ALL THINGS CONSIDERED : My eyes are opened at a leathery landmark

The interior of Rob of London is dungeon-like, grey and low lit, the atmosphere heavy with ... with something. Not that you'd know that until you go through the door, made of thick black glass, presumably to discourage the casual punter, but also, you suspect, to stimulate the senses of the regular customer, the one who listens to the sound of his biker boots on the stone floor and breathes deep to inhale the manly smell of leather, rubber and PVC. Rob of London, heavy metal, heavy duty for the S&M crowd: butt plugs and douches, fully studded masks, collars and restraints, crotchless leotards, nipple grippers, harnesses to hang in and handkerchiefs with colour codes: yellow is for water sports. Of course.

My heart rate speeds up, really hops, skips and jumps. Could be fear but it can't be fear. What's to fear: Rob is just a shiny, matt black version of a sex toy shop, never mind the electro-stimulation (try the Anal Sparkler) and medical supplies: catheters and speculums available. Small deal. Could be excitement, but it can't be excitement because I didn't know I was coming here, honestly officer. I had an hour to kill while the lenses for my glasses were ground, and I said to my lover, "How about a drink?", and he said, "How about going to Rob of London?", and I said, "Rob of London?". And he repeated Rob of London and I replied OK, Rob of London.

We walk up Oxford Street and my mind is on my glasses, my first pair, thin tortoiseshell frames that make me look shy and boyish. I fixate on this, on how deteriorating eyesight is a mark of time's advance, yet the glasses wipe the years away, and I think, this is a landmark purchase, or at least a passport to a new place called, oh yes, middle age, and then I remember that the man beside me has mentioned Rob of London before and the two thoughts - landmark and leather - stumble over one another, fall, fuse.

We're there. Stepping out of the blazing daylight into the cool, beckoning dark.

The door shuts. Hypnotic hush. I hear men at the counter, heads shaved, banter polished: "They said this guy from New Zealand wanted to see me again." "What guy from New Zealand?" "I'm supposed to have slept with him last week. I suppose I did."

I wander over to the dildos, all black rubber and eerie detail. It's like a dare. I touch, lift, fondle, note that every individual model is named: Dong is the smallest, Victor the widest, Greg the longest. I suddenly wonder why they don't call them after (you should excuse the expression) the members of boy bands: grab the Gary, jump on the Jason, make your Mark, hump the Howard, roger the Robbie. Take This and party.

I suddenly wonder why I'm suddenly wondering when a man who must be a trainspotter or a bird watcher - he's wearing an anorak, for God's sake - comes in and heads straight for the gags. He looks at a hard, round, rubber ball number, then examines an inflatable model: you place it in the mouth and pump it up to the desired size. He has an expert touch; unhurried, contemplative, choosy. He looks as if he's opting for the inflatable. His boyfriend must be a bigmouth.

"Do you think they do square ones?" I ask, but quietly, under my breath, for the calm here is the calm of churches. Only I'm not calm. My heart races and the palms of my hands are damp. So no touching the PVC T-shirts. My lover is over by the posing pouches. He's together, purposeful even, examining a snap-off codpiece and penis ring arrangement and one with laces that allows you to both display and tie down the offending organ. He picks up both, wavers back and forth.

"What do you think?" Decisions, decisions. "The codpiece." "Why?" "Looks better. Easier access." And I do prefer the former to the latter. Preference isn't the same as liking exactly, is it?

Right now it feels the same.

The assistant appears. "Anything I can help with?" "No," I say. "Just looking." "Don't be shy. Try on a harness. There's a changing room." I want to say yes. Reckless behaviour. Why not. "Next time. When I've finished losing weight. You've got to have a good body for a harness." There. That's the right thing to say. "OK. Any time." "OK."

My lover shrugs. "The harnesses look pretty good." Speeding along to somewhere. "Next time." "Let's look at the penis rings." "Yeah. The one with the red stripe." "Sure." He leans over and sort of whispers. Yes.

At the counter I'm Mr Cool: "Do you take Switch?" "The catalogue's free with purchases over pounds 60," the assistant says. I turn to my lover. "Do we want a catalogue?" I ask, not sure what I want the answer to be. "I already have the catalogue."

The light is harsh back at the opticians. Fingers adjust the frames: "It's a big change, isn't it?" "Hmm." "You'll find you can see very clearly. It can be a shock." "Hmm." "Open your eyes." "Sorry." "Well, how do you look?" "Different. Not like me." I keep blinking. "Don't worry," the voice says. "It's odd now, but you'll get used to it. Really, it's you."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

    £18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific