RIP Cynthia Payne

I’m sad to hear of the death of Cynthia Payne at the age of 82. Cynthia was the brothel madam (if brothel’s entirely the right word for the services she and her girls provided) who became famous for issuing Luncheon Vouchers to her clients, so that they wouldn’t technically be handing over money for sex. Now isn’t really the time or place to get into the intricacies of the prostitution laws in the UK, but let’s just say that how Cynthia ran her business was safer than standing on a street corner touting for business, and enabled her to entertain a variety of men whose wives mostly couldn’t, or wouldn’t, cater to their kinkier tastes. And no one got hurt in the process – unless they specifically asked for it.

cynthia payneCynthia was the first person I interviewed for Forum, when I was fresh out of journalism classes and she was promoting her book Entertaining at Home – a humorous guide to throwing a sex party, and quality toilet reading from what I remember. We did the interview in the offices of Penguin Books, which were in Kensington at the time, and even though I wasn’t the first (or last) person she spoke to that day, she couldn’t have been warmer, funnier or an easier interview. Here’s a rough transcript of how it went:

Me: Cynthia, how are you?

Cynthia: (talks for twenty minutes)

Me: That’s great. Tell me about the book?

Cynthia: (talks for twenty minutes)

Me: And finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Cynthia: (talks for twenty minutes)

Me: Thank you very much.

I don’t remember all the anecdotes, but she did tell me about one client who, for reasons lost in the mists of time, got off on being pelted with mud. One day, she was running late and didn’t have time to collect the mud from the garden, so she mixed the contents of the Hoover bag with water and he had that thrown at him instead…

If you haven’t seen them, I recommend the two films inspired by Cynthia’s life – Wish You Were Here, which is based on her teenage years and still makes me wonder whatever happened to Emily Lloyd’s career, and the magnificent Personal Services, which covers her time as a madam and features a brilliant performance from Julie Walters as ‘Christine Painter’ and one of the greatest transgender characters on film, Dolly the maid (Danny Schiller).

There will never be anyone else like Cynthia – a true English eccentric who was prepared to go to prison for doing her job, and the woman who enabled people everywhere to go into the toilets at weddings and exclaim in a disbelieving voice, ‘Dolly… you’ve got a willy!’ She will be missed.


Tall Story

Here’s another story I wrote in my early days on Forum, where one of our unofficial office mottos was ‘we like short men, because they get there faster…’

‘Let’s face it, it’s obvious why women chase after Joe,’ Mike Gallagher said, raising his voice to be heard above the noise of the party. ‘It’s because he’s tall.’

I was tempted  to reply, ‘No, it isn’t. It’s because he’s got gorgeous brown eyes and immense charisma,’ but I didn’t. Mike seemed like a nice bloke, at least from the twenty minutes or so I’d spent talking to him, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He wasn’t bad looking, with his curly chestnut hair and cheeky grin; he just wasn’t my type. And, to be honest, he was short. In my high heels, I just scrape over five feet. Mike was only a few inches taller than me. Whereas Joe…

Joe Walsh was every woman’s dream despatch rider. Tall and lean, with a body that was built to wear leathers. Dark hair tied back in a ponytail and a permanently stubbled chin. He was often the only bright spot in my dreary day. Hilditch and Grieve aren’t a bad firm to work for, but chartered accountants aren’t the world’s most exciting people. Anyway, working as their receptionist is only a temporary move until I find someone who’s looking for a recently qualified zoologist – or so I’ve been saying for the past eight months.

Still, it was through working at Hilditch and Grieve that I’d met Joe. I can still remember the jolt that went through me when he first slapped a parcel down on the reception desk and took off his helmet – it was like a bolt of lightning straight to the groin. I must have managed to stammer out some coherent sentence and since then we’d chatted every time he’d come in with a delivery – or rather, he’d chatted and I’d drooled. A couple of the secretaries knew about my infatuation and giggled about it whenever they passed the desk and he was there, much to my annoyance. Infatuation was all that it seemed destined to remain, until the afternoon when he’d wandered in and casually announced that he was throwing a party that weekend.

