Friday, 4 February 2011

A photo of you

For a long time there weren't any photographs of the two of us together. I found pictures of you from before and put them on my mantelpiece, almost as if I was trying to claim another part of your life

In one of them you're a skinny teenager, wearing an over-large grey jumper, sitting in front of a bed of municipal daffodils. Behind you the traffic passes in a blur, a transit van in one direction, a blue Ford Capri in the other. It's a bright looking day with patches of clear blue sky between the high white clouds, but the daffodils give away the season and the jumper suggests that it's not yet warm. You grew up by the seaside and I like to think you're looking out to sea in this photo. I like to imagine that you're gazing away from the terraced houses of the town, towards the open grey expanse of water beyond the harbour. The sound of the waves, crashing on the pebbled shore is enough to drown out the noise of the traffic behind you. There are no other people around on this sunny spring day, just you and the girl with the camera. Perhaps you've snuck off from school to hang around together. Maybe later, when the cold sea air creeps in through your jumper, you'll grab her hand and run laughing to a nearby cafe where you'll warm up with steaming mugs of strong sweet tea.

You're older in the other photo, but I love the carefree look on your face, the relaxed way you lean back in the chair and the broad smile that brings creases to your eyes. Your smile was for another woman then. I think you were on  holiday together, sitting at a pavement cafe, parasols in lines behind you. Your sunglasses are hanging round your neck from one of those string things - are they called lanyards? I can't imagine you wearing them that way now, not the you I know. You're looking straight into the camera, as though you're happy to have your picture taken, happy to be sitting there. I wonder what you said to her just after she'd clicked the shutter.

In the early days, when I hadn't known you long, I sometimes wondered what would happen if the worst thing occurred. I was no next-of-kin, no name stored in your wallet, nor the front page of your diary.  Your sister, in a far-off northern town, had only knowledge of your last long love, no note of me. If something happened to you, how would I find out? Who would think to tell me? In those early days, when I placed your smiling pictures on the mantel, it was almost as if I was trying to claim another part of your life. I longed to place beside them a framed photo of the two of us together, believing that would somehow make us real; prove that we had a shared history, a promised future.

There are lots more photos now; other pictures of bright spring days and warm summer evenings and in some of them we're together. You still have a smile that creases your eyes and a way of gazing out, asking the world to tell you its story. But I've stopped putting photos on the mantelpiece. Nowadays that's full of other clutter; your recent birthday cards, red candles on china saucers, the antique clock we bought together. It seems that somehow, almost without noticing and without the need for photos, I have claimed part of your life.

33 comments:

dys·func·tion said...

Absolutely amazing.
I love reading your posts about each other. They are always so full of warmth and love. It truly is a beautiful love you two have for each other.

Thank you once again for sharing.

Rachel said...

Wonderful post. I particularly liked the description of the first photo and of course the sentiment of wanting to enter into his past.

Marvellous!

Baglady said...

*sigh*

I love the posts you write about Philip. You have a wonderful way of creating images in my mind. Just fabulous.

Sensible Footwear said...

Always a pleasure to read your posts. (I may have said that before.)

A real delight.

c said...

Really beautiful writing, Sharon - loved this.

C (T of W on Twitter)

Starlight said...

Wonderful. This is similar to a love letter but it's not really a love letter. It's a lovely story of a woman in love. I always enjoy reading your posts about Philip and the early days. These posts always emanate your love to him.

Far said...

Your writing carries such feeling and emotion yet never strays near slushy sentimentality. A rare gift.

Mr London Street said...

Any chance you can delete this post and write with nowhere near this much brilliance, tenderness and freshness for the next three weeks or so? That would be lovely.

caterpillar said...

"Awww.....", yup...that's the thing I said when I finished reading this post....this post is so so full of love....and I love these posts of yours...

Nessa Roo said...

I was just thinking of posting about the beautiful, carefree life of being single. Now you've gone and ruined my mood with all this obvious love pouring off the screen.
Now I want to be inlove too...just like that.

Jennifer said...

This is absolutely amazing.

light208 said...

I don't know you at all, but I always imagine you telling these posts about Philip with a blazing smile and a hint of a blush.

They read like secrets that we are all lucky to see. I love the tenderness of this post particularly.

Jane said...

This is so tender and beautifully written.
I could see the different Philips very clearly.
Love the way you tells us about your feelings with images of your beloved.

Pat said...

I admire the way you don't appear to feel the smallest twinge of jealousy about his past. Wish I could say the same about the early days.
The imprint of another woman's hand on the blotter would stop me in my tracks.

Shopgirl said...

Beautiful. I agree with the others, I feel privileged to be let in on the secret of reading a part of you.

Happy Frog and I said...

