Chapter 31 First Love
It’s hard to know which relationship I should consider to be my first love. Was it Jackie, when I was 7, or Sue when I was 10, or Jules when I was 16, or should I only count the more adult affairs in my 20’s? For me, it was the one with Jules because in a way it created its own universe which I can, with a bit of focus, still enter and feel, at least a touch of its emotional intensity. Later I would have other very serious relationships, which still hold powerful emotional resonances for me. Each of them also existed in their own universes of time and space. Perhaps, if there are multiverses, in some of them we were together for a lifetime and that is why we couldn’t resist or stay with each other in this one. Less romantically, I ought to add that there were also quite a few solar systems, shooting stars and meteor showers, but it’s probably best not to dwell on those, at least not now.
I did wonder whether spending time writing about my first love would be of any interest to you, but the more I read my diaries and the love (and not so love) letters, the more it became apparent that there were indeed significant universal issues wrapped up in this story. It is no wonder then that there are so many songs about first love, whether it’s “The End of the Innocence” by Don Henley, or “Puppy Love” by Jimmy Osmond. O.K. I’m joking, I’m not including that one. Then there are the more cynical, but highly amusing ones, such as “Walk Away Renee” by Billy Bragg, and “Jilted John” by Graham Fellows AKA John Shuttleworth.
My older self, i.e. me now, would have chosen Bill Bailey’s Love Song to illustrate my reaction to this relationship. It’s a dark, but extremely funny look at a less than mature reaction to a break up. My younger self, however, would have seen some very definite parallels in the romantic Dire Straits song, “Romeo and Juliet”. However, together though, my two selves when they met up to write this, saw a far deeper connection with the film Donnie Darko. In it, the main character gets to see the outcome of various scenarios concerning the girl he loves. (Spoiler Alert!). Finally, he realises that the best thing he can do for her sake is to sacrifice himself. So, here, almost 40 years later, I look at a glimpse of Jules’s life, and I’m thankful, for her sake, that our relationship ended when it did. In so many ways, she was much better off without me.
* * *
The night we first kissed in 1981, I could not sleep, and when in 2020 I found her again I couldn’t sleep either. It was like plugging in a connection that went back 38 years and took me directly to that time. I was a ghost of the future looking at our story, knowing what was about to happen but still wanting to see it all again. It was like watching a film I’d loved a long time ago. There were subtleties and hints of what was to come, which on first viewing I had missed.
In 1981 I had fallen in love with Jules and my mind was exploding with all the possibilities of what was to come. But in 2020, it was compassion, and a sense of sorrow, for both Jules and I, and the story I knew which had come and gone, that filled my thoughts and feelings.
* * *
The Shock of Love
It’s no wonder then that as soon as I started to get involved with Jules I felt a sense of dread. I once wrote these lyrics: “If falling in love is a trick of the mind, then why am I not laughing this time”. The answer was quite simple. I knew it wasn’t going to last, and instead of thinking “Fuck it, let’s just enjoy the connection”, I spent the rest of the time trying hold on as tightly as I could but feeling even more desolate as a result. I also felt dread because this type of relationship would not only reveal to me the multiple layers of myself, but also the lack of control I had when it came to dealing with them.
When faced with the reality of being involved with someone else romantically, most of us are likely to feel quite unprepared. There are, of course, a few people who seem to have an easy ride in terms of relationships, but in my experience, most of us don’t. Someone once told me “If you want passionate love, you can’t have peace too.”
* * *
Most of us have expectations of what a loving relationship should be like. In some ways, this is surprising, given fairy stories only ever went as far as “And they lived happily ever after”. So, where do these expectations come from?
As part of my extensive research into this matter, I was talking with a friend the other day, and she felt that some of our expectations might come from our own parents, but for me, my parents certainly did not act as positive role models, conversely though, they did show me what to avoid.
It’s quite obvious that our community, culture, media, and the religions and ideologies that we may come in to contact with will have an influence too. But often, they are merely an echo of what beats deep inside us in the first place. For all the political shifts in the 70’s and 80’s, Bruce Springsteen never wrote a song about Mary drawing up a rota for housework. Had he done so, there might have been a lot fewer arguments about washing up, but I get the feeling his record company and fans would not have been too enamoured. In the same vein, had I had this relationship 6 months later, I might have listened to the album “The Lexicon of Love” by ABC, and may possibly have had a more realistic expectation of love. Yes, you’re right, I doubt it too.
These intrinsic expectations that I just mentioned, the ones beating deep inside us, probably derive from the same place that our expectations regarding caring for children come from. They are primeval structures embedded within our DNA. We may like to think that our rules for life come from higher thought processes, but just below the surface, it is biology that controls much of what we do, and expect.
I have touched on the idea of ‘the romantic illusion’ before. It’s very tempting to believe this has been constructed by millennia of social trial and error, but is it not mainly directed by our survival instinct? In this illusion, our love for another will be revealed at first sight, we will be compatible in every way, no one else will tempt us or break us apart. Our connection is the most important thing in our lives outside of our offspring and higher ideological mandates. This may sound very romantic, but is it not just also an elaborate mating ritual?
There’s a very long poem by Adrian Henri called “Words Without a Story” that lists all the things the writer does to win the “heart” of his beloved. Once they have “made love” he loses interest in her and she is left distraught. This is probably a very familiar experience for many people on both sides of the dynamic. The title to the poem partly refers to Frans Masereel’s wordless graphic novels which mainly consisted of woodcut images. It is said that his images were not intended to portray an unfolding sequence of events, but to resemble individual moments from the protagonist’s life. Sound familiar?
It is very possible that further sections to the romantic illusion have been added to throughout time, especially considering the development of spiritual belief systems. So, for instance, the notion that we will be together happily for the rest of our lives, and even remain together eternally after death as soulmates, initially seems to fit less neatly with biology than it does spirituality. However, sticking around to help with the child rearing may also be a successful strategy for our DNA too. Therefore, it’s very likely that the seemingly spiritual directive was a biologically based one after all. The only thing is, this doesn’t tend to work so well in practice. It’s as if biological programing is at odds with itself when it comes to humans. But then, given we are multi-layered beings who most likely evolved from primates, it’s no wonder that we contradict our best intentions, especially compared to most other animals.
There are other levels of our psyches to consider. For most of us, our minds partly deal in archetypes when it comes to other people. When we first get involved with someone it’s as if we are dealt a handful of picture cards. The romantic lover, seducer, whore or lothario, the mother, father, true one, or betrayer may suddenly inhabit our subconscious view. So, for instance, that ‘getting to know all about you’ part of a relationship, becomes a ’figuring out which archetypes you are?’ stage. We tend to hope and expect our partners to be like the positive card archetypes but we can often become anxious if there are any hints of them being otherwise.
