Dancing Bare

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 17

Playing in the Parks

My early return was lucky because the Company had secured a contract to "Play in the Parks." The London City Council arranged for a stage to be erected in a different park every morning and afternoon, on which we would present an hour's entertainment for the local kids. Easy work and good money.

Alwyn had written half a dozen action-packed plays, the first of which was a version of The Willow Pattern, to be presented at 11.00a.m. the following morning at Crystal Palace. I was to be the evil Mandarin, so had lines to learn.

Our Company boasted five males and two females. Alwyn and Edgar; Hal, who was seventeen; Margaret, a blonde and somewhat toothy girl of twenty; Terry, a short, scruffy muscle builder in his thirties, and Agnes – a sad spinster in her fifties who dressed like a bag lady in shabby blue gabardine, red knitted hat, and scuffed brown brogues.

There was no jealousy as we were typecast and had other responsibilities such as costumes, props, lights, setting up the portable stage and, in my case, driving and van maintenance. We all dressed ourselves and applied our own makeup, of course.

Alwyn wrote his characters as archetypes of either unadulterated evil, perfectly good, or despicable fence-sitters. He had made all the costumes and they were excellent. My mandarin outfit glittered, the peasants' rags were rags, and the prince and princess strode the boards in magnificent brocades. When the mandarin was cast down and stripped of his finery, there were screams of glee. The kids cheered, jeered, laughed, screamed, cried, stamped their feet, and clapped in all the right places. I celebrated by going to a party that night.

The Dover-London train on my way home the previous day had been composed of old-style carriages with no corridor; each compartment having its own door onto the platform. If you were unlucky enough to be incarcerated with a knife-wielding lunatic, the only escape would be to hurl yourself from the carriage while it was racing along the tracks at great speed. I was standing in the doorway staring mindlessly over the platform when three large young men and their girlfriends elbowed through old ladies, children and cripples, shoved me inside, clambered in and slammed the door to prevent anyone else from entering. The girls put their muddy feet on the empty seats as the train pulled out of the station.

"G'day, mate," said the largest and ugliest. "Wanna beer?"

My refusal didn't deter them from opening half a dozen bottles with their teeth and downing them in quick succession, laughing and joking at the expense of wogs, women, and queers. There was no way to get to the loo, so one of the guys whose bladder was burdened beyond bearing, attempted to piss out the window. Blowback drenched him in acrid aerosol. One of his mates laughed till he chundered. Not over the floor, fortunately, but into an umbrella hastily unfurled by one of the girls. She had obviously been there before. She closed it carefully then manoeuvred it out the window where it blew inside out, spraying the windows of the next three compartments with technicolour burp. A joke worth telling the blokes back home, they reckoned.

Despite our common ANZAC heritage of mateship, had there been a corridor, middle-class prissiness would have had me out in an instant. Such disregard for the niceties of civilized life had me both appalled and enthralled. These were the types I had loathed for their schoolyard terrorism. The skites who reckoned they'd been feeling up and fucking girls since primary school. The arseholes who'd sneered when I won the singing cup – engendering enough fear of the jeers to prevent me accepting free lessons from an almost famous singer.

These were the idiots who reckoned anyone who got more than fifty percent in any exam was a conch, a crawler, a smarmy slime ball, because to work harder than necessary was the mark of an arse-licker. These fuckwits had made up the stag line at dances guzzling illicit beer, leering at the sheilas, but refusing to dance because only queers danced. These were the guys who proudly displayed their beer bellies at twenty, wore sandals and socks with shorts; jeans with suit-coats; burnt orange ties with double breasted suits; brown shoes with blue trousers; boxer shorts to swim in, and pyjamas to bed! Conversation was limited to rugby, cricket, sheilas, booze, chundering, hangovers, and bragging about the sex they'd like everyone to believe they were having.

With no possibility of escape I swallowed my bile, pretended not to be shocked, forced myself to laugh at their jokes, and experienced a shameful thrill at being accepted. Perhaps my week imprisoned with a bunch of self-absorbed homos followed by days of quasi-monastic meandering had predisposed me to company. I even wondered if I could become heterosexual if I behaved more like these guys. [Such delusions kept recurring until I was twenty-five.]

