quiet as there is someone in the office.”

I was led down a dark corridor. Passing a frosted office window, I could make out the shape of a man sat behind a desk, talking on his phone. We crept silently up the stairs, flattening ourselves against the wall and keeping to the shadows.

The upper floor was a spacious area strewn with old business papers and office furniture. I was led to the rear most room and basked in illumination from a streetlight outside the window.

As we descended the stairs, the guy from the office was stood in his doorway.

Quick as a flash, I announced, “Well, I’ll certainly consider renting the space. I’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you,” my new acquaintance played along, “I look forward to hearing from you.”

I engaged the perplexed colleague in an awkwardly sticky handshake and quickly left.

So, next time you walk by a shop displaying a sign stating ‘BACK IN 5 MINUTES’, wonder what is happening behind closed doors… and hope they have rinsed their hands before reopening for business.

Two Sir, With Thanks. X

I didn’t exactly explode onto Birmingham’s gay scene in ‘glorious rainbow technicolour’, but more creep apprehensively down a flight of steep stairs…  and straight into a familiar face!

At age eighteen, my Friday nights were spent with a group of school friends, alternating between several pubs that made up the social triangle of Aston University. I had been going out on that campus for several months prior to turning the legal age to drink, but being student pubs, used to a clientele of fresh-faced undergrads, our spotty faces barely stood out. If you could rattle off your fake date of birth with enough conviction, the doormen would turn a blind eye and let the brewery take your money, as long as you didn’t make a nuisance of yourselves.

One particular night though, I could not shake off thoughts of another bar. One bar in the city centre every local teen had heard tales and sniggered about in the schoolyard. One bar that the very thought of ignited my teenage hormones, like a drop of blood screaming out to a hunting shark.

I decisively downed the dregs of my pint of cordial coloured Snakebite & Black, turned to my best-friend, whom I had come out to several months earlier, and announced, “I’m going to The Jester.”

The Jester was a basement gay bar that lurked beneath the shabby curve of concrete, glass and aluminium on Holloway Circus. A typical 1960’s development of offices, shops of the type old-school Birmingham is renowned. Scala Building had seen better days, even back in the 80s.

I paced around outside of The Jester for an age. I was trying to spur myself into going inside, but every time I managed to almost muster the courage, somebody would walk by or a night bus, packed with people, would circle the roundabout and I would lose my nerve. I was terrified of being seen by someone I knew… or anyone at all for that matter.

Finally, the coast was clear, and I dashed inside. The unremarkable entrance took me into a tight hall and flight of stairs leading down into… well, I had no idea.

My heart was pounding with a giddy mix of fear and excitement. My legs were shaking as I descended the steep stairs. All I could think was, Please, don’t let me trip. I didn’t want my coming out on the gay scene to be marred by a scream, flailing and numerous thumps as I bounced down the stairs. I gripped the handrail with white-knuckle intensity, while still trying to convey a pretence of casual nonchalance. No mean trick I can tell you.

I managed to get to the bottom of the stairs, upright and with the maximum dignity that an awkward ginger teenager could carry off.

People in the bar had turned to check out the new chicken in town.

I crossed to the vast elliptical central bar and ordered a lager.

As I waited for the barman to return with my drink, I dared a quick glance around. I took in the small dance floor in the corner, the neon lighting and, to my delight, a glitterball. They actually had a glitterball! My only previous knowledge of a gay bar came solely from The Blue Oyster in the movie Police Academy, which had a glitterball that the Leather Queens danced romantically beneath. I was now convinced that every gay venue in the world had a glitterball.

I spotted one really cute guy around the curve of the bar to my left.

He looks very handsome, I thought. About my age, chiselled jawline, slicked back black hair. Oh, hang on… It’s a lesbian.

My drink arrived and I let out a sigh of relief. I had made it inside, down the stairs and got a drink, all without incident. The night was mine!

Suddenly, a hand fell on my shoulder.