There are probably lots of different reasons why relationships are so problematic. However, expectations probably do play a significant part for a lot of people. I’ve had a few women say to me early on in a relationship, “You’re not going to let me down or hurt me, emotionally, are you?” Obviously, those ones didn’t last very long when I honestly said “Yes”.
* * *
If You Want a Happy Partner Choose a Happy Person
Given the amount of grief most of us experience when it comes to relationships you’d think we wouldn’t bother. However, biology is not going to take such rational thinking lying down (Don’t go there). On top of that, there are probably psychological dynamics within us which are desperate to have their moments too. So, for most of us, we’re doomed and resistance is futile. There are some people who prefer not to have relationships, and thanks to them the hobby industries are booming. Joking aside though, it’s also possible that the opposite is true. What I mean is that those people who live a fulfilling life are more likely to feel less desperate to have a relationship. Consequently, they are less likely to treat a relationship as a crutch. Believing a relationship is all we need to make our life happy, rather than something extra to add to an already happy life, may make the relationship too precious, and just like the “my precious” ring in Lord of The Rings, it may destroy us.
* * *
At 16 I felt lonely a lot of the time. I wasn’t happy at home, and even though I got on well with Mum, in fact so well that John would complain that we chatted too much, I would spend a lot of time desperately looking for companionship elsewhere. It’s no coincidence either that at 16 we’ve probably stopped being physically affectionate with our parents, and not only are we experiencing sexual desire, but our longing for physical comfort will be heightened too. So, there I was at 16, completely unprepared for a relationship but desperate for one. Not only that but my past and genes – and yes, I do blame my mum and dad for them – added even more complications. This was not going to go smoothly. However, I like to take some consolation in Carl Jung’s saying that the tree that reaches up to heaven must also have roots that reach down to hell.
* * *
We probably spend more time choosing which bananas to buy in a supermarket than we do selecting a partner. In a perfect world, we’d meet someone, recognise some kind of attraction, then we’d spend time getting to know each other, (not in a pretend courtly way, but in a genuine manner) and if we were still interested in each other we might then move on to the next stage. The thing is biology is thinking, “We haven’t got time for all that crap, let’s just get mating”. There’s also a high chance that some of us will be attracted to people we subconsciously know are not going to be good with us. Bearing all this in mind, the chance of my first relationship doing well was close to zero. Aside from all of that, having a disability also added further complications to the mix.
* * *
It’s no wonder then that people can be dismissive of the trials of first love. Compared to the problems we’ll face in relationships throughout life, it can seem a bit incidental. Unfortunately, the suicide rates for teenagers going through their first love affair are high enough for it to be worthy of some attention. While it wasn’t likely that I would have been suicidal, I can see how a split-second suicidal feeling could lead to someone doing something that might end their lives. It’s no coincidence that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet ends as it does.
There’s a good saying: “If you dwell on the past, you’ll lose an eye, but if you don’t dwell on it, you’ll lose both eyes”
* * *
Jules had gone away for a few days with her parents, but to me it felt as if she’d taken a year’s sabbatical in Siberia. She was actually near Pevensey, so that wasn’t that far from the truth. While she was away I filled the empty spaces with activities that involved her. Firstly, I used my new camera equipment to photograph our photo booth photos, and then I wrote a long letter to her. Somehow, by writing letters to her it felt like we were talking to each other, and even when I wasn’t writing to her, I was conversing with her in my mind.
Maybe because I knew my love for her was not based on really knowing her, I was able to doubt her love for me too. So, when I wrote in my diary “Sometimes I wonder if she loves me as I love her?” I was both reading from my own internal drama of not being lovable, and touching on something truthful about all new relationships.
On the third day away, Jules managed to call me, and as usual we had a great chat. There was something genuine in the way we connected, a recognition of the light inside us and an immediate rapport when it came to the things we found funny and liked. Unlike the character in Bill Bailey’s Love Song, neither of us liked the painting of a dog in a deer stalker hat smoking a pipe, but we did like the same music and slightly dark humour. In fact, she had just taken my Bruce Cherry, and that, if you’re a Bruce fan is a big deal.
On the fourth day, I, along with some other school friends visited a part of London University with a view to considering doing a degree in psychology there. Whilst being shown around I got hooked up to a heart and perspiration monitor machine which suddenly went a bit haywire when I looked in the eyes of Lorna, a girl from my hometown who I’d chatted to in the lunch hour. “That wasn’t supposed to happen” I thought to myself, after all I only have eyes for Jules. But it did, and Lorna had seen it and knew it meant something too.
If the first rule of love is those who you want don’t want you, then the second rule of love is when you’re single no one wants you, but when you’re with someone, people will throw themselves at you.
Lorna and I journeyed back to Sutton together. We got on well, and whilst there was definitely a spark between us, which really did confuse me, I could sense that if I did anything with her it would be contaminated by my feelings for Jules and vice-a-versa it would do the same to my relationship with Jules, but I still felt some temptation.
This was something I hadn’t even considered as a possibility, but now I can see that for me, with my past, it was certainly one of my dynamics. It probably didn’t matter that the relationship was new. The pattern throughout my early years had been to look for comfort where ever I could find it. Whether it was the carers in the homes when my mother left me there or the other families I visited because my own family was dysfunctional, they were all a part of the same coping mechanism. So, if I already felt that our ‘love’ was mainly imagined and possibly short lived, I was quite happy to gather around me possible substitutes. What I didn’t factor in was that the carers would never love me like my mother would, the alternative families were not going to offer me a home long term, and by looking at substitutes I was saying to my mother and Jules, ‘See, you’re replaceable’, when in fact they were not.
I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about Lorna after we parted, in fact, as soon as I got in there was a letter waiting for me from Jules in which she told me about a conversation she’d had with her mum.
* * *
You’re in an old theatre, the lights are very low, it’s almost pitch black, there are slight murmurings which fade out as the lights rise.
The stage is on two levels. The bottom half has some American cars surrounding an American 50’s era diner bar with stools positioned along it. The upper stage is a cross section of the top floor of a house. To the right there’s a balcony with a wall and a vined trellis going down to the lower stage.
The room that links to the balcony has a bed in it, some posters of a young Bruce Springsteen on the walls, and a desk. To the left of that room is a hallway, and to the left of that is a master bedroom in which there is a four-poster bed and some classical ionic columns in the corners of the room. There is another door that goes to another room (off stage) to the far left.
Jules is lying on her front on her bed, her feet are crossed in the air. There is the sound of people climbing the stairs. Her mother’s voice calls out “I hope you’re revising in there Jules”. Jules, a bit panicked quickly jumps off her bed, switches her handheld transistor radio off, and throws the magazine under the bed. She sits at her desk just as the door opens, then twists around to look at her mother.
