Innocent Loverboy

Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

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Soft Porn Sunday: Nikki Fritz & Steve Curtis

Steve Curtis. Dutch Flaherty. Chris Johnston. A.W. Anderson. Everett Rodd. Jeff Urban.

That’s a list of all the male actors in Hotel Exotica. I genuinely don’t recognise any of those names. No David Usher, no Brian Heidik, no Jason Schnuit. I’m genuinely surprised. Surrender had a tendency to wheel out the same people to play their generic cast of forgettable idiots.

Let’s look at the female cast, then. I should be recognising Taylor St. Claire, Landon Hall and even Ahmo Height. I’ve certainly seen them all in things… but then again, this is Surrender; the same actors are in everything. I’m just not fitting names to faces. I do, however, recognise Nikki Fritz. I’ll always notice her, even if she’s only in this for a few minutes and the character doesn’t warrant a name.

What I don’t quite get is how the eponymous hotel doesn’t turn up until thirty minutes in (that’s one third of the film). But let’s overlook that.

For now. I’ll come back to it.

Appearance: Hotel Exotica (1999)
Characters: Zeke & “Zeke’s Lover” (yes, really)

Let’s have a look at the plot then, shall we? Carly (Hall) and Rachel (Height) are sisters who look nothing alike. The passion has gone out of Carly’s marriage to Doug (Flaherty), so the girls go off to the Hotel Exotica, where stale relationships are rekindled with the help of the hostess and her girls. Doug and his business partner Frank (Johnston) follow them unnoticed. This, as I said, doesn’t happen until a third of the way into the movie.

There’s a lot of exposition here.

Rachel is one of the best characters in it, but she has a terrible backstory; her artist boyfriend, Zeke (Curtis), has a secret lover who he’s been not-too-subtly boning behind Rachel’s back. On account of the fact that she just walks in and catches them at one point (implying that he didn’t lock the door), he doesn’t appear to be too concerned.

Then again, were I having sex with Nikki Fritz I wouldn’t be too concerned either.

Nikki Fritz' breasts with an artistic design on one of them.
Come for the boobs, stay for the… well… the boobs.

Anyway, this scene starts with boobs (as it should). One of Zeke’s designs is on the left breast (both a nice touch and a terrible waste of ink), but it’s a nice shot of some nice boobs, so I’ll give them that. Both participants are naked at this point, so there isn’t really any faffing around removing clothes. We can cut straight into the action, and by “action” I mean “softcore blowjob which is mostly just hair.”

Simulated fellatio featuring a lot of hair.
I suppose the angle’s right…

Because that’s all it is for the first thirty seconds. Zeke is pulling very silly faces throughout while Nikki gives it all her best hair acting skills, but it goes on for so long that they start to look bored towards the end. 31 seconds in and we switch up to…


OK, I’m going to focus on this for a bit. Softcore simulates a lot of sexual acts, but it’s an incredibly rare thing to see someone eating arse. You occasionally get something in lesbian scenes, but I don’t recall any other straight scenes which are clearly meant to be simulating analingus. This is clearly what Zeke is doing here, and although there’s a pan across this shot, it has him there for eight seconds. He’s clearly licking her “from behind”.

I mean, I do that if I’m asked. Welcome to the club, Zeke.

Simulated analingus between two naked actors.
Yes! That is exactly what he’s meant to be doing!

Ahem. Anyway. We then cut to the obligatory nipple suck part of our symposium – Nikki has very pert nipples, so may as well put them in a mouth – before we finally get to oral sex the other way, Nikki on her back with Zeke’s head between her legs. Because of course this happens. They are lying on a white sheet for this, presumably because the scene is meant to be happening in Zeke’s studio. I mean, it’s not like it’s clearly a house set with the bed moved aside or anything.

Nikki throws some “I am sexually excited” faces for a bit, and then – just over one minute into the scene – they get to shagging, a fairly lusty amount of bump’n’grind in a variety of positions. It’s not shot too badly, either – there are a few too many cuts, but Nikki gets a chance to show off her body while Zeke pulls some more silly faces. My favourite bit of the entire scene happens when they have sex balanced against one of his stools (it actually uses the set here, thankfully), which both generates a lot of steam and bends Nikki’s foot into an odd position.

Sex in the missionary position on a white sheet. This alt text is pretty redundant, really.
Freshly stuffed Nikki, served on a bed of crumpled sheets.