“Hello young man. How are you?”

I turned and was met with the benignly smiling face… of my form teacher!

“Oh,” I gulped. “Hello Sir.”

Being sat at a bar with my form teacher wasn’t exactly how I had expected my first night on the Birmingham gay scene to turn out… but I could not have wanted for a better introduction.

It was a relief to finally have another gay man to confide in and even better that it was a familiar and trusted figure. Here was an opportunity to talk to someone with experience of a world I was taking my first steps into and who had no agenda other than just being there to listen and support.

Although being caught in a gay bar by Mr. G had been a shock, I had not been surprised that he frequented such establishments, as rumours about his sexuality had circulated school for years. The shaved head, handlebar moustache, penchant for a leather biker jacket and the general ‘Village People’ vibe had also been a bit of a giveaway.

Predictably, I was not the first pupil that Mr. G had encountered on the scene during his decades of teaching. It transpired that only a few weeks earlier a fellow classmate had come to see him in school to confess that he was gay and ask for advice. Mr. G never revealed the identity of this mystery pupil, as he had been approached in confidence, but several years later I would discover that it had been a good friend and someone on whom I had a schoolboy crush. How different things could have been had we both come out to each other while still at school.

As the evening progressed, Mr. G suggested we move on to The Nightingale, the city’s only night club in the 1980s. He was a member of the club and offered to sign me in as his guest.

At this point in the club’s history, The Gale, as it is affectionally know, was situated near the stage door of the Birmingham Hippodrome. It was accessed through a heavy door set at the end of a short alley. You had to ring the bell, wait until a pair of eyes were revealed behind a sliding slot and then confirm that you knew what type of bar it was before being admitted. The days of an open scene with people proudly on display were still several years off.

Once inside, there was a cloakroom, a small bar and I think a gaudy fountain, but I may be mistaken about the water feature. The main room had a large dancefloor at its heart, another bar and plenty of seating. On the far side of the dancefloor was a more private dimly lit area, partitioned off from prying eyes. I remember being baffled as to why anyone would want to disappear into a dark subdivision of a busy nightclub. How naive! So much to learn… and so much fun learning.

At the end of the night, Mr. G drove me home. He dropped me off a few streets away from where I lived, so as not to arouse the suspicions of sleepless parents, awaiting their son’s late-night return.

I am eternally grateful to Mr. G (not actual name) for looking after me on my first night out on Birmingham’s gay scene. He was the perfect gentleman… and continues to be so to this day.

To Sir, with thanks. X

Previously published as two separate blogs, presented here as a revised omnibus.


I was pleasantly surprised to find a stripper performing at Eden when I called in late one Saturday night.

Nearing the climax of his set, the artist was wearing nothing but a white towel, which he promptly dropped to reveal his pendulous penis, slathered in a liberal dousing of baby lotion. He proceeded to spray the baying audience by slingin’ his shlong in every direction, much to their delight.

I have always been a bit squeamish about body lotions and creams, as their sickly perfume and oily consistency skeeve me out, so I was relieved to be out of range of the shower of white droplets. I was quite content to remain at the back and admire the view.

When the stripper finished and took a bow, I finally lifted my gaze and realised… I knew him! We had worked on stage together. Not as strippers (I don’t have the physique to perform with the Dreamboys or as part of some Magic Mike tribute act), but at events where fans of cult television get to meet the stars of their favourite shows. I was engaged to host the live Q&A, while his role was to escort celebrity guests to stage wearing skimpy trunks and a bowtie (him not the guests!), returning periodically to top up our flutes of Prosecco.

As we waited to go on stage, Hunk in Trunks asked if I would give him a hand with his dickie.

I was all a dither with fumbling fingers.

He got frustrated and snapped, “Oh, I’ll do it myself!”

“No, I can help you out,” I insisted, determined to finish what I’d started.

