Just so you have some feeling for the calendar, you should know that all of this took place in the fall of 2011, when Jay was age twelve. And, yes, we are out of order here, but when has that ever been a serious concern in this story? It seems to fit here, so here it will be told.
OK, the sex education of the GrandCOGs was the order of the day. But it wasn't all that simple. The first problem was where to cut off the group? Clearly they couldn't try to do this with kids down to age two. A study of birthdates showed a gap between Sonnie, born in January of 2002 and Simon born in August of 2003. So, Sonnie and older: Owen (technically not a GrandCOG, as the son of Gayle and Jody, part of the group), Jay, Liam, Anton, Bobby, Ginnie, Cindy, Allie, May, and Sonnie were gathered in the living room of The Hideout, and Franklin was recruited to talk about the birds and the bees, as well as ejaculation, menstruation, masturbation, and mutual masturbation. All the parents were in the room as well. To be fair to the parents, the birds and the bees had been well covered with this group, in answer to questions and in deliberate discussions planned by the parents. But the onset of puberty raised new issues, one of which had been who would do the teaching. They decided that using a parent could put that parent's children in a separate category and might not be a good idea. So they'd asked Franklin to be the teacher, and he'd readily agreed.
Everything went well until the discussion about masturbation led Jay to say, "Somebody needs to show us." Despite a lot of planning, that hadn't occurred to Franklin (his main sex education audience was college students) or any of the parents. It led to an interesting discussion about incest, which certainly hadn't been part of the plan, but was probably a good idea.
The parents got their heads together afterwards and talked about a masturbation demonstration. Was it a good idea? Who would do it? They decided that an older teenager would be perfect. It would also have to be a member of the Gang or a COG, and there weren't any older teenagers available. They went over the Gang membership list and realized that the youngest two members were Ivan and Nicole, residents of The Icehouse. Born in 1986 they were twenty-four years old. They were skaters, so Shel agreed to sound them out.
A short time later Shel dropped by The Icehouse at dinnertime and invited himself to dinner. The Icehouse was as loose as all of the other Gang "Houses" and had no trouble welcoming and feeding him.
"Well, Shel, what's on your mind? I suspect you're here for more than a free meal."
Fredie said, "Well, we certainly weren't expecting that answer. Would you care to elaborate, or do you just want to take your clothes off and go up to our huge bed and jerk off?"
Shel said, "I don't want to jerk off; I want a couple of you to."
"Right here, right now? It's a strange request."
"Yes, it's a strange request, but not right here nor right now."
"We'll let you try to explain."
"It's really very simple. You're all familiar with the terms COG and GrandCOG, aren't you?"
"Well, the GrandCOGs make up a bunch of kids who are in need of sex education. Well, we parents have done a lot. Then we enlisted Franklin to talk about some of the issues of puberty, the obvious two being menstruation and masturbation."
"Franklin organized the sex education program on campus that is required before you can live in a coed dorm. He taught the original class, and still teaches one now and then, but mostly he supervises the program. If any of you were in a coed dorm, you had the class."
"I did," said Ivan. "They didn't mince words. It was straight-forward and honest. And I think a lot of kids, including me, that thought they knew everything about sex found out that they really didn't. And they didn't embarrass anybody by making them look stupid, they just went over essential information, especially about birth control, starting at ground zero. I think a lot of the boys learned quite a bit about female pleasure and orgasm."
Nicole added, "I had the course. Penis size came up in our class as a big issue. I think the comments were reassuring to a couple of boys who clearly had very small penises."
Shel continued, "In any case, Franklin created that course and was asked by me and the other parents, that is, COGs, to include in our kids' sex education the topics puberty, ejaculation, menstruation, masturbation, and mutual masturbation."
Fredie said, "Shel, your kids're too young for this class. Why are you involved?"
"You're right; my kids're four and five. But all the COGs like to think they're parents to all of the GrandCOGs. Since you all are skaters, and I know you best, I volunteered to come and visit with you."
"So just what do you have in mind?"
"Well, we gathered the older GrandCOGs in the aerie...."
"Stop, Shel," interrupted Rydia. "Eagles live in aeries, at least I think that's what the word means. We're talking about kids, not eagles."
Fredie said, "I can explain that. Shel and his gang call the attic of The Lighthouse the aerie, and that's where all of their kids live. If you were meeting up there, Shel, it means you threw out the younger kids, including your two."
