Shortly before the match was rained off, I caught a glimpse of my father, seated in the large white pavilion, smoking his pipe and grinning amiably in my direction. A tall, bespectacled chap with black hair slowly turning grey, he was wearing a Royal Navy 'Woolly Pully' sweater with patches on the shoulders and elbows, and matching dark blue corduroy trousers. He was a Captain in the Royal Navy, who spent more time at his desk these days than at sea, and so we saw somewhat more of each other than we had in the past. My sporting prowess had always interested him more than any academic achievement I could point to. It gave him pride that I had already been picked to play both Rugger and Cricket for the university, and it gave me great pride when I wrote to him to tell him about our matches. Indeed, I think I only persisted with these sports to please him, or out of the old-fashioned sense of duty instilled in me by my military background. To an extent, he regretted that I had not chosen to follow him into the Navy, but since our family was almost evenly split between the services, he supported my choice of an Army career. My ultimate ambition, to go into politics, made him more sceptical; he had always viewed my interest in this subject with an indulgent amusement. I had not expected to see him here today, but was pleased to do so, not least because amid the cold and damp the prospect of tea appealed to me.
"That was rather bad luck, old man," my father said, holding up an umbrella. My white Cricket sweater was already damp with the rain. He shook my hand, as was his custom.
"Thanks for coming, Dad."
"Oh, it was a pleasure, Rob. I realised I had a free afternoon and thought it was a while since I'd seen you play..."
I had vivid memories of my father, shouting encouragement from the touch-line when I played Rugger for the school. He would take me out to tea afterwards, and I invariably got tickled. But I was too old for such things now, I had decided, and I would tell him so if necessary. Throughout my boyhood, I had been tickled senseless each day by my father and my Uncle John. This practice resumed whenever I returned home, even now that I was a student. At boarding school, the other boys and some of the masters had quickly found out about my extreme ticklishness, and so I had been tickled every day there as well, and often many times.
"Shall we go out to tea?" I asked him. "Or there's The Green Man, a good old traditional pub."
"No, old chap. Let's go to your rooms instead. You can make me a drink of something and we can talk better there. We haven't really talked for a long time."
That idea appealed to me. My father and I seldom 'really talked'. It was with my uncle that I discussed politics and went for long walks, which usually finished in country pubs.
The Hall of Residence where I lived was an old building, made out of Yorkshire stone, which was fortunately close to the Cricket pitch. My father followed upstairs to the third floor, where I shared a corridor with five other chaps.
"Come in Stephen," I said, unlocking the door of my room. The corridor was quiet and still. Occasionally, I called my father by his Christian name as a joke, which he seemed to enjoy rather a lot. My room, like most student accommodation, was sparsely furnished, with two comfortable old armchairs, into one of which my father sank contentedly. He lit his pipe again, lifted my copy of The Daily Telegraph from the coffee table and began the crossword. Books lay piled on the small wooden desk as evidence of an essay in progress. There were more on the shelf above, most of political interest. Above the fireplace, a poster of Churchill hung, and on other walls framed photographs from various stages of my military career.
"Nice room, old chap," grunted my father, already absorbed in his paper.
"Thanks, Dad. I'll just get out of my Cricket togs."
I disrobed, quickly and unselfconsciously, replacing my flannel trousers with dark brown corduroys and my white sweater with the green Army 'Woolly Pully' which was my usual wear. I glanced briefly at myself in the mirror and saw a tallish, slim but muscular chap with red hair, blue eyes and a serious but friendly expression.
"Tea and toast?" I inquired.
"Toast, yes, but I'd rather have coffee."
I nodded in brisk agreement as I left the room, returning quite quickly from the shared kitchen with a pot of freshly brewed coffee, milk and sugar, and a rack of toast. We were both rather hungry and we helped ourselves to toast and raspberry jam. I sat across from my father, on the single bed. When, we had finished eating, I decided to stretch out.
"Tired, old chap?" he asked.
"Yes. I sat up most of the night arguing with Mike."
"No need to ask what about," he replied with a grin.
Mike was a neighbour of mine, a tall, strapping young chap who was in the Rugby Club with me, and had it not been for his very different political outlook would have good officer potential. He went on demonstrations and followed left-wing fashions that were alien and absurd to me. I lost the argument last night, and had ended up tickling him silly to compensate, but I was not about to mention this to my father lest I give him ideas.
"And I've been playing games every day this week - Cricket, shooting, the usual. Corps coming up all weekend. Two long essays to write, and I've even got a bloody political meeting coming up where I'm the speaker. We're talking about Defence and I'm arguing against one of these disarmament chaps. So you see I'm almost glad the match was rained off. It's the first free afternoon I've had since God knows when."
My father took out his pipe.
"You know, old chap, you don't have to do all this sport just to please me. You're not at school any more, are you? I know you well enough to realise you'd rather be sitting around talking, or reading your books, or doing all that politicking of yours. I've wanted to tell you that for some time, but words have never really been my thing."
"Thanks," I said. "Thanks, Dad." It was as if we were catching up after years of not communicating, not really knowing each other's thoughts.
"Do you know why I suggested we come back here, Rob?"
"So we could really talk."
"Yes, of course. But there's another reason, too. It's because I'm going to tickle the living daylights out of you!"
His face lit up with almost youthful pleasure as he said this and, before I could protest, he had me pinned down on the bed, his fingers probing under my arms.
"Dad, no, no, no, no. Pleeeease. He, he, he, he, haaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhh, haaaaaaaaaaaaaagggh."
"No, Dad. No. Ha, ha, ha. I'm too old for this. Too old. No. Ha, ha. I'm at university now. No. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
"Too old?" boomed my father.
"Ha, ha, ha."
