Wednesday, 30 November 2016

1979: I am curious, orange




I was woken up by my mother. "There is a big envelope from Oxford!" she cried.  

"Don't get excited!" I said, pulling on my dressing gown and walking downstairs.  I had been having a lovely dream about A.  We were doing it on the beach.  It!  It! It!  "My entrance exam was rubbish and so was my interview.  I have no chance of getting into Oxford!" I said, confidently.  I was wrong. 

Two weeks later, I went into school for the last time, to pick up some stuff from my locker.  "How did it go?" asked my English teacher, anxiously, intercepting me in the school entrance hall.  "We haven't heard from you.  You are the last one!" I liked him a lot and he had been a good part of the reason that I chose Oxford over Cambridge, as he had studied there, where one of his tutors was JRR Tolkien, impressively.  I told him about my strange interview and he thought that I hadn't got in.

"Don't you know?"  I asked.  I had assumed that Oxford would tell the school but they didn't.  The news only came to the candidate.  I told him the good news and he actually gave me a hug. I was then shoved into the staff room, for the first time, to tell my teachers.  Mrs S, the art assistant, gave me a hug and kiss.  On the lips, much to my embarrassment.  The school had got more than two dozen people into Oxford or Cambridge.  My History, English and Art teachers took me down to the pub for lunch.  I suddenly realised that I wasn't a schoolboy any more.

"Have you been doing any more life drawing?" asked my Art teacher.

"Not really," I said.  "Not had any suitable models!"

"What about your hairdresser?" asked my History teacher.  I couldn't believe the teachers knew about that. Mrs S hadn't heard the story but the History teacher wouldn't give any further detail other than hat I had had a "famous" experience.  How had they found this out?

"I'm not surprised, you are such a nice looking young man," said Mrs S.  "I bet you'll cut a swathe through the girls at Oxford!"  I certainly hoped so.  My total interaction with girls in the last eighteen months had been my moment of passion with Mandy the hairdresser, on the floor of J's bathroom, five months before and I felt a fraud about that as everyone, now including my teachers, thought that I had done It.  And I hadn't.

Christmas was relaxing for the first time in ages as I had no tests to do in the first week of term.  My Uncle, the one with the boat, had arranged a job for me with a friend of his who owned an import-export business at Heathrow airport.  My mother dropped me off at the bus station on the way to work and I took the bus to the cargo terminal.  The place where I was working was in a large warehouse building, which isn't there any more.  Lots of freight firms had offices there with warehouses on the ground floor and a small office overlooking the warehouse on the top floor.  There was a team of three or four drivers who worked out of the warehouse and the office upstairs, where I was going to work, was run by a short balding man and his two female assistants.  One was an older lady (as I thought of her) in her late twenties with short, dyed blonde hair which looked like high tensile straw.  The other was a girl a couple of years older than me who had the most unprepossessing face, with a complexion like a saucepan full of cold porridge and a nose like an elephant seal that was far too big for her small face.  Unfortunately, she was also unpleasant in character (unlike the older lady, who was nice).  What was remarkable about this unremarkable girl was, that at the age of twenty, she had never seen the sea,   Nowhere in Britain is more than seventy miles from the sea and we were rather closer than that.  They were very different people from those I had met before.  There would be no hoped for passion in the office.  

The drivers were funny and nice and had an interesting collection of naked women centrefolds on the walls of the warehouse.  They also used to exchange men's magazines between them but these were the less sophisticated type of magazine like Whitehouse and Park Lane of largely skanky looking women spreading everything as much as they could.  Funnily, one lunchtime I went down to take them a piece of paperwork and they hastily covered up the magazine they were all clustered around, guiltily.  "I prefer Club International myself," I said. They looked shocked as they thought of me as a boy and a posh boy at that. 

There was nothing to do at lunchtime except go for a walk. There were no shops, cafes or anything else in the building or nearby. It was an urban desert.  Outside, the stink of aviation fuel in the air was so strong you could taste it. I used to walk up to one of the reservoirs near the airport and do a circular walk just to get out, even in the rain. I soon got the hang of the job, which involved pricing cargo, finding a carrier and filling out air waybills.  It was really boring and I hated being in a small windowless office being seethingly resented by the younger girl.

One day I was down in the warehouse and a French driver arrived in a lorry. The drivers were completely failing to communicate with him and he had no English whatsoever.  My French was rubbish (I only got my O-level because the lady French Assistant fancied me and was very generous in my assessed oral exam) but it was better than the drivers'.  They were amazed that I could ask him to follow us to the office, ask for his papers and offer him a cup of coffee in French. The following week I discovered that the boss had upped my pay by 25%.  I was asked to do more and more and C, the younger girl, was getting more and more resentful.  

I nearly quit but then I got my first month's pay.  It was a lot of money for me. Hundreds of pounds.  Just for filling out a few forms.  I went to Kingston and bought a huge black Panasonic radio cassette player.  It cost a staggering £149.99 in 1979!  I could connect it to my stereo amplifier and transfer my records onto cassetes for university.  The following month I bought a load of records.  With Classics for Pleasure records at 99p each, I started to build my classical record collection,  Not just that but I added some non-classical stuff too, including Gordon Giltrap's Fear of the Dark which I had heard on the radio the previous summer, some ELO and the first album by The Police.  

