She shouldn’t really have been teaching us. We were a boy’s school in 1971, we were 6th formers, 17 and 18 year olds; so the student teacher was only 5 or so years older than we were. And she was a looker. A distinct distraction from the lesson, especially if the theoretical aspects of biology didn’t hold much interest. On the other hand she had done Environmental Science and our two teachers were a microbiologist from sometime before Hooke invented the microscope and a biochemist who thought everything bigger than a cell was of little interest. The ecology part of the syllabus suffered, and that was the part that I found most interesting.
So in the lessons, whilst I had to admit that she was a looker, I didn’t notice the stretch of her blouse over her breasts, the everso slight hint of cleavage as she bent over to look at your work, shape of her bottom as she stretched to write at the top of the board. Okay, so I DID notice, I just ignored it. OKAY! So I didn’t ignore it, but I did take more interest in the subject of ecology than the subject being observed. So did Jim and Michael (aiming to be doctors, needed good grades), Derek (if he wasn’t gay, he did a good impression – it was illegal or unacceptable then so he never said), Germaine (long term permanent girlfriend and so, so very in love with her – and rumoured to be getting his end away as often and as much as he liked). The rest? They looked and they talked about all they would do if they got the chance (and we all knew what they would do would be to run a mile), but of course they were never, ever, going to get the chance. Even a student teacher can generally do better than an impecunious, spotty (probably), inexperienced, pupil. Now reverse the sexes and I could see a good argument for a male student teacher being ready and willing to score with 6th form girls; actually it seemed to happen with depressing regularity.
The changing distribution of Aramices alveolus as the slope became damper towards the stream, that was interesting. More interesting than the in-depth discussion of how big her tits were.
“Definitely a D, maybe double DD”
“Double DD would be DDDD you plank. Nah, she’s got padding, she’s a C”
“Whaaa? You gotta be joking, them’s a D, easy”
“What you reckon Steve, you’s at the front ogling her all lesson?”
“What? Oh dunno, what’s it matter, you’ll never get to see them you pervs. She isn’t going to rip open her blouse and shout ‘come and squeeze me’ to a bunch of spotty pervs like you is she?”
That’s me; Steve. Steve the world famous ecologist – that was the aim. Still, nothing happens the way you plan it does it?
On top of being an apparently sexless geek I helped run the JCC (Junior Christian Club), schools still did stuff like that then. I wasn’t exceptionally religious, that evening I was the only leader there; sometimes there were more of us. On the day we are remembering I had just run it. The scrotty kids had all gone, I was tidying up, putting the books away, ‘admiring’ the doodles by James (every week a load of penises on the work sheet, then he’d swap it with someone else’s. He thought I didn’t know it was him), his Dad was the vicar of Dumfield so James was pretty well obliged to come; he definitely wasn’t religious material then. He’s a bishop now (I changed his name to protect his blushes). The school was empty by now except for the cleaners; teachers all zoomed off for the pub on a Friday. I took the back exit across the staff car park, only one car still there. Emily’s, I mean Miss Jameson’s, Citroen 2CV. A real statement – “I’m a lefty, Guardian reading, tree hugger”. But she was sitting in it, crying softly.
Perhaps the diplomatic thing would have been to politely ignore her, pretend not to notice and when on Monday she said “Didn’t I see you late on Friday leaving school?” you just reply “Did you? Oh yes I was a bit late leaving”
But I’m not diplomatic (see remark on newly birthed mother “why haven’t you lost weight now the baby’s out?”), never have been.
“Miss? Are you okay?”
“What? Oh, I didn’t see you Smith. Umm, yes, the car won’t start. It’s not been a good week”
I’m as expert at cars as my Mum was at cooking (you haven’t tasted bad cooking until you’ve tried her burnt fish fingers and rice surprise – the surprise is that the burnt fish fingers were hidden under a great mound of white rice) but I couldn’t say that. So I did a scientific breakdown.
“You’re sure it has petrol?”
“I’m blonde, but I’m not dumb blonde” She smiled after that, phew!
“Okay, just checking. Does it turn over?”
“The engine, does it turn over?”
She tried the key and we got a sort of cough and then nothing. Now that, I knew may be the result of it not starting, people just keep trying. “Oh, it hasn’t started after go number 17, I’ll try it again.” IT AIN’T GONNA START!
