Ladies of the Night – Overnight

You cannot mistake the approach to Las Chafiras at night from Los Cristianos; the huge green sign of five letters denote that there is a particular attraction there.  Similarly, the bar with the pink neon rose holds secrets of the night.

Now as a member of the female species, I have no interest but a certain curiosity…… OK, I’m a woman, I’m nosey, and I’d love a peek inside! In fact we drive past swiftly but I long to see the legend emerging: the man in the long raincoat and homburg pulled down over his eyes glancing this way and that.

All stories of course but I can’t help wondering about the lives of the ladies who work there. Do they have ‘normal’ lives, running the kids to school, washing and ironing, nights off? Or is it really sad and self-destructive and are they working for something to obliterate the reality?

There was a time when certain types of entertaining and ‘the oldest profession in the world’ had a certain seedy glamour. I was travelling alone by overnight ferry many years ago and the purser told me that in my cabin for four, I would be sharing with one other woman. My trunks were stored and I made my way with some hand luggage to the cabin, which was clearly empty. I cautiously chose the bottom bunk and sorted my things. I opened the curtains to place my small case on the top bunk and …… screamed!! A long, silky, black, wriggly thing was stretched the length of the bunk! It took a while for common sense to prevail and closer inspection revealed a really long wig.

Just then, the door opened and a rather large, well-endowed young woman, about my age, entered the cabin followed by a waft of overpowering perfume. “Oh, you’ve found it! Sorry! I’ve got more. Would you like to try them on? I’ll help you!” Now at this point I should say that I was in semi-hippy mode / uniform: Afro hair, wide jeans, plastic earrings, clogs and furry waistcoat over tee-shirt. She was wearing black stilettos with many straps up her legs, ankle chains, fishnet tights and a very tight, blue-embroidered cheongsam out of which she bulged alarmingly with an amazing slit up the side. Her chest, neck, arms and ears were smothered in gold jewellery, huge pieces and very heavy. I later found out that she was wearing three pairs of false eyelashes and very thick make-up to create a tan, which for those days was extraordinary.

Her friendliness continued with a demonstration of how to apply the many different cosmetics in her only piece of luggage, a vanity case. She didn’t ask about my little case – comparatively the contents were probably extremely practical and very dull: wash bag, towel, book…..

She asked me what I was doing for dinner and whether she could join me in the ship’s restaurant. I agreed of course but for some reason felt a little uncomfortable, like a cockney sparrow by a bird of paradise!  To our mutual surprise, some acquaintances of mine were also travelling and after greetings, I introduced them to my new, colourful companion. To say they were bemused was an understatement!

After dinner, we progressed to the ship’s disco and it was like a flock of pigeons around a fruit-basket. Colourful friend quickly disappeared with quite an entourage. I ‘grooved’ at the disco with my friends and at about 11:00p.m. went back sensibly to the cabin.

Astonishingly, colourful one was there bedecked in black underwear and adding more eyelashes. No sign of removing make-up and washing but very cheerful and chatty. After saying ‘goodnight’ and clambouring into our bunks, there was a knock at the door. Being nearest, I answered and a rather sloshed male showed intentions of coming in. I dealt with him firmly and locked the door. As I got into bed, a high-pitched voice shrilled: “Aw, thank you. You saved my honour!!!”

She did have a shower the next morning but borrowed my canvas clogs and obviously stood in them whilst taking the shower; they were soaked and I threw them away.

Now mornings aren’t my best time and having to make conversation over a breakfast tray in the cafeteria of a rolling ship with men buzzing, approaching and whispering like bees to a honey pot was not really my cup of tea!

She told me that she worked in a club in London with a swimming pool and big gold cushions, palm trees and pillars. She asked me what I wanted to do as my (sensible) job contract had finished. I told her I wanted an adventure thinking Kon-tiki-type expedition, Amazon exploration etc. In all seriousness, she looked at me and said “You’re not too bad; if you do yourself up a bit I could get you a job?”  Very thoughtful and well-meaning but an offer I did refuse………

I saw her later leaving the ship with two escorts, and the vanity case. One could speculate what her life turned out to be but looking back I enjoyed the encounter with this cheerful character and hope things went well for her.

Reading the above blog from my friend Monica brought to mind images of the late Beryl Cook characters.  I have used these and hope you too think they are appropriate.

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