I often feel unsure what to write in the comment box after I have read one of your posts as they are so beautifully written. Today's post is no exception. I hope you never give up blogging as I feel so happy when I see you have put another post up. The pace, observation and writing is so wonderful in this post.

Jeannie said...

Oh, I love a happy ending. :) Beautiful!

DPR said...

You really are getting into this more personal way of writing. It always used to be Phillip writing in this way. I now see how very much you mean to each other. I'm lucky enough to know you in real life, and whilst I can physically see how you two behave together, these posts give an intriging insight to what's behind your relationship. I know what it's like to have such a love, not sure if I could write about it so well.

Philip said...

Hey, you've claimed me in totality. Which, believe me, is quite an achievement. I, as you well know, love clutter, love our household gods. You also know that I'm not one for photos. It's the stuff of our life that I treasure like most people do photos. I love the fact that when you wear your long black coat I know what is in the pocket, and I remember with a sharp intake of breath seeing you walk towards me in Victoria wearing a different long black coat on a particularly windy and romantic day, with a big smile on your face.
I am immensely lucky. And I know it. That's what happens when you're brave.

Sharon Longworth said...

You've all been so kind with your comments - I do worry about overdoing the 'Philip' posts - I don't want to sound either smug or overly soppy, so your feedback is really appreciated.

Dys.func.tion - thank you so much.

Rachel - I love the old photo of Philip and it was fun thinking about how he might have been at that time.

Baglady - I guess we're all trying to create images with words - I'm so glad if I've done that this time.

Sensible Footwear - thank you - and even if you might have said something similar before, I love that you've come back and said it again!

Sharon Longworth said...

C - thank you, you are too kind.

Starlight - I guess it is a bit like an open letter - thank you for your (as ever) kind praise.

Far - thank you. I hope you'll let me know if you think I ever do stray too far into slushy.

MLS - ha ha! any chance you can come over and write something brilliant, so I stand a better chance?

Sharon Longworth said...

Caterpillar - aaaww shucks! Thank you.

Nessa Roo - I'm waiting to read that post, let me know when you've done it!

Jennifer - you're very kind.

Light208 - funnily enough, Philip has once or twice mentioned that I'm smiling when I'm typing!

Sharon Longworth said...

Jane - it's great that they are two very different Philips in the photos, but still the same man. Thank you.

Pat - I hadn't really thought about it, but you're right I don't feel jealous about the past. I think that's probably because I know I'm the one he's chosen to be with now.

Shopgirl - thank you. I hope I haven't overdone the sharing thing?

Happy Frog - I can't think of a better compliment than someone looking forward to reading my writing and I'm so pleased that you keep coming back to leave a comment.

Sharon Longworth said...

Jeannie - thank you :)

Derek - that's a lovely thing to say. I'm glad that you know what it's like (and I'm absolutely convinced you could do it justice with your writing).

Philip - Thank you my lovely man.

Madame DeFarge said...

So moving, I have very few photos of me with the ones I have loved, or love. It's too late for some of them, but I want them for the very reasons you've described so well.

Suman said...

Sharon, what a delicious post! Loved it. :)

Jayne said...

Sharon - you can't "overdo" it. So much love here, can't possibly tire of that.
As always, gorgeous writing, beautifully conveyed sentiment by an expert sentence carver.

otherworldlyone said...

I heard good things about this post long before I read it, and rightly so.

Your posts about Philip are like watching a movie - like a romantic black and white, made with just the right about of sentimentality and none of the over-fussiness you often get today. They’re vivid and touching and amusing and, best of all, real.

I just want to settle into my couch, with a bowl of popcorn, and read them again and again.

Scrappy Grams said...

The title of your blog drew me there. Short story why: When I was 3 years old, my mother said I uttered this words, "I'm not mean, Mommy, I'm just 'sistent." This is my first visit here. Even though I miss my love who died 5 years ago, I still felt myself pulled into your lovely story.

Scrappy Grams said...

By the way, I love the coziness of your room.

Seré said...

You don't need to worry about sounding smug or soppy. You write honestly and tenderly without ever stepping over into the line of over-sentimentality. Not easily done.

Sharon Longworth said...

Madame - I understand how that feels - I have so few photos of my dad, and those I have are very precious.

Suman - thank you, I'm so glad you liked it.

Jayne - that's a lovely thing to say - I may go round quoting you and telling myself I'm an 'expert sentence carver'!!

OWO - you do me a great honour to read so much into what I write, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

Scrappy Grams - hello and welcome to the blog. Thank you for your comment and for giving me such a nice image of you as a young girl.

Sere - what can I say other than thank you? Thank you.

Maryx said...

What a delightful post! Great writing..