I opened the bonnet and peered in. Dad used to have an old Rover with a crank handle for when the battery was dead, I remember him winding it up a hill once after it had refused to bump start down it. This car should have had a crank handle but Miss Jameson just looked blank when I asked; when I looked in the boot there were some tools in the back including a handle. I tried a couple of turns and realised this was not looking good. Inspiration! The spark plugs! I headed back to the boot.
“I’m impressed with the tools you carry Miss.”
“It’s my brother’s car, that’s part of the problem. If it’s fu-- I mean if it’s broken then he’ll blame me. He just loaned it to me for this placement ... And since school is over you can call me Emily, back to Miss Jameson on Monday though. And you are?”
“Steve” Being an old-style Grammar School we were all called by our surnames by the teachers. There are three Smiths and two Browns in our class; hours of fun.
I took out a spark plug and smelt it. “Well it smells of petrol so that shows the petrol is getting through”
“That’s good isn’t it?”
“Yes, but it probably also means the engine is flooded.” She looked concerned, no doubt imagining the cylinders full of petrol. “It just means that because it hasn’t started the spark plugs have got wet with petrol condensing on them. Petrol” I said, warming to having an attentive and apparently appreciative audience “doesn’t conduct, so no spark”
I took the others out and we wandered over to the school laboratories. Ah! The 1970s, before Health and Safety gone mad, when labs were left unlocked and Bunsen burners were left out. I lit a burner and held each spark plug in the flame. Emily again looked a little concerned, but was content to assume that I, a 17 year old Grammar School boy with a GCE in Latin and no practical training in life, knew what I was doing. She obviously didn’t know us very well. Still, so far, watching Dad maintain a string of old cars had obviously rubbed something off onto me and I was still in my comfort zone (I don’t think we had them then actually, they were issued in the 1990s) I carried them back in my handkerchief as they were still hot. Thank goodness it was clean, no snots or anything, at least it was until I put the oily plugs in it.
“Won’t your mother be cross?”
“Don’t worry” I’d already thought I’d throw it away to save the inevitable long explanation required, with Dad checking the technical details (“Did you check the overhead diaphragm convolvulator? Or was it only the 1965 model that had that?”) and Mum asking pointless things like “So why was a woman in the car park?” She never listens much. “By the way, you went to Southampton didn’t you?” She nodded. “I’d appreciate a chat sometime about their course. I want to do Ecology or Environmental Science”
“Okay, sure. I noticed you concentrating a lot. I’m glad it was for the subject” Obviously she meant “and not just staring at my boobs and arse like the other Neanderthals”
I gingerly put them in with an occasional “ouch” as they really were hot. I hoped they weren’t too hot. Then the moment of truth, I swung the starting handle and ... Nothing. Try again, and once more and “rrrrruuummph, bubble, bubble bubble” The 2CV sounds like no other car (and like no car should sound like that to be honest), we had something that sounded like a lawnmower with barely more power.
“Oh well done Steve! You’re brilliant”
“My pleasure Miss, I mean Emily” The trouble with first names is they are more personal. I started to see the bird behind the teacher if you get my drift. I began to realise that all the things Dave and Jackson (always his surname, I wonder why? Maybe his first name was embarrassing, like Francis or Xavier or something) had been saying weren’t just theoretical observations. The breasts they lusted after were real, tangible, wobbly, soft. I could feel a stir in my loins. Unfortunately Emily was jumping up and down for joy and that really didn’t help.
“I was meant to be going for a drink with the teachers, but I guess it’s too late now. Umm” She looked at me “I don’t suppose I could buy you a drink to say thank you? We could talk about the course if you like”
“YES! I mean yes” No point in telling her that I was underage, and a Christian and not sure about drinking. No, it would be churlish to turn her down. “but you really need to drive around a bit to charge up the battery” Also, I didn’t want to go to The Rose and Crown because that was the teachers’ local and they might still be there, and I didn’t want to go to The Golden Duck because Mike and the rugby ‘blokes’ drank there and would make lewd suggestions and gestures, and The Black Prince was Dad’s local and even if he wasn’t there somebody he knew probably would be and would mention seeing me (we went in sometimes, Christmas, birthdays, you know); but anyway it was true about charging the battery.
“Well”, she said, “do you have any suggestions?”
It was a lovely, warm, early summer evening. “The Polecat!”
