Now hang on a minute – I’d like to state from the outset that I don’t want to mislead anyone. By ‘spicy’ I don’t mean spicy as in hot Indian curry, but rather, spicy as in … well, sexy.

The thing is, when my graphic designer son graduated from university, he just couldn’t find any job in his field for ages and ages, and so was reduced to accepting work as a sales assistant in a sex shop in Soho. Well, rather than plaguing him with fretful maternal words about how his artistic talents were being wasted, or urging him to keep on with the tedious but necessary job searching, I decided to be positive.

“Sex shop assistant, hmm,” I pondered aloud over the phone.

“So you’re okay about it? You don’t mind? It’s either that, or more bar work. And I’m sick to my bloody eyeballs of bar work.”

“Hmm,” I pondered further, suddenly beginning to realise just how handy this latest line of employment of my son’s could prove to be, “that could be a pretty cool sort of job for the protagonist of my next novel, don’t you think?”

Just to clarify, I was already well into the planning stage by then – I knew her name (Naomi Lieberman), her religion (Jewish), her degree specialism (forensic anthropology), her address (Finchley, London), but I still didn’t have any concrete ideas of what my feisty young heroine actually did for a living. So, yes! Why not make her a sex shop assistant in Soho?

And that’s when the research started. I booked a trip to London asap, met Jamie for a bite to eat during his lunch break, and after we’d polished off our wine, beer and yummy pasta dishes, then came the fun bit! The research.

The next few hours were spent trawling round the narrow, intriguing back streets of Soho, where all these spicy sex shops lurk. Our first port of call was my son’s place of work, which I was soon to end up calling Sugar Lace in my novel.

Upon entry into the dimly-lit lair – full of black and red hues and lascivious mannequins and garish displays that were hard for the eye to take in at one go – I must admit to feeling rather like a … well, an awkward, embarrassed adolescent who’d been caught out in a very, very naughty place where she most certainly should not be! But Jamie showed no shame whatsoever, bless him.

“Hello, I’d like to introduce you to my mum,” he said to his attractive female co-worker as we approached the counter. “I’m just showing her round the shop, ok? She’s doing some research for her next novel.”

“Sure, feel free!” the nice co-worker said, smiling sweetly at me. I tried not to stare at her hot, mega-spicy gear, all in black, all lacy, and all of it probably borrowed from one of the lavish lingerie displays. “Why don’t you start with the most popular sex toys first?”

So that’s precisely what we did. Jamie strode over to a shelving area in a far corner of the room, me following behind somewhat tremulously.

“The rabbits are always the most popular,” he said, picking up a weird-looking pink object.

“Rabbits?” I echoed, staring now in curiosity rather than embarrassment.

“Yea, they’re called that because they resemble a rabbit.” He picked up a pink latex example of said object. “Here’s one of our best-sellers. It’s got double stimulation, both for internal and external pleasure. As you can see, the stimulator parts are like a rabbit’s ears. These are mainly for women’s use, but she doesn’t have to do it alone. Her boyfriend or husband or whatever can do it for her.”

“Oh, I see,” I mumbled, wondering what sort of tone I should apply to my voice. Maternal somehow didn’t seem right.

After viewing a fair number of rabbits of varying colours, shapes and sizes, as well as some delightful examples of butt plugs (don’t ask) and cock rings (sounds painful, but not being a man, I wouldn’t know), we headed for another room. This was where the mannequins dwelt. Sexy female mannequins, all dressed in the exact sort of clichéd gear that the male species is supposedly turned on by – and, judging by the wealth of attire on sale, I’d say that the supposition must be correct.

“The most popular costumes tend to be naughty nurses and naughty schoolgirls, as you can see,” Jamie ploughed on, pointing to the nearest mannequin – which happened to be decked out in black mini-school skirt, black zig-zag stockings, red suspenders that peaked below miniskirt’s hemline, blouse unbuttoned to cleavage, and stripy school tie provocatively askew. I giggled, bringing to mind all those naughty old Carry On films that I thought were just taking the rise of fetishes that didn’t really exist. But the mannequin right there in front of me, as well as the equally sexily-attired naughty nurse just behind her, sure as hell proved me wrong! So men really do get turned on by this kinky sort of fantasy! Wow. Don’t they just want to laugh?

“I’ll show you the bondage room now,” Jamie continued, boldly leading the way.

So on we trailed, fearless mum and sex shop son! I was really beginning to get into all this kinky research.

In the next room we were immediately engulfed by a sea of consensual pain-inducing accessories: whips, wrist and ankle restraints, spreader bars, hoods, muzzles, bondage toy beginner packs …

“What on earth is this?” I asked, turning to a large, weird-looking wooden contraption that kind of resembled medieval stocks.

“Oh, that one’s for people who are into bondage in a really big way,” Jamie clarified. “You place your head in that big hole at the top, then both your hands in the holes on either side of the board, and then the strap is tied round your back, so that your partner can use the whip to -”

“Yes, I think I get the picture,” I said hastily, hearing the sound of footsteps approaching from behind and once again panicking that I was going to get caught out and be punished. But hopefully not on that dangerous-looking wooden stocks thing!

I could go on and on, but time and word count are running out. Suffice it to say that I exited the shop, as well as several other similar specimens in the nearby vicinity, over-brimming with inspiration for my novel, Soho Shalom.



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