I discovered that about half a mile's walk from the warehouse was a corner shop which had a huge selection of men's magazines.  I started to buy one a week.  Mainly Penthouse, Men Only and Club International, although I thought that the brightly lit studio photography on the later two wasn't as good as it had been two years ago and the girls weren't showing as much as they had a couple of years before when O and I went through a stack in his house.  I enjoyed the anticipation of taking the magazine home, then locking myself in the bathroom and breathlessly discovering each pictorial.  It was the only sexual activity I was getting.

The office had a girly calendar in it, above the older woman's desk, which would be very surprising now but wasn't even commented on then and, indeed it was the older woman's job to turn the page every month.  It wasn't just a topless one either.  I think it might have originated from Mayfair.  One of the pictures was one of Linda Lusardi which I was particularly taken with (they were all discussed as each new one appeared) to the extent that the older lady gave it to me on my last day, in August.

When the picture first appeared, earlier in the year, we were talking, for some reason, about pin-up calendars from the past, from the time when the pictures were all paintings.  I mentioned that I did a lot of drawing and she immediately asked if I did nudes.  I said I had done some, yes.  All artists did, I continued, pretentiously.  The office boss asked me to bring some in, surprisingly.  The next day they all asked to see my pictures but I hadn't brought them as I thought that they were joking.  They persisted, however.  I went home that day and selected a few of A but didn't include the Klimt like one of her with her legs apart.  They did include breasts and pubic hair, though.

At lunchtime the next day I had to lay them out on my desk.  Any artist gets nervous when presenting his work to others for the first time and, given the nature of the pictures and who I was presenting them too, I was really nervous. They stood around the desk in silence, worryingly.

"These are good!  Really, really good!  Are they your girlfriend?" asked the older lady, at last.

I told her that they were an ex-girlfriend who had moved to Scotland several years ago.  One of the drivers came up the spiral staircase from the warehouse and soon I had the whole office in there.  There were questions about why I hadn't gone on to do  Art and who my girlfriend had been, which I really didn't want to drag up again.  I was getting quite emotional talking about A and had to keep myself under control.  I had written to her and told her I had got into Oxford and she had sent me a nice postcard from Edinburgh, where she had gone for the day, telling me to keep writing.  This had cheered me up as we hadn't really communicated for over a year, apart from Christmas cards.

A few days later I ran into the older woman in the corridor that ran the length of the building, where the loos were, and she said that she would pose for me if I needed a model.  She had a nice figure but a rather hard face and I knew she had just broken up with her boyfriend who also worked at the airport  She was ten years older than me so I didn't take this frankly terrifying but gratifying, suggestion any further.  I had been warned about rebound women, based on bitter experience, by one of the drivers.  Anyway, in a small office it would have been a disaster.  I lied and told her that I had so much work to do before starting at university I had no spare time,   I did tell her that I thought that she would be a lovely model, though, which cheered her up.   She had a splendid bottom. 

On my last day, my boss suggested that I didn't go on to university but stay on and he would teach me the air freight business.  The owner of the firm said that I had got into Oxford and it was inconceivable that I do anything else.  I hadn't really thought of it as that special as so many people from my school did it but no one else in the office even knew anybody who had done A-levels, let alone got into university.

I had a few weeks at home to get all my stuff ready and do things like buy mugs and a kettle.  These don't seem to be allowed in student rooms anymore.  Despite my expenditure I had managed to save over £1000 but I got a full living expenses grant on top as my mother was a single parent and not earning that much.  I would not be hard up at college if I was careful.  One thing I discovered when I got there was that my college was very rich (apparently it owned a lot of land up north) and so our termly bills were low.  Mine were just over £200 a term for food and lodging.  J, from my school, was at Magdalen and his equivalent bills were more than twice mine; largely because Magdalen (pronounced 'maudlin') had had to pay £6 million to ensure their famous tower (built in 1492) didn't fall down. Magdalen's nickname was Crumbagadalen; pronounced 'crumblin', because of the continuing restoration work.

My mother and sister took me to Oxford to start autumn term or Michaelmas, as they called it, at the beginning of October.  Oxford only has eight week terms so you are actually on vacation longer than you are studying in any year. Arriving in Radcliffe Square, where they actually let us park on the first day, as it is usually closed to traffic, was like arriving on a film set. We went to the porter's lodge, a little kiosk inside the entrance, and I was given the key to my room in my Staircase.  In College, you were accommodated in 'staircases', a series of rooms all off, er, a staircase.  I followed the instructions and we went through a number of quadrangles, under an arch, to the far corner of the college.

"Hullo!" came a voice. "I'm so glad you got in!"  It was the little redhead, C, I had met at interview.  We exchanged room numbers.  It turned out she was in the adjoining staircase.