Oh, and it also reveals Steve Curtis’ balls. I am 99.9% certain that this is completely unintentional, but his testicles swing out from between his legs no less than three times. It took me a while to screenshot it, but it most certainly happens!

There’s a fair amount of licking, sucking and sex after this, but there’s nothing new, and some of it is just reused footage from the beginning. Maybe it’s there to fill up the length of the music, or something (speaking of which, the entire scene is overlaid by a hard rock track – electric guitars and drums – which is the standard “cheating boyfriend” music in softcore. It fits the scene well enough.), but it doesn’t really add any more.

Actor with his testicles on show.
Actual balls in softcore porn. You hardly ever see such a thing!

Having said all this, I think this is the best sex scene in the film (and there’s a lot of sex in this one, I mean really, there’s plenty to choose from). Ethically, of course, it’s fairly abhorrent – we shouldn’t be celebrating cheats – but, from a cinematographic point of view, it stands out. Yes, it could be better lit, there could be a few more wide shots, and maybe it’s even a little too long for what it is… but, overall, this is a nice scene. It’s hot, it’s horny, it’s fun…

…but it wouldn’t work at all without Nikki Fritz.

And there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

IMD: Everyday Automatic Activism

I usually try to do something for International Men’s Day. Occasionally it’s an essay; sometimes it’s a graphic. The same messages keep coming back, though: not all men (with or without the formerly-ubiquitous hashtag) are bad, and what good men need to do is call out any everyday sexism whenever and wherever they see it.

I’m not overly fond of this logo, though.
His left arm is a little too long.

I’ve also talked about how I have a problem with doing this, because I don’t ritualistically surround myself with misogynists, nor do I have a direct psychic link to every man in the world so I can’t just seek it out and deal with it. I’m also a little nervy about how people may react. I asked a man to stop following a lone woman the other day and, although he did, he gave me a very dangerous look afterwards.

I’ve never been that confident…

…but I’m being more brave about it as the years go by.

A couple of months ago I was in a training session at work. On screen we had a list of our most frequent clients, with as many details as the Data Protection Act would allow. I’m not sure about how much our company asks of our clients (although if I had my way everyone would give their pronoun choice on their first day with us), but this did include gender.

“So, as you can see here, most of these clients are male,” said the trainer, “but we have two female clients here: Q and R.”

Younger ILB might have been too scared to say anything.

“I’m not sure that’s accurate,” I said a little too loudly. “R isn’t female.”
“It says ‘female’ here,” someone said from the back. “There’s an F in that field, anyway.”
“But R isn’t,” I said patiently. “They identify as genderfluid. The boss sent out an e-mail about it the other day. Putting their gender down as female is a bit of an insult.”
“They were called [R’s deadname] last year,” said somebody else with a maddeningly patient air. “That’s a female name.” A few people nodded.
“That’s their DEADNAME!” I near-shouted, standing up. “You can’t call them that! We shouldn’t even be discussing this, because there’s nothing to discuss! You need to change that label, or if you don’t want to, give me access and I’ll do it!”

What really got me about all this wasn’t the mislabelling of our one openly NB client (which I was, sadly, expecting). It was more to do with the fact that nobody else in the room seemed to think that anything was wrong.

“Look,” said the trainer, clearly trying to take back control. “This system doesn’t have any other options. You have to choose M or F. We can’t enter data of any other kind, and that’s to do with the company who wrote the software.”
“Well, that’s their problem,” I said. “But we should have at least put a note in the ‘other’ field. I’ll write to the software company, too.”

And I angrily sat back down.

I never used to have a problem with being silently active. When the cadets came recruiting in our year 7 assembly I got up and walked out. I shouted at one of my favourite teachers once for killing an insect in class. I yelled “WRONG!” at a Christian youth event when the preacher said Harry Potter books were satanic. When another Christian event called for us to “attack and destroy the false religion of Islam” I walked out into the dark field behind the venue and called H because I needed to tell someone I didn’t agree.

I even once told a young boy what he was doing was sexism, and he laughed because I’d said “sex”.

But that was all a long time ago. In the more recent years I have developed a fear of fucking everything up. I was incredibly lucky to get this job and I really don’t want to do anything to risk my position.

