People who have mobile phones won't know about all this - indeed, people may well buy mobile phones for the single puritanical purpose of getting away from the constant array of prostitutes' cards they are forced to look at in phone boxes - but I know all about this, because every time I go innocently into a London phone box I suddenly get culture shock all over again.
But on my last visit to London I saw something quite different in a kiosk. I saw a prostitute's card which read as follows. "Rita promises you NO Hanky Panky! Hands off Rita! Keep your distance with lovely Rita! Ask for nothing and you won't be disappointed!"
This sounded a bit out of the ordinary. A girl who took your money and then didn't sell you her body.
Or was it code for something so recondite that I didn't even know about it?
I was intrigued.
I was very intrigued.
I was so intrigued that I made a note of the number.
Let's be honest - I rang her there and then.
"I am doing a survey of London phone box cards," I improvised hastily when Rita answered the phone. "I was just wondering what sort of customer you were catering for."
"Why don't you come along and find out, sir?" she said, and gave me an address. "Bring a video if you like." Then she rang off.
I think if she had called me "darling" or "love", I wouldn't have gone along to see her. But being called "sir" reassured me. I felt safe. I went along to see her.
"Did you bring a video?" she said. "No matter. There's plenty of other things to do."
"What kind of video did you expect me to bring?" I said nervously. "Sex, you mean?"
"Don't be stupid," she said. "Football videos are what punters normally bring. Wildlife documentaries are next popular. I draw the line at feature movies. They take hours."
"You mean - people can only have sex while their favourite TV programme is on?"
She stared at me.
"Sex? What are you talking about? They come here to get away from it."
Gradually, as she talked, the truth came out. Most prostitutes catered for men who had little or no sex life at home, but Rita catered for another minority - those who had too much, men who suffered from sexually demanding wives or who for some reason had gone off the whole thing.
"You'd be surprised how many men are just settling down for a quiet evening with a book or the TV when they are dragged off to bed by a concupiscent wife," said Rita. "All they want to do is be left in peace and quiet.
"That's what I give them here. They bring round the programmes they've missed and watch them here, while I potter around doing the housework or sewing. There's one bloke who always brings his ironing round and likes to watch me do that, while we chat. Of course, I have to charge him extra.
"But football on video is the main choice of men. It's often on late at night, and they're dragged off to bed for sex by the wife at that time, so they tape it and bring it round here, and watch it as they would have liked to watch it. I've got several regulars who do that. Some games I see four or five times over. And I must always remember never to reveal the result if I know it in advance."
Does she have to watch the programmes as well? Is that part of the deal?
"No, not necessarily, although you do find the occasional man who gets a real kick out of explaining football to a woman in technical terms. So many women obviously get turned off by sport that when the men say to me, 'Did you see the way he drew his man and created space there?' and I say, 'Very nice running off the ball, too' - one of the phrases I've picked up, don't know what it means - they go red with pleasure.
"But what they like best, if you can believe it, is for me to dress up in something very revealing or skimpy and come smooching past saying, 'Are you coming to bed now?' "
Why do they like that?
"Because it gives them a chance to shout at me, 'Oh, go and take a jump in the lake,' or, 'I wouldn't go to bed with you if we were on a desert island together!' - all those things they've longed to say to their wives, but have never dared. At least they know that when they come to a prostitute like me, during the hour they spend here they are quite free from sex.
"Funny old thing, human nature, isn't it?"
I think she may be right.Reuse content