13 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 77

Safety first

Jeremy Clarke

Sophia was such a very large lady, the seatbelt of my car, even when fully extended, wasn't quite long enough to go round her, She insisted on wearing it though, so her lover Ulrika and I redoubled our efforts. After a titanic struggle we found that we could force it around her if we pulled on the strap with our combined might and clicked it into the catch on the driver's side. The belt cut so deeply into Sophia's stomach it was lost from view, but she insisted she was happy. She would rather be uncomfortable and safe, she said, rather than the other way round.

I'd met Sophia and Ulrika in the pub. This incredibly large woman and this worryingly thin woman had come in and sat at the next table. We chatted. They were very open and frank. They were Germans, they said. They've been living together in Berlin for 17 years. (It had been love at first sight.) They come to south Devon annually, they said, because they like the south Devon gay scene. They like it because it is very friendly. I was incredulous about the existence of a south Devon gay scene to rival that of Berlin's. I might even have scoffed a bit. They said if I wanted to drive them back to their holiday apartment in Torquay, they'd show me their favourite gay pub, which was on the way.

So we were driving to Torquay, Sophia pinioned to the passenger seat, Ulrika reclining in the back drawing languidly on her cigar, which she smoked in a long black cigarette holder. Then Sophia said she wanted to `go pee pee'. She'd been unable to squeeze herself into the cubicle in the ladies' lavatory back at the pub, she said, and she couldn't hold on much longer. I pulled over in a lay-by.

After furious effort from Ulrika and myself, we eventually released Sophia from the seatbelt. The next problem was getting her out of the car. In getting her in, we had been assisted by the laws of gravity. Getting her out was harder. For a minute I really thought we were going to have to call the fire brigade. But with Ulrika outside the car and pulling, and me pushing from the inside, we finally got Sophia out and she headed off towards the bushes.

While she was gone, Ulrika and I sat in silence in the darkness. I could see the glowing end of her cigar in my rear-view mirror. She broke the silence by saying that she and Sophia loved each other very much, but it was an open relationship. If either of them wanted to introduce a third party of either sex into their bed, they were free to do so. They had had a very nice man joining them on a regular basis until fairly recently, but he unexpectedly moved to Bavaria. She and Sophia had spoken together in the pub and agreed that I was also a very nice man. They would be very happy if I wanted to share their bed with them while they were here in England. Again I saw the tip of her cigar glowing brightly in the dark.

I thanked Ulrika very much. It was a most kind offer, I said, and one that I'd most certainly consider. To be perfectly honest. I said, I wasn't sure if I was up to tackling the both of them. I might be nervous and fluff it. On the other hand, if we got carried away, I could be crushed to death. 'You have a large bed at your apartment?' I asked.

We were interrupted by wailing coming from outside the car. We jumped out and ran over to where Sophia was lying. She lay on her back, crying. She'd tripped on a root, she said. She couldn't get up. Ulrika and I hauled her back to the vertical. There were dead leaves in Sophia's hair and stuck all over her back. Ulrika brushed her down and spoke comfortingly to her in German and she stopped crying. 'Oh, Jeremy, why am I so heavy?' said Sophia.

When we'd got her back in the car and strapped her in, Ulrika told Sophia, in German, about the invitation. Sophia's face, which I had to admit was a lovely, open, innocent face, immediately lit up. 'Oh, Jeremy, it will be lovely if you will sleep with us. I am so happy Ulrika has asked you. It will be so nice!'

Well, we went to their favourite gay bar in Torquay. It was quiz night. We arrived as this coiffed old queen was announcing the answers. It was, as they said, a most friendly bar. We had three drinks each, then we went back to their apartment, a spacious one, near the station, where we had several more after which, utter coward that I am, I reached for my coat and said I must be going.