Indebted to a big girl's blouse

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The Independent Online
IN MY days in the SBS it was customary to pile up to London on Friday night, stopping briefly on the way at the Parachute Regiment's Aldershot headquarters, where we would run into the mess and shout: 'Only fairies have wings] What do you say to that?'

These days, according to The Weasel, young men, seeking to get the adrenalin going, would do better to hop into a north London pub, tap my friend 'Mad' Frankie Fraser on the shoulder, and call him a big girl's blouse.

The Weasel's wrong about that, as it happens, but some remarks of his in last Saturday's Independent Magazine, in which he quoted Mickey Skinner's dismissal of the English backs at Twickenham as a crew of 'Jessicas' and 'girls', give me the opportunity to career, rather late and at an angle, into the back to basics debate in general and, specifically, to examine here why, when a Tory scandal breaks, it is always men who are caught in such distressing circumstances.

'Even a rugby virgin such as I,' wrote the Weasel, 'can detect a strain of sexist contempt beneath the burly pundit's (Skinner's) remarks. But he is more than a little unwise if he thinks he can get away with calling ineffectual sportsmen 'Jessicas' and 'girls'. I would as soon inform Mr 'Mad' Frankie Fraser that he was a large maternity smock.

'For . . . when it comes to sport, women are not just competing in all the formerly exclusive male preserves - they're actually tougher than men. In fact, they're more ruthless, more dirty, more ambitious and have greater powers of endurance.'

That's right, I think, and there's a clue here - to do with 'roles', their 'unnaturalness' and so forth - as to why men are so often found trussed like a chicken in a wardrobe, wearing suspender belt and little else.

In spite of late Sixties' and early Seventies' feminist talk, it's clear, surely, that the male 'role' is the more 'unnatural' - a performance, an impersonation - and that the stern injunction 'Be a man]' (untroubling, of course, to real men such as myself, the Great LT, Ronnie Lott and my pal Frankie Fraser) is a stage direction - unparalleled in a girl's early education and likely to cause all manner of neurotic goings-on in later life.

Anyone who has worked, as I have, in a brothel knows that the small minority of its clients who don't want to dress up as parlour maids are as passive as sponges for all that, wanting only to lie out like fishes on a slab and - relieved for once of responsibility, of being persuasive and in command - be authoritatively attended to.

Equally, it seems unlikely that a brothel for women - a place where they could talk about cars and money, where, dressed like Bruce Willis or members of a riot squad, they could bark orders and hit each other on the head - would be heavily attended.

It was with these not particularly profound thoughts in mind that I went this week to have a drink with my pal Frankie Fraser and his lovely Marilyn (the talented singer and Robert Wisbey's girl), to congratulate him on his recently published memoirs, Mad Frank (Little, Brown, pounds 15.99), while remaining sternly aware throughout that I mustn't glamorise him.

Nor would this be easy. How not to glamorise a life of being fitted up by bent policemen, of being brutalised by sadistic prison officers, many of them Geordies? How not to cause impressionable young people to say, 'Hey - that's how I'd like to spend the next 40 years', that was the problem.

Happily, I had the answer. Rather than allow Mr Fraser to exploit me (a representative here of the gullible media), I'd exploit him: more accurately, I'd suggest that he and I should exploit respectable members of the general public by setting up the Frankie Fraser Debt Collection Agency - directors, Mr William Donaldson and Mr 'Mad' Frankie Fraser.

First, however, I had to bring him up to date with my thinking on the 'unnaturalness' of the male 'role'.

'Frankie, you big girl's blouse,' I said, 'argue me this. A brothel for women, in which they could scrum down dressed in rugby kit, would be largely unattended, would it not?'

'Button,' he said, 'you've just blown The Female Eunuch clean out of the water.'

'Thank you,' I replied, 'I may not be stupid, but I am educated.'

'Where?' he asked.

'Winchester,' I said.

Mr Fraser chuckled darkly, like an ancient gate wheezing on its hinges. 'I know it well,' he said. 'We used to stop off there for lunch on the way to Parkhurst or Portland. Have you mentioned the book, Mad Frank, pounds 15.99, and a steal at the


'Twice now,' I said. 'It's unputdownable. Right, here's the scam. You and I open the Frank Fraser Debt Collection Agency. Would you be any good at it?'

'I'd be very good,' he said. 'You're bang out of order,' I'd say. They'd get the picture.'

'You'd threaten them?'

A mournful look, the gallows chuckle. 'I wouldn't have to.'

I believed that and no mistake. 'When do we start?' I asked.

'We just have,' he said. 'You owe me for the drinks.'

This is very exciting. The money will soon be pouring in.