Jules’s Mother: Oh, you are such a good girl.
Jules: I think I ought to take a break I’ve been studying for hours.
Jules’s Mother: Oh, you poor thing. I’m going to make dinner in a minute anyway, so come down when you’re ready.
Jules [hesitatingly]: Mum?
Jules’s Mother: Yes darling.
Jules: Can I ask you something?
[Jules gets up and sits on her bed. Her mother closes the door, sits next to her and holds her hand.]
Jules: You know Simon, who you met the other night?
Jules’s Mother [warily]: Yes
Jules: Well, I really like him and would like to go out with him, you know, as a friend, nothing serious
[Jules looks at the audience]
Jules: I don’t think now is a good time to tell her I love him
Her mum looks at the audience
Jules’s Mother: I knew it, she’s fallen in love with him!
She looks back towards Jules and puts both her hands around Jules’s hand
Jules’s Mother: Erm… I know he’s a very nice boy, but he’s obviously been hurt enough by life and I really wouldn’t want to see him getting hurt anymore.
Jules looks at the audience
Jules: Awww my Mum is so sweet. She obviously really cares about him too. My Mum’s the best”
[Her mother looks at the audience, licks her finger and makes the “I just scored one point” sign. She kisses Jules on the cheek then leaves the room and can be heard walking down the stairs. Jules goes back to her desk, grabs a sheet of paper and a pen.
She speaks as she writes.]
Jules: Dear Mum,
I’m going to go out with Simon on my own or with friends. As far as I’m concerned if you don’t trust me now then it’s your problem, not mine. I trust myself and I know what I’m doing. When you think about it I could be legally married in 6 months yet you are trying to keep me in like a little kid!
[She looks at the audience]
Jules: Yes, I know. I’m a fast writer
[She continues writing the letter]
If you say I’m not to go out with him then I will but you won’t know about it, that’s all. Don’t you think it would be nicer for you to know exactly where I am and nicer for me to not have to lie to you about where I’m going?
I thought about what you said about him being hurt and keeping it casual, I told him and it’s agreed that when it all flops apart we’ll still be good friends.
Don’t get cross Mum.
You’re a great Mum but give me a chance!
[She puts the letter in to an envelope, then goes to their bedroom, places it on their bed and walks downstairs]
The lights fade down on the upper floors but are brightened on the lower level.
Simon walks on to the stage from the right.
Simon: Wow, what a cool set.
[Simon looks off stage]
Hey, do you mind if I have a cool actor play me please?”
[There’s a puff of smoke and standing where Simon had been standing is John Travolta dressed up as Danny from the movie Grease]
[Simon’s voice comes over the intercom] “No… Cooler”
[Danny, looks incredulous, sticks his finger up at the ‘voice in the sky’ and struts off as cool 23-year-old teenagers do.]
[The lights fade down, and a spotlight hovers over the right of the stage.
Elvis, in his 68 Special leather suit walks on]
“Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me”
[Simon’s voice over the Intercom]: “That’s better”
[Elvis smiles a little coyly]
The music continues as the lights fade,
Elvis sings: “Oh I wish I knew the words, but due to copyright laws you’ll have to imagine the rest”
* * *
The lights raise on the upper floor. Jules is in her parent’s room. She grabs the letter, then runs back to her room.
Jules: “Be brave Jules”
[She runs back to their room and places it on their bed. The sound of her mother climbing the stairs sends her in to a panic, she wavers for a second then darts back to her room. She leaps in to bed, pulls the covers over her head and makes some loud snoring noises and shakes nervously.]
[Her mother listens at the door.]
Jules’s Mother: “Are you ok in there?”
[Jules snores even more loudly. Her mother raises her eye brows and goes to her room where she sees the letter and picks it up. Jules stops snoring, pulls the covers from her head and goes into an intense listening position.]
[Jules’s dad comes up the stairs and enters their bedroom. Jules’s mother enters the room off stage to the left. The lights fade down.]
* * *
Stages of Development
I began to become more aware of stages of development in nearly every aspect of life around this time. It was probably only when I started feeling myself moving through stages that I became truly aware of their significance. As I got better at art I started to see other people doing things that I had done previously, and ahead of me I could see that other people were doing things that I couldn’t understand. It’s very easy to look at people who are at a different stage to one’s self and think that either they are up their own arse, or, instead, look down on them as if they’re stupid. It would be many years before I would start to appreciate that we’re all on journeys and that I should be cautious when it came to reacting to people who were at different stages.
Obviously, there are varied stages of relationships too. I may have understood that cognitively then but not emotionally. We were very young so it would seem appropriate that at least for some time our relationship should only exist within a certain framework. At 7 with Jacqueline we had tea together and a kiss goodbye, then at 10 with Sue we had one kiss, I wrote a few letters and I looked at her photo a lot. At 16, going any further than spending time together, holding hands, kissing and cuddling could possibly end up with us derailing our lives. Unfortunately, I wanted it all and I wanted it now.
* * *
As soon as Jules got back from being away we would meet up every day. The more I saw her, the more I wanted to see her, and she seemed to feel the same way. We’d meet at the library where we’d do our homework together, although I think chatting was our main preoccupation. We’d bring each other letters we’d written when we were apart, and little presents such as poems and small affectionate keepsakes. Fortunately, I didn’t bring her all my poems, I think one called something like ‘The Pain of Love’ may have worried her slightly. As things were, she would tell me off for being a bit too possessive anyway. Maybe I thought showing someone I wanted to be with them all the time was something they’d appreciate, but I hadn’t learnt that people not only need a little space to feel their own feelings but also there is something far more attractive about someone who’s happy with life and still wants to see you, particularly when compared to one who sees you as their saviour, particularly if it’s because their life is empty without you. Fortunately, in time, I did take that on board, well, about 30 years’ later.
* * *
The lights fade up, Elvis walks towards the trellis, he gently plays his guitar and sings “Love Me Tender”. Jules gets out of bed and walks to the balcony, she closes her eyes and swoons a little. I walk on to the balcony.
Simon [whispering]: Hey Jules
Jules [Shocked]: Oh! How did you get up here?
Simon: There’s a little lift just off stage
[She nods in understanding but looks a bit confused.]
[Elvis starts singing loudly]: Up above my head there is music in the air
Jules and Simon: Shhhhhhhh!
[Jules’s parents sit up in unison, turn their lamps on, look at each other, shrug their shoulders then slowly turn their lights off and lie down again.]
Simon: Is everything ok?
[Jules grabs Simon, hugs him and runs her fingers through his hair]
Jules: I love you and I missed you one hell of a lot but I don’t want it to get too serious too soon, if you know what I mean. I hope you understand?
