A BOY SCOUT WHISTLES AND SMILES, 1969
A Boy Scout Whistles And Smiles by “Graham Davis” is one of the edited transcriptions of interviews of British sex offenders in Tony Parker’s The Twisting Lane: Some Sex Offenders, published in 1969. Though the narrator terms himself simply “a homosexual”, the sex for which he had been to prison, "buggery with adolescent boys" as Parker puts it, was part of a Greek love affair and all the other sex he mentions having had was either with other boys or, when he himself was sixteen, with a man.
Parker says in his “Introductory note” that “real names and place names and a few minor details have been altered to protect anonymity.”
A Boy Scout Whistles And Smiles Graham Davis
- On Thursdays I always used to slip back to my digs for lunch. Barbara, my landlady, worked in shop; Thursday was her day off so she’d prepare a meal for us and have it ready waiting on the table for when I arrived. As she was serving it out after I’d been upstairs and had a wash, she said, ‘Oh by the way Graham, good news - there was a phone-call from the police down at Park Road this morning, somebody’s found your wallet and handed it in. They said would you call and collect it.’ There was about seven pounds in it, so naturally I was delighted. I said, ‘Gosh, isn’t it nice to know there are still some honest people around?’ I knew I’d have just enough time before I was due back at work at two, because I passed the end of Park Road on my way to the bus-stop; so I rushed through my lunch and dashed out again.
I’d never been in a police station before: when I got there I said to the sergeant chap at the reception-desk, ‘My name’s Davis, I believe you’ve a wallet of mine handed in.’
Yes, that’s right sir,’ he said. ‘They’ve got it up in the C.I.D. room: first floor, third door on the right along the corridor.’ I went upstairs, knocked on the door, and went in. There were two of them, one quite young and good-looking, and the other rather a big burly sort of middle-aged man. When I said what I’d come for, he said ‘Oh, you’re Graham Davis, are you? Would you sit down a minute please, there’s a few questions we’d like to ask you.’
Honestly you know, I still didn’t twig. I thought they just wanted to make sure it was actually mine or something like that. It was only when I saw he’d got the contents all spread out in front of him on his desk - the money, my club-membership card, the letters, my diary, the holiday photographs, my provisional driving-licence and everything - that I began for the first time to feel a bit uneasy.
He picked up a letter from Malcolm; there was nothing to it, it was mostly about things to do with the club and so on. ‘Who’s the person who wrote this?’ he said. ‘My priest where I used to live in London’ I said, ‘Father Riley. He runs the church youth club that I was a member of.’ It had the name of  the church printed across the top so there was no point in concealing it. Then he picked up a letter from Peter.
‘And what about this?’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘That's nothing, just a silly letter from a friend—it’s a joke letter, that’s all.’ I felt sick.
‘How old are you?’ he said.
‘Eighteen and a half.’
‘And how old’s this friend, what’s his name, Peter?’
I was trying desperately not to panic. But really what I wanted to do was jump up and rush out again, saying it was a mistake, I wasn’t Graham Davis, I’d only been pretending, it had got nothing to do with me at all.
‘Well go on,’ he said, ‘how old is he?’
I forget now what I said. I'm never a very good liar anyway, I think I just mumbled ‘Oh he’s about the same age as I am,’ or something like that.
Then he opened the diary. ‘And these names and addresses you’ve got here listed in the back of this - who are they?’
‘They're just names and addresses of friends,’ I said. ‘Friends’ names and addresses, that's all.’
I should think by then I was the colour of beetroot. I was trembling all over, I’m never very brave at the best of times, so he must have known he wasn't going to have a very difficult job breaking me down. As I told you, I’d never had any experience of the police in my whole life before, so when he said ‘You can either make a full statement and tell us the whole truth, or we’ll keep you here while we go and interview every single name on this list,’ naturally I thought he meant that if I told him everything he wanted to know it would mean everyone else would be left alone.
So I did. The other chap, the young one, wrote it all out very slowly on a typewriter while I dictated it. Then they asked me to read it through to make sure it was correct, and sign it at the bottom. When I’d done that, the big one said ‘All right, we‘re going to keep you in the cells now, you'll be put up in front of the magistrate in the morning.’ They wouldn’t let me phone my landlady, or try and contact my parents or anything.
