Living as I do in one of the livelier parts of London, I've become inured to a certain level of sordidness. After a while, you stop being worried by the ladies of negotiable intimacy and the neurochemically altered street denizens that cluster around King's Cross, and shortly after that you stop seeing them altogether. And besides, if I answered the request "want some business, love?" with "yes, fancy a white paper on the mobile-phone market at my daily consultancy rate?", I doubt I'd get much satisfaction.
However, there are some areas I still actively avoid. One is The Flying Scotsman, a fabulously forbidding pub next to the station whose sooty aspect is only enhanced by blacked-out windows covered in psychedelic scribble. I walk past it regularly, but have never even dared to peer inside. However, this week it suddenly sprouted a sign: "No mobile phones allowed inside." What on earth was going on in there that could be threatened by a phone call?
I had to give in to curiosity so, uttering a prayer to whatever deity was on duty today, I pushed open the door and looked in. Sitting at the bar was a woman in a white basque, counting through a pile of small change. Blimey! And there was another exotic lady, fag in mouth, in her undies, chatting to the barman. She stopped for a second and gave me an incurious glance, then got back to her gossiping.
Ahhhh. All became clear. The establishment is one of the last outposts of that peculiar entertainment, the pub stripper. Last time I came across this, so to speak, was when I worked in Docklands in the 80s, where a similarly uninviting place called The Vulcan advertised lunchtime ecdysis for the connoisseur. But that's long closed, and I assumed the genre was history.
It very clearly was no such thing. I nodded at the ladies, put on my best "sorry, I thought this was Platform 8" look, turned tail and fled.
Whether this is in any way connected with the MP who got thrown out of the debating chamber in the House of Commons this week for using a mobile camera phone, I cannot say. One would like to think so.