"They were playing in The Hideout. So, we gathered the older GrandCOGs (that includes those that don't live in the aerie)–five older boys, four girls, and Sonnie the youngest–in the aerie and Franklin started talking about puberty. These were bright kids, and they knew the basic facts of sex and reproduction. They were comfortable with each other, and as soon as Franklin mentioned that pubic hair was one of the marks of the beginning of puberty, Ginnie quickly pointed out that both Owen and Jay were beginning to grow hair, 'down there.'"
Fredie commented, "I thought you guys avoided euphemisms like 'down there'."
"We do, but kids learn phrases from a lot of places. Franklin asked Ginnie what she meant by 'down there' and was told, 'Right above his dick.' So much for worrying about euphemisms."
Shel continued, "In any case, Franklin kept going with his lesson and went through menstruation and tackled ejaculation and masturbation. Ejaculation wasn't new to the group, as they had to know how the sperm got to the woman to make a baby. Ejaculation and intercourse had been well covered. Masturbation was a completely new concept. They talked about it quite a bit, both in regard to boys and girls. Luckily, they had this conversation before it came from other directions–loaded with the guilt and anxiety usually associated with it."
Ivan asked, "What ages are these kids?"
"Nine to thirteen, but most're ten to twelve."
Nicole said, "I wish someone had been willing to have that kind of conversation with me when I was ten to twelve. Shel, you guys're a really special group. I don't think we really understood just how special this group was when we accepted your invitation to join the Gang."
Shel said, "I like being called special. But the thing that makes us special isn't our success in raising children, but in how totally loyal we've been to each other over a period of fifty years. No one has left the Gang or even moved to the sidelines. All of us, and there are exactly 126 current members of the Gang including you four, are totally committed to the Gang and to every single individual member of the Gang. Someone once said that all of us would throw ourselves in front of a moving train in order to push another out of its path. I really believe that's true."
Fredie said, "Let's get back to the kids. Shel, just what do you and the other COGs have in mind?"
"They weren't far into the masturbation discussion before Jay asked, 'Can somebody show us what you're talking about?'"
Ivan jumped in with, "And I suppose that you're here to ask a couple of us to go and show the GrandCOGs how to jack off?"
Rydia said, "Wait a minute. You want us to go over to this aerie, or whatever you call it, and show your kids how to masturbate? I'm not sure that under the laws of North Dakota that would even be legal. And I sure as Hell don't want a bunch of kids watching me masturbate."
Fredie said, "Wait a minute; we need to hear Shel out. I know that he and the other COGs are pretty levelheaded, even if they are pretty far-out. Most people would call us pretty far-out as well."
Ivan said, "OK, Shel, tell us what you have in mind."
"Well, you all have it right. We'd like two of you, we had in mind Ivan and Nicole who are the youngest of you, to come over to the aerie, talk to the kids a little about masturbating–remember, they've talked about it quite a bit with Franklin–then, one by one, take off your clothes and demonstrate. Afterwards, the kids'll certainly have questions, and we'd like you to honestly answer them. As to the legality, it isn't a problem. Being naked in front of minors is illegal only if it's for sexual arousal. Masturbation is singled out, but again the thing that makes it illegal is the intent to provide sexual arousal. We can easily document that sexual arousal isn't the intent in this situation, but more importantly, there's no way that this is all going to come to official attention."
"So whom do you plan to have in the room?"
"Just the kids, two of you, two parents of younger GrandCOGs, probably Lynn and Gary, and Franklin. We don't want the parents of any of the kids in the room; we either have to have them all or none, and all is too many. We also don't want the two younger GrandCOG parents to be a couple; they need to be independent witnesses."
"You've clearly thought this out pretty carefully."
"We have, or at least I have. Some of the details here come from me and not the group, but they're all good ideas. So, are you willing?"
Ivan said, "You're really asking that to Nicole and me, right?"
"Yeah, that's right. But I would hope that everyone here thought it was a good idea."
Fredie said, "I'll admit it's far-out, but it doesn't sound unreasonable. I know that learning about masturbation can be very traumatic for a lot of boys, and I assume for a lot of girls as well. I'd be willing, but if you want Ivan, I hope he'll agree."
"I will, if Nicole will."
"I will, too. Rydia, will you support us in this, even though you aren't going to have a part?"
"Sure I will."
"So, we know where, how about when?"