The next morning I was taken into court. The police said it was a very serious charge, and they were opposing bail on the grounds that if I was let out it would hinder their enquiries. Then it dawned on me they'd tricked me. Even though I’d given them the statement telling them everything, they were still going to interview Peter and Malcolm.
I think there were two more remands in custody before I came up for trial at the Assizes. By that time I’d been allowed to write to my parents, and they had got legal representation for me. But it didn't make much difference. I pleaded guilty of course: I had to, after what I'd said in my statement. At least they didn’t call anyone else to give evidence from the list of names they'd got: all they did was just put in statements from them.
The judge read them all through, and my own. Then he said ‘It's quite obvious to me that you are the ring-leader of a very large circle, and have a most corrupting influence. In view of the gravity of the offence, I sentence you to three years’ imprisonment.’
As I left the dock and was walking back down the stairs to the cells, I thought I must either have misheard him or he'd made a slip of the tongue. My solicitor had told me because I was so young and a first offender, he was fairly certain I'd get put on probation or at the most be given a very short sentence. ‘Three months’ I kept saying to myself, ‘surely that's what he meant, it must be three months.’
There was a gaol-keeper at the bottom of the steps, and as I came down he said ‘Well, what did you get?’ ‘Three years,’ I said, - ‘or at least, that’s what it sounded like. But how could he, I can’t believe it.’ He laughed and gave me a pat on the shoulder. ‘Oh you’re all right then, lad’ he said; ‘he’s done that deliberately to give you a good case on appeal, that’s why he's done it.’ Then my solicitor and my mother and father came down to the cells to see me. They were all talking the same way and saying the same thing.
In due course I came up before the Appeal Court of three judges. There was no further evidence from the prosecution; just my own counsel, arguing this was an enormous sentence for someone who'd never been in any kind of trouble whatsoever before. Then they gave their judgment: it was short they simply said they’d considered my counsel’s plea but could see no reason for interfering. In their opinion the sentence of three years’ imprisonment was justified.
I finished it a few months ago. The actual working of the charge itself, do you mean? ‘Buggery’.
* * *
The pressure of Manchester United’s attacks in the first half was relentless, with wave after wave of the red-shirted players milling and swarming round Tottenham’s goal. Best, the ball apparently fastened to his bootlaces, repeatedly threaded his way past one Spurs defender after another, delicately as a man tiptoeing through a field of tulips, before cutting in along the goal-line and then flicking the ball back towards Charlton, Kidd or Herd hovering menacingly near the Centre of the penalty-box. Only a series of desperate tackles by Mullery and Kinnear and the determined blocking of shots by the granite-like MacKay kept United at bay.
Yet each time an attack was broken up the ball was cleared to the Tottenham wing for Beal or Gilzean to gather it in his stride and sweep down to the other end of the field before pushing a calliper-accurate pass through to the sprinting Chivers or Greaves Panic, then, in the caught-out-of-position Manchester defence; Fitzpatrick hastily prodding the ball back to goalkeeper Stepney or Sadler making a last-minute flattening charge before a Tottenham player could shoot. On and on the struggle raged, the ball shuttling swiftly from this end to that, and as each goal in turn was threatened the crowd behind it gasped and roared and swayed. Perpetual bedlam of noise; shouts, boos, cheers, groans. The sparse turf of the pitch sparkling emerald-green in the floodlights, the ground packed to capacity, the cacophony of sound echoing and reverberating in the crisp night sky.
Among the 57,200 spectators Graham Davis in his suède sheepskin-collared overcoat struggled to keep his balance in the jammed mass of spectators on the terraces. Short and stocky, with a curly brown beard framing his plump oval face, he pushed and craned, twisting his head frantically to try to get a clear view of the game through those packed all round him. He had a large black-and-white Tottenham rosette on his lapel; it kept falling off, and every few moments he disappeared from sight, burrowing down through a forest of legs to retrieve it and put it back on his coat, almost as though it was a lucky charm and while he wore it nothing drastic could happen to his team. ‘What happened, what happened?’ he kept asking anxiously each time he re-surfaced.
George Best’s speed and skill alternately delighted and terrified him; as the Manchester player, his mop of black hair flying and his arms windmilling, sped through the Tottenham defence he clapped and cheered with mounting excitement, calling ‘Come on Georgie, come on Georgie!’ then suddenly covering his face with his hands and muttering ‘No, no, for God’s sake! What am I saying?’