"What a pretty girl!" said my mother, ever hopeful as always.

"She's very short," observed my sister,  "and her hair looks dyed!"

I explained that  C was the nice girl I had met at interview and my mother was puzzled because I had described her as plain.  My sister shook her head as if to say she is plain.  I mused on this myself as we climbed up the three flights of stairs to my room.  She did seem to look a lot more attractive than I remembered, I thought, puzzled.  Also, shorter.

We got to my staircase and there, just inside the entrance, on a black metal plate, was my name painted in white paint.  All the names of the people living on the staircase (about ten) had a black plate with Mr (or Miss or Dr, depending on your status), then your initials. your last name and room number.   I was suddenly impressed with myself.  I was at Oxford.  I still couldn't believe it.

Mine was an all male staircase, disappointingly.  Although my college had been mixed for six years those colleges who were taking students of the opposite sex for the first time dealt with it in different ways.  In the first year most of the fresher girls in my college were put in two adjoining staircases together, quite a common practice ('apartheid'. one of the girls called it).  In New College, however, we discovered that they had installed one girl per staircase of men.  This was not a success and led to comments like (as I overheard once): 'Our girl's not very good, what's your like?' and, even worse, 'our girl is very ugly but at least she is doing all our ironing'.

I had two rooms: a living room and a bedroom, both of which were long and narrow and overlooked the High (street). The living room had a gas fire but the bedroom was unheated which was not much fun given it was early October. The bedroom had a nasty maroon with black swirls lino (linoleum was invented in my home town!) floor, a bed, a chest of drawers, and a wardrobe (which rocked alarmingly on its uneven legs when you opened the door - I had to wedge it with folded card). There was a mysterious wooden box at the foot of the bed which, we discovered, contained a knotted rope. Yes, this high tech device was the fire escape, in the event that the eighteenth century building caught fire. The bed itself was quite large, at three foot six across, like my one at home.  It was like (it probably was) an old hospital bed, with an iron bedstead at the head and foot.  

It didn't take long to unpack, as I didn't have much stuff; pride of place going to my Panasonic radio cassette player (I still have it!) which I put on top of my bookshelf.  My mother took me to lunch at the Turl Tavern (no longer there) and then bought me some tea bags, some biscuits (I was soon to discover that Oxford runs on tea, biscuits, Sherry and Port) and long life milk in the Co-op, as there didn't seem to be any fridges anywhere that we could find. Typically, you kept your milk outside on the window ledge, which sometimes made it perilous for those below if you muffed trying to get it back into your room. We were absolutely forbidden to have glass milk bottles on the window ledges! 

After my mother and sister left, I sat in my rather stark room, feeling rather anxious about the whole thing. I put the Bach Brandenburg concerti on the cassette player and worried about how loud I could play music.  There was a knock on the door and it was the little (she claimed to be five foot two but I had my doubts) redhead, C.  I was really pleased to see her and she was really pleased to have a mug of tea and a jammy dodger (or five, she had a prodigious capacity for biscuits, as I was to discover).   We went down to dinner together to meet the other freshers.  The rest of college hadn't started yet, apart from a few volunteer second years.  Hall, where breakfast, lunch and dinner were served, was rather strange as you all sat on long benches (I really found it odd not to have a back to my seat) at long wooden tables while the dons sat at high table (Hogwarts, basically).  There were a lot of strange names for things to learn. At dinner there were two sittings: normal hall and formal hall.  At formal hall you had to wear your academic gown.  I had a normal, short commoners gown but C had a long gown as she had won a scholarship for being particularly swotty.  Still, I was just glad to be there.

The next few days we got to meet other people and were shown around the college, including an accommodation annex just off the main shopping street. Cornmarket, next to the famous Oxford Union.  I already knew about this as this was where I had stayed at interview.  The rooms there were modern and had washbasins and so I was surprised that my older room lacked basic washing facilities. Many of the first year girls, including my new friend, C, were in a couple of modern, early sixties blocks, next door to my staircase. These had narrower, two foot six wide beds, presumably to discourage hanky panky, but did have a wash basin.  This was useful not just for washing but, more importantly, filling the kettle.  I had to go down a floor to the scout's pantry which had a sink, to do this. although it was here that I discovered a fridge.  Scouts were the elderly gentlemen who made your beds every day, cleaned your rooms, washed your bedding once a week and emptied your bins..  It was another world!

Washing yourself was a trial. My rooms were on the third floor (fourth floor for Americans) but the only bathroom was in the basement, four flights of stairs below. This also housed the only WCs in the staircase. Needless to say, this basement was also unheated. To describe it as grim is an understatement. There were three WCs, then, next to those, two cubicles with baths. Beyond that were a couple of showers with wash basins opposite. The defining feature of this area of the college was that it was absolutely freezing. Damp and freezing.  And smelly.  Taking a shower in the morning was done as fast as humanly possible before you froze to death.  Even in the summer it was cold.  On top of that the hot water was never really that hot, either, especially in the morning.  

