It was one of the most amazing holidays of my young life because I was given a freedom that I wasn’t permitted back home. I had a 12:00 curfew, boyfriends had to be vetted and were threatened with testicular torture if they missed the hour. If a quick front seat pash was in order, my father used to stand in front of the amber glass front door in his boxer shorts, singlet and socks flicking the light switch so that I would be aware of the strobe effect the porch light made with his incessant desperate attempt to get me inside - just to let me know that he knew I was home and up to no good.
My Nana, comparable only to Auntie Mame owned a pub which was frequented by younglings, Manchester off duty policemen and Geordy oil riggers to name a few. It was lively and due to the presence of police, stayed open way beyond the crazy British Licensing laws allowed. I spent evenings drinking fluffy ducks and eating cheese and biscuits and trying to decipher dialects and accents with limited success.
To celebrate our arrival in town she hosted a fancy dress party. We went to a really posh hire place, were given a sherry and had the clothes modelled for us! The overly gay blade owner dressed us all in exquisite and elaborate costumes. I became the pink and sparkly harem girl (I had a waist and olive skin in those days) and felt a million dollars, alluring and very glam.
The party was a blast, the music young, the patrons young and there I met a young man. The brother of one of the regulars and someone with whom I would have a six year long-distance relationship. That winter was the best in my life. Young love and I were allowed out late. We toured the countryside, I went to discos even though I was under age, we lay on tiny boats through the Blue John Mines, watched the Muppets together, kissed in his little Morris Minor with blue stars painted on the roof . . .great pickup line that . . .do you want to see the stars on my roof? Worked like a charm. Met his parents, went to the soccer. Every moment with him was absolutely magic. He was much older than me at 24 years but pft. I loved the attention and was mature for my age.
Once back in Australia, I reminded myself daily of him through Art Garfunkels' 'Breakaway' and Carly Simon. We saw other people, worked, indulged in our own hobbies and interests but we remained close correspondents. If only we had the internet back then, things might have worked out very differently. Letters took 10 days to deliver and so a letter a month was a good run rate by anyone’s standards.
I returned to England again after a painful relationship breakup when I was 21 and guess what? He was still single and up for a rendezvous. I didn’t tell him I was in the country, just rang and within minutes he was at my door. We had another another fantastic three months of romance. Everything was perfect a plan was hatched to meet again in Canada the following year and then real decisions about where this relationship was headed would have to be made. In the interim, he gave me a silver ingot on a chain which I wore for years . . . It was serious stuff.
Well as is obvious, Canada never happened. I met Ray, was swept off my feet and within 18 months was married and happy as a pig in poo. I still wrote to my English friend but he lost interest after that and the only other time I’ve ever heard about his welfare was after Ray died. I just wanted to make sure he was OK and that his life had panned out a little better than mine. It had. He had married, had two little girls but had never ventured to Canada as planned. All too painful apparently. We had a quiet and friendly conversation and agreed there was little profit in maintaining contact now that we had spent so much time apart. He was sorry for my loss, I happy for his gain.
So why this post. His are the pile of air letters tied with a red satin ribbon in my big red suitcase of dreams, my time capsule. I often wonder how he is and what he’s doing and whether if he ever travelled out here would he look me up. Tomorrow is his birthday, he will be 58, probably paunchy and balding with whiskers growing out of his nose and ears. He may even wear a flat cap and ride a bike . . .he could be a grandad or a widower . . .or lost all his beautiful pearly teeth . . . then again, he might be a gently aged, handsome man who’s made someone else very, very happy.
Happy birthday Ian.