Patrick Gale’s perennially popular debut novel takes a wry and romantic look at love both in and out of the closet.
At fifteen years and eleven months, violinist Seth Peake is a musical prodigy who’s secretly attracted to men. Scheduled to begin music college in the fall, he is en route to Cornwall to spend the summer at the Trenellion Festival, a pacifist festival of art and music his family helped to found. There he falls head over heels for a gorgeous, unsuitable sculptor named Roland.
Seth’s older sister, Venetia, has a problem. Her period is five weeks late. But she’s a virgin and no one has touched her sexually except her father, Huw—a secret she has told no one. Is the world about to bear witness to history’s second immaculate conception? Doing her best to hold the family together is mother and wife Evelyn, who prays for Venetia to find fulfillment, Seth to be spared from pride, and her problems with Huw magically to vanish.
Inspector Maude Faithe—Mo to her friends—is a lesbian cop who fought for the right of policewomen to wear pants, given that they’re doing a “man’s job.” She has risen through the ranks of London’s Metropolitan Police and been promoted twice for bravery. She lives alone with her large cat and a secret tragedy—until she falls passionately in lust with a singer. As Mo and Hope become lovers, Mo’s dogged pursuit of the person responsible for stealing and desecrating the predictions of a newspaper astrologer leads to a surprising culprit.
A witty and wise novel about sexual equality and the thrills and perils of wish fulfillment, The Aerodynamics of Pork is an exhilarating ode to love that remains a cult favorite with Patrick Gale fans and readers of gay and lesbian fiction.
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About the Author
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester, before attending Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of the United Kingdom’s best-loved novelists, his recent works include A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through, and the Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller Notes from an Exhibition. His latest novel, A Place Called Winter, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize, and the Independent Booksellers’ Novel of the Year award. To find out more about Patrick and his work, visit www.galewarning.org.
Read an Excerpt
The Aerodynamics of Pork
By Patrick Gale
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1986 Patrick Gale
All rights reserved.
When the leading lady is also the birthday girl, nobody and nothing gets in her way. This month's conjunctions, the most favourable for Lady Lion since she first strutted out in her birthday best, will make her invincible. So, tell those guys to watch out because for the next week the little firecracker in their lives is going to get everything she wants, and we mean everything!
On any other occasion Seth would have been mortified to have been seen reading the thing in public, but his last term was finished and, God willing, it was the last time he would take this train.
A thud of compressed air against the windows; the only sizeable tunnel of the journey. On the upward trip it required a ritual. When the darkness came, Seth had to say 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here', over and over in his head, counting on his fingers, until sunlight reappeared. The number of times he said it told him the number of days he had to wait for sex. It was always a fairly safe bet, more a reassurance than a matter for anxiety. Each time he said it about eight or nine times: each term it took a week for the hot-house atmosphere to send the wraiths of holiday sweethearts wilting into bland insignificance. Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'
He reached up to touch the spot on his left temple. Flushed a shade of angry prawn, it still wasn't ripe. He hoped Mother wouldn't think that he didn't wash. He prided himself on his ability to avoid the grease-bound ill temper of his teenage cousins.
The train was slowing down. Basingstoke. To one side, pre-fabricated buildings sporting familiar names, to the other, a housing estate. Expanses of turf, tidy concrete paths, golf course, shopping precinct, saplings in wire cages.
The platform was full. Seth lifted his things off the seat before him and placed them in the luggage rack, all things save his violin. Having ensured that this took up all the space to his left, he loosened his tie, undid his top button, placed a protective hand on the case, and closed his eyes in feigned sleep.
Doors opened and he could hear the carriage fill. Mumbled apologies and murmured thanks sounded around him. A titter of children stamped past in the aisle. Doors slammed and the carriage was once more in motion. He could feel someone's skirt against his knees.
Her voice was firm and forties, faintly troubled. She had entered in a hurry and was now balancing between the legs by the door. He pictured her perfect creases and the vaunting caprice of her perm.
