I don’t think I have ever been in a brothel. I say ‘don’t think’ because I did wander into a somewhat sexually charged bar with a photographer colleague in Nairobi once which, he informed me the next day, was in fact a front for all manner of stuff going on upstairs.
The hero of my novel, All In The Mind, regularly uses prostitutes, and there was a part of me that felt I ought to visit some of the seedy looking ‘pleasure parlours’ not far from where we live, to get a proper feel for what goes on inside.
But this was where the curiousity of the novelist clashed with the overhang from having worked for the government, and the knowledge that even if ‘Campbell spotted in brothel’ is not quite as newsworthy as it might have been between 1994 and 2003, it might still make a piece here or there, and my Mum wouldn’t like it.
I asked Fiona at one point whether she minded if I went to take a look inside the pink-fronted place down near Regent’s Park canal in Camden, and she said ‘No, not at all’ in that way women do, which means ‘I think it might be quite hard to explain if someone sees you, and so even if I say I don’t mind, I wouldn’t if I were you.’ So I never did, though I picked a few brains of those who had and otherwise relied on my imagination. I was very pleased when rape and prostitution campaigners (there are also two rape victims in the novel) said that they felt I had really understood these issues from women’s point of view, and equally pleased at the reaction of a few ‘phwoar’ type men, who did not believe I had never been inside a brothel.
So what has brought all this on, ask those who have managed to stay with me thus far? The answer is climate change.
Come again? Yes, climate change. Because as Ed Miliband prepares to present the government’s renewable energy strategy tomorrow, with a big interview in today’s Guardian, illustrated by a very nice photograph of the Climate Change Secretary in a wind farm, I was also interested in a single paragraph at the bottom of page 31 in The Times, under the headline ‘Brothel goes green.’
‘Berlin: Clients at a brothel are being offered a 5 Euro discount (£4.30) from the usual 70 Euro fee if they arrive by bicycle or public transport. The Maison d’Envie brothel said that the scheme would help the environment and alleviate congestion. (Reuters)’
Of course, you have to take your hat off to the madam in marketing who thought of that one. But what it also shows is that while governments in the run up to the Copenhagen climate change Summit in December have to do the really big stuff, it is also down to businesses and individuals to make what difference they can.
And the brothel story made me think maybe it is happening more than sometimes we think as we sit in traffic jams, or wait to get on planes, or forget to put that tin can in the right recycling bin.
Interesting to see the Guardian lead their coverage on Ed’s line that we can meet future commitments without reversing the cheap flights phenomenon that has been so much a part of the last decade, and which surely has contributed to the problems Ed and his colleagues are having to address in Denmark. He rightly says air travel should not revert to becoming something only the rich can afford, and suggests greater use of wind and clean fuels will get us towards the ambitious reduced emissions targets that are being set. But we are all, surely, going to have to buy into some difficult choices down the track.
Meanwhile, inspired by the Berlin brothel, I have just cancelled the cab I had booked to take me to a meeting in town. I will switch off the computer rather than leave it on standy. I will walk to the tube, use public transport, and feel all virtuous, like I did when I walked out of that Nairobi ‘bar.’