Half-time brought a break in the play but no respite in the tension. While they waited for the game to restart the crowd kept up continuing cheers and counter-cheers as though it was still in progress. Behind one goal a phalanx of red-scarfed Manchester fanatics began to chant their anapaestic chorus: ‘Younigh-Ted! Younigh-Ted! Younigh-TED!’ The Spurs supporters at the other end of the ground caught the rhythm and added their own extra syllable: ‘Younigh-Ted-Shit! ‘Younigh-Ted-Shit!’ ‘Oh charming!’ he said with a giggle as he began to distinguish it, ‘charming, I must say!’ Another section of the crowd began to parody a music-hall song: ‘Oh, oh, oh, oh, the bastard referee, bastard referee! Oh, oh, oh, oh, the  bas-tard ref-er-ee!’ ‘They ought to try it themselves sometimes, by God!’ he said.
The second half continued like the first, attack and counter-attack, the game running swiftly from end to end, and as the tension increased the tackling became heavier and more determined on both sides. A series of fouls in quick succession fostered an explosive atmosphere: two players fell to the ground together, exchanging punches, and the referee ordered them off. While the crowd was still simmering angrily, at a pause for a throw-in an apple hurtled from the terraces and’ struck MacKay's boot. He picked it up, took a bite out of it, munching with extravagant satisfaction and a casual wave of thanks towards where it had been thrown from. A cathartic gesture, dissolving the tense feeling. The game went on dourly and unremittingly, but with reliance once more on skill and stamina rather than deliberate roughness.
As it was a Cup-replay and neither side had scored at the end, there had to be half an hour's extra time. Graham held his head in mock agony, wiping his forehead with a spotless white handkerchief. ‘I'll never stand it!’ he said, ‘I'll have a heart attack or something, I know I will!’ When Spurs eventually scored their goal he yelled with joy, flailing his arms and thumping the shoulders of everyone round him in transports of ecstasy, disappearing and reappearing over and over again in the maelstrom of celebrants, green eyes shining and cheeks pink with exaltation. ‘Glory Glory Alleluia!’ he sang with all the other Tottenham fans, ‘Glory Glory Alleluia, The Spurs Go Marching On!’
When the game was over and the crowd began to disintegrate and leave, the music from the Tannoy speakers was suddenly cut off for an announcement: the next night, at the Supporters’ Club dance, the final choice would be made from the ladies present of ‘The Tottenham Hotspur Beauty Queen!’ In front of him a fifteen-stone bald man put up his hand to his head, primping imaginary waves and calling to nearby friends ‘How about that then, do you think I ought to enter for it?’ ‘Go on, you great pouf!' they jeered back, and like everyone around him Graham laughed and cheered.
‘Oh gosh!’ he said, walking away from the ground, ‘I've never seen anything like it. Two hours of pure football, wasn't it fabulous?’
—Oh, I've been a fanatic about football for six years or more now, ever since I started to take an interest in games when I got to my second grammar school. I think what started it was two other boys in my class who were ardent Arsenal supporters. One Saturday they had a spare ticket for the Arsenal—Spurs game at Highbury and asked me if I'd like to go with them. Up till then I'd never been the faintest bit interested, but I thought I might as well see what it was all about. It was a tremendous game, and Spurs won 3—2. The man who really knocked me out was the Spurs winger, Cliff Jones: at that time he was right at the top of his form, tremendously fast and accurate, and his swooping runs and crashing shots and flying headers left me spell-bound. He'd got terrific ball-control, speed, delicacy, grace, everything. I also admired the way he used his skill to avoid heavy tackles and keep himself out of trouble. Up till then it'd been the physical toughness required for games which had put me off them; but there was Cliff Jones demonstrating that you didn't have to play that way to be good. I don’t doubt that he was physically fit and tough, of course to be a professional top-class footballer you must be, but he showed that other qualities were much more important.
So from then on I was a fanatical Spurs fan and went to watch them whenever I could. They were right at their peak at that time, they'd won both the Cup and the League Championship the season before, the first time anybody had done it for donkeys years, not since Preston in 1889 wasn’t it? I collected all their programmes, photographs of the team, press-cuttings about their games; and on the few occasions when they did get beaten, as far as I was concerned it was nearly the end of the world.