The sole explanation I have for what followed is a minor brain malfunction due to breathing air so thick with alcohol fumes I was oxygen deprived. Somehow their bonhomie, lack of pretension, and good humour lowered my guard to such an extent that I began to quite like them, even accepting an invitation to a party the following night. The largest and ugliest took my hand, pushed up the shirtsleeve and wrote the address on the skin of my forearm in ballpoint. His touch was gentle and his breath moved the hairs on my arm. He pulled the sleeve back down, grinned, burped, and I changed position to hide an erection.

Young London males were not following the elegant French dress code, so I wore a black shirt open to the navel, gold chain, skin-tight jeans with the top button missing, no belt, and desert boots.

The royal-blue paint on pillars supporting a classical portico was peeling and scarred. Uncarpeted stairs to the third floor boasted three comatose men of unattractive mien, and the large room that was home to my new friends, was jammed with smoke, loud music, the stench of stale alcohol, and an assortment of unattractive, poorly-dressed partygoers. My railway companions welcomed me vaguely, having forgotten who I was. There was no one I'd like to be seen walking with in the street. No one I'd consider taking to bed. I wondered why I had come and turned back.

Before I could escape, I was plucked from the doorway by a pale slip of a girl who offered me a beer and sat on my knee recounting scandalous details about our hosts. Beside us on the malodorous couch a young man with enough acne scars to arouse pity had his tongue down the throat of a fat girl, and his hand up her knickers. A pale, sweaty, overweight Lothario was shuffling to the music, one arm draped over the shoulders of his underdressed, empty-eyed partner as if for support, the hand on the other arm, grasping a bottle.

Around the bar, half a dozen young men, egged on by their girlfriends, were racing to see who could down the most the fastest and wait the longest before joining a group piss into the bath; which is why someone had been calling for volunteers to take a golden shower. The lass on my knee was dribbling into my ear so I prised her off and approached a woman in calf-length boots, miniskirt, torn blouse, wild black hair and long, Buddha-like earlobes, dragged down by solid brass elephants suspended on chains. Lacklustre eyes gave me a brief once-over before resuming their vacant stare into a more attractive realm.

Emptying my untouched beer into a massive glass ashtray with 'Australia House' emblazoned on the underside in gold, I snuck downstairs where a darkly handsome Spaniard was using his boot in an ineffectual attempt to wake another young man snoring on the doorstep. He shrugged and followed me out into the cool fresh air.

Alwyn was in bed and Edgar was making cocoa in the kitchen. His greeting was cool as we passed. The Spaniard interpreted the look and whispered that Edgar was in love with me, and jealous. With a shock, I realised it was true.

With typical Latin macho arrogance, he assumed a dominant role and attempted penetration with no foreplay, no seductive patter, and no lubrication. Predictably, I proved a disappointment, so it was only about ten minutes after returning home that I locked the street door behind him and returned to my room where Edgar was waiting with a cup of cocoa, unable to conceal his pleasure at my erstwhile paramour's evil tempered and premature departure.

It was our first real tête-à-tête, and in an effort to prove he had once been as young and adventurous as he imagined I was, he told me his story. At the age of fourteen he had escaped a Dundee slum and swarming brood of siblings by attaching himself to a touring theatre company run by Alwyn and his wife, who were then in their thirties. A plethora of small touring companies in those years did reasonable business bringing culture to the provinces. Edgar was a cute, dark-eyed, black-haired, skinny kid who seduced Alwyn, made a good ASM, took bit parts, and eventually became Alwyn's partner in business as well as bed; Alwyn's irritating and unfaithful wife having long since eloped with another wandering minstrel.

Over the years they'd taken holidays in Italy and Sicily where Edgar's diminutive stature and deep tan rendered him indistinguishable from the delectable, seducible local lads. Then came the war. Neither was eligible for the army, so they performed for troops waiting to go to the front and gave public concerts to keep up morale. Afterwards, holidays became fewer, money harder to come by. Alwyn developed a type of rheumatism that made movement painful and at times reduced his temper to a snarl.

When I joined the Company, Edgar was a youthful forty; Alwyn an old, tired, sometimes funny, sometimes crabby old man of fifty-seven. There was still love, but… did I fancy a little fellatio? The Spaniard's warning about Edgar troubled me. I liked him, but not that way and I have never wanted to be a home breaker. Anyway, I was looking for someone my own size, age, and character with whom I wouldn't feel self-conscious going to plays and concerts and art galleries or simply walking down the street.

A significant difference in size and age is natural in heterosexual couples, but unusual among male friendships. Camouflage has always been my prime concern so I needed to avoid appearing unusual – somewhat difficult considering my extrovert temperament, but possible if I was careful. Edgar was diminutive and twice my age so I pleaded exhaustion.

