I remember the onset of my puberty. It was on a Wednesday, some time in June in 1966. It was a great year incidentally; we won the cup, inter schools final of the egg and spoon race. As usual, I didn’t take part. Seem to remember another cup being won in that year something to do with beating Germany, but I was under the impression that the war had finished twenty-one years earlier, only a vague recollection though.
Puberty struck suddenly; as momentous occasions do, with no pre-warning or forecast. I awoke on the fateful morning to sunlight, streaming through the much faded stylised panda print wallpaper we used for a curtain, we didn’t have a lot of money you see and fabric was a luxury we couldn’t afford. Sunlight was somewhat unusual too, it never streamed into my bedroom, unless it was three o’clock in the afternoon. What was also unusual was that, my sheet and hospital blanket, stolen from St Hughes Hospital when I had stayed for a few days with tonsillitis, were rather more misshapen than I was used to. They had taken on a tent like sort of arrangement. The reason, and the pole soon became obvious and I remember thinking to myself, ah ha! Puberty has set in. Shame to waste it, such an event only happens once in a lifetime.
I practiced puberty for the next few minutes or so. Nothing more needs to be said about that. It will remain a memory of mine in the knowledge that it was the forerunner of a life led by the excretions that have caused me both heartache and pleasure in unequal measure.
It was morning. The sunlight had been reflected from a car windscreen. So, being that it was morning, I went down to the kitchen where my mother was preparing breakfast.
My Father sat in his usual chair, teacup in hand and the paper unread on the table. The pictures however, had been studied at some length. Upside down. He was profoundly dyslexic, even with the pictures.
The trouble with puberty is that mothers have an uncanny knack of knowing, instantly. The altered shape of my pyjama bottoms may have led her to the conclusion, but having practiced puberty once already; this was in what I thought to be a manageable condition.
“Is that glue on your pyjamas?” She asked “Or have you been nicking the custard for late night snacks?” No good morning Son, or, how are you today. Straight to the point, that was my Mum. She could call a spade a spade and get away with it.
My flushed cheeks, shuffling feet and hung head, may also have contributed to the reasoning process and conclusion she inevitably came to.
“Ah! You dirty little bugger, you’ll make your eyes go funny, you’ll need glasses if you play with that.” Her finger, bacon fat covered, pointed right to the spot. She was probably right. I need glasses to read now, so there was perhaps, some truth in what she said.
“Leave him alone ye harridan ye. He might as well play with it, because it sure aint going to be much use when he gets older except to piss through.” My father didn’t say much in the mornings, but when he did, you took notice. My Mother always took notice of him when he spoke. It gave her an ideal opportunity to belt him with the frying pan, and Oh! How she loved to belt him.
She belted him with the hot pan and that closed the subject for the day.
I went to school and fell in step with my best friend, Clive. He had been practicing puberty for a couple of months now and had proudly showed the effect on his anatomy that practicing puberty had had, that’s how I knew what was happening and how to practice my new condition. Until this day though, I had been more than a little envious of his elevated position in life. He had moved on up to semi-adult status, leaving me behind so, I was more than pleased to have been elevated to the same exalted heights of male development.
“Morning Snotty.” His usual greeting, I never liked being called that, but it has stuck to this day, with good reason… probably.
“Started puberty today.” I announced with a small puffing out of my emaciated chest. He wasn’t too impressed.
“Think I’ll find a bird and give her a right good shagging.” It was obvious that I had little idea about girls, but I seemed to have the right equipment, it seemed to function properly, so it was quite reasonable to want to try it out. In my opinion anyway.
We shuffled across the playground towards a redbrick Victorian and imposing building in which we were supposed to learn. Going to school, always produced a shuffle, going home however produced the complete opposite and resembled a mass stampede.
We invariably carried various inflictions that plague schoolboys. Nits of course made free with our scalps. Boogers, hanging precariously from noses that constantly seemed to be trying to evict all our body fluids through the two small nasal holes, mange, scabies and galloping crutch rot caused by the irregular change of underwear. They were the good old days, when we all scratched in unison and shared the afflictions of youth.