My hands trembled with eagerness, which made it hard…  to connect the clasps around his trunk of a neck and fasten his dickie bow, but we got there in the end.

Back at Eden, the show was over and the naked stripper was being escorted through the audience with a minder to ensure no one got too handsy.

I mouthed hello as he was led by and was immediately grasped in a robust, fully naked, hug. I could feel glowers of envy boring into me from the crowd (at least I think that’s what it was). We exchanged pleasantries then he released his embrace and headed off to clean up and get dressed.

I glanced down to discover a 10-inch streak of sticky white baby lotion smeared down the leg of my jeans.

I heard a story from a fabulous octogenarian who had started her performing career at The Windmill, Soho’s famous show club, inspired by the Folies Bergère and Moulin Rouge in Paris.

The club was renowned for incorporating glamorous nude females on stage between the cabaret acts. The Lord Chamberlain, in his position as censor for all theatrical performances, dictated that nudes be presented in motionless tableaux. The reasoning behind this quirky ruling was that nudity in theatre should not be obscene and since the authorities could not credibly hold nude statues to be morally objectionable, then the presentation of frozen nude models was not obscene either.

The rule was: ‘If you move, it’s rude.’

So, no dancing, no swaying and certainly no jiggling!

“I wasn’t one of the nude artists,” this demure old lady said. “I was dancing in the chorus line… with my clothes on. I was only in my teens and terribly cheeky, so one night I snuck into the wings while a girl I had become good friends with was naked on stage in a tasteful pose. I positioned myself directly in her eyeline and started to do anything and everything I could to make her laugh. I pulled faces, made rude gestures, flashed my bits. I could see from her face that she was so close to shaking with laughter, which would have broken the ‘no moving’ rule, but she was determinedly holding it together… then she peed herself.”

I didn’t see that denouement coming.

I told her, “There isn’t an anecdote in existence than could not be improved by the addition of that line at the end.”

I might start randomly adding it to the conclusion of every tale I tell of the second city.

An old friend, Red, told how she very nearly forced into performing at a Birmingham strip club.

She was rehearsing for a play about female strippers. The director sent the cast to a pole-dancing workshop for the day, followed by a VIP visit to a gentlemen’s club.

“I hadn’t got the upper body strength to climb the pole,” Red told me, “These professionals have to be fit!”

The actors had a great day, filled with lots of laughter, and managed to pick up a trick or two for the theatre production, but no sooner had they dismounted their poles than it was time to head off to the gentleman’s club.

They were ushered in by smiling security and welcomed by management with glasses of champagne.

Once the bubbly had been consumed, they were guided into a dressing room and told, “We’ll leave you to get undressed. The first show starts in forty minutes.”

One of the actors asked, “The what now…?”

“The first lap dancing show. We will be letting customers in shortly.”

The women were aghast.

“We are not performing!”

The mood immediately changed. The previously smiling heavies moved to block the exits and the manager snapped, “You have been paid to do a job and you’ll do it!”

A heated exchange ensued.

“Ok… All right… I’ll do it,” one capitulated, “but I’m keeping my knickers on!”

Thankfully, the situation was resolved by the timely arrival of a troupe of performers called BrumBags, whom the club had been expecting and mistaken the theatre cast for.

“I was relieved when the misunderstanding was cleared up, especially, as I couldn’t even get up my pole,” recalled Red. “Although, I was thinking, Well… I’ll have a great story to tell the grandkids about that time granny accidentally became a sex worker.”

…and then she peed herself.

Nothing Like a Dame

A lifetime ago… I worked at one of Birmingham’s most REPutable theatres.

Staff got free tickets to the other major theatres in town (both of them) and entry to several night spots, including Birmingham’s premier gay venue, so when I finished my Front of House management duties, around midnight, I would hop in a complimentary cab and hit The Nightingale Club.

Parties at the theatre were fun too, bursting with booze, buffets and famous faces (I had the honour of escorting Charles Dance to the loo).