"Day after tomorrow. All four of you come for dinner, it'll be a big crowd. After dinner the appropriate persons will head up to the aerie and get on with the show. The other GrandCOGs will head to The Hideout along with some of the parents, and the rest of us can sit and chat downstairs in The Lighthouse. Or maybe Rydia and Fredie might like to pick partners and disappear into an upstairs bedroom. Anything is possible."
"OK, we'll see you for dinner in two days. What time?"
Fredie answered, "We'll be there. And I'll make sure Ivan and Nicole wear clean underwear."
Shel had to call the next day and shift the dinner to The Hideout. It had substantially larger entertaining facilities, and the dinner crowd had grown to more than sixty, including twenty-four GrandCOGs, all of whom would eat in the basement. The youngest was Pned (remember how that's pronounced!) who was almost a year old, but he and the other very young GrandCOGs were easily cared for by the older ones. Their parents, the rest of the Marauders and Keepers, the four from The Icehouse, and Franklin made up about forty. They were divided into three tables on the first floor. The menu? Shel and Brian made a huge pot of sloppy joe, another of peas, and another of corn. It was hardly a romantic, nor a gourmet, meal, but it was filling and everybody enjoyed it. In honor of the kids, the drinks were milk and several kinds of fruit juice–Tim and Charlie had conceded that it was probably not a good idea to get the GrandCOGs addicted to Coca-Cola. For dessert there were several flavors of ice cream and lots of different toppings.
As soon as faces had been cleaned of chocolate, cherry, and whipped cream, Franklin invited his ten GrandCOG pupils, Auggie and Kay (parents of younger GrandCOGs), Ivan and Nicole to follow him over to The Lighthouse and up to the aerie. We all heard the story of the evening from Ivan and Nicole, who were absolutely blown away be the intelligence, maturity, and curiosity of the GrandCOGs. In the discussion afterwards, Franklin noted that the ten GrandCOGs were more informed, and more mature in their judgements, than a lot of the college freshman that had to take the college sex ed class in order to live in a coed dorm.
Ivan started by noting that he and Nicole had expected Owen and Jay, the oldest, to be the leaders and ask most of the questions. That didn't turn out to be the case. Allie, May, and Sonnie, the youngest three, actually asked the most questions, and some of the toughest. It started with Sonnie saying, "Ill bet that the two of you are very uncomfortable right now."
Nicole had answered, "You're very perceptive, Sonnie, but what makes you say that?"
Nicole turned to the group of adults listening to her replay of the evening, "Do you believe his answer? He said, 'Well, first, I know that the Gang strongly disapproves of adult-child sex, and this is getting close to that. Second, masturbating is private, and all of a sudden you're expected to do it for an audience.' The kid's nine years old, thinking like an adult. I'm not sure I could've explained my discomfort in the situation as well as he did. And he certainly hit the nail on the head."
Then Allie asked who was going to go first. Ivan and Nicole both said that it didn't matter, what did the kids think. May had then said that the big difference was in the climax. A man's climax was very clear, and nobody could be confused or mistake what they saw. May thought that should go first. The others agreed.
So Ivan stood up and asked, "OK, I guess that means I'm on. Are you ready?"
They were and said so.
This could've been an awkward moment, but Ivan had, with the help of Nicole, Fredie, and Rydia, prepared himself to take this as simply a matter of course and not a special event. He sat on the bed and took off his shoes and socks, then he stood up and removed his shirt and tee shirt and tossed them on a chair. Then, as casually as he could, he unbuckled his belt, loosened his pants and slipped them off, tossing them on the same chair. Then he pulled down his Jockey shorts and tossed them on the floor. He stood there, looking at the kids, and actually managed to stay flaccid!
He said, "Most boys masturbate as they lie on a bed. It can be done a lot of different ways, including standing up. But the norm is on a bed, usually as you go to sleep at night, or when you wake up in the morning–or both." He sat on the side of the bed, swung his feet up and was quickly lying on his back. He continued his explanation. "I'm going to use my hand to arouse myself, by rubbing my penis, tickling my penis or balls, or doing anything that makes my feel good. However, you need to think about this. A man is aroused most by having intercourse with a woman, because that leads to making a baby, which is exactly what mother nature planned. So the thing that feels most like intercourse is going to be the most arousing. That's wrapping your hand and fingers around your penis and pumping up and down. That's the way most masturbations end."
