Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure:
Chairing the Member
Abi Frost

8 April 1772 Ride triumphal in red satin deshabille on electoral chariot to Hornsey-Wood, to dine with Mrs K (the former Mrs P of Ealing) & her visitor Mrs B, she who won handsome prize of trip over from the Colonies, but only second prize so she has to go back again. Much talk of the Election; all present for Wilkes & Liberty! except Mr L, who has voted by post for the Secession of Wales, in faint pathetick Hope that he may thus in future roam mountainside in vague scientifick dream, untroubl'd by women talking Politicks. Tell them 'tis all over but the drinking, & to-morrow night we shall all toast a True Radical Government in flowing bumpers. That is, if we can think of a way to get shot of Mr K-----k of Islwyn before opening of Parliament.

Pass on indecent metropolitan scandals, but Mrs W refuses to believe the one about her MP.

9 April Spend much of day hustling up rustick villagers of Kensington. Decide I might as well do a bit of election work while there. Sit outside polling station with skirt artfully drap'd to reveal a scarlet stocking, rosette-garter'd, to stiffen waverers in resolve to vote for Mrs Holmes, who is as Mrs Thrale, Mrs Siddons, & the late Duchess of Marlboro' roll'd into one, rather than the most aptly nam'd Mr Deadly Fishbone. Ignore idle chatter of extremely tedious woman from Liberal Democrats, but smile patronisingly at Tory woman. So brave of her to smile back.

Later, to Holloway, for riotous celebration with ancient Radicals of Oxford University. All sunk in silence & gloom, though some small cheer brought by results from Bath-spa, Lewisham, & Streatham.

10 April, small hours Tis all a fix! Surely recall Mr Doomsday Fishnet treating electors while canvassing Sun in Splendour. Lie abed and groan awhile, then to Mr E's signing at Fantasy Inn. Fantasy Inn burnt down by rioting Tory mob, so on to Troy club. Groan. Even our drinking-place is anagram of Tory. Groan. Pass on scandals, but Mr K of Hitchen unable to credit one about his former Minister.

11-16 April Sleep, disturbed only by call from Mr F of Leeds. Agree that his Labour councillors & my Lib Dem ones are as peas in a pod, all hireling place-men of Old Corruption & cheapskate mistress-keepers & doubtless in pay of Tories. (Though if in pay of Tories, Tories do not pay enough, or so say councillors' mistresses.)

17 April, morning & afternoon Kick Mr Wilkes traditionally from bed and, as ever, head for Mr C's of Camden-Town and lift to watering-place. Discuss whether Mr Flashgun brought mail-coach over on ferry-boat from Spain or just carried votes in sacks.

Greeted in Blackpool by Mr L, who has taken vow to speak only Welch until True Radical Govt is elected. Or so I understand his speech. Go with Mrs K to simple rented garret, a short walk along the promenade, she says. Rough seas & driving winds, good socialist trams no-where to be seen. 'Hey, by my faith, 'tis an ill Tory wind!' I trill, but this shaft of wit lost on Mrs K, who is wearing fur ear-muffs. Put scarf over head and try Gracie Fields imitation. Nearly get heel stuck in tram-line.

Back at con, enliven Mrs B & Mrs W's TAFF panel with my imitation of Mr Skinner of Bolsover. Apolitical fans fail to fall about as planned, brains evidently dull'd by years of Tory propaganda. Must have drink, then do something about this.

At last to bar, where greet with pleasure the Leeds Mafiosi: besides Mr F, there is the artist Signor Moorino, La Dibbi, reigning Queen of La Scala, the mysterious Duchessa K, & her paramour Monsignor P, Jesuitical cat's paw of Signor d'Ovest & Cardinal Accli. Signor Michel-Angelo D over in corner being corrupted by publishers: Mr J, still mourning the death of Mr Maxwell & networking hard, & Mrs B of Henrietta-St, trying to keep two Mr Es sober.

Mr L approaches & says something in Welch. Send him to bar for half of mild while I fascinate my New New Best Friend, Mgr P. Pass on scandals: Mgr P sceptical of the one about his party's leader. 'There were surely more than five,' he says, with Vaticanickal certainty.

April 17, evening Tell Mrs P at information desk to arrange Radical meeting on Sunday. Return to bar, where Mr J has network'd himself into song. Look for Mrs K with intention of filching ear-muffs, but to no avail. Mr L says something in Welch: send him to bar for pint of Guinness, and discuss Oppositional Politicks with Mgr P. Tell him how Dastardly Fleshpot personally rearranged trees outside polling station so that electors could not see my scarlet stocking-tops. Probably. How else could we have failed after glories of by-election?