The plays were about princes, princesses, noble younger sons on quests, evil magicians, good soldiers, and dishonest merchants… Grimm's Fairy Tales revisited. Alwyn's costumes were 'medieval' doublet and hose, wimples, and flowing gowns and cloaks because, he insisted contemptuously, there was nothing either magical or poetic about the modern world.

Perhaps fifty years ago people were nicer – I don't know. But the kids, who came from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds with a preponderance of poor, were always well-behaved, became involved, and for the entire season we had no unpleasant incidents although there were no guards or officials; just us and a few parents who became as involved as their kids and frequently remained to thank us. I had no idea London was blessed with so many parks – some mere pocket handkerchiefs, but all with good equipment, no vandalism, and well cared for.

The three weeks sped by and by the end I knew the city about as well as a taxi driver – better than I knew the other actors because they all went home afterwards and there wasn't much time for chatting during setting up and playing.

Every morning I'd get up at 6.30, take a bus to Hyde Park, swim in the special enclosure reserved for nude male swimming on the Serpentine, jog home for breakfast, drive to the parks, and perform. Afternoons after the performance were spent shopping with Edgar and Alwyn, van maintenance, checking maps – I was never late and never lost in all my time driving that awful old van. I certainly earned the price of my room. In my spare time, I memorised my parts in the first plays we would be presenting on tour… The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night and Midsummer Night's Dream in which I was to play Bassanio, Anthony, the Duke, Snout and Theseus respectively.

Despite this, evenings stretched. I didn't want to spend them alone, nor share the tiny dining/sitting room and radio with Alwyn and Edgar every night. I painted a few back-cloths, ready for the touring season, went to a bar in Earl's Court and a club where no one seemed interested in me. In the second week, I decided to telephone the gentleman for whom I had performed in someone's conservatory, and the woman who left her card after my performance at the Mays'.

She remembered me, said she had been waiting for my call and had work perfectly suited to my talents. We made an appointment.

The elderly gentleman didn't remember me and refused to discuss anything over the phone. "Come around looking 'respectable' at seven o'clock, sharp."

At five to seven I was ringing the bell at a modest wooden door in a service lane on the edge of Mayfair. After a peephole scrutiny and demand for my name, I was directed up a flight of thickly-carpeted stairs to the second door where I was again scrutinised, then admitted to what I'd imagined the foyer of a "Gentlemen's Club" would look like. Polished wood panelling, dim lighting, candelabra, paintings in gilt frames, Persian carpets… I was taken to a small office where sat the elderly gentleman – coolly suspicious.

After listening to a brief recap of our last meeting, he phoned Felix May to check. Satisfied, he explained that this was an exclusive club guaranteeing total discretion. Clients were wealthy and sometimes public figures. They could ring and reserve an escort, or come to cocktail hours that were held every night where they could speak to and choose a congenial partner. This was an establishment for normal people who wanted normal sex. There were no drugs and nothing kinky such as S&M. If I was after that sort of thing I should leave immediately. I told him if they did those things I'd be out like a shot.

A middle-aged fellow who I discovered later was a registered nurse, escorted me to the staff shower room, afterwards scrutinising all orifices, skin, scalp and between the toes. "We don't want to give our clients crabs or tinea, do we?" In the staff dressing room, eight other young men were undressing and placing clothes in lockers.

All the guys were handsome, slim, and under twenty-five. All had clear, healthy skins, but I was the only one with a decent tan. Body types ranged from smooth body-builders to hairy chested macho. Slim and willowy, to solid 'rugby'. The atmosphere was pleasantly competitive – desultory chatting in educated, upper-class voices. Two were Guardsmen from the Royal Household – younger sons who 'traditionally' augmented their Guardsman's pittance in this way. I had already seen the not-so-good-looking ones plying their trade on Rotten Row in the evenings.

The youngest was Raymond, a kid of fourteen; well built but still hairless and cheekily self-confident. He adopted me as his protégé, concerned because I appeared nervous. He'd been doing this twice a week for a year and assured me I had nothing to worry about. The clients were 'gentlemen' – otherwise his father wouldn't let him do it. His father was the nurse who had examined me in the shower. I asked whose idea it was that Raymond became an escort, and he said he had pestered his father until he gave in – a believable scenario once I knew the lad. He was still at school and expected to go on to university and become a millionaire banker. I wondered what sort of man would consider it 'normal' to have sex with a kid that age.

