1. Marbella

2. From Torremolinos to Churriana

3. Ben the Baker

4. After the Fashion Show

5. The Bronx

6. You are never too old to Learn

7. Peter from Poona

8. Rule Britannia

9. Sports and pastimes

10. The Constant Nymph

11. Ben rises to the Occasion



Rule Britannia

'England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, anomalies, hobbies, and humours

Soon afterwards I took Franny on a short tip to Portugal in my BMW. My old friend David and I had invested in a chic new disco, the Silver Screen, in Albufeira. He wanted my advice and support at the official opening, which was performed by Miss World, Gina Swainson. I drove Franny wild with jealously by sampling some of the local cocks. I had to give her a severe beating as a result.

On David's advice we took a short cut on the way home to
marbella. I was able to cut more than an hour off my journey by taking a more obscure road which twisted and turned though the mountains to the old town of Ronda, a picturesque fortress dominating the only route across a dizzy ravine. When I had first come to Spain, Ronda was practically isolated from the coast, the road with thousands of hairpin bends and a broken, stony surface was so dangerous. For most of the thirty miles to San Pedro de Alcantara, there was a sheer drop on the one side and a mountain wall on the other. Now, the road had been extensively modernized, and in the afternoon sunshine, it was an easy run down to where we could see the Mediterranean, sparkling and inviting, in the heat haze.

'Let's stop in San Pedro for a snack,' I said to Franny.
It had been long and tiring drive, and it was late to go shopping. A break would be welcome, especially as I did not have anything to eat and drink in the apartment. I found a spot to park in the middle of the little town, and both of us were grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs.

Siesta time in San Pedro tended to go on till five, and the streets were deserted. Rather than sit in the heat on one of the terraces on the main road, I led Franny into a narrow shaded, pedestrian street where, among the local shops selling food or clothes, we came across Daphne's Book Bar. I knew Daphne's as a spot where The English colony would swap yarns over a gin and tonic or a genteel pot of tea. More than half of the space was taken up by the lending library of English novels, mostly sentimental romances, very popular with the middle-aged spinsters who eyed any newly arrived men of war without a great deal of hope and found inspiration for their sexual fantasy lives in tales of demure virgins being wooed by handsome, wealthy aristocrats. I never found a copy of THE HAPPY HOOKER or any of the subsequent books on Daphne's shelves.

Daphne's had not long been open for the evening and the place was nearly empty. Franny and I took a table and studied the menu. It seemed ages since we had eaten and we ordered a selection of 'tapas' - -typical Spanish light snacks which the English clientele o Daphne's had taken up with enthusiasm.

Daphne, herself, took our orders, she was a formidable, big bosomed, matron of severe appearance, and she ruled her establishment with the dignity and authority of a latter day Queen Victoria. Everything about Daphne suggested that this was a lady who would stand no nonsense. Frivolity and indecency would be frowned upon, and any outsider, guilty of the crime of bad taste, would be studiously ignored and frozen out.

Daphne's was very different from the other restaurants, cafe or bars which I frequented, but that afternoon, the calm, quiet, atmosphere was welcome. Not one of the half dozen people already sitting at the bard or at tables when we arrived gave Franny or me a second glance - or so I thought. Most of them were talking to each other in upper class, drawling accents, and their eyes spelled out the message clearly enough that they were members of the club and that we were not. The exception was a small, blond man, sitting alone at the bar, sipping a whisky.

We had only been sitting there for a about five minutes and were still waiting for our food, when in walked one of the my favorite Englishmen.
Arthur was an impressive looking man, tall, with a powerful physique. Now in his sixties, his face was rugged, with long, wispy, gray hair and wise, knowing grey-blue eyes. His complexion tended to be florid and his nose was heavy, almost Cyrano like in its splendour. It was not until after I had met Arthur several times that I discovered that he was a member of the British House of Lords; he never used his title in the free and easy Marbella bards and cafes which he patronized.

'Why, Xaviera fancy finding you here! What a pleasant surprise. May I join you?' I motioned to Arthur to take a chair at our table and introduced him to Franny. Then, his eyes caught those of the lone man at the bar, and Arthur called out to him, 'God bless my soul, Stephen Noble! A bit early for you to be out, isn't it? I'd have thought that you would still be at home, sleeping off last night's tipple. Have you met Xaviera Hollander?'

'Not yet, but I would certainly like to,' replied Stephen with a broad smile. He slipped off his stool to come over to take my hand, and I was surprised at how short he was. He spotted my expression and chuckled to me, 'You're absolutely right. I am one of the few men who is taller sitting down than standing up. Allow me to present myself - the magician Midget.'
He gave us an exaggerated bow.
'I heard the Poisonous Dwarf,' Arthur retorted.
'Ah,' replied Stephen, 'you must have been talking to one of my girl friends.'

The two men continued their good-natured ben the baker for a few moments, but they were too polite to carry on a conversation from which Franny and I were excluded. In answer to an enquiry from Arthur, I told him about the opening of the discotheque in Portugal.
'Capital country, Portugal,' he commented. 'Some of he oldest and most respectable English families live there, mostly in the north, around Oporto. But tell me, what does your friend do?

Franny, did you call her? What an unusual name!'
He beamed at her, encouraging her to open her mouth.
Franny gave me a despairing glance as if to ask how she should deal with the question, but before I could intervene, she said, 'I am Xaviera's slave.'
Neither of the imperturbable Englishmen turned a hair.
'How jolly,' smiled Stephen. 'You should have been at school with me. The young boys, fags we called them, were flogged by their elders pretty regularly. You'd have had a lovely time, but in those days, there were no girls in the old Public Schools.

'I think that Franny could very well have passed herself off as a boy,' Arthur commented. 'Have you ever wanted to be a boy, my dear?'
'Sure. Whenever Xaviera makes love to a man. I wish I were a big, virile man to please her.' 'Never mind about being big,' Stephen reprimanded her. 'Virility has nothing to do with size. I am about the same height as Napoleon and he managed alright. Aren't I right, Xaviera?' Before I could reply, Daphne arrived with out food. She served us in silence. There, in front of Daphne, Franny and I were acutely conscious that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not being English. When she had left, I turned to Arthur and said, 'I am interested that you should have remarked how boyish Franny is as soon as you set eyes on her. I love her sexual ambiguity. I can see her as a boy or as a girl, according to her mood.'

12. The Magician

13. Say it with Diamonds

14. The simple life

15. Forced to Fast

16. The Persian Boy

17. Penthouse Pet

18. The road to Morocco

19. Have you anything to Declare?

20. Men of War

21. Fiesta in Ojen

22. Highway Robbery