Looking for Love in Empty Spaces


Her name is Hel and my dyke life begins the day we climb into bed and even though we are fuck naked, it isn’t my bed or hers. It is a mattress on the floor of a north London squat.


It is the summer of nineteen eighty-two, Boy George is Top of the Pops asking us if we really want to hurt him.


Margaret Thatcher has already declared war on Argentina in order to distract us from the strikes back here. As young feminists, we are in a state of shock to realise that women are not fundamentally kinder than men.


We are the most educated generation of girls that has ever lived and yet we are groomed for motherhood or sex work. Those of us not interested in either, try ducking and diving, fucking and skiving, bunking the trains, living off chips and whenever possible filling our pockets with free toilet paper.


I meet Hel picketing the Fallen Angel pub.  Their management is attempting to bring about an end to the women’s evenings because dykes never have enough money to spend at the bar.


As an orange and pink sky turns the world Day-Glo I listen transfixed by Hel’s fast talking, real life, furious working-class politics and I know enough to know that I am dropping out of my degree in sociology to learn what this woman here has to teach me about the how capitalists fuck us up.


She takes me back to her squatted council flat, through the door with its fragile, fluttering legal notice informing the police they will have to go to court to get us out.


We are seventeen, looking for love in empty spaces, young enough to ignore other people’s taste in wallpaper. It is a DIY door lock away from being street homeless but for us it is everywhere we’ve ever wanted to be. It is an end to the furious fumble fucks, with our backs pushed hard against toilet doors. We are safe now because we are alone.


My first night of real sex and I am hard in love.  Hel is a boyish Fiorucci angel with fat cheeks; her lips are suckling pert places to press my aching breast. She is intelligent, with wide-awake eyes that follow everything, and politics she will one-day abseil into the House of Lords to defend.


Hel’s body is as Rubenesque as her underfed lifestyle will allow. She lets me take my time to stroke her with my lips, my hips and finally my fingertips but eventually she insists that I go inside.  I tremble as I slowly push my finger into her slippery cunt but I don’t know where I’m going now that we are lying down.


I only know lesbian bed sex from what I have read or seen in porn films and so I try for that. I become aware that Hel is attempting to signal me with groan and whimpers but I have no idea if they mean pleasure or pain.  It never occurs to me to just ask her.


I try to be brave and keep my fingers stiff. I push in and pull out getting ready for my next plunge. I feel her react, clench against me so I decide that I will continue with this exact motion and wait for her inevitable orgasm.


She seems to hover on the edge of coming but never does. Instead she is panting and looking hard at me for help, so hard at me, that I am overwhelmed by the raw animal yearning of it all. Around her neck bold, blood-red blotches appear. Surely something is happening?


This promise of her orgasm encourages me to ignore the fact that my fingers have gone completely numb. I keep going, in and out regardless of the fact I can’t feel what I am actually doing, I push on faster and even harder.


I watch with fascination as she curls and uncurls around my arms and legs, but whether she is really enjoying it, I can’t tell. Why didn’t anyone ever mention it was going to take so fucking long? I lurch inwardly at every intake of breath that results in a moan hoping that this is it. We have been literally fucking for hours and hours and it is now starting to dawn on me that she is not going to come.


Unable to admit defeat I increase my width and push on as hard and fast as I possibly can but spasms of cramp are now surging up through my hand and I find myself racing with her, as if her orgasm is now going to happen inside my body.


I fuck her the hardest and most incandescently fast as I can manage until I fall exhausted and sweating next to her on the bed trying to convince myself it has worked; because how are you supposed to know?

Nina Simone is still singing us lullabies and we have enough drugs to keep us enthusiastic for days, but we cannot talk about what is not working between us.


We can talk about everything from the arms race to apartheid but we have no language to express this simple disappointment. We don’t want too much reality to spoil the image we have of ourselves as lesbian lovers; after all what else can we be?


I have decided that I am moving in with her.


This is no longer simply a phase I’m going through, I’m not bisexual or even a tourist just here to look around and take a few snapshots till my plane home arrives. No! I’m a dyke’s dyke. I am out, and way too proud to contemplate that I wasn’t born with the innate ability to give fantastic lesbian sex.


Then suddenly it is my turn and she is pushing me backwards and pushing inside me. After what I’ve been through I am determined to make it easy for her, so I start orgasming with every single out breath.  I’m coming from the minute her fingers are inside me, just like in the movies.


Hel has fingers that she can control all the way to the tips. Absolute musicians.  But I am determined not so much to experience pleasure as to be its display cabinet.  Over and over I go with the loudest most desperate keening I can manage and just as I am working up to my fifth orgasmic crescendo she gets up and starts pulling on her clothes muttering about “going out for fags”.


I pull at the hem of her shirt like a creepy puppy.  I offer her my fags, my spliff, the entire contents of my wallet if she will just climb back into the dream with me, but she slams the door on her way out.


It is my first lesson in leaving a woman alone when she growls, but I haven’t learnt it, yet.



Dyke Shoes

Two women: both dykes.
One primped up pretty / giving it the bleached blonde / lipsticked, feather bowered girlie.
The other is a manshe / a himher / the butch.
Nobody stares at us / because there is nothing to see / we are looking like them / camouflaged
Me and Bee / my Bee / broad in the coat / gorgeous tall / working class enough / to be proper tough and we need to be/
it is 1987 when every single day / one of us dies from AIDS. We will die but the government will do nothing / because we die from ignorance / literally.
Anarchy in the UK is getting soft / it’s going off the boiling stage / leaving us at the mercy of tepid ballads / that focus our eyes on the guise of / ‘I just wanna to dance with somebody’ or fill our pockets with ‘loads a money.’