I never had any schoolboy dreams about playing for them myself one day, I was realistic enough about my own lack of ability at games not to imagine that. But it did make me want at least to try and play, so I bought myself one of those plastic footballs and spent hours and hours practising on my own, kicking it into a bus-shelter and learning to trap it when it came flying back at awkward angles from the bench-seat inside. I didn’t tell anyone at school I was doing it, and one day for the first time I casually joined in a kick-around in the playground. If I thought I was going to make an impression I was mistaken: schoolboys think everyone can play football automatically, no one made any comment at all.
I didn’t ever get into the school first team, but I played for my class and house and so on. The main thing was that when I’d got at least the rudiments of it, I could enjoy it; and I did. After I left school it came in useful at the youth club too, I used to referee games for the younger kids, give them a bit of coaching and thing like that. All in all I’d say I’ve had more enjoyment and fun out of football, either trying to play it or watching the big League sides like Spurs or United, than I’ve ever had out of anything in life so far. Only when it’s skilled, though: I don’t care for the bashing sides like Liverpool or Leeds. Cricket? Oh no, that’s a terrible game old men’s skittles, that’s all that is: there’s only one game in the world so far as I’m concerned. If you wanted me to, I could go on talking about it for days. Actually, once you have got an interest in it, and a bit of knowledge about it, you find it’s a great subject for conversation everywhere you go: school, work, youth club, prison, everywhere.
I was born in 1948, and the first thing I remember is the enormous rambling old house with a lot of stained-glass windows, that we lived in on the edge of the Sussex downs. To me as a child it seemed to have dozens of rooms: I kept finding new ones I’d never seen before, all like stage-sets complete with carpets, furniture, curtains, windows and different views of the countryside outside. And the funny thing was that each one seemed to have a different woman permanently in it; it was her room, that was where she could always be found. In one was my mother, in another there was my elder sister Phyllis, and in another there was my aunt Jose. Then up on the first floor there was my grandmother, an old lady with white hair and spectacles and a high-waisted long black dress; further along from her my auntie Annie who chain-smoked and spent all her time coughing; a bit further along still another old lady called Mrs. Hargreaves who could do that cat’s cradle thing with string.
And then away at the back of the house there was yet another little room with my great-grandmother in it: for some reason I could never work out she was always referred to as ‘Madam Ronald Tavistock’. This always used to puzzle me as a kid because I knew ‘Ronald’ was a boy’s name, and I can remember wondering in the vague sort of way that children do if she was really a man dressed up as a woman; and if so, why? It didn’t worry me, but I just felt it was one of those odd totally inexplicable things about the adult world which no one ever bothered to explain to you. I believe in fact that earlier in her life she’d been the wife of the manager of a theatre somewhere in London in the early part of this century, and had got her name, or her style of address rather, from the days when she worked there in the box-office.
Of course the one thing that was odd –that there wasn’t a man in the house, or apparently even one in existence anywhere in my life - never struck me for a long time. Naturally all these different women made a great fuss of me; you don’t notice something you’ve never had, so it was a very long time before not having a father made me feel that I might be missing something. In fact if I remember rightly it was only after I started going to school at the age of five or so, and heard the other children referring occasionally to their ‘daddy’, that I thought it worthwhile finding out if I’d got one myself and where he was.
When I asked my mother she said, ‘Yes of course you’ve got a daddy, darling. He came to see you once, don't you remember him, he was a soldier?’ I said vaguely that I did remember, but I didn’t. Later on when I started asking more questions, she told me he was in the Army but he was away in Germany and couldn’t often come home. That was quite true in fact: but what she didn't say was that their marriage had broken down, and he had left her and married somebody else. But as I say, I was never really conscious of missing him.
As far as I can recall it, I would say my childhood was quite a happy one apart from the fact that I hated school. I'm a Roman Catholic and so the one I went to was the local primary school run by nuns. I think I must have been very stupid, or appeared to be to them, because my memories of it consist chiefly of being whacked on the bottom with a slipper and made to stand in the corner for not getting my sums right. I can’t remember any of the teachers individually: they all wore black habits and white hoods, and were likely to give me the slipper at any time for any reason or for no reason, or at least that was how it seemed to me.
I was always glad to get back home in the afternoon and go and talk to Auntie Rose, or get Mrs Hargreaves to do the cat’s cradle for me, or sit in the kitchen with my mother and eat my tea. I was tremendously greedy as a child, I ate and ate; my mother used to say proudly I had a marvellous appetite and would grow-up to be very tall and strong. In fact I remained short and fat: all the other children at school used to call me ‘Fatso’, ‘Roly-Poly’, ’Big fat pig’ and other charming things like that.
