Sexual activities were seldom a prominent feature of life in Geraldine Road, but then, to everyone’s surprise, my uncle brought home a cockney girl of 27 called Rita. She had a lot of spark and an easy-going nature; she was certainly game for a laugh and for anything else so long as it had an outrageous element to it.
Although they seemed an unlikely couple, my uncle and Rita seemed to blend in a funny sort of way. I immediately took to her. She was undoubtedly attractive, her bosom was an asset and she took good care enhancing its appeal. It projected quite tastefully but with a tantalising effect. The rest of her was not short on womanly appeal either. In fact, Rita was all woman, oozing the sort of raw appeal men yearn for. I was unable to resist asking her whether she had slept with my uncle but the answer was always in the negative.
My uncle remained very awkward and shy with women while his religious conditioning and upbringing dictated abstinence from any physical gratification.
Rita’s style of elocution was East Endish, though it had an added resonance that defied classification. When she spoke, her voice was easy on the ear; the more I got to know her, the more I liked her; the more I liked her, the more I thought I would not mind bedding her if only it weren’t for her relationship with my uncle. Inevitably the idea lingered in my imagination for a while. My intuition told me that the experience might be terrific but the consequences might lead to unpleasantness,
In my perception of Rita I saw her as a woman for all seasons, one to be savoured, relished and not kept selfishly by one man. Nevertheless, despite all pressures to the contrary I steadfastly refused to succumb to temptation. The seduction of Rita was ultimately confined to my dreams.
There was, however, one occasion when I believed I saw Rita and my uncle kissing but it was clear it went no further. On another occasion, after Rita had had a drop or two more drink than usual, she confessed without much probing that the most they had done sexually was to cuddle half naked in bed. My uncle had apparently nestled his head on her naked breasts but, aroused and sweating profusely, he would not go any further. Penetration outside the marital bed would be to him a mortal sin. He believed that the ultimate rewards of heaven must not be sacrificed for unsanctioned pleasurable encounters on earth.
Stinous and I disagreed with this thesis when we discussed the question between ourselves. To us it seemed preferable to have it the other way round. It was far better, we maintained, to enjoy what could be felt and savoured in the here and now rather than look forward to hypothetical gratification in the future. As the saying went, a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.
For a while afterwards, Rita dominated my thoughts in the form of an oscillation between right and wrong and inwardly, perhaps, I wished I had succumbed to the temptation that was there for the taking. However, it was too late then. Rita had flown the nest, never to be seen again.
After that, life in Geraldine Road settled back into its mundane routine. Conversations at the supper table were devoted mostly to life at the Polytechnic, with special emphasis on how my uncle felt at my appalling behaviour in the lecture room and the laboratory at the Polytechnic. He lamented how it grieved him to have to suffer the indignity of being recognised by everyone there as a blood relation of mine.
Stinous would at first defend me against these oral onslaughts, wondering that there wasn’t a degree of exaggeration in my uncle’s accounts. Later, with a wry smile on his face he would concede that my uncle had a point. I quickly realised that Stinous was not on his side in this linguistic game. He was merely trying to humour my uncle and lower the temperature in his usual canny way. Nevertheless it was a mode of conversation that became boringly repetitious and with its lack of novelty soon deteriorated into total banality.