However, in this situation I did it without thinking. It was automatic, and exactly what everyone should do; I saw an example of everyday sexism (or, more accurately, NB-phobia… is there a term for that? Or is ‘transphobia‘ more appropriate?) and confronted it. It may not have gone the way I wanted, exactly, but I did it.

Not because I thought I ought to, or even wanted to. I didn’t even think. I just did it.

To this day I don’t know how our client found out about it, but the big smile and nod to me the following time I saw them may not have been entirely unwarranted.

Every day we get a little better. Let’s keep working on it.

TMI Tuesday: All About Me

You know Madonna ain’t got nothin’ on me
Beyonce ain’t got nothin’ on me
Christina ain’t got nothin’ on me
Everybody knows that it’s all about me

I haven’t had the time to do this meme recently, so it’s worth making the time to revisit it when I can. That may as well be now.

Today’s TMI Tuesday doesn’t appear to have much of a theme, aside from the questions, which are all about the participant (aren’t they always?). I suppose, in some way, that makes the questions more open. On the other hand, there needs to be a fair amount of justification insofar as your answers are concerned. But maybe that’s the point of the meme?

I just took a sip of Mountain Dew for the first time ever. It tastes of absolutely nothing. This isn’t relevant to the meme; I just thought you ought to know. Mineral water has more taste.

1. Defend your splurge. Tell us why you bought that thing — we won’t judge.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of money on soft porn.

Like a lot of sex-positive folk, I always try, if I can, to pay for my porn. Scenes I review for Soft Porn Sunday are almost all from films I legitimately own, and/or from individual sex scenes I’ve downloaded, rather than the entire flick. I have quite the memory for this stuff, hence the collection I have amassed.

Most of this I paid for. I even signed up for a couple of sites and bought credits for downloading scenes. I’ve got DVDs, VCDs and even VHSs on hand in my big red box.

One of the most ostentatious porn purchases I’ve made was the entire Emmanuelle Through Time series, direct from the director himself. Most of this is now behind the DVD rack because my wife got really angry and threw something onto it, knocking the DVDs backwards and into the void. £150+ of hard-to-find porn and I can’t now watch any of it!

2. What is one thing you always take from a hotel room?


If you’ve used any of them, it’s unhygienic to leave them behind. I also appear to have a constant shortage of things to use in the shower, even if I do buy the stuff. It just… vanishes, and even if the little bottles you get in hotels are very little, they’re good for a couple of showers, saving me having to scrabble around for shower gel and shampoo I may not actually own.

Homer Simpson stealing a table from the free hotel!
“You’re stealing a table?”

That’s pretty much the only thing I take (although once I took a pen), but I know others who take a lot more. I once stayed in a hotel in Manchester with my first girlfriend, who took everything she could find, including a hotel dressing-gown! As Homer says, they expect you to take a few things!

3. What is one thing in your pantry you know you keep for too long?

I don’t really have a pantry (and I can only think of one person who ever has), but I do have kitchen cupboards, and the answer to this is simple: non-perishables that I am never, ever going to use.

I also can’t explain why they manage to follow me to every new location. Unopened black beans, dry rice, quinoa and freekee wheat. I know they’re all useful, but I’ve just never wanted to use them in any capacity… I use plenty of pasta, lentils and risotto rice, so why isn’t there more of that?

On a side note, there’s also quite a lot of peanut butter around. I keep thinking that I don’t have any and buying more, only to discover another jar in some cupboard somewhere. I really ought to look before I do this…

4. Which game show sums up your life?

Hmmm. The options for this one are:

a. Jeopardy!
b. Family Feud
c. The Price is Right
d. The Dating Game

I’m at a loss to what most of these are, although Brucie hosted The Price Is Right over here, I never watched a single episode. In all honesty, I’m only really vaguely aware of the concepts of all the others.

I’m very fond of Knightmare – it’s my favourite programme of all time – but I’m not entirely sure a fantasy game set in a completely unreal dungeon sums up my life (although probably my choice of fiction genre!).

Maybe it could be University Challenge? I’ve been to university and I’m constantly finding life a challenge.

5. When all is said and done, will you have said more than you have done?

Oh, I have an answer for this one!



I have mixed feelings abut Starbucks, which (for those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few decades) is a ubiquitous coffee shop chain (actually, it probably exists in said cave). It’s everywhere, but until I was about 16 or so, there wasn’t one in my local town. Opening one was A Big Deal, and although I never actually went there – I tried to organise a trip for my birthday but nothing came of it – I was fascinated.