On the third evening, C came back to my room after dinner. Her modern room was full of trendy exposed concrete and had no carpet.  Cozy it was not. I had brought my orange shaded bedside lamp from home which I had put on my desk next to my Anglepoise lamp (as I didn't have the expected bedside table). I had a nice thick rug and my gas fire (which was really efficient) and could make my room very cozy indeed. We had more tea and I opened the bourbon biscuits I had bought that afternoon as my jammy dodgers had lasted less than 36 hours. We sat on the rug in front of the fire and she leaned against my shoulder while we had our tea. This is nice, I thought.  What a nice girl. I was racking my brains trying to think what was different about her. Stupidly, it had taken me three days to work it out but now I knew what the answer was. 

"What happened to your glasses?" I asked.  She told me that she now wore contact lenses.  I'd never met anyone who wore contact lenses.  Frankly, I found the idea of having to put things in your eyes deeply creepy.   Also, I reckoned she had lost weight and it had all gone from what I remember as a rather puffy face. Now she had nice cheekbones and the lack of glasses revealed her face in all its delicate beauty. She had pale, almost white, eyelashes and pale eyebrows too, which tended to give her a permanently surprised look.   Actually, I thought, she was a rather lovely girl with her almost waist length red hair.  "You're, a lovely girl!" I said, suddenly.  She gave me an unexpected kiss on the cheek and snuggled up closer, so I put my arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head and she burst into tears, which is not what I was expecting.

C, it turned out, was really homesick after only three days.  Her mother (her father had been killed in a car crash a couple of years earlier) had sold their house once she knew C had got into Oxford and was planning to move south.  In the meantime she was staying with her other daughter on Birmingham, who was more than ten years older than C.  C had, literally lost her home, all of her things were in storage and she felt alone and adrift.  She had been at grammar school and so, like all state school pupils, had done her entrance exam in the upper sixth rather than staying on into the third year, like I had.  She had not had a year off like me and had only had her eighteenth birthday at the end of August, as she was one of the youngest girls in the year, like A had been..  She was twenty months younger than me and was finding the whole experience a bit much.

The next day we had to go to Blackwells book shop and order some of our law books which, we had just discovered from one of the other freshers, were out of stock.  See was worried about doing this on her own but, of course, I had been working in an office for eight months and thought it was no big deal.  I said that I would come with her and we could do it together,  She looked up at me with her red eyes and gave me a wan smile.  I kissed her forehead.  Then I kissed her eyelids, tasting her salty tears. I stroked her back.  She parted her lips hesitantly and I gave her the softest, gentlest kiss I could. She kissed me back and told me I was lovely.  And so are you, you gorgeous redhead, I thought, as I stroked her cheek. I had been at college less than three days and already I had kissed a lovely girl.  I saw her back to her room and she gave me another shy kiss outside her door before disappearing inside.  She told me to pick her up on the way to breakfast. 

Next day we found the people in Blackwells not coping with what, presumably, was an annual rush. One book we needed straight away was not on the shelves but I could see an open box of them inside the cash desk.  Used to dealing with the cargo departments of recalcitrant airlines I insisted on having two copies from their box but were told that they were reserved.  "Reserved for who?" I asked. Eventually the man admitted that they were available but not inventoried yet and they needed to do the paperwork before they could put them on the shelves.  I gave the man a very even look,  The look I used on difficult staff at the Heathrow quarantine station (the airfreight firm I worked for imported a lot of animals).  He gave in and let us have the books.  C was impressed and took my arm as we walked back to college. As we approached college I said that I would take her to lunch rather than having lunch in college. She thought this was brilliant and was hugely impressed that I had a credit card.

That night she came up to my room again after dinner.  I lit my gas fire and soon had the temperature of the room up again. She thanked me for helping at the bookshop and gave me another kiss.  This time I was a bit more assertive with her but she matched me kiss for kiss until her tongue started to probe inside my mouth.  She pushed me down onto the rug and lay on top of me  We lay in front of the fire kissing and tentatively exploring each other's clothed bodies with our hands.  She sat up, astride my hips and pulled her chunky knit cream jumper off.  She had knitted it herself.  She made a lot of her own clothes and was very skilled at it.  The fire, when it got going, kicked out a lot of heat so I took my jumper off too.  She was wearing a silk blouse underneath her jumper and I enjoyed stroking it..  She undid my shirt buttons and caressed my chest.  I pulled her blouse out of her jeans and stroked the skin around her middle for the first time.  We chatted and kissed and kissed and chatted for about two hours.  By the end of the evening her blouse was undone too and I could see her silk and lace bra.  I had kissed her collarbones and her belly.  Eventually she said that she had to go back to her room and take her contact lenses out.  I offered to walk her back to her room.. She pointed out that it was only about forty feet from the bottom of my staircase and I needn't bother. I asked her if she liked wine and she said yes.  I said I would get some for when she next came round.

"Tomorrow," she said.  "Definitely, tomorrow."  We had a passionate kiss just before she left my room. 