I remember one actress turning up in a glorious gown of swirling gold, silver and detailed mirror work.

“You look amazing,” I gushed, “like a Klimt painting.”

She turned to her companion and cooed, “Ooooh, don’t you just loooove gay men?”

There were always titbits of gossip and scandal. During my first week we had to delay the second act of a production as the leading lady was nowhere to be found. It turned out she had popped into a co-star’s dressing room for mid-show bonk and fallen asleep.

There was one fab-u-lous month when the theatre staged The Rocky Horror Show, starring, Australian heartthrob, Jason Donovan.

One of my duties was to run through emergency procedures with new cast members. When it came to Jason’s induction, I read through each page with total professionalism then asked him to sign, to confirm he had been briefed.

“I just require a couple more signatures,” I said, flipping the final page to reveal a photo of myself and mates recreating classic 80s Neighbours title sequence with a cricket set in Pin Oak Court (Real-life location for Ramsey Street, setting for the Aussie soap that brought Jason to fame).

“That’s just like me,” he smiled as he dashed off an autograph. I lifted that photograph to expose a shot of me in front of his character’s house… pulling a moony. The unexpected sight of my milky white bottom caused him to flinch and splutter, “That one’s not like me!”

For the final night of The Rocky Horror Show, the entire front of house team dressed for the occasion.

For one night only… that theatre… became the gayest venue in town!

The highlight of my time at the theatre was getting to know the ladies of the cloakroom. A tight team of golden girls who had worked together since their twenties (moving from the original Victorian building to the theatre’s new concrete and glass home in the 1960s), supported each other through life’s ups and downs, raised families and, by the time I met them, either become or on the cusp of becoming grandparents. A truly logical family.

They told me how the tradition of theatre cats was curtailed by the introduction of motion sensitive security sensors.

The theatre’s own ‘Old Possums Practical’ cat would spend most of its day curled up on the box office counter but had been known to make appearances on stage. One memorable occasion, the cat sauntered on during a Shakespearian soliloquy, plonked itself down centre stage, thrust a hind leg in the air and proceeded to give its genitals a good licking.

Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.

Bard for life!

There was one cloakroom attendant whom I particularly adored. A woman with big hair… big glasses… and a dirty chuckle.

Every interval, the ladies would flog trays of overpriced choc-ices and tiny tubs of ice-cream.

One evening, my work buddy was greeted by a regular customer enthusing, “Hello, remember me?!”

She really didn’t, but like a true professional tried to bluff, “Erm…. Yes… You’re that… erm?”

Undeterred, he gleefully announced, “It’s me… I’m the man with no nuts!”

Apparently, every time this gentleman attended a production, he would buy a chocolate covered Magnum ice cream but insist on no almonds and expected her to remember.

She valiantly clamped her jaw, but to no avail. A shriek of laughter filled the auditorium. Her tray of ices was handed to a colleague, and she had to be led away.

Like every theatre… there were ghost stories.

Apparently, one usher spotted a figure occupying a seat several rows in front of her, who hadn’t been there at the start of the performance. She was surprised they had managed to enter and take a seat without her noticing.

She moved to check the patron’s ticket, but as she approached… the figure simply faded away.

Another member of staff had a strange experience on the same door.

She was performing post-show checks when a dark formless mass oozed through the crack between door and frame. As she watched, dumbstruck, smokey tendrils reached out across the ceiling and the shadow slinked along the walls of the corridor, vanishing around the far corner.

The ladies said she was visibly shaken and had to be soothed with a stiff drink from the bar.

The auditorium door in question was directly opposite my office and those spooky tales certainly gave me the willies as I locked up at night.

One evening, I received a call from a cousin on my office phone.

“I’m at a party at the Hyatt Hotel with my friend, Kelly,” she told me. “Come and join us when you finish work. It is on the top floor. Just give Kelly’s name and they will let you up.”

