I thought I would always remember it, but over time it has become blurred, part of my memory that I seldom scan. It wasn’t until I was clearing out the loft in readiness for the move, that I found a box of letters shoved under a couple of old rugs that would definitely never grace a wooden floor again. Sitting on the dusty floor, I pulled out a bunch of slightly yellow envelopes and found him (and his picture) in the fourth one.
It was 1975 and I was fifteen. We’d gone on a camping trip to France, which we did for a few years in my teens – this one might have been in Normandy or the South somewhere, I don’t recall. I can sort of visualise the campsite with its scrawny pine-trees, crunchy underfoot, white concrete shower blocks with sinks on one side for washing up dishes and a wood-built restaurant that we rarely ate in because Dad objected to the prices. The tent was blue, with two rooms and a Tilley lamp hung from the ridge pole. And that’s what he’d written: ‘When I first saw you under the lamp, I thought you were so pretty’.
His name was Hans and the address on the back was in West Germany (as it was then). We’d met on the beach when he invited me to play volleyball with him and his friends. As a teenager I wasn’t that confident with boys so I’m sure I said no at first, but he must have succeeded because from the letters I clearly spent a lot of time with him on that holiday. I think he was the first boy I ever snogged and the first boy I fell in love with – a typical teenage holiday romance (unfortunately he looked nothing like Patrick Swayze). When our two weeks were up he came to say goodbye and I do recall red eyes and tears and in the car my sister saying that he’d find another girlfriend when I’d gone as he was there for a month. I’d left her alone on that holiday, stuck with Mum and Dad, so she was probably very angry with me.
According to the dates, it looks like we wrote for almost a year. Some things he refers to are clearly replying to me but I have no idea what my fifteen year-old self was thinking about so it means nothing now. He put lots of hearts and kisses at the end of each letter and I probably did the same. As I sat reading his letters, I wondered whether he still had mine.
[From an activity in my OU Creative Writing workbook]
Categories: Just Stories