Miss Whiplash has, for the moment, retired from prostitution. But she i s busy writing a novel ... and supervising the hoovering
I first met Lindi St Clair, aka Miss Whiplash, prostitute and dominatrix to members of both Houses and the judiciary to boot - or so she claims - in the waiting-room of Greenwich Magistrates' Court.

She is a pretty woman with a large presence and there was no mistaking her. Indeed, she beckoned me energetically to come and sit beside her, then nudged over her shoulder towards a meek, round-faced man whispering urgently to his solicitor. These were committal proceedings against a man who is alleged to have stolen £1,200 and some jewellery from her. Which way did she expect the case to go, I asked. "I'm an old whore and he's a slave," said Lindi. "Who are they going to believe?''

A "slave'', Lindi explained, is a man who likes to be dominated and given orders. He will carry out tasks for his "mistress" and receives sexual favours in return.

"He was an excellent slave!" Lindi kept saying. "Excellent slave! He did all the cooking, shopping, cleaning ... he was perfect. I couldn't wish for a better slave - and good domestic help is so hard to find these days. I'm a forgiving person. If he gave

me my money and my jewels back, I'd forgive him. But he wouldn't, so I had to bring charges. It's nice to be on the other side for once. Last time I was in court was in Cardiff, in 1989, when I upset the police while I was campaigning for my Corrective Pa rty. I don't like these places."

Well, not quite the last time. Two years ago the Inland Revenue pursued a claim against her for unpaid tax, but Lindi, believing they would never press it because that would be tantamount to admitting that she lived on immoral earnings, never paid. Finally, when the initial demand of £46,000 in 1982 had risen to £250,000, they took her to court. Lindi did not have the assets to meet their claim and in 1993 she was declared bankrupt. The IR took her house, her John Lennon memorabilia and £3,000 in Premium Bonds, plus a few hundred from her building society account. "That was my estate, and they took it." Not much, after 20 years on the game.

Despite this, she remains a cheerful exhibitionist who laughs easily and often. She is sad that people accuse her of lying, for she considers herself extremely truthful, although she often contradicts herself - one minute she'll say she is a forgiving person, the next she will rejoice in her revenge against a former girlfriend.

Once she lived in a big house in Earl's Court, furnished at Harrods. Now her home is in a poky little terrace in a drab suburban road (though it is on a direct bus route to Westminster) near Blackheath Park. She used to be slim; now her measurements are 56-46-56, but she adds: "l was always well proportioned." At one time, clients beat a path to her door and she was photographed with MPs on the terrace of the House of Commons. Now she is poor. She only kept her present house because of negative equity. It cost £80,000 and is only worth £57,000 today. The IR would make a loss on it. But she blames no one for her predicament and seems convinced that the good times will come again.

In her raspberry-red coat and black patent stiletto heels, she made a conspicuous figure in the tedium of the court waiting-room. She leant back against the hard wooden bench (at 250lbs, her bulk is such that she cannot comfortably lean forward) and cha t ted away amicably. A good-looking young man made his way towards the court. "Ooh, he's a nice one!" she said, without lowering her voice. She adores attention, especially that of men.

On the bench opposite us sat a shy, grey-haired man wearing a suit and well-polished black shoes. "That's John, he's my minder, you mustn't name him. He looks after me, and if anyone goes for me he takes care of them. He's a black belt in karate." She s m iled fondly at John, who lowered his eyes modestly.

"John, go and check that the car's OK, and get me some bottled water, would you?" When he has gone, she said: "He likes to be given tasks."

Is John also a slave?

"More or less, yes. The other one got jealous of him. That's why he stole from me, I reckon." And, she repeated, with real regret: "Excellent slave though. What a waste."

She looked doleful for a moment, and then turned to the detective on her case."Do I have to go into the dock?"

"Yes, you do," he said, and she laughed delightedly, kicking her plump legs out in front of her like a little girl.

The detective began to tell her about the judge. Then he stopped. "I forgot. You know more about judges than I do."

She giggled. Then John returned with a bottle of mineral water and Lindi tipped it to her fuschia lips. Like her skin, they are soft and pretty. She is really a very pretty woman who looks 10 years younger than her actual age, which is 42. Later, when I ask her how she has kept her looks, she says: "An orgasm a day: that's my recipe. Also 10 hours' sleep. And I very rarely go outside into the elements. Have you seen Brigitte Bardot? That tortoise skin? That's sunbathing. Look at me: no wrinkles."

After we have waited for two hours, the committal hearing is adjourned because the court has run out of time. Lindi drives John and me back to her house. The moment the front door is closed behind her, Lindi eases off her bra with a sigh of relief. John makes us both a cup of tea and while he does the hoovering, Lindi settles down to tell me the story of her life, every now and again pausing to shout: "John! You done the stairs yet? Mind you do the stairs!"

