I was dressed as a policewoman and handcuffed to a stripper who was leading me down a darkened corridor to her pimp who would, with any luck, give us back our liberty and cut the damn things off our wrists.
I’ll be honest with you; being the much fuglier half in a semi-naked conjoined twin scenario wasn’t how I’d envisaged spending my last night in the Czech Republic.
It was the culmination of a riotous rally across Europe that I’d undertaken with three of my male friends. The aim was to purchase a old banger for under £250, decorate the paintwork (I think you’ll agree that an American police car design was the most obvious choice for tarting up a Vauxhall Omega), wear the appropriate uniforms, join 100+ other entrants and drive across Europe and back – only discovering the destination we needed to make my nightfall each morning – all in the name of charity.
An overnight ferry to France spat us out, all fumes and bravado, at Calais where we raced to Champagne and then onto Strasbourg. Here we would spend the night at a campsite in the drizzling rain quaffing cheap plonk and desperately trying to fry a steak over a tin foil BBQ containing two chunks of barely-warm charcoal. It was served with a packet of crisps and a dipping sauce flavoured with E. Coli.
From Strasbourg it was on to Nuremberg for a quick pit stop at the Nazi Party rally grounds before heading to the furthest point on the trip; Prague.
We arrived at our designated campsite just before dusk, threw up our tents (and the boys the last of the steak from the night before – how I congratulated myself for being a vegetarian) before setting off into Prague proper. I had celebrated a birthday there some years before where we had admired the sights, congratulated the Charles Bridge on being a handsome fellow and visited some educational and fascinating historical edifices.
Not so this time. One of the boys suggested a strip bar. I protested. Loudly. And lost. I didn’t fancy staying at the freezing campsite alone or traipsing about the city until dawn waiting for the boys to emerge so one of them was assigned to ‘babysit’ me (he was getting married the week after the trip and so was deemed responsible enough to not want a dance…) This essentially meant we sat together awkwardly giving a running commentary of the live sex show on stage whilst I got a crash course in gynecology from various skimpily-dressed young ladies.
At this point one of the boys thought it would be hilarious if he bought me a dance. Mercedes (I kid you not) did her best but in the end I forced her to sit down and chat to me about her family and friends. She revealed she spoke five languages fluently and was paying her way through university with this gig. At this point my new friend remembered I was a ‘paying’ customer so, in what I can only imagine was a move to seem seductive, she took the toy metal handcuffs hanging from my wrist (we had to remain in our police uniforms throughout the duration of the trip), snapped one half onto her wrist and then jiggled about the place.
Enough was enough. “Right. Time to stop this I think,” I said in a suitably school-marmish manner. “Keys please”. There was a silence. “KEYS PLEASE,” I repeated. I glanced at the boys. They were looking confused…and then panicked. “Can’t seem to find them,”one stuttered. “I think they must have fallen on the floor during the dance and it’s so dark I can’t see them,” muttered another.
I was sweating anger. Fifteen minutes of scrabbling about on a stripclub floor (God knows what was under my nails after that) and still no sign of the keys. I had begun to construct the conversation I was going to have with my boss on Monday morning when I walked in handcuffed to Mercedes. “Do you have a spare laptop?” I would begin. “Mercedes is going to be an intern with us for a while and sit very, very closely next to me.”
In the end we admitted defeat and I was told to follow Mercedes (like I had a choice) to the inner sanctum where her ‘manager’ would release us. We wondered down dark corridors past beautiful girls with painted faces until we reached a velvet-upholstered living room where goddesses lounged in various states of undress. The manager, a striking Israeli lady who laughed like a drain when she saw us, neatly cut off the offending items with a bolt cutter she just happened to have sitting about in a drawer.
Not a word was spoken on the way back to the camp site. In fact the next time we had a conversation was when we were escorted out of Bruges city centre by the actual police on the way home. But that’s a story for another evening…