They say that our first love will always be with us. Time heals of course but it lingers there, as a reminder of the first time that we felt the force of real, grown up emotions. It is like a canvas that we projected all of our hopes and desires onto. This person is the one and so on. Anything that happens for the first time is a memorable experience and sometimes those experiences can be deeply painful. This is not a Blog about the subjective nature of love but rather a personal account of the time I fell in love for the first time.
Unfortunately for me, falling under the spell of a travelling Romany Gypsy boy could not have been a more unsuitable canvas to project all of my hopes and desires onto. To explain what happened I have to go back to the late 1990’s, where cell phones were massive and the preserve of gadget geeks with carry cases. The after effects of the Spice Girls could still be felt, it was acceptable for me to have a head full of floppy hair in a centre parting and the world revolved around me… because I was only 19.
ABOVE: Me at 19 years of age
I had been living in Blackpool for one year before I met him. My parents had moved us all there from a small market town in County Durham. Blackpool raises eyebrows but to a young gay man from a tough North-eastern town, this place was a playground, where it was not only accepted to be gay but embraced. I was at college studying for a diploma in Media and Film and at weekends I worked in a nightclub called Edwards. Although a commercial chain, it was by far the only place to be for real music in the town, with regular Ministry of Sound nights.
One night I met a young man. We danced like idiots, drank like fish and had a brilliant evening. Let’s call the lovely, smiley, hearing aid wearing geek, Harry. That night, back at his tiny rented room, I squashed into a single bed with him and had an awful night’s sleep, the kind only a young lad could tolerate with ease.
When we woke up, Harry announced that I should meet his best friend, who lived downstairs. It was a semi-detached house owned by a much loved and extremely popular older man on the gay scene, who had turned each room into separate rented accommodation to help make ends meet, so it wasn’t the kind of place where you would hear the pop of a champagne cork. As a result of this, Harry’s friends living accommodation was the dining room, as is popular in Blackpool.
I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, the house was cold, wood chipped and uninspiring. So it was a total bolt out of the blue when after knocking on the door, in total contrast to the rest of the house, Harry opened it to a sea of green and a vision to behold. It was a moment I would never forget. It was like turning from Sepia, to Technicolor. There, sat upright in bed and totally naked but for a pair of cheap plastic fashion glasses, there he was. The one. My young life changed right there and then.
At that point in my life I had not laid eyes on a more stunningly attractive, beguiling and breathtakingly confident man. Reeking of Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Le Male’, he was exotic, exciting, beautiful and intimidating. I sat perched on the end of his double bed, thunderstruck and mute as this Romany Gypsy on the run from his family and the life he once knew, held court with his story
ABOVE: The Gypsy – Lets refer to the Gypsy throughout this series as Sean.
It was still early and Harry decided that we should have a nap. I don’t think I said much at all. I was so taken aback. Sean would much later tell me that I just stared, often with an open mouth. Yes, looking fixedly at my canvas, no doubt about it but I managed to fall asleep back in Harry’s single bed and it wasn’t long before I was woken up by a fully dressed Sean wiggling my big toe and tickling the soul of my foot. He announced that we should all head off into town, to the Disney Store. I would have done anything he suggested. The idea of spending the day with this person was so appealing and exciting that I would have agreed to go anywhere.
He felt up and analysed every crystal ball, ornament and soft toy there was. He went through every Disney musical repertoire there had ever been, it seemed, until he spied that Harry was out of sight and then he came at me over an assortment of Tigers and said “I’ll get rid of him and meet you back here in an hour”. Now as Machiavellian as this was of him, the charm offensive launched on me was so brilliantly executed that I was powerless to resist. I didn’t want to resist. Exotic, exciting, beautiful and beguiling and of course I was showered, changed and waiting with an open and trusting heart an hour later.