This happened every Sunday. The four of us were hurried into our best clobber and despatched to St Stephen’s at the bottom of our street. And it was only recently that one of my sisters came up with what is almost certainly the winning theory as to their motives – “they wanted us out of the house so they could have sex somewhere that wasn’t their bedroom”.
Of course! Now, traditionally you’re supposed to be squeamish at the thought of your mother and father actually, physically, engaged in doing it, but we’ve had great fun speculating on scenarios and set-ups and the utilisation of some of our old Swinging Sixties furniture, groovy but angular or squelchy and shocking uncomfortable.
So well done, Mum and Dad, you managed to keep the flames of passion burning and the pages of The Joy of Sex turning. Which is more than can be said for Robbie Williams and his actress-wife Ayda Field. The pop idol – sample lyrics: “Funk you to the top… Bump you ’til you drop… You’re keepin’ me up all night” – doesn’t do any of this now. Because of his addictive personality, he had to stop taking testosterone to treat his depression and the libido suffered. “Sometimes Ayda will turn to me on the sofa and say: ‘We should do sex,’” he revealed in an interview. “And I’ll be sitting there eating a tangerine and just sort of shrug…”
When I read this I thought about suggesting to Williams – once addicted to having beautiful girlfriends and boasting the Cosmopolitan-conferred title of world’s sexiest man – that he bundles his four children off to church and grows a beard like the demonstrator in the drawings in The Joy of Sex (and indeed my father).
But while horizontal pursuits have flatlined for the couple – “completely dead,” admitted Field – this is not cause for anxiety. “We’re happy,” she added. Meanwhile, her husband is accepting of the situation for various reasons: the kids are just along the hall; he snores; he’s 50 next birthday; and, there’s no getting away from it, he’s married.
Now, everyone adored Williams when on that gigantic karaoke classic he crooned: “I’m loving angels instead.” And if they’re the same age and in the same situation they’ll be adoring him all over again. The priapic popster is loving citrus fruit instead of ‘bumping’. Pressure – off! If this singing satyromaniac no longer has the time or the inclination or the anxiety over an image which must be maintained, then the rest of us don’t have to bother.
For some couples, maybe the tangerine will still seem like too symbolically loaded a motif. Most, though, will be wondering how they ever managed to get it on in the first place.
How, when our first child was such a terrible sleeper and he’d have to be in our bed or, even when he was older, one of us would have to be on the bottom bunk and he’d always spot us trying to sneak out of the room, did Mrs Smith and I manage to conceive any more? How, when child No 3 suffered from reflux and I kipped on the floor of my study, was there the remotest possibility of a fourth?
Williams should be cheered for his admission, especially as a man and one celebrated for his sex-god status, so there is no cause for schadenfreude over the fact he prefers cuddling now. But, while he may have staff to help, how is there time for us in the taxi-driver tyranny of football drop-offs and ballet pick-ups and netball spectating and art-class collection and hockey training and choir practice, not forgetting homework supervision and, crikey, here come the exams, to even schedule a “date night”? Never mind wonder how mildly desperate one would look on Google Calendar, never mind wonder what we might talk about during this snatched we-time if it wasn’t the infernal kids?
I suppose we could discuss the raunchy new telly dramas. There are so many of them right now that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve been commissioned as government propaganda to boost birth rates. There’s Sex/Life which features a man with – how to put this – a hydraulic penile implant, the mechanism for which seems to be attached to the testicles. I’m afraid that when we watch shows like this one – it’s on Netflix, perverts – we end up choosing life over sex because there’s simply too much stuff getting in the way. So at this key moment, hardly surprisingly, Mrs Smith’s mind drifted to the lift piston procedure most important to us as she asked: “Did you remember to put the bins out?”
Role-playing? I suppose you’ve all tried it. Well, I could grow virile whiskers like the concupiscent uni lecturer in The Joy of Sex but the truth is I’d need a beard implant. Mrs S, who likes Robbie Williams but really loves his old Take That bandmate Gary Barlow, came home from the fourth or fifth time she’s screamed herself hoarse at his concerts with a paper mask of his dumpling features, eyes cut out, so I could possibly wear that. Or… hey kids, how do you lot fancy Sunday School?