Summer Love

by John Ritchie

I hadn’t returned before, because I knew I couldn’t. What we had, what we shared in those few hours together was somehow too precious, too tender, to re-visit. But then, when I read of your death in the Times obituaries, a pilgrimage seemed in order. I would come in the company of others, the better to distance myself, the better to put you, and me, in perspective.

Driving down the lane to your cottage in the tour bus was like re-running an old movie. There were bits I remembered, bits I’d forgotten, and inevitably some fifty years after the event, bits that no longer existed. I had to pretend sudden interest in your biography to hide my tears when I saw the shutters had gone.

I remembered I was thinking about how to lose my virginity, my understanding of the process vague and provisional, when I saw your shutters. They took my attention so completely I cycled off the road and into the ditch.

‘It’s a long time since a man fell for me,’ you said as you helped me up.

‘Oh, it wasn’t you.’ I said, and you laughed out loud.


‘Er. Yes, thanks.’ I didn’t tell you I would have preferred apple juice or water. That I hadn’t started drinking yet, but somehow you knew and were kind.

‘It’s home-made and quite strong, you’d better have just half a glass.’

‘O.K. Thanks.’

You went inside to fetch the drinks and I gazed at the shutters latched back against the walls either side of the leaded windows.

‘They need painting.’ Your voice startled me, it seemed you had only just left.

‘Oh, yes, absolutely, but I only have a camera.’

You looked at me in amazement and then began laughing again, almost spilling the cider.

‘The colours are…beautiful.’ I said. ‘Where the paint has faded and flaked and the screws have rusted and…

Somewhere in that moment you kissed me. Later in your garden, with its beautiful view out over the Wye valley, I took photographs of you nude and naked in the late afternoon sun. You taught me the difference turning this way and that revealing and concealing the mysteries of your body with languid, careless grace. I was at once; both entranced and intrigued. You encouraged my interest and, almost without my being aware of it, carried me with you into a new place beyond ignorance.

In the morning, before I left, I took pictures of your shutters: closed and open. One of the photographs of you, standing at the front door, shading your eyes, is on my desk. People often ask. ‘Is that your father?’ ‘No,’ I say. ‘Just someone I knew once, long ago.’


John Ritchie is collecting material for a book, so if you have any words you are not using…

  1. #1 by S de Assaf on April 12, 2011 - 10:21 am

    Very poignant and gentle. I like the lack of regrets or histronics, simply a precious memory revisited and acknowledged. Fine piece of writing.

    [You can have ‘gibberish’ for your book I managed to use it writing the other day. A fine word and I was very pleased to find place for it! Good luck]

  2. #2 by jennifer walmsley on April 12, 2011 - 10:28 am

    A lovely, graceful story. It drew me on with those wistful memories.

  3. #3 by Sandra Davies on April 12, 2011 - 11:15 am

    The memory of the flaking paint shutters is so true, so poignant, and the telling of the tale lovely and, as has been said above, ‘graceful’

    Since pilgrimages so often are unsuccessful I’m glad this one did not destroy anything.

    (and you do not need words for me, but ‘spindrift’ is one of my favourites)

  4. #4 by Leah on April 12, 2011 - 11:56 am

    Vividly drawn, poignant. Seems you don’t need any one else’s words, yours do very nicely.

  5. #5 by Sandra on April 12, 2011 - 3:32 pm

    An excellent read. A sensitively drawn portrayal of a memorable encounter. Thanks for the read.

  6. #6 by oovj on April 12, 2011 - 4:27 pm

    Lovely read Sean. It’s nice that your story came after mine :) Oh and I’m not using the word philogilaitis at the moment – you can have that one for your book X

  7. #7 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:12 pm

    Dear S De

    Thank you for reading and commenting so gracefully. Your kind words are greatly appreciated.



  8. #8 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:13 pm

    Thank you, Jennifer. I am so pleased you enjoyed the story.



  9. #9 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    Dear Sandra.

    How very kind to offer ‘spindrift’ so wonderfully onomatopaeic.


  10. #10 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:16 pm

    A lovely comment. Leah, thank you.


  11. #11 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:17 pm

    Dear Sandra

    Thank you for reading and commenting so generously.


  12. #12 by John Ritchie on April 12, 2011 - 8:18 pm

    Always the generous one, Surface.

    Thank you kindly.


  13. #13 by fiona campbell on April 15, 2011 - 8:46 pm

    excellent writing, read it three times (very unusual for me, being somewhat of a skim-read get to the point kind of reader) , I was intrigued by the characters and wanted to know them better, not missing a moment of their time together, beautifully written.

  14. #14 by John Ritchie on May 4, 2011 - 6:03 pm

    Hi Fiona

    Read it three times! I am delighted that I captured your interest so completely. Thank you for your very kind comments.



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