Thursday, July 2, 2020


Dear Readers,
Daily Mail flight attendants
   When I heard that bottom pinching had been outlawed in Italy it filled me with nostalgia. Italy’s highest court decreed that this is a dirty deed punishable by the full force of the law. It’s just as well the spoil-sports who are now breeding faster than rabbits never got around to dealing with this heinous crime a long time ago otherwise I might still be in jail. It was depressing to read they had added this to the long list of harmless things we are not allowed to do these days, while murderers get away with murder. It won’t be long before the ‘no bottom pinching’ law is extended to the bedroom world-wide.
    Some time ago I flew to Rome on a freebie with a group of Financial Planners – life assurance salesmen who called themselves anything but foot-in-the-door, hard sell merchants. They were going to Rome and London as a prize for out selling everybody else and as a journalist I was invited to tag along as a sweetener to ensure that I never wrote anything detrimental about the firm that was behind it all. These Planners had an unwritten understanding that they would never let on that, as pillars of financial rectitude, they ever sold anything. They merely put the best financial options on the table for their clients to choose from and if they happened to buy, sorry I meant invest in, the odd life policy here and there nobody was going to stop them.
    Now that I no longer feel gagged by that no expense spared, overseas junket I can reveal that whatever name they tried to hide behind their only objective was to sell life assurance by the policy load. Why else would their firm have got a million pound, hall of fame, or whatever they called them, London broker to divulge his secrets of success that had worked so well in Britain? He came up with some gems. His best one was worth noting for all you life assurance peddlers out there, masquerading as friends of the family, or a financial adviser on such a high plain that you would never stoop to something as vulgar as selling.
     “Look through the death columns in the newspapers,” he said. “Get the address of someone who has just died. If he lived at say 10 Church Street, call at every house in the street except number 10 and you’ll sell life assurance like hot cakes.”
      Don’t be appalled by this idea. It comes under the very respectable guise of Financial Planning. “Didn’t your neighbour, who died last week, leave a penniless widow? We wouldn’t want that to happen to your wife do we? So just sign here.” I could hear them say.
     What’s all this got to do with bottom pinching in Italy?  Everything really. It had a vital bearing on the outcome of what happened on the Alitalia flight that took the all male, joke cracking, crowd to Rome. Before we left my wife warned me, light heartedly, not to pinch any bottoms while I was away. The warning was possibly more pertinent because I had some Italian blood, having had ancestors from Turin, although this was my first visit to Italy. Anyway we settled into our seats without incident at Jan Smuts airport, in the days before all the airports had been renamed.
    We were somewhere between Johannesburg and Nairobi when the shock hit us. Drinks were going to be in very short supply. The cabin crew were on a go-slow and generally being as offhand as possible. Suddenly there was a frightening commotion on our side of the plane.An airhostess ran screaming down the isle as though Jack the Ripper was after her.
    I had been sitting on the isle trying to make the best of our parched situation and as she walked past my hand involuntarily wandered to that wiggling behind of hers. It would never have happened if my wife hadn’t given me the idea. I mean what man thinks of these things unaided. In any case I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. You would have thought I had raped the girl the way she was carrying on. I was only doing what millions of Italian men had been doing for years. But what I didn’t know was that as part of this peculiar strike a whole sub-culture was being subverted - bottom pinching was out. Perhaps this was the start of the movement that has now banned it forever.
    The next minute the First Officer appeared at my side trying to extract a confession out of me, without warning me of my rights, not that I probably had any in mid-air over Africa. Sternly he pointed out the Captain had the authority to have me thrown off the plane at Nairobi, where in those apartheid days a polecat would have been given a better reception than a White South African. Looking on the bright side I was thankful they were at least going to wait until we got there.
    Fortunately for me a whole row of salesmen came to my rescue. Calling something that it wasn’t was their speciality. I couldn’t have asked for better eye-witnesses. I never pinched her they all said. I only touched her to get her attention because we all needed a drink, badly. That’s how Financial Planning saved me from a spell in a Kenyan prison.
    An Alitalia public relations officer, who was there to look after us because we were such a big group, took me up front to the almost empty first class section. There he sat me down and apologised. He did his best to fill seats, he told me, while the cabin crews were now trying to empty them. I was very relieved I was not going to end my trip in some hellhole of a jail. After that I only saw the lady who had made all the fuss in the distance, on the other side of the cabin. She was keeping well away from the serial rapist that was me.
    Months later I was at Jan Smuts seeing somebody off when I saw her. I thought it was her. I wasn’t sure. She was with other crew members of an Alitalia flight that had just come in. She was much prettier than I remembered. The way she had screwed up her face in rage had put me off her completely the last time I had seen, what I now believed was the same girl. I was determined to find out if I was right. I had always wanted to know whether she had been genuinely upset or whether she had been putting it on to drive home the aims of the strike. 
    I located the hotel where the Alitalia crews spent their Johannesburg stop-overs. On some pretext or other I got chatting to her. Fortunately she did not connect me to that groping incident. She agreed to have a drink with me. Her English was impeccable. Well, for an airhostess it would have to be wouldn’t it? So I did not need to battle with my non-existent Italian. The next time her flight arrived in Johannesburg she called me at my office and after I had told my wife I would be working late we went out clubbing. This went on for months until one night I finally got up the courage to ask her. The wine had loosened my inhibitions and the red mini she was wearing prompted me. I was thinking only an Italian would be able to get a grip of her because her skirt was so tight. I could just see her sylph-like figure strutting down the Via del Corso in Rome with an octopus of outstretched male arms trying to lay a hand on that soft, tantalising behind of hers.
    I was wondering whether I would spoil everything if I mentioned it. I skated around the subject to begin with, a little fearful. “Leonie,” I said, “Is it right that in Italy men pinch girls’ bottoms all the time? In the street, in lifts and anywhere else where they can get an opportunity?”
    “That’s a compliment Peter,” she replied. She was positively glowing “I just love it. In Italy we know when our beauty is appreciated.”
    I took the opportunity to confess. Tentatively I said, “If it was you, then I was the bottom pincher who sent you screaming down the isle when your cabin crew were on some kind of strike a little while ago.”
    She burst out laughing. Stretching her sensual legs and flicking a blonde lock away from her face she said, “Was my acting that good.  I’ll be a film star soon. You English are so reserved a girl does not know where she is,” she added snuggling up to me and putting her head on my shoulder.
    We were married in Rome. But if it hadn’t been for my wife’s, or should I say my ex-wife’s, idea I would never have got involved with this airhostess, who is now the mother of my two sons. I’m sure my ex now wishes I had been put off that plane in Nairobi. “It would have served him damned well right,” I can hear her saying. May be you’ll understand now why I think prohibiting bum pinching is a bum idea. And if you ask my Italian wife she’ll tell you, “How else would I have got a husband.”
Jon, a former Sunday Times journalist, unchanged busybody, Consumer Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.
P.S. This is 80% fact with fiction added for a bit more spice.
P.P.S. In 2003 Italy’s High Court overturned a ruling made in 2001 that pinching a woman’s bottom was not a crime provided it was not premeditated. Under this new decision it became a sexual offence.

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