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[This story is set in England towards the end of the twentieth century, when attitudes to homosexuality were very different to those of today. The ancient English universities were still adjusting to the revolutionary concept of coeducational colleges. Sex between men was only legalized in 1966, and even then the age of consent for gay sex was set at 21. (This was changed to 16 early in the following century). Some of the strange or emotive language reflects the legal terminology in use at that time].
Chapter 1 David
I have decided to begin this story on a day in December 19–, when I was approaching the end of my first term as an undergraduate at the University of Camford. I was just 18 when I came to Camford after a very happy upbringing and education. In consequence I had to decide when I arrived at St Boniface’s College in what way, now that the decisions were entirely mine, I should organize my life. Until then I had had a very broad spectrum of activities but a rather limited experience of things like theatre and film, although I had read very extensively. I felt that it was important to have a focused life during the short (in comparison with a lifetime) stay that I expected in Camford.
Accordingly, I decided to concentrate on my academic study (which to the surprise of my parents and many of my teachers was chemistry) and regular attendance at Chapel when work permitted, including singing in the Chapel choir. Other participatory musical activities such as other choral commitments and my flute-playing would be suspended for the coming four years. Additionally I continued to play basketball, but only at college level, and to attend concerts and recitals. My idea was that I would devote 80% of my waking time to these activities, allowing the rest for the inevitable beer and coffee drinking, chat, film and theatre visits that are an essential part of university life.
If this introduction sounds boring, stop reading now. Religion and classical music are not popular topics in modern erotic fiction, and if you read on you will find that these, along with science, figure very frequently. If you want to read about sex, you will not be disappointed, but the lives to be described in the following pages involve the heart and brain as well as the penis.
I did not have a large circle of friends in my first term. No one else in my school had come to Camford and I therefore developed friendships slowly in the various circles which I was active: the Chemistry Department, the College Chapel and the college basketball club. St Boniface’s had only a few female students (“token women” they called themselves), though the college did have, to the total amazement of the academic establishment, a female President. On election she had declared that she was not a feminist, and that the growth of the number of women students in the college would be very gradual. She was of course married, but her husband worked in industry and did not darken the doors of the President’s lodgings between 8:30 am and 7 pm. He was rumoured to be a cultured man, but not one who spent his his waking hours in the college, though he was seen regularly on the squash court. So I was building a collection of friends of both sexes, but predominantly men, with whom I had common interests, but none that were extremely close, despite signs by some women friends that they fancied me.
When the story begins I had been to an orchestral concert in the Town Hall given by a distinguished foreign orchestra. There had been a particularly moving performance of a Mozart piano concerto by an artist of international repute. As I came down the stairs afterwards, a man I recognized came up to me and said
“Wasn’t that a fabulous performance of the Mozart?” I could only agree with him. He was tall and thin, with dark crewcut hair, and I recognized him as a chemistry research student whom I had seen in Hall on several Sunday nights during the preceding term.
“Yes,” I said, “have you heard him before?”
“A couple of times in London,” he said.
“Come and have coffee and tell me about them,” I said in a friendly, if offhand way, because he seemed to be a person worth getting to know. However, when we reached the street, it was raining cats and dogs, so we immediately plunged into an adjacent pub, one which I had not previously visited. It was not particularly busy and we found a table in the corner.
“What will you have?” asked my new acquaintance.
“A pint of bitter” I replied.
“Any particular sort?” he asked.
“I leave it to you” I said. He came back with two pints what turned out to be excellent beer of a sort that I had not had before.
“My name is Jonathan Singleton,” he said.
“I am David Scarborough” I replied, “I’m a first year chemist.”
“I know, I will be demonstrating to your class next term” he replied. I made a complementary remark about the beer.
“Yes,” he said. “They sell a very good pint of X’s here.” We sat sipping our beer, and I was conscious that he was eyeing me in a sexually appraising way. This of course is not a new experience for me. I was 18 and had learned to live with such looks from both men and women. He told me that the pianist we had heard had given exceptionally good performances when he had heard him before. He explained that he had to make frequent visits to London in connection with casino siteleri the affairs of the family firm, whose nominal control he had inherited a couple of years earlier on the death of his father. We chatted and it turned out that he had signed in to dine in Hall on the following Wednesday. We arranged to meet before dinner in the beer cellar. There would be no further opportunities, because after my college Progress Test on the following Friday I was leaving Camford the next day to go home for Christmas.