We talk in her office, a small cluttered room with no carpet on the floor. Its walls are lined with photographs of MPs, boxes of papers, videos, and neatly labelled filing cabinets. She keeps saying, "You mustn't name my MPs. You won't will you?'' until eventually I say: "Lindi, the laws of libel wouldn't let me, even if you did." I sense that she is disappointed. She would like to see their names in print: more for amusement than out of vindictiveness.

Half way through our conversation a lone punter knocks at her door. She sends him away. "I'm retired for the moment, love. Sorry." The man trudges off into the freezing dusk and Lindi continues: "I met them all back in the Seventies when they were Mr No One but nowadays they're big time. What gets up my nose is that MPs go to prostitutes and then condemn then publicly. I lobbied for the legalising of brothels and they all promised to support me before they came. But when it mattered, in Parl i ament, none of them would. They're hypocrites, liars. That's why I set up the Corrective Party: because I had the hump with them." Having the hump is one of Lindi's favourite phrases. She uses it all time, apparently unaware of the double entendre.

Why does she want to legalise brothels?

"I had about five close friends, prostitutes, brutally slain, and another 30 have died of Aids. It was a really big loss and I thought, there's only me to change the law."

Lindi St Clair was born in August 1952 in Hackney Hospital. Her real name is Marian June Akin. When she was five, her parents moved to Swindon, where she spent the rest of her childhood. What was family life like?

"Horrible, horrible, disgusting, vile, foul are the words I would like to use about my childhood," she says vehemently. "My mother died recently, so now I can come out and say these things. I was abused by my mother's friends, but my mother told me off when I said that, adding that if I told anybody she'd come and haunt me. My Dad used to look at me and sneer and say [here she mimics him with extraordinary intensity]: "You're rubbish, you are! Rubbish!"

Her mother worked for British Telecom as a cook and cashier. "I didn't love her, and not once did she or my dad say they loved me. I was never cuddled or accepted as part of the family, and I became mischievous to gain attention." She had one sister, three years older, Stephanie, the favoured child. "I was a nice little girl and I always wanted to play with my sister, but I wasn't allowed to.

"I was 13 or 14 when I went on the game - eagerly, enthusiastically, excitedly. I took to prostitution because I got the attention, the cuddling, the wanting, and I felt I'd come home. I loved it. If you've never had that attention, it feels good."

How does she keep going, now she is "retired"?

"I've got clients who've become my friends and they lend me money on an interest-free loan. I've been celibate now for a long time because it hurts my back. For the first three months I was going frantic, missing it, but my body's got used to it now and I don't mind. I binge instead. I eat all the wrong stuff - cheese sandwiches, potatoes, fish and chips. Prozac is supposed to stop you bingeing but it doesn't work. I know I'm fat and I'd be so much happier if I was thin. Even as I'm eating I think, thisis wrong, and still I eat. Maybe when my dad's dead I'll feel better.

"In 1987, Mel left me - she broke my heart. She was the love of my life and I was a woman scorned. I was beautiful then. I was so nice before, so slim, but after she went I used to drink champagne and eat walnut whips and Hula-hoops. I always liked little food, you know. My food has to be cut up small. I don't know why."

Has she loved women more than men?

"The same. I'm not really a lesbian; I just went through a lesbian phase. I happened to mingle with that crowd. I could be the female partner, never the male. I much prefer a man, really."

Later, I ask whether she thinks tastes and desires are set in childhood? She answers dismissively.

"No. I think it's just your fancy. People like to be kinky. It's fun, and you get a better orgasm." I ask whether she thinks the only faithful men are those with a low sex drive and she says instantly, "l can't answer that: I only meet unfaithful men." Then she adds: "We're all unfaithful, given the opportunity."

Lindi St Clair, you will remember, went missing from Beachy Head in January 1993 which led to a police hunt that cost £120,000. The tabloids speculated that she had committed suicide, even perhaps been murdered. She turned up sunning herself on a cruise liner, the SS Canberra, on the other side of the world. Hadn't gone missing at all. She says that a number of men on her "dirt file" were worried that she was about to shop them (she was, she says), and she had been threatened. She feared for her life. Her fame had turned to notoriety, and the notoriety had turned sour. It seemed an opportune moment to take a holiday. Three months later she returned to face the music and the taxman.

Lindi refuses to work for the moment, as until her bankruptcy is discharged in two years' time, anything she earns will (she says) simply go straight to the IR. So what is she doing? "Resting and working on my second novel. I've put all this... " (she wav e s a plump little hand at the MPs on the walls) "... into my first novel [as yet unpublished]. It's called The Dirt File. I want people to realise how corrupt MPs are. I'd like to have my novel made into a film."

And after the bankruptcy is discharged, what then?

"I'll always do sex for sale, because I like to fuck. I'll do prostitution until nobody wants me any more. Lots of punters feel safer with an older woman. I'll be doing it till I die because I like it. It's as simple as that."

John appears at the door.

"Have we hoovered?" she asks. We have. She smiles, and gives him a kiss. "There's a good boy." And to me: "You'd better go now. I have to reward him."