Friday, 8 November 2013
The Golden Years
Every now and then as you pick between the nuggets of despair and bitter disappointment served up daily and gleefully in the press, on the Internet, on the radio and on the evening news, you happen across a story which fills you with hope and joy. Such stories are rare and often hidden away, unseen, among the more numerous tales of philandering footballers and political corruptions of such breath-taking arrogance it takes away the very appetite to read a single word more.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled across this heart-warming account of the happy octogenarians about to celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Ethel and George are in their twilight years but still have a spring in their step and a sparkle in their eyes. On the eve of the big family celebration they took an evening stroll around the village where they were wed and have lived blissfully ever since.
They took a turn up the church path, the graves of their family and friends lined up on each side, not a place of sadness but of remembrance. “Remember, Ethel?” said George, pointing with his stick at the church portal, flanked by lancet windows and guarded by lofty, improbable gargoyles, “Remember how happy we were, that day?” Ethel took his hand in both of hers, “How could I ever forget, George? And you are as handsome today as you have always been.” They stayed a while, remembering the succession of family weddings and christenings they had attended at that very church. It made them smile.
Past the church and along the main street they wandered and presently came to the old stone pack-horse bridge close by the long-closed flour mill where Ethel had worked for a short time after leaving school. They paused a while and gazed into the tinkling stream below, recalling how during their childhood days they had played Pooh Sticks there and held buttercups under each other’s chins. The long summer days of those post-war years had quickly run their course and by the time George went away to do his National Service they had promised themselves to each other.
Along the little stream they strolled, the orange glow of the sun settling on the horizon. Every step brought a happy moment as they passed the place where they shared their first, fumbled kiss and the tree they had climbed, giddy with excitement, to hide their passion from the world. Here the stile where they had first allowed their hands to stray onto bare flesh and there the deep, sweet meadow where they had first made love as a skylark sang high overhead. As they happily remembered their long life together they each felt a little younger and despite the darkening sky and the evening chill they quickened their pace.
Turning for home their route cut across the common and made its way along the snicket at the side of the leisure centre. Although the building was an impressive, modern structure with all the latest fitness machines, the old tennis courts were in a forlorn condition, a sign affixed to the rusting perimeter fence declaring to all that the land had been acquired for development. George stopped and turning to Ethel whispered, “Remember the time we made love up against that wire fence?” She nodded that she did and as the delicious memory came flooding back they decided, for old time’s sake, to relive that stolen pleasure.
Clasping Ethel to him George fumbled to undo his flies as they stumbled, giggling, towards the courts. Ethel pulled up her dress and they quickly checked that nobody was about before he entered her and backed her against the fence in one hard-remembered moment. As she gasped he spread his hands out to grip the fence and proceeded to make love to her as he had never done before, his frenzied jack-hammering quickly bringing her to a fulfilment the like of which she had scarcely imagined possible. Finally he collapsed and clung to her, their bodies trembling and fizzing in the moment. “Oh George,” she cried, exhilarated, her cheeks flushed and her gaze admiring, “you were never such an animal back then!”
George struggled to gain his breath. The sweat stuck his shirt to his back as he fought to get out the words. “Aye pet,” he said, “but back then that bloody fence wasn’t electrified!”