"Too old to be tickled, you think. But not too old to be damned ticklish!"
"No, no. Ha. Ha. Ha."
Then my father's hands probed underneath my sweater, then beneath my shirt, his long, excruciatingly cold fingers running lightly over my chest and heading for my sweaty armpits.
"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh. Ha. Ha. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeseeeee, please. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Why? What? Haaaaaaaaaah! This is torture," I gulped. "Ha, ha, ha."
"Torture." My father smiled. "Now, that's a good idea, old boy."
Then, with both his hands, he set to work on my ribs.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, heeeee, heeeeeee, haa!"
I was a helpless pulp, now. It had sometimes occurred to me that foreign dictatorships waste time and money torturing prisoners. It would be easier, and more humane, simply to tickle them.
This was, I became aware, the first time he had reached beneath my clothes to administer tickles.
"Too old, my foot. Oh. That reminds me."
Then, continuing to tickle me with one hand, he knocked off my carpet slipper with the other.
"OOOOh, no. Pleeeeeeeeese, Dad! Ha Ha Haaaah Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Haaa, hee, hee, hee, haaaaaaaaaaaa - Oh, Stephen, no. Ha."
Deftly, he stroked the sole, then once he removed the sock, he probed between my toes with the ends of his fingers.
"HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Ha. Ha. Ha, Ha, Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! No, Stephen, no. You can't do this, you can't - Oh, Oh, ooooooooooooooh, Ha, Ha!"
"Oh, yes, I can, Rob," he said leaning over me. His breath smelled of coffee and pipe smoke. "In fact, I've been meaning to do this for quite a long time now. I tickled one of my Lieutenants the other day. Bright young fellow, he was. Reminded me of how ticklish you are."
"Oooh, no. Ha, ha, ha. Dad, no. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh."
He reverted to my sides then, enjoying every moment of it as I writhed and struggled in vain.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, haa, heaaghh, haagh, ha!' Ha. Ha. Ha."
"Diggy, diggy, diggy."
"Ha. Ha. Ha."
Suddenly, as if seized by a new idea, my father withdrew. His fingers still trembling, he looked down at me as I lay on the bed, silent but still laughing inside myself.
"And now, dear chap, I'm going to do something we used to do in the service," he said, then.
"Oh, no, please. What's that, Dad?"
"I'm going - I'm going to ballbag you!"
Then, before I could react at all, his large hand had encircled my crotch and squeezed it until I was in agony.
"Oooooooooooooooh, Dad. No. Ha. Ha."
My father smiled at me, with genuine relish. He probed the area beneath my balls.
At least I still had my corduroys on, I thought to myself. Major Baxter, the History master at school, had discovered that this was my weakest spot and had tormented the hell out of me for five long years. A week never passed without an invitation to afternoon tea, with all the tickling that this implied.
"Do you want to know what happened to me when I was a young officer?" my father asked me, as he tickled.
"No, Dad, I don't think - Ha, ha, ha. Ho. Ho. Ho. Please, pleease. Heeeee."
"Well you don't have the choice, old chap. You're not just going to hear about it. You're going to feel it!"
"Dad, please, no more tickling. No more. Oh, ha, ha!"
"Oh, you'll get tickled all right, dear boy. You'll get tickled."
He licked his lips mockingly. Then something incredible happened. My father, my own father, Captain Stephen Hargraves, RN, pulled my trousers down to my ankles with gusto, then removed them entirely, placing them on one of the armchairs. He made sure the door was locked, and then he ran his cold hard finger over my Y-fronts, yanking them down as well, so that I lay on the bed literally naked beneath the Army sweater, my muscly legs -covered in red hairs - trailing towards the end of the bed, my penis fully erect, as it always is when I'm tickled, but this time, in front of my father, I felt ashamed.
"There's no need to blush, old chap," he said with a relaxed smile, lighting his pipe again. "Your pecker looks in fine working order to me."
I knew that my father had shared close quarters with other chaps for all his working life. He viewed male genitals, as he viewed the rest of the world, with a matter-of-fact amusement. He grinned.
"I'll have to improvise, I think," he told me, picking up a pencil from my desk and sharpening it until its end was long and very, very sharp. He smiled, and then I knew what he had in mind.
"No, Dad, you can't."
But he was already at the end of my bed, the pencil in his hand moving slowly but surely towards my testicles.
"Ha, ha, no."
"Ha, ha! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh! Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, no, please, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
"Diggy, diggy, diggy."
The unmistakable ticklish feeling rushed through me, affecting every fibre of my being. I do not think that even in a lifetime of being tickled, I had ever felt anything quite like this.
"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. No. Ha, ha. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa -"
Then it happened. I came. I knew that I had been working towards this, but somehow I didn't believe that it could happen. Not in front of my father. But it did happen, and quite suddenly, too. Jets of the stuff, flowing all over my crotch, down my leg, onto the bedspread.
"Oh, no, Oh no. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
My father stopped tickling me and smiled as he wiped his hands.
"Good working order. What did I tell you? Well, that's the sort of thing my old man did to me."
"Granddad did that? You're joking."
"When I was a young chap, yes. And when I look back on it now, and think of how much I was tickled at sea, I'm bloody glad, I tell you, Rob. I'm bloody glad. And you'll thank me, too, one day, that I know."
My grandfather, a wartime Admiral, was old now and revered by the rest of the family. I felt great affection for him because of long and interesting talks we had had throughout my boyhood, and still had, when I visited him once every month. Needless to say, he tickled me as well. As I washed the lower part of my body in the little basin close to the door, my father relit his pipe and began to read the paper as if nothing was happened.
"Better than cricket in the rain, isn't it, old chap?" my father said, and looking back at what had happened on this curious afternoon, I found that I could only agree with him.