But at home there was peace and quiet and affection. My mother was hardly ever cross with me, always gentle and understanding. She was - in fact she still is - a very beautiful woman; I think her father had been an Indian, she’s got a marvellous olive complexion and grey-green eyes and long dark hair. She was - and again still is - very religious, and used to pray with me every night when I went to bed. Her great ambition always was that I should become a priest, and the final prayer every night was ‘Dear Lord, help me to work hard at school so that I may be a priest when I grow up.’ We always went to Mass and confession, observed the Friday fast and so on.
Being such a devout Catholic herself, I know the subject of divorce caused her great agony of mind. My father I believe wasn’t a Catholic, but because he wanted to remarry she let the divorce go through. Actually I think she’s been very brave in living with it because it’s not something a lot of Catholics will contemplate at all. In all my life I’ve never heard her say a bad word about my father either, even though he went off with someone else. He paid her a small allowance I believe, for the upkeep of myself and my sister; but she certainly can’t have had a very easy time.
Now you come to ask me, there’s not a lot I can say about my sister. She’s called Phyllis, she’s about four years older than I am, and she’s married and has two children. A very quiet sort of person, rather artistic: I never had much to do with her during childhood, and I know less about her than I do about anyone else I can think of. We only meet once in a blue moon, perhaps at Christmas or times like that. She got married quite young, and went to live up in Yorkshire where her husband teaches at a technical college. As long as I can remember Phyllis she’s always been a rather nebulous sort of person in my life. I have the feeling, though it’s only what you might call a hunch and is not really based on anything, that she missed my father much more that I did myself. Perhaps that’s why she got married early and started a family of her own.
Of course I missed him too myself, I must have done, I suppose one could say his absence couldn’t fail to have affected me in some way. But it’s like if you lose a parent through death: you grow up without them there and you can’t imagine how you might have turned out if they had ever been. No, I’ve never had the faintest desire to see him, to go and find out for myself what he’s like, or even want to meet him. I don’t feel deprived or bitter or anything: he’s just a ‘no-such-person’, that’s all. I think undoubtedly I was very lucky in getting so much care and affection from my mother; quite enough to make up for having no father, I’d say.
When I got to the age of about eight, it must have been increasingly obvious to her that I was so hopeless at school I wasn’t going to have a cat in hell‘s chance of making the priesthood. Here again there must have been another conflict between her religious beliefs and her desire to do what was best - because there was another, non-Catholic primary school near where we lived; and that one had a much higher success-rate with getting children through the eleven-plus exam. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, my mother persisted in believing that I had some brains, so after a lot of heart-burnings and discussion between her, my grand-mother, my aunts, Mrs. Hargreaves, Madam Ronald Tavistock, Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, she took me away from the school with the nuns and put me into the other one instead.
The results of two years’ teaching there must have seemed to her to fully justify the decision, because I passed my eleven-plus easily, high-up in the placings for the area. I could if we'd wanted have gone to the local ‘posh’ grammar school. But just at that same time my mother was offered a job as a travelling model for a firm making women’s clothes, and she decided to take it. My sister and I were old enough to begin standing on our own feet a bit; obviously it was going to make quite a difference financially and in addition give her more of a life herself. So naturally she took it.
The firm she joined had their headquarters down on the south coast. This meant we had to move to live down there, just the three of us, my mother and sister and I. She found a very nice flat, not actually overlooking the sea but near it, and we moved in. At first there was rather a problem about who should look after us when she was away, but this solved itself before long. The flat was really a bit too big and expensive, so she advertised for a lodger, and the man who came to live with us as a result was a very nice chap indeed. His name was Eric, he was a bachelor of about forty I should say, and he was the manager of a shoe-shop in the town. The wonderful thing about him was that because he’d always been used to looking after himself, he was good at housework, cooking and cleaning and all the rest of it, and he was perfectly happy to look after me and my sister when mother had to go away. Eric in fact became just like a father to us: he made us a meal when he got in at night, took us out for picnics or to the fairground at week-ends, and sat and played games with us in the evening. He was really terrific, and he got as fond of us as we were of him. A very gentle-natured man, kind, sensitive - there's nothing I’d want to criticise in him except for one - well, I suppose you’d call it one very minor fault, which I can see now was an unavoidable part of his make-up.