We shared our obligatory first fag of the day behind the bike sheds, coughed, spat then entered the Victorian monstrosity called St. Peters Co-Education Secondary School or, prison, as it was more popularly referred to. I practiced puberty before assembly in the multi-functional boys toilets. (assembly is an old fashioned meeting of pupils and staff to share in thanks and praise to our Lord. Supposed to be God, but we had alternate versions of idols, Mrs Williams in her mini-skirt being one of them)
At dinnertime, Clive suggested that we visit his Aunty who was the Maitre at “The House of Correction” in Vine Street. “You can practice puberty there.” Then, he added, by way of convincement. “I get special rates.” I was sold.
The prospect had its appeal because I wasn’t getting any return on my advances or overtures to the girls of the mixed gender school. My ice-breaking question, “Do you fancy a shag?” produced one of several replies or actions. “Bollocks.” Seemed to be favoured by most affronted girls, many of my intended practice partners, ran away screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing their hands up in horror. I thought it might have something to do with the pustules, breaking out on my face. It certainly couldn’t have been my sex appeal, which has always been my best feature since, again, my opinion.
“The House of Correction”, turned out to be a converted sweetshop, tucked away between a Chinese Chip shop and a Greek delicatessen. It was black of window and peeling of nondescript paint. It had a red, neon arrow shaped light, which flashed periodically pointing to the front entrance by way of enticement.
Madam Sin, as she liked to be called, turned out to be one of those rather voluminous ladies that always seem to smell of violet water and sweat. She was what could be described as motherly and possibly fatherly as well, she had more of a beard than my dad. It was a sure thing, given the size of her bosom, that she could probably mother the whole of Lewisham and have more than enough left over for Catford as well (Both suburbs of Greater London). She occupied two spaces of a three seater, and was contained in a flimsy negligee with her underwear barely hidden, except by rolls of flesh.
Clive introduced me and we sat on another threadbare settee opposite his Aunt. I looked at the rest of the room finding myself surrounded by maroon flock wallpaper decorated walls that had hanging, at irregular intervals, framed pictures of women in various poses, with various bits of clothing missing, with a multitude of enigmatic smiles designed to engage the observer. Not having very much by the way of experience with the female of the species, clothed or otherwise, I wasn’t engaged at all.
Multi-coloured plastic beads hung from a cane over the only other door in the room. These swayed a little for all the world looking like an invisible hand had run through them. The Paisley patterned rug that occupied the centre of the room had seen better days. It probably had before she got it.
“What can we do for you then?” She smiled and whistled at the same time, through a wide gap between front teeth. “Two fine, upstanding young gentlemen that you so obviously are.”
I was going to ask her if she was taking the piss and, who was this ‘we’ she referred to, but, instead, looked at my feet and said…
“Erm…. Well……I’d like to try out my puberty. One of your…err… ladies may be able to assist me with this…for a fee of course.”
“How much?” Her smile grew even wider and the whistle was quite disconcerting. “I mean, these things don’t come cheap you know.”
“I was thinking that, perhaps, half a crown (twelve and a half pence in new money or about eight cents in US dollars.), might do the trick. Of course, you can pay me after, say, on a performance basis.”
You must know by now, that I couldn’t be exactly called, worldly.
“I think you may have the wrong idea son. We don’t actually pay our patrons, rather the other way around, we receive payment for services rendered except for occasional visits from the local constabulary, they seem to enjoy themselves, but aren’t very good at paying.” Her smile grew wider still and was starting to remind me of Godzilla, from a popular comic strip. Godzilla had an array of teeth designed to rip and tear its food, Madam Sin’s teeth had the same in mind it seemed.
“Ah! I see”. I said, but I didn’t.
She must have seen understanding leave by the back door, because she lent forward, exposing more of her ample bosom than was really needed and further explained. “You pay me for the service, Sweetie.”
It was at this point that Clive, who had sat quietly studying the walls and rug, decided to leave, having made the introductions and wanting to practice his own puberty with one of the, so far, unseen ladies of the establishment. He bade his good days and left, through the beaded curtained door at the back.
“So, young man, how much have you got?” At first I though she was referring to the size of my appendage and was on the point of telling her that it recently grew from two or three inches to almost five, when realisation dawned, I answered.
“Half a Crown.” (Same exchange rate as previously described.)
She wasn’t that impressed with, what was, all my worldly fortune, which, if used frugally, would last for weeks, but she was gracious enough not to laugh.
“For that amount, you can have the chicken, would you like me to arrange that for you?”
