The scarlet net


‘What do you think?’ Sergeant Stanley looked at him expectantly, smoothing his broad moustache with finger and thumb.

Gordon knew that action well. Despite his calm exterior, Stanley was excited by his own theory, keen for the chase. Gordon looked up to the map again. London, speared by a dozen brass pins, red cords looped between them, the capital caught in a scarlet net.

Stanley was viewed as the station’s eccentric, a bachelor at thirty five still living at home with a mother whose wits often wandered. Gordon had visited the small, sooty terraced house where they lived many times for suppers of pie and liqour. Under the flickering gas mantles, he’d viewed the study wall patchworked with newspaper cuttings and photographs Stanley had taken with his box Brownie, monochrome dismemberments brought to life in the musty cellar.

An odd fish, the other officers said. Rumoured to be a regular at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street. And the closest thing Gordon had to a friend.

Gordon sat back in his chair, resting his heels on his desk. ‘Tell me again, Sergeant.’




Pie and liquor – meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a green sauce made from parsley and jellied eels.

Lyons Corner House, Coventry Street – Lyons Corner Houses were a chain of teashops, now defunct. The Coventry Street one in Picadilly, London was a known meeting place for gay men in the days when homosexuality was still very much illegal.




20 thoughts on “The scarlet net

    1. Ha! I’ve never thought so myself, but they’re a great tradition still in the East End of London, so my Grandad – a genuine Cockney – would have eaten them I guess. Fish sauce over a meat pie doesn’t appeal πŸ™‚

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  1. What a lovely little character study!
    My aunt was once manager of the Coventry Street Lyons Corner house. She fell out with a rather famous gay actor, but fortunately the incident didn’t happen at work – he lived next door to her.

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    1. I feel strangely nostalgic for Lyons Corner Houses even though they were gone before my time. Just something very English about them I suppose. I find this snippet of gay histroy very interesting – what was it about this corner house that attracted the gay community and why were was their presence tolerated back in the days when homosexuality was still illegal? Interesting. Also intrigued as to which actor your aunt fell out with and why … πŸ™‚

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      1. I wish I could remember… maybe he wasn’t an actor, but he was often on TV. Maybe he was famous for his flamboyance, and for being loudly gay. The last time I saw him was in a TV series about the houses of famous personalities. The presenter used to look around the house and interview the person. His house was absolutely filthy.

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      2. It WAS! It was Quentin Crisp! How could I have forgotten that? That’s what he said – and that’s why my aunt told me the story of her disagreement with him. Her flat was next door to his at the time – in Chelsea, I think – and she was offended both by the quality of his visitors and by the smell of his home. She mentioned rats, but I don’t know if there were any.
        Thank you – I don’t know how I managed to forget the details…
        He was opposed to the gay rights movement, presumably because it pushed him from the limelight. Last year I met Peter Tatchell- he’s a lovely man – and that was his view.

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      3. Haha! Funny I guessed his identity from him being gay and being filthy! Well, I’m sure we have a romantic idea of the man from John Hurt’s wonderful performance in The Naked Civil Servant. He must have undoubtedly been brave to dress and behave the way he did at the time, but spiky – very spiky.
        Interesting what Peter Tatchell said about him. How did you meet him? Glad he’s a nice man in real life – comes across like that on the telly

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      4. Well, us’ve ‘ad cutlery een the fancier rest’runts down yer een Barns’pul for a foo yers now, an’ ‘e wus glad o’that. Funny blawk though – ‘e didn’ think ter lick the plate clean.

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