First Boyfriend - John Gorman
You are the man I should have married all those decades ago. I never realised I loved you. Only after, when, at 18, I was 'made' to leave you. I was a young innocent provincial virgin, ignorant of life. I did not know or understand how to love. There was no sex education in those years. I recall lying next to you on the floor in your flat near the Crack saying I was sorry I would not let you make love to me and you replying that it was just enough my being there. Even the meaning of love was not even discussed. When you told me at a party that you loved me, all I asked you was when did it happen! Like love was an illness. I was so ignorant, locked in a comfortable sheltered leafy green middle class Jewish suburban community in Liverpool.
It was the early 1960s. You were 27 then and already divorced. You inspired me to step outside into the exciting world of Bohemia in the era of Beatniks downtown away from the silence of the respectable suburbs. You showed me verbal, visual creativity and freedom. I was reborn. My eyes were open. I saw life and colour around me. The arts school dances where we all had long hair, fringes and wore black with pendants looking 'arty'.
Romping around Lewes's department store, hiding behind mannequins and then popping up laughing in the formal ladies department, being followed by the store detective, you made me laugh. Escaping my parental restrictions, escaping my strict cultural background - the only world I had ever known. The traditional Friday nights with the usual suspects, going to Princes Road dressed up on high holidays, being seen by those who watched in the Liverpool Jewish Community. Escaping made our secret world intimate and fun. I never stopped laughing and feeling light headed with joy.
We mixed with The Liverpool Poets, as they were later called, Brian Pattern, Adrian Henri and your flatmate Roger McGough. The Crack (Ye Cracke), The Phil, Hope Hall (The Everyman), The Jac (The Jacaranda) and The Blue Angel. Nostalgic places and faces on the screen of my mind; key venues in the golden era of The Merseybeat sometime between 1958 and 1962 when Liverpool was the IN bohemian place to be.
You gave me a Victorian book of poems. The only material gift you ever gave me. I kept it for almost ever! Carefree memories until the pumpkin hour of 10.30 pm, back to 195 Woolton Road, Liverpool 15 on the top deck of the 73 bus until my mixed Freesias arrived the next day with you at the Lewes's staff entrance for lunch and then dinner. Every day without fail. My parents despaired. I was never home to eat.
A word from my third cousin Vivian. A message from those in control. Those who thought they knew better. My parents. John was not, in their eyes, good enough for me. No job. On the dole. No prospects so they thought in their wisdom. I foolishly listened. I reacted. I withdrew back into my shell. I did what I was "told". I thought they knew best. I ended our friendship on the 73 bus one evening. You reacted. You choked with emotion holding back your tears. You said you would never forget me and ran off the bus before my stop. My liberal artistic life ended abruptly. My social life ended. My parents went off on holiday to Israel to get out of the way and I was sent to stay with materialistic Auntie Tillie who terrorised maiden Auntie Gladys at the bungalow in Menlove Avenue, next door to John Lennon's Auntie Mimi. No Crack, no Phil, no Hope Hall with the Road Runners, no Blue Angel, no Jack, no carefree laughter. Silence befell me and depression.
Manchester beckoned. Not too far but far away enough from the comfort of home. Two years later, Italy and a new world. Europe. Another language that enchanted me. A door to a new chapter in my life had opened.
We met a decade later in 1972, by chance in the streets of London. You were a success in TV. I confessed to you about my split with my fiancé Philippe. You were sympathetic and listened to my woes. You invited me to a PC Plod show with Roger just like the old days. I took photos. You were the policeman character. PC Plod. You were now married to a woman with means. Our lives had gone in different directions. We were never to meet again but I never forgot the carefree laughter.
I traced you 50 years later. I followed your rise to fame with The Scaffold. Your songs still echo in my ears. 'Lily the pink' and 'thank you very much', hits probably even my parents knew. My silent parents were wrong. You created the character PC Plod. A career in children's TV and producer of 'Blind date' with Cilla Black. You did well. Later in your life after your divorce, you moved to France.
I re encountered Roger at the Charleston Literary festival in Sussex. Our then British Poet Laureate. My how the Liverpool Poet had succeeded. How your paths had differed. I believe you fell out. "Give us a hug, Jill", Roger said when he recognised me all those years later. Your name was not mentioned. I was dying to ask but it was an inopportune moment.
50 years on a journalist friend traced your email to a cultural arts centre in Birkenhead you had set up. I wrote. You replied briefly. "You little tinker". You promised to write again when you got back from seeing your daughter Boadicea in New York. You never did. Then one evening I watched you and Mike McCartney on You Tube singing the oldies at one of your many revival concerts. Still no oil painting at 82, I saw your familiar face with deep lines of character, your winning smile, your prominent nose, your powerful personality, your presence, your strength. A man in control, a commanding presence and with a demonstrative mission. How I longed to meet you again.
Then in 2015, I saw you briefly from afar. I was invited to an opening at the Chelsea Arts Club. I had my back to the crowd. I turned and across the crowded room impossible to navigate, I saw your large frame at the bar rushing to leave with a white haired lady scurrying behind you. A big man sporting a large brown felt hat. Then you were gone forever. I wrote again to say I had seen you but this time the email bounced back. Gone - this time for ever and ever.
Jill - The little Tinker
Written in Rosie Jackson's creative writing workshop. Letter not sent. Written at Cortijo Romero, Orgiva, Spain on Rosie Jackson's writing course, September 2016.
Google - pictures of The Scaffold.