“Certainly not!” I was indignant, “I couldn’t do that to a chicken, what do you take me for?” I knew the old joke of course; how a bloke goes into a brothel asking for the half crown service; is taken into a room with a chicken in it and nothing else. He satisfies himself with the chicken. Then he comes back the following week, paid his half crown and is led to a room with a one-way mirror in it and several blokes in dirty Mac’s, looking at a couple engaged in the oldest form of entertainment on the other side of the mirror. He turns to the man next to him saying, wow! This is brilliant ain’t it. His neighbour says back, Yeah, but you should have been here last week, there was a bloke trying to fuck a chicken.
Oh! How we laughed.
“I was only testing you to see if you had any shred of decency in you.” She smiled at me some more, which was really unsettling reminding me of a recent and illicit flick through one of my dad’s National Geographic’s in a prepubescent hope of seeing naked ladies. The article I was remembering was an expose on tribal South American Indians who still practice cannibalism. “Would you like some tea?”
She called for tea by tinkling a small silver bell by way of a summons. The tea was brought on a tray, which was placed on a coffee table that nestled between us, by a youngish woman with spots around her face and few clothes with which to keep warm. She left the tray wordlessly and whispered away, back through the beaded curtain.
The teapot had a leather cosy on it, with spikes sticking out of the sides and the handle that was fashioned after the male organ, bent in an unlikely arc that brought tears to my eyes, just thinking about it. We drank tea, mine with four sugars, while she talked to me, telling me how a woman should be treated. That they should be venerated and respected; doors should be opened for a lady and so on. These lessons have always stood me in good stead, lasting to this day with only one or two exceptions, usually in the shape of Women’s Liberation exponents.
I paid my half crown for the hour-long dissertation and for the advice, and was pleased to do so.
Clive met me outside a little while later, while I was deciding whether to go home to practice some more of the art of puberty as one does, or go to watch socks go round in soapsuds at the Laundromat. I always liked to watch socks whizz round in the glass-fronted machines. Please do not ask why, I have no idea, even now.
“Have a good time?” He enquired.
“Yeah great! Are those feathers on your trousers?” I asked and got a bash in the ear.
Oh! How we laughed. When eventually, I regained my feet.
And then the first time.
The advice of Clive’s Aunt stayed with me and from that day on, I treated girls with a new found respect. I opened doors for them, listened with rapt attention to whatever they had to say. I even offered my coat or holed and grubby jumper when it was cold trying not to be overly forceful in my advances toward them.
Little good it did me.
I got a new nickname; Creep!
I also checked out their teeth. I don’t mean by lifting her top lip or anything as crass as that, but when a girl screams, as they often did when faced with my sexual charms, she shows the full array from molar to incisor for a fraction of a second with or without fillings or brace, until her hands cover her face and she runs away in shocked hysterics.
I had been awarded another nickname, among the teachers; little pervert.
Imagine the confusion my testosterone-fuelled brain was afflicted with. Here was a great looking guy, if you looked past the acne, with a marvellous line in witty repartee, was kind and considerate to the females that I shared school meal times and breaks with, who wasn’t out to rape them, that comes later in fantasy life, who had an organ with a mind of its own that wasn’t too ashamed of making its intentions known. So, why were my sorties into the sexual gene pool so furiously and sometimes, violently rebuffed? Wasn’t I observing the advice of Madam Sin closely enough or was it something else entirely?
My bed, or rather the hole in the mattress, seemed to be accommodating enough, I had had the benefit of a rudimentary sex education, so had the girls, I assumed, I couldn’t see what the problem was.
Talking to Clive, who, as my best friend was the only available avenue of advice and information open to a young, virile youth, proved to be less than helpful. Besides, he had now moved on from just practicing puberty, according to him, but nobody else. He had shagged a girl, several in fact. Not only shagged them, but they had…well, the mechanics and gaudy details need not be mentioned here. It is easy, too easy to hate your best friend with intensity, especially when he is a constantly one or two steps in front of you and the only view you have of him is of his receding back.
So, there I was, a young man on the cusp of adulthood, with fully functioning equipment and all the panache of a snail, looking for his first encounter with a girl. Unknown to me at that time, first love is the one that lasts the longest shaping the rest of your life, this explains a lot when I look back and is definitely a contributory factor in my make up.
