Love in a boat by Kevin Murphy

Love in a boat by Kevin Murphy


Ged McMahon loved his women, them and their bodies – strictly in that order. Married with three kids he liked to say “I’ve only had sex twice”. He certainly considered himself a ‘man-of-the-world’, qualified in Sex Education: to tell youth how good sex can be in a loving relationship.

He also knew how King Canute felt.

Seeking to offer unusual opportunities for raising self esteem, Ged included narrowboating. Dougal got Ged to take his village club for a residential on the canals of the Big City – Nottingham. It had all the ingredients – ‘boring’ sitting on a boat at three mile an hour, turned out to include tests of several unknown skills; team working with that lad you thought you hated; feats of strength; the promise of nooky at night when Dougal and Maggie, and Ged of course, were asleep; and talking about anything you like to adults.

Ged was a specialist at the latter. He had both the Hippocratic Oath and held the silence of the Confessional – and had he heard some stuff! ‘Opportunity’ was almost sinking under the weight of hormones they were transporting; sex was on the agenda, and the crew knew. Dougal and Maggie had a scheme to nip this in the bud, a curtain separated boys from girls – Dougal one side, Maggie the other. What Ged was able to reveal to Dougal three weeks later, was a night long traffic of kids out of the front to the back – and vice versa, and that Janine had at last succeeded in getting Big Dan to take her virginity.

It was a battle to draw any kind of realisation from the teenagers that sex could be a damp squib. He tried to warn the girls that sex could be an ‘is that it?’ moment. However, he said it could be a sharing, loving thing, a ready for it thing, planned for thing; sweet, gentle not panting and thrusting – a whole higher thing.

“Naagh, Ged – you don’t understand!”

Ged had to listen to them expounding their encyclopaedic knowledge of the Kama Sutra, then to hear that young people did know all the alternatives to dropping Acid, stealing a car, a quick shag, telling a copper to ‘fuck-off’ – it was not to tell them.

They asked him about his first shag; did he like doggy style; what about spunk floating in the bath. Yes, laughing was the way in – and shock treatment: “What? Me? I’ve only had sex twice”.

Dougal laughing, nudged his assistant youth leader Maggie.

“Thought you had three kids, Ged.”

“Yes I have. So what do I mean?”

“Yer lyin’!” “Other one’s not ‘is!” “He’s a saddo!”

Try as he might, Ged could not get over his distinction between making love and having sex. It was like taking a dummy off a baby – or in a youth context – taking the needle off a junkie.

On the way home, Dougal offered to drop Ged off at his house as it was on the way – no need for him to drive all the way back again.

Big waves and shouting out of the bus windows as he walked up his path. When he finally turned the house key,someone bellowed, “Third time lucky, Ged!”

2 thoughts on “Love in a boat by Kevin Murphy

  1. This is an interesting little story. Is it complete?

    I take it that Ged, Maggie and Dougal are a trio of youth workers who take a group of sexually active ‘streetwise’ kids on a ‘bonding’ narrowboat trip.

    Sex looms large in this little story. More particularly, Ged’s distinction between sex and making love. Is ‘making love’ only the prerogative of those who are ‘in love’? If so, does it follow that anything outside of ‘love’ is just plain ‘having sex’?

    Along side that is the fact that those who are ‘in love’ and who start off ‘making love’ can quite often end up simply ‘having sex’. Is that because the ‘love’ has died? Or is it simply a question of diminishing energy levels? Can ‘love’ be sustained?

    It is clear that Ged, Dougal and Maggie want the kids to grow up with a proper understanding of the distinction between having sex in the skate park and making love in a meaningful relationship. Yet in this very attempt to educate, is Ged, who is qualified in Sex Education, not guilty of double standards and hypocrisy? Is Ged really the right man for the job? Is he a proper example to the kids?

    This is certainly a thought provoking little story, Kevin. I particularly like the parting shot.


  2. Thanks David, The story is a stand-alone but can provoke further thoughts in the reader – and I’m really glad to see it has done so for you.
    Whether anyone is up to the job of successful sex education against media and peer pressure is a moot question…


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