Strange? Maybe. I didn’t really drink a lot of coffee until I went to university (I’ve always been more of a tea drinker), but even then, the idea of going to a coffee shop kind of eluded me. Even if some of my sexual fantasies included going into Starbucks, I never actually managed to enter the shop…

…until I was 18, and applying for a job.

I still don’t know why I applied for a job at a place I’d never actually been to. I’d decided at this point that I liked coffee, which helps. But I was in the middle of my A-Levels, very nearly finished, spent pretty much every weekend travelling to Birmingham, and was going on to university in a few months. It wasn’t a good time to apply. Why I got an actual interview I’ll never know.

To my credit, though, the interview went relatively well – I’d have to tie my long, wild rockstar hair back (but that was fine) and cover up any tattoos (but I don’t have any!), and although I didn’t actually get the job in the end, the friendly manager assured me that it was purely because they were only looking for somebody full-time, and I didn’t quite fit the bill there.

Is what she said.

A week earlier, I had been sitting in Starbucks for the first time ever answering questions. It hadn’t been going badly and, although I’d never really had many job interviews, I had a good enough feeling so far.

“Can you tell me about a time you’ve used your initiative recently?” she finished with.

I mentally flicked through things I’d done at school and home and came up completely blank. I could, of course, have said something – mention jazz band or being a library monitor (I was a prefect; I could have said that!) – but I wanted something a little more interesting. It hit me like a ton of bricks…

…but how could I say it without rationalising why?

“Yes,” I said confidently. “Recently I booked a hotel room to find, when I got there, that they had forgotten my booking. After negotiating with the hôtelier, I got my reservation fee back and booked into the hotel next door. I got the room I wanted, rather than acquiescing and taking the only room the first one had available.”
“That’s impressive,” said the friendly manager, “for someone your age. Why didn’t you take the room in the first hotel?”
“Oh,” I said, before deciding to finish truthfully. “I wanted a double room. I had someone with me, you see. The first hotel only had twin rooms.”
“I see. Who was with you, if you don’t mine me asking?”
“My girlfriend. We wanted to escape life for a while.”

The friendly manager gave me a knowing smile and scribbled something like

wanted to have sex with girlfriend so changed hotels

on her notes.

“I think you’re going to enjoy working here,” she said primly, gently but firmly chivvying me out of the door. “You’ll hear back in a week.”

I didn’t get the job because they were looking for somebody full-time. That’s the reason and I’m very much sticking to that explanation.


In 2008 I went to university, for the second time, in order to do a course which involved a lot of science. I’m not really a scientist at all – more of an artist, if anything – and, although I liked my friends doing said course, I didn’t really enjoy myself. I stuck it out long enough to get the degree, though.

At the end of the first week I found myself in a crowded lecture hall full of people as confused as I. I wanted my girlfriend, I wanted my bed, and after a week which was just a succession of “don’t”s, I wanted an actual lecture. The afternoon beforehand had consisted almost entirely of a talk about how badly we could fail, which one of my coursemates summarised: “well, she sure told us.”

Folders were handed out. On my left was a tall, pretty, and incredibly thin girl who I didn’t know yet. She seemed friendly, and smiled a lot, so we got talking. We also seemed to be quite similar, insofar as we both raised our hands when the lecturer out front asked who cried easily. (I was the only boy to raise my hand. None of the other boys on the course were particularly macho, but still…)

I didn’t clock quite how similar we were until much later.

For the next month or so, I found myself to be avoiding her. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why – we had vibed quite well in that first lecture. As I told my mother at one point:

She’s tall and thin, and she’s very pretty, and I seem to be avoiding her.

a very confused ilb

I think maybe part of me felt a little intimidated by her. Perhaps even a little unworthy. Maybe she smiled too much. Maybe, infatuated as I was with my girlfriend, here was someone incredibly attractive who I wasn’t attracted to, and that threw me off.

She waved at me once in the corridor, and I jumped.

We started talking again when I noticed her mentioning a computer game on Facebook. I sat next to her again, deliberately this time, and without even saying hello (I knew her name; I was never quite sure if she knew mine), I launched into the spiel before losing my bottle to do so.

