There is a time and a place to smile….

As J R Hartley, the world renowned fish stalker espoused in his seminal Coarse Fishing tome; ‘Catching fish with needles and pins’, “Public Schools were developed by the Upper Class toffs to develop a strong sense of privilige and buggery in their boys. In essence, buggery maketh the boy and the man”. Mr Hartley was positioning his rather interesting approach to his world in the specific confines of a boys Changing Room, replete with steam, buckets of cheap aftershave and a slight sense of nauseated shame. Now whilst some may challenge a rather arcane view from JR, he does raise an point for consideration. What happens to those boys who become men who weren’t raised in such a fragrant atmosphere?

After a particularly warm and engaged gym session the other morning, I found myself facing Mr Hartley’s world-view as I began the slow descent in to undressing. From nowhere, the kindly man in shorts, wellies and pink rubber gloves smiled and sat down with a groan and a creak next to me. Nothing wrong as such, you might think, but as the elastic band of my boxers hugged at my knees and a strange breeze wafted over my nakedness, I felt a sudden sense of being untrained for such a circumstance. Yes, PE teachers from my schooldays used to watch us in the shower to “make sure that we’d washed properly”, but they never spoke to us about their Mother-in-law’s ointment needs, nor did they snap their pink rubber gloves at us. Also, their faces were never ever on the same height as my unfettered body.

As any good Englishman would, I smiled politely, lest I potentially offend him and quickly completed my shower nudity and scuttled towards the shower, my clenched buttocks ignoring his engaging story about a garden bench. I showered quickly and properly and then wrapped myself in a stranglehold towel. I returned to find the conversation still in full flow between himself, his position and stare unmoved. I nodded, made “listening” noises, and using the trick leant on a thousand freezing English beach holidays, managed to import my fresh boxers without removing the towel. Back in my levels of comfort, I confidently allowed the towel to drop to the ground and continued with my ablution. My neighbour orator stood and made to leave and I breathed an inwards sigh of relief that my ordeal was over. However, I breathed too soon as a head popped back in to the room and a familiarly recent voice simply said “nice boxers. Look like they keep you nice and snug, where did you get them from?”…….

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