Unrequited Love

Unrequited love’s a bore, yeah
And I’ve got it pretty bad
But for someone you adore, yeah
It’s a pleasure to be sad…

Glad To Be Unhappy – The Mamas & Papas

What is the attraction of unrequited love? Is it purely the domain of the romantic tragedian, that populates the works of Faust, Heidegger, Tolstoy and Du Ponte? I don’t know. I don’t even know if the last author is real. I think it was the surname of one of the characters in The Shawshank Redemption. Thinking abut it, the other three are unknown to me too. I’ve never read any of their works but I thought anyone reading this wouldn’t bother to look them up and just take my word that they wrote about unrequited love. The bare truth of the matter is, the only person that springs to mind that wrote about unrequited love was Charles M. Schultz in a Peanuts cartoon back in the 1950s.

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My first taste of unrequited love is clearly documented in my book My Life With Kate Bush, where I describe how, at the age of seven, I loved Lisa Roderick, a small auburn haired waif that I imagined could share a cliff with Sir Laurence Olivier and not look out of place.

Laurence Olivier on a cliff

Laurence Olivier on a cliff

When she spurned my advances – well, ‘spurned’ is a strong word. She said ‘No’ – I then did a very odd thing. I told myself I was in love with another Lisa, this being Lisa Francis. At this point, I am jolted into a sudden realisation. I have gone through my life secretly loving a bunch of Lisa’s. There was a Lisa Osmond in Pontypool College too, that I was smitten by. And then there was Lisa Stansfield in the 90s. Anyway, going back to Lisa Francis, this was my first long-term taste of unrequited love. Can a person love at seven years old? It’s not a question I remember asking myself back then. I just loved her. I would do anything to sit next to her in class, or join her group if we were split up for a studying project. In the playground, if she joined in a game of tag, I would always try and tag her first, just so I could have that contact with her. Actually, I’m creeping myself out now as this all sounds slightly stalkerish. It wasn’t. It was as innocent as Whizzer & Chips.

Oh how I miss the innocence of Whizzer & Chips and 'Sid's Snake'...

Oh how I miss the innocence of Whizzer & Chips and ‘Sid’s Snake’…

I think my pursuit of Lisa Francis lasted quite a while. Even on the last day of Brookfield, as Mr Baldwin wished us the best of luck in our lives, I recall looking over the desk where she was sitting and thinking “I may never ever see you again.” I did see her again of course, five minutes later as we passed through the school gate. I saw her all through Llantarnam comprehensive school too, as it was.

Let’s fast forward to my teenage years. In the late 80s I fell in love with Kate Bush. This was another level of unrequited love. The epitome of an unattainable object that you cherish but know that you can never have. I didn’t want to pork her though. I know, I know, you are in complete disbelief at that statement aren’t you? But the truth is, I can’t ever remember masturbating to pictures of her. She did not enter into my sexual fantasies in any way, shape or form. The girls in Escort and Fiesta did, mind you. But not wholesome, motherly Kate Bush, whom has ever projected any kind of sex appeal to me at all. Due to being a member of her fan club though, I ended up with a number of pen friends. Remember them? Strangers that you would send letters to, often never meeting them in your life? It was big in the 80s. One pen-pal I had was a girl called Julie Prebble. She lived in Beckenham Kent and was actually the first girl, once I became a teenager, that I felt I could have adult conversations with. I never knew what she looked like. She would sometimes doodle in the margins of the letter she would send me every few weeks. From the doodles I came to the conclusion that she had seven strands of hair, a very thin-lipped smile, and no body from the neck down. Despite all this, I was strangely attracted to her. Words can be seductive and the order that she placed her words, written in her perfect handwriting, melted my heart. Our letters fizzled out after a year or two, but I do often wonder where she is now, and whether she grew a body beneath that gorgeous neck of hers.