Sandra Bateman was the first girl not to run screaming hysterically from me. To be perfectly honest, it was me who was on the verge of taking to my heels yelling blue murder.
The poor girl had an overpowering affliction of a strong aroma. If she washed, I’m sure she did, occasionally. It did little to remove the smell that resembled a mixture of stale piss and wet digestive biscuits. Her clothes, if it were at all possible, were in a worse condition than mine, being second or third hand and made for an entirely different body shape than the skinny frame she currently enjoyed. We had things in common there. We also had in common, a complete total disregard from the rest of the school. As outsiders, we should have been together as playground mates, but I tried to engender some credibility, as did she, absolutely impossible to achieve, given our social standings.
It was lunchtime; we had ingested something resembling food and were now released out onto a solar heated, red-hot tarmac playground for recreation. The current fad was a game called chariots where two teams are picked by charioteers to link arms in a line and dash towards each other at a breakneck speed then, crash into each other. The charioteer was safest, being behind his team, steering, the poor horses though, ended up in a heap of knees and grazed elbows, winded and screaming in pain. To this day I cannot think why we wanted to do this, but we were kids, common sense was yet to develop.
As was usual, the main players had all been picked; all that were left was the dross and cast offs. Then, even they were picked until it was just Sandra and I. Clive’s finger (my best friend,) hovered in indecision, firstly on me, then at Sandra, then back to me, then he waved to the other charioteer announcing that he could have us both ignoring the disparate numbers in the teams.
Neither of us got picked. The entire first year intake was about to rush at each other until no-one was left standing, but Sandra and I had been relegated to spectators. Were we disappointed? As crazy as it sounds yes, even though we would have invariably been amongst the first and worst casualties, we were bitterly disappointed. So we wondered off together, muttering that we didn’t need them, but looking over our shoulders just in case we got the nod.
There aren’t many places to go to in the playground that gets you out of the mocking gaze of your peers. The bike sheds usually had a plethora of smokers loitering, raising a cloud of nicotine fug and piling up chewing gum wrappers in the vain hope of removing the smell of their fags, so that was out. Bigger kids staked out their claims on the wooden benches that lined the asphalt outside of the playground area, woe-betide anyone who inadvertently sat on their patch. So that, as a place of refuge, was out too. The only other place two lonely, crest fallen, thoroughly depressed people could go was the toilets, either male or female.
These were brick built with quarry-tiled floors that had a central culvert. Wooden cubicles painted in sick green with doors that sometimes shut and even more rarely, locked, lined one side. I don’t know how or even why, but Sandra and I found ourselves ensconced in the last cubicle furthest from the entrance of the girl’s bogs.
Toilet art in boy’s toilets demonstrates a basic lack of artistic talent with a complete ignorance of female anatomy. But, it is inventive and possibly the cause of more wet feet than anything else in history. The artwork scratched into the paint of the cubicle we were in though, went a whole lot further in fantasy. According to the artist, a male organ would be about two feet long if proportions had anything to do with it and would need a “Y” shaped support cemented in the ground just to keep it horizontal. Perambulation with the gigantic appendage allowed loose, as drawn inexpertly on the walls, would be the cause of wholesale slaughter or genocide to insects and various members of the animal kingdom that had managed to avoid the feet.
The language used in scribbled notes left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable and vaguely baffled in its context. Of course, it has to be remembered that my worldly experience with females of the species was somewhat limited, but even at that tender age, I was aware that we spoke in different tongues. The descriptive passages inscribed on the walls bore very little resemblance to English in any crude form. Be that as it may, Sandra had obviously read and reread the instructions and decided to experience the outcome for herself.
If I knew then, what I know now, the outcome would have been very different. I would possibly have gone through life running and screaming from every woman I met, instead of constantly trying to improve on the last one.
Sandra, as I have already told you, smelled, bad. She was also the owner of some quite spectacular skin afflictions that became apparent once her dress, unceremoniously and without fore warning, hit the floor. The said afflictions culminated in a few boils that had outgrown her developing chest giving me cause for concern or temporary confusion in so much as I hadn’t actually got some misguided idea of anatomy and was not to expect a multitude of nipples.