As for his father's acceptance, that is not as unusual as we are led to believe. All over Western Europe you can find unemployed fathers from poverty stricken Eastern European countries, who have brought their attractive young sons to earn more in an evening than the father could in a week – if he could find work!

At Raymond's age, I had mildly lusted over men – from teachers to sports coaches to surfies and body-builders. Sometimes my smiles and chatter were rewarded by a ride in a boat or on a motorbike; but nothing else. I knew that an adult who likes sex with youths is called a pederast, but there was no word I could find for a youth who fancies sex with men. However, I had only desired fit young men – not middle-aged businessmen in suits, so I wondered what went on in Raymond's head. Probably nothing but a lust for money.

And that made me wonder what on earth I was doing prostituting myself in a bordello! I might be called an escort, but what was the difference? This would be my third paying client, but this time I hadn't the right to refuse! The others were chance encounters with attractive men I might have gone with anyway. I considered running away, then wondered if I'd be hunted down and shot, in case I blabbed.

No, Raymond's summation of the place seemed accurate. I've good radar for trouble and this place didn't raise a blip. It felt secure, friendly, and pleasant. Here I would come to no harm.

Just before eight o'clock the boss joined us, greeted his charges pleasantly, inspected ears, fingernails and bum-cracks, smelled armpits and checked for jewellery. The rule was clear. Nothing artificial. Clean, healthy bodies smelling as nature intended – no perfumes, deodorants or cosmetics. No jewellery and definitely no 'camp' or 'feminine' mannerisms or behaviour.

In that respect, the place was sexist. Only butch, manly young men were welcome as escorts, and that suited me. I hated limp wrists, camp affectations of walk, speech or head, and didn't use deodorants, perfumes, or drugs. Over the years I've become tolerant, or more accurately, sympathetic to the plight of visible gays, but still want nothing to do socially with them. Pricilla, Queen of the Desert nauseates me.

Before going to the drawing room the boss made us hug each other as a bonding exercise. Normally not something I would enjoy, but they were all so handsome it worked. Any inadequacies I felt, dissolved into a sense of common purpose and 'brotherhood'. I guess it's what team sport players feel when they get into huddles before games. Suddenly I felt powerful and sexy and everyone's manhood jutted proudly as we marched in to meet the clients; six businessmen who were discretely downing whiskey from cut glass tumblers reflecting gold from a dimmed Venetian chandelier. We introduced ourselves and initiated polite chitchat. The lighting was as flattering as their tasteful compliments, which I accepted gracefully.

At eight-thirty we left them to reveal their choice to the boss. If two wanted the same escort, they had to bid – but we were not told the price. We were sent to numbered rooms to wait for our clients. Two of us were not going to be chosen, unless someone wanted two – which happened occasionally. I tried and failed to hope I would not be chosen. Curiosity was now my primary emotion.

The bedrooms were beautifully appointed. Not the kitsch tulle and silk whorehouse of the brothel in Holland Park where I'd disgraced myself with the South African woman. This was a manly room; hunting prints, oak furnishings, writing table. My client, a smart suit and old school tie of about forty, threw himself onto the huge bed and asked me to 'perform.' He seemed pleased with a gymnastics routine and a few judo poses. Once on the bed he stroked me and explored, then removed his clothes to reveal a soft, white body that I avoided looking at or touching by smiling at the ceiling as if enraptured.

Not long after imbibing a gob-full of my cum, he shot his own load into my armpit or somewhere equally bizarre, and then filled my ear with proud tales of wife and kids, youthful prowess and manliness.

As reward for my evening's endeavours I received twenty pounds and an invitation to return as often as possible. It had been an evening fraught with languor rather than excitement; lethargy rather than danger; banality rather than exoticism. Certainly, it was a very easy way to take money from amiable, clean, gentlemen. And I was home in bed by ten-thirty, determined that would be my last night as a prostitute.

But we had another two weeks in London and when I thought about it, it had been sort of fun. The other guys were pleasant and it was flattering to be desired, so before leaving on tour I relieved half a dozen other polite and courteous gentlemen of their cash in the boss's luxurious bedrooms.