With that he began to tickle his balls, nipples, penis, and even around to his ass. Gradually he began pumping with his hand wrapped around his dick. His pumping grew faster and faster until he seemed almost out of control. The his semen shot up and spread over his chest, actually hitting him on the chin. With that he relaxed and flopped back on the bed, seemingly exhausted. A towel had been placed beside the bed, and he soon took it and cleaned himself up. He stood up and dressed himself and asked if there were any questions. Sonnie asked, "You seemed almost out of control at the end, were you?"
Ivan replied, "Well, I guess maybe there's a point at which you lose control, but not until the very end. At some point, even if you stopped moving your hand you'd ejaculate anyway. I guess at that point you could say you lost control. But the fact is that if there were a reason, you could stop. For a lot of kids who masturbate in secret, having someone–maybe one of their parents–come into the room would cause them to stop. But your parents have decided to give you good guidance about masturbating, and it shouldn't bother you if your mother walked in. On the other hand, while it might not bother you, and might not bother your mother, it could change the dynamic so that you stopped masturbating."
Ginnie, at age ten–almost eleven–the oldest girl, said, "I guess it's time for Nicole to show us."
Nicole was as prepared as Ivan had been, and calmly stripped naked. She spent some time talking about being aroused in the vagina and by the clitoris. She explained that both were exciting, both when you were masturbating, when you were having sex play with hands or tongue, or when you were having intercourse. Some women got more pleasure from the vagina and others from the clitoris, but most found the clitoris more arousing. This wasn't new territory for this group of kids, but applying it to masturbating was new. Nicole told them to watch her fingers move from one to the other, and suggested that at the end she'd probably have the fingers from one hand playing with her clitoris and a finger of the other hand moving in and out of her vagina like a penis might.
She leaned back on the bed and proceeded to do exactly as she had told them. It took her about eleven minutes, but by the end she seemed to be almost as out of control has Ivan had been, and ended the process with a mighty heave and then flopped back seemingly exhausted.
May had said, "It seems almost like a man, except there isn't any semen."
Nicole had said, "You're right. And it's just as much fun, and no mess to clean up." She got up from the bed and put her clothes on.
Ivan looked at the kids and asked, "Any more questions?"
This time it was Jay, the second oldest who asked, "OK, our parents deliberately brought up masturbation, so that we'd learn about it in a wholesome way. Franklin has told us of the silly horror stories told about masturbation, and it's clear that parents who tell stories like that don't show, or tell, their children how to masturbate. In fact, we understand that today's session's really quite unusual. So, how did you two learn to masturbate?"
Well, that wasn't the question that either Ivan or Nicole expected, though in hindsight they realized that it shouldn't have been unexpected. Ivan thought about turning to Franklin, Auggie, or Kay to see if they really wanted that question answered. But he realized that in this group it was important that all questions be answered, and that none be singled out as extraordinary. So Ivan thought a little and gave his answer.
"Well, back in Chicago I had two really close friends. They were Norwegian like me, and we did everything together. We'd become friends at the Norwegian church, and we also went to elementary school and junior high school together. Sometime around either seventh grade or eighth grade, I honestly can't tell you which, we started hearing older boys, and sometimes our contemporaries, talking about jacking off. Sometimes it was called jerking off, or just jerking. The three of us got to talking and wondered what jacking off meant. None of us had the nerve to ask, not because it was a forbidden topic, but because no boy that age wants to admit he doesn't know something.
"We figured out that it related to sex and our penises, which we always called dicks back then. Unlike in our parents and grandparents era, we could go to the library and actually find pretty good books about sex. We found one, checked it out, and began to read it together. It talked about masturbation and told some of the other terms for it, like jacking off, jerking off, and the British term wanking. It also told how to do it. We were at my house, but my mother was home, so we went to one of my friend's houses where nobody was home. We took off our clothes and experimented. We tried doing it to ourselves and then to each other. Finally, my friend Mark was rubbing my penis and I ejaculated. That scared me a little, but it was what the book said would happen. Before long both of the other boys had done it. And we all agreed that it was fun.
"Since we'd learned how together, we didn't have any sense that it was private, and the three of us got together regularly and jacked each other off. However, our urges soon became more frequent than the times we could get together and doing it in bed soon became our chosen time. By the time we were in high school we were more interested in girls, and the idea of jacking off together was left behind in junior high."
Cindy said, "What about you, Nicole?"
Nicole said, "I went to middle school in San Francisco. I liked to skate and in fact I was pretty good. I spent a lot of time at the local ice rink, and I was the youngest of the really good skaters. So most of my skating time was with older girls. We'd come from school to the rink and had to change clothes in the girls locker room. Some of the older girls talked a lot about sex, including their adventures with their boyfriends, and in a couple of cases with girlfriends. I listened but didn't enter into the conversation when it was about sex.