“Sounds, err, delightful”
“It is a bit out of the town, and it really is a nice pub”
It really was, I’d come across it a year or two ago when out cycling. In a small village, off the beaten track. I’d suggested going there to Mum and Dad a couple of times but they said it didn’t appear in the paper’s good pub guide or the restaurant reviews; oh yes, like they only went to Michelin starred restaurants! We never went. This was before CAMRA really took off. The pubs they liked were all the same; tarted up, serving carbonated gnat’s piss on tap, same food (“chicken in a basket, very swish”) in every one. ‘Safe and bland’ was the family motto.
“Well, as you say, I need to drive a bit to charge up the battery”
We went back into the school, to the staff room so I could use the phone. This may have been a bad week for Emily, it was turning out to be a good week for me. We had the phone installed, finally, a week ago. No phone would have meant no trip out. I was the last person in my class, I think, to have a phone. Dad always maintained he didn’t want to be called from work at weekends, and that suited Mum’s rather parsimonious (alright, cheapskate) nature. But finally they emerged kicking into the 20th Century just in time for me to be able to ring them.
“Hi Mum, listen I’m going to be late back”
“I’m going to have a chat with a teacher” (“A young, hot, sexy, female teacher” I could have added but she was standing nearby) “about University”
“Not sure when I’ll be in”
“Oh, will you have eaten?”
“Not sure, don’t worry. If I need to I’ll get something when I come in”
“Okay” Ah! She was watching Emmerdale or Neighbours or one of the other 101 soaps she was absolutely besotted with. She wasn’t really listening; she always thought I needed more friends so she was fine with the idea of me being out. Dad would be okay too, he’d be even more pleased if he could see who I was with and where I was going. He wanted me to be more manly (he wasn’t the intellectual type). I actually think if I was brought home drunk in a police car with blood oozing from a couple of cuts after a bottle fight, he’d have been quite pleased.
So that was done. We set off out of town under my directions. I had to look at her to tell her where to go. I snuck quick looks at her profile, the firm, fairly prominent bust, the small stomach, oh yes and the short skirt which had ridden up in the car seat. Once I saw how much I could see, and it was only a bit of thigh, well I still couldn’t help looking again. She saw me looking and pulled her skirt down as she drove. Never said anything though, she could have taken me to task as a teacher or as a woman. Feminism was in and looking at women as sex objects was out. However wearing mini-skirts was also in and there was a distinct contradiction in my book with “we want to dress as sexy young women but YOU can’t see us as sexy young women”
We joined the dual carriageway
“I don’t really like driving on these big roads, especially in this. It feels like lorries could blow us over”
“It’s okay, we’ll be turning off, left, soon. Yes, there towards Lower Bunch.”
“I’ve been there, I thought the pub there was The Mayflower?”
“It is, but we aren’t going there”
We turned off the dual carriageway, then right, then left. Each time the road got smaller. Now we were on a single width road with passing places; round the corner and there it was. Under Partny, a village from the Middle Ages that was probably still wondering how Elizabeth the First would get on after that nasty old Mary, it really looked like it hadn’t changed since then. The pub was at the far end, just by the river; a chalk stream (used to be a river) of clear water. The pub was probably where the ferry ran from before the bridge was built. The bridge took the road over and looped back to bigger roads. In other words this road to Under Partny was just a long-cut (rather than a short-cut) to nowhere in particular.
Bucolic, I think that’s the word.
“When I first came here there was still sawdust in the Saloon Bar”
“You sound like an old man”
“I know, but it really is a throwback. It may have moved on a little, but not too much”
Before we went in I got her to switch off and then start the engine again. It started easily; of course it was warm, but the engine turned over fine. The battery was charged up again.
We went in and, being a ‘man’, I offered to get her a drink.
“I thought I was buying you one”
“You can buy the next one”
“Oh, so there’s going to be more than one? Okay. Shall we sit outside by the river? I’ll go and find a table. I’ll have whatever you’re having”
I was going to have a pint of lager, but now I realised I couldn’t. I couldn’t buy some weak crap that tasted like the barman was peeing them himself, it would look wussy. On the other hand I couldn’t buy some beer that would put hairs on your chest, because Emily’s chest looked nicer unhairy I was sure. Why do women do this to men? Any decision could be the wrong one. That’s something that hasn’t changed (“Will you go and buy something for tea?”, “What would you like?”, “Oh, Anything”... “I’m back, I bought pizza”, “Ohh, oh well, I suppose that will do”). I bought two pints of their Yeoman’s Surprise. Bad (or good) move. Yeoman’s Surprise is 5.6%. But I have to admit it tastes wonderful. A mild hop-y flavour with slight lemony overtones. That night I was converted to proper beer, I never drank lager again. I joined the campaign for real ale and wrote my first book “The Old Inns of Kent” when I was 23; ever since I’ve had a great sideline in the county series of “The Old Inns” books. It has given me rather a large girth though. Still it was a night for new discoveries.
