I first met G 23 years ago, as a friend of my then boyfriend, and I was attracted to him almost instantly. Back then he had long hair, gorgeous, piercing eyes and a smile that melted my heart from the very first time I saw it. He was easy to talk to, but I never flirted with him, I was much too young and innocent to do such a thing, I’m not even sure that I really knew how to flirt at 17.
I had seen G a few times at the pub we all used to frequent. The multi-panelled glass doors at either end of the building led straight into the only bar. A single, large, undivided area that arced from one end to the other. The dark wooden bar, highly polished and shining like new at the start of every shift wrapped around the centre of the private, landlords quarters and the staff quickly became familiar faces. The heavily patterned carpet bore a history of countless scars from spilt beer and cigarette burns from those who had either drunk too much and dropped them, or had no inclination to fight their way through the crowds to find an ashtray and decided the floor would do. The walls were pale and windows down the length of the outside wall flooded the place with light during the day.
We always sat at or very close to the same small, round table. The order of the day varied little. Table - check, stools - check, cigarettes and lighter on top – check. This was quickly followed by pint glasses and/or shorts. The table we claimed as our own was to one side of the bar, ensuring that it was conveniently close at hand. A couple of feet behind us was the jukebox which was never quiet. It was the mainstay of the entertainment for the evening and it churned out hit after hit. This was in the days when vinyl was still used in jukeboxes, there was none of these electronic music centres then. It always fascinated me to watch the arm coil back, spin round, tilt onto it’s side and extract the next record to play. Just beyond that was ‘the mens’. Why is it that, even today, you can bet your life on the fact that the men’s will be the closest and the ladies will be at the farthest possible point from where you are sat?
No-one had a great deal of money, but somehow it never seemed to matter, we used to meet up and have a laugh; life back then seemed so easy in retrospect. We could come and go as we pleased, was answerable to no-one, and bore none of life’s scars that inevitably became etched on our souls in later years. Hardly a care in the world. My greatest concern at that time was whether I would actually get asked for I.D. in the pub. I was underage. Very purposely, I used to sit with my back to the bar in the hope that the staff wouldn’t stand in a quiet moment and actually wonder about my age. No matter how long I had been frequenting the establishment, I always thought I wore a guilty look, and would go out of my way to avoid eye contact.
Whenever G was there he always looked so fresh, always wore clean, freshly laundered clothes, courtesy of his wonderful mother, and above all else, he always smelt intoxicatingly delightful. He had no airs and graces, with G, what you saw was what you got, and for me that has always been a very attractive quality in a person.
The guys used to put songs on the jukebox, and then sing along to them at the top of their voices. When I say sing, that may be a slight exaggeration, and just me being kind, but the words were the same as those emanating from the jukebox, at least whilst you could actually hear them they were! Within a few bars their voices would drown out the artists version completely, and the entire pub, would hear their very own rendition for the umpteenth time.
One of their favourites was David Bowies, Let’s Dance. For those of you who don't know the song, this is the chorus:
If you say run, I'll run with youThe guys rendition was always very lively, very loud and the last line was always the same:
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower
And tremble like a floooooooooooooooooo ... WAA
at which point they would simultaneously raise their glasses from in front of their chests to arms stretched above their heads with gusto on the final 'WAA'
Another of their all time favourites, which still makes me smile to this day when I hear it, was 16 Tons by Ernie T Ford (lyrics).
Still at the tender age of 17 I fell pregnant, my boyfriend couldn’t run away quick enough.
When I was single, and pregnant, I continued to visit the pub with a girl friend, when time and money would allow. At the end of the evening, G would walk the two of us back to hers, and then continue up to the bus stop and wait with me to ensure I was safely on the bus before retracing his steps to go home himself. I often wished he had shown some interest in me, had perhaps flirted with me or shown some indication that he liked me more than I thought, but he never did.
After about 3 months, my boyfriend and I got back together. I learned a week later that G had wanted to ask me out, but because he knew my boyfriend wanted to come back, he held back and didn’t say anything to me.
My son was born 5 months later and when I was in hospital, G visited me with my boyfriend and another mate.
Not only did G have beautiful eyes, and a smile to die for, he was what I, and many people since, describe as a man’s man. Very broad, well built, and no sign of a feminine side within a hundred mile radius. Hands like shovels. Most often seen in those days in a biker’s jacket, jeans and sometimes with the boots too.
When he came to visit that day in 1984 at the hospital, he strolled into the ward, very casually, with the other two. His bike jacket was still zipped three-quarters of the way up, despite the heat in the maternity ward. He clutched his crash helmet in one hand and his with tussled hair and a slightly rugged, unshaven look he seemed pleased as punch to be visiting. An outsider might have been forgiven, at first glance, to have mistaken him for the father. I often wonder, looking back, if my memory is clouded by the way I see him now, or maybe I remember his visit that way because I already had feelings for him I was unaware of. Peering out of the top of his jacket was a gorgeous, soft, toy monkey, which played a soothing tune when you wound it up. He just stood there, with this thing gazing at me from inside his jacket. I lay in bed, hardly able to move after my caesarean, barely able to even pull myself into sitting position. I had absolutely no makeup on and had slept for all of a couple of hours that night. I must have been a real sight.
That was the first time I really saw his softer side. He liked to keep this personality trait well under cover. He didn’t like people to realise that it existed and rarely displayed it in public.
(This was a long post, so I have split it into two. Second part next Monday)