‘WHAT? Never?’

My mate Fred tells me over a pint that he’s never had sex.

Now The Anchor’s a real pub, got a dartboard, three pool tables, pewter beer tankards and bar stools.

It smells like a proper pub, too, beer, men, and ciggie smoke wafting in from the outside yard.

Yonks ago, there was even a snug for the ladies.

In here, football, politics and dominoes are on the agenda, not this, you know, delicate stuff.

Fred’s 59, bald as a badger, and has never been married but you’d think that somewhere along the way, he would have dipped his pen in the ink.

Well he hasn’t – but fears he’s about to. For the first time in his life, he’s acquired a girlfriend.

Mary’s 64, a widow he’s met at bingo. I’ve seen a photo of her and she looks okay in a tweedy, matronly sort of way. A bit on the plump side but who am I to comment.

Fred seems dead impressed though, he’s even bought her a Susan Boyle CD!

Trouble is, although they’ve only been going out for a few weeks, Mary’s now suggesting a weekend in Clacton, in a hotel – in the same room, in the same bed!!!!!

Only poor Fred hasn’t told her he’s a VIRGIN!

‘You need to help me Bob,’ he gasps . . .  and I shudder, putting my bag of pork scratchings down on the bar so that I can take a big gulp of a freshly poured pint of Old Speckled Hen.

I wipe the froth off my handlebar moustache and respond with a long, drawn-out ‘hmmmmm.’

I’ve been married to Sheila for 30 years and we’ve got three lovely daughters but I’m no sex guru, for Christ’s sake I’m a bus driver! In fact, recently things have been a bit sporadic in that department.

Missus reckons I need to lose weight, trim my nose hairs and shower more often. She may have a point but you know how it is, after you’ve been together that long, you tend to take things for granted.

‘I bought a book,’ says Fred, who looks like Kojak but with a nose like that French geezer Cryano whathisname.

‘Oh yeah,’ I perk up.

Fred holds out a Waterstones bag and produces from it a paperback entitled:

‘4,000 Sexual Terms, Phobias & Antiquitous Forbidden Sexual Trivia To Sizzle Your Sex Life With Skills, Laughs and Maximized Orgasms! Advanced Sex Education Dictionary: Mature Adult-Only Reading.’

I cough.


‘Don’t understand a bloody word of it,’ he mutters, looking extremely sorry for himself. ‘I don’t know what to do, the mechanics of it, so to speak.’

My mind flashes back to my first time. Amsterdam, 1970, Arsenal were playing Ajax in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-final, a very athletic girl called Ualdethruda, who had a passion for kumquats – even let me have a nibble.

‘Couldn’t you draw a diagram?’ says Fred, tentatively pushing a beermat towards me.

I shove it back.  I really don’t want to do this, I really don’t.

Suddenly the landlady Mavis, a buxom, blonde 40something with a heart of gold and a tattoo of Boris Johnson on her shoulder, whose husband’s doing time for nicking a prize greyhound, leans over the bar and whispers: ‘Freddie luvvie why don’t you take the key to the upstairs flat and I’ll be with you in a jiffy.’

Fred looks at me like a helpless lamb about to be slaughtered and then at Mavis who pouts her red lips seductively before nodding upwards in no-nonsense fashion.  Fred hesitantly takes the key and slowly mounts the stairs to the flat with the air of a convicted felon approaching the gallows.

Mavis winks and says to the young barmaid: ‘Shannon luv give Bob a pint on the huse will you, I won’t be long.’

© Patrick O’Connor 2011