Simon: Yes, of course I do
[Simon looks at the audience and shakes his head in confusion.]
Jules: My parents are very worried about how serious it might get, and therefore they aren’t going to be overly sociable or jolly in the hope that we notice and finish it off because of them. They’ve really annoyed me.
Simon [Angrily]: Fuck ‘em!
[Jules looks anxious]
Jules: I hope you’re not serious as that will just make matters worse. I think if we continue to be friendly then in time they’ll be friendly with you. I’ve seen it before with my sister.
Simon: Yes, you’re right, it won’t help if I’m like that
[Jules pulls Simon towards her and gives me a big kiss. She pauses.]
Jules: Hold on, I’m just going to change the music.
[Elvis looks at the audience and shakes his head in disbelief and despondently walks off stage.]
The spotlight goes to the same place to the right of the stage as before, an eerie harmonica wails as Bruce Springsteen appears, he starts singing “The River”. The volume and lights fade.
Bruce: Man, that’s the shortest concert I’ve ever done.
* * *
Reasons to be Fearful
I couldn’t be sure exactly why Jules’ parents took against me. It was most likely to do with my disability and thinking that I might not be a good bet for their daughter long term. Maybe they felt that Jules’ felt sorry for me and wanted to protect her from herself. There might have been other reasons, but I don’t think they were particularly being malicious towards me. For them, this was most likely about protecting their daughter’s interests, but I will never know if they also had other fears or prejudices. There’s always been a lot of stigma regarding disability in certain circles of society, and even now, 4 decades later, the fight goes on.
* * *
Jules thought it would be a good idea to try a bit of aversion therapy on her parents. The plan was to get them to have a bit of contact with me, and hopefully in time they’d be a bit more amenable to the idea of us at least being friends.
When I entered the house, I wiped my feet on the mat at least 30 times until I noticed a slight nod from her mum that I’d shown enough respect. I was then shown to the kitchen. Jules made me a cup of tea and we had a good together. Perhaps it was the laughter that did it. Maybe they knew that laughter was far more dangerous than kissing or silence even. After less than an hour though, I was asked to leave.
We were both fuming but deep down we knew this was the death knell of our relationship.
I was so angry that on the way home I called Lorna and asked if I could pop around. When I got there her mum and dad welcomed me to stay for something to eat and afterwards I sat on the sofa with them and watched TV. As I left, Lorna went to kiss me goodbye, as our mouths touched it felt wrong. I told her I liked her but I loved Jules and I didn’t want to hurt either of them. I felt awful because I didn’t want to reject her, and had we met before Jules and I had, then maybe we would have got together. But, it was too late, I was trapped inside my own emotional cage.
When I got home, I asked Mum if Jules had phoned, but she hadn’t so I went upstairs, got in to bed and listened to the radio. I knew Jules would be listening to the same program. There was always a phone-in competition just before midnight where the caller would have to recognise the song being played from its introduction before the singing started. This night it was an easy one, it was “Don’t You Want Me?” by The Human League.
I read my poster of Desiderata which I’d put up above my tropical fish tank so was lit by the neon-glo light. “What amazing words” I thought, but I still felt shit.
I didn’t see or hear from Jules for a couple of days, but when I did she told me her parents had ordered her to stop going out with me.
When I got to school the next day one of Lorna’s friends told me she’d cried after I’d seen her the other night. She said that even though she didn’t want to go out with me, she was touched by me being so straight with her. I don’t think I was as straight about it to Jules though. I thought to myself “I’m sure God’s having a bit of a laugh at my expense right now.”
Our first lesson that day was geography. We had a new teacher, Mr Hay, he had a big biker beard and resembled a massive wrestler. He looked at me and said “You ok mate?”
The class went very quiet as this wasn’t normal. I said “My girlfriend’s parents won’t let us be together”. He nodded very slightly in understanding then added “That’s heavy man”.
* * *
For another two days, there was radio silence between Jules and I, but on Saturday we had our art class. She was there and after it she kissed me and said she still wanted us to carry on seeing each other. We spent the afternoon together, but then she was gone, and I fell in to a depression again.
On the way home, I popped in to Cameron’s house. He was one of my school friends. His parents were one of the few very happy couples I’d ever come across. I talked to his Dad about the situation and asked what he thought I should do. He told me I was being selfish and I should think about what was best for Jules. So, when I got in I wrote her a letter saying I’d understand that if it was too much for her we could end it. I didn’t include in it that I didn’t want her to go. When I got in to bed I knew the end was approaching and cried.
The next day Jules called me, but in order to get some privacy I grabbed some coins and ran to the nearest phone box. When I got there, there was already someone using it. I made it clear I was waiting to use the phone by queuing in their line of sight. That probably made them take longer. Couldn’t they see that this was a matter of life and death? Jules’s parents were only out for half an hour and I had at least two letters to read her!
As the person came out the phone box they huffed a little whilst looking me up and down. I smiled and said “Thanks”. But, I’m sure they knew.
I got through just in time and was able to read my resignation letter to Jules.
“They’re back, I’ve got to go” she said, “but I don’t want to split up, I’m missing you so much, I love you” And then the phone clicked off.
For the next few days all I could think of was Jules. She tried to call me once when I was out. But then a letter from her arrived for me. In it she wrote:
“Lying to my parents isn’t going to bother me that much because I’ve already warned them I would do so. In time, they won’t be so against it. You must admit this problem does add a bit of spice (or at least try to convince yourself it does) I miss you and I love you, but you know that anyway.”
She was willing to fight for our love and I was filled with energy again.
On the way home from school the next day some kids from another school started a fight at the bus stop. I lightly kicked one of them in the head and as I went to kick another he looked at me in recognition. He was the younger brother of a friend from my junior school, so I stopped myself. He looked shocked, maybe even horrified, or confused even. It was a strange moment of revelation, and he ordered the others to stop.
Afterwards I made my way to Sutton Library where Jules was waiting for me. She gave me the biggest hug. We couldn’t spend long together but I breathed in every breath she exhaled. Then she was gone and I didn’t want let go of even a single one of her molecules that I’d breathed in.
The next day her parents were going to be out so she invited me over. As I came out of school there was a roar of cheering from the kids at the bus stop who’d witnessed the previous day’s scrap. I smiled but my main priority was getting to the other bus stop down the road so I could get to see Jules on time.
When I got to her place, I lay in her arms whilst we chatted and laughed but all the time I couldn’t help but listen out for the sound of a car pulling up or keys turning in the door.
“It’s ok” she said “they won’t be back for ages”
And fortunately, she was right.