My cousin was often in Birmingham to accompany her friend to athletic events, but this was the first time I had been invited to a penthouse party with them. Usually, we would just hit a few bars on the scene... and inevitably end up at The Fox.

When I arrived, the place was heaving.

I met Kelly’s family for the first time.

I had never talked to Kelly about her career, assuming she was still involved in the military, where she and my cousin met, but as we chatted, I gleaned that she was now a professional middle-distance runner.

“You can make money at that? I just assumed that was your hobby. Well done!”

Her mother stared at me like I was an idiot.

Unexpectedly, British Olympic legend, Daley Thompson entered the room. I know nothing about sport, but even I recognised his moustached face from every advert, Lucozade bottle and cereal box of the time.

I freaked out and grabbed Kelly’s arm.

She asked, “You know what this party is for, right?”

“No… What?!”

“We are celebrating making the British Olympic athletics team. We are going to Atlanta.”

I was partying with Team GB 1996.

Although she failed to return with a medal from those Olympics, Kelly Holmes went on to win a bronze and two golds at future games, plus a silver and two golds at the Commonwealth Games, six medals at other world championships and become a national treasure.

I dined out on this tale for years…  only made better, the day she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen.

That incredulous look that Kelly’s mother had thrown my way, finally made sense.

Dedicated to the memory of Marlene Gregory… a golden girl of the cloakroom. X

Leave ‘em Better Than You Find ‘em

When I hit forty, I was amazed, not to say delighted, to learn a dad bod’, character lines and flecks of grey made you hot property. I didn’t see this coming. Suddenly, I had guys interested in me whom I would never have dared approach in my younger days. It was like flies on shit!

The desire to learn from someone with more experience seems to be a big factor for the younger fellas… but as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben reiterates in every new version of that franchise, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Not long after moving into our current house, my partner and I arranged a Saturday afternoon sex date with a local guy on Gaydar, or whatever website was in vogue at the time.

The guy was worried about being seen entering the house of an openly gay couple, so asked if we could meet at a neutral location.

Through a volley of messages, we arranged to meet at a nearby park. What we had failed to consider was that this was a sunny summer Saturday and the park was packed with families. Only upon arrival at the designated meeting spot, did the dodgy undertones of meeting a sex-date at an area teeming with kids on bikes, knockabout football and picnics, occur to us. We both felt uncomfortable.

After twenty excruciating minutes, he still hadn’t shown up, so we decided to return home to check if he had cancelled on us (It was that long ago that our mobile phones couldn’t access internet messages and we had to use a computer).

Back home, we found a string of apologies explaining that he got cold feet when he saw the volume of people in the park. He asked if we would give him a second chance but meet instead at an intersection a few roads away. My partner didn’t want to trek over there, having just gone to the park and back, so I offered to meet him on my own.

This time he showed up, but the moment I clapped eyes on him, I knew that this liaison was not going to happen. He was just a slip of a lad, with a wisp of fur on his top lip, that had aspirations of being a moustache. He looked a lot younger than the 20 years he claimed.

When he saw me approach, he flashed a relieved smile and trotted over. He had clearly psyched himself up for the meet. I could feel a giddy anticipation radiating off him.

As we walked back toward my house, I thought, How do we back out without hurting his feelings? This has to be handled tactfully.

Here was an inexperienced young lad at the beginning of his journey. These are formative times, presenting fun new experiences, but also a period of awkwardness and vulnerability. We had a responsibility to make this a positive encounter and ensure a rebuke didn’t affect his self-esteem.

As the Forest Code says, ‘leave it better than you found it.’ Extinguish the fire, bag up your trash… and don’t damage a young man’s fledgling ego.

When I walked through our front door with the lad in tow, I could tell my partner immediately shared my reservations. I gave my other half a subtle look that I hoped conveyed I had the situation in hand… yet I still had no idea how to gently let the lad down.

We offered him a soft drink then sat chatting in the lounge, resolutely ignoring any hints he dropped about going upstairs to the bedroom.