A Kate Bush party in 1988 was my next opportunity to experience unrequited love. This one was more meaningful and lasted a couple of years. Her name was Julie Fitzgerald (Hmm. Two Lisa’s and now two Julie’s.) She played guitar and I can remember her, a small diminutive thing with golden locks, cradling this cheap wooden guitar and making it sing. I approached her and asked if she would teach me a chord and she did. Her face was so cute – like a golden apple in a basket of sunshine. She was about three years older than me and it was a bit of a kick for myself, at eighteen years old, to be getting on famously with a lady of twenty-one. I think this is what first got me into older women. She lived in Liverpool and as I was still living in Cwmbran at the time, we resorted to letter writing to keep in touch. I was attracted to her though. When she spoke of boyfriend trouble in her letters it would tear my heart apart. ‘Pick me’ I would think. Once she visited me for a weekend and we walked up to the Doralt pub in Henllys, Cwmbran, for a drink. It was dark when we left and we walked the quiet road back to Hollybush, where I was living at the time with my Nan. During the walk she slipped her hand into mine and we walked like that for a while, just holding hands. Why didn’t I stop her then? Why didn’t I gently hold her shoulders, pulling her towards me beneath the moonlight (maybe the moon was hidden that night, I have no idea. But the trick to writing sweet, romantic, wistful scenes like this is to always have moonlight) and then softly placing a kiss on her lips? I don’t know and it didn’t happen. And then there was another time she visited and we were in a pub in Caerleon. I was tipsy and she was sitting next to me. She was holding my hand again, but her hand and wrist were resting on my upper thigh. She would squeeze my hand at times, her hand being so close to my crotch that I began to wonder. And we were laughing and our faces were so close. A kiss should have happened there and then and I know, with the benefit of hindsight (Hindsight! Pah! Errant swine you are!) that she would have responded. But again, I didn’t. She eventually fell in love with a drug addict and I never saw her again.

Pontypool college threw up many possibilities. When I started, in the autumn of 1991, it was full of beautiful women. One of these was the aforementioned Lisa Osmond. Again she was a tiny, slightly frumpy lady with long auburn hair (see, writing is cathartic and can throw up some illuminating insights – maybe I do like short frumpy women with long hair – a bit odd seeing as I am 6’4) and we forged a strong friendship. She was warm and caring and…had a boyfriend. Yet we would meet up in a cafe in Pontypool town and have such fun together. At one of our regular Tuesday night meetings in Fairwater House pub, Cwmbran, where a host of other friends from college would congregate, Lisa and I would sit together and gently flirt. On one occasion, being slightly drunk, my other friends were encouraging her to kiss me. Lisa moved from her seat, straddling me for a moment or two, staring into my eyes and laughing, letting her hair brush against my face, before moving off again. I think that was the moment where, if I had kissed her, there wouldn’t have been any objection.

So why do I put myself through this? It only happens with people I care for on a deep level – some indescribable deeper level that doesn’t apply to the ladies that I have met on dating sites that have ended up in my bed, sometimes even without a preliminary kissing introduction. Was my mind, a sensitive impressionable mind, indelibly stamped when, for instance, I read Wuthering Heights at sixteen years old? That, surely, is the pinnacle of unrequited love. Did my romantic heart burden me with a fixed idea that love has to be unconsummated and unknown; that I would feed off my feelings, my secret feelings of love, and it would nourish me. Because sexual fulfillment is often not what we expect either, is it? Some of us, the free thinkers, the creatives, the bohemians, are still left a little empty after that gratification. We lie in bed, the body of beautiful women next to us, when outside the window, a girl passes by wearing a short skirt and instantly we are transported into a world of fantasy again.

Is it just a lack of confidence and the fear of rejection? Is that what stops me looking someone in the eye and just saying “I fancy you?”. I guess the longer you know someone, the harder it gets. You fear doing irreparable damage to the friendship by your admission that your feelings are deeper and stronger than the other person suspected. Or maybe they did suspect and it is just a complicated game we play, like all the other complicated social games that undermine the truth and purity of human relationships. But games can be a drug and maybe this is one drug I can never wean myself off.

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The Dating Game

Manhattan

I’ve tasted love. I know what it’s like. At 42, if I never enter another relationship again and live the rest of my life as a bachelor, then that’s no bad thing. That’s not being a sad lonely man. If I end up reaching 80, sat on a park bench, throwing ducks at the bread (you do that, you know, when you reach 80, as you get all sorts of stuff confused) and I get passers-by gazing at me forlornly, then that sympathy will be misplaced, for it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, said someone once upon a time. It might have been John Major. But the point is, I have loved, lost and loved again. Then lost it all. Then loved once more, before finally making a nice cup of tea and writing about it all.

