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Guess the Song
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I'm Judy. I was seventeen back then in 1965, my head full of teenage things; fashion, music and boys. Not that there had been many of those in the short years since maturity had painfully muscled its way in and thoughts began to turn to such things. I was the one with the pretty friend and about whom one of any pair of hopeful lads would invariably say; “Don't fancy your one.”
Not that I was ugly or anything. At least, I didn't think so. But I was short, had not yet lost all my puppy fat. My legs were not quite suited to a mini skirt; I tottered on stilettos. I was sparing with make-up; never too much but perhaps not quite enough. Boys did look at me, but only rarely twice.
I don't think I can put my finger on it, even now, but I felt a change in the air. I suppose it was mostly the difference between the morning when we had left London and now - early evening in Margate. The family holiday. Regularly for the last ten years we, mum, dad, my brother Keith and I, had followed the A2 down to the Kent coast. No jetting off to exotic places in those days. The dubious delights of Ibiza or Malaga were almost unthinkable then. And I liked Margate. Some people may scoff at its blatant commercialism; the Golden Mile, souvenir shops, fish and chips. Dreamland. But there's more to Margate than that. A beautiful clock tower, the famous Shell Grotto, a sweeping sandy beach.
Dreamland was my destination now, running down the ramp that led to the cavernous entrance. The sweet smell of candy floss enfolded me immediately, like the embrace of a long lost friend. I breathed it in along with the sounds of Rock 'n' Roll that accompanied every ride, fading as the cars or the metal baskets that could hold three or four people slowed and shuddered to a halt.
This was the start of it all. Six days of heaven – seven if Dad had to go back to work on the Friday and he and Mum allowed Keith and me to stay on the extra night and take the train home the next day. Six days of sunbathing (though I was too conscious of my body to dare to wear a bikini) and six nights of riding the Dodgems, my favourite ride. I was learning to drive, so the practice would be good, I told myself.
And that is where I met him. Edward. Although I did not know that just then.
Like me, he could have done with losing a little weight, yet he leapt lightly onto the back of my car, held his hand out for the fare. It was my first ride, so I only had a ten shilling note. “Be back in a minute with yer change,” he said and jumped off without losing his balance. Cockney, like me, but a little more pronounced.
“You'd better be,” I called out. I'd been short changed before. He looked back at me, smiled, winked placed the top of his forefinger against the end of his thumb, forming an 'O'.
Somebody rammed me from the side, a grinning idiot who didn't understand the word 'Dodgem'. I snarled at him and spun the wheel to get away. I heard the laughter as the car jerked away. Del Shannon's Runaway melted in the night, drowned out by the klaxon and the hum of the electricity faded into silence. I remained in my car, watching as some left their cars, others refilled them and the money collectors pushed the empty cars to the side of the rink.
He did come back to me, proffered an assortment of silver coins – half crowns, shillings and sixpences. I checked them; he hadn't cheated me.
“Stayin' on, darlin'?” he asked. I nodded, gave him the money. He shook his head. 'Ave this one on me. I'm off for a bit after this round - fancy some chips?'
He didn't wait for my reply, just winked again and told me to wait for him. I was nodding feebly, too shocked to actually voice my agreement. The klaxon sounded again, sparks flashed like fireflies around the overhead contacts and the Beatles claimed that it was they who wanted to hold my hand.
I drove like a novice. Cars clattered into me, jolting my bones. At one point I was stuck, pumping the accelerator pedal like a mad thing until I finally moved. But I didn't care.
That session seemed to last twice as long as normal, finished eventually. I climbed out, looked around. There he was, waiting, smiling, crooking his finger. I swear I was shaking.
He didn't put his arm around me, didn't even grab my hand; he just led me through the crowds to a van selling chips and all sorts, ordered two bags. I offered to pay my share; he pushed my hand away.
“Won't do my diet any good,” I tried to make a joke of it.
“Why do you think you need to diet?” he asked through a mouthful of fried potatoes. I looked at him. He was serious. Not taking the mickey.
I shrugged, not wanting to get into any conversation about my figure. Instead: “Where are you from – er ..?”
“Edward. Eddie if you prefer. Which I do, to be honest. Edmonton. London. Not Canada.” he smiled as if he had the need to explain.
“Judith,” I replied. “Judy, if you prefer. Which I do.” He laughed at my mimicry.
“And where does Judy come from?”
“Crouch End. And there's only one.”
“How long you here for, Judy?”
“Until the end of the week. Friday. But I may be able to stay and extra day. Depends on my parents.”
“Mmm,” he said, screwing the chip paper into a greasy ball, wiped his hands on his jeans and tossed it casually into a large waste bin a yard away. “Me too. Season ends on Friday night.”
“What will you do?”
“Dunno. Might go to Brighton. A couple of weeks there before they shut down.”
“Oh,” I said. Was I disappointed that he wasn't returning directly to London?
We talked. Easily, uncomplicated stuff. He was neither forward nor shy. When he had to go and I had to fulfil my promise of not being late, he kissed me. Straightforward, neither passionate nor uncaring. No tongues. A perfect gentleman. Almost.