“Hey, you. I saw you posting something on Facebook about Superfrog?”
Superfrog!” she said with enthusiasm. “I love that game! All those little passages you can open up and things to collect! I haven’t played it for ages!”
“I played it yesterday,” I said truthfully, “after you mentioned it…”
“Ooh! You have it? Could you give me a copy?”

By the end of the day, she had copies of Superfrog in every format. I am nothing if not thorough.

As our agonising degree wore on, more of the class bonded, mostly through our collective misery. Nobody seemed to be having a good time, and by the end, we were all utterly convinced that, should anyone ask for advice, our first thing to say would be: “don’t go where I went.” (I used this very piece of advice later on, when Robinson asked. He took it, went elsewhere and is now working in the industry.) I chanced across my Superfrog friend a few times throughout my various travels, and when I realised we had the same tutor, make sure to stick around after consultation sessions in case she was the next one up. She wasn’t enjoying herself either.

At the very end of the course – once most people had finished and moved on – I, who had had three weeks’ sick leave and hadn’t done all the hours, was still on placement. It was a very lonely existence – none of my fellow students were around, even those who were meant to now be working in the same building, and even some of the staff I’d gotten to know were leaving.

I took a breather at one point, going down to get some resources from a corner office, when I noticed my Superfrog friend – still in her student garb – ambling around the corner.

I looked at her.
She looked at me.

And then, without preamble, she gave me a big, warm, reassuring hug.

It got me through the day.

Sarah vs. Sex

It was one o’clock in the morning and we were just coming out of a fairly heavy round of drinking which may or may not have started with a musical jam in the little studio space our university hadn’t advertised as owning. We had made sure to put a little drum kit in there, and moved the piano to the same room, so it was at least possible to jam. Tom had his guitar; Em, her trombone; Sarah, her saxophone. I didn’t always remember to bring an instrument, but tonight, I had a bag full of percussion.

That, however, had been a few hours ago. For the past while, we had been drinking. I, of course, was completely sober – everyone else had their own varying state of intoxication. My job was to get everyone onto the number one bus from Old Market Square appropriately. Helena had come over rather giggly.

“I don’t love him,” Sarah was saying, “I really don’t. I keep telling myself that, that I don’t love him…”
“Have you told him that?” cut in Rachel. Helena giggled.
“…no, but really, I don’t. But I want to see him. Just once. I have to see him again.” Helena giggled.
“Are you sure that’s healthy?” pressed Rachel, who was looking serious. “Your ex cast you completely adrift…” (Helena giggled at this point) “…and you want to spend time with him, just to see him again? Does anyone think that’s wise?”

Nobody raised their hand. Two years prior, I’d stood in almost this exact spot, locked in a messy kiss with an ex I had decided I ‘just wanted to see’. I was wiser then, although there and then I would have kissed Sarah, Rachel or Helena, if only she could stop laughing long enough.

“I just want to see him,” Sarah shrugged, as if this ended the discussion.
“All right, you want to see him,” conceded Rachel. “But make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”
“Like what?”
“Like… sex.”

Helena giggled.

“Yeah,” said Sarah wistfully. “I miss sex.”

don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it

“I haven’t had sex for two years,” I said out loud, “and after a while, it gets easier.”

now go stand in a corner and think about what you did

“TWO YEARS?” yelled Rachel, who had just explicitly told someone not to have sex. “Nah, that’s impossible. Couldn’t do two years.”
“I do it, like, two times a day,” said Mouth.
“I used to have a lot of sex, said Em, “but then I dumped my…”
“…two weeks is a bit of a stretch…”
“…all these boys, I mean, why should I choose one?…”
“…(Helena giggling)…”
“…these beds are too small, when you’re not living in hall, it’s easier…”
“…three times a day if I can, I mean, if I’m free and lunchtime and…”
“…still don’t know why she did it, I mean, I was still right…”
“…told him I was gay, I mean, I am gay, but I still told him that…”
“…so needy, we had sex a few times and he thought I liked him…”
“…I miss sex.”

“Are you quite ready?”

We’d managed to make our way onto the number one bus without anyone noticing. The driver was looking annoyed for having been held up, but this was the terminus, and according to the timetable, he wouldn’t be leaving for a while. I dug around for my return ticket in the third pocket of my combats while Rachel and Sarah carried Helena, who was now experiencing paroxysms of hysterical mirth, into an empty double seat, where she lay weeping with laughter.