Two evenings after my debut as a whore I rang the front doorbell of a large house a couple of blocks behind the British Museum. An elderly maid in apron and cap conducted me to an overdecorated Victorian sitting room where an ageless woman attired in expensive silk, pearls, softly permed hair, elegant stiletto-heeled shoes in the same silk as the dress, several large diamond and gold rings, and a pince-nez suspended on a fine gold chain pinned to her bosom with a diamond clasp, sat with knees together and lips slightly apart. She extended a hand. I touched the fingers and bowed slightly. She smiled and indicated a straight-backed chair.

"You can't dance," she announced in matter of fact, clear and cultured tones.

I smiled inanely, wondering if she was spoiling for a quarrel.

"Your performance at the May's was a sham. You were lucky not to be howled off the floor! Do you know why you weren't?" Without waiting for a reply, she answered herself. "Because you were naked and sexy!"

I nodded.

"Do you know how many people look sexy naked?"

I shook my head.

"Fewer than one percent. Most people are repellent without their clothes."

My head moved in ambiguous agreement.

"Have I upset you?"

I thought for a bit; realised she hadn't, so smiled and shook my head.

"Good. One must be honest about one's talent, or lack thereof. You move well, but have clearly never had lessons. It's the modern disease. Everyone thinks they can be an artist, dancer, actor, singer without submitting themselves to the rigours of intensive and long training! Stuff and nonsense! Very few people will ever excel at anything. Certainly, no one will excel without proper tuition and a lifetime's devotion. You are an exhibitionist and dilettante, not the type to devote yourself to one thing only. And anyway, it's too late and you would hate it. The life of a dancer is nasty, brutish and short."

Vague relief permeated my pores. I knew I wasn't a real dancer. I'd said as much to the Mays. I certainly didn't feel insulted. Indeed, I was grateful to hear the truth! But what did she want with me? As I had not yet uttered a word I remained mute; unwilling to interrupt such an upwelling of wisdom. After a short minute during which I unflinchingly returned her penetrating stare, having been taught that he who lowers his gaze first is guilty of nameless sins, she filled me in.

Having been left with a mansion but no cash when her husband died, she had gone into business as a facilitating hostess, organising afternoons and evenings for wealthy women suffering from an overdose of alimony, or spousal neglect – of which there were vast numbers, apparently. She offered courses of mildly educative persuasion, with names innocent enough to quell the curiosity of inquisitive spouses. 'Travel in the Balkans', 'Soups of France', 'Foot Fashions', 'Drawing Classes', 'Tarot Readings', 'Spiritualist Séances' and the occasional weekend house party for provincials.

Frequently, these innocent-sounding courses hid agendas that drew on the extremes of human behaviour. Recent lectures on African marital customs had included live demonstrations of bizarre sexual practices.

"Your course will be called 'Natural Exercises', which translates as 'Sexy Strip Tease'. It mustn't be rushed. You will gradually remove all your clothes while performing sexually explicit exercises. Your audience will be wealthy, bored, upper-class ladies whose husbands, if they have them, have mistresses; and they want revenge. I noticed you became slightly aroused during the last dance at the Mays. I want you to become fully aroused during this performance, and finish with ejaculation."

She didn't beat around the bush! I pretended indifference and nodded nonchalantly.

"Come to the rotunda and listen to the music I've prepared. But I insist we drop the pretentious Greek nonsense. I'll call you Clovis after a character you remind me of in Saki's short stories; and you can call me Hazel."

The 'rotunda' was a semi-circular room jutting out into the garden. A beautifully upholstered banquette filled the space beneath long windows that flooded the room with gentle light. Elegant chairs completed the ring around a circular, tiled area reserved for my performance. It was a mere three metres in diameter, so my audience would be sitting almost on top of me.

As if reading my mind Hazel warned, "Ensure your bowels are empty and sphincter scrubbed, and I want you as hairless as you were at the May's. Your audience will be able to smell as well as see and touch you." She rang a bell and the maid brought the 'handyman', who arrived in overalls, was slightly sexy, and the only one who could work the tape recorder. The music was a potpourri of quick-steps, waltzes, rock'n roll – the sort of light stuff her 'ladies' listened to. She demanded an 'undress' rehearsal on the spot with the maid and handyman watching, to ensure my body was in the same condition as she remembered. It was, so we agreed on a price – the same as the May's – and a performance the following Saturday afternoon.