"One day as we were getting our skating clothes off and getting street clothes on, one of the older girls looked at me and said to a friend, 'I'll bet she doesn't even know how to jill off.' That's a term that's sometimes used to talk about girls masturbating, at least that's the term we used in California. I haven't heard it much in the Midwest. The other girl turned to me and asked, 'Well, do you jill off?'
"I didn't know what to say. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I guess I pretty much said that. One of them said, 'Well, it's time to learn. Lay down on the bench.' They really didn't give me much choice, and I sorta wanted to find out what they were talking about. Real quickly they had my skirt up and my panties down around my ankles. One of them stuck her finger in my vagina and the other rubbed my clitoris. It was a totally new experience, and I had a fantastic orgasm in short order. One of the girls said, 'Try that tonight in bed, using your fingers just like we did. It'll work.'
"It sure as Hell did. A couple of days later one of the girls asked, 'Did you jill off last night?' I admitted that I did. Another girl said, 'Prove it.' I was laid out on the bench, my skirt pulled up, my panties down, and I had to prove it. I did. That ended the matter as far as those girls were concerned.
"To this day I'm not certain whether I should be mad at those girls, or thank them for giving me a lesson that I might not have gotten at the age I did. And since I had been able to masturbate and have an orgasm, it had clearly been time to learn how. On the other hand, everybody today would say that I was abused by those girls–two were leaders but about a dozen were watching and encouraging. Perhaps I should've reported the incident, at least to my parents. But if I'd done that, my skating career would've come to an end–these were the same girls that mentored me as a skater and encouraged me."
Franklin, clearly not expecting a story like that, decided that it should become a learning experience for the GrandCOGs. He asked, "Well, what do you all think about that?"
Owen was the first to speak. "I agree with Nicole, it was both good and bad. If you changed the story just a little, it would be OK. Nicole said that they told her to lay down and didn't give her much choice. What if they'd said, 'Jilling off is fun. If you lay down on the bench and push down your panties, we'll show you'? Then it wouldn't be force, but an offer or suggestion."
Allie, the youngest girl present, said, "I'll bet a lot of girls, and boys, learn to masturbate by being told how, or shown how, by an older girl or boy. Heck, that's what just happened to us, but it was in a highly structured situation. But most kids don't have parents that're ready to create a situation like this. And I have a more positive view of what happened to Nicole. She said they gave her little choice. But having decided that, she didn't fight, or resist, or tell them to stop. These kids were friends. I think if she'd asked them to stop they would have. She admits they did her a favor."
The conversation went back and forth, and Nicole did admit that Allie was right, she hadn't fought and she hadn't asked them to stop. And she thinks that if she'd demanded that they stop, they would have. But she ended by saying, "I still don't know whether to be mad or glad that it happened."
Owen concluded, "One of the rules of the Gang is always ask first. Talk about it. Well, this is an example of why that rule's important. We need to remember that. If they'd talked before they acted, we wouldn't be having this debate."
Franklin summed up easily, "Thank you, Owen."
Owen asked a last question, "When're we going to be able to masturbate?"
Franklin said, "About age twelve or thirteen. Some as early as ten or eleven, but that's rare. Others age fourteen or fifteen, but that's usually because they haven't tried, for whatever reason. However, trying to masturbate won't hurt you. Really, you can still call it masturbating even if it doesn't lead to an orgasm. It's fun. It won't hurt you. And you all know each other so well, you don't have to keep it secret or private. You can do it to each other. But remember, always ask first!"
Ivan's conclusion, expressed later to Fredie and Rydia, was, "My God, that was an extraordinary sex education class. I would've given my eye teeth for a lesson like that when I was age eleven. And those kids're fantastic."
There was never a need for another demonstration. The GrandCOGs were getting old enough that sex play was a regular part of their activity, and the younger GrandCOGs easily learned from the older ones, just as the younger COGs had learned from the older COGs.
I think this may be the place to catch you readers up with Perry. Twice you've been teased with hints of his future: first with Fred's suggestion to Andy and Marty that he might be Andy's successor at Fred's Sports, and second with his plan to compete with Norman for a sailing medal in a 49er.
