People do funny things in museums. Whilst the majority of visitors will troop through in reverence, surgically attached to their audio guides, there are those who just love to come to museums for illicit thrills.
Why? I have no idea. Personally I find them some of the least sexy places on the planet, beaten only by football grounds and public toilets. For me, a room full of amazing artefacts, sculptures and paintings does indeed make my heart beat faster, but afterwards I’ll only be rushing to get into the history section of the nearest bookshop and not somebody’s pants. I’m not alone in this. When the unbearably attractive chef Rocco diSpirito was asked whether he’d ever had a romantic tryst in a kitchen, he was spluttering with indignation.
“I feel like that would be a desecration of the kitchen! I would never, ever think of doing that to the kitchen. There’s a sensitivity and a sensuality to cooking, but it’s not like that.”
The last thing I want to do under the watchful eyes of a greek bust or oil paintings of court beauties is to get jiggy. However for some of our visitors a little bit of heritage is all it takes to get motors running.
Perhaps it is the illicit thrill of doing something naughty in a traditionally refined space, the frisson of excitement at the thought of getting caught in flagrante delicto, or maybe the places that I’ve worked have simply been in neighbourhoods with abnormally high numbers of nymphomaniacs.
In its most innocent form, every tour guide and gallery warden has had to tear apart various lovestruck teenagers. Bless their hormonal hearts, they are usually on school excursions and are far too in love to do something as banal as learn. They are nearly always from continental Europe. Of course, they are in the throes of true love and nothing is more important than demonstrating that love to each other by clumsily slobbering over each other’s faces. We’ve all been there. However it’s not really appropriate behaviour, particularly in front of teeny visitors. It’s tempting to spray the star-crossed adolescents with cold water as you would with a misbehaving cat, but sadly I think that classes as a politically incorrect response.
Then you get the ‘regular offenders’ who verge on perverse. You’ll find them attempting to flash, or rubbing up against other terrified visitors.
And of course, let’s not forget the ‘Bucket Listers’ who have written down a long list of bizarre places to have a bonk and today is the day they tick off the Local Museum. I believe there are even smartphone apps that can provide people who suffer from a chronic lack of imagination with a pre written list. A friend was describing a such an adventure undertaken at a local castle that I have visited countless times since I could toddle. Her eyes gleamed at the memory whilst I struggled not to cry at the realisation that every time I revisit the battlements I will no doubt picture her having sex up against a flying buttress.
Where I worked at Fort Nelson there were numerous places that were perfect for a knee trembler. I know that from the accounts of WW2 personnel who enjoyed a bit of slap and tickle up against the shell stores in between ammo deliveries. Dimly lit subterranean caponiers and lighting passages seem to be a favourite spot for amorous adventurers. And if a horny visitor arrives without a partner, it seems to be common practice to simply proposition the nearest tour guide. Even the usually respectful re-enactors who descend on the fort for special events were seemingly not immune. One asked me to bend over a 32pdr smoothbore breech-loading gun in the north caponier. You can imagine my response. In case you can’t, I gave him such a indignant stare that he slinked off. I was not bout to desecrate historical artillery pieces!
The fairly private mortar batteries were also a popular spot for a bit of fortification fornication and I was once charged with going through the guest comment book with a bottle of tippex and removing all of the in depth, blow by blow accounts of successful liasons.
But the most popular place was, by far, the car park. Being a fort, the site was fairly remote, situated on top of a largely uninhabited ridge. Our car park, when I was there, was just off of the site, surrounded by a ring of conveniently situated trees and hedges that made the entire car parl completely invisible from the road. It was split up into several sections descending down the slope, marked by even more hedges. Before the new car park was constructed (after I moved away) the Fort Nelson car park was one of Portsmouth’s most notorious dogging spots. The entrance had a heavy metal gate that we, the warden guides, had to unlock every morning and lock every night. Any cars left in the carpark past closing time had to stay there until morning. We weren’t encouraged to lock the gates with cars still present, it was our duty to find the owners and remind them of the car park opening hours.
This end-of-day duty became a chore. On Thursdays I’d always find a red Peugeot in the farthest section from the road. Both occupants were married (not to each other) and couldn’t afford a hotel. They always had a meal in the cafe before heading straight back to the car. I originally wondered why these regular visitors never bothered looking around the exhibitions. The first time that it was my turn to lock up on a Thursday I found out. Cheating spouses and doggers often meant that I was late finishing my shift because I had to send perverts packing. Whilst my colleagues would often have a cigarette and l wait for the sexathons to finish, I’m afraid that I am rather impatient by nature, especially after a long day standing in drizzle. My tolerance level therefore having plummeted, I was notorious as the member of staff who would march up to the car, knock on the window and yell threats about calling the police until I’d sufficiently put them off their vinegar strokes.
Occasionally I’d spy a silver sports car and a silver van, always parked side by side. This only meant one thing – a notorious Portsmouth porn star who specialised in filming al fresco fornication was using the car park as the latest set. One day, wrapped up in my uniform bomber jacket and beanie hat, I stomped to a little dell at the bottom of the car park. My stomach was growling and I was impatient for the roast dinner that was awaiting me at home. It took me 20 minutes to find the ‘movie set’, and when I did find them I found myself in between the ‘actors’ and the camera. I snapped. I started shouting menacingly that I was sick and tired of stumbling upon serial shaggers when all I wanted to do was lock the bloody gate and race to the bus stop before I missed the last bus. The actors, to give them credit, didn’t miss a beat. The cameraman whispered that I could lock the gate and go home. They’d get a taxi home and pick up their porn-mobiles in the morning before the school buses started to park up.
I was too nervous to search the web to see if my little interruption made the final edit, but it’s quite possible that TourGuideGirl is, indeed, and inadvertant porn star. Just don’t tell my mum!