Thursday, 20 June 2013

"The first of a million kisses"

"Take spring when it comes and rejoice.
Take happiness when it comes and rejoice.
Take love when it comes and rejoice"
(Carl Ewald).

"And think not you can
direct the course of love,
for love,
if it finds you worthy,
directs your course."
 (Khalil Gibran)
Walking rather carefully across town today in the midst of an aggravating and aggressive dispute between Brighton Council and the city's refuse and recycling teams, I saw two families working together to clear the pavement and wash down the road themselves. Having accidently poured soapsuds all over my sandals, a lovely girl explained that her nan is getting married tomorrow and the reception will be held at her family home. The wedding was originally planned for Thursday 13th June - my own parents' anniversary. I explained this to Sarah and that was that really. Three fairy cakes, a pot of tea and a dozen introductions later and I finally stumbled back onto the Lewes Road to buy the stuffed vine leaves and olives I'd left the house for earlier.
I didn't meet Sarah's nan as she'd been taken to have her hair set and be generally pampered before her big day. Hella is marrying the typical "boy next door". Literally. The pavement in front of Hella's house was being almost surgically scrubbed by his two great-nephews. Hella's next door neighbour has never married and is now in his late eighties. I met Derek in Hella's front room, having one hand manicured ("emphasis on the Man bit you know"), while eating his fairy cake with the other. A seemingly confirmed bachelor, he moved next door to Hella and her first husband more than forty years ago.
Although he got on really well with the couple, he fell head over heels in love with Hella. Unable to say or do anything about his feelings and genuinely fond of her husband, he remained their loyal neighbour and best mate as the couple's three children presented them with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was their rock as Hella survived cancer twice and throughout her husband's catalogue of falls and strokes and his final illness; they nursed Derek through depression and after an almost crippling car accident.
They tended each other's back gardens and even had a gate installed in the back fence for ease of access. Derek will now live in Hella's house and her son, Sarah's father, will move into Derek's house with his wife. Hella is in her early nineties now and not very mobile without a steadying hand and a lot of cajoling; her son and his wife had always intended to move closer to her when her husband died. Derek said he didn't want the hassle of selling his house and this way the two gardens can just become one. He thinks of the children as his own and his siblings are happy for everything to stay in the family.
When Hella's husband died last year, Derek sat with her, cried with her and cooked her roast dinners. He spoke at his friend's funeral and was stunned when the will revealed that he had left him care of his "most precious loved thing" - his wife. Apparently, Hella's husband had known of Derek's unspoken devotion for nearly half a century. In turn, he felt that his totally loyal wife had always had a soft spot for Derek. It took Derek two more days before he could find the words to tell Hella her husband had seen the truth. He said she cried, blew her nose, told him she loved him too but had liked and respected her husband and believed in marriage "Till death do us part". Now that it had, she said, Derek had better pop the question before one of them popped their clogs. Also, she wanted to catch up with Coronation Street that evening.
The couple decided to hold the wedding after the anniversary of Hella's first marriage, in April. It was postponed from 13th of June when the families realised that one of the many nieces would be in hospital that day. I was interested that they had originally chosen the thirteenth of any month; 13th June was the date that Derek moved in next door to Hella and her family so many years ago. I'd managed to maintain an element of composure until Derek told me this: I'd been thinking last week that my Dad wold have been married to Mum for more years than he'd actually lived.
I told Derek I'd been to see Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium last Saturday and taken Mum's photograph so that she could somehow be there, many years after she last saw The Boss play there, with me. This lovely old man, with his sea-coloured eyes and a penchant for having his plumber's hands manicured, told me that sentimentality was the echo of love and loveliness. He told me never to knock it; let it jolt you and you will always know you're still alive.
Beautifully, both families are delighted by the union. Derek was worried that Hella's son and daughters might think he was after her "for one thing". Money? He has his own. Her house? He already had too many rooms for one person, next door. Derek was concerned that as a lifelong bachelor, Hella's family might think the boy-next-door would be sniffing around for physical creature comforts. Derek said Hella soon sorted him out about this: "I don't just want to hold hands you know," she told him, "The kids would much rather I was tucked up here with you than going on the Lonely Hearts." Indeed.
People often trivialise the physical or even emotional power of relationships between older or elderly lovers. That upsets me a lot; I believe that love makes even a failing heart beat faster. Romance and sexual love only have a sell by date if the relationship hasn't been blended properly. It's true that as you age, you can fully appreciate that com-passion is the sustaining flame born of communication and passion.
I'll be working when Derek finally marries his Hella tomorrow, although I may pop along for the reception and more fairy cakes. Derek told me they're not going away from Brighton at all, because every day will now be a honeymoon and also because for them, Love lives in their steep little street.
I asked him if forsaking bachelorhood might be difficult: he said it would be "interesting"; seeing that Hella had found someone before him had been extremely difficult, but not being with her when she was on her own would have been unbearable. He said he was an old dinosaur but he just wanted to be loved; I immediately thought of the Edward Monkton poem that featured in the recent wedding of the youngest daughter of my friends, Ellen and Tom. I'd never heard it before, although I'd seen some of Monkton's greetings cards and cartoons. I've included it here as a childlike celebration of unconditional romantic love, with all it's simplicity and intrigues. We're basic creatures but capable of the most noble sentiments.
I didn't get my dolmades after all, although I think I found something much richer and more filling today. The deli had sold out; I was still a bit teary-eyed and I think the kind Turkish shop-keeper thought I was upset about my failure to gather supper. He gave me some veggie pate for free instead. I tried to be honest and explain but it made me blub again and he started to look wary. I thanked him, smiled and took the pate. Which was delicious with pitta and olives. See: basic creatures.