Greet my friend Rozalinda, & her fellow-initiates of the Order of the Midnight Rose. Hear how she (who will eat absolutely anything) broke open fortune-cookie, only to swoon on finding within an advert, for the wares of Mr W of the China-Seas. Mr R of Bloomsbury totally surrounded by groupies & Mr I of Mile-End (in strange new-fangled britches). Sir Gamma Fitz-Gamma, founder of infamous Hell-Dave Club, sees Mrs G, now of Shoreditch High-St, and rushes to join her at Women's Press Table to sell subscriptions for Folio of works of the late Mr Aleistair Crowley.

Night passes in merriment & solidarity, strange passions briefly flower. Mr L says something in Welch.

Mrs K & I retire to garret. Good socialist trams have ceas'd running, so take vile capitalist hackney-carriage.

April 18, morning & afternoon Rise early & go back to bed. Mrs K wakes me again at 10. Into Blackpool to shop for dainties at Food Giant: vast cavernous hall pil'd high with unpleasant things in tins. Not unlike Parliament full of Tories.

At con, am greeted by young Mr T with timing slots for Radical meeting. Settle on 11 o'clock which conflicts with nothing of importance. Liberate paper & chalks from Ops & settle down to write witty bills to draw Radical masses. 'ARE YOU FOR WILKES & LIBERTY!/Do you wish True Radical Govt?/Would you like to see Mr Green of Solihull hanging from a lamp-post? Come to our meeting!'

Read bill again and strike out last q., as Mopsy (PSHAW!) Room too small to contain Mrs W and Mr T of Birmingham, let alone entire glittering company.

Watch Mr C, erstwhile my semiotic Jehu, converse on intellectual delights of Frozen Arctic Wastes with Mr R of Bloomsbury. Learn later that Rozalinda and Mr S of Colchester have cunningly arranged Midnight Rose rout during this event, he hoping to prevent free drinks being taken, she to drink 'em all herself.

April 18, evening Dine at garret en garconne with Mrs K, on Italian delicacies in honour of Leeds Mafiosi. Return post-haste to applaud Pyrotechnicks (an allegory of Mr K-----k: up like Rocket and down like Stick, with much loud noise and stinking fog) & urge Mgr P to attend Radical meeting. Attend Bavarian party, at which there is nothing to drink. Urge Mr Smith of Surbiton to attend Radical meeting, then urge Mgr P again. Meet Mr W, Knob-founder to the Carriage-Trade, of Sutton-Cold-Field; looking in vain for drink: a sadly puzzled man, sure, who would be a manufacturer and yet a Tory. Castigate him, while his wife drips honey at Mr L, but what care I, now my Life is dedicated to Wilkes & Liberty! Join'd by Mrs S, a school-marm of Cambridge -- strange to say so benight'd a place should return a Radical member & yet we must still groan under Norman yoke of Tories! Pox on't, was not Mr Drugfiend Flushball seen chairing it the length of Observatory Gardens, scattering freeholds hither & yon to the miserable leaseholders?

Mr W says fie to women talking Politicks, so we talk instead of midwif'ry, in innocent hope & anticipation to see him swoon. But Madam his wife will talk Politicks! -- how she was so poor when a child, though her Mother's vast Brood all had little slippers to walk to school in, yet there were those in the street who drank and their Brats had to tramp it in Wellingtons. Thou art a foolish baggage, I say, like a good Radical Quaker, for the first Duke of Wellington is in this year of grace 1772 but plain little Arthur often years old. So where, then, Madam, says she, are Miss Grade Fields & Mr Skinner of Bolsover, pray? Why, I rejoin, where they always are -- crying stinking fish at Wapping Old Stairs with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Having thus utterly routed her as I shall rout all Tories, I go to bar, there to remind Mgr P of Radical meeting, before she can say "trams".

Mgr P holds court in bar, with adoring new converts Mrs L of Bristol, our Scotch Portia Mrs E, Mrs K, and Mrs Wesley the hedge-preacher, yet all the time safely under eye of his Duchessa. Tell him not to forget meeting, and he says, why, but he has just now been talking with these Fair Radicals of how they all shall Come & bear loud Witness how the Spirit moves them at meeting. Or possibly some time before. Mr Smith (who, tho' he bear a cursed name, is a lively fellow when away from his watcher, Mrs A.T.), Mr W of the China-Seas, Mr H of Guildford (with spirits brought in under the nose of the Excise), Signor D, Mr F and Mr L and others also present, and mighty enthusiastick for meeting.

Close to bar are Mr E & Mr E, Mrs B having departed to her slumbers; Mr W of Oxfordshire, who embraces my elbow and pronounces himself enthusiastick for meeting; & Mr J, still networking. Return to table to find fickle Fair Radicals have deserted Mgr P for Mr R of Bloomsbury, so take opportunity to invite him to meeting. Then join them on Mr R's capacious knee. Mr L says something in Welch and departs.

Shocked to discover I have no money for hackney-coachman, and Mrs K is gone already, apparently in carriage-and-four she has set up on profits of hiring out ear-muffs to Mgr P.

Spend night on Mr R's sofa, which is rather larger than bed in garret.