That was that just occasionally, when he got very depressed or upset about something, he would cry - and what was worse to my mind was the fact he‘d do it in front of us, in front of me and my sister. I suppose it’s ridiculous of me, but ever since I was tiny I‘ve been brought-up to believe by my mother and aunts and other relatives that boys and men simply never cry - or if they do, it’s only when they’re on their own and no one can see or hear them. One of my earliest recollections is of my mother telling me, when I’d fallen down and scraped my knee or something and was making a bit of a fuss, ‘Oh Graham, don't be a baby. Boys never never cry!’ Even when I got spanked with the slipper at the convent primary school I took a great pride in recounting to her afterwards how this had happened, and it had hurt and I hadn’t cried; and she always seemed to be much more pleased about that than annoyed with me for whatever it was I'd been in trouble for.
I think Eric had been with us six months or so when one evening I went into the kitchen in the flat and saw him sitting at the table with his head in his hands really sobbing - and honestly, it sounds ridiculous to say it but I was absolutely horrified: and even more so when he made no attempt to conceal it despite me being there. I don’t know what was upsetting him - or at least I didn’t then, but I could guess now - but at the time I was really shattered to see a grown-up in tears.
So as I say, much as I liked him - and I did like him, and look back on him still with great affection - I knew all the time in my own mind that he had this weakness in him. That’s how I looked at it then: and to be honest, I can’t help it, I still do. Maybe as I said a few minutes ago it was an unavoidable part of his character, and without it he couldn’t have been the kind and gentle person he was. But to me —well the only word which expresses what I feel about it is that it’s ‘unmanly’; it’s the sort of thing that men under any circumstances don’t do.
I think that’s probably what in a way too my mother found unsatisfactory about him —much as she liked him and was grateful to him, as we all were. There was this streak of weakness in him: and I’m quite convinced it was that which put her off. I don’t think there was much doubt that he was in love with her, and would have married her if she’s given him the chance. I think he more or less worshipped her from afar, to coin a cliché; but for three years he certainly never proposed to her or anything like that. In fact the first and only time he ever did was the week-end she came back to the flat and told him and us she was going to get married to a man who worked up in London for the firm she was with.
That was the only occasion I ever knew Eric and her have a row. I could hear them shouting at each other in the kitchen, and my mother's words were as clear as though she were right outside my bedroom door: ‘You don’t own me, you know!’ After that Eric was in tears nearly every evening, especially when he was on his own. I do feel sorry for him, because he'd devoted himself to us for nearly three years after all: but I think my mother was right in eventually marrying someone else, she couldn’t have married him just out of a sense of obligation. Eric wouldn’t have been right for her.
About a month or two afterwards Eric left, and mother remarried at a registry office up in London and then gave up work and came back to live at the flat with her new husband George. Although he’s my step-father I’ve never called him anything else but George; and I must say I’ve always got on very well with him, though Phyllis, my sister, didn't. She got engaged and married herself soon after that. George was a good deal older than Eric, also very quiet and undemonstrative and nice. He fitted into our life quite smoothly, but I never saw a great deal of him, first because he continued to work up in London and commuted there and back every day, so most evenings he wasn‘t in until late, and at week-ends he and mother used to go out a lot; and then after only a few months he was transferred to another branch office of the firm, and we all went to live in a house he bought in north London. Then a short time after that he got promoted to area manager, so once again he was travelling about a great deal and only home at week-ends.
This meant my transferring to another grammar school of course - and it was there that I first began to get keen on football. It was there too that I finally realised there was no point in wondering about myself any longer; I was a homosexual.
* * *
His short plump body in the white jacket and breeches was controlled and relaxed in the ‘On Guard’ position. His feet a stride apart, at right-angles to each other, right knee forward and over the instep, head erect, trunk square on; left arm up at shoulder height behind him in an arc, hand loose at the wrist; sword-arm firm, bent at the elbow, advancing to engage and the foil gently quivering, trying to feel the opponent’s reaction on the blade. Going forward he made the first attack: a fast lunge and cut-over in Quarte, immediately scoring a hit. A few seconds later he took advantage of an attempted change of engagement to execute a counter and score again. Trying to parry on the lunge and return to guard he was not stable enough, and took a hit himself in Septime; and then two more in quick succession in Sixte, while forcing his opponent down the piste. Behind the mesh of his mask his eyes glistened with amusement at his own impetuosity. But he continued to attack, and scored again with a beat straight lunge. Two counter-disengage stop-hits caught him off balance both times: one in Octave and another in Sixte, and the match was over.