The ladies were sipping tea. Late afternoon sun flooded my 'stage'. The freshly starched maid served tea and cakes, and for the second time since arriving in London, I was pitched back fifteen years. Twenty-three corseted, overdressed women holding flowered cups to pursed lips while balancing tiny plates on tight laps. Hats, veils and dead foxes were missing, but everything else seemed the same. There was just room for them all and the odour of assorted perfumes and excitement was overpowering. The handyman, in a suit this time, opened the windows, then attended to the tape recorder.

I was wearing my Chiswick House suit, blood pounding with excitement. This was my first real strip tease. While rehearsing me, Edgar had told me to be subtle and not too fast, like Gypsy Rose Lee who could trigger male orgasms merely by the seductive manner in which she removed a glove! I'd wrapped a bit of semi-transparent curtain netting around my cods, under my pouch, under my swim suit, under my shorts, under my trousers; and a singlet under my shirt under my jacket. With shoes and socks and Alwyn's Panama hat, I had thirteen items of clothing to remove. Two and a half minutes per item would last half an hour. The fear of making a fool of myself grew. As always before a new venture, I came close to quitting.

The music played softly and I started the 'exercises' fully clothed, explaining what part of the body was being stretched or strengthened, then used the transparent excuse of over-heating to gradually remove clothing, each time asking innocently if they would mind it if I removed one more thing, because I didn't want to shock them. It became a great joke and considerably enlivened the atmosphere when they realised they were allowed to laugh and indulge in sexy repartee.

By the time the bit of net curtain fluttered off, the 'girls' were perched like fat hens on the edges of their seats, audibly aroused. The music changed to a slick foxtrot, every toe was tapping, tits bobbing, heads jiggling to the music and suddenly I remembered the jewellery show – I'd dance with every woman in the room! This stroke of genius guaranteed me receptive female audiences as a stripper for the next twenty-eight years.

At the male-oriented strip clubs I've been to, female strippers are often treated like cheap whores at whom men shout the rude things they'd like to shout at their wives.

Most women I've stripped for are not like that. They want it to be good, clean, fun – not sleazy. They want to be treated like ladies and dislike having a sticky erection slapped against their faces, a naked bum thrust against their breasts, or a pair of sweaty testicles dumped into an unsuspecting palm. They are generous in applause, laugh a lot, giggle, and are not ashamed to be shy, fearful, gleeful, and excited. They often seem grateful that a man has deigned to perform especially for them, and if, as I did, this man dances with them – not because it's part of the act but because it seems he wants to – then he wins their hearts, even if he hasn't the most perfect body on the block.

I danced with everyone except Hazel, the maid, and the handyman. Only a few dozen steps, but long enough to give everyone a personal compliment – 'You have beautiful eyes'. 'What great taste in earrings.' 'I love your smile.' 'You dance like a professional'. 'You are so light on your feet!' 'Your husband is a lucky man……' Compliments fall effortlessly from my lips – always have done, and are completely sincere – at the time. I'd discovered by the age of seven that as long as it is delivered with sincerity, no compliment is ever too improbable to be believed by man or woman.

As we danced, faces softened, mouths that had seemed cast in plaster stretched and smiled, stiff torsos relaxed and swayed to the music, lines and wrinkles smoothed, years fell away. Fingers ran timid explorations over my buttocks, belly and back, lingering along the thigh when I 'reluctantly' returned them to their seat.

Twist music was playing when I began the end game. At that age, I only had to touch my nipples to gain an erection. If I'd been in a room alone with one of these women I'd have shrivelled away in fear that she'd expect me to have sex with her. But a score of lustful 'girls' within touching distance but forbidden to touch was stimulating and it took only seconds to prime the pump, and a little light-fingered tugging to make the fountain play, as they say in France.

Hazel reckoned I was probably the first man for years to give them the compliments they desired. The first male to invite caresses. The first to want to dance with them. The youngest and firmest flesh they'd touched in their lives! She declared that twenty-three women who thought they had seen it all, were in love with the idea of me by the end of the afternoon, and everyone thought their love was requited after our brief, electric contact. I didn't tell her, but it was. I loved them all, at that moment, for their compliments and innocent delight in my body.

The morning before leaving London, the Grammar School at which we were to perform Merchant the following afternoon, telephoned and requested we substitute Macbeth because the set play for the year had been changed. Macbeth was listed on the brochure as part of our regular repertoire, available at all times, so the request was reasonable.

As I was the only one who had never done the play I had the worst night of my life attempting to memorise the part of Banquo before a long drive to the Midlands the next morning, followed by a performance that triggered nightmares for the next twenty years.

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