There is a whole separate section here on my website dealing with the breakup of my last relationship. When I split from Pami Gill in January 2012 I couldn’t be bothered with dating for a long while, not until a whole year went by. In January 2013 I dipped my toe into the waters of online dating. Well, not really. Who on earth is going to ‘dip a toe’ into anything. You either subscribe to a site, entering your details, credit card number and watch your life savings seep away, month by month, or you don’t. There’s no toe dipping to speak of. There is, however, a number of free sites that spare you your life savings, such as the imaginatively titled Freedating or the one I ended up spending most of my time on – Plenty Of Fish.

Plenty Of Fish in the sea, apparently, and quite a few that I found interesting on that site, in late January of 2013. So much so that by the second week of February I had had four dates. There was a sub-editor of the Daily Mail, a vet, a rock chic drummer and another bird in Cirencester whose job I can’t remember. It was quite easy to arrange meetings (let’s face it, can you really justifiably call them dates?). I would message them two or three times, telling them I was an angst-ridden poet, who romantacised death and lived a bohemian lifestyle, living in a tee-pee in a field by Stonehenge and they would become fascinated by this and agree to meet. The sub-editor of the Daily Mail, I’ll call her Lucy because that was her name, was attractive, had two children, and met me at Jolly’s, an Irish cafe in Chippenham. She told me she had been at a hen night the night before in Bath and so was feeling somewhat worse for wear. But it was a pleasant breakfast; we talked, I found her interesting and wanted to see her again, but when I got home I had a nice, polite message to say that she didn’t feel a spark between us. Spark my arse you narrow-sighted bitch! That’s what I thought initially as I’m not that good with rejection. However, after some months had passed I was able to accept her rebuttal of my amorous attention with equanimity. Gosh, that was a rather contrived sentence but I’ll leave it in just so I can poke fun at myself when I read it again in years to come.

The second date with the rock chic drummer, whom I will call Marion because that was her real name too, was another interesting encounter. We met firstly in a cafe in Calne. Anyone who knows Calne, a small town in North Wiltshire, will also know that its shopping centre comprises of about ten shops and the choice of cafes amounts to the grand figure of two. We met in the other one. Anyway, Marion was short, frumpy but quite attractive. There are people who will read this that will interpret my use of the word frumpy as a negative. It isn’t. Frumpiness is damn sexy and I only use the word ‘but’ because often it does go hand in hand with the sort of dole scum that gorge themselves senseless on processed ready meals bought at Iceland. However, Marion had a good job, a nice house, a son and daughter and invited me to watch a movie at hers the following weekend. So that Saturday I duly went around to hers, clutching about fifty dvd’s because I am a bit of a film buff and thought we could start at The Seventh Seal and end with National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Did I find her attractive, even though she was attractive? What I mean is, I can objectively judge someone as being atractive, even if I don’t personally find them attractive. Their attractiveness is a given, regardless of my feelings. So there we were, sat together on the sofa, Marion laughing at all the right places (I didn’t think The Seventh Seal was *that* funny but, hey ho) and me thinking “Is she attractive or not?”. Suddenly, she lifts my arm, tucks her head into my chest, lowers my arm so it is resting on her hip/upper thigh area, and carries on watching the film.
‘Gosh,’ I think. ‘This is terribly forward’
However, it means I got to grope a bit of hip and thigh. Well, not grope. I allowed my hand to rest gently on her hip, moving it occassionally on to her thigh. If only I could get to her breasts, but that was awkward because of the way she was leaning into me. I guess I could have pushed my chest out a bit to maximise the contact, but that would mean disturbing the tub of popcorn on my left and I didnt want to do that as it was toffee flavoured and there wasnt much left.
Well, the film ended, we had a bit of a snog and then I left. It was a good snog but…no fireworks for me. It was like kissing an old book, one that I hadn’t read and wasn’t particularly keen on reading, but I knew if I did I would get something out of it. That sort of book. The thing is, does one kiss mean you are committed to each other? Because the next day I was on the POF site again and, as other users will know, people you message and interact with can tell when you have last visited the site, as it is flagged up on their home page. So when Marion noticed I was still on POF she sent me a text asking me why. I replied “Why not?” which as we all know, is the only sensible reply to the question ‘Why?’. This, however, was not the sort of reply that Marion wanted and so she abruptly told me never to go around to her house again. Which was fine by me, as it was one less book to read.

