I had a generally happy childhood, interspersed with occasional moments of terror. I remember catching wasps in empty jam-jars on sunny days, mucking about with Fat Fergus from upstairs, and running like crazy to see what was going on when someone told me that Jenny Thompson was showing the boys what a girl had inside her pants.
That was when I was about four, and I got to her garden shed too late, when all the action was over and she was walking back into her house for her lunch. I'm not sure I had realised that they actually had something different in their pants.
My first frisson of what I would later understand as sexual arousal also came around that time, when I was playing about in Barbara Murray's bedroom and she pulled her top up and asked me to rub a cold spoon on her stomach. She had been eating her breakfast cereal a little while earlier, and she offered the spoon to me and said, 'pretend that you're my doctor.'
I think she was a year older than me. I had no idea what was going on, but as I rubbed this spoon up and down her, (as doctors supposedly did?), and as she giggled with apparent pleasure, I do recall something stirring inside me.
She's lucky I didn't give her a full smear test, perhaps, but I put the spoon down after a while and just laid my hand on her belly, at which she giggled some more and said to me, 'maybe we can get married some day.'
I couldn't see the connection, but I enjoyed having my hand there, resting on her belly. It wasn't doing anything. There was no movement at all, but I was feeling the smooth soft skin and I felt we were doing something secret, and a little bit wrong, but I had no clue at all as to what these interesting feelings were all about.
Late primary school was where I learned what my loins were supposed to do with girls (without actually doing it until 17). Of course I learned to count, and spell, and all about the British Empire, the two World Wars and... well not much else really. But my dominant memory is the discovery of the appeal of girls. One girl in particular, Lesley..., oh... Lesley! So slim, pretty, golden haired and gorgeous. From about the age of nine she was my major preoccupation, and although I was always too shy to properly approach her I am pleased to record that this most beautiful girl in the school was the first girl I ever kissed.
I did not gain her exclusive attention, but I summoned up the courage to chase her across the rugby pitch during a game of kissy-catchy, which I doubt would be permitted nowadays. She didn't seem to be trying to run away very hard, and so I grabbed her and we tumbled to the ground, and as she laughed I placed my mouth on hers and she willingly gave up her sweet pink lips to me.
But there was a huge shock in store. She tasted of mint Toffos!
'Oh yuck!' I cried, 'Toffos!'
I had expected her to taste of dreams, of heaven, of girly tempting flesh, of... goodness knows of what. But mint Toffos?
'Well it's what I've been eating,' she said, obviously a little hurt by my reaction.
Soon she was up on her feet and scampering away suspiciously slowly from some other lad's affections.
I never kissed her again, although I certainly wanted to. I met her once in the queue for the Saturday night dance at university. She was a real woman. Nineteen years old and all tits and legs and teeth and pouting lips and golden sweet-scented hair. My goodness how I wanted to move on from our history of kissy-catchy, but all I could muster was some embarrassed and civilised chatter about the old days, and then we were into the building and drifted our separate ways, forever.
I have never been the most adept at grasping opportunities, although I did have to let a reigning beauty queen "go" to move over to my current lady, and now wife of 36 years, so maybe I learned some things.
The outraged queen said, 'Men don't leave me', so I just said, 'Well this one has, sorry.'
I met her again when I was in a bar with my wife when we were all in our thirties. The passage of time already made it clear that I had made the right decision.