Fortunately, just across the road from my room was a branch of Oddbins, the wine shop, so before dinner the next day I nipped out and wondered what to get.  I hoped she didn't like Mateus Rose or the equally diabolical Blue Nun Liebfraumilch.   Given we didn't have access to a fridge and putting a bottle out on my window sill would have been a very bad idea I settled on a Côtes du Rhône and hoped she liked red wine. I decided to get some cheese and crackers from the Co-Op, too.

This proved to be a wise move because at dinner we sat down only to find Mr C, a graduate student from China, sat opposite us.  Mr C was from actual China, unusually, not Hong Kong and appeared not to speak any English, so we wondered what he could be possibly studying.  That day we were served curry which was one of the more disgusting things college did.  It had a thick brown sauce and, shockingly, hard-boiled egg in it. That wasn't what shocked us the most, though,  Vegetables were served by the scouts putting a metal dish of potatoes, green beans (yuck!) etc. between eight people.  This was the first time we had had rice and they put the dish down in front of Mr C. Mr C, lifted the lid and scooped three quarters of the contents of the bowl onto his plate and started shovelling it into his face as if he hadn't eaten for a week. C and I looked at each other and then we looked at the other people on the table who should have been having rice. We were British so we didn't say anything.  We just ensured, between us, that the three girls there shared what was left of the rice and we didn't have anything.  C kindly gave me half of hers.

We were all freshers so didn't dare ask the terrifying scouts for another bowl.  There was a thing called sconcing at Oxford (Cambridge don't do it, being boring) that we had been told about on the first day, where people who broke unwritten rules at dinner (it turned out to only be formal dinners) could be called out for their offence (in Latin of course) and 'sconced' which was a seventeenth century term for a fine..  The offender then had to drink the college's sconce volume (always more than two pints and as much as three in some colleges) in beer from a special silver tankard, in one go, at the table (usually standing on it) or pay a fine.  We did not want to risk this for a bit of rice! We had all learned our first lesson from Oxford, however: never sit near Mr C if it was rice for dinner.

We made another discovery immediately afterwards, when we were served 'scotch woodcock' instead of pudding.  This was a savoury rather than a sweet and, it turned out, quite popular at Oxford.  It consisted of scrambled eggs on toast with anchovy paste.  

"What the fucking hell is this?" asked J, a very down to earth girl from Liverpool.  One thing about our college was that, at that time, more than half of the people there came from state schools, meaning they were largely normal people not old Etonians (who all went to Christ Church) and such like. "I hate eggs!"  C didn't like them either.  I didn't mind scotch woodcock but I thought it would have been better at breakfast rather than instead of pudding.

It was cold and wet as C and I trudged back to my staircase at the very edge of the college.  The next building was actually the library of a college next door.  C was moaning that she was hungry.

"I have cheese," I said.  "and crackers!"

"I love you to bits!" said C, squeezing my hand.

C was really hungry, having not had much rice or touched the egg in the curry or the scotch woodcock, which she had given to me,  She complained about them having two lots of egg in one meal.  My sister didn't eat eggs either so I was familiar with this particular dislike.  In fact, I have met quite a few women who don't like eggs, over the years.  C did like cheese, though and I let her scoff most of the cheddar I had bought and half of the Jacobs cream crackers.  She asked if I had had Bath Olivers, as they were a superior biscuit, which I said I didn't (I had never heard of them) so she said we needed to get some.  I noted the use of 'we'. We also drank the wine, although we only managed just over half a bottle between us.  We had to have it from mugs as I didn't have any wine glasses.  I realised that I would have to remedy this.

C had removed her sweater as soon as the room was warm, although I had given it a big boost before dinner.  Fortunately, the gas bill was included in the termly batels (which covered living expenses) so I didn't have to stint. These days of course, there would be no chance of having an (ancient) gas fire in a student room which you had to light with a match and could take your eyebrows off if you weren't careful, as happened to one of our friends that term. 

"Let's get in front of the fire again!" said C, to my delight. We sat on the rug and started kissing again.  That day she was wearing a long wool skirt (nearly all skirts were long in this period).  At some point I boldly put my hand on her ankle and was soon stroking her calf through her white tights.  She didn't object but just undid my shirt buttons again. As my hand crept up to her thigh she pulled away slightly and I recoiled, thinking I might have gone a bit too far.  Instead, she undid the button at her waist and unzipped her skirt which she pulled off.  

"Wow!" I said.  She was wearing stockings, not tights, with a pretty suspender belt.  None of the girls I had known before had worn stockings.  This was really, really unusual at the time.  She took off her blouse too and I removed my shirt.  This time she lay on her back and I lay next to her on my side, running my hand over her pale body as we kissed.  Her skin was so white that you could see the blue veins underneath the surface.  She was like a porcelain doll. My fingers felt the warm slice of skin between her stocking tops and her silky knickers, which had little pink flowers embroidered on them.  She even made her own lingerie, I discovered, after I made appreciative comments about it.  

"I even made my bra!  Look!" she said, removing it.  I pretended to inspect the neat stitching and the, apparently, complex fabric shapes it was made from.