We consumed a second pint, and by now it was approaching closing time.
“Sorry I can’t invite you back to my place for coffee,” he said “but I have to make a brief visit to the lab to switch off some equipment.”
“That’s okay” I said, “I’ll see you on Wednesday.” We walked together along St Mary Street and parted company at the end. I walked thoughtfully into college and before going to my room stopped off for a pee in one of the men’s toilets. He was an interesting person, I thought, obviously highly intelligent, with an extremely pleasant voice, and an expert on things I knew little or nothing about. As I drifted off to sleep in bed I thought of Jonathan Singleton’s very slender figure and dark hair, which at the time struck me as pleasant but not particularly arousing.
The following week was very busy, lectures, final labs, final basketball match and work on my progress test, a kind of oral exam that Camford colleges subjected their students to every term. Wednesday afternoon was the final college basketball match, which was more exhausting than usual, and we lost 5-0. I felt limp and tired as we showered afterwards, but felt rather better during the walk back to college where I was just in time to meet Jonathan in the beer cellar.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“The match?” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“Not well. We lost and I feel knackered.”
“Who plays in the college first five?” he asked. I named them. He asked a few questions about fellow team members, from which I suspected that he was trying to find out if I had any special, or not so special, relations with any of them. But I told him that the team’s relationships ended with the pub visit that followed each fixture.
We sat next to each other at dinner and then went for coffee in my room.
“There’s an Ingmar Bergman film on at the Rialto,” he said, naming a small “art-house” cinema famous for its foreign films.
“Would you like to go and see it?” We finished our coffee and strolled in the direction of the cinema. We stopped for a pee at the public conveniences in Long Street and arrived at the cinema. The film was ‘Ansiktet’, one of Bergman’s most famous and most enigmatic films. I had not seen a Bergman film before, not even on television. The beauty of the Swedish language filled my ears with delight. I wondered if Jonathan would touch me or attempt to hold my hand, but he kept himself firmly to himself. On emerging from the cinema, we went into a nearby pub and consumed a pint of West London bitter, Camford’s local brew.
“Come and have coffee at my place” Jonathan said, but I refused on the grounds that I still had work to do, and we parted company at Laurifax.
The progress test went well. From the hints that were dropped it looked as though I might be in the running for a scholarship, which would please my parents and assure me an en-suite room in college. On the Friday night, the chapel choir had its end of term party with with the choir, Bible clerk, organ scholar, Chaplain and Prof Smith, a learned, yet young and trendy theologian. The choir, as all university organisations do, varied in size and composition from year to year. That year there were 12 men and eight women. St Boniface’s “token women” comprised about 10% of the college’s complement of 550 resident members (undergraduates, graduates and the governing body, and so included the president). Yet women comprised 40% of the choir. This is not an untypical situation, and in any case was essential for the right spread of voice ranges for church music. Some of the male members seemed to be there not out of religious considerations (they were good singers of course) but in order to meet the women. The women in the choir however were less promiscuous than most of the St Boniface women—they did not do one-night stands. Some indeed were plain and unexciting. I got on well with the women, as I never made chauvinist remarks and never attempted to chat them up. The chaplain and Prof Smith left early, as did the more rowdy (and randy?) male members, leaving about a dozen people, about equal numbers of men and women. There had been a nucleus of good wine, courtesy of the college, and we had all taken along bottles, so between the 12 of us there was a lot of alcohol. At first it was good, the non-drinking women choir members sipped fruit juice and ate the vol-au-vents, and a lively conversation, partly on music, partly on churchy matters went on.
By midnight, as most of us were leaving the next day, the non-drinking ladies and the more pious men had gone, leaving three men and five giggling women. We continued to drink and to talk, although by now everyone could only be described as drunk. Two of the men wandered off with two of the women, saying
“Good night, see you next term” as they staggered away. I was left with three women, still giggling, one slot oyna of whom at least was, I realized, probably in a bad way. She looked as if she might throw up at any minute. The college function room, where we were, was furnished with easy chairs and sofas, we were all sitting on a sofa. I was still sipping a glass of white wine while the girls were giggling. I put my glass down on a table and put an arm round each of them, the off-colour girl barely conscious in the corner. “This is nice,” I said “I could sit here all night.”