And now we come to the vet. She messaged me because in the list of films I liked, I stated that The Breakfast Club was in my top five favourite fims of all time. This clearly resonated with Brenda as she told me she just had to meet me so we could chat about the film and exchange quotes. Her profile pic was quite nice. She wore a big flowery dress and was holding a massive syringe, as it turned out she was an equestrian vet so specialised in horses.
I was living with a female flat mate at the time, Charlie Pepper, which I thought would be slightly problematic for potential dates. A forty-one year old bloke living with a twenty-seven year old girl – just the two of them, as housemates, sharing a house, together, two of them, an older man and a younger woman. Yes, it happened and no, absolutely nothing ever happened between us. I didn’t even get to see Charlie floss. However, it didn’t phase any of the dates I brought back and so, one day, Brenda came to visit me in Calne. Charlie thoughtfully went out that night leaving Brenda and I alone. We ordered a pizza and watched The Breakfast Club. We kissed. She slept on the sofa and I went up to my room. In the morning, she ended up in my bed.
When Harry Met Sally

But again, things fizzled out there. I just couldn’t get certain images of her out of my head. Images of her with her arm stuck up a horse’s arse as she pumped semen into it. What got to me was that these were male horses too, which I found downright weird. So yes, that one fizzled out too. And that was that for over a year, until May 2014.

A few weeks ago I tried again. Just a whim it was. A whim. A whim that wandered in from the west, in a whisper. A whispering whim. I could go on with this alliteration for yonks but I shan’t. Just to spite you. So yes, I looked at POF again, on a whim, and stumbled across a lady called Victoria.

Victoria’s profile picture was of her holding a cat. It was a big cat. A very very big cat. This prompted me to initiate contact with the message “Your cat is huuuuge!”. Not the most romantic of messages but I was just following my gut instinct. I didn’t know if she was aware of the hugeness of her cat and I wanted to be the first one to tell her. Victoria replied, I replied back, we swapped numbers and in a very short space of time, agreed to meet. I drove to Cheltenham and we met at Waterstones where we had a coffee. Victoria was intelligent, quirky and beautiful. She had a great love of Victorian literature and that era in general, as well as the sixties and shows like The Prisoner. She had a rich, complicated past but that just drew me to her even more. I was attracted to her. After four dates the year before when my ambivalence was so extreme I didn’t even pay attention as to whether they wanted sugar in their coffee, with Victoria, my attraction to her demanded that I pay very careful attention to how many sugars she took in her coffee. The answer, however, eludes me at the moment but if you get back to me at a later date, I am sure that I will be able to tell you how many sugars she has in her coffee, because that’s the kind of attentive guy I am.
We went to lunch and it appeared to go swimmingly well. I even got her to take part in a selfie with me.Victoria & Riaz

But here lies the rub. The conversation *was* a little stilted. There *were* pauses. There *were* times when I felt anxious and desperately sought out things to say. Not because of a lack of shared interests, but because I have that writer’s temperament which causes me to think too much about what I am going to say. I think. Is that really the truth? I mean, I can talk to females. I have a female friend who I spoke to for a couple of hours on the phone the other night, but that was easy because I wasn’t looking to get anything.

Fuck it. There it is. I’ve hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t looking to get anything. That friend is beautiful and I love her, but I am not looking to get anything out of her. I am not looking to form a romantic relationship with her, bed her or steal her collection of 1970s Bunty comics. Whereas with Victoria, due to her beauty, my mind had already cast adrift from it’s normally sound and logical anchor. I wanted her to like me – a lot. A few days later I telephoned her and I sensed that lack of energy in her voice – that excitement, that intangible wavering in one’s intonation that betrays the fact that they lust for you. That they covet you and want to smear honey over your body and then sprinkle on a little bit of dried oats and milk and eat you all up. That was what was lacking in her voice when I telephoned her. So after the phone call I took the decision to text her.
“I like you, do you like me?” I text-ed, in my best handwriting.
“I like you but didn’t think there was an attraction,” came the reply.
And now came the funny thing. I was surprised how hurt and sad I felt because of this. I shouldn’t be. The logical, rational part of me reasoned that after just ten or so texts and six or seven emails plus one meeting in the flesh, you can’t really have strong feelings for someone can you?
But I had been posting on Facebook about Victoria and my friends were all liking and commenting on those posts and feeling happy for me. I even wanted to lose weight, tone up and eat more healthily because of her. I actually threw a 1kg bag of sugar in the bin. All that fucking sugar, now in the bin, and I did it for a woman. I’m never gonna get that sugar back.
So who was the first person I spoke to about this and shared my hurt with? Not a bloke. No. It was another female friend. The irony of it. And again, later that night, another different female friend. Both I felt comfortable enough talking to. To both I was able to rabbit on, yacking about this and that, talking about feelings and emotions and purpose and life, stuff that I hadn’t been able to talk to Victoria about. Not because I couldn’t, but because I just didnt know her in that relaxed familiar way – yet. YET! And that is a slight frustration – that judgements can be made so soon, after one date, as to whether a ‘spark’ is there. Some people can be friends for twenty years before they realise a spark was there all along. I know. It happened to me. It happened to Sally when she met Harry.