Her entreaty to show me hers if I showed her mine was startling in the least. Good God, if her chest and torso had these growths popping out all over, then what was her fanny going to look like? Fortunately for me, I never found out. Stupid bugger that I was then (and nothing changes,) I showed her my pride and joy, undoing the buttons of my flies to flop out my massive three and a half inches.
I think she was impressed. I think so anyway, because she gasped and became completely speechless. Then she started with what I took to be nervous giggles which, going through various stages of escalation, ended up in belly creasing guffaws while I stood with my dick in my hand, displaying my manhood for her delectation.
It was about that time that the Prefect entered to toilets.
Prefects in the old type of schools were exponents of torture and punishment loving nothing more than bringing an underling to punitive justice for various minor transgressions. Having your dick out in the girls toilets while, a member, no matter how lowly, of the opposite sex was obviously being subjected to your vile and depraved ministrations, was not going to be viewed as minor. The penalty had probably not been dreamt up to cover this predicament and could induce some on-the-spot imaginative penance that would very likely include pain in large amounts.
At that young, tender age, there were some things I had learned, self-preservation ranked among the oldest lesson retained. I had made running away an art form, something I did almost instinctively; I did it, rapidly and somehow managed to fold the source of my future and present problems back into my trousers as I ran. Smack bang between the two onrushing groups of interlinked chariot horses where I froze like a rabbit in caught between beams of a fast approaching car.
Oh! How they laughed.
Sadly, that was not to be the end of the matter. As unremarkable as I was, the Prefect had recognised my spotty face and somehow, put a name to it. Of course, I wasn’t to find that out until a summons to the Principal’s office came over the tannoy system, that informed each and every person in the school that I was in trouble, the outcome was probably going to be disembowelment. Our Principal was rarely seen, but if you were summoned, chances were, you would never be seen again.
Upon entering his much vaulted and hallowed office of our glorious leader, I immediately realised that this was one situation that running away from was not going to be an option. I was addressed by the bespectacled overweight and suited man, sat behind the desk by my surname. He instructed me to stand on a particular spot, then to listen to my accuser as she related the events of the lunchtime encounter in the girl’s. I noticed that Sandra was not there, but could draw no relief from that fact.
I defy anyone, given the facts of the case and our lack of years, to tell a story that includes underdeveloped male genitalia being presented for female inspection (and ridicule, I might add.) without falling into despairing fits of the ridiculous and, therefore, hysterical laughter.
The Prefect was unable to continue with her account for more than a few seconds at a time and then, not at all when she indicated the area of my body that she was referring to. Her inability to articulate might have saved me, it didn’t and six swipes from a bamboo cane across my open palm was the result of plenty of piecing together of a fractured, by mirth, statement.
I was not allowed any defence. The injustice; the indignity of having to accept punishment for being led by Sandra into an area of sin I had no intention of following except of course, there was nothing else to do, was intolerable, I told him so. I learned that it is better to receive and accept than to give that day, because, once my indignation had been given, heard and assimilated, I received another six lashes for opening my mouth and giving vent to my feelings.
Both hands throbbing, I was let out of his hallowed office and did not look back. Twelve cracks is an awful lot of penance, it should have been the end of the story, but kids being kids with a grapevine that operated on Chinese Whisper guidelines, was only the start of a period of my life that could only be described as traumatic and life shaping.
By the end of the day, not only had I raped and pillaged (we didn’t know what pillaging was then) at least half of the girls in the school, I also had been attributed with a penis the size of the Eiffel Tower with similar rigidity which, was probably the subject of some very unlikely artwork on the very walls of the crime scene. I never ventured to return to find out.
Other valuable lessons were learned that day. One, never open your mouth, even when you’re the subject of a gross injustice; Two, never trust a woman, even when she appears to be alluring and Three, never trust a woman when you have your dick out in a public place, she will hurt you, one way or another.
I met Sandra many years later and did not recognise her at all. The smelly, skinny, underdeveloped kid had grown into a reasonable example of the race. Had long hair that was both neat and luxurious in its lustre. Her body had filled out in the right directions and, although not model material perhaps, was charming enough to have attracted my attention, but more importantly, was my defence lawyer in a spurious case of voyeurism of which I was completely guilt free. Being a well-recognised and respected Lawyer, she defended me to the hilt, won the case and didn’t believe a word I said in my defense. She only gave me six or so lashes, but that was later, much later.