"Lovely!  Like your bust!" I said, deciding that I really couldn't pretend to ignore the perky display any longer..  Her breasts were, indeed, a lovely shape, close to the hemispheres of the girl I had seen on the beach the previous summer.  When I had gone round to O's to look at men's magazines he had a copy of Health & Efficiency, the naturist magazine.  Most of the women were professional models, I later learned but many weren't and it was a salutary lesson on what most real women's breasts looked like.  C's were just perfect though with the palest rose-pink coloured nipples.

"I think my bust is too small," she said, which is what A had thought too, although C's cup size was bigger than A's. Girls, I started to realise, had a thing about this and needed reassurance.  For me, then as now, shape was more important than size.

"I think they are just perfect.  What a lovely shape!" I leant forward and kissed the top of one just above the nipple.

"My sister says that they are like Marie Antoinette's.  Like a Champagne coupe!" said C cupping them, distractingly, 

"They are!" I said.  "You are like a girl from a Boucher painting!"  I was already planning to draw her naked.

"I think my colouring is more like a Renoir!" she said. "or a Degas girl!"

"I'd like to draw you!" I said.  I explained that I was good at art but, unfortunately, I didn't have any art materials with me.

"Would you enjoy seeing the rest of me?" she asked.  What a silly question.  I nodded, my heart racing.  She stood up and pushed her knickers down over her ivory thighs.  I gasped,  She grinned.  I had never seen anything like it, not even in a magazine.  The hair on her head was a dark coppery red, which she tinted with henna but her pubic hair was orange.  Not orangey red.  Not burnt orange.  Bright orange like... an orange.  I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.  I reached out and stroked it, fascinated. She took off her stockings and suspender belt and went through a series of poses, standing in front of me.  She had delicate rounded shoulders and a small, narrow ribcage, the bottom ribs of which were quite prominent above her flat stomach. Her hips flared out and she had a lovely round bottom. Her legs were short but slim.  It was almost as if her bottom half was a size bigger than her top half. She was too delicate to be a Renoir girl but not as slim and girlish as the Degas girls.  I thought that my assessment of Boucher girl had been spot on.

"What do you think?" she asked, sitting down cross-legged in front of me and causing her breasts to bounce invitingly, as she did so  I was soon to discover that C needed constant reassurance about almost everything.  "Do you think I would be a good model?"

"I think I need to find an art shop tomorrow!" I said. She grinned.

"Let's have some more wine!  It will be like Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe!" she said.  I smiled at her. Not only was she a lovely girl but she knew about art.  She made no attempt to get dressed again and seemed quite happy sitting naked on my rug and drinking wine.  She thought that she could pose for drawings in my room while we drank wine and ate cheese and it would be like La Bohème, as my room was like a garret. Hopefully without the galloping consumption, I thought.  She asked me if I had any Puccini on my cassettes but I didn't.  She said that tomorrow night I should go to her room and she would play me some.

I still had my denims on, although I had taken my socks off.  If she wanted to strip me off that was fine but I wasn't going to make the first move.  I had no idea what her sexual experience was and I didn't want to frighten her off.  Eventually, she climbed on top of me and I stroked her naked skin from her neck down to her bottom.  I was painfully stiff and wondered if she could tell. Eventually she got dressed and left for the night. "I like being naked with you!" she said as she kissed me good night.  I like it too, I thought as I climbed into my cold bed.  I masturbated happily for a bit, thinking about her orange pussy but I was too cold and tired to climax.

Next morning, I went shopping to get more wine, cheese and Bath Oliver biscuits, which I found in Selfridges.  I also bought a couple of wine glasses.  When I got back to college, before lunch, I looked in my pigeonhole in the porter's lodge, to see if there was any post,  There was a letter from my mother and what felt like a card in an envelope addressed to me just by my name, in a beautiful script. I opened the envelope and it was an Athena (the Oxford branch was just a few dozen yards from College) card of a Renoir girl lying on her back and displaying orange hair under her arms (just as C had).  I still have it (top). 'Thank you for being lovely!" it said on the back in the same elegant script.  I looked around and saw D, a second year law student who had the room next door to mine, looking at me.  He looked at the card and I hoped he hadn't seen the writing.  He smiled.  C and I had run into him on the stairs several times and he always seemed to be in breakfast when we got there.

At lunch I thanked C for the card and remarked on how much it looked like her.  She laughed and agreed and said she couldn't resist it.  I showed her the Bath Olivers and she looked delighted.

Although I had tried to be big and strong for C I was pretty anxious about living away from home for the first time myself and so was glad to have a little friend from the start. One of the things I was most anxious about was Roman Law, which we did in the first term, because a lot of it was in Latin. Law at Oxford didn't require Latin O-level while at Cambridge it did. Still, although you didn't have to be able to write in Latin you did have to be able to read problems in it.  I had done some Latin at school but had given it up before O-level (to make way for Art).  Fortunately, C had done the exam and we started to work together on it in our rooms, she helping with the translations. We went to lectures at the Law library together and by the end of the first week we were going everywhere as a pair, including having all of our meals with each other.