So what am I saying here? What clumsy half-thought out idiom can I conjure up to end this blog in a clever way that wraps up all these themes of love, loss, relationships and life? Well…I can’t. There is no answer. There is no convenient wrapping up of emotions. Mutual attraction is just a big mish-mash of a lot of contradicting and unexpected events that come together in a random potpourri of luck.

But the powerful play goes on and all we can hope to do is contribute our own unique verse.

Riaz Ali. 2:06am 6th June 2014.

When Riaz Met Pami (Part 3)

 

“Maybe you will be coming back, ‘cos there’s a heart that still beating.”
Kate Bush ‘I’m Still Waiting

The Kate Bush fan gathering at Top Withens, Haworth, 1990.

The Kate Bush fan gathering at Top Withens, Haworth, 1990.

What’s left when it is all over? Memories I guess. And when i say over, I don’t just mean relationships. I mean IT – life. The whole kit and kaboodle. What’s left when you are old and grey and full of sleep (to paraphrase W.B.Yeats) ? Memories. That’s all that’s left you (to not paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel and to directly quote them instead).

Some people might say the outpouring of memories like this is a catharsis.

Catharsis my arse. I am a writer. These are my memories. I don’t know what else to do with them.

After Pami and I kissed I went upstairs to my room, a tumult of emotions cascading tumultuously around my tumulting head. This, I reasoned, is what having an affair must feel like. Hang on, I reasoned again. It’s not what it must feel like – it is actually what it really feels like, as I have kissed a lady who is married. And I’ve kissed her in her own home, while her kids are sleeping upstairs and a repeat of The Equalizer was on television. What would Edward Woodward think? Should Edward Woodward be bored? Could the wood that Edward Woodwood fed, be dud? These thoughts and other more meaningful ones ran screaming around my head until I fell asleep.

The next morning Emily, who was only nine years old at the time, decided she wanted to play with plasticine and Pami and I sat with her in the garden. Emily made a lovely replica of Patrick Star, the starfish from the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants which she was a big fan of at the time. Pami made an aerial view or a Big Mac, which looked suspiciously like a vagina. I made a replica of the Eiffel tower, in Emily’s favourite colour, pink. It looked suspiciously like a penis. I guess if some do-gooder from the social services had been around that day, witnessing two adults making models of genitalia from plasticine in the company of a 9 year old girl, things would be different now. I’d probably be in jail, for one.

Later that day I went back home, which at the time was a small flat in Cwmbran, Gwent. At the train station Pami sat by me on the wooden seat. Paul, Jake and Emily were there too. Each of us caught up in our own little worlds. I boarded the train and waved goodbye to all of them. But my wave to Pami took that little bit longer and was just that little bit more special.

You might need one of these if you keep reading this blog...

You might need one of these if you keep reading this blog…

Funny isn’t it how all those romantic sentiments – those fleeting touches, looks, gestures – all matter so much when you are in love? And then, when the love goes, you just end up cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe…(I love you, Joni Mitchell).

Anyway. On with the story.

I returned to Cwmbran and Pami and I telephoned each other once a day, and sent messages via Facebook three or four times a day. I visited her again in secret, sometime later that year. Paul had taken Emily and Jake up north, to visit his parents in Liverpool. Pami had stayed behind and rang me as soon as they left, asking me to visit. So I did. I boarded the next train from Cwmbran and spent three glorious days with her.

I think, at that point, I was already in love.

I always had a niggling doubt about the level of her commitment. The fact she had been a swinger, sleeping with Peter & Krys, always bothered me. Each to their own, as I’ve said before, but personally I enjoy devoting all of my love and affection and commitment to one person. I never share it. Pami was different. She often used the word ‘bohemian’ to justify her behaviour. “I am a bohemian,” she would say, in rhapsody.

