Sunday, 23 October 2011

Soundtrack stories - Fast Love

October 1996, Gran Canaria.

There are many reasons for me to remember 1996; not many of them are good. It was the year my dad died, a year after my marriage had ended. I was at University as a mature student, halfway through training to be a primary school teacher,and slowly realising that my childish aspirations were indeed just that. Most of me spent most of that year questioning the actions and decisions that preceded and accompanied it. Most of me spent most of that year not knowing that there'd be a week in October, which would begin to change everything.

One of the outcomes of marrying too young, and then making being married all that matters, is that you miss a lot of other things; I had a whole long list of them. When I met Fran in an English class halfway through our first term at university, when we both pulled a grimacing face at something particularly pointless offered up by one of our fellow students, I realised I'd stumbled across the biggest missing-out of all. 

It seems crazy now, to think that I'd so willingly dropped all my school friends, that I'd given up on going anywhere with anyone who wasn't family, that I'd so easily become a caricature of who I'd thought I should be; but that's what I'd done. And then suddenly, there was Fran. Intelligent, funny, cynical, beautiful, with her dark Italian eyes that always had a glint of wry amusement and a hint of something more. Francesca Ferrari, my new best friend.

I don't know now which of us suggested the holiday - neither of us had any money and it was just another one of those things I should really have known better than to do. But when you've taken so much time and trouble to mess up almost everything, the idea of running away is very beguiling, so we looked on the Teletext listings anyway. And as we scrolled through screen after screen of bargain-priced offers for a week in the sun, the idea took hold. I'd never been on a holiday with a girl friend before, and we didn't even know each other very well, but a quick phone call to a bored-sounding holiday operator, a reckless charge to my credit card, and without even knowing where we'd be staying, we were booked for a week in the Canary Islands.

There are so many things I could write about that week. I could try to describe the way we spent day after day, lying by the pool, talking almost non-stop, the words and the laughter tripping over themselves to be heard. I could conjure up the people we met; the funny Essex boys who tried so hard to impress, the two quiet Austrians who we'd come to know much better.

But this is a soundtrack story, so let me take you instead to a dark nightclub, hidden underground beneath the gaudy shopping centres of Playa del Ingles. The music is loud, its beat echoing around the huge room, pulsating through the dancing crowd. Leaning against the bar at one side, are two dark-haired women. You can tell by their sun-tanned faces and relaxed smiles that they're having a great holiday. They've been dancing for hours, and now they're sipping on vodka and lemon, watching the others, chatting away, though it's too loud to hear. When the music stops they'll pause and listen for what comes next, hoping it will be the song they've danced to all week. And when it is, they'll both leave their drinks and stand up, a quick glance from one to the other, a wide, shared smile, as they make their way through the crowd to the very middle of the dance floor.

George Michael will start to sing "Looking for some education, made my way into the night" 

They will dance. 

And nothing else matters.


This week, it will be exactly fifteen years since that trip to Gran Canaria. My life has changed so much since then, that I'd barely recognise the woman I once was. Throughout that time, Francesca Ferrari has been my friend and for every one of those years, Fast Love has been the soundtrack to the continuing wonder of her friendship.


Lizzie said...

This was a particularly lovely post. You held the reader's hand and took them on a journey back with you. So personal, and open, and a delight to read. Made me wonder if some of the people and things in my life will be the same in years to come. I loved this post.

Bobby Stevenson said...

Sharon that was the best. Superb. Dancing away your troubles. I guess we all have had, or will have, a 'week in October' but to lose yourself in the music was, to me, the only place to be. Truly a lovely piece of writing and very honest. I'm glad you're able to look back from a far more beautiful spot.

Dicky said...

Music is such a powerful memory stimulant - for the good or bad. As it was 15 years ago, were you looking for the holidays on Ceefax? Great post as always Sharon.

Diana said...

Thank you for sharing ;).

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Wonderful post, Sharon, music is such a powerful stumulant for the memory. Beautifully written!

Shea Goff said...

Lovely. This made me think of a time similar. My friend Kim and I taking a train to London. Reading a map and riding the Tube. A George Michael concert where he sang Play That Funky Music White Boy. Having martinis and lemon at a pub where they didn't care we were not twenty-one. A punk club nestled underneath Convent Gardens. Dancing and smiling. The world, it was all of a sudden so much bigger and smaller than we ever thought. A coming of age it seemed.

Thank you, Sharon. Your writing reminded me.

Prudence Puddleduck said...

You came out the other side a richer person and how blessed you were to have found a good friend! Oh Yes...I two remember life through music..thank you

Susan Cooper said...

What a wonderful memory. Life takes us in so many directions. It is our job to pay attention so don't miss what it has to offer. Thanks for sharing.
Susan Cooper

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I loved this story while it was unfolding, and then I loved it even more when you hit the dance floor! What a great way to begin a big life change, and I'm glad you two are still friends.

jey said...

'they say that good things take time, but really great things happen in the blink of an eye'

Bill Dameron said...

Something tells me that same girl is still inside you, ready to dance again to Fast Love. A wonderful memory.

Suman said...