Fred had insisted that Andy and Marty take Perry to lunch the very next day after their conversation. The trouble was that they'd all forgotten that Perry was somewhere in the western Pacific running the support team for three Olympic 49ers, led by Auggie and his partner Freddie. They decided that they had better let him get sailing out of his blood before they hit him with the idea of running Fred's Sports. And before they knew it, Perry and Norman were pursuing their own Olympic dreams, an effort that would continue for another four years, until the Olympics in London. They clearly needed to let him sail.
Perry and Norman's announcement that they wanted to sail in the London Olympics immediately impacted on the support team, which was given a seven month holiday. They all reassembled in Freeport in March of 2013 to begin another quest.
It wasn't clear who was going to be the head of the support team. Both David and Auggie had been thought of for the job, and both were willing. The possible conflict was resolved with the understanding that Auggie was the head, but would be back and forth from Grand Forks and various photography assignments. In his absence, David would run the show. As it actually worked out, Auggie, Lynn, and little Sid, were with the team most of the time, but Auggie limited himself to coaching the sailors, particularly Greg and Josh. David, with very little help, advice, or instruction from Auggie, ran an excellent program, and took them all over the world practicing and racing.
As soon as Perry and Norman's plans were in place, Andy and Marty had gotten David aside and given him his marching orders: "Look, this bunch has been together now for a total of six years, and it's been practice, practice, practice, race, race, race. Unlike the two previous times, you have a full four years this time. Take it a little slower. Build some pleasure and sightseeing into the schedule. Choose exotic and exciting practice sites. Tim isn't around, maybe you'd like to start a little later in the morning; take Sunday's off for sightseeing. We aren't worried that you won't get the racing done that you need: Perry won't allow that. But make this the best four years of your life so far. But remember, Perry and Norman had better come home with a medal."
David had thought that over a while and responded, "That's wonderful, but it could really raise the costs."
Andy said, "Don't even think about it. There's enough money sitting in bank accounts here in Grand Forks to keep you guys going for the rest of your lives. Incredibly, the support team that you now head has produced four Olympic medals in just two Olympics, every one of your teams has medaled. Just get out there and keep up the tradition."
Marty added, "And make sure that Greg and Josh do well. If they beat Perry and Norman in the trials they deserve their shot. But, more realistically, if they do well at the U.S. trials, you all can keep going four more years, if you want. I would think you might be getting tired of all the moving around, but Perry assured us that you all were eager and excited to go four more years. That's one of the reasons we want you to make pleasure a priority in the coming years. Have a ball!"
Seven months later the support team and the four sailors assembled in Freeport and started Perry and Norman's quest for a medal. There was one thing different this Olympiad, and that was that all of the group, support team and sailors, were married and were a couple on the team. There were no unattached singles (unless you counted little Sid), and no spouses at home, flying in and out to be with them when it was possible. All the couples were comfortable in various pairings for sleeping and sex (I started to write other things there, but feel chastened by various comments about euphemisms).
Following the advice of Andy and Marty to schedule for pleasure, David had them spend most of the first summer at various ports around the Mediterranean and the following winter in the Carribean. They had considered the South Pacific, but winter is typhoon season there, and they couldn't afford that kind of interruption. It was a wonderful year, and they had plenty of time for both fun and sailing. Perry and Norman became a solid team, and found that they were better sailors when Norman was the helm and Perry the crew. Greg and Josh took most of the first summer to work out the kinks in their teamwork, but by the winter had settled down to serious sailing. They traded off between helm and crew, and were trying to figure out which combination was better. The others assured them that they had plenty of time to work that out, and that it would be clear at some point in the not too distant future.
Flint and Pam were far and away the oldest members of the team, and were parents of one of the sailors, Josh. As the newest members of the support team, they understood that they were members not leaders, and that role suited them. However, as the oldest among the group, they sort of took on the role of parents to the team, all of whom (except David and Millie) were in their twenties. And while this bunch were all pretty mature twenty-somethings, they were still pretty young, traveling far from home, and given enormous responsibility for their age. Even David, in his late forties–he'd be fifty at the London Olympics–was glad from time to time to have an older "Mom and Dad" to share problems with. Luckily, for this fantastic group, problems were rare and not often serious. But it's nice to have a shoulder to cry out your frustrations on!
So we leave the group sailing in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, where they're staying at the Darwin Central Hotel. It was no longer the newest hotel in town, but it boasted Alston Gidding as its manager and his partner, Jeremy Foster, as assistant manager. The team loved the town, the sailing, the hotel, its managers, and their at least weekly escapades with them. (Another damn euphemism, but you caught on, didn't you?)
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