Category Archives: Psychology

The Only Straights in the Village

In which The Author and his friends are the victims
of an unfortunate misunderstanding

A few years ago, a gang of us went to see the League of Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane – it must have been about seven years ago, as Gema and I had just split up.
James T. and I decided we wanted to raise an elbow in the Coach and Horses in Greek Street, in memory of the great writer and piss-artist Jeffrey Bernard (see also ‘A Day in Parliament‘ and ‘Missed the Coach‘). However, the minibus was parked up near Drury Lane. It’s a fair walk down the Strand and into Soho, but it was a cracking day and we were in the mood for an adventure. Emma and her college mates wanted to stay local, so James, Sharon, Susan, Vicky and I set off down the Strand. By the time we’d gone half a mile the girls were complaining. They’d worn shoes which were very nice, but totally unsuitable for walking in …
James and I gave in to their nagging, and agreed that we’d go to the first pub we came to. In St Martin’s Lane, just off Trafalgar Square, we spotted a pub sign. Sharon read it as Railway and Beaver – no stupider than the Pickled Pepper, we thought – so we walked in.
The girls ordered drinks straight away. When I got to the bar the penny dropped immediately. By then, the girls had been served, so it was too late to make a discreet exit.
After about twenty minutes, Sharon leaned over to me with a horrified expression on her face.
‘Steve,’ she whispered behind her hand, ‘it’s a gay pub!’
I whispered back, ‘I know!’
‘When did you find out?’
‘About three seconds after I got to the bar!’
I still haven’t decided whether it was the counterpack of The Pink Paper, the arty photos of shaven-headed tattooed hunks, or the box of free condoms on the bar that gave the game away.
After his pint James needed the loo, but he wouldn’t go unless I accompanied him to make sure he didn’t get propositioned. As a large, shaven-headed, tattooed guy, I think he figured he was Top Totty.
It was only when we were leaving to rejoin the others that I checked the name of the pub. It was really Halfway to Heaven.
I recounted the story in work on the Monday, and Jason D. looked at me in sheer disbelief.
‘Didn’t it occur to you? The clue’s in the name!’
And indeed it is! ‘Heaven’ is possibly London’s premier gay club, situated under Charing Cross – a stone’s throw from the pub we’d been in. It’s a meeting place for guys and gals before they go clubbing.
Hence the name …

Learning Disabilities

In which The Author meets some
children with ‘special needs’

My ex-girlfriend Sam H. works in London, in a residential home for adults with learning difficulties. There’s a similar home not far from my house. The residents (or ‘clients’, as they’re called in the third sector) of both homes are a terrific bunch of people. I’ve never had any problem communicating with them, because I don’t patronise them or treat them differently from anybody else.
My friend Helen J. has two children with ‘special needs’; widowed young, she’s struggled to bring them up from infancy. When I was young, we didn’t use these politically correct terms to describe people like her children, or Sam’s clients. We called them ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘retarded’ or ‘remedial’ – because we were young and cruel and knew no better.
The first time I met Helen’s children was the day of Aberdare Carnival a few years ago.The four of us sat outside the pub and chatted for a while, then went inside and I played a couple of games of pool with her son Nathan. At the time he was about fourteen, a big strong lad with a gentle, almost timid, soul in his over-sized body. Ashleigh, his young sister, was more talkative and boisterous. Everyone agreed it had been a great afternoon – better, probably, than going to the carnival.
That evening, Helen sent me a text message. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like this:
N & A wanted to know if you were my new boyfriend. I told them you were a friend from way back. A thinks we should get together. N said you are the only adult who doesn’t treat him as a retard.
I didn’t treat Nathan as a retard because he didn’t strike me as such.
Adults who can’t operate the ticket barriers at Cardiff Station, or read the price printed on the back of a book, or come to terms with Chip & PIN two years after its introduction, probably are retards.
Sam always said I’d be great dealing with her clients. I met them all one Xmas Day, when I was invited round to the care home. I had a most enjoyable afternoon, talking to Violet about what life had been like during the Blitz. She didn’t seem like a ‘retard’ at all, just a lovely old Cockney lady with a wealth of stories.
I was talking to one of the publisher’s reps when Sam and I first got together, and he asked what she did for a living.
I said, ‘We’re in the same line of work.’
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘she’s in the book trade too?’
‘No,’ I replied, ‘she works with adults with learning disabilities.’
So do I.
A lot of them come into the shop on a regular basis. At least some collect a monthly salary for doing so. Maybe I should I apply for Attendance Allowance for looking after them all day long.