I spend the first weeks of summer holiday stupefied, down the pubs, and then staggering home to try writing a short story. More lads mag than “People’s Friend.” It’s certainly not politically correct and is very bitter in tone. Maybe Philip Larkin would have approved.
I also buy a copy of “Toto IV” which I play non-stop on my stereo. Mood music…though not quite sure what mood I’m trying to achieve.
“…now you’re gone I’m really not the same…”
I spend way too long over pints, lunch and evening. Sleep heavily, dreaming wildly. More often than not wake with a fuzzy head before starting all over again. A routine of trying to forget. A cry for help?
Then, just as summer school starts at Fitzie’s, a fortnight, more blotto on a beach in Portugal. There I moodily write a diary - “Love stinks” – while welded to my portable cassette. Lonely. Send a sozzled post card to Fizz’s address. Trying to make a joke. “Wish You Were Here.” At the airport I find myself drawn to hunting out the perfume counter; seek “Hope” and spray the tester, breathing in deeply. Barely suppress intense frustration and watering eyes. Angry with myself. With the world.
I even scan the “Times Educational Supplement”; consider applying for a new job. Well away. What good would that do? What am I hoping to achieve?
There’s a brief respite from utter selfishness when BJ and Fifi are married in the school chapel. ‘Och, man. I’ve come to love this place. Me and Fifi; we’re going to apply for some House parenting jobs here. Never thought I’d see the day. I’m part of the fuckin’ establishment.’
I discharge my duties as Best Man, make a speech which the French contingent probably don’t understand, get immensely drunk, and then watch them disappear into the sunset through a haze of dope on their honeymoon. Au revoir.
I’m just staggering back from the Flyer one evening in the middle of August when the phone goes at Orchard Cottage. I briefly consider ignoring it but instead turn down Toto.
“…it’s a feeling you never belonged to me…”
‘Hello?’ I grump.
‘Oh there you are.’
I recognize Fizz’s cheery voice immediately and my heart rate doubles. An electric shock. The broadest of smiles rushing to my face. ‘I’ve just this minute walked in the door.’
‘Have you seen my results? I got into Westchester.’
‘Oh well done.’ Lungs busting in my chest.
‘Yes. Miracles. I got an A in drama. Thought I’d say thanks. Off on holiday tomorrow. How was the wedding? Can I come and see you when we get back?’ A veritable outpouring.
A massive burst of chemicals from me. ‘Yes!’ A mega rush.
‘Look,’ she says. ‘I said I was going for a walk. Found a phone box. Can you ring me back?’
We chat for longer; catching up on news. ‘How’s the baby?’ I listen greedily to her, picturing her in some phone box somewhere.
I can’t remember the last time I so wanted to hear a voice. That voice.
‘I got your post card,’ she says.
‘Oh that. Yes. Just joking.’
‘Well, not really.’ A pause. ‘Do you mind?’
‘No. I’m glad.’
Another gush of chemicals.
At the end of a conversation that normally I’d cut short, but which now I never want to end, she reminds me. ‘OK. So I’ll see you when I get back? The twenty seventh.’
‘It’s a date.’ As if I need reminding!
There’s the briefest of pauses. ‘Have you really missed me?’ she asks.
‘Yes. Yes, more than anything, to be honest.’
‘Really.’ Being myself. ‘I can’t wait to see you.’
‘Our secret,’ she says. ‘See you on the twenty seventh.’
That afternoon, I sit down to compose a letter. Slam on “Zoom” – loud - to sing along. A high of extraordinary proportions.
“…for once in my lifetime I was finally free and you gave that to me…”
“Dear sir, I write with reference to your advert in the Times Educational Supplement…”
In the morning of the twenty seventh of August 1982, the phone ringing wakes me.
I’ve had a disturbed night, despite spending the evening at the Flyer – ‘Another pint!’ I pump money in the jukebox. Happy music only. Norma makes a comment. ‘You look like the cat what got the cream. You won the pools?’ Hands me her glass. ‘A G and T. Double.’
I’m woken once in the dark from a dream where I’m surrounded by impenetrable, steepling hedges; a maze. I can hear Fizz’s voice. ‘I’m in the middle! Come and find me!’ I stumble and curse at each dead end, until, sensing her just a hedge away, I fling myself time and time again against the branches, skewering myself, trying to burst through, until collapsing exhausted on the floor. ‘I’m here!’ she calls.
My bedclothes are on the floor, screwed and patched with sweat.
Now, I race downstairs to the phone and yank, heart already hammering. Huge smile. Expectant. Eager. Happy as Larry. In love. Its purest form.
‘Hello?’ I exult.
I Won’t Hold You Back - Toto
One of the great albums of the early 80’s, released in 1982, “Toto IV” contained some absolute gems, several of which have become standards, and/or hit the charts on both sides of the pond – “Roseanna” and “Africa” probably being the biggest. It’s a mix of upbeat and ballad songs from a band who mixed their musical styles from pop, through rock, soul and funk. Eclectic! This track’s one of those dreamy melancholy songs that are completely immersive.
It’s A Feeling - Toto
Toto’s fourth album won a staggering 7 Grammys – including best album (naturally) and best individual song – “Africa”. My personal memory of the album is buying it after a chance hearing of this particular track on a late night radio station. Hardly surprising there are hints of Steely Dan here – many of the band played sessions for them!
Zoom – Fat Larry’s Band
A classic! Fat Larry was a vocalist and drummer who died early in 1987 of a heart attack aged just 38…but not before penning this R and B pop song. Timeless. In 1982, aged 28, it was the sound of my summer.
About the Author: Richard Parsons
I’ve been fascinated with writing since I was a youngster; creative writing in English lessons was my favourite part of school life along with swapping music with mates or playing sport.
When I decided to quit teaching after many happy years, I applied for and won a scholarship to do a Masters at Plymouth Uni in Creative Writing. Drama was really the main string to my bow, but I soon became hooked on the idea of crafting short stories, and, eventually, the longer form of narrative. After graduating with a distinction, I cut my teeth writing for women’s magazines, but this was never in my own “voice” and was always formulaic. “Given Circumstances” is the real me.
Hope you enjoy it!