I love the way you tell your stories - simple yet so profoundly lingering. And something about this post is particularly striking, the nostalgia perhaps. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful memory.

Starlight said...

A beautiful memory and a perfectly written story.

Jan said...

Love the long paragraph at the end where you chenge to present tense, and put the reader right thee in that nightclub. Beautiful and evocative.

Susan Kane said...

Great post. The harsh year of recognizing mistakes and losses, then triumphing over them all. Good read.

The Elephant's Child said...

That was just lovely. Thank you.

Jayne said...

Sharon- so sweet--made me smile so. It's exactly how it was for me... those "let's just do it" getaways, not having nearly enough cash or knowing precisely what we'd do once there... it's that sense of shared adventure, of letting go and being bold enough to seek out the adventure together, which bonds good friends for life.
Wonderful memories!

Olga said...

Certain memories have a tendency to stay with us like good friends, being with us throughout our lives.

Nari said...

Loved that story. It helps me to remember that the steep bumpy climb up that damn hill is always worth it once your gliding down the other side.

ou812 said...

I really love this story, It reminds me of the last and only trip my best friend and I took:) Great work!

Hillary said...

Instead of dancing the night away, I've always wanted to go to a karaoke bar. My husband - not so thrilled about the idea. I think he knows I'd get too much into the thing. So what I really need is a girlfriend who'd be willing to take the chance to have some fun like your Fran - someone who wouldn't mind if I made a fool out of myself.

On a side note, my husband's a great swing dancer, and I once made a complete fool out of myself at his Christmas office party trying to keep up with his steps. Poor man.

This was a fun post. Got me speculating and reminiscing, as you can see. :-)

Baglady said...

Lovely stuff. This is just the sort of writing you excel at - full of warmth and personality and with those moments we all recognise but would struggle to put so deftly into words.

Michelle Millay said...

This was particularly interesting to me as I am at that point where many of my young friends are indeed getting married (some too quickly, others maybe not) and I am the one still on a journey, finding myself. Now that I have read this passage I am even more happy about that :)

Cindy Chance said...

Sharon, I just came across your blog. As a 42 year old budding writer who spent a lot of wasted years doing other things, I am particularly moved by your honesty and impressed with your writing style. After reading just a few of your blogs, I can definitely hear your "voice" and feel I am getting to know a new friend. I will check back often. Please keep doing what you do.

Sharon Longworth said...

Lizzie - thank you! It's hard to know who'll still be important in a few years time isn't it? I couldn't have predicted 15 years ago where I'd be today - I hadn't even heard of P then!

Bobby - thank you. Getting lost in music is still one of life's very best things - even if I don't do quite as much dancing now.

Dicky - yes it was the now-gloriously-old-fashioned Ceefax. Looking back, I can't quite believe we booked something on the strength of a line on a tv screen, but that is indeed what we did - and it turned out to be exactly right!

Diana - and thank you for reading!

Raymond - I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Sharon Longworth said...

Shea - thank you for sharing your memory - I could hear 'play that funky music' in my mind as I read it! Dancing and smiling - a great combination.

Prudence - you're right and I know how lucky I am to have found a friend like Fran.

Susan - oh yes, it's far too easy to miss things!

Blissed out Grandma - thank you - it certainly was a life change. And it's funny how many of those are marked by music and dancing!

Jey - so I guess we shouldn't blink in case we miss them?

Sharon Longworth said...

Bill - I'd like to think so! I just need to find an excuse.

Suman - I'm really pleased you liked this - thank you.

Tamara - thank you - for this and all your other really supportive comments.

Jan - thank you. I wasn't sure if the change in tense would work, so I'm very glad that it did for you.

Susan - yes it was a very fine way to bring an end to a difficult time.

Sharon Longworth said...

The elephant's child - your comment was just lovely too! - thank you.

Jayne - I'm really glad this prompted some good memories for you too. I'm sitting here now, thinking I need to do something similar sometime soon!

Olga - good memories and good friends - that's not a bad combination at all!

Nari - I have a lovely image now of you sliding down a hill shouting 'Wheee...'

ou812 - thank you. I'm glad you've got good memories of a trip with a friend too.

Sharon Longworth said...

Hillary - what better compliment than to make you speculate! I quite like the idea of karaoke as well - although the audience might need earplugs once I got going - my singing usually only happens on my own in the car - with the windows tightly shut!

Baglady - that's a smashing thing to say - thank you.

Michelle - keep on enjoying that journey!

Cindy - hello! Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a great comment. Blogging's just great for bringing people together isn't it? I'll pop over and have a look at yours now :)

Pat said...

You've got me going again - thank you Sharon:)
My Francesca was simply Jean, truly a kindred spirit. We were both a bit desperate and decided to take a break together. She wanted Venice I Scotland. In the end we chose Venice for the sun. We had a week of deluges but we both learned how to have fun again and became friends for life. Two days ago she phoned inviting me to her 90th birthday party and understood when I told her there wasn't a hope in hell.
She's the only person I know who could arrive at a garden party and have the whole party move - as one man - towards her.

Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - Fran and I have been to Venice together as well!
I'm sorry you can't get to Jean's birthday party - I've no doubt you'll be there in spirit.