This autobiographical story centres on a period when I was seventeen
and staying with a husband and wife in Barrow in Furness.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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'.
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
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
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.
many masochistic pleasures of life on the Barrow peninsular
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').
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
OF EXTRACT FROM 'BLACK PRINCE'
For further reference to this story see
MOTORCYCLE SCRAMBLES & HILL-CLIMBS