The White River Primary School was not an ideal place to learn about the complicated patterns of human sexuality and my parents, like most of their peers, were reluctant to speak to their children about the matter. Although sex was everywhere around me, I apprehended it only dimly. Our education was chiefly drawn from those jokes that were explicitly sexual and the abusive language that the boys used out of hearing of the adults, and which somehow had the meaning of abuse and of sex at the same time.
The girls and the boys never associated with each other in the playground. They played different seasonal games and had different interests. The girls were somehow older in spite of being the same age, and regarded the boys with scorn. I cannot recall their showing interest in older boys, as many of that age seem to do now. Heidi Salisbury, my partner on stage, was not a friend off-stage. We had appeared together in another school play, as Mr and Mrs Hare in The Hare and the Tortoise, and she had laid it on thick in the final scene where she berated the loser hare. She had tugged, cuffed, walloped and shouted at me to a degree that was, I thought, a little in excess of the stage requirements, but which made the audience laugh, so that I could not complain.
When I was twelve, Lesley took me to the Summer House, a wooden gazebo in the furthest part of the garden, to explain the facts of life. She told me everything I already knew but nothing that I wanted to know. I feigned ignorance, because I thought this would ease the ritual. She gave me a book that showed genitals cut in half, but provided no insight as to how this information could relate to people. The catalogue of misinformation which I picked up was not substantially revised when I arrived at SACS, a boys-only institution, in 1965, except that wanking was somehow legitimated. We knew nothing about girls or women. The adults had cheated us, we discovered as we grew up, but as it was done without malice; it was a weak kind of cheating, for which a milder word is needed. They had diddled us out of the natural ease that would allow us to inhabit our bodies. But they had not done this deliberately. They had done it because of their circumstances – in the final analysis, because of their own past.
Another way of putting it, which Lesley would have used after the 1960s, was that it was our karma.