A 5200 word story by Jim Stewart

The sensual thrill of a distinctive smell - a visual image - something to enjoy
rather than get anxious about.
The memory of an enjoyable time can be a
source of enduring pleasure.

A romance from another time
(EXCERPT 2300 words)

This story is from my very young days.
The opening chapter begins ...

Once upon a time (before waxed cotton was invented) there was a certain kind of very smooth black and shiny, tough and rugged waterproof two-piece motorcycle suit. From the first moment I saw one I wanted to touch it, smell it, rub myself against it. Most of all I wanted to zip and strap and snap myself into one and stomp around in it. As at that time I was fourteen years old, this was pure fantasy. I soon discovered it was called a 'Black Prince' suit, which seemed appropriate because to me at that age anybody wearing one looked like a modern knight in shining armour.

That was a lot of years ago and, even then, my attraction towards tough waterproof fabric wasn't a new thing. Since before I could remember I'd been somehow excited by images of masculine men wearing thick and restrictive 'gear'. When I was only seven my uncle Ted who was 'away at the war' had stored his massive heavy, shiny, long black motorcycling coat in the big walk-in wardrobe on our landing. Don't ask me why; I guess his wife's cupboards weren't big enough. I only know I was drawn to it, and used to sneak into the dark interior, shut the door and wrap myself in this slippery, rubbery Greatcoat, as it was called. It was so heavy the loop to hang it up by was made of chain; another thing that attracted me to it. There in the breathless blackness I would feel it and smell it long before I knew what being turned-on was.

This autobiographical story centres on a period when I was seventeen and staying with a husband and wife in Barrow in Furness.

... My landlady's husband worked in the ship yards; ex-navy, he rode a motorbike, went fishing on his own and spent a lot of time gardening on his bleak allotment on the outskirts of Town. I fancied him rotten in a silently unfocussed way. At that time, though, I just wanted to be like him; masculine, confident and unselfconscious. He wore clapped out navy oilskins to and from work more often than not, and a sensational Government surplus heavy twill Tank Suit for when off on his bike in cold weather. I also fantasised about wearing that suit and being wrestled into submission in it by him while wearing his black ex-navy oilskins. My instinctive preferences were, at that time, still trying to find a focus.

Generally referred to as Banny because they were Lill and Reg Bannerman; in their homely street they were a popular couple and regulars in several of the local pubs and Working Men's clubs. I was welcomed into their circle for their sakes ...

His reluctant acceptance of his wife's decision to take in a lodger caused some tense moments around the house, so I had to watch my step all the way because Banny was a "moody sod", as his amiable wife put it.

... The gradual relaxing of his gruff guarded nature was encouraging to experience. The first invitation to go fishing with him was quite a concession according to Lill who had long ago accepted that he was a man who needed solitary time, or at least time apart from her.

On our first experimental fishing trip together it was logical for me to take along the now familiar oilskins which I had started using when giving him a hand out on his hill-side allotment. A dangerous ploy but it was paying off. Luckily, the weather on the day of the trip was dull enough to warrant me actually wearing my 'skins' while clinging close to Banny's newly acquired "Black Prince" suit on the back of his bike.

This taciturn northerner seemed to enjoy schooling me (a 'southerner' to Banny although I actually came from the midlands) in the gentle art of lake fishing. To Lill's delight, her husbands invitations to me to join him on his 'time away from home' trips became a regular feature in our lives. Quite often he took along a small tent in case the weather got really shitty when a long ride away from home. He admitted that he used to enjoy an occasional overnight stay so he could do very early morning fishing but Lill had never enjoyed the tent. An offer seemed to be on the table. I suddenly became especially interested in learning more about dawn or even night fishing. The idea of a night in a small tent in the pissing rain with two sets of oilskins and his Black Prince suit hot off the bike to give the small space a special smell and 'atmosphere' ... at least I could fantasise and get off on the possibilities.

It was a seriously dangerous progression and the first time we 'slept over' I was naturally extra cautious. So, I sensed, was he. His status in the local community as a touchy and unpredictable hard man was quite scary. There were stories of sudden social violence in his past. Any suggestion of anything questionable about our relationship could have ended in disaster. However, as the degree of his comfortableness with me grew, my occasional cautious returns to the topic of challenging rough-house games between men in the shipyard or the navy were carefully connected to my journalistic development. He still thought of me as having had a pampered upbringing, so he was forthcoming about the benefits of manly physical competitiveness and body contact sports. This theme I developed in casual conversation, eventually reintroducing a topic I'd studiously resisted returning to too often. I told him I intended to do an article on Harry Houdini's tours of northern England in the Twenties, and the challenges people brought to him.

On several previous occasions I'd asked Banny about rope and cable tying in the Navy. Hammock stowing and lashing and general horseplay with guys getting lashed up in their hammocks or to deck-rails at night were, I already knew, old navy practices. So, tying-up techniques suddenly became a legitimate topic because of my speculation on what sort of challenges might be brought to Houdini by the public today.