I asked him about his age, and he confirmed that he was indeed 20 years old.

I decided to go for a strategy of flattery, so told him, “You are a really cute guy, but the fact that you don’t look your age is an issue for us. There are other guys out there that would jump at this chance, … but we are not them. In years to come you are going to love being told that you look younger than you are, in fact, I am jealous, but, for all the right reasons, we are going to say No… This isn’t going to happen.”

The lad looked crestfallen… then suddenly perked up as a thought occurred to him, “I’ve got I.D.!”

“We’re not an Off-License,” I informed him.

Although disappointed, he left in a buoyant enough mood, ego slightly bruised and libido drooping, but not broken.

Over the years we have seen each other around the neighbourhood. He has grown into a handsome man… and even cultivated real facial hair.

Media still pushes the image of older males recruiting younger guys, but only in newspaper print is this issue so black and white. There are young guys out there who are genuinely interested in and seek out older and vice versa, which is absolutely fine, as long as neither is taken advantage of.

The trick is to be decent and… leave ‘em better than you find ‘em.

Four Robberies and a Funeral

Ruru uses Facebook check-in like an angler throwing a line into the stream… and seeing what bites. I regularly see updates stating he is at his second home, Missing, followed by comments like: ‘They made me do it’; ‘It’s been too long’; or ‘Did you miss me?’. I often go for the lure, if I happen to be passing through Birmingham at the right time.

One such evening, I spotted Ru’s update, so messaged to say I would join him within the hour, but only for one, which would inevitably turn into three, although I had an errand to run first.

I popped into the food hall at Marks and Spencer to pick up freshly baked bread. As I scanned the loafs, I heard a commotion going on in another aisle. Never wanting to miss a drama, I went to investigate.

I stood at a distance watching a heated slanging match between security and a manic homeless guy, who was stalking the alcohol section, with a cumbersome laundry bag of possessions slung over one shoulder and dragging an upright suitcase on wheels.

Increasingly agitated, the guy yelled in the guard’s face, “Why yer followin’ me?! I ain’t doing nuffin’ wrong. Get ‘way from me!!!”

Turns out M&S isn’t exclusively for everyone.

I paid for my bread and made for the door.

Suddenly, there was an explosion of activity: bottles rattled; voices raised; glass smashed; and the homeless guy dashed away with something clutched in one hand.

He clipped my left shoulder, almost knocking me off balance and into a convenient display of soft furnishing (which reminded me we could do with new cushions for the sofa).

The guards raced after him.

As his hands were full of bags, suitcase handles and swag, the thief kicked out at the first exit doors, but his foot went straight through the safety glass, which fractured into crystals, trapping his foot.

With a frenzy of kicks, he managed to free himself from the shattered door, just before security reached him. He lunged through the next set of doors as they automatically slid closed, trapping his case. He struggled to wrench the bag free, mangling the door and half ripping it from its bearings, but was finally forced to abandon his bags.

Security gave chase across the bus lane, until the robber took a swing at them with the magnum of pink Prosecco he had procured (a detail so deliciously camp it was worthy of a Carrington/Colby catfight on Dynasty).

For the sake of one bottle of sparkling wine, the homeless guy had been forced to sacrifice his bags (which turned out to be filled with toothbrushes and hair products he had nicked from Boots) and Marks and Spencer had to foot the hefty repair bill for two sets of doors and inevitable overtime until the premises could be secured. It might have been better to just let him take the wine.

On the plus side, I had a good tale to tell when I got to Missing.

The only other time I witnessed a robbery was when I was walking through bohemian Moseley. As I strolled by a family-owned delicatessen on the high street, a scruffle broke out in the doorway. Someone had grabbed the contents of the till and was trying to make a break for it, but the shopkeeper had him by the collar and was setting about him with a club he had stowed behind the counter for such an occasion.

The raider broke free and took off.

