City of Sleaze

Interestingly, at the same time as the Observer has this piece on Dubai, the regional Bahdobian Herald is carrying this article.

Saoud Al-Hanim is a citizen of the Gulf State of Bahdobian, recently returned to the region in a hurry from London following a misunderstanding with local law enforcement officers.

City of Sleaze – How prudish Londoners are actually At It, all the time, everywhere

Dusk falls one evening during my first week in London as I walk slowly along a busy street, crowded with office workers heading home for the weekend. Needing to call a friend, I look at my mobile phone but find that the battery has died. I duck into a nearby public phone booth to make the call and shelter from the cold wind.

As I punch in the number, I hear the bells of a nearby church calling the faithful to Evensong – Britain is an overwhelmingly Christian country where homosexuality, divorce, adultery and similar acts were crimes until not long ago. As the bells fade, however, the gentle air of austere worship to which they alluded is replaced by waves of revolt caused by a barrage of sickening sleaze. The phone box is filled with advertisements from naughty schoolgirls, strict school ma’ams and busty teens offering lurid services. True to the rigid forms of the English class system, many of these services are limited to those privileged enough to have had a decent education – with a minority of British citizens possessing an educational qualification beyond the exams taken at 16, very few would be able to avail Busty Bettsy’s offer of A-levels. Most would have to plump for Pamela’s offering of O-Levels. Regadless – it seems every London Lady is out to make something extra on the side.

I exit the phone booth, my phone call forgotten. Despite the Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, proclaiming himself a Christian, it seems his attitude was somewhat louche when it comes to prostitution. If you happen to find yourself with a dead mobile battery, or in need of a wee, the London public phone booth will be your only option – and this is where Great Britain’s lie becomes clear. Replace ‘Great’ with ‘Sickeningly Perverted’ and the truth behind the capital’s citizens’ outwardly reserved and stuffy image becomes all too apparent.

Noone knows how many prostititutes work in London. I don’t either, as I couldn’t really be bothered to look up any of the available statistics, but at a rough guess, based on my time here, there is one for every third man living here. Many come from abroad – astonishingly, it seems, these women don’t want to follow this line of work in their hometowns. Many more, however, bonk for Britain under the nose of the complicit authorities.

Those authorities seem to ignore the issue completely. The Scotland Yard’s Vice Squad, once famous for shutting down the steam powered spanking machines to be found in Victorian London’s country houses, are strangely absent. Not once during my four years did I see them patrolling the streets, so I assume they are simply staying at home, reaping in the profits, doubtless controlling the very trade they are supposed to suppress.

Stand on any London street and you’ll see people talking to each other. Look at people talking on the phone to each other, or reading a newspaper on the Tube, a vast euphemistic tunnel built by slaves – we all know what they are up to. It simmers and seethes, unseen but oh-so-keenly felt.

In the office, flirtatious behaviour is the norm. Ask any photocopier salesmen what the most common technical problem is that they see and you’ll hear confirmation of what bubbles under the surface of every supposedly straightlaced wage slave – come Christmas, there’s a nary a Brit who has not photocopied his buttocks during the Yuletide period. These black and white images are often used to festoon people’s Christmas trees – a pagan symbol, appropriated by the Church, now sullied by an outwardly pious people in the most salacious way.

Visit any pub or disco of a Friday evening and it’s clear licentious behaviour is a way of life for many people. Yet the Vice squad sit by and do nothing and these places are rarely, if ever, raided and their occupants locked up.

In a city of sixteen million, one thing is abundantly clear to a casual observer like me – everyone’s At It.

‘Would you like fries with that,’ asks Jane, a somewhat faded looking brunette serving me at a local fast food store. I know what she really means – she’s asking me if I want a serving of pointy penile symbols to munch on, served in a red(!) ‘container’, seeking to augment her pitiful minimum wage with dirty deeds done dirt cheap. Deeds openly celebrated by the eponymously named song by AC/DC, a group of transvestite she-males popular amongst London’s poor. I refuse her offer. ‘Thou art a trollope, a scrubber, a lady of repute most ill’, I mumble at her, make my excuses and leave. As I walk to the door, I take one last look around. Everyone in this fast food restaurant is clearly either tart or punter. The Vice squad could be here, arresting, charging and locking up, yet they sit by and do nothing.

Summertime sees a frenzied peak of suppressed sexual activity. Men strip to the waist, showing off the signs of their virility – beer bellies and tattoos. Women of all ages giggle like teenagers and romping in the bushes of Hyde Park is something every resident has indulged in at some point during their tenure in this Capital of Sleaze – often within walking distance of a Church or visiting nun. During Easter, many wives consider it the norm for their husbands to seek out the kinds of services offered in phone booth advertisement – it’s the accepted thing, universally carried out by everyone, everywhere.

It’s no wonder that the London Tourist Board routinely refer to the place as ‘Rompertown-on-Thames’, ‘Hump City’ and the ‘Slagville of the South East’.

Four years into my tenure here and I begin to find this cauldron of lust, its frothings hidden by the oh-so-not chaste veil of a cauldron lid, its carryings-on covered by the thin, flighty nightie of respect, all too much. Is there anyone in this city who is not At It, day and night? There must be two people, somewhere, who don’t adhere to Johnson’s famous maxim that ‘when a man is tired of London he is tired of being At It’.

A young couple in my office, recently married, live near me. One evening, I leave work early, sneak in through an open window and hide in their bedroom wardrobe, desperate to witness that at least one normal couple here are chaste and pure. That first night, she went to sleep early, while he read Top Gear magazine. The second night, they both switched the light off at the same time. I cringed as they moved together in a warm embrace, flaunting themselves in front of the wardrobe door’s keyhole. Relieved, I watched them pull apart as she told him she had a bit of a headache.

By the third night, I was looking forward to leaving the wardrobe, as my supplies of food and drink had run dangerously low. I decided to watch for one last time. That night, they got home later than usual. Apparently slightly tipsy, they fell onto the bed together. Disgusted, I began to think that a drunken coupling would ensue, proving my point that in the London suburb of ‘Tottenham upon Totty Bonking’, everyone is, indeed, At It. Nothing further happens, however – my two dear, chaste friends appear to drop off, tired from the night’s revelries. Delighted, I burst out of the wardrobe and throw myself onto the bed to congratulate them.

Sad to say, they did not understand my intentions. Shortly after, with my fare paid for by the British Government, I left for home from Heathrow. The irony – a member of the Vice Squad escorted me to the airport in my own private van. Instead of rounding up prostitutes he had rounded up this innocent reporter. His parting words sickened me with their stereotypical judgement of me and my nationality. ‘You lot,’ he said, judgingly, ‘you’re all At It’.


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