We were sleeping overnight on a fishing trip up the Cumbrian coast the first time I got him to tie me up. The weather was foul so not only were we in the tent early, but he was wearing his Black Prince suit and I the foul weather oilskin suit and boots because it was intensely cold and damp. Inside the tent from early dusk we talked about possible Houdini challenges. He had previously mentioned that on board one ship there had been a 'regular Houdini-freak'. Later that evening, after a wet ride out for a couple of beers and fish and chips, back in the tent I steered the conversation around again to how Houdini might have been foiled. He wasn't easy to convince that he might know a useful trick or two, but he did say he'd watched as others challenged the guy aboard ship. When I asked how and if the guy got out - he laughed and said there were several simple ways to rope somebody inescapably. That was all the encouragement I needed - in the cause of 'research' he had to show me.

He had fishing line, a few odd straps (for strapping things to his bike) and some rope - and I'd thoughtfully packed some extra rope just in case, as the saying goes. It seemed acceptable to him to while away a couple of otherwise dreary hours - and I was secretly determined to spend all night trussed up next to this dark and sexy man dressed in boots and a Black Prince suit worn over corduroys and seaman's sweater.

Still head-to-foot in oilskins, I suggested wearing gloves so my hands wouldn't get cold if the escape took ... "too long". He refused to allow gloves because he instinctively knew this would make escape easier. Being a practical man he approached the challenge seriously. After tying my hands efficiently but not dangerously tight behind my back (in a small tent, this meant me lying face down with him kneeling astride me) he then used a small canvas pouch he kept fishing weights in to cover both my hands, cinching the strap tight enough to stop me working it off. He said it was to keep my hands warm but it also prevented me using my fingers through the thick canvas. Needless to say the ropes were inescapable. He offered to let me free almost immediately and it wasn't easy to invent excuses to persuade him to leave me trussed all night. Eventually I just said 'Fuck it Banny, it feels great! I think I must be kinky. I like the feeling of being bundled up and tied up with no possibility of escape'.

Well, I guess that's when I learned that honesty pays. It made him smile his quizzical dark-eyed smile, but from then on he would tie me up whenever a suitable opportunity arose. When Lill went to visit her mother or when we were off fishing he'd good naturedly indulge my 'kink' for a good healthy struggle and sweat, and challenge me to get out or deal with it. The allotment hut became a treasure house of stuff he specially introduced to vary his strapping and wrapping. He seemed to look on it as a toughening up process, leaving me trussed for unspecified periods - sometimes over night - but only, according to him, because he knew I liked it. Significantly our activities were never mentioned when Lill was around, and I'm sure he never told her in private. His willingness to invent quite elaborate 'challenges' coupled with his refusal to admit any erotic involvement drove me crazy with frustration. But I convinced myself that one false move on my part could spook him and, should our activities become openly sexual, our relationship would either explode or freeze.

This may have been a cop-out on my part. Perhaps I was over cautious. Perhaps he was not as naive as he appeared. After all he had spent several years in the navy - but he continued to truss and rope and wrap - doing me a favour, as he put it. Gradually, he developed the game, bringing from the ship yard industrial strength adhesive tape and metal crate strapping bands. The periods of restraint became longer and more physically uncomfortable with me never knowing how long before he'd come back. He would return and taunt me for enjoying being trussed - but telling me it was good for me - toughen me up. Sometimes, coming back after leaving me in a seriously uncomfortable situation, he'd then leave again before finally returning to release me. But, never once did he make any overt sexual overture or remark or leave me any opening to suggest eroticism or even genital teasing. In fact, he noticeably no longer ever accused me of being poofy or poncy as he did when I first arrived in Barrow, but he insisted that all our tying-up situations were to encourage endurance and strength to struggle out of his 'challenges' or learn to survive them.

Such deliberate avoidance of possible homo-eroticism may sound unbelievable today but in those sexually inhibited times, blokes just didn't even talk about that sort of stuff in Barrow in Furness, even as a joke.

The many masochistic pleasures of life on the Barrow peninsular

... Our life as 'muckers' developed to bizarre levels with visits to the Dog Track, the Speedway Track and local football matches (more often than not in the rain). Best of all were the hillside bike scrambles, togged up in the muckiest of waterproofs and wellies, standing around with dozens of other masochists shivering and squelching around as the bikers sprayed all and sundry with muddy slime. Helpfully diving forward to drag some beleaguered bike out of a ditch only to be sprayed with mud for your trouble as it roared away or was overtaken by other riders, was considered to be good manly fun. Lill even sometimes came along, which involved a second bike. On such occasions I automatically rode with Banny, with Lill behind one of her farmer brothers (which is another story - see TOP RIDGE FARM via 'Storylines').

Memories of Banny in his glistening Black Prince suit leaning over me and wrapping and tying, breathing into my ear and holding me down because I started resisting while he was tying (but never enough to discourage him). Was I a fool not to push our activities into overt sexuality? Did he regret that I didn't push him or did he want it and thought I didn't? Even when I met him later in life when Lill was dying of cancer (the dormant cancer which had prevented her bearing a child) it was too late to be honest with one another. Probably my fault because I didn't fully come out even to myself for another fifteen years. He could have helped me. He never even let me tie him down. He never left himself open to a legitimate approach from me. I still believe all the shutters would have rolled down and I would no longer have been welcome in his house. He could not have faced his drinking mates with me at his side. At least, that's what I hope; because if I got it wrong and he was waiting for me, this is a modern tragedy I'm writing. Or might it have been a brief 'encounter' that wrecked an amiable marriage - or could passionate sexuality between us have been just a happy chapter in both our lives with no long term effects?


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