‘I’d really like you to come along, Zoe,’ he said. ‘There’ll be a few eligible men there. Do you know my mate Mike? Short geezer, curly hair, rides a Yamaha? No? Well, I’ll introduce you. You’ll like him, he’s a good laugh.’ Then he winked at me. ‘I might even drag you into the room with all the coats, if you’re lucky.’

‘Won’t your girlfriend object?’ I asked.

‘Nah, we split up a couple of weeks ago.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ I said, but inside my heart was backflipping for joy.

‘Don’t be. I’m not. The party’s to celebrate the fact.’ For a moment, I almost believed him, until I saw the grin that was threatening to split his face. He scribbled his address on a docket sheet and handed it to me. ‘It doesn’t really matter what time you get there. I intend to party all night.’

Then he was gone through the revolving door. I clutched the sheet of paper he’d given me, already planning a knock-’em-dead outfit that would ensure Joe and I ended the night together.

And we still could, if I could prevent Mike from monopolising me all evening and Joe would turn his attention away from the tall, curvy brunette he was talking to on the other side of the kitchen. As if he’d read my thoughts, he glanced over and his dark, intense eyes met my grey ones. He raised his bottle of Newcastle Brown in a silent salute. I smiled back at him, my insides churning with lust.

‘Now,’ Mike was saying, warming to his theme, ‘if I could change anything about myself, it’d probably be my height, ’cos it’d make me more desirable. You, on the other hand, would probably want bigger breasts.’ Now who was mind-reading? I thought. ‘But they wouldn’t necessarily make you more desirable. I mean, I think they’re perfect as they are. And after all, the smaller they are, the more sensitive they are.’

That was certainly true. My nipples were already stiffening with the thought of Joe running his hands over them, pinching and teasing them.

‘Honestly, Mike, you’re perfectly desirable as you are,’ I assured him, slightly embarrassed by the directness of his compliments.

‘I’ll drink to that,’ he said, draining his can of lager.

I looked across the room and saw that Joe and the brunette were no longer standing by the fridge. Probably gone to dance, I thought. I’ll just finish my wine and then I’ll go and find them, see if I can get Joe to join me in a smoochy number.

I swallowed the last mouthful of wine and put the glass down.

‘Can I get you a refill?’ Mike asked.

‘No, thanks, I’ve had more than enough,’ I replied. ‘Can you point me in the direction of the bathroom?’

‘Yeah, it’s just down the hall.’

I left him and squeezed my way through the press of bodies into the hall. The party was beginning to warm up; a couple were kissing passionately in the kitchen doorway as I passed.

I pushed open what I thought was the right door, but I wasn’t in the bathroom. Instead, I was looking into Joe’s bedroom. In the semi-darkness, I could make out a couple on the bed. The girl’s top was pulled up, revealing her heavy breasts, and her legs were wrapped around the naked back of her partner, whose tight buttocks rose and fell as he thrust into her. There was no mistaking her partner’s familiar ponytail; she was making love with Joe.

They probably weren’t aware that there was someone else in the room, but I blurted out, ‘Sorry,’ picked up my coat from the pile on the floor, which they had obviously pushed aside in their exertions, and blundered out tearfully into the hall in search of Mike.

He was where I’d left him in the kitchen. ‘I’m going home,’ I announced. ‘Do you know the number of a taxi firm?’

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked. ‘Why are you leaving?’

‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ I said. I couldn’t get the sight of them out of my mind.

‘Look, don’t worry about a taxi. I’ll take you home. My bike’s outside.’

I looked at Mike dubiously. ‘Is it safe?’

‘If you mean am I sober, the answer’s yes. Come on, I’ll make sure you get home in one piece.’ He took my hand, grabbed his leather jacket from where he’d slung it over the back of a kitchen chair then led me out of the flat.

Mike’s bike was parked on the road outside Joe’s flat. He took a crash helmet from the top-box and handed it to me, but before I could put it on, he caught my arm.

‘Look, why don’t you tell me what went on in there?’ He sounded genuinely concerned.

‘If you must know, I went into the bedroom by mistake, and I saw Joe and this girl…’ My voice trailed off miserably.