'Excuse me, young man?'
His fingertips reminded him that he was still nursing an unsuitable magazine on his lap. It was now impossible to lift the pretence. A drop fell from his armpit to run down his ribs and soak into a fold of cotton above his waist.
'Here. Take mine.' A man's voice from in front. 'I think he's been asleep for some time.'
There was a stir as he stood up, and she fluffed herself back into shape and lowered her rump.
'Why, thank you. So kind.'
That pinched 'O' of a crumb-anxious scone-eater.
Someone started to slide his violin from beneath his grasp. The saviour was making room to sit down. Seth produced his best deep-sleep mumble and slid his hand on to his lap, nestling his head further into the curtain. The man, whose voice had been youngish and pleasant, sat beside him, presumably with the violin across his pinstriped thighs. As seat springs stretched to his left, Seth checked the impulse to decline into his companion's lap, but allowed himself a slight stir to straighten an ankle twisted unnaturally in the hasty preparations for the tableau. The magazine slapped to the floor. The basilisk snorted her surprise. Forty minutes to Waterloo. Forty woollen suits in swaying, July proximity. The siren call of a youthful libido proved irresistible. Leaving the angels to their tears, Seth pursued a fantasy a while, then slid to earnest slumber.
Seth Felix Peake, fifteen years eleven months, was a regular misdemeanant only in the eyes of the Church and of those parents whose schools were founded later than eighteen-fifty. He had not been expelled. In the academic opinion he was lost, but in the eyes of his mother, he had been discovered just in time.CHAPTER 2
It was clever; started by the wind, of course, but once set in motion it did seem to move by its own momentum. Maude Faithe, Mo to her friends, stared with genuine interest at the system of cogs, water, sails and weights labouring before her. A woman stood clutching a little girl's hand. Pointing, she cried, 'Do look, darling. Isn't it clever? Do you see how it works?'
Darling Maude looked again. She saw how it worked. The bright enamelled shades of the sculpture's parts no longer charmed her.
Makes you feel a bit sick, really, she thought, and moved on.
Plain clothes assignments made a nice change. The sense of cloaked power as you walked with the unsuspecting. Uniforms had their strong points. People thought you were kinky to like wearing a uniform, but it wasn't that; they protected you. They meant you could walk along the street being yourself, but just being a WPC to anybody else. Made you sick the way people looked at your civvies, sizing you up. It had made her sick at school when they'd teased her for having only one skirt. In a uniform people stopped sizing you up and started accepting. There again, in a uniform they knew what you did and expected you to do it – the beauty of plain clothes was that you only had to do it when the spirit moved you. Cloaked power. It was a bit kinky when you thought about it, really.
Mo looked nonchalantly at the crowd around her. She was proud of her nonchalant look. How to watch unsuspected was the secret of cloaked power.
It was a pretty small area to watch, a green space near County Hall. She'd been sent to patrol a crowd like this the week before, in that converted railway shed. Always the same people. Always the tall, toffee-nosed women with headscarves tied to their shiny, black handbags, and sometimes their husbands, who were always in suits. Always the fairies, who tried to dress differently from everyone else, and so ended up looking the same. Mo could spot a fairy at twenty paces. And then there were the feminist types. People talked a lot of crap about how men aged better. Men only aged better because they didn't try to look so stupid. If a man grew his hair long and curly, and wore tight clothes, and showed his legs all the time, he wouldn't age so well either. Mo was glad some women had seen the light at last. It gave her something nice to look at.
Of course, Timson had made out that the organizers had asked for a fairly senior representative of the Met to come along and 'spread good relations', but she saw through his little lie. Making her snoop for small fry was the punishment he gave because she wouldn't lick his arse like the rest of them. Besides, wandering through a crowd in uniform would have been a wasted opportunity. She'd come in civvies.
