Tony Dawson

Those Were the Days
A student at Leeds University, at the end of the 50s, 
I found a holiday job at a local factory, making jam.
The first fellow worker I met was Kevin, operating
the snuffing machine, topping and tailing gooseberries.
I was sure Kevin could snuff a lot more than fruit.
He had a wrestler’s build, with trapezius muscles
that sloped like the sides of a mountain to bulging deltoids.
He told me he was a recidivist whose last sentence
was five years in the choky for killing a gay man
who made a pass at him, then illegal. “Only five years! 
Astonishing! I don’t believe it! How come?”
“Because” he said, “I used the Portsmouth Defence.”
I wasn’t versed in legal matters; he enlightened me.
It was also known as the “Guardsman’s Defence”
as well as the “Gay Panic Defence”. It appealed
to the prejudiced jurors of the day. If accepted
in court, the perp could be treated more leniently
and escape the noose. He grinned at me and winked.
A shiver ran down my spine as I hastily assured him
that I had a fiancée and showed him a photo of her.

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