‘Zoe, I know how much you fancy him, but he’s just a flirt. It’s all a game to him; he can pick and choose who he wants. She’ll just be a one-night stand. He would have done the same to you, and you deserve more than that.’

‘Let’s get away from here,’ I said. I climbed up on the back of the bike behind Mike and he kicked the engine into life.

We seemed to fly through the deserted streets of the city, the night air plucking at my clothes. It was an exhilarating feeling and, with my skirt rucked up and my stocking-clad legs clinging on to Mike’s surprisingly muscular body, an arousing one, too.

The bike pulled up outside my house all too soon.

‘Thanks for the lift,’ I said.

‘Any time,’ Mike replied.

‘Why don’t you come in for a coffee?’ I suggested. ‘I know it’s late, but the girl I share with is away, so we won’t be disturbing anyone.’ I was aware of a pulse beating between my legs, more insistent than that of my heart.

The front door stuck as I tried to open it, as it has a tendency to do. Mike gave it a helpful push; I was still holding on to the handle, with the result that we fell into the hallway in a tangle of limbs. We burst out laughing, then our eyes met, closely followed by our lips. Mike pulled me to him, and our kiss became more passionate. Our tongues met, tasting the softness of each other’s mouth.

‘Come on, let’s go upstairs,’ I said. Mike needed no further prompting. I paused only to fling off my shoes and coat and then I dashed up to my room, Mike following closely behind.

Mike was kissing me again before I’d had the chance to turn on the bedroom light. As his lips traced the contours of my mouth, I was struck by how well our bodies fitted together. Normally, I either have to drag my partner down so we can kiss in a sitting position, or else stand on tiptoe and strain my neck, but with Mike there was no problem. You could almost say we were made for each other. I didn’t have much time for philosophising, though, as he was pushing the straps of my dress down over my shoulders, his mouth moving down to nibble at the nape of my neck. The heavy buckle of his belt was pressing uncomfortably into my skin and I wrenched it open. Mike paused in his exploration of my dress to heave off his boots and jeans. His erection, free of its confines, slowly grew to a respectable length.

I stepped out of my dress and stood before him in my stockings, suspenders and skimpy lace panties, originally chosen to impress Joe. Mike ran his hands over my breasts; his fingers were calloused from work and my nipples hardened at their rough feel.

‘I’ll say one thing,’ Mike murmured into my hair, ‘I was right about your breasts.’ His tongue replaced his fingers and I sighed with pleasure. One hand snaked down to touch my clitoris, rubbing the slippery bud in circles until I was more than ready for him to enter me.

Mike’s erection was warm and hard against my mound, not poking into my stomach as a taller man’s would have done. ‘Before we go any further…’ I whispered, breaking away from him. There was a packet of condoms in my bedside cabinet; I took one out and peeled back its foil wrapping.

‘Perhaps if you lay down on the bed…’ I suggested, to his obvious puzzlement. He was clearly expecting to fit it himself, but quickly realised I had other plans in mind.

I knelt over him and put my face very close to his cock, so that my hair brushed the tip. Then I planted a kiss on the glistening purple glans and carefully rolled the sheath down over his shaft.

He smiled up at me, a smile that widened to a Cheshire cat grin when I slowly lowered myself down on to his latex-clad cock. My muscles tightened around it and he gasped. I began to rock gently backwards and forwards, gyrating my hips in a rhythm that he had no choice other than to follow. He cupped my breasts in his hands, squeezing and twisting my nipples in a way that sent spasms of pure pleasure down to my womb. I moved my hips more urgently, feeling my orgasm beginning to build inside me. The fiery sensation spread through my nerve endings and I threw my head back and cried out as the feeling peaked within me and my vagina clutched and clutched again at Mike’s cock. As I struggled to regain my breath, I could feel the surge of his own climax, his heels dragging at the bedsheets as his body shook with pleasure.

We hugged each other tight, the taste of sweat on our lips as we kissed, and then he carefully slid out of me.

‘And to think I thought you were only interested in tall men,’ Mike said.

‘I told you, it doesn’t make any difference,’ I replied. ‘We’re all the same height lying down.’

‘Well, perhaps we can prove this if you lie down this time.’

And that’s when I knew that this relationship was going to be anything but short.