A few months passed and our love intensified. Then one day I was on a night shift in the hospital I worked at back then when I had a text from Pami.

I’ve left him, it read.

I was tempted to reply ‘Who?’ but refrained. Apparently, Pami’s distance had not gone unnoticed by Paul and he confronted her, specifically asking if she was seeing me. She said she was. If I had been there, I would have agreed with her too, just for support. Anyway, that was that. It was out in the open. Pami wanted to come and live with me in Cwmbran and so two days later, I caught the train again, back to Calne.

Pami moved in during the autumn of 2009. I knew she found it very hard to leave her children and promised her that we would return to Calne and live there as a couple. It wouldnt be easy – we needed a bit of money first and I had to find a job in Wiltshire – but it would happen. Pami settled in although she did complain a lot. She didn’t like my home town of Cwmbran. She didn’t like the flat. It was only a bedsit and I agreed with her on that point – but I am a patient person. I know things are just a transition, until better things happen (and I always know that *you* have to make things happen). Pami always seemed to want things to happen yesterday. Also, I loved my home town. I still do – even after leaving it four years ago, I never criticised Pami’s town – Calne – even though it would have been very easy to. I never asked anything of her – just to be patient.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

And Pami never worked, which again was a source of frustration. She had had her own gardening business in Calne and had brought enough of her tools to start it up again in Cwmbran. She made the effort once to gain a customer base which resulted in one day’s work. I suggested that maybe she could get a job in a shop in the interim but that suggestion fell on deaf ears. Since 1992 Pami had not worked. Paul had ‘kept’ her. She had use of his credit cards, she didn’t want for anything – she had every day free. And so her complaints about being bored puzzled me even more. Granted, she had Emily & Jake to take to school in the mornings and pick them up in the afternoons when she was in Calne, but that still gave her at least 5 hours free during the day in Calne – and she had never complained of being bored to me then, when we exchanged emails and telephoned each other. More importantly, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that her eldest son, Jake, had been born. So she had around 5 years of being unemployed, without any other commitments, and in that time when I knew her, she never complained about being bored. I was puzzled by this.

“Take up Suduko,” I suggested. “Or pick random numbers from the telephone directory to ring. I can’t cure your boredom. That has to come from within.”
I hadn’t read ‘How to be the Dalai Lama for Dummies’ for nothing.
But these suggestions were ignored and for the first time Pami left me in the most cowardly way imaginable. I went to work one day, leaving at 6am. When I returned at that night at 10pm, she was gone.

To be continued…

When Riaz Met Pami (Part 2)

Pami & Riaz - the only thing I have left to show for the relationship, is a picture of a chocolate egg...

Pami & Riaz – the only thing I have left to show for our relationship, is a picture of a chocolate egg…

Being the second part of the story of Riaz Ali & Pami Gill…

The Kate Bush fan meeting at Glastonbury in the summer of 2009 invoked a strange mixture of emotions in me. It had been roughly fifteen years since I had attended any type of fan event and thought I had left that world behind. But due to Pami’s instance, and the fact I would not have to travel to Glastonbury alone, I went.

I reached Pami and Paul’s house on the Friday. I cannot remember the details of that evening. The five of us (Jake and Emily included) probably had a take away and watched a movie. That was the usual routine for visits. It’s funny as it often was a routine, in my younger years, that irked me. In my late teens and early twenties, there was so much I wanted to know about life. I wanted to share opinions, absorb other peoples ideas, discuss meaning and purpose and yet, quite often I would be sat down and forced to watch The City of Lost Children or some other prententious pile of tosh at the bequest of Paul Gill. He was quite taken by style over substance. I much preferred substance over style, which probably explains why I was always a fan of Bod.

Derek Griffiths composed all the tunes for this show, you know!

Derek Griffiths composed all the tunes for this show, you know!

But that film, The City of lost fucking Children, became the bane of my life. Interestingly the director of that went on to make a film I really enjoyed – The Time Traveller’s Wife. Then again, Spielberg is guilty for unleashing 1941 upon the world but that doesn’t stop me still loving E.T – in a non-incestual way of course.

The next morning was sunny and we set off for the drive to Glastonbury. During our time swapping messages on Facebook over the last few months, it turned out certain songs became very special to us. Looking back, I am still not sure how and why it happened, but the song ‘America’ by Simon & Garfunkel, with it’s lyrics telling a story about escape, freedom and exploration, became important to us. As the car wound it’s way to Glastonbury, beneath one of the few spells of sunshine that we would have that summer, that song started playing on the radio.