He laughed, out of breath, but pleased with his own efforts. ‘If I hadn’t been so damn stupid’ he said, taking off his helmet, ‘I might even have won.’
I’m too aggressive, too keen to attack, that’s my big fault all the time. It’s a great sport though, fencing. The thing I like about it is that your dexterity with your fingers and the speed of your reactions are much important than physical strength. It’s not really fighting at all, you know; they call it ‘a conversation of the blades’. I’m nothing like quick enough for sabre yet: in that it’s the footwork that’s important and I’m far too cumbersome. Still I’m only just getting back to it again, it’ll be months before I’m properly fit. Prof says I never will be if I don’t discipline myself a bit more, work out a training programme and stick to it, and stop eating sweets.
I took it up originally at the grammar school in London; they had a master there who was very keen. There was a boy I had a crush on, he did a lot of it too: to start with I think I joined the fencing-class mainly to be with him, and when that faded out I went on with it simply because I enjoyed it. Altogether at that school I was much more interested in sports and games than I was in lessons. I never did the homework I should have done, with the result I only got three ‘O’ levels out of the six I went in for. Now I look back on it I think I was stupid not to stay on at school for another year and try and get at least two more; but I was very obstinate and independent-minded and I wanted to start earning my own living.
George and mother tried to talk me out of it but I didn’t listen. I had the idea that once I was working I’d probably continue studying at night school: that was my intention at least, but like so many other things it didn’t work out. Through a friend of my mother’s I got a job in the town down on the south coast where I’d spent most of my life. I knew a lot of people there so I didn’t mind going back, in fact I liked it better than London. I got digs with a very nice landlady called Barbara Bedford, who was a young widow in her late twenties. She looked after me as though she was my own mother, mended my socks, cooked my meals and all the rest of it, and in no time at all we were on Christian-name terms.
The job was nothing special, it was as a clerk with a wholesale stationers; the hours weren’t long though, and it gave me plenty of spare time - which I could have used, and would have used if I’d followed my original good intention, for study. But I was far too interested in the social side of life: the local church youth club was particularly good so I joined and helped the priest to run it. Because I was a sports enthusiast, he left nearly all that side of it to me - football, fencing, canoeing, badminton, volleyball. There were about a dozen different groups, so naturally I was involved in something or other nearly every night of the week.
I suppose that was what the judge was referring to when he said that I was the ring-leader of a circle and had a most corrupting influence. I expect in his eyes, because homosexual activities sometimes took place between members, it meant that that was the sole, or at least the main, purpose of the club: and because I was the club leader, therefore I initiated the other boys into it.
That wasn’t so: I shouldn’t think there was more sexual involvement between members than there is in an average amateur dramatic society. Well perhaps that’s a bit of an over-statement, because it’s true most of the boys were a few years younger than me. But homosexuality wasn’t something I introduced to the club: it was going on before I got there and I expect it continued after I left.
It’s difficult for me to talk about the subject with much detachment or insight because I’ve no other form of feeling or experience to compare or contrast it with. As I told you, I’ve been a confirmed homosexual ever since I first became aware of sex itself as a schoolboy. Strange how people always use that expression isn’t it, ‘confirmed’ - as though it was something like a religious belief, or an intellectual decision you took? To me there was never a conscious making-up of my mind at all: boys attracted me physically, girls didn’t, and it was as natural as having brown hair or two legs.
It’s not that I dislike girls or find them repulsive or anything of that kind: I enjoy their company very much and get on well with most of them, like my landlady for instance. But how anyone could ever want to make love to them was, is and I think always will be as ununderstandable to me as I suppose homosexuality is to a heterosexual.
In every boys’ school there's always an element of homosexuality, an undercurrent of it - well it‘s more than that, it's often quite open in the changing-rooms after games and so on. To some boys, perhaps to most of them, it’s only a phase and after a time they grow out of it. If that suggests I think those who don’t remain immature, that’s not true: some grow out of it because they‘re heterosexual basically, that's all. But I'm not and I never was: my liking for boys increased, and once I’d recognised it as something unalterable in myself it didn't make me unhappy. I knew it was supposed to be wrong and unlawful and all the rest of it: but so is sex generally, when you’re at school; you're given the impression the whole thing shouldn’t be talked about anyway.