A week had passed since her parents had laid down the law. There was going to be some sacrifices but at least we were still together.
We got to see each other on Saturday for the afternoon. I went with Jules to get her ears pierced, she’d told her Mum she was going with her friend Scarlett. Her Mum called Scarlett’s mum to check they were together and luckily Scarlett’s Mum covered for us.
After Jules left me I called on Anya, she wasn’t in so I stayed there chatting to her Mum until 10pm. The next day I didn’t hear from Jules, but Lorna popped around and Anya phoned. I was surrounded by women but the one I wanted to be with was in my heart, but my heart was still filled with doubt. The next day my Mum brought me a letter that had just dropped through the letterbox:
So, I’m afraid it all boils down to the fact that we’re going to have to reach an agreement that we’ll both be happy with. Either it finishes and we stay just as very good friends, or it carries on but we keep it from my mum and dad (which would be hard). What I don’t want is a full-scale argument and then we never speak again. I couldn’t stand that. I’m sorry Simon but I can see that life is going to be hell for as long as they think I’m going out with you. Why can’t they love you like I do?
Thinking of you and missing you
Your kiss is so gentle… I love you
* * *
[The music to “Summer Nights” starts]
Simon: Family loving
Had me a fast
Jules: Family loving
Can’t let it pass
Simon: My girl’s parents
Aren’t crazy for me
Jules: I met a boy
They don’t want me to see
Simon: I dream of days
Where they’ll let me stay
[Jules looks shocked]
Jules and Simon: But oh, oh, they say it’s not right
[The music changes to “Stayin’ Alive”]
Simon: Whether you’re her mother
Or whether you’re her brother
I’m this woman’s lover
Keeping our love alive
Jules [wags her finger at Simon]
Jules: Well you can tell by my sign I’m a little mysterious
I might be in love but we can’t get too serious
[The music abruptly changes to “How Deep is Your Love?”. Jules looks a bit pissed off for being cut off mid flow, but as Simon starts singing she sways and look demure.]
Simon: And when I rise in the morning…
[Jules puts her hand over her eyes in embarrassment then peeps through her fingers]
Jules’s mother shouts: Jules, Jules, I think that’s enough for now… Come on it’s dinner!
[Jules starts to climb the trellis back up to the balcony]
[The music to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” starts to play]
Jules sings: Mother, Father, there’s no need to escalate.
[the piano player playing the music continues playing on in a rather irritated way]
Simon: Erm… I think there is. Would you prefer to take the lift?
[Simon points to the off stage lift/cherry picker.
Jules nods in agreement, hops down from the trellis and walks off stage.]
Piano player (in the orchestra pit]: And one, two, three, four…
[The music restarts]
Jules sings: A feud is not the answer
Simon and Jules, in harmony, with an angelic/saccharine expression on Simon’s face]
For our love will conquer hate.
Lights fade down
* * *
Had I had any sense I’d have made my exit then, but I preferred to suffer more. In fact, over the next few days I did everything possible to make matters worse. Firstly, when she took the risk to visit me at my place I tried to push things further, sexually. Then afterwards, I wrote two provocative letters, in one I said I doubted she was truly in love with me and in the other, she didn’t try very hard. I knew what I was doing, I just didn’t know why, and I couldn’t stop myself.
Just after I posted the second letter Lorna popped around, she seemed very happy, she had a new boyfriend. I was happy for her, even if these were not the happiest times for me.
* * *
The lights come back up
[Simon is trying to prize open a post box.]
Simon: What have I done? Why did I post that stupid letter? I’m so glad that texts haven’t been invented yet. At least I’ve got a chance of getting this open and changing the destiny of all human kind.
[A very tall girl walks on to the stage.]
Tall girl: What are you doing Simon?
Simon: I’ve posted a letter to Jules, but now I regret sending it
Tall girl: Why, what did you say?
Simon: I said she didn’t love me properly and she shouldn’t use the word love so contemptuously
The tall girl stands next to Simon and starts fondling his hair.
Tall girl: That’s a pity. You do know that there are others who do, you know, like you? She sticks her hip out and points at herself.
Simon: No, there’s no one else for me.
She swivels around so her legs are either side of Simon’s head. Simon looks up.
Simon: Oh, thank you, that’s just what I need. And it’s the perfect size too
[Simon takes a screw driver from the front pocket of her skirt. He tries to unscrew one of the screws for 6 seconds.]
Simon: There we are, just one more screw to go. Shit! It’s broke. It won’t undo.
Tall girl: Maybe it’s meant to be? Come on, come with me, it’ll be ok
[They walk over to the bar. She makes one of the stools go really low. Simon sits on it, then she raises it so they are at the same height. Simon picks up a framed photo of Jules from the bar and passes it to her. She holds it in front of her face as she talks, meanwhile, Simon looks lovingly at the photo.]
The lights fade down.
* * *
The lights fade up
[Jules is on the balcony, she looks down]
Jules: Why did you say I don’t love you, you know I do, I don’t lie? That upset me. I don’t want to call it off because I do love you ‘in my own way’. I really do miss you and I love you, believe me. I feel as if I’ve got a knot in my stomach.”
The music to Tracey Chapman’s Baby Can I hold You starts.
Simon, looking up, goes to sing, but no words come out.
* * *
I hadn’t got myself in to this situation by accident, it took careful choreography by my subconscious to not only provoke some of the rejection that was beginning to come my way, but also to remain in a position of vulnerability. So why did I have a part of me that wanted to put myself in the firing line? Was it because, as some psychologists hypothesise, that we recreate difficult situations in order to gain a different, more positive outcome or is it because this is what we know and understand to be ‘home’?
For me, what I knew of love was yearning. The drama of ‘will she leave me or will she rescue me’, was very much the distilled version of how it felt to me to be put in care as a very young child. Was I trying to recreate that emotional world again?
The thing is, this situation was also very close to how most other people, who were not abandoned as children, feel when they fall in love for the first time too. Again, some psychologists might argue that sometime during the early development of a child the child realises that they are a separate being from their parents, especially their mother in most cases, and at that point they will feel insecure and become quite clingy. So, even for people with a ‘normal’ upbringing there may be echoes of separation anxiety evoked in their first experience of ‘love’.
* * *
The lights fade up.
[Simon is lying on a sofa that is in the shape of a naked woman, his head rests on her breasts. There is a therapist covered in a golden sheet sitting near Simon’s head.]
Simon: I was just reading about people with separation or abandonment issues?
Therapist: I am sure that your past had had some effect on you, but what makes you think you have those syndromes?
Simon: Well, whenever I fall in love I feel like I become totally obsessed about them and it feels really irrational.
[The Therapist seems to lose control for a second]
Therapist [raised voice]: Oh what poppycock!