None of my housemates were awake when I got back. I had lectures in the morning, too. Vaguely wondering if Sarah would, in fact, sleep with her ex the following week or if Helena would ever understand the concept of “quiet”, I stripped off and sank into my bed.

“Yeah…” I said to the darkness. “I miss sex too.”

Penis Display

“I couldn’t help noticing,” said the amused business-type man in the urinal next to me, “and I promise I wasn’t looking, but…”
“No, it’s okay,” I smiled, “people mention it all the time. I’ve got a massive cock, it’s all right. It does,” I continued while desperately thinking of a joke, “cause some problems on buses, though.”

Everyone laughed. I continued to pee through my six-foot-long penis.

This was a difficult endeavour, as my penis was six feet long and incredibly hard, to the point that it was almost touching the ceiling. If I angled my whole body forwards and put the right sort of force into it, I could hit the urinal (or the drain on the floor). I alternated between both while thinking about the Guardians of the Galaxy to pass the time.

I was just thinking about how fortunate I was that the anonymous man hadn’t noticed that I had an erection (or hadn’t mentioned it) when Robinson entered the toilet and pointed.

“Wow, look at that!” he said. “You’ve got to show someone that!”
“You haven’t seen my penis before?”

I was genuinely surprised. I’ve known Robinson since I was two. He’s definitely seen my penis, although probably not erect. And probably not that big, either.

“No, I mean show some other people! HEY! COME AND HAVE A LOOK AT THIS!” At which point Mane and my hairy friend came in.

“Very impressive,” said Mane. “I’ll go and get [my friend-who-is-a-teacher] and [the scene girl], so they can see.” And he departed.

Thus I was put in a position of trying to maintain an erection in a penis roughly the same size as my actual height, in order for two friends to see, when I didn’t really want them to see my cock, no matter how huge it may have been. It may not come as a surprise, therefore, that I found this difficult, and before I could summon any dirty thoughts, I was flaccid… and with a penis only a few centimetres long.

Neither scene girl nor the friend-who-is-a-teacher saw anything when they entered the toilet, and left quickly when they realised where they were.

The dream ended at that point, coinciding with my waking up, and while quickly checking that I don’t genuinely have a priapic dick the average height of a White Rhino, I made my way to the bathroom in my house, feeling both grateful and guilty for something that really didn’t happen.

I’ve got a big penis, sure… it’s just not that big!

“Hey, can I tell you about my penis? I mean, my dream?” I asked my wife.
“Do you have to?”
“No, it’s funny, honestly!”
“Can you tell someone else?”

I knew there was a reason why I have a blog.

Tien Jaar

It didn’t seem like the right time – not really. Ten years ago I was still relatively newly single, having broken up with my third girlfriend a month prior (officially, at least; we had sort of been breaking up for a while before that). I hadn’t been ready for that relationship, either, as I was still hurting from being jettisoned from my second without prior warning.

Twitter makes people do strange things.

The one who is now my wife was there for me, though. Neither of us were in a particularly good place – Life had not been too kind to either of us – but, at the end of the day, we were there for each other. We had the same interests, laughed at the same things. Innocent Loverboy and Jillian Boyd may have been vibing for a while, but as we spent more time together, our “offline” personas seemed to click.

Things went from one stage to another, and then another. We ended up in their bed, I almost evolved, and that was the day Sylvia Kristel died. I raised a glass in her honour, and then other things raised. Back to bed for us.

Perhaps predictably (because it’s me), I realised that we were falling in love in the middle of sex. I asked them out, officially, with my UNUSUALLY LARGE PENIS buried deep inside them. Our first real date was to a fried chicken shop. I don’t even eat chicken.

[Pause while ILB takes a sip of 7up, the drink he had on that first date.]

That was ten years ago to the day. We have been together now for a whole decade, married for just over two months.

In those years, much has changed. Everything had, and so have we, as people. The fact that I still write a sex blog is one of the very few things that have remained constant throughout the roller-coaster explosion that has been our love. It hasn’t all been good, but then it certainly hasn’t been bad. I fall in love too easily – this is true – but, this time, I’ve learned a lot more about love than I’d ever have thought possible.

Ten years completed. And so the next ten begins.


Tweet tweet. Tweet tweet. Tweet, twitter, tweet tweet tweet.

A step. The slap of rubber sole against concrete. Another. The same.

Hiss. The bus has arrived. I’m not getting it today, but its presence – the fact that it runs at all – is reassuring. It’s a form of escape, almost.

