How to be an escape artist

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Drape me with chains, secure me in handcuffs until they chaff, wrap yards of rope around me so I look like I’m wearing a hemp boob tube*. Tie me up, blindfold me, gag me – though I’d prefer a freshly laundered hanky, please, because I’m not keen on having a mouthful of your crusty old snot.

Now, I can feel you shifting uncomfortably in your seat, nervously eyeing the door, wondering if we’re straying into Fifty Shades territory here. Don’t fret, my dears. I don’t want you to spank me. That’s not my bag. I’m the kind of prude who feels embarrassed merely walking past an Ann Summers shop and have never so much as looked in the window at the flimsies, let alone crossed the threshold to buy any. Apart from the fact that I find the phrase ‘crotch-less’ about as sexy as eye surgery, I fear electrocution from the static build-up caused by the acres of polyester and nylon inside.

Anyhoo, I digress.

My call for bondage was merely to demonstrate a secret I’ve been hiding for years. You see, while on the surface I look like a writer-wannabe, a florist, middle-aged mum in a misshapen jumper and massive slippers, what I actually am is an ESCAPE ARTIST.

I remember using my skills on long coach journeys from Derbyshire to Victoria Station in London. This was back in the day when the National Express coach was not a reasonably priced convenient way to travel, but a cramped trial by bladder, a form of medieval torture transported to mid-twentieth century England – on wheels.

When my brother and I first started taking the trip regularly the coaches had no loos, they would merely make one fifteen minute stop at an outpost of Purgatory commonly called a Motorway Service Station. After locating the toilet and queueing, you were lucky to have the time to shake before a 100-metre dash across the carpark, skirt tucked in knickers, loo roll trailing from your shoes like pee-stained streamers.  It was that or risk desertion and having to start a new, feral life befriending the local foxes and scrumping chips from the bins.

Now, I was a kid with the weakest of bladders. A thimbleful of Kia-Ora would send me galloping for the nearest lavvy or bush. So when a moment of desperation struck and the nearest loo was still six junctions away, or when I was bored of watching the kids opposite sampling the contents of the ashtray. . .

I would vanish.

I would climb through the hatch in my head and I would wander. As a teenage girl my imagined journeys were usually set in the distant past and involved darkly handsome young men, often wearing breeches and riding boots, always windswept, sometimes standing on a moor.

These young men were very macho whilst still gorgeous in a John-Taylor-from-Duran-Duran sort of way. They’d have the kind of unhinged passion for me and the contents of my corset that as a woman of mature years would have me hoisting up my petticoats, legging it across said moors and barricading myself inside the nearest shepherd’s hut until the local constabulary had carted my beau away to somewhere small and padded.

Being an ESCAPE ARTIST has prevented me from going bonkers over the years, I’m sure, and I still do it now. What else is writing, but an escape into other worlds and other heads?

And along the way, I can explore different sides of myself. The repressed bitch, the brave adventurer, the self-confident go-getter. And even the me that rather enjoyed being hunted down by a deranged, tousle haired, horny man with amazing cheekbones who looked fabulous in jodhpurs.


*Boob tube: not the American meaning (a TV set) but the Brit one, in other words an elasticated top – or instrument of torture, as I prefer to think of it. It has no straps, but rows of very fine elastic as its only means of staying in place. You spend all your time yanking it skywards so as not to expose your puppies to the neighbours, and once you take it off, said breasts are tattooed with lines as if someone’s tried to push your chest through one of those wire egg-cutters you see advertised in magazine supplements.

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