[She calms herself, straightens her golden sheet]
Therapist: Isn’t that how most people react when they fall in love? Does that mean that all the great poets and artists were mental… [she corrects herself] I mean had mental health and abandonment issues?
I mean, I would like to think that I could have a more reasonable reaction.
[The Therapist laughs a big laugh]
Therapist: Yes, you and the rest of the human race. Falling in love is not noted for being a state of rationality.
The lights fade
* * *
Over the last few months I had gradually moved from being quite unhappy but coping with feeling like that by visiting people and being busy with things I liked doing, to becoming demotivated, and feeling reliant on seeing Jules to feel happy.
* * *
The lights fade up.
[Simon is still on the stool at the bar, but now it is at a comfortable height.
The tall girl has been replaced by a nun]
Sister Ruth: Know Jesus, know happiness. No Jesus, No happiness.
Simon: That feels like I’d be swapping one drug for another. I think there’s something wrong with me, that’s why I feel lonely.
Sister Ruth: Yes, you won’t let the Lord in to your heart. That’s what’s wrong with you.
Simon: That doesn’t ring true to me.
Sister Ruth: OK, I’ve done my recruiting hours for this week. Let’s have a drink and tell me the one about the nuns cycling on the cobbled street again. I love that one.
* * *
Jules and I had been going out with each other for about 5 weeks, and although her parents had ordered her to stop seeing me she disobeyed them and tried to meet me as often as she could.
Sutton Library was our main meeting place, and overall it was a safe place for us. However, we did get told off for having a snog in the in the children’s library, and soon after that got a further warning to change our ways after I thumped a book case which made a big bang. This had been my reaction to an old woman hissing at me “You make me sick” when she came across Jules sitting on my lap in one of the comfy reading chairs.
* * *
Most days, I would bunk off school a little bit early so I could get the bus that would take me to Jules’s school on time to meet her as she came out the front gates. If we could only have a short time together we’d go to the American Café, in Cheam, have a cappuccino, chat together, hold hands and be affectionate with each other. Although it wasn’t a perfect situation, we both liked it, and some days if we had a bit longer we’d go to Sutton and either go shopping or do our homework in the library. There were a few times when Jules managed to come to my place. I’d put my head on her lap and she’d hum and stroke my hair while I would fall asleep for a short while.
When we weren’t together we’d chat on the phone or send letters to each other. We were continually in each other’s minds. There were times though that the gaps between seeing each other might become longer than a few days, then the doubts would set in, I’d feel forgotten and I would focus on the end. She had given me a glove with some perfume on it, I think it was called Chloe, and like a coke addict I’d inhale a deep breath of it to help keep me going when the intervals became too great.
* * *
The lights fade up on the café area only.
[Jules and Simon are sitting at a booth type table side-on to the stage in front on the bar.]
Jules: I so love coming here with you after school
Simon: Yeah, I do too. But I’d be happy anywhere as long as you were with me.
Jules: Are you doing an O level in charm?
Simon: Erm, excuse me, I’m doing an A level.
Jules: You know, for now, this is just right. I don’t know why my parents are being so difficult.
Simon: They’re just doing what they think is best, but it’s bloody annoying.
[The upper stage area classical bedroom becomes illuminated]
The music of “O Solo Mio” starts
Jules’s Mother sings in an operatic style:
Oh my baby daughter
My heart’s breaking too
I only wanted
To protect you too
[Jules stands up and looks at her mother]
Jules’s Mother: You’re so young and do not know
Just one mistake could
Hurt you so
Simon impersonates Elvis: It’s now or never
I don’t want to fight
Kiss me my sweetheart
Please hold on tight
[Jules goes to Simon and hugs him]
Simon and Jules’s Mother Sing together:
Tomorrow might be too late
It only takes,
Jules looks at her mum, then looks at Simon. Her hand upon her heart.
Both Mum and Dad
Think that it’s wrong
But if you go my heart will long
When we’re together
It feels so right
But I can’t bear
This family fight
The music fades
There’s a moment of silence
[The tune of “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen starts]
Simon: Well I got this mouth and I learned how to make it talk.
The bus stops ‘round the corner if you’re ready to take that short walk.
[The music fades]
Jules nods “no”: Sorry, I better go home.
Jules walks off stage
Simon: You are my home.
Jules’s voice from off stage: No, I’m not, that’s too much for now.
* * *
1982 Human Geography Lesson
Our lessons with Mr Hay were becoming more entertaining with each passing day. He was able to mix a bit of learning with having open and frank discussions with us about life. Especially our love lives. We loved it and looked forward to his lessons.
One day I gave him one of my poems to read and the next day he returned it with some humorous comments added. Just to have been given some attention meant something.
At the end of the lesson he told me he had a girl coming around that night, which, though inappropriate opened my eyes to him being human too.
There was something of the Amazon storyteller about him.
* * *
The Amazon Storyteller
I once watched a documentary about a storyteller in one of the Amazon rainforest tribes. As he told his story to his audience which included adults and children, he spoke in detail about things that we, in our society, would never dream of mentioning to kids. Part of his story involved discussing a thin cord running between the legs of a woman and gently rubbing against her clitoris. This program stuck in my mind and partly made me question the lack of preparation we provide for children concerning relationships. Instead of happy ever after, why don’t we talk of some of the real issues and challenges that many of us will face when having relationships? Ok, maybe not to children below say 11 or 12, but at that age many kids could probably cope. Now you might think I’m being a bit out there saying that, but in the past, especially in European cultures, children’s stories and folk parables were far scarier and full of advice for life as well as daring to broach what are now present-day taboo subjects.
* * *
The Look of Love
There is, of course, a big difference between what we learn on a cognitive level rather than on an emotional one. Even at the 16 I knew that when I hurt Jules, especially by my demands for more, that I felt like ‘a hypocrite to my ideals’. So, it wasn’t as if I was completely unaware of how I should treat someone I supposedly loved. But, perhaps it was the notion of love that was at the heart of all of this. Love is one word that means lots of different things and people tend to latch on to the meaning that suits them at the time. We may love our children unconditionally, but to love our partner in the same way is extremely hard for most of us to do. Also, the love we feel for someone is bound to change with time, the more we get to know them, the more we may love them in some ways and less in others. When Jules and I told each other we loved each other, we meant, “I love how you make me feel”. But what we heard was some kind of commitment to a duty of care. For me it was partly about never leaving me, for her it was about, amongst other things, being caring towards her even if we had to part. Either way, both of us were on a journey of discovery about love, it’s just we didn’t expect the first few miles to be so fraught with so many undercurrents.
