The Naked Tuck Shop is a unique record of a period long before ‘gaiety’ was legal in any form in the United Kingdom. This memoir of a 1950s grammar-school boy’s navigation through his emerging gayness, lifts the lid on his discovery of a vast clandestine world – that stretched from members of parliament to long distance lorry drivers.
A chance meeting with two local artists while ‘cottaging’ provided the springboard to a Soho demimonde that featured Muriel Belcher’s Colony Room and a cast of characters that included Francis Bacon, Angus Wilson and Tom Driberg. While his friendship with Dudley, Bishop of Colchester, led to encounters with dodgy clerics and Margery Allingham, the crime writer queen.
The author suggests that the ‘cottage’, long before later legal venues like gay pubs and discos arrived, was the only game in town for an underage provincial teenager. In a contemporary Britain starved of ‘public conveniences’ it is easy to forget their ubiquity in those times. The late Victorian ‘spend a penny’ brigade had decreed the building of these municipal marvels throughout the land, and fortunately for him the local worthy burghers had seen to it that Colchester was well endowed.
Alongside his early adventures in ‘queer society’ Tim Hughes remembers with affection a group of talented school friends, and how some of them who were also friends of Dorothy, had their lives cut short by the arrival of the gay plague.