“Hi, ILB. You all right?”
“H… h… h… cough, cough.” I breathe in. “Rachel. He… cough, cough.”

Rachel pauses. I manage a smile, but it hurts too much.

“You… okay? Cough?”
“Okay, yes, but you sound really bad, ILB. You should go home and have a hot drink. More than one hot drink. Get some fluids down you. Just…”

Wheeze. That’s my throat making that noise. It’s meant to be a thanks, but there isn’t one forthcoming. There won’t be for a while.


Whoosh whoosh. Whoosh whoosh. Slam, rattle, clink clink clink.

A sidestep. The slap of rubber sole against linoleum. Another. The same.

Hiss. The hot water has boiled. I don’t have long now, but its availability – the fact that it exists it begin with – is reassuring. It’s the blood of life, almost.

“Hi, ILB. You all right?”
“H… h… h… cough, cough.” I breathe in. “Sophie. He… cough, cough.”

I pause. Sophie manages a smile. She looks tired.

“You… okay? Cough?”
“Okay, yes, but you sound really bad, ILB. You should sit and have a hot drink. More than one hot drink. Get some caffeine. Just…”
“No, really. Cough. You okay?”

There is the slight flicker of recognition across Sophie’s face as she realises what I’m asking about. There’s that smile again.

Wheeze. That’s my throat making that noise. It’s meant to be more, but there isn’t more forthcoming. There won’t be for a while.

“I’m okay. Enjoy your tea.” With which she melts away.

As the sounds of our lives echo through my memory, history repeats itself once again.

Nottingham Vibe

What will WINGULL do?

I sat on the steps, shielded from the sun’s rays, a couple of metres from the left lion. Nottingham had been good to me for the past few days and, although I had nothing to do and nowhere to go, I could sit partially separated from the hustle and bustle of the Old Market Square and play Pokémon Sapphire.

I could get used to this, I reasoned.

Thinking back on it, I needed something to get used to. I knew Nottingham well, and was used to its intricacies, but I was not used to the activities I’d been partaking in all week. It had been too much effort for too little reward – and, since I’d been staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, too much money as well. I had also recently been called “wanker!” by somebody old and wise enough to know better.

Wiping away a tear, I carefully set aside my GBA and considered heading back to the hotel to see if they had another room. It wouldn’t have been affordable, perhaps, but maybe the pretty girl was still there. Old Market Square was lovely, but (unlike the action-packed morning I’d had the day beforehand, when an old man collapsed and I waited for the ambulance for half an hour…).

Maybe I could go to another restaurant.

My body screamed as I wrenched myself off the marble and started ambling towards The Cornerhouse. I passed a record shop in which a band had once played an intimate gig. A band which a girl I had a crush on liked. I didn’t know the band at all, but I knew she liked them.

And my thoughts ran away with that tiny memory.

What was she doing now? Where was she? Would I see her again? Was she having sex? Had she ever had sex? Would she ever have sex with me? How many people here, on this little street in Nottingham City Centre, have had sex? And how many of them have done so in the last 24 hours?

The last 12?
The last 6?
The last 3?

How many people on this street are on their way home from, or on their way to, the home (or hotel room) of someone with whom they were having sex? Maybe that confident-looking man on the other side of the street was having sex less than ten minutes ago and is still coming down from the feeling.

Last five minutes.

I wish I’d been having sex two minutes ago and was still coming down from the feeling, although unlike the confident-looking man, I probably wouldn’t be walking down the street. I might be cuddling her instead.

In all honesty, I would really like a cuddle.

By the time I got to The Cornerhouse, I was absolutely convinced that everyone I’d passed had been having beautiful sex for the entire year and, furthermore, I was the only one who had missed out on this. I felt like such an interloper, me being this physically repulsive, scruffy wanker who spent his time playing Pokémon and thinking about pretty girls, all at sea in this shining beacon of sexual energy called Nottingham, where I certainly didn’t belong even though I was living there at the time, because I sure as Hell wasn’t good enough.

Burning with shame, I found a Bella Italia which did sherbet lemons instead of after dinner mints. I took a couple and, to assuage any guilt, took a table and ordered myself some food.

The waitress who served me had definitely had sex in the last twenty-four hours.

I felt better after dinner, and walked out into the dusky city, now looking for somewhere else to spend the night.

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