* * *
1982 February – Wilsons School – Geography Lesson
The last thing Mr Hay had told me the week before, was he was going out with a woman on Valentine’s Day, but as we entered his class there was a new teacher, a middle-aged woman who introduced herself as Mrs Ballantyne. She informed us that Mr Hay had had a mental breakdown and she would be our new teacher. I automatically assumed he’d had a breakdown because of something to do with his relationship with that woman, but there was no evidence to support that.
Our new teacher sent us out to do a survey of local shops so we could see how property types changed as they got further away from the centre of a town. I was partnered with Phil Ruthen who agreed with me to stop at as many cafes as possible en route where we’d have a cup of tea and snack whilst we just made up the data because we knew it would never be checked. In a way, it was our wake in honour of Mr Hay.
* * *
Over the next few days Jules and I met up twice, the first time was to go to a party. We arrived separately so as not to arouse suspicion from her parents, but as her Dad was dropping her off I had to dart in to someone’s garden so he wouldn’t see me. No matter how careful you are it only takes one mistake to set the alarm bells off, and somehow Jules’s Mum managed to see one of our letters during this weekend.
Two days after the party Jules came around to my house. She’d told her Mum she was going swimming at Westcroft sports centre which was around the corner from where I lived. A short while after Jules arrived the phone rang and John called out that it was for me. “It’s Jules’s Mum, she wants a word with you” He said.
“Hello Simon, can I speak to Jules please?” she asked.
“She’s not here” I said as calmly as I could, then I added for effect “Is she ok? Has she run away?”
“No, of course she hasn’t run away! it’s just she said she was going swimming around the corner from you and she’s not there”
“Oh, well she’s not here, sorry” I said.
“Oh ok, thank you” – I’m sure she wanted to add “You’re not as good at lying as you think you are buster!”, but instead, she politely said goodbye and put the phone down.
This was about 12 years before mobile phones were commonplace, so I automatically presumed she was calling from a local phone box. I walked to the front room looked out the window and was certain I could see Jules’s parent’s car parked across the road. That meant she was at the telephone box around the corner, so she was likely to be outside within seconds.
I went to the back room where Jules was still oblivious and ready to resume cuddling up, but as I told her what had gone on we both knew that that was probably our last ever kiss as girlfriend and boyfriend.
I suggested calling my neighbours to ask them if Jules could climb over their fence and make her way back to Westcroft before her mum did. Jules thought it best too, or at least played along with my genius idea, so, I called them and they agreed to help with our version of The Great Escape. Remember, this was suburbia so any excitement was always more than welcome. They helped Jules over and escorted her to the main road and gave her directions to a back route so her Mum wouldn’t see her. She did everything to plan, but her mother was one step ahead of us. As Jules entered the sports centre her Mum was waiting for her.
* * *
1982 That Dear Simon Letter
The next day Jules asked me to meet her in the library. I knew what was coming as she solemnly passed me an envelope. I shook as I read its contents. I felt cold shudders of fear as I read the words which I had dreaded right from the beginning.
The letter said:
I really shouldn’t be writing this. I should say it to you. If I did I would choke up with tears… You must know what I’m going to say. I should’ve said it was over when you gave me the chance a couple of weeks ago, but I guess I thought it could have worked out… This hurts like Hell. On Jan 16th, you asked me to promise not to chuck you on account of my parents. I suppose I didn’t wholly keep that promise. The tension at home is unbearable and I can’t stand it.
I will keep your letters, poems, bracelet and picture on my wall. Most of all I will keep happy memories of you. Just keep in touch and try to remain great friends.
I walked with Jules up the road. She held my arm and kissed me goodbye at the junction of Mulgrave Road and Bridge Road (Oh, the symbolism!), and then we went our separate ways. I looked over my shoulder and could see Jules was crying. I couldn’t believe what was happening so I went around to Lorna’s and spent the day there in shock.
You would think that I would have gracefully bowed out at this point but instead the next month was still fertile ground for my own dynamics to have their way.
* * *
In the therapy room.
Simon: I feel like dying without Jules
Therapist: Have you heard of the five stages of grief?
Therapist: Well, let me enlighten you.
The stage goes dark except a spot light on the therapist.
She stands up, the golden cover slips off her to reveal a beautiful belly dancer. She continues to dance as she sings the following lines to the rhythm of the middle eastern drums.
Therapist: I want you to think D.A.N.G.A. You got that, baby?
Therapist: D is for denial as you won’t believe it’s true, is that right, am I wrong, baby is that you?
Therapist: A is for Anger because you’re gonna feel rage. But take my advice, try not to engage.
N is the negotiation you’re going to try. You’ll probably beg for the end not to be nigh.
[She looks at the audience] Who writes this shit
G is for gloomy, that’s how you’re gonna feel. If you don’t feel that then it’s not the true deal.
And A is near the end when you Accept what’s real.
You got that baby, does it feel true? If you want to heal your heart, it’s some’ing
You’re gonna have to do.
[The therapist sits back down and covers herself]
The spot light fades down
* * *
Sure enough, the first few weeks were full of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. However, I don’t think there was any acceptance.
At first, Jules phoned each day, and it was as if nothing had changed. I still couldn’t believe it was over. But when I asked her if we could get back together, she just went quiet. Jules would tell me of her arguments with her parents, and because I knew she still cared and missed me, I seriously believed we might get back together. When she’d write, she would end each letter saying how much she missed me, but rather than seeing it as her simply letting me know she still had strong feelings, I took it to mean we would be getting back together in time. After a few weeks, she didn’t budge and the anger kicked in, at that point my letters to her became accusatory. My own dynamics tended towards seeing the person who was supposed to love me as not loving me properly. And sure enough, in this instance I needed to hear those words. So, I huffed and I puffed until all the walls came down.
When I next saw Jules, she told me her parents had grounded her until after her exams in the summer. She held my arm as she told me, my nose gently stroked against her face. But we didn’t kiss, except to say goodbye. Even then though, I thought we might, somehow, get back together.
Over the next two weeks I began to come to terms with it being over. However, I stayed in contact with three of her friends, maybe because I couldn’t let go, but one of them was Dee who I’d met when we all met for the first time, and it felt like a genuine friendship that I had the right to pursue.
Jules and I met one more time, she held my paw and even invited me to come to her house., but her parents found out, they revoked the invitation and banned her from art classes too.
From this point on there was no more intimacy. I went back to my old ways of seeking comfort from friends, and slowly disengaged from Jules, well, at least to a point. On my birthday Jules sent a card. In it she said
“You know that I loved you in my own valentine way and you must know how much I’m missing you. I still love you in my own way although I feel what’s happened is for the best.
Don’t contact me…remember me. I’ll always remember you.
