It took the train eight hours each way to visit my parents in Bridlington, Yorkshire, last weekend. Brid is now the largest Crab & Lobster handling port in the UK. It’s also the holiday destination, where my family stayed, in a caravan each summer, for the first seventeen years of my life. My first ever plane journey was aged 18 to play rugby for England schoolboys against France.
Yorkshire holds many happy memories but one (which changed my life) not so happy. As I said last week ‘what doesn't destroy you makes one grow’.
Normanton Grammar School are having a 50th anniversary reunion this June and all being well, I shall attend. Memories of the school and my childhood come flooding back as I journeyed north. I remembered I had failed the Grammar School entrance exam. I also recalled my introduction to sex.
New Year’s Eve 1962, at home on the sofa in my pyjamas, feeling unwell with flu. I was trying to play the guitar Santa had delivered for Christmas. Mandy (yes the same one) is 18 months old and my 3 and 5 year old brothers are all sleeping upstairs.
She was not our normal babysitter, 15 years old, in the final year of the senior school and as it was New Year’s Eve must have been a last minute replacement.
She had clearly been on her way to a party; heels, stockings and the rest. This girl was in bloke speak ‘hot to trot’. Someone had spoiled her biggest party night of the year and told her she was babysitting instead! Now I would be pissed off, wouldn't you? Before you all panic and say but she was only 15. My problem was worse; I was only 9.
My parents were at Green Lane Working Men’s Club, 15 minutes’ walk away. The babysitter looked bored and fidgety. A bit like how most teenagers (and the rest of us mutters Tiggy) would look if their mobile phones were taken away. She was not a happy bunny. She stands, brushes her hair in the mirror, checked her eyes were still made up and looked at her watch. She sat down again, sighed and glanced over at my attempt to play a C on the guitar.
She stands again, brushes her skirt down, walks across the room on her high (well high to me) heels and sits next to me. Slowly her hand reaches up to her buttons as she undoes her blouse. She turns to me and asks me to stroke her breasts. I am not sure what to do or how exactly I should do it, but terrified I comply. She then asks me to stroke her legs and again I am becoming anxious but I obey. I feel stockings attached to suspenders for the first time. The fleshy bit at the top feels nice. I'm shaking.
She asks me to stand up, so she can lie on the sofa and then asks me to lie on top of her. At that moment in time I hadn't got the faintest idea of what was happening, but something inside me is being stirred. The shaking intensifies and turns to panic.
It's now a severe panic attack and yet this particular one seemed to fill me with pleasure and fear simultaneously. She asked me to move up and down on top of her and even though I still had my pyjamas on I was experiencing my first ever conscious arousal. She abruptly stopped and moved away. No further contact or conversation was ever had.
I knew it was all my fault and I mustn't tell anyone.
The next day was hell, the next week was hell, the next month was little better. I was unable to walk past Gordon Street Senior School, our schools adjoined and I was in the junior school. I was terrified. I can feel it now.
It took me a further 18 years before I could openly talk about my secret or the guilt I carried with me. Sound familiar to any of you?
Why does sex still spark such fear and dread when it’s a somatic (nice word look it up) response to our genetic make-up? Who would have thought such a Catholic country as the Republic of Ireland would be the first in the world to legalise gay marriage. I do hold religion responsible for much of our sexual confusion. That’s for later.
So I entered my last year at Gordon Street junior school dazed and confused, but sexually alive.
In those days there was no internet, and being so young the thought of buying a top shelf magazine terrified me (hang on, it still does) so the nearest I came to pornography was an old Grattan mail order catalogue I found somewhere. The beginning of the catalogue contained the lingerie section with women in various stages of undress wearing heels, stockings and suspenders. Simple adverts but my sexual energy was now on fire.
I decided that I should share my new found ‘porn’ with my friends at school and promptly ripped out half a dozen pages and took them into class. Not a good move! Some girl screamed, the teacher discovered my stash, called me disgusting and sent me to the headmaster. The following morning I was humiliated and canned, on stage, in front of the whole school. Unsurprisingly, I closed down to sex for the next five years. That energy was about to be channelled elsewhere.
I remember, in my last months of junior school, going off to a special day somewhere by coach, finding it boring and just messing about. It was actually part of my entrance exam (some new method with interactive stuff and painting) for Normanton Grammar School.
I failed and was rewarded with a place at Gordon Street Secondary Modern School. The dreaded senior school, thankfully the babysitter had left.
On the first day the headmaster said just because we hadn't made the Grammar School it did not mean good jobs were not available. An apprenticeship should be the goal, learn a trade. I did think about being an electrician at the coal mine, same as my Granddad but by now the sexual energy was raging and I channelled it onto the rugby pitch with profound effect.
The school had a rugby team but only for the second year and above. Undeterred by the fact I was in the first year I went along to training and secured a place in the team. We played 11 games and lost them all. Game twelve was against South Featherstone who was top of the league and unbeaten. In a small town, with only two schools, we were arch enemies.
I had this idea that if I pretended to pass the ball, then didn't (it’s called a dummy) and ran like hell, It might work. It did, I scored, and we won. When I left to go home I was attacked and beaten by four lads. My first and only, I hope, beating. I can still remember lying in the side of the road crying whilst being kicked and punched.
The next day I took my dad with me and went to see the headmaster. I said to the head, ‘Ignore the black eye and bruises, I don’t want to be in this school any more I need to go to the Grammar School.’ He said ‘At the end of the year the top two in the exams go and re sit their entrance exam. My dad looked at me. I smiled and said, ‘message understood’
No rugby, but work, work, work for the next three months. I came second in the exams and joined Normanton Grammar School. Phew, that was close; I almost didn't qualify for next month’s reunion.
Little did I know it but my new found sexual energy was about to propel me to England rugby and Twickenham by the age of 14. See my sex drugs and rugby blog for what came next.
What happened to me with the babysitter was fairly low on the Richter scale of abuse yet it took many years to understand I was the abused not the abuser. The Survivors Trust is a national umbrella agency for over 135 specialist rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse support organisations throughout the UK and Ireland. I have just completed their on-line survey on historic abuse.
Last Wednesday I joined the Sherborne Business Exchange Breakfast Club which starts at 7am (yikes) and is attended by up to 40 local businesses. Watch this space.
And the point I am making is:
Sexual energy is a very potent force. Handle with care.
Have a good week.