It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to react. I always regret not sticking out a foot to trip him or trying to shove him off balance. All I did was spot two bobbies on the beat and yell, “POLICE!!!”

The cops snaped their heads in my direction and, immediately realising what was in progress, gave chase.

I don’t know if they caught him.

I wish I could have been of more use, like my old high school history teacher, who in retirement stopped a post office robbery. An old school friend read about the incident in the local paper. We were very impressed… but not totally surprised.

Every school has that one teacher who puts the fear of God in everybody… and Mr. Heath was ours. He was a wiry man in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. His beady eyes, glowered through think-rimmed spectacles, and his sharp nose gave him the look of a scrawny old hawk. Those sharp eyes were constantly searching for student misdemeanours. Woe betide anyone whom dare walk down the wrong side of the stairs.

His voice would bellow, “YOU BOY/GIRL, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!”

Everyone in the immediate vicinity would freeze and a heavy hush descend… awaiting the inevitable onslaught.

One foolish lass reacted to Heath’s wrath with a stroppy sulk (of the type teenage girls excel), prompting a tirade of abuse, “Take that gormless look off your face,” he yelled. “I am amazed that you can eat your cereal of a morning with a face like that! I’m surprised it doesn’t curdle the milk!!”

Imagine a teacher getting away that these days?!!

In class he would pause teaching every twenty minutes and announce, “Well, I think I deserve a break. I am going to do some photocopying.” He would then leave the room, with nothing in hand to photocopy, then return five minutes later reeking of cigarettes.

Although the newspaper article was thin on detail, I like to imagine Mr. Heath challenging the post office raider with a booming, “YOU BOY, PUT THAT SHOTGUN DOWN… DEDUCT FIFTY HOUSE POINTS! Now, if anyone wants me, I’ll be outside doing some, erm, photocopying.”

My parents once witnessed what they assumed to be the tail end of some dodgy endeavour from their apartment balcony.

The large house opposite was owned by a branch of a notorious family who dominated Birmingham’s underworld and club scene for decades. One evening a convoy of vans pulled up on the house’s forecourt and an army of burly men jumped out. They quickly loaded dozens of boxes into the vehicles from the garage then sped away. A fleet of police cars then blazed in from the opposite direction and pulled up where the vans had been only moments before.

“I watched the police get out, cast a look around the front of the house, then get back in their cars and leave,” my father told me. “I was thinking, I could just point down the road and shout, “They went that way,” but knew better.”

He didn’t want to wake to a horse’s head on the next pillow… or find himself entombed in the foundations of Spaghetti Junction.

Finally arriving at Missing, I was eager to regale friends with the drama of shoplifting and fizzy wine, only to have my pink Prosecco bubble burst by someone else’s far more macabre tale.

A medical worker we know had responded to a horrendous accident on the motorway. They arrived to find a police officer leaning over a body administering heart massage.

“The guy was clearly dead, but I didn’t know how to break the news to the officer”, our friend told us. “So, I just said, “You could have stopped ages ago.””

The police officer insisted, “Training tells us that we have to administer CPR until paramedics arrive.”

“Well yes, that’s true,” the medic admitted, “but… he’s got no head.”

The corpse had been decapitated.

The police officer’s strategy for coping with this truly traumatic experience was to follow the rulebook to the letter.

The missing head was found in a ditch further down the motorway. As they say, heads will roll.

Bedroom Farce

Cash cascaded across the pavement… and they didn’t even bother to stop and pick it up!

I was heading to an impromptu post-work Grindr meet. My evening walk to Wolverhampton train station had been diverted to a mews of town centre flats by a tap, flurry of messages, cock shot and location. A case of commutus interruptus.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by this guy’s goofy face pic, but hoped it was just an unflattering photo and suspected he would look better in person. It is acceptable to backout of a hook-up in these situations, although an excruciating manoeuvre to tactfully execute… and hard not to take to heart when it happens to you.