So we sat outside and talked about university choices and religion and boyfriends (hers).
“He was such an out and out bastard. He dumped me while I was staying with him at his parents’ house. What could I do?”
“What did you do?”
“I left the house at 2am, walked 2 miles to the station, it was only half a mile away but I got lost. I slept on a bench and got the first train - at 5:30am. Do you know, he rang me? He said his parents were worried. HIS PARENTS! NOT HIM!”
“Umm, you’re shouting”
“Sorry ... That was the start of the week, then the car, and some builder whistling at me and shouting “I’ll give yer one darling”
“Give you one of what? Oh, oh, yes, I see. Sorry. I suppose it was kind of a compliment?”
“If you have the ambition to be lusted after by a moronic, cement covered, overweight, jerk yes” I smiled and she carried on “And that moron in your class, what’s his name?”
“There are a few to choose from”
“Jackson, and his mate. They are always ogling my tits”
I went red, both because she said that, that she’d used the word ‘tits’ rather than some neutral word like ‘chest’ or ‘upper body’ and because I was just thinking she really, really had nice tits.
“Sorry, I’m embarrassing you” she said
“No, honestly. It’s fine. The thing is, you are at a boys’ school; and boys of our age do have rather major hormone rushes; and you, well you do kind of fit most boys’ perfect fantasy”
“I think that was a kind of compliment?”
“It was, sort of. I mean no, actually it is just a statement of fact. You must realise you look fantastic? A few of us are more interested in science than, well, you know; but it must have dawned on you that you’re a looker?”
“Yes, yes I know. I was trying to get to the girls’ school over the road. I saw the advert for a student teacher, looked up the school and missed that there were two Grindleham Grammar Schools. By the time I was in the interview I was hooked, it is a lovely school and the younger pupils are a delight to teach. And having a CV showing you’ve taught in a range of schools is an advantage apparently. Should I wear frumpy clothes and look like the secretary?”
The school secretary was at least 110 years old, wore grey with matching grey and had a scowl for any boy unlucky enough to need to see her.
The thing is it was true, the more I looked, the more I realised. Long silky blonde hair, large (not overlarge like Divine) breasts; perfect, tight, bottom; and shapely legs. The fact that she had brains was neither here or there to most boys. She was a body they could, well they did fantasise over, I explained.
“So, am I yours?”
Damn, I was in a corner. “You are very beautiful, totally out of my league” I replied. I wanted to say too old, (though I meant I was too young), for me. Not that she was old, just that she wouldn’t want a boy like me.
“Nicely put. That was a dum question, you could hardly say ‘nah Emily, you’re a skank’” We both laughed; it was the wrong thing to say though if she was trying to maintain her distance, I really like a girl with a sense of humour. She went and got two more pints, we were trying the ‘Buxom Barmaid’ now (5.4%, darker, smoother, nearly a brown ale in some ways), I nearly made a crass comment that it should be called ‘Buxom Teacher’, I stopped myself just in time, she also brought some menus.
“Interesting name, I think the barman has bigger boobs than me!”
“I’m sure that’s not true”
“Oh, so you have checked them out, despite your interest in academic studies?”
She was still smiling, I liked her. I checked my wallet while she was gone. I had enough for another round, but not for food too.
“I’ve decided, I’m going to buy you dinner, it’s the least I can do and you bought the first round so we are even on that”
We ordered food therefore, and while we waited we drank our drinks and admired the view; that is to say she admired the countryside and I admired her AND the countryside. She was explaining something and waved an arm, sending a menu flying. Getting up and turning round, she bent down to pick it up. She looked up and saw me clearly admiring her bottom. I went red again. I had to admit, my thoughts were becoming less and less Christian.
Still waiting for the food; I went and bought another round (“let’s try the porter”; ‘Black Bess’ – 5.9% and a meal in itself). As we finished the meal and the third pint; we both found ourselves using the toilets a few times as the fluid content of our bodies went up.