All had gone well at first. It was even exciting at first. Women recruits were just starting to be given more responsibilities than looking after lost kids and acting as decoys in nightclubs, so she'd felt a bit of a pioneer. She'd been so proud when the papers came and took pictures one day. Until she'd read the articles, that was, and then she saw that all they were interested in was the sexiness of the new uniform. She started getting wolf-whistles in the street, which she never had in civvies, and when such attention began to be paid from her colleagues she complained.
Despite the warnings of the other women, she'd taken a collection of the offending newspaper cuttings together with reports of harassment to an appointment with a superior office. There she'd demanded that since women were doing a 'man's job', they be allowed to wear the same clothes. The bastards in the office, all men, of course, had laughed and said that if she'd wanted to hide her legs so much she should have been a bus driver. Her blood boiling, she'd marched home, taken a pair of kitchen scissors and cut off all her hair-do. Reappearing for work the next day looking like some escaped nun she was spared the wolf-whistles, but she also ruined her chances of promotion for the next few years.
In the end it had come twice, each time as a reward for bravery. Constable Faithe rescued a man from a burning building and then ran back into the inferno and retrieved an unconscious child. Two years, and some exams later, Sergeant Faithe had captured a sex-attacker. She'd been on plain clothes duty in the danger area, on a Highgate estate, when a man had run up to her and, panicking, spoke of a dying woman in his nearby flat. She had recognized the approach and then a similarity to a recent photofit of the wanted man. On a quixotic impulse, she'd pretended to be fooled and returned to his flat. She knew that an attempted attack would provide the concrete evidence for his arrest. The attack came with an unexpected violence. Mo had overpowered him, but not before she'd received a severe knife wound in the thigh and a slash across one cheek. She'd remained in hospital for several weeks before emerging an Inspector, with a GLC award for services to women, and a face scarred for life.
Most had forgotten her quondam reputation as a trouble-maker when she was sent out in charge of a team to keep control during a new equipment delivery at Greenham Common air-base. There were likely to be road-blocks by peace protesters, and it was the Force's job to see that the delivery found its way into the compound, and to quell any violence.
Mo had read all the articles, but had never believed that things would reach such a state that groups from the Met would be asked to help out the Thames Valley contingent. As she watched the cold drizzle on the van windows, she'd remembered a piece in the Mail. It had said how the campers slept out in the open, belongings protected by plastic sheets. No sanitation. No way of keeping food fresh. The writer had sought to shock, emphasizing the juxtaposition of the women's all too apparent intimacy and their squalid living conditions. They called each other 'love' and shared cigarettes. Must be made of iron, she thought. Men in the back of the van laughed at a shared joke, others were reading papers or smoking. Just another day's work. Mo was glad she'd used a false name on her CND subscription form, glad she hadn't been too brave. Apparently there were lists. No violence was likely so it was hard to see why so many police were needed. Surely an array of power apparent would be enough to clear the way? Please don't let them see me be gentle.
The van stopped, doors flew open and soon they were making their way along a track deep in mud. There was a workaday feel about the movement. Mo gave out orders, answered questions mechanically, her mind intent on the Mail article and its photographs. They called each other 'love' and shared cigarettes. She rounded a corner and saw the gate. Across the gateway and on thirty feet of track before it sat women. They looked so incongruous there that at first she was struck only by their numbers. As she approached she saw that they were mostly aged between nineteen and thirty, muffled against the damp and cold, noses shining, cheeks flushed. The arrival of power apparent was barely registered on a single face. Mo heard a few policemen joking quietly, then one of them calling out,
'Hello, my loves!'
A woman started to sing something and the rest joined her, smiling amongst themselves, some rocking gently on the grass.
The first men had reached the group and were having bodily to haul protesters away on to the verge. Passive resistance. Mo had briefed her team on this. The supplies juggernauts were pulling up behind, waiting to get through. Mo arrived at the group, hating her regulation skirt. She had to be brisk, to hide her softness.
'Come on. Let's be moving you,' she said in the firmest tone she could muster and, bending down, she slipped her hands under the arms of the nearest woman and began to pull. She felt the body go quite limp. Her feet slipped in the mud. Women's voices called out.
