Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Real lives in Kings Cross...

I usher the city gent into the space I was holding and realise perhaps that wasn't what a minister of religion should be saying to a perfect stranger in the reception of a brothel"

"Are you queuing mate..?"

"No ... no .... no!" I stammer a little too quickly, I compose myself and continue "be my guest..." I usher the city gent into the space I was holding and realise perhaps that wasn't what a minister of religion should be saying to a perfect stranger in the reception of a brothel in London's notorious Kings Cross!

Did I say brothel? I meant to say sauna and massage parlour, the youngish guy looks almost as nervous as me as he looks down a price list. The bouncer helps, "that's £20 to get in and £100 for the girl...", the £20 is rung into the till, a towel is handed over and the guy disappears behind a door to have a break in his journey before heading to the home counties hinterland to his leafy suburb. Did I say 'break in his journey?'

I continue in my conversation with a hard nosed receptionist/bouncer about mining in Yorkshire as the red light outside beckons another punter, another £20 and towel is exchanged, he disappears. It is not every day that you get invited to go on a 'sauna and massage parlour crawl', I'm being introduced to Faith House's detached work to some of Kings Cross' sex workers.

This is how it works Estelle and Anna waltz into the inner sanctum with a wave, a smile and a cheery 'Salvation Army', to check that the girls are OK, to have a chat, exchange CD's, I stay outside to talk with the bouncers. For a year now this special relationship with several 'parlours' and lap dancing clubs has developed to the point where the team are welcomed and expected. I learn quickly not to look at the monitors, to keep eye contact, in a friendly but disinterested way, as one of the girls comes for change. There's something a little bizarre as the bouncer breaks from telling me about life down a mine to open the till for a girl who for a few years could be my daughter.

After walking, praying and chatting for nearly two hours we return. This is what struck me, 'those pictures' in the phone boxes that teenage boys snigger at and stuff in their back pockets, are real people, with real stories. Holiday had seen me catch up with the BBC's The Street, one episode saw Anna Friel as a single mother who would do anything for her two boys, even working in a sauna as a prostitute to afford the larger mortgage to get away from the school bullies. Tonight there was an uncanny resemblance, except this is not fiction.

Here's where the attributes of God are incarnated into the real lives of those, who for whatever reason, either need to become a commodity, or facilitate an industry for commuters heading off to the suburbs.


Estelle said...

thanks for coming with us!!

IanH said...

Good post Gordon.

I always remember Chick Yuill telling the story about being in a local tv debate about a red light district when he stood up for the prostitutes. Afterwards he was chatting to one of them and at the end of the conversation he gave her his card. As he drove home he was terrified that her flat would be raided where police would come across the card of...

I become more and more convinced that the need of the Salvation Army is not revival or longer prayer meetings but to get out more! To find real people and discover that we don't really know them. Time to walk humbly.

Thanks for the reminder.