My friend Heather, the expat Brit now living in Lapland came out with a funny revelation on her blog this morning. She confessed that Finnish supermarkets are extraordinarily well stocked – they even sell sex toys. It reminded me of a funny thing that happened on my first visit to Britain, the one in which I met my Englishman. I’d returned to the UK after our fabulous Parisian interlude and was sightseeing around the country when I landed in Bath.
Bath is beautiful! A wonderful ancient city built around the preserved ruins of the Roman Baths – which incidentally I studied all about in fifth form Latin – and the setting for many of Jane Austen’s novels. It’s an elegant city with its circles of Georgian townhouses and as I wandered the cobbled streets I swear I could hear the swish of bustles and ribbons and the sound of hooves and carriage wheels.
So it was a huge surprise to me to fall upon an Ann Summers store bang smack in the middle of this idyllic quaint city.
In New Zealand I’d watched a couple of those late night trashy programmes about the British folk’s sex lives. You know the ones that feature inebriated big busted young girls dancing on tables in Alicante, and the ones featuring judges who spend their private hours wearing nursery bibs and nappies, to make up for the repressive day-to-day life they ordinarily lead. I’ve watched programmes that implied ‘No Sex please, we’re British!’ was status quo and I’d assumed (wrongly I might add!) that the British were a country of sexually repressed civil servants, enlivened only by the raucous eccentricities of the upper classes who were kicking-out against nanny, and their single sex public school early lives!
But those preconceptions didn’t explain what I was looking at with my own two eyes! A sex shop on the main street. Sex shops in NZ are typically up discreet stairs or around the back of the shopping precinct. To enter one you need your dark glasses, your stormtrooper blacks and preferably cover of darkness!
So it was that I entered the shop chuckling to myself and was happily perusing the merchandise (‘oooh look an elephant trunk shaped g-string for him!’, and ‘where on earth do you put that?’) when I noticed an elderly couple walk in.
They were both in their 70s. She was dressed in what could only be described as a twin set skirt and top and was wearing very sensible shoes. She quite possibly wore that favourite pair of shoes to the monthly diocese meeting. Her grey hair was set sensibly and her makeup was minimal. She could easily have been my Nana. He was wearing trousers, a sweater, a tie (I kid you not) and a tweed jacket. A true country gentleman he was, with unruly nasal hairs and a faint whiff of old man.
They made their approach purposefully to the counter, where he nudged her and she dutifully pulled out a boxed item from her floral shopping bag. He had the most wonderful Som er seeeet accent that I would not be able to replicate in text, nor verbally, so please use your imagination.
‘Um, yes. You see I bought this thing ere for my Mrs.’
The young busty salesgirl looked up, and was obviously surprised at their age, but she did well. She didn’t falter.
‘I took it home and we had a go, and well. It don’t work.’
‘I’m sorry. It doesn’t work? Did you put the batteries in?’
He reached over and took the item out of the box and demonstrated a fully functioning buzzing Rampant Rabbit.
She didn’t even blush! I was hiding behind the nurse’s costume at the back of the store. I was threatening to blow like Vesuvious with a lava of giggles.
‘See. It goes round and all that. But…’ he paused and looked down momentarily. He leaned in..
‘It doesn’t make her, …..y’know.’
‘Right. I see.’
‘So I want my money back. It says ‘ere that there’s a guarantee, and I want my money back’.
‘Well because you’ve used the item, it’s difficult for us to take it back I’m afraid.’
He nodded but persisted.
‘But it don’t worrrrk’.
The sales girl rushed away to confer with her supervisor, and mercifully returned with the glad tidings that he could have his money back and keep the item.
They trotted off politely, off home for a cup of tea and a nice (playful?) lie-down. As they left the shop happy as a sandboy playing in the sand, I realised something.
Don’t believe everything you hear about the sex lives of the British, (or the elderly). It’s not all ‘lie back and think of England!’