The first person I ever met who understood it was another boy at school, two classes lower than me. He was a sweet kid, only about eleven or twelve, a lovely looking boy with fair hair and blue eyes, always cheerful and bright. Did you ever see the film Smiley? He was just like the boy in that; in fact in my own mind that’s what I always called this kid. I say he understood, and I know he did; though I never knew him well enough even to discuss the subject, and there was nothing between us. But I could tell, just from a look he gave me now and again, that he knew what I felt for him - and he probably reciprocated. This was at the first grammar school, and I moved away before we got a chance to know each other better.
Then as I say, at the school I went to in London, the whole subject was much more out in the open. There was the usual experimenting between boys, some of it serious and some of it not. I certainly didn’t feel out of place, alienated from my companions as they say or anything like that. It was all light-hearted and easy-going, no one got terribly emotionally involved.
Coming into a new area we joined the local church of course; and the priest was this man I told you about, Malcolm Riley. I liked him as I met him, he seemed to have a great sympathy for youngsters, he could talk to them easily and naturally; he was always interested in what you were doing at school and how you were getting on. He ran the youth club attached to the church - games, debates, social evenings and all the rest of it, and I joined. We used to spend hours talking in his room after the other the others had gone home, and on one occasion I took the bull by the horns and asked him straight out, I said I was a homosexual and was this very wrong and sinful? He made nothing special of it at all; he merely went on talking in an ordinary reasonable voice and said that although it was against the law and therefore wrong in the eyes of society, he didn’t feel that something as natural as that could ever be wrong in God’s eyes for people like us. Up till then he’d never mentioned being a homosexual himself. He introduced it casually, just like that, and then passed on to talking about other things in the same unemotional way.
I got very fond of him indeed, and he did of me. Later there was sexual activity between us, as there was between him and several of the other older boys in the club. It was understood he had no special favourites, and as far as I know he never attempted things with boys who weren’t that way inclined themselves. But homosexuality definitely was one of the features of the club, even though it never appeared as part of the printed programme, you might say.
After I was charged Malcolm was interviewed several times by the police, but they never accused him of anything, and his bishop sent him away somewhere, Ireland I think. To my mind this was a pity, because there was no doubt he really was very good in youth club work, as a lot of homosexuals are. They have this affinity with boys which isn’t just a sexual thing at all, at least it’s far more than that. You get it in teachers too sometimes, and social workers. Homosexuality may be their basic motive, the thing that takes them into the work; but it can be an asset, it isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.
As Malcolm was the first person with whom I had the full experience of the physical act of sex, some people would consider that he seduced me, since he was thirty-two and I was sixteen. But to my mind a statement like that would be ridiculous the fact that he was the first was purely coincidental. It could be said too I suppose that in the same way I seduced Peter since he was fourteen and I was eighteen. Yet I knew him for over six months before the subject of sex even arose, and by then we were so in love with each other that what took place was no more than a logical progression of what already existed. A lot of people can’t understand that homosexual love is really no different from any other kind. Nor that an older person can love someone much younger: they think it can never be anything else but sexual lust.
Well, I’ve not seen Peter now for nearly three years: his parents forbade him to have any more to do with me. But if he was to come in through that door now, I know what effect it would have on me; I’d go just like a jelly inside. Knowing it, that’s why I’ve stayed in London since I came out of prison. If I were to go back there, I couldn’t very well help running in to him before long and then we’d be back where we started. He’s seventeen and I’m still under twenty-one, so the change in the law about homosexual behaviour in private between consenting adults wouldn’t cover us.
It’s lonely though: I live in digs because I didn’t want to lose my independence by going back to my mother and George. I look at other boys, and I’m aware that they’re attractive - but they’re not Peter. All I’ve got’s a collection of photos I took of him at school sports-days and on camping outings. And this silver ring I wear, which he gave me when - well, it was to celebrate a special occasion. Perhaps I’ll get over it in time; people do get over love affairs, so I’m told.
When I was in prison, the psychologist said that as far as he could see I’d always be homosexual but I must try and ‘re-orientate’ my attitude about it. He never told me how, or to what - so I suppose I’m still disorientated. I try not to think about it too much: it’s all past now. I’m working again, I’ve joined a fencing club, I go to watch Spurs, try and keep bright and cheerful - what else can I do?
It’s like what they tell Scouts - no matter what the adversity stay cheerful: in all circumstances, however difficult, a Boy Scout whistles and smiles. [pp. 97-117]