SHARD: EROS (CHILDS)
Herewith two pivotal erotic experiences from my childhood. Do not quail, weak-stomached reader, we’re not about to get into tales of fizzing nine year-olds ushering one out over the photographs of wretched dolly birds adorning the human and mechanical subjects of Motor Sport magazine’s 1970s centre spreads. Obviously we’re not. Didn’t happen. Obviously. The kind of eroticism I’m thinking of isn’t really sexual, is of course sensual (everything, one way or another, enters us by means of our many holes) and is anything but auto. It’s what Paddy McAloon called “the shiver of the fur”, and if you are still reading but that doesn’t fully explain it to you then you are an artificial intelligence and I have just whupped your virtual ass in the Turing test.
The first erotic experience was – not watching, but listening to – the big girls tap-dancing at lunchtime. One of the many primary schools I attended made the kids who weren’t keen on the hottish dinners which were brought every day in a vehicle that resembled a shiny dustcart eat our packed lunches in a small subterranean gym. The gym had stone steps, whitewashed walls and an immaculate, rather wet reverb the size of…well, a small subterranean gym. That size. So, after I’d eaten my Bovril sandwiches and my packet of Bovril flavoured crisps (marked with their price of two and a half new pence) the big girls would tap-dance. The expectant hush, broken by this precise, atmospheric, intricate percussion enhanced by the drip, drip, drip of the room’s (un)natural reverb would be enough to shiver the fur of the most hardened and recalcitrant pangolin. I have no idea whether any of the other little boys in the audience was similarly enchanted, or whether they were all just contemplating the big girls’ blossoming tits. Blue’s gone oot o’ the fashion, mind.
The second erotic experience, leaving aside a few hundred essentially unerotic pre-pubescent wanks, must have occurred in late 1977, so I’ll have been eleven. I’d become used to my contemporaries waxing lyrical about the popular media sex-horses of the day – Ekland, Welch, Charlie’s Angels,whoever. But the pictures I’d seen of these people interested me not in the slightest, so I’d just supply the right lines – cor, yeah mate, nice rack or what – and wonder with no great curiosity whether I was missing something. So, when the contemporaries adopted the person who became ubiquitously and irritatingly known as “Blondie” as their fodder of choice I was in no rush to check out the new flesh. Then I saw her miming Denis on Top Of The Pops. And I thought to myself… maybe there’s something in this whole girls thing after all. It didn’t make me want to tug the worm. I just thought she was beautiful. The fact that at the time she was comfortably old enough to be my mother makes her doubly brilliant.
(Forlorn postscript: Deborah Harry supped a couple of pints in my Sheffield local one night in 2005, or some such appalling year. I was reading in the corner so didn’t notice until somebody pointed her out. She was with Chris Stein, of course, and also Hugh Cornwell Ph.D, who was playing rhythm with Blondie on their tour of medium-sized adult-orientated venues. I’d have loved to have talked to all three of them, but the least you can do for your local is respect the fact that visiting icons have been told it’s somewhere you can go without getting blather from idiots. So I just simpered weakly at her as we passed each other on our respective ways to the bogs. I don’t think she noticed.)