" A Lovely Love Story"
(Edward Monkton)
The fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice.
Although it was cold he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage.
Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.
I like this Dinosaur thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
 Although he is fierce he is also tender and he is funny.
He is also quite clever though I will not tell him this for now.
I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur, thought the Dinosaur.
She is beautiful and she is different and she smells so nice.
She is also a free spirit which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.
But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
He is also overly fond of things.
Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of things?
But her mind skips from here to there so quickly thought the Dinosaur.
She is also uncommonly keen on shopping.
Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on shopping?
I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for things, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
 For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.
I will forgive her skipping mind and her fondness for shopping, thought the Dinosaur
 For she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises.
I am not unkeen on shopping either.
Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old.
Look at them.
Together they stand on the hill telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.
And that, my friends, is how it is with love.
Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together.
For the sun is warm.
And the world is a beautiful place.
"Love Monkey", a five minute film based on the book by Edward Monkton.


"Allelujah"  Fairground Attraction
"Your smile is a prayer that prays for love
and your heart is a kite that longs to fly;
Allelujah here I am-
Let's cut the strings tonight,
and we'll kiss the first of a million kisses"
( Mark Edward Nevin) 

"You don't have to go looking for love when it's where you come from."
(Werner Erhard)


  1. Gisele, this is so beautiful, I smiled and I cried and still feel a bit emotional, Bless you hun xxx

    1. Sometimes I think you're the only person other than me actually reading these witterings, but at least I feel responsible for tweaking your emotional health!! Bless you too Chrissie xx

  2. Oh wow, wow, wow! That rendered me speechless and you know that's a VERY hard thing to do ;-) It deffo brings both joy and tears. Deffo something to remember when I'm feeling sorry for myself for being eternally single and that Mr. Ireland appears to have forgotten about my very existence. Who knows, there might just hope for me yet! ;-) xxx

  3. I intend to pop in and see Derek and meet Hella later when they're sat down and relaxing - the wedding is around now I think. I should tell them that their story has rendered a natural born (but delightful) chatterbox speechless with happiness! Mr Ireland?? I had no idea you were aiming for an international Beauty Pageant winner?? :) And The Big Fella Upstairs surely hasn't forgotten you, so don't worry. (And I don't mean Gary Lightbody, unless he's now renting your loft...) Lots of love, xxx

  4. Haha, please do! And give them all my love please! Haha, hardly. Remember the guy I told you about a few weeks ago? :-)