It's no shame to get your kicks in London W6

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"I can't find an ashtray anywhere," said the young woman in the black mesh knickers and very little else. "Can I put this fag out on your head?"

"I can't find an ashtray anywhere," said the young woman in the black mesh knickers and very little else. "Can I put this fag out on your head?"

Certainly not, I said. What do you take me for? Someone who enjoys pain, the sharp kiss of agony, the whipcrack of flame on your aching flesh, someone who gets off on the searing bite of punishment for being a very naughty boy, someone who...

Sorry. Got a bit carried away. You too may be mistaken for a person who gets their kicks in the perv parlour if you venture to Olympia, west London, this weekend. For Erotica 2000, an exhibition devoted to everything leathery, rubbery, lacy, wispy and buckle-y, not to mention everything horny, porny and PVC-y, hit town yesterday and by lunchtime queues of devotees were stretching along the Hammersmith Road, and looking - for British erotophiles, at least - remarkably unembarrassed. Get your kicks in London W6.

The organisers, headed by Savvas Christodoulou, a silver-haired former accountant with Arthur Andersen, say that 32,000 visitors came last year. They expect even more will inspect the 200-odd exhibition stalls this year, lurk in the Fetish Market and pause for a snifter in the Climax Bar. Among the hordes yesterday morning were two men in charcoal suits from the vice squad in the ad hoc role of Keepers of Public Decency - at a special Thursday-night preview of the three erotic live shows, featuring strippers, catwalk models and unclothed gymnasts, they drew the line at a sexy fire-eater with an unusual method of extinguishment.

At the Hot Rod stall, meanwhile, the proprietors were celebrating: three classic hard-core movies - Debbie Does Dallas, Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones - had been recently de-criminalised by the BBFC and were now available on a special 18-R rating. "The guys you want to ask about it are over there," said a man. "They're the Obscene Publications Squad."

Once inside the hall, you're struck by the chains everywhere, chains and PVC clothing and bendy restraining devices and latex willies (there's even a special Mould-a-Willy novelty gift from Quantum Designs). Some of the chairs and tables on display are festooned with chains. Sado-masochistic furniture - whatever next?

The cutting edge, if that's the phrase, turns out to be the blandly named "Play Frame System", a kind of bondage suspension swing complete with Rack Kit, Whipping Bolster and Dual Rotation Winch Mechanism for doing God knows what in the privacy of your own dungeon. "The headboard comes off and you can put in a pillory," said John from Dorset, its inventor. He was dressed as a medieval executioner in cowl, mask, robe and chain-mail breastplate. He was incognito, he said, because he didn't want his ex-wife to know he was there. "It's not my scene, really," he said. "I'm an engineer. Before I did this, I used to service the aircraft industry."

Amid all this strenuous wickedness, the French maids' outfits and chain-mail bras, the provincial firms called Libidex and Rubbercare, the ghastly "adult babywear" romper suits and strangely un-arousing gas masks, amid the woodland-nymph sculptures and the nasty gibbet cages, there was a lot of awkward Englishness going on. A stall promising "Affordable Leather Products" included a teak-handled S&M whip exactly like the fly-whisk employed by Carleton-Brown of the Foreign Office.

At the Peaches Club, alongside the tarty schoolgirl outfits, you could purchase a "traditional school desk" for £45. A surprisingly large number of small teddy bears were arrayed in dominatrix mode. A huge biker in a chrome codpiece stood abstractedly sipping Strawberry Ribena from a carton. Several of the most alarming and painful-sounding enterprises, such as the Torture Garden Club, cheerily invited new clients to their Christmas party ("Mince pies, mulled wine and the stunning Kerry").

Mike Deekes, one of the organisers, proudly showed off his erotic mugs. They start off black but, when filled with hot liquid, ahem, they gradually reveal a saucy image of the customer's choice. Mr Deekes sells thousands via e-mail.

Like many of the stall holders you meet - Paul Woods, for example, who runs the nation's only "erotic life drawing class", or Gerry McCoy, who spends his time regularly re-assessing and updating his book, McCoy's British Massage Parlour Guide - Mr Deekes is a friendly and straightforward geezer who discusses the sex industry like a gardener talks about marrows. "We've always been a bit behind Europe in erotic matters, but we're catching up," he said. "They've always enjoyed it, whereas we've always pretended we'd rather not get involved. You find very few ladies walking into sex shops. Which is why it's so nice to see couples walking around here feeling very comfortable."

Behind him, a middle-aged lady of unimpeachable decorum was blowing up a large inflatable penis, her face frowning with effort, before placing it delicately on the Erotica Awards stand. Over on the cabaret stage, two women in Mississippi Belle frocks began to bump and grind to "The Stripper". The chaps from Obscene Publications watched the stage closely, both hands sunk in their plain-clothes trouser pockets.

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