'Hey! She's one of us!'
'Love the split-skirt, darling!'
She bowed her head and hauled the woman back through the mud. It was ridiculous. Embarrassing. Whenever a protester was released, she lay still until her remover had walked a few paces, then hurried back to the group. Now Mo understood the need for numbers. Of course, arrests could easily be made – places like this were a mess of by-laws – but only as a last resort; arrests meant unwanted publicity. The material – not the enemy, official memos never spoke their mind – the material was too inflammatory. Tactful power was called for, but tactful power, Mo reflected, was difficult to summon in a skirt and three inches of liquefying mud. She marched back to the group and seized another pair of shoulders. A woman sang, 'You can't kill the spirit.'
Mo hurried towards the protesters. It was like some stupid Brownies game. Get two girls outside the circle before the whistle blows and the first one rushes back to Brown Owl. Another pair of shoulders, wool wrapped. More mud.
'On and on and on.'
A man's voice was raised. Mo glanced across. An arrest was being made. The accused would only sing in response to his questions. If it wasn't so bloody maddening, you'd have to laugh, thought Mo. Then she slipped and sat heavily in the mud. She swore. The protester stood and pulled her up with a smile. Mo thanked her, and blushed. The woman ran laughing back to her sisters. They laughed too and a new song was started.
'Lean on me, I am your sister.' The notes were distorted by giggles. 'Lean on me, I am your friend.'
Angry now, Mo staggered across in the confusion. Just one more try, then she'd arrest one. But as she bent, the girl she had meant to seize rolled over and huddled herself around Mo's ankles in a foetus posture. It was all Mo could do to keep upright. Her feet sank deeper in the mud as she tried to free them.
'Lean on me.'
She saw the face. The blonde hair cropped short, the pierced ear gently pointed, brown eyes staring straight ahead, mouth curled in a mischievous grin. The girl in the mud was beautiful. Mo froze, staring at her.
A man approached. Sergeant Higgins. Mo hated him. Cocky little bastard.
'Lean on me, I am your friend,' they sang.
'Spot of bother, Inspector?' He bent down and laid a hard hand on the girl's shoulders.
'Oi! What the hell d'you think you're doing, then?' he roared, and tugged her. The foetus closed tighter. Mo nearly lost her balance.
'Steady,' she said.
Higgins lost his temper. 'Go on! Get up, will you?'
The girl started to sing the first song again. 'You can't kill the spirit.' Her voice was high and sharp. 'She goes on and on and on.'
'Oh does she?' shouted Higgins and kicked her.
He didn't kick her particularly hard, but his boots were reinforced and the blow landed at the base of her spine. The foetus unfolded at once, yelling a curse and rubbing her back. Instinctively, Mo dropped down and touched her shoulder.
'Christ! Are you OK, love?'
Higgins' voice intruded from above, shocked and mocking. 'You bleeding dyke, Faithe!'
Mo looked up. He was turning away. Her gorge rose. She sprang up and, without thinking, kicked him savagely on the back of the legs. He fell twisting awkwardly on to the mud.
The consequences of this rare loss of temper had been predictably severe. A report was made, and first Higgins and then she had been summoned to appear before their superiors. There had been the usual condescending mention of past record and achievements, then the grilling began.
'Inspector Faithe, did you attack your colleague because his violence enraged you? Were you protecting your good name, or had he, perhaps, touched on a raw nerve?'
Of course she had pleaded PMT and an abhorrence of Higgins' violent techniques. Defeated by such unwonted softness on her part, though they didn't believe her for a moment, they had suggested a transfer within the Met. Perhaps she could work for Superintendent Timson in the West End sector? A change of atmosphere. Maybe even a little investigative work? They could have been a bunch of ruddy doctors suggesting that a little light gardening was good for the nerves. It was punishment plain and simple.
Excerpted from The Aerodynamics of Pork by Patrick Gale. Copyright © 1986 Patrick Gale. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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