We didn’t know how to kiss. No one told us how. No one showed us what to do. There was very little on the TV and the kind of films we went to see on Saturday mornings didn’t have any kissing in them. Abbott and Costello: no kissing, Tarzan: no kissng, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis: no kissing, 20,000 leagues under the sea: no kissing, The Lone Ranger and Tonto; no kissing. So, it was a real journey of discovery, a sort of trial and error, wondering what to do with your noses, or your hands, banging your lips together, wondering, if that was it. It was years before we discovered French kissing and if someone had told us about it, we’d have probably been sick.
And breasts. What were they? I recall an early experience, in a Youth club, or maybe a bus shelter, when I grabbed the developing breast, or one them at least, in a vice like grip, as if it were a cricket ball. I was on the school team and was a fairly decent off leg spinner.
“Ooh, that’s nice” I said
“Are you on the cricket team” she asked.
And there was what were known as stages. “Did you get to stage 2?” “Did you make stage 4?” Something to do with buses I thought. There was an upstairs and a downstairs with the occasional “ding ding!” Later in life, more than once, I fell in love with various bus conductresses. I made many journeys. It was just a stage I was going through.
There were always the bike sheds. A whole generation born in the 1950’s owes their entire sex education to bike sheds. For us it’s still, after all these years a sort of trigger phrase that arouses ancient passions. They were a metaphor for illicit sex. Well, I mean to say, getting the chain on right could make your hands quite messy, pumping up the tires was exhausting and getting the saddle into the right position could be critical.
The sixth formers would practice their techniques behind the bike sheds. Oh they were so sophisticated. Some of them grew, or tried to grow, moustaches. The boys, not the girls. There was very little confusion in those days as to whether you were a boy or a girl. All the confusion was what you were supposed to do about it. And they would smoke too, behind the bike sheds. And not just “after” sex education; sometimes before sex education, sometimes, even, during sex education. You would often see a sixth former girls prefect leaving the bike sheds with fag ash all down her slightly unbuttoned blouse.
And no one told us about homosexuals. Absolutely nothing. There was a boy in my class who knew everything there was to know about sex. He told me once that the music teacher was a poofter. I thought he meant he smoked a pipe. Well he did, the music master, he smoked a pipe. I didn’t truely find out about homosexuality until I joined the army. A lot of the officers in the army smoked pipes.
I remember once, my dad taking me to Long Eaton for a haircut. We drove past one of those large advertising boards. It was for tobacco and there was this handsome man with a pipe saying something like, “for complete satisfaction” I asked my Dad, I said “Dad, is that man a poofter?”. He had to stop the car, he was crying. But he didn’t tell me it was a derogatory name, or that I shouldn’t use it, or what a homosexual was, or even what a heterosexual was. Parents just didn’t do that sort of thing in those days.
Of course, I’m much more advanced than that these days. I explained it all to my own children. They were quite comfortable with the concept and had gay friends. Mind you, I recall my son bringing one of his gay friends home to stay the weekend.
“This is Michael” he said, “he’s a gay rights activist”
“you’re most welcome” I said, “make yourself comfortable and if you want to smoke a pipe then you can do so out in the garden”
“Smoke a pipe?” said my son, “why on earth would he want to smoke a pipe?”
Well I never told him. Kept it to myself, but it was probably a mistake to have said that. On reflection.
Its surprising really, given how ignorant we were, that we managed to pro-create at all. I think the biology lessons helped. We used to learn about the sex life of frogs. It could get quite erotic in there. Some in the class, right after the lesson, would go straight off to the bike sheds.
Thankfully, we caught up fairly quickly. There was some books and films we discovered. You might remember those hairy people in “The Joy of Sex” or “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and the Littlewoods catalogue brassiere section, or “Emmanuelle”
It’s a lot different these days, what with sexually explicit TV, dating apps, porn movies about pizza delivery men – what are they called? Just Eat? You can even get sex on the phone and every child at school now has a phone.But you know what’s missing from all that material? Well it’s the basic stuff that made our generation the sex maniacs that they became.
Cricket, bike sheds and Frogs.