31 August 2016

Susan

Recently, I have started to follow a blog called "The Pedestrian Writer" by an east coast American chap called Chris. His posts are well-written. He opens himself up and reveals his vulnerabilities. Subtle self-deprecating humour is also often present. It is clear that Chris has been through some dark times and that his blog is something of a release valve. He admits this himself.

A few days ago  he posted  "A Summary of the Girls that I Never Dated in High School". In this piece of writing, he recalled the awkwardness of his teenage years and the invisible hurdles that prevented him from wandering through the valley of love, hand in hand with a teenage girlfriend, living the American high school dream like Danny and Sandy in "Grease". It is my supposition that Chris's experience of dating or rather not dating during his high school years is not uncommon.

For some reason, that post made me think of Susan and for what I am about to write I give thanks to Chris for his inspiration...
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In September 1965, I began five years of daily bus journeys from my East Yorkshire village into the city of Hull. At eleven years old, I had gained a scholarship to an all boys direct grant school, widely thought to be the "best" school in the region. 

Riding aboard that very first bus I noticed a pretty blue-eyed girl in the school uniform of The French Convent - a private school off Beverley Road. She was the same age as me and came from the next village up the road - Brandesburton. She was  a farmer's daughter and she was sitting next to her older sister who also attended The French Convent. I believe the sister was called Christabel.

As the mornings darkened and Christmas approached, Susan began to occupy a place in my thoughts with which Latin declensions and the periodic table could not compete. If sitting behind her on the bus, my eyes were drawn to her blonde locks and if sitting in front of her I fancied that she would sometimes look my way.

But we never spoke.

More than once, riding a late bus homewards - perhaps after rugby practice -  I found myself alone with her on the top deck but still we never spoke. We were getting older, physically and mentally. She was becoming rounded like a woman and I was six feet tall at fifteen. She looked at me and I looked at her. Stolen sideways glances. What was I meant to do?

Of course, I fantasised about her. Not lurid, pornographic fantasies but fantasies of love. Walking upon Hornsea beach, hand in hand, cycling along a country lane and sheltering from  a sudden rainstorm under a sycamore tree, taking her in my arms and kissing her tenderly. I never imagined conversations, just the quiet dumbshow of true love, acted out as if in a romantic film.

Once, I bought a Valentine card for her, signing it with secret kisses and I pedalled all the way to Brandesburton to post it just so that she wouldn't know the card was from me. In those days, every village post office had its own franking stamp so you could always tell where a card or letter had been posted.

Another time, sitting directly behind her, I leant forwards to fill my nostrils with the aroma of her hair. Clean and slightly medicinal like "Vosene". And so close I could have touched her.

At sixteen I left the  snobbish "best" school in Hull, transferring to Beverley Grammar School to do my A levels so no longer would I be travelling on the same bus as Susan