I didn't go to Broadstairs with the family the next day; I wanted time on my own. In the sun, with my book. With my thoughts. So when they left the guest house in Dad's green and cactus Triumph Herald I made my way to the beach selected my hereditary spot near the sun deck, paid for a deck chair, set myself up for a morning (at least) of reading, reflection and relaxation.
But I couldn't concentrate on my book. The words blurred and I reread so many passages that made no sense that I put the book down in exasperation. It could wait, I had read it so many times that I almost knew it word for word.
I sank into the colourful canvas of the deck chair and closed my eyes. For early September, the weather was glorious; warm sun diffused by the gentlest of breezes. Edward. Eddie. What was special about him? Why did he make me feel this way? Indeed, what exactly did I feel about him? It couldn't be love; love grew, didn't hit you like an express train. The term 'crush' is well named; I felt as though my heart was squeezed from all angles. And it hurt. Even through closed eyes covered by sunglasses I saw his face. His expressions when he spoke, his lips when he smiled, his eyes when he kissed me. Ouch! My heart groaned as another barb lanced home.
I drifted into a snooze to a symphony of squawking seagulls, gentle surf, excited cries of children who surely should be back at school by now. Intermittent pop music from tinny transistor radios. For how long I lay like that I don't know, but I actually felt the shadow over my face. Even before he spoke, I knew who cast that shadow.
“'Ello Judy. Whatcha readin'?
Be still my heart! Why did it jump like that? I wasn't a fan of Mills & Boon but suddenly I understood them so much better.
I removed my sunglasses and touched the open book resting cover upwards on my lap. “Jane Eyre,” I said. “My favourite book. Ever.”
Eddie sat down on the sand beside me. “Not my sort. I like some action. James Bond. Yeah. Sex, sadism and snobbery, that's what it says on the covers! Can I get you an ice cream?”
I perked up. “Let me pay,” I pleaded. “You bought me chips last night, after all.” I fished in my purse. Eddie stood up. “I'll go get them,” he said as he took the money from me. What do you want?”
“A '99'” I confirmed.
“Right. Be back in a jiffy. Don't go away.”
It was perhaps the loveliest afternoon of my life. We spoke and we sat in silence. The hours passed. We paddled in the retreating tide and he put his arm around my waist as I stumbled in the shrinking sand. We laughed and, briefly, we kissed again.
And then he had to go to work. We parted with a promise that we would meet up later. He'd take me around the fairground and have some rides; the Scenic Railway, the Waltzer, the Big Wheel. I watched his back as he walked away and that wasn't a tear in my eye, surely? Some sand had got in, probably. Yes, that would be it.
Every evening we spent in each other’s company. Nights of fun, cuddles and kisses. But no frolics. We had more in common than I had thought. Was it enough? And now, Friday already. Mum and Dad had, as I had hoped, left for London and Keith and I stayed on for the extra night. The rooms were paid for anyway, I had argued and they had acquiesced. Keith, a year younger than I, knew something was up with me and every day I had been treated to sniggers and winks. The parents failed to notice.
My heart was unbalanced. It was light and jumping in anticipation that I would see my love again. It was heavy because it was our last night. Nothing had happened between us. Unlike other girls I knew, we had not 'done it'. Not that there had been much chance; I could not take him back to the guest house and he did not invite me to … to wherever he stayed.
I had already decided that I would stay until the fairground shut down for the night, shut down for the season. If I was being reckless, I didn't care about that either. I was determined to make the most of this night and if Keith breathed a word to anyone I would kill him.
It was all I hoped it would be. I spent all my time on the Dodgems except when Eddie was on a break. His arm around my waist, he said “Kiss and Chips?'” I laughed and obliged. But I could not hide the tears as the night wore on, skipping away from us.
I stood and watched as he finished his last shift, collected his wages and came back towards me. I was shivering, but not all of it was due to the night air. Something was slung over his shoulder. I cocked my head to one side. My heart failed to find a stable place to rest within me. A blanket.
“What's with -” I began.
“Tradition of mine,” he replied easily. “Last night of the season, sleep on the beach.”
“And – er ...”
“If you want to. I won't make you. Your decision. Do you want to?”
I did and, for the record, we did. There's not much of a harbour at Margate, but the stone pier afforded some lights and, from under the sun deck across the bay, we sat and watched the small fishing boats bobbing in the gentle waves, a narrow stream of moonlight shimmering on the sea, the silhouette of a tanker on the horizon. Playing in my head was the last song I had heard as we walked out of Dreamland: the Shirelles, Will you still love me tomorrow. I knew how Carole King must have felt when she wrote it.
Love. It was love and I could not deny it. This was no mere crush; it was deeper than that. And I had allowed him into my inner self; he knew my secrets as no one had ever before. He promised he'd write to me; it was the last thing he said to me in the morning. Could I believe him? Would he really? Or was this just another conquest for him? A holiday romance. Ships that pass in the night. A foolish girl and an experienced seducer? Two star crossed and frustrated lovers, his Romeo to my Juliet, my Columbine to his Pierrot?
There is an ending to my story; I quote my favourite book:
“Reader, I married him ….”
“Reader, I married him ….”
© Richard Tearle
Did you guess the song title?
The Seekers The Carnival is Over (1967)
The Seekers The Carnival is Over (1967)
(Official You Tube Video)
Richard is our senior reviewer
His blog - well worth a visit - is
he is working on his debut novel
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