“And even if you did, nothing would happen” said one of the girls, whose name was Barbara.
“Why should anything happen, I asked “unless you want it to?”
“We know about you,” she said “you must be queer, or think that you are CR.” (She named a well known popular vocalist who was supposed to be celibate).
“I can’t imagine the artist you have named singing in a choir” I said. “Do you want me to fondle your breasts or something?” I asked. “Just because I don’t sleep with every woman who fancies me doesn’t mean that I am queer or someone like CR. I wonder how often CR wanks,” I remarked indiscreetly, and at once regretted my drunken bad taste. “Here are you two, sitting with a man who is behaving himself and respecting your bodily integrity and you suggest that he is gay. I’m one of the half-dozen choir members who go to non-choral services. I go because I believe, not because I can sing, and I don’t go whoring around.” Another remark of the type that I would never have made if I had been sober. Perhaps the CR comparison was not so wide of the mark… I then kissed each of them and said “We’re going to have to help Amelia back to her room. Can you walk Amelia?” I shouted. She opened her eyes.
“Wanna go to bed” she said.
The other girl Margaret helped Amelia to her feet. We got each of her arms round each of our shoulders and escorted her to her room, which fortunately was nearby on one of the staircases that St Boniface’s reserved for its female students. We got her upstairs with some difficulty, where we helped her onto her bed. I left in some haste. I returned to the function room to make sure that it was not too much of a mess, and suggested to Barbara that she should go to help Margaret get Amelia undressed. Her reply was totally amazing. She reached out a hand and crudely felt my crotch.
“Well at least you’ve got something there” she said “even if only men turn you on.” And with that she was gone. I put out the light, closed the door and walked very unsteadily to my room, where I drank half a litre of water before going to bed. Fortunately my train did not leave until noon the next day.
Because Camford is in the middle of England, and is not important enough to be a terminus, the principal trains all depart between 11 am and 3 pm, as they run from places like Bournemouth and Norwich to places in the North and West of England. On the train heading northwards, without a headache thanks to the water (one learns some things very quickly at University), I found myself thinking about my sexual orientation. Was I really gay? I had never felt attracted to any of the boys at school but then even the girls I had gone out with had left me cold. I decide that the question had to remain undecided at least until I got to know Jon Singleton better, but I couldn’t help wondering how to reconcile my sexuality (if I were to turn out to be gay) with my beliefs. I had had a sensible liberal theological education, and I knew that most of the old Testament teaching on homosexuality had been misinterpreted, and the Jesus had been silent on the topic. So while I was convinced that a homosexual relationship was not sinful, I felt that the same high standards of lifelong fidelity should apply to unions of men with men as well as with those of men with women, the only problem being to be convinced that such a union was God’s will and not one’s own selfishness.
I had not been consciously homesick in my first term at St Boniface’s, because I had been too busy, but it was marvellous to be home again. My mother met me at the station because my father was still at work. It was wonderful to see her again and I threw my arms around her and kissed her on the station platform.
“Wat mooi om je weer te zien (Great to see you again),” I said. My mother is Dutch by birth and whenever we are alone we speak Dutch. As my father and sister speak no Dutch and my little brother only a few words, we never use the language in the family. She asked me how I was getting in in Camford, and I told her that both study and leisure-time were going well. Then she asked if I had met a nice girl yet, to which I said “No,” that I would tell her when (or if) it happened. You will gather that my mother is not a stolid Dutch lady: indeed my religious convictions come mainly from my father. I asked how things were with my sister and little brother. My mother replied that Dorothea hoped to do well in her examinations in June and Jeroen was getting on well at his primary school. My younger brother Jeroen/Jerome is 10 years younger than I am. I’ve always been very fond of him, almost as if he were my own child. It sounds stupid for an 18-year-old to think in these terms, but I was lucky with both of my siblings.
Christmas passed very enjoyably. My father, Dorothea and myself went to midnight Mass at our parish church canlı casino siteleri where father is churchwarden. My father and mother took a slightly reluctant Jeroen to the morning service on Christmas Day, leaving my aunt and me to keep an eye on the turkey and Christmas pudding. On Boxing Day I went a long walk with my father. Without him asking, I reassured him that I had not fundamentally changed after my first few months of university. Little did I realize what the next six months would bring.