Paul, ignorant of the importance of that song to us, began talking. I can’t remember what it was about. Probably The City Of Lost Children.

DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM! EVER!

DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM! EVER!

“Paul, be quiet,” said Pami. “We’re trying to listen to the song.”
For some reason, this made an impression on me. A song that we had exchanged thoughts about – and on reflection, they were the sort of thoughts that lovers tentatively share with each other as deeper feelings are explored – mattered that that much to her.

The day at Glastonbury passed without incident and a full write up of that event can be found here on my blog. There is one small thing that happened though which I cut out of my original write up. At one point Pami and I were walking and it began to rain. She had an umbrella and linked arms with me, so we could both stay under it. Her breasts were pressed into my arm and I could feel them. Months later, after our love was consummated and we lay panting in our bedsit, staring at the ceiling and wishing we hadn’t eaten so much, Pami told me that it had been deliberate. She had consciously been pushing her breasts into my arm as we walked along.

It was later that night, at their house in Calne, that things changed. Paul had retired to bed, having given up trying to start a conversation about The City Of Lost Children, leaving Pami and I downstairs. And we started talking. It had been clear, through months of swapping emails, that she wasn’t happy. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Other friends of hers on Facebook – Debi Bowes, Lisa Oliver, Cath Amos, Krys Boswell and many others, had all noticed to, through Pami’s wall posts on Facebook.

And so we talked, late into the night. We talked and she told me how unhappy she had been for nearly 25 years of her marriage to Paul. I believed her. What else was I supposed to feel? I believed her and then, just as dawn was breaking, we kissed.

To be continued…

 

When Riaz Met Pami (Part 1)

A still from the 1989 film ‘When Harry Met Sally’

When Harry Met Sally is one of my favourite films. It has an incredibly witty script and great performances from Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, playing Sally Allbright and Harry Burns. When I watched this film in the year of its release, 1989, I had no idea that my life would pan out in a similar way, but with a slightly sadder ending.

In 1988, at the age of 16, I attended a Kate Bush fan gathering at Haworth, West Yorkshire, home of the Bronte sisters. Kate Bush was (and still is) an English songwriter and musician who had a number one hit in 1978 with Wuthering Heights, a song inspired by the work of Emily Bronte, which is why this particular fan gathering took place at Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse on the bleak Yorkshire moors.

It was on November the 5th that we met and a small handful of roughly 20 fans, from all parts of the country, gathered together on that cold afternoon.

Kate Bush fan meeting, Top Withens, Haworth, November 1988

I made a few friends there, namely Neil Davison and Alan Patterson (if you stumble upon this blog post guys, get in touch. It’s been a long time…), and I also met the editors of the Kate Bush fanzine called ‘Homeground’ which was popular at the time. Unbeknownst to me (Unbeknownst – a great word, innit?) there was also a couple there – Pami and Paul Gill – though I never got around to speaking to them.

Pami Gill – this little lady who walked past me on the moors, in 1988, would become such an important part of my life, twenty years later…

The next year, sometime in the spring of 1989, I attended another Kate Bush fan meeting. This time it was at the flat of Paul Gardener in Manchester. Again, Pami and Paul Gill were amongst the guests there on that evening and it was Paul that I got talking to first. Paul Gill was an art teacher in a comprehensive school in Chester at the time, and ten years older than myself. We got talking and it turned out we had a mutual love of the same films and also both played guitar. At some point Pami joined us too and entered the conversation. She struck me then as a very beautiful lady, gothic in appearance, with jet black hair and a black crushed velvet dress. They left later that evening, but not before Paul had given me their address and said “drop us a letter”.

I stayed that night in Paul Gardener’s flat, along with ten or twelve other Kate fans. All of us snuggled in our sleeping bags, strewn across the living room, hallway and bedroom. They were great days and I have such great memories of those more carefree times. Paul Gardener sadly passed away from cancer some years ago. I had lost touch with him in the early nineties and was saddened to hear of his death. I wish I had known him more.

I wrote to Paul Gill but it was Pami who replied. Paul, she said, always enjoyed receiving my letters, but was a poor letter writer. It was always Pami who wrote to me. I had a number of pen-friends back then and would dedicate an awful lot of time throughout each week, composing and writing letters. In these days of email and the internet, handwritten letters from friends are rare, which is a shame as I remember it being one of the most enjoyable things – waiting for the postman each morning to see if a letter from a pen-pal would be pushed through the door.

