I'd lost contact with him long ago. After the death of my own husband, the sadness compelled me to try to reconnect. Not for any nefarious or devious expectation of a rendezvous or rekindled romance, but just to let him know he'd been in my thoughts. Loss tends to make one nostalgic and I wondered how he was, what he was doing. I didn't know his whereabouts but had piles of aerogram letters tied with red satin ribbon from years gone by. The address on them being his familial home, gave me hope that his aging mother might still live there. She did. I wrote to her. She remembered me and responded with cautious grace, saying that he was happy, married, had two little girls and was still living in Manchester. I was pleased.
She gave me his address and I penned a platonic note. We had a quiet and friendly exchange, just the once, and agreed there was little profit in maintaining contact now that we had spent so much time apart and his life was swimming along nicely. He was sorry for my loss, I was happy for his gain.
It came as a surprise when decades later, another letter arrived from the same woman bearing the very sad news that he had passed. He was 66. The letter came after his funeral but I felt a need to let her know that he had also been in my thoughts through all these years.
A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, a lonely mother missed her only daughter so much that she paid for the family to fly back to England for a six week Christmas holiday. I was one of them, her 16 year old Granddaughter. It was then that I met him. Once again, I rifled through the letters from yesterday and penned a heartfelt response.
"I met Ian whilst on holiday with my family and staying at my Nana's pub, The Lion's Head in Altringham, Manchester. My Nana, comparable only to Auntie Mame loved being surrounded by parties and people and the establishment was frequented by young people even though technically it was a "Private Hotel" not a public bar. She was never cautioned since half of Manchester's constabulary also frequented the pub when off duty. It was lively and due to the presence of police, stayed open way beyond the crazy British Licensing laws allowed. I spent evenings drinking fluffy ducks and eating cheese and biscuits and trying to decipher dialects and accents with limited success.
To celebrate our arrival in town she hosted a fancy dress party. After being suitably 'styled' at a ridiculously expensive hire salon, I chose a pink and gold Harem outfit. My waist then was thinner and having come from the Australian summer, my tan was healthy.
The party was a blast, the music contemporary, the patrons young and there I met Ian. His brother Neil was one of the regulars at the Lion's Head and brought him along. Someone with whom I would have a six-year long-distance relationship.
That winter was the best in my life. Young love and I were allowed out late. We toured the Lake District and most of Cheshire, I went to discos even though I was under age, we lay on tiny boats and dragged our fingers off the bow while travelling through the glittering Blue John Mines. We watched the Muppet Show together, kissed in his little Morris Minor with blue stars painted on the roof . . .the source of a great pickup line..."Do you want to see the stars on my roof?" Worked like a charm.
We watched Manchester United beat Manchester city, much to Ian's chagrin. Every moment with him was absolutely magic. At the time, he was 9 years my senior and my father was adamant that he had to have me returned safely before midnight. You should have seen Ian's face after receiving a stern lecture about curfews. He gave me a couple of records to keep him front of mind.
Once back in Australia, I reminded myself daily of him through Art Garfunkels' 'Breakaway' and Carly Simon's 'No Secrets'. We exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts each year. We dated other people, worked, indulged in our own hobbies and interests but we remained close correspondents. If only we had the Internet back then, things might have worked out very differently. Letters took 10 days to deliver and the wait for each one as painful as the joy of it's receipt.
I returned to England again after a painful relationship breakup when I was 21 he had remained single and was happy to catch up. It was as if we'd had no time apart. We had another wonderful three months of romance and travel. Everything was perfect. We made a loose pact to meet in Canada the following year. It was his plan to join his brother there and start a new life. In the interim, he gave me a silver ingot on a chain which I wore for years . . . and which I still occasionally wear.
However, the rendezvous never took place. I fell in love with someone else. I cruelly invited him to the wedding and the letters stopped. No explanation, nothing. Only then, did I realise that I may have broken a heart. Dislodged that arrow from Cupid's bow and for that, I am very sorry.
I just wanted you to know that the pile of air letters tied with a red satin ribbon are lovingly kept. I often wondered how he was and with the advent of social media, thought I might find him but I never did. I wondered what he was doing, whether he'd travelled, would he have looked me up? Either way, I hope his life was happy, I hope he was greatly loved, I hope his children are wonderful and I wish his wife the best, it's a terrible thing to lose a husband. He will always be remembered by me."