Magazine article The Spectator

Safety First

Magazine article The Spectator

Safety First

Article excerpt

Sophia was such a very large lady, the seatbelt of my car, even when fully extended, wasn't quite long enough to go round her. She insisted on wearing it though, so her lover Ulrika and I redoubled our efforts. After a titanic struggle we found that we could force it around her if we pulled on the strap with our combined might and clicked it into the catch on the driver's side. The belt cut so deeply into Sophia's stomach it was lost from view, but she insisted she was happy. She would rather be uncomfortable and safe, she said, rather than the other way round.

I'd met Sophia and Ulrika in the pub. This incredibly large woman and this worryingly thin woman had come in and sat at the next table. We chatted. They were very open and frank. They were Germans, they said. They've been living together in Berlin for 17 years. (It had been love at first sight.) They come to south Devon annually, they said, because they like the south Devon gay scene. They like it because it is very friendly. I was incredulous about the existence of a south Devon gay scene to rival that of Berlin's. I might even have scoffed a bit. They said if I wanted to drive them back to their holiday apartment in Torquay, they'd show me their favourite gay pub, which was on the way.

So we were driving to Torquay, Sophia pinioned to the passenger seat, Ulrika reclining in the back drawing languidly on her cigar, which she smoked in a long black cigarette holder. Then Sophia said she wanted to 'go pee pee'. She'd been unable to squeeze herself into the cubicle in the ladies' lavatory back at the pub, she said, and she couldn't hold on much longer. I pulled over in a lay-by.

After furious effort from Ulrika and myself, we eventually released Sophia from the seatbelt. The next problem was getting her out of the car. In getting her in, we had been assisted by the laws of gravity. Getting her out was harder. For a minute I really thought we were going to have to call the fire brigade. But with Ulrika outside the car and pulling, and me pushing from the inside, we finally got Sophia out and she headed off towards the bushes.

While she was gone, Ulrika and I sat in silence in the darkness. …

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