I had an invitation to visit them at their home in Chester, so visit them I did. It was a wonderful weekend. Paul was a kind and generous man, maybe a bit ‘teacherly’ and parental at times, but his heart was in the right place. He was artistic yet practical. Pami was a strange but alluring mixture. Although outwardly, she could appear quite gothic, her ideas and beliefs were very hippyish. She loved fairies, ghosts, the supernatural, Laurel & Hardy, Monty Python, the myths of Glastonbury, Kate Bush (of course) and many other things that intrigued me.

Later that year I visited them again, along with Krystyna and Peter Fitzgerald-Morris, the editors of Homeground magazine. On that particular weekend we visited Pendle Hill in Lancashire, famous for the ‘Pendle Witch Trials’ that took place in 1612. It was a rainy day and the four of us spent a few hours hiking to the top of that hill, barely able to see more than ten feet in front of us due to the dense fog that increased the higher we got. I remember resting at one point and being able to sit next to Pami, on a large flat stone. I had no confidence with women at that point in my life. At 18, I could barely say hello to a girl without laughing to hide my acute embarrassment. Pami, being ten years older, made me feel comfortable. I could talk to her and I enjoyed her company a lot.

Pami Gill circa 1991

The years passed by. Letters came and went. I lived in Cwmbran, South Wales and Pami and Paul lived in Chester. Most of my Kate Bush friends lived far from me and I was only on the Youth Training Scheme allowance of £27 a week at the time, so didn’t get the chance to visit my friends that often.

Their friendship with the Fitzgeralds turned into something more. I visited them one weekend and Paul and I were at a pub alone, when suddenly he asked me what I thought of ‘swinging’.

“Well, I’ve always preferred the slide,” I said, which was true. “But if you can get on a really cool roundabout, then that can be so much fun.”

Paul patiently explained to me that swinging wasn’t about slides, swings, roundabouts or those little painted horses on springs that rock back and fore. He told me that he and Pami were now happily involved in an ‘open’ relationship with Krys and Peter. I felt a strange mixture of emotions at this revelation. A part of me was slightly jealous as it seemed to follow the bohemian way of life – that ‘hippy ideal’ – that I had romanticised for so long. But to paraphrase a Woody Allen quote from ‘Manhattan’ – I had romanticised that sort of life out of all proportion.

Paul continued talking and I half listened, but my mind was elsewhere. Things had changed.

I went to college for a few years. I forgot my old Kate Bush fan friends for a few years. I became a full time carer for my grandmother for a few years. She passed away in 1998. I got a job, met a girl, settled down and married. I was living the dream (or was I living the Cat Stevens song? I’m not sure now). It was 2001 and I was now 27. My friendships with a lot of the Kate Bush crowd had waxed and waned though there were a few constants.

“Just before our love got lost you said
‘I am as constant as the northern star’….” – Joni Mitchell ‘A Case Of You’

Pami and Paul were a constant and I renewed contact with them again in the summer of 2007 and once again, began visiting them several times a year. They had by this time moved to Calne, Wiltshire and also, by this time, Pami had given birth to two children, Jake and Emily. Their days of swinging had long since passed. Pami was eager to tell me that on my first visit to them in their new home, and they seemed to have settled down into a comfortable (from the outside) middle-aged lifestyle. By this time they were both in their late 40s and I was in my mid thirties. I was no longer the insecure, gawky, naive teenager they had first met on the moors over twenty years ago. I was now a tall, gawky adult, confident, inquisitive and creative.

Pami introduced me to Facebook and a curious thing began to happen. The little messages and posts we began to send each other, began to matter more and more to me. Her comments to my posts were waited for with baited breath. Pictures she posted to my wall made me beam and I treasured the little pm’s we would share. I began to realise I was very attracted to her and, from the messages I was receiving from Pami, my hunch was that this was a mutual attraction.

In the summer of 2008 a Kate Bush fan gathering was arranged at Glastonbury Tor, and Pami and Paul invited me to their home in Calne on that weekend, where on the Saturday we would go to Glastonbury together to meet up with other Kate Bush fans.

I looked forward to that weekend a lot and I had a strange feeling that if Pami and I had an opportunity to be alone together, something good was going to happen…

 

TO BE CONTINUED…