“I’ve just realised” she said “I’m way over the limit. I’d only intended to have one small drink”
“We could get a taxi”
“I haven’t enough, the pub has a B&B sign outside, but I probably haven’t enough for that either”
1971 – Britain hadn’t collapsed into the credit card nightmare it is now; most pubs were cash only, no cash machines either. Then I remembered. “I have a cheque book. I’d forgotten. I opened a new account recently, ready for university. No money in it, but I have a cheque guarantee card too; and I can get money in the account before the cheque is presented”
“Are you sure? I can pay you back on Monday” She went to the barman, and came back. “They only have two rooms, one single, one double; and the single’s taken. So that’s that. I’m sure I’ll be okay to drive if I’m careful”
“If you got caught, with me in the car too, your career would be over. The double is probably a twin anyway”
We went up to the landlord again “The room, we’ll take it.” He eyed us both. “£25”
I don’t know what possessed me. “You won’t rent it for tonight to anybody else now, how about £15?”
“But then you won’t find anything else, £25”
“Maybe true, but then that’s more than a taxi home would cost” As I said it I thought “bugger, that’s probably true, Emily might think that a better option”. I carried on “How about £20?”
Barman : “Okay”
Emily looked at me with something like admiration. I got my chequebook out (which I had taken to school to show off with. It was entirely unused).
“Oh, hang on” he said “I didn’t know it was a cheque”
“I have a guarantee card. It’s as good as money”
Reluctantly he agreed and we added another round to celebrate. Shorts this time as we were both sloshing in beer by now. Emily had a gin and orange; I had a rum and peppermint. It was horrible, someone I knew had said they were nice. They were wrong. Still, it didn’t fill up my bladder.
“I’d better phone home to say”
“Will they be alright about it?”
“Oh yes, it’s a Friday. No problem” I wondered if this was true. Turns out I was dead on.
“Hi Mum, look I’m going to stay over with someone tonight” Just in time I added “If that’s alright?” Parents like to feel they are still in control.
“Oh, yes, fine. You’ll be home tomorrow?” I could sense the relief in her voice, her little Steve has friend. She was so relieved she forgot to ask all the concerned parent things – who was it, can I speak to the parents, where do they live, is there a telephone number. Thank goodness 1471 didn’t exist then, she’d probably have had kittens if she’d checked and found I was ringing from a pub. She didn’t even ask how I would get on with no overnight bag! Result!
“Your Dad says do you want a lift in the morning?” I bet he didn’t, he was going to a derby match – Spurs vs The Arsenal. He wouldn’t want that messed up, but he’d not disagree with Mum either.
“No, that’s fine. I’ll get a lift from Em into town” See what I did? Who or what is Em? Man, woman, friend, parent of friend, dog even? All nice and vague, but not actually proven to be misleading (“but Mum, I told you Em, I mean Emily, would give me a lift, you said okay”) Emily said she should ring to. I didn’t ask who, but I could see the phone from the table we were at. I was amused, pretty sure the body language said “talking to my Mum” (not a boyfriend, she stayed very passive at being questioned, and she clearly was being questioned). She came back annoyed.
“You’d think by now they’d realise I was grown up. Like the Spanish Inquisition”
“Ah! Our two weapons are surprise, and oh, I’ve forgotten”
She smiled, we talked about Monty Python and then The Goons! A woman who liked The Goons, I’d heard there was one somewhere.
It being early, we went and picked up the key and then went for a walk. Under Partny was stunning. Every other house was half-timbered. The river was used for transport, barges headed to the coast and back. The Senlic Barge is a type of very shallow Thames Barge. It sailed up these narrow winding rivers and along the coast. Virtually disappeared in early 1800 as canals and better roads and then railways took over. There was still a flat patch at Under Partny called “The Harbour”. Of course by now some mindless housebuilder with profit for brains has built on the land and called the little boxy roads “The Harbour” and “Partny Landings” and other trite rubbish. But in 1971 it was still possible to screw your eyes up and imagine. And that’s what we did.
Then we wandered back to the room, which we still had not seen, to discover that yes, it really was a double, not a twin; a small double. Not the gigantic King or Queen doubles we’ve inherited from the USA, this was the old optimistic double (what you might call one and a half now). It was impossible to sleep in one with someone else without touching them. There was no room for a row of pillows between us.
“I’ll sleep on a chair ... or the floor” there actually being no comfy chair to sleep on I noted. That was it! One of the weapons, the comfy chair! Too late.
“Don’t be silly. Very noble I’m sure, but I trust you, a fine upstanding member of the Christian Club” I think my penis had resigned from that about an hour ago; but really, what could happen? She was my teacher for heaven’s sake!