That evening I went to her room after dinner and she played me La Bohème, with Maria Callas, on her small cassette player.  It was an old recording but then her player was a mono one.  It was typical that C liked an old recording because of the life story of Callas rather than a new recording. I was all about the best possible recording quality.

We had had more cheese and Bath Oliver biscuits, which I admitted were superior to Jacob's Cream Crackers,  This time I had bought a Camembert as I thought it would go better with the opera, something C appreciated.  She asked if I had got any drawing things yet but I said that I would have finished my work Friday after my tutorial so could have Saturday afternoon off after our matriculation ceremony.  I also needed to explore the terrifying prospect of the college laundry ,amongst other things.  Although we did academic work every day (because of the short terms things were really intense) I did try to have one day a week off as a consolidation day, although in the first term it was often more like once every ten days.

We were lying next to each other, on her narrow bed, listening to Puccini and kissing.  The bed was so narrow that I had to lie on my side against the wall with C on her back. She was naked but I was still dressed in just my jeans and she had shown no inclination to try and remove them, so I assumed she was happy with the status quo.  I was stroking her body, fondling her breasts and then moving my fingers lower and lower towards her orange fluff.  As my fingers slipped down into her copper curls she parted her thighs and I slid my fingers into her wet folds for the first time.  "Oh! she said.  I wondered if I had been a bit forward but then given she was now pushing her hips against my hand I thought that she probably didn't mind. I decided to push on and climbed over her leg so that I was kneeling between her pale thighs.  I contemplated C's pink parts nestling in her orange bush and leant forward and began to kiss her thighs and hipbones.  C opened her legs even wider and I began to kiss up the inside of her thighs, teasingly avoiding her pussy.  However, after a while, she put her hands behind my head and pulled me towards her juicy oyster, I started to lick her bits and she kept her hands on my head and started to breathe rapidly.  "Oh!" she cried, again, clamping my head with her thighs as she came. I wished girls didn't do that.  "Kiss me!" she said after a while.  I crawled up her and kissed her on the lips, conscious that they were covered in her juices.  "Germaine Greer says that most women don't taste their own pussy juice," She said.  "But I've always liked my own taste!"

"I like it too!" I said.  "You are a delicious girl!" 

"I am rather!" she agreed. "You are very lucky!"  I couldn't disagree with that.

On Friday morning we had both had our tutorials and afterwards decided to sit in the College law library, getting a good start on the reading for the next week, so that we could have Saturday off. Tutorials consisted of two students going through their previous week's work with the tutor.  One would be asked to read out their essay and the other would critique it.  It is the main difference between teaching at Oxford and Cambridge and other universities.  We did have lectures in the Bodleian law library, which was located in a brutalist building half a mile from college, but these tutorials were at the heart of the teaching experience.  You could easily find yourself sat down in the cozy study of the man who had written the text book you had been studying that week, as happened to me in Roman law that first term.  You had to be on the top of your game and after more than two hours you came out mentally drained.  Fortunately, C and I were not drawn together as tutorial partners as that would have been difficult.

After dinner we were back in my room again and C had been complaining about having been served battered cod and limp, soggy chips.  "Why do we have to eat fish on Friday just because Catholics do. There aren't that many Catholics in Britain anyway, as they were all burned at the stake!" C's grasp on history was not as strong as her appreciation of the arts. We both agreed, however, as neither of us liked fish, that we would have to make alternative arrangements on Friday for dinner.

"We do need to find something else to eat!" I agreed.

"Other than my pussy, you mean!" she laughed.

I can remember the scene very clearly.  I was just dressed in my jeans again, leaning on one elbow, lying on my rug with my legs in front of me in front of the gas fire.  C was kneeling naked by my feet.  I had just licked her to climax again and her body had a light sheen of perspiration (the gas fire was doing its usual good job).  She looked at me and said,"I want to dick you". I confess my mind went blank as to what she was suggesting, as it was not a term I had heard. "Can I dick you?" she said again.  She was reaching for my zip and I suddenly realised what she meant.

"That would be lovely!" I said.  By the time she had tugged my jeans and pants off I was completely stiff.  The way she approached it, tentatively and gently, made me realise that she hadn't seen one before, as she admitted later.  She played with it with her fingers, stroking and rubbing, with a frown of concentration on her face.  

"Is that nice?  Is that right?"  I told her it was all lovely.  She held me upright and started to gently rub me. I now wondered if by "dicking" she just meant manual stimulation but after a while she kissed my knob and embarked on some gentle kissing and licking.  I stroked her freckled shoulders.  She looked at me, smiled and enveloped my knob with her mouth.  It felt so nice and she kept looking at me intently, as she started to bob up and down, looking for reassurance.  

"Oh, C, that is really nice!" I said.  Her eyes gleamed in pleasure.  "In fact it's so nice I;m going to..." She pulled off me and I started to spurt all over her lovely, perky breasts.

"Oh!" she said, laughing.  "Golly!"  I was still spraying her front like a fire hose.  "Lots!"  It was a lot. Half a dozen spurts. 

