The truth about – back then (part 2)

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    Well, I got away with the last one so this is another blog from the Word Cloud. Apologies again to former Cloudies who remember it. To repeat myself, it’s worth saying straight out that I’m also sorry if they seem too locker-room in style. The male gaze is overused and far less important than male writers suppose. But the blogs are who I was.

    The Truth About Sarah

    In front of me: a light and bitter and a packet of Marlboro. The Motors Dancing the Night Away on the jukebox and Bob Pierce’s Blues Band tuning up. Life couldn’t get much better. Then I saw Sarah.

    The Onslow was not an accommodating pub; you had to negotiate with it to view somebody sitting on the other side, so it was only a glimpse – a glimpse of mid-brown hair, sparkling eyes, glasses – and cheesecloth.

    Don’t get me wrong. I was playing at being cool back then. I was a tiny bit older than most of my friends, I’d been to art-school dontyerknow, and I knew Glen Matlock, late of the Sex Pistols. I’d had my ears pierced in Soho before the hoi polloi got into it. I was a man about town.

    So cheesecloth: not my normal thing. But, yes, cheesecloth. The thing about cheesecloth, I realised, is that it kind of clings, and moves, and flops and generally makes some views far more entertaining than they have any right to be. Particularly when that view is only grudgingly offered up in a crowded pub.

    The next ten minutes saw me over at Sarah’s table and I was in luck, there were two or three other people I knew as well. Then more arrived and before long there was a party in the pub, which amongst the heaving mass of other people also having parties in the pub, was a good thing.

    So much for the intro.

    There’s more about standing on Onslow road when the pub piled out; about cold air and invitations to coffee, but that’s not the truth about Sarah.

    She was lovely. I have to admit that I had met her before, but the thing is, I was with Dawn. Well, I wasn’t really. Actually, I wasn’t at all. It would be truer to say I hadn’t got over Dawn. There had been tears, there had been booze, there had been blackouts.

    But Sarah was lovely. I felt comfortable as we talked that evening, I felt OK that she put Leonard Cohen on the record player. I liked Leonard Cohen , even though my musical choices back then ran to Slaughter and the Dogs and Johnny Moped.


    I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t relaxed. I did like Leonard Cohen. I did like Sarah. And the really truly amazing thing was that she seemed to like me. She had even invited me back for coffee. And as she rolled a joint on the cover of Songs of Leonard Cohen and I began to panic because dope made me nauseous, which explained my preference for amphetamine sulphate, I shook a bit.
    I think she noticed.

    Here’s the remarkable bit. This lovely person; this delicate little creature as someone I knew called her, didn’t mind.

    OK. Sarah was about 5 feet 2 inches tall (I have no idea how close that is. I never attacked her with a tape measure) and slender. I suppose ‘delicate little creature’ was fair enough to a lump of a man who spotted her wandering around our house one night, but she was actually quite normal in stature. But never mind that. She was fun, relaxed, curious. She would talk about Rabelais, or Wittgenstein or what was on the television that night with equal enthusiasm. She had no idea of being as one is supposed to be and I thought that was brilliant.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – took me ages to think that up. Maggie had been elected, Breshnev was in the Kremlin, Jimmy Carter was President of the USA and I was going out with Sarah. Cheerful, happy, fun-to-be-with Sarah.

    Sarah was studying French and Philosophy. I was Philosophy single honours. We studied together. We drank booze together. We just sort of rubbed along together. This was the relationship where I learned about having a relationship. We learned it. Might have just been me, but I think it was both of us.

    Here’s an odd thing: we were nice to each other most of the time. I don’t remember fights or arguments. I don’t remember it mattering that somebody said the wrong thing, or was daft, or had a hangover. We were a couple of bloody kids so we weren’t particularly faithful to each other either, but we always came back.

    Here’s something else I remember: the two of us standing talking to the Philosophy Department secretary one day. During a lull in the conversation she just looked at us and said, out of the blue, ‘You know, you two are a wonderful couple. I always thought you should get together.’ That was exactly what I thought as well.

    We lasted very nearly a year until something ruined it.

    I’m looking round now to see if I can sport the guilty party, but somehow that person isn’t in my field of view.

    Somebody once said that I’m honest in these blogs, but now I can’t bring myself to own up to it. Sarah sat on the edge of the bed and cried. She was angry with me. I felt terrible about the things I had said. But I said them and I didn’t take them back. It was supposed to be about how I felt but really it was no more interesting than an aversion to commitment – even the modest commitment of our relaxed relationship. God, how stupid. It only took me a week to realise I had cut half of myself away.

    What’s so bizarre is that we worked so well, that we could even have survived the break up; it certainly lasted for a while. We still talked together as friends even while we were at war with each other. But then Sarah went to France for her French degree’s year abroad and when she returned, the light was finally out.

    We almost met again in the 90s when we worked for different parts of the same organisation; met the same people, but never each other.

    A few years ago I found out that she was lecturing in a University in the West Country specialising in a totally unexpected area of human life. Well, maybe not totally. I’ve seen her in a couple of Lucy Worsley documentaries on the BBC. She looks good.

    And yes, we do correspond. We are friends. We are astonished by how old we got to be and how grown up our children are.

    It’s not all of it, but it’s the truth.

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