A world of fantasies beyond the phone box

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The Independent Online
I WAS up in London for the day yesterday and made a call from a phone box. It was a bit of a shock. It always does come as a shock to us country folk when we come up to London and go into a phone box, especially if it is the first time for some while. You put the money in, dial your number and, while the number is ringing, idly read the first thing to hit your eyes. This is quite often 'Busty Black Beauty Ready For Action'. Amazed, you read the second, which tends to be 'Strict Susie Is Waiting To Spank You'. Eyebrows waggling, you go on to 'Blonde Australian Beauty, New In Town' and just as you are going on to another girl who is hot and raring to go, the ringing number - which you had forgotten all about - answers and your wife says, 'Yes?'.

As all you wanted to tell her is that you would be on the 5.27 train, it is very important at this moment not to say that you have rung up about certain services, or that you are most surprised that your wife should be answering calls from this phone box. This world of phone sex is a strange and foreign one, and you mustn't meddle with it.

(It's a bit like the world that, according to Alexei Sayle, lies just behind photograph kiosks, a world inhabited by people who look almost like you but uglier and 10 years older, and who send back photos of themselves instead of you - wet photos, because it's always raining in that other world.)

Well, the phone-sex world must be another world as well, because I have never ever seen anyone putting up these little notices, or taking them down, or reading them, or taking notes from them. But they are always there and they are always different. At least the names of the girls are always different; their pictures are always the same. The Strict Spanish Senorita is the same as Coral, the Caribbean Corrective Mistress - they are both the same dark, smudgy, out- of-focus, long-haired, or maybe just badly printed, profiles.

Another girl whose picture turns up quite a lot is the one in dark long boots and not much else, holding a long dark whip and looking very menacing, or as menacing as a photocopied kindergarten drawing can look. Maybe it is a school drawing. Maybe the dominatrix said to her child one day, 'Do a nice drawing of a witch holding a whip for mummy, darling' and now it is on public display in more places in London than Charles Saatchi could ever reach.

I saw her picture again yesterday in my phone box near Berwick Street. This time she was standing in front of a blackboard and saying, 'No School Meals Here - Only Strict Discipline]'. There was a picture of the dark-smudged lady as well, only now she is 'Saffron - Busty New Pakistani Beauty'. There was the oddly appealing 'Friendly Italian Model'. And there was another one which, as far as I can remember (I know it's silly, but I felt a bit shy about painstakingly copying these down), went as follows: 'Your VIP Horse Fantasy - A Beauty, A Castle And Lots Of Riding'.

I don't know what that was about, because I don't have fantasies about horses or castles, but it was interesting that the word 'fantasy' was openly mentioned, because that's what these ads are really all about - not sex so much as fantasy, fantasies of power, of punishment, of domination, of school, even of talking to Italian models and finding they are quite friendly and nice, really.

We all have fantasies. You have fantasies. I have fantasies. Yes, I do. I admit it. Tell you what, I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours. All right, I'll go first. My fantasy is to spend all day writing those little sex ads that invisible people stick up in telephone boxes all round London. I'd love to sit around some paper-strewn office with men called Bernie and Les, discussing the right name to give a Pakistani beauty (Yasmin? Naah . . . Sheba? Naah . . . Saffron? Yes, that's different]), thinking of new ways to promise old punishments, being tempted to vary 'New Beauty In Town' with 'Old Beauty About To Leave Town' . . .

And my secret fear is that one day I will actually ring one of these numbers by mistake from a phone box, and when a husky female voice answers, I'll tell her that I'll be on the 5.27 train home, darling. That won't help anyone. Unless, of course, she has fantasies about having a steady bloke who rings up and says he'll be back on the 5.27 train and she just knows he'll be bringing flowers.