Goodbye Simon –xx-
We would occasionally bump in to each other at the lessons after her parents lifted the ban. She told a mutual friend that my jovial insults were beginning to make her sick and tired of me. And in time we stopped talking to each other. But it was the kind of silence that actually said quite a lot.
* * *
[The stage is dark. Jules is standing on her balcony.
Simon is standing below. Jules hasn’t noticed him.]
Simon whispers loudly: Jules!
[Jules looks over the balcony at him]
Jules: Go away!
Simon: Did you get my letter?
Jules starts to rap the following lines whilst taking an annoyed stance:
I am sorry to say
I read your letter today
And found it made me feel quite queasy
I’m not sure why
You’re having to try
To make this so difficult
If you cared like you said
Then I think you’d be kinder
But your attacks say different
And I’m beginning not to like ya
[Jules pauses and say to the audience]
Jules: It was either this or panto
[Jules takes her annoyed pose again]
And I’m so sick and tired of you trying to offend
And why the fuck do you keep visiting my friends
I’m beginning to wonder
Who it was I thought I knew
Because the person that I loved certainly wasn’t you.
I’ve woken from our dream
But no love was found
So, have a great life
I’ll see you around
[Leonard Cohen walks on to the balcony. He puts his hand on Jules’ shoulder to comfort her]
Leonard: Every act is a call for love
Jules: Well I’m sorry, but he’s pissed me off
Leonard: In time this will be pass, as all things will.
[Jules takes out a hanky and blows her nose loudly and wipes her tears away]
Simon: Leonard, is there a cure?
Leonard: Do you mean for her cold?
Simon: No, I mean for love, is there a cure for love?
Leonard: No kid, there ain’t no cure for love.
[Leonard takes out a pocket notebook and pen from his top pocket and writes as he speaks]
Leonard [Walking off stage]: No, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for love.
* * *
Jules valued family far more greatly than I did. I was more from the world of the street. Street kids abandon their families or are abandoned by them, or both, and seek out allegiances with other street kids. The love of the family is partly based on compassion and unconditional love. The gangs however are held together by mutual advantage, as well as honour and fear. In real terms though, I was more of a part-time street kid, because most of the time I sought out other families to spend time with.
In my mind, true love meant that I was possessed by the person I loved, in this way they were in my mind all the time and were the most important ‘thing’ in my life. Conversely I expected them to be possessed by me. To me, the story of Romeo and Juliet was where I was at. So, when Jules didn’t want to go against her parents, as Shakespeare’s lovers did, I felt betrayed. Whilst it’s true that in many aspects, when someone gets married their parents should be secondary to their married partner. The problem was, I was completely oblivious to the notion of stages and could not see that there was a big difference between just getting together and being married.
It would have been good if I’d been able to keep in mind the stages of commitment but I obviously didn’t want to. Someone should have told me that relationships are like an English Breakfast of egg and bacon. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.
Before I met Jules, I had prayed to have a girlfriend to connect with, get to know, kiss, cuddle and share experiences with, but, instead of being grateful and savouring every moment, I wanted more and didn’t appreciate the gift I had been given.
* * *
The first song I ever wrote was based on what happened with Jules. It was called “Johnny Talked to Sue” and told the story of a woman going out with a disabled man and her parents stopping her. It’s not a good song particularly, but interesting that it was the first thing I wanted to sing about. I think at the time I wanted to bring disability politics in to a more intimate perspective. Click here to hear it.
The other legacy of this experience was that I was always nervous about meeting partner’s parents. Sometimes I would get on very well with them, but even so, I saw they as a possible barrier. I couldn’t be sure it was my disability that made Jules’ parents so adamant about stopping us from seeing each other, but I think it was there in the mix.
Right or wrong, it was a relationship that left its mark on me.
* * *
The Last Words
A year later I got a letter from Jules in which she said she just wanted to talk with someone and I was the only one she could talk to openly. She thought it better not to reply.
But she asked me not to forget her.
We did speak once more, a year or so later, on the phone, when I was in halls of residence in London. I don’t remember much of what was said but I still felt awkward. There was so much I wanted to say, but I could no longer remember what exactly the words were, so all that came out was rubbish.
But now, 38 years later, there were two things I want to end this chapter with. One was something I wrote to Jules in one of my last letters to her and it made me laugh when I found it the other day, it was this:
“One day, if either of us are famous and ‘This Is Your Life’ do a programme on one of us, I will greet you and cuddle you for so long that I’ll only let go once your husband punches me”
And the other thing I wanted to say, is, of course, I would never forgot you.
* * *
When it comes to understanding a piece of art, whether it be a painting, writing, music or whatever, it should not be a game of decoding and encoded message. That would just be a meaningless intellectual pursuit.
Many artists will not be fully conscious of all the layers of meaning wrapped within their work, just as we are not conscious of all the meanings of the words ‘trees’, and ‘woods’, yet when their meanings are revealed to us we somehow seem to know them anyway.
How can an artist encode all the meanings that may be available, they can’t? Much of what occurs between an artist and their work’s audience happens on a subconscious level.
The reason I mention this is because in 1982 I would get to experience my first aesthetic experience, which in layman’s terms means a heightened sense of revelation caused by an art work art. Well, it was music not a painting, but that still counts.
* * *
* * *
1982 Retail Therapy
I stood in WH Smiths looking for a record to buy. One cover caught my eye. It was completely red except for a thin light blue strip on one edge. It was the Dire Straits album ‘Making Movies’. I looked at the song list. There were only 7 tracks on it but I recognised one as a pretty song I’d heard on the radio, Romeo and Juliet, so, I thought I’d give it a try.
When I got home I put it on the turntable in the front room. No one else was in, the afternoon sun filled the room so I cranked up the volume and sat back. By the 8th minute of the first track I realised that there was more to life than boy meets girl, and art and beauty can touch us to the depths too. But then, by the end of the second track I was reminded that, actually, relationships are very much at the core of my meaning and happiness.
In under 15 minutes I’d taken a ride to another world and came back holding a tiny but invaluable piece of emotional understanding. I was blown away.
Suddenly the music went off. I opened my eyes, John had come in and switched the HiFi off.
“It’s a bit loud Simon!” His irritation was palpable. “Are you deaf?” He scratched his head vigorously for a second.
However, like a kid caught smoking marijuana I wasn’t quite in the zone, so instead of arguing back, I said. “You should try it. It’s amazing”
But he didn’t.
* * *
Theatre – Musical Outro
[Lights fade up]
Simon is standing under a street light on the left of the stage.
Jules is on her balcony. She doesn’t look towards Simon.
On the right of the stage a spotlight appears.
Mark Knopfler walks on with a big silver National Guitar.
He performs Romeo and Juliet.
Both Jules and Simon listen to it.
[Lights Fade down]
* * *