"Lot's of love!" I said. She giggled and kissed me, still holding my cock.  Her chest and belly were completely spattered by my liquefying spunk.  She suggested we have a bath together.  I had never had a bath with a girl before, although A and I had had a shower once.  She put on my green dressing gown and I put on my pyjamas (in what was pretty much the last time I wore them).  We opened my door carefully and looked up and down the short corridor my room was on..  It was nearly midnight but people lived odd hours at college, especially the lawyers, like D from next door, who were often in the library until gone midnight.  The college had its own law library, unusually, so we weren't confined to the times of the main one in the law faculty building. 

We furtively started to descend the wooden staircase (which creaked, alarmingly) armed with some of my slightly dodgy Italian soap (a Christmas present, which was, nevertheless, better than the Crimean War period carbolic recipe provided by the college). Much giggling ensued as we dodged people moving about on other floors; having to dive through one of the fire doors at one point, cut along the corridor to the connected staircase and back along the floor below to avoid some people coming up the stairs.   Eventually, we reached the basement. It seemed to be even colder than ever and C, who had put her contact lenses to bed for the night, had her glasses on, which immediately steamed up as soon as I turned the taps on, rendering her even more visually impaired than usual. The bath took an age to fill and the amount of steam pouring out made the place look like the engine room of the Titanic. Eventually, we both climbed into the bath but whilst the water was nice and hot, for a change, the air was so cold that we had to try to get under the surface of the water as much as possible. It was a big bath but not that big. After soaping her perky bust briefly I gave up and we both disappeared back to my room and the welcome warmth of the gas fire. C curled up and fell asleep in front of the fire like a cat (she had many catlike tendencies - claws included) whilst I watched her and wished I had bought some drawing things. Tomorrow, I thought, I will go to WH Smiths for some paper and charcoal.

13 comments:

  1. I spent a summer at New College once (an American!) so I particularly enjoyed your story. Nothing so enchanting happened to me there, alas.

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  2. Great story! I went up to Cambridge around the same time, but didn't have as exciting a time as you - my experience at that time sadly never got beyond the girls in Mayfair!

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  3. You have excelled yourself with this beautifully-told episode...

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  4. Fascinating stuff. Very different, in some ways, from American college life. I didn't live in a dorm at ETSU, but a girl did sneak me into her room in the girls' dorm once.

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    1. To be fair, it's very different from most other British universities too...

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  5. A lot in common... Dark They Were and now Oxbridge. I went to Cambridge a few years later than you. Similar experiences with cold staircases and dank bathrooms. My fun experiences started at the end of the first year, though. Keep going!

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  6. I'm jealous, partly because there were no mixed colleges when I was at Oxford, partly because I never met a girl like C whilst I was there, but mostly of your gas fire. Your description of living conditions in "old days Oxford" is oh so true to life and brings back many, not entirely pleasant, memories, mostly of the freezing cold which the small electric fire in my room never overcame.

    And just to be pedantic, "Tolkien" is one of those few words for which the "i before e ..." rule actually holds true.

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    1. I did wonder about Tolkien and meant to check it but forgot! Yes, the gas fire was excellent!

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  7. I enjoy reading your experiences. You are a good writer.

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    1. Thank you. Such feedback is much appreciated.

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    2. I love your stories. Thank you for sharing them.

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  8. Triple P,

    Another great installemnt of The Chronicles. I always read with great anticipation; you are great at building what I define as 'literary foreplay'.

    A couple of questions; Why did you think you got over the line and into Oxford as you seemed certain that you would go to Southampton? You seem to suggest the Oxbridge entry in those days was 'fairer' or that state school pupils had a better chance; what has changed?

    Lastly, the impression in the media at the time (i am the same age as you) was that there was lots of underage sex in the mid 70s. Your chronicles seem to imply that this notion was all hype.

    Agent M

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    1. I discovered that Oxford, or my college at least, were very interested in original thinkers rather than what I might call academic 'sloggers'. They liked the fact that my entrance exam was about Conan the Barbarian. They also liked the solution to the problem they set me in the interview as I thought on my feet fast and although I had no knowledge of the law I referred in my answer to the fact that laws should reflect society. I thought I was making up nonsense as I went along but they liked the way my brain worked!

      These days universities in Britain are encouraged to favour state school pupils. Individual Colleges at Oxford vary as to intake. When I went there my college was predominantly state school but these days it is predominantly private school intake. State schools tend not to have the network or experience to put forward their pupils to Oxford and Cambridge. The system is fair but it is about persuading state schools to apply. In my day there were many more selective state schools (Grammar schools) but these were abolished by a socialist government which actually restricted the education level and access that less well off people had to top universities.

      I am not sure about the underage sex thing. Talking to some of my women friends my age, most of them lost their virginity at 15 (legal age is 16 in the UK). Many of the girls I knew at college didn't start until their early twenties. What there wasn't then was the current demonisation of under age sex where a sixteen year old being caught with a fifteen year old could be put on the sex offenders register.

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