Trudging off to see some mummies in an ancient Irish church – the embalmed variety, not vulnerable single mothers – I get distracted by a sign. “Jazz 4-6.30pm”, it reads. I’m in like a shot.
Or rather, I’m barred by one of those enormous bald men that usually stand outside discos looking unapproachable. ‘You can’t come in dressed like that,’ he says. ‘There’s a dress code.’ Now it’s not as though I’m wearing a Borat thong; I happen to be sartorially impeccable, clad in a snazzy mackintosh, shorts and flip-flops. ‘What, for jazz on a Sunday afternoon?’ I counter.
Quite how this disarms him, I don’t know, but it does. ‘OK, I’ll let yers trew tis woonce,’ he replies in a heavy Irish brogue, softening a little. The jazz is a little disappointing, though. An ageing female flautist rattles off inoffensive, cocktail tunes – a far cry from the edgy improvisation that only a trumpeter on the verge of imploding can foster.
As I’m ordering a second pint, I notice the clientele are predominantly men – smartly tonsured men. And a sizeable percentage of them are wearing figure-hugging T-shirts. Whoops, have I unwittingly stumbled into a gay bar again? The trouble with being straight – and perhaps a little naïve – is that I never grasp the extent of a situation until things become dicey.
You see, a clever ploy that poofters* use to disarm their quarry is to talk of girlfriends. This once put a certain young intrepid reporter so at ease that he happily ended up in a flat in Wimbledon. Oh, it’s no good talking in the third person, I suppose – the victim’s identity is blindingly obvious. It was the prospect of being cooked a meal that enticed me, and it wasn’t until after dinner that his intentions became clear: I was dessert. Gulp!
He whacked on a pornographic film, ostentatiously undressed, and offered me a massage with a heat lamp. Straight men just don’t do that, do they? I was only nineteen..
Anyway, back to the present. Tact is the key at times like this; a splash of diplomacy and discretion can work wonders. ‘Is this a bar for queers?’ I ask the barmaid. She nods. Possibly adding insult to injury, I ask which side of the bar is least queer. ‘You’re on it,’ she replies. I change my order to half a pint – got to keep my wits about me – before tossing my own salad in Spar to unwind..
[*Obviously, lest anybody be in doubt, this post is tongue-in-cheek]