April 19, morning Awake and eat Mr R's banana (a Commodious and Anachronistick Fruit, possibly bought at stall next to Gracie & Dennis's fish-stall). To coffee-house to read newspapers, full of tales of Tory Depravity, Sedition, and Election-rigging.

Collect Mr F and Mrs H of Stoke-Newington, she who suffers so mightily from the Green-Sickness, for meeting, sending Mrs H for drinks. Move chairs around in Mopsy (a Pox on all Sentimentalisticks!) Room and tell Mrs H what to do.

Meeting proceeds well. Tell assembl'd Radicals that 'twas all the fault of Mr K-----k, that in Kensington we had scarce enough talent for Allsaints'-Rd, whereas in by-election we had six good wh---s & ten good bully-boys knocking up in every last street! (And that without the help of My Lady Antonia!!!!) & thus we should all adore Mr Prescott, however difficult it seem. Mr M of Salford tells how his mechanicks & barrow-boys were all filch'd for a strange orgy at Sheffield, & Rozalinda cries Wilkes & the National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty)! Mgr P cries that his faction are the One True Radicals, but Mr F shuts him up. Mrs H longs to tell all (again) how she escap'd penal servitude in Van Diemen's Land by swimming shark-infested waters, but I have made her Chair so she can't.

A most satisfying meeting, which Tories shall not long survive.

To luncheon with Mr L, who eats laver-bread and leeks.

19 April, afternoon Voting again, for Silly Awards, in which we shall most certainly wipe floor with Tories. Mgr P says that the Mafiosi require seats for Signor d'Ovest, Cardinal Accli, Signor Moorino, and Signor Figliodiricardo. I go to deposit my several ballot papers and Mgr P's and find that Tories have hidden ballot box at back of stage in fan room. Go & fill out more ballots. Vote for Mr Livingstone of Brent-Cross as fan most likely to fail.

Fanzine auction, in which Mrs W fails to sell great rarities for tuppence ha'penny. Buy early fanzine of Mr L, in which he professes willingness to die for a woman's eyes. Show him it but he groans in Welch.

19 April, evening Tired after my Labours to overthrow Tories. Have refreshing bath and miss Mr L's speech at Awards Ceremony. No matter, 'twas in Welch. Catch Silly Awards: Signor Figliodiricardo most boring fan, and Signor d'Ovest is most promising newcomer, to loud general acclamation. Slip of girl working lantern asks, Who is d'Ovest?

Signor D and Rozalinda demand that Mr L and I go eat with them. Waste time which could be used working for Wilkes & Liberty! arguing about whether to tram it or call carriage. Make them bloody walk. Meal excellent but Cimmerian Tory darkness envelopes rest of evening. Offend Mr S of Colchester and grieveously injure Mrs G of Stevenage. Seek out Mgr P -- sole friend remaining in cruel and wicked Tory world -- to confess multitudinous sins but he is not interested. Go to Mr R's party instead. Party gets closed down by Mr H of Reading. To bar. Mgr P still unmoved by multitudinous sins. Go to bed, I know not where and care less.

20 April, morning, afternoon & evening Tired. Learn at garret that we owe one more night's rental; tho' we neither of us want to stay longer.

Watch Mrs W declaim fanzine articles. Fall asleep. Want to go home. Burst into tears in bar. Tis finagling Tories have brought me to this pitch. Distinctly remember Mr Dreadlock Fishface wheeling cartload of Rotting Corpses down Hill-gate Street, each bearing polling card in stinking bony hand. We could only find one bloody corpse in by-election.

There will be more, there will be more; most of them at this rate mine. Confound their Politicks, frustrate their Knavish Tricks. God save us All.

Gallant Sir Gamma Fitz-Gamma offers ride home in Hell-Dave Club chariot, driven by sobersided Mr R of Hatton-Cross. Accept, and go to hear how Mr ---- of Outer Space has lost all his wealth in South-Sea Bubble. Agree that whichever is first on the Strand shall save t'other a good cardboard box. Burst into tears again. Mr R comes to bring me to chariot.

Ride hell-for-leather homeward, changing horses at I forget where. Other Hell-Daveists follow in barouche. No-one is sick, wheels do not fall off chariot, horses do not drop dead. Home before midnight.

20 April, night To bed, to be greeted by Mr Grant of Tottenham & Mr Livingstone of Brent-Cross. Gaze on them in exhausted disbelief. Decide to hold out for My Lord Stansgate & Mr Skinner of Bolsover, leave t'other two to play silly games with each other, and collapse in sitting-room with cat & bottle of vodka.

21 April some time or other Ring Mr L. Answers in Welch.

Decide that if My Lord of Chesterfield and Mr Skinner should arrive I shall hold out for Mr Imran Khan.

Sleep and have pleasant dream of sunny cricket-fields.

Written by a worn-out, depressed and broke Fanny La Rouge, at the sign of Lord Rochester's Head on a GLC Parks Department Railing, London E2 OBP. 25 April 92

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure 4 (April 1992)
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