They talk about sink-schools, but not sink-colleges.
We were a sink-college.
When one of the Sunday papers published a Higher Education league-table, we were placed literally bottom - plum-spang bottom - of the whole of the East Midlands region.
It was the nosedive moment. Parents took their teenagers off the applicants' list. Heads of Department resigned, one after the other. Anyone with anywhere to go, went. And it was painfully obvious that these included any woman remotely worth looking at, along with their husbands, of course.
We were the remnants - and it showed.
Our second-floor flat looked directly across to where Eric the physics lecturer lived with his wife Angie.
Lola and I used to joke that we could sometimes catch sight of them through their heavily-frayed curtains at bedtime. Nothing very passionate going on there, it seemed.
Angie was a long, skinny redhead who looked more like a skeleton every year, shoulder-blades poking out, no bosom whatever, and a seriously unattractive skull-face. But after half a lifetime of my own bloated beached-whale of a wife, Angie had curiously become a bit of a secret fantasy for me. Just something different, I suppose. The image of that neat little rear-end, the slim ankles, and the smooth velvety voice, not like Lola's corncrake screech that she'd never even tried to soften-down...
Also just visible from the same window was our sad old local pub, the Drover's Arms. You could even smell the decay, sometimes relieved by a few odours - almost worse - that went with half-hearted cleaning and disinfecting.
On an average night, you could count the customers on two hands. This time, you could count them on one hand. Me and Eric, plus one unknown newcomer (or foreigner, as we would regard them in true village style), and that was your lot.
As the foreigner was busy with a crossword at the other end of the bar, I got the nearest thing to a friendly nod from Eric, and went over and joined him for a pint of the local ale - only barely drinkable, but mercifully cheap.
In this depressed atmosphere, conversation did not seem to be flowing very smoothly, so we probably drank a bit faster than usual. When the third round of drinks was set-up, I tried a touch of humour. "How's your love-life?"
It was not really a serious question. But Eric shook his head slowly and mournfully. "Tell you what. Try and guess how long since I last screwed Angie."
"Oh well, let's say... three weeks?"
"Bit more than that."
He shook his head again. "Three and a half years."
That gave me quite a jolt, followed by a powerful twinge of arousal, as Eric looked down sadly at the patched and faded carpet.
"Like screwing a birdcage" he muttered under his breath, by way of an explanation, which he seemed to think was called-for. I had to wait a full minute before the mental (and physical) tuning-fork had settled down enough for me to ask the obvious question.
"So... what does Angie feel about it?"
Eric just shrugged.
"Started opening the sherry-bottle in the afternoon. Now she starts in the morning."
"And what about you, Eric?"
He shook his head.
"Me? I just think I'm a busted flush... Except..."
That fourth pint was going down pretty steadily, and it was getting to the moment when men start to exchange confidences. Eric looked at me properly for the first time.
"Do you mind if I tell you something? A bit personal, that is? Actually very personal..."
"Go on, Eric. What is it?"
"I was passing Lola in the street the other day, when she dropped a coin and bent down to pick it up. She didn't stoop. She just bent right over in front of me. Ye Gods, those generous fleshy buttocks. It was pure sodomy. I got my first tingle for about a year."
That one went right through me. Lola's vast shapeless rear-end had been making it seriously hard for me to fuck her with any enthusiasm. (We were down to duty-fucks, basically - a sad emotional desert-zone.) Now I was finding that my neighbour was privately slavering after that very part of her. Also Eric's mention of sodomy rang a little bell. Lola had sometimes hinted that she'd like to try anal sex, but I'd always found the whole idea off-putting and made my excuses.
Suddenly a wild thought entered my head. In for a penny.
"Eric... how about you and Angie calling round later for a little drink...?
I'd worried a bit about what state Angie would be in, after her lonely all-day boozing. But she turned out to be one of those alcoholics who never get d***k. They just need to be kept topped-up.
So Angie was in splendid form, as she negotiated the narrow staircase with no mis-hap, and came though into the sitting-room. I could hardly believe it: my secret fantasy had actually walked in, and here she was in my own home. Eric and I were both eager with anticipation, and Lola enjoying her chance to be the bustling hostess, handing round wine and snacks for the first time in many months, while I put on soft, slow music.
It wasn't long before we were dancing - me with my heavy, unwieldy partner, and Eric with his light, elegantly moving Angie. Her ankles were drawing my attention more and more, after years of Lola's great chunky calves that simply merged into her shapeless feet. It was seriously arousing.
Soon we'd changed partners, and I was enjoying Angie at first hand, birdcage ribs and all. But when I next looked across at Eric and Lola, I was witnessing a vision. He'd turned her round, and was clearly pressing his erection right into Happy Valley, while she was just about manifesting on the spot. I had never seen such a look of joy on my wife's face. Now I realised how I'd been ignoring all those little signals that she was really an anal responder.
"Oh - is this a wife-swapping party?" joked Angie, a little nervously.
I left the question unanswered, and she blushed a little.
Eric and Lola were getting seriously hot and heavy by now. She'd slid-off her shoes, and now unfastened her top, showing her ample bosom in a bra that didn't cover much. He was gorging himself on her great rolls of flesh, in which I had long ceased to find any satisfaction.
And then came the moment when it was suddenly a wife-swapping party in the full sense.
Lola's panties were down, and she was on her front, with Eric's tongue digging deep into the cleft between her huge buttocks. The look on her face, which I had noticed earlier, was nothing compared to what I was seeing now. This was ecstasy plus plus, as he brought out his erect prick and drove it hard into her back-passage.
Now it was my turn to help Angie strip, and lay her on her back. Ye Gods, her buttocks were almost concave, yet she was my longstanding fantasy-dream come true. I could well believe that this was her first fuck in three and a half years. Her ankles and feet were doing it to me, and this was just so different, different, different...
No, we never tried any more wife-swapping. On a silent signal, Lola and I stopped our little peepshow, and we never enquired about the state of Eric and Angie's relationship. After Lola's triumphant loss of her anal virginity, I knew that my duty-fucks would have to be via the backdoor (though I still could not bring myself to perform aniligus). I soon realised that you have to ration anal sex, or you can do real damage. Also, the lube-tube has a lot to do with it. In-between times, I simply fuck her from behind, and we fantasise that it's the real thing, with all those special screaming obscenities that are for us alone.
Meanwhile, she looks happier and healthier than she has for years, and I have discovered the joy of selfless sex - giving extreme ecstasy, even if not taking much of it.
When I run into Eric at the Monday morning conference, we just give a friendly nod - perhaps a little friendlier than before, with a slight hint of acknowledgement that we share a secret.
Somehow we all know that it was a unique moment too good to be repeated. Somtimes I even wonder if it really happened.