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27 February 2006
Memories...
I suppose that the law of averages would dictate that a hand-shandyist has to have one decent essay from time to time. Little Green Soccer Balls had one yesterday which I found quite interesting. It speculated on the link between political violence and sexual repression. In fact, the blog essay is better than the Guardian article that inspired it. The article jumped from discussing repressed sexualty in Mohamaden cultures to Ernst Rohm and his gay boys in brown. One would have thought that whatever else Rohm suffered from, a lack of sexual partners was not one of them. The blog essay just concentrated on Mohamadens who don't get any, and was all the better for it. It set me thinking back over thirty years to when I worked at a cinema in Oldham...

On Sundays the regular show did not open until about 7.00pm. This was because the cinema was rented in the early afternoon to run Pakistani films. We always ran two of them back to back, and they were always the same shit: lots of folk who broke into a song and dance routine because they were not allowed to even kiss on the Pakistani screen. The prints themselves were always falling to bits, having been run to death in Pakistan and then shipped over to places like Oldham and Rochdale, which is where they ended their days.

The young men who were responsible for the shows would always come and sit in the projection room to slurp tea all afternoon. It turned out that what they were really after was anything that would help their imaginations when the old right hand went to work. By anything, I mean one frame from a regular Hollywood movie that showed a flash of tit or a bit of bum. If you gave them a still from last week's show that had a girl in a bikini - the things that all cinemas throw out at the end of the week - they were in the seventh heaven. None of this was porno material - this was 1973 and everything legal was very tame.

In those days the only porn shops were in the big cities and there were very few of them. Manchester had two shops that were tolerated by the police, and both were basically back street lock-ups. Most porn merchants traded on street corners, or in certain pubs, with their gear stored in a plastic bag. The big magazine in those days was a thing called Privat that was produced in Germany. It had plenty of hard core photos and underneath each one was a short text in German, English, French and Spanish. Needless to say it was banned in Britain which meant that copies flooded in like shit off a shovel. I think that the latest edition for any given month sold for about a fiver in Manchester, which was damned expensive in a city where beer was 25p a pint. (My screw in those days was about £15.00 a week. )

Copies would make their way down through the second hand traders, each merchant slapping his price on the front in felt tipped pen. After about a year, but which time they were torn and encrusted with stains that did not stand too close an examination, even the cheapest punter wouldn't touch them, so they became ready for Oldham. Merchants would buy these copies for about 50p and then get on the number 98 or 82 bus up to Oldham to sell them to the Pakistanis for about a quid each. After that they vanished from sight. Pakistani merchants who eventually got hold of them would cut up the magazines and sell them on as individual pages for about 20p a throw.

I remember talking to one of those men who shipped old copies of Privat up to Oldham. Most porn merchants have a contempt for their punters, but he said that the thought of some bugger wanking over a single page out of a magazine that had been traded and re-traded for over a year, made even him feel sick.

Still, the best money is the easy money, and a lot of lads made their beer money shipping magazines to sad-arsed losers in Oldham all those years ago.

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