The Undateable Gay returns with another column about an unfortunate incident with a man of the cloth.

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After talking of my Budgens’ days as customer service manager in my previous tale of dating woe, it took me back to another memory of my youth. So get inside the undateable gay time machine once more, as I take you on a trip to 2004.

Working in Budgens always provided me with plenty of eye candy. All of the evening and weekend staff were mainly students of the male variety, all looking to earn their beer money. And I was their boss. What a fantasy.

Now, before anyone gets on the phone to the police, may I remind you that I am talking in the past tense. I was only 20 at the time of these fantasies about young male students aged 17 or 18 so it was all perfectly legal. And does not make me a sexual predator.

I always remember good old Peter Woods*. He was the store manager. Knowing I was partial to perving on the odd pretty boy employee, he would often give me his words of wisdom. “Don’t poke the payroll.”

Being a good, obedient boy, I always listened to his advice. Always, that was, until Jamie* came along. I finally had a fellow gay boy in the store.

Jamie was absolutely gorgeous. He had the most beautiful blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. And you could see his well-toned physique through his chequered green Budgens uniform. I quite often did an impression of a dog’s tongue hanging out, dribbling every time I saw he was rostered on my shifts.

One night as we were filling up the shelves with loaves of Hovis, I felt our eyes meet across a thick cut granary. Unusually coy, I blushed and looked down at a white bloomer.

It was Christmas eve and my ears caught a glimpse of Mariah Carey playing in the background. As the words of “All I want for Christmas” resonated in my lug holes, I took the bull by the horns.

“Would you like to go for a drink this evening?”

I looked at a Best of Both loaf to avoid making eye contact, fearful that his answer might be no.

My confidence with men in those days wasn’t what it is these days. I was quite a chubby youth with a bit of acne and a fake tan addiction. I also had eyebrows that I would shave with a bic razor which sometimes made me look like I was sporting a pair of slugs above my eyes.

My friends often say I’m the ugly duckling who blossomed into the swan. And to be honest, I’m glad I grew into my looks at a later age. All the pretty boys who I fancied in my teens at school are dog rough nowadays. So I’m glad I went the opposite way! Better to be like a fine wine and get better with age.

Anyway, I’m digressing. Back to the drinks proposal with the medium cut Kingsmill as our witness.

“Yes.” He replied rather quickly actually. Expecting the answer to be no, I didn’t let my ears register the answer and started babbling on like a banshee.

“I mean, I understand if you don’t want to.”

“Yes!” He said again, but in my banshee induced state I continued not registering his response.

“I know it’s Christmas eve, so I completely get if you’ve already got plans.”

And then, quite out of the blue, and I guess to shut me up, I felt him face plant his lips onto mine. All down the bakery aisle in Budgens in the year 2004. Very modern for the era, let me tell you and no one even raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll meet you at the Crossroads at 7”, he said as he departed from my lips. Oh, the Crossroads. That takes me back as well. That was the pub at the end of Shepperton high street. It was our local haunt.

R.I.P Crossroads. (And I’m not talking about the dodgy ITV soap. Although that’s also very sad that it’s no longer around) But right now, I’m talking about the Shepperton pub which got knocked down years ago to make way for retirement homes. I miss it. Many a drunken night (or business lunch) was spent in there. Well, I say ‘business’ lunch. It was just an excuse for the managers to get pissed during work hours.

As we stumbled from the pub that night, we walked arm in arm and I was as pissed as a fart, I can tell you. We came to my local church and I clocked the time. Midnight Mass was about to begin.

I made the suggestion that we should attend and I could see the hesitant look on Jamie’s face. But I gave him a flutter of my rather long eyelashes and before you could say “Hallelujah”, we were inside the church.

We tripped our way through the doorway in our inebriated state and the first carol was already in progress. Any fellow bible bashers will know which carol we entered to. “ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY”. It’s always the first carol to be sang at Midnight mass.

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I used to be in the church choir as a young boy you know. I would always sing the first verse as a solo at Midnight Mass. I had a lovely little soprano voice back in the day. Until nature came along and made my balls drop, that is.

Talking of the church choir, my mum is still in the choir to this day. And I saw her on this night, look up from her hymn book as she caught a glimpse of me from the choir stalls.

I could see her disapproving stare and head shake as we tumbled our way to our seats. A stare and head shake that only a mother can perfect. She could tell I was rather trollied. I knew I would be in for it on Christmas day morning. But the Sauvignon Blanc erased any worries of her wrath right away.

This particular night, the service was being taken by the Bishop of London no less. It was a big honour for a small church in Shepperton. So it was packed to the rafters.

We were at the part of the service called the Peace. For those of you not familiar with church service proceedings, this is the when the priest invites the congregation to share God’s peace with one another. And you all shake hands with each other and declare, “Peace be with you!”

As the Bishop made his way towards Jamie and I, I quickly made a beeline for him, hand held out with excitement at the fact I was about to shake hands with the Bishop of London.

And in my overzealousness, I forgot to check what my feet were doing. Before I knew it, my foot became caught on the chair leg and I went face first into the Bishop’s chest. My boat race smacked into the cross hanging around his neck.

As I clung onto the Bishops’ hips, I felt him go a bit wobbly on his pins and as he went backwards towards the floor, he managed to steady himself on the side of a chair.

I looked up at him, big drunken gin on my face, sorry, I meant grin and I proudly pronounced “Peace be with you!”

He quickly peeled my body away from his hips and chest and moved onto the next member of the congregation, fearful for his life and his balance.

My mum hid herself behind her hymn book. Jamie hid himself behind a pillar and pretended he was there worshipping with another group of people.

After bashing the bishop at midnight mass, I decided I would take Peter Wood’s advice in future and not poke the payroll. Business and pleasure don’t mix.


* names changed to protect the innocent or not so!

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About the author: Mark Woollard

Mark David Woollard graduated from Brunel University, West London in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. Since then, he has written for many publications as a freelance writer. He has been ‘The Undateable Gay’ for The Gay UK magazine since 2015 where he documents his unsuccessful dating life. He wrote an opinion column for the national Student Times, discussing LGBT issues.

He also writes educational pieces for ‘Massage World’ magazine, giving advice to Reflexologists about treating certain ailments. He authored a novella in 2013 entitled ‘The Fun and Frolics of FIFI a L’Orange’, the crazy adventures of a drag queen.

And is currently working on a series of LGBT books for children and a collection of flash fiction.

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