Earlier this year, Suzanne Pornoy caused a sensation when she wrote about her experiences at Rio’s Naturist Spa on Kentish Town Road. Now, as her new book is published, she reflects on her adventures at the “Rio’s of the east.”
Reaching into my archives to find a suitable Kentish Town-based excerpt from my new book, The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker, makes for an uncomfortable experience. It’s like delving into my parent’s closet to discover a dress that’s now three sizes too small and with big shoulder pads.
The problem? I can’t quite reconcile the person I am now with who I was then. Let’s just say, I did some incredibly dumb things in the name of what? An orgasm? Perhaps. More likely, some kind of thrill I got back then from acting like a deviant while holding down a professional career – and raising kids.
In any case, I’ll cast my memory back to a time when a Rio’s regular asked if I would accompany him to another swinging sauna, the Paradise. Based in Dagenham, or the ‘Nam, as it was more commonly known by a few of the folks on the ‘scene,’ this was quite possibly as far from the Garden of Eden as one could get. Paradise Lost would have been a more accurate name for the place – but the reference would have been wasted on the regulars, I’m afraid.
It was mid-week when we showed up at the club. My companion, a very tall slim black guy and former dancer, had lured me away from north London promising serious fun. The fact was I was his meal ticket; single men got in cheaper when a woman accompanied them.I’d agreed to be his dream date in my quest to visit every seedy club in the UK before I hit 50. Actually, that’s not quite true. I agreed to go because Daniel, my companion, was good looking and had stamina, when he could be bothered to try. If my memory serves me correctly (and this all took place many years ago), he hadn’t been around Kentish Town for a while and I was horny. And that’s how I ended up mid-week on a Wednesday waiting for the Paradise to open.
You can always tell a good sauna from a bad one by the rest rooms. In Rio’s, the rest rooms each feature a gym mat laid on a hard wooden base. In other words, nobody that enters one of those rooms is going to actually get any rest. The Paradise rest rooms featured actual sprung mattresses with actual sheets laid on top of them. In other words, anyone who chose to lie on one of those beds was taking their life into their own hands. If sheets could talk they’d be sending people straight to their nearest STD clinic.
Thankfully, Daniel decided to bypass the bedrooms and we headed straight to an empty jacuzzi. After a bit of perfunctory rumpy-pumpy, the bubbles shielding most of what was happening from any passers by, a fellow Rio’s regular stepped in. Female bodyguard by night, serious swinger by late afternoon, she had a penchant for us. So began an early evening threesome, great fun for Daniel but not really my thing.
A few hours later, we emerged from the Club, satiated, still slightly sweaty, into a balmy night in Dagenham. As Phil Collins famously sang, “just another day in Paradise”.
Words: Suzanne Portnoy