I once arrived on a stranger’s house as arranged but was unable to get a response to my knocks.

I’M AT THE DOOR, I messaged.

I KNOW, they replied.

Their profile suddenly vanished. I’d been blocked. I was stood on their doorstep knowing I now had to walk away fully aware that they would be watching me depart.

It can be brutal out there, but you can’t be everyone’s type.

Heading to the location of my Wolverhampton detour, I cut along one busy street where a homeless guy sat on the pavement with a plastic pot of coins in front of him.

A passing pedestrian accidently kicked the container, scattering its contents… then kept on walking! Just because this guy’s life was in the gutter (well, a few meters from it) didn’t mean that passer-by had the right to totally ignore the mishap they themselves had just caused.

I stooped to gather coins… then added a few more to his collection.

When I arrived at Grindr guy’s flat, I was relieved to meet an attractive lad, with cute smile, dark floppy hair and softly almond shaped eyes. He really needed to update his profile picture.

This was my reward for picking up scattered pennies. My Karma Sutra.

I slipped off my shoes and followed my host up several flights to the top floor of three-storey accommodation at the rear of Victorian shops and into a compact bedroom, where he drew the curtains…

“Are you studying history?” I asked during pillow talk, having clocked the subject dominating his bookshelves.

“They belong to my flatmate,” he told me.

“Is this his room? We haven’t just done the deed on his bed have we?!”

“No. I haven’t lived here long, he still hasn’t moved all his things out of my room,” he said. “He’s at the gym.”

At that moment, there was the sound, from three floors down, of the front door closing.

“I don’t think he’s at the gym anymore,” I noted. The guy looked concerned. “Is that a problem? You are out to him, right?”

“Well, yes. He’s gay too, but…” He didn’t need to say anymore. I got it. He didn’t want to be caught in the act. “I’m sorry, but would you mind staying in here while I go down and find out what’s going on?”

I promised to stay as quiet as Anne Frank (Quieter in fact…  as she got rumbled).

He slipped guiltily from the room.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been someone’s dirty secret and I’d endured worse hiding places.

Half a lifetime ago, I was vaguely seeing some guy I had picked up on the scene. We were in that honeymoon period of a one-night-stand, followed by a few successive meets… while we both figured out how to politely say we really weren’t that interested in each other.

We were under the covers in his bedsit when a key rattled in the lock.

I found myself un-ceremonially shoved from the bed and bundled into the room’s fitted wardrobe.

As he closed the sliding doors he hissed, “It’s my landlord… stay quiet!”

I sat in that cramped space on a pile of crumpled clothes and random shoes, with shirttails dangling in my face, living the classic sitcom scenario, as the landlord waffled on about some mundane matter… for an eternity.

Finally, I heard the landlord leave and the wardrobe doors slid back open.

“Sorry about that,” he apologised. “I hate the way he just lets himself in like that.”

“Yes… I’m not that keen on it either!!! Now help me up, my legs gone to sleep.”

Back in Wolverhampton, my Grindr acquaintance returned from checking on his flatmate’s unexpected return and told me, “I am going to have to sneak you out.”

“My shoes are by your front door. Please don’t throw me out in my socks!”

He nipped back down to discreetly retrieve my footwear then returned and beckoned me to follow. We tiptoed across the landing and down the stairs, matching footfalls to make it sound as though there was only one person, like a couple of tribal warriors.

I wasn’t sure how he planned to smuggle me out unobserved, until we reached the middle landing, where they had a lounge with kitchenette leading off to the left. While the other man about the house was making himself a hot drink, my accomplice stood in front of the lounge door to help conceal my escape as I slipped away.

Moments after leaving, I received a text apologising for the way the encounter had ended.

I assured him it was all good… and besides, it had given me material should I ever wish to write a bedroom farce.

London’s glittering West End theatres wait in breathless anticipation for the opening night of ‘Confessions of a Middle-Aged Sex Addict’.