Except we are three million unemployed / nothing to do but watch Jim’ll Fix It on telly / to learn about / love.

Or Blankety Blank to hear jokes about / the blacks and the poofters / lesbians though they say we are alone when we are together / just we two making do / waiting for a real man to give us a proper seeing to.

If we had collected a ‘naff tax’ on just that / we could have bought us an island by now / to escape to.

Bee and I are glad we don’t look gay / we are homophobia- free happy this way / passing for strait we become more and more / blatantly sexual so, strange as it sounds Debenhams becomes the site of our  DIY porno

Leaving our clothes in the changing rooms / like Mr. Benn we wander about for hours / dressed like old ladies in corsets, hats, or wigs. Or we don dog collars and drop to all fours / playing puppy who’ll fetch / along shop corridors. Nobody bothers us
Nobody is paid enough to care / if we go Rocky III in sportswear / or if Bee orders a milky coffee in a silk suit / from menswear first floor / and I lay across her lap /
the best example of St. Trinian’s flirtery / until the women’s toilets call.

Or  we lock ourselves into British library reading rooms / refusing when asked to come out quietly / until they fetch the key and we storm out imperious / shouting “where’s the loo?” But the truth is every gap between parked cars / is our personal pissoir. The scrawls on the dyke toilet walls tell us / ‘Lesbians are fucking everywhere,’ / so Bee and I try to go there / no graveyard or alley escapes our lewdliness / and we are not just fingers wet / we throat clenching some / whole hand fisting / pushing heads between legs / learning how only women come.

Suddenly we capture the camera’s stare / Love Bites, by Della Grace / is our pretend family album / we become a gang in there / sexing each other up / at fake weddings with whips / rattling our big fat bike chains and sticking out mucky rubber dicks. Then we were on TV / penetrating the nations living rooms where the country eat their tea / so now even Margaret Thatcher can see us / frigging in the rigging / there was fuck all else to do.

Pop stars like Madonna and Sinead O’Connor / want people to think they might be dykey / we have made the zeitgeist / they look more like us than we do / as lesbian chic floods the mainstream. Cheek more than chic though / prostituting us worse than pimps do / never giving us a single penny / of the money / do you?

I lie / they do pay in a way / you could say I lived off / the wages I was due / three pounds a day / all I had to do was queue / but you better not be late / because they could make you worse than wait. So unlike my foreign girl sisters / I didn’t have to do hand jobs / in the peep shows of Soho / still it was not enough to keep me out / of toe curling second hand shoes / and that shit don’t go.

At 21 / shoes don’t really bother anyone / we live in skin / ours and other animals’ / searched and found our sister kin / gathered together all other ones / that didn’t fit in. Together we made place into space / gave ourselves permission to play / any game any way / because finally we were in / Bee and me belonging / to a dyke sex family / we started spreading the love we felt / financially / socially / sexually / by showing each other our cunts / lips / clits / skin colour / we were pleasing ourselves and one another / by spreading our legs widely.

And / finding that we were

All of us the same

All of us different

All of us ‘proud of it’ Dyke Queens / resisting the shame regime

By coming fucking together.



Into the steam of The Golden Lion Café you quietly let out that today, is your secret birthday. We are dyke cousins, separated by seas but intimately entwined. We compare our young, big city lives. London’s intense staccato, louder, more frantic than your soft spoken, smoky slow, bicycle powered Amsterdam, appreciating both extremes.

You are one of five women living in tiny studio rooms called Kemperstraat. With a bed high enough to look down into the street, big enough to accommodate at least two of your other lovers. Your live-in dog-friend is Tula, like you, the friendliest of creatures, her big bed is by the wood-burning stove in which we burn bits collected from the streets on Monday evenings.

We don’t have much money but we share coffee and draw, generate poetry or paintings. Like the artists we admire, we make it our mission to look for beauty everywhere in the world and make spaces for women where they too can feel sexy and free, to create and grow large in dyke-friendly culture.

You tell me, one day soon you want to raise a child but I don’t want to parent so, we will travel by boat and train between each other’s homes, to and fro, for the next twenty years. A day-long journey with time to breathe-in the sea salty spray, preparing ourselves along the way.

By 2017 I’m settled permanently in Wales but the tunnel means I can drive to you. Unsure what to do now the lure of koffie shops has waned, you suggest we simply walk. You walk us out further than I have ever been as a tourist before, out to the island once squatted by our freeborn friends, now gentrified. Out to the Dam herself, with the sea beyond. We walk along whole dikes, forgiving betrayals and remembering how to enjoy being together, without sex or drugs. Walk talking through grassy wetlands beneath vast motorways, beside flotillas of houseboats until we hit the industrial canal lands where we clamber aboard a free ferry, via central station, to home.

Your generosity is contagious, easy love floats between us in a local Moroccan steam room where tall Dutch housewives debate, naked, how to improve the world until all of us are scrubbed clean by dark women who laugh as we wince, they know how to help us shed our spent skins. Finally, we sip mint tea, contented, silently.