Soon it was time to go back to Camford for the Candlemas term. I saw Jonathan regularly that term, we dined in Hall together twice a week and regularly went to a film each week, usually at the Rialto. The multiplex cinemas of Camford offered the same programme of multiple rubbish as all the rest of the cinemas all over the land. But at the Rialto I was introduced to the riches of French, Italian, Swedish, Bengali and East European cinema, as well as British and American classics. From Antonioni and Bergman to Wells and Wilder I saw some magnificent films rarely if ever seen on television or satellite. Similarly we heard music that I would never have thought to go to on my own. Jonathan played a terrific role in my cultural education. In return, I tried inadequately and hopefully to tell him of the riches of the gospel, but he gently replied (A) that he was an agnostic and (B) that he had work for the firm to do on Sundays and did not mind my absence at three church services on Sunday as long as we could drink and eat in the evenings.
Jonathan did indeed demonstrate to our organic chemistry classes that term. He was never the remote demonstrator sitting at a desk letting us get on alone: he was there at the bench, giving a hand to male and female students alike. As I got to know him better, he confessed once over a drink that he had difficulty in forming relationships. His father, owner of a prosperous and efficient small engineering firm had also made money through shrewd investment in property. He had died some years earlier, leaving the firm and quite a lot of money to Jonathan and a comfortable income to his widow, who lived in the South of France. Jon’s parents had played little role in his upbringing: he been at boarding school from the age of eight. The school he told me without details had had an unsympathetic regime: no abuse of the pupils, but a very unreasonably harsh regime designed to damp down their sexuality. Jonathan had spent Christmas with his mother in France, but had not enjoyed it much. He spoke fluent French as far as I could tell. He certainly had a lot of French books in his study.
Yes, late in the Candlemas term I finally saw his flat. It was very nice, full of books. I inspected the books, and what I saw supported my suspicions of his sexual orientation. There were a lot of classic French novels, a lot of book titles banned or unavailable in England at the time, much chemistry, mathematics, computer books and what I suspected (although I dared not look at: why I don’t know) to be a porn section. A suggestion of what Gerard Reve calls ‘Greek principles’ was a very beautiful Greek male nude statuette in the bathroom, but there was no overt indication on Jon’s part that our friendship with anything more than platonic: indeed one night after seeing an opera, we had a highly philosophical discussion about the portrayal in ‘Cosii fan Tutte’ of sexual infidelity as normal. I suppose you could say that really ‘Cosi’ paints a picture of human frailty, that even the most conscientiously faithful man or woman can fall if tempted sufficiently—was that not also the theme also of ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’? But we both felt that lifelong fidelity was an achievable objective for most people, even though so few people seem prepared to try it.
Early in March before we left Camford, we went for a swim at the new Camford Olympic pool—Olympic only in its size, I hasten to add. One cannot imagine Camford as an Oympic venue. I had suggested going for a swim, as we had done nothing “physical” together apart from easy walking. I only got a glimpse of Jon’s body as we undressed, but after swimming 20 lengths each—he was a faster swimmer than me, although five years older—we adjourned to the men’s shower-room. I had shampoo, he had soap, so we had to share. The showers were in alcoves, three showers on one side, three on the other without partitions. Quite deliberately we took our places on opposite sides facing, rather than beside each other, reaching across soap or shampoo as we needed it. We had of course removed our swimming trunks. Mine were rather juvenile-looking shorts, his very brief cutaway French trunks with a three-quarter back, in an attractive shade of yellow. He was tall (a good 2 metres), and I realized, rather thin perhaps 70 kilos in weight, with broader shoulders than I had expected, quite muscular, ribs reasonably well covered, with very narrow hips, flat belly and muscular but slender legs. His buttocks were unbelievably small and neat and his circumcized tool perhaps smaller than I might have expected. He was not unduly hairy, which is just as well, because his hair was very dark. To my relief there was none on his back or shoulders, his chest was reasonably hairy for a man of his age, and the lower parts of his body were quite hairy, except his arse, which was almost hairless. There was a dark treasure trail running from his bellybutton down to his pubic hair, which was abundant and covered the root of his tool. Part of his pubic hair was visible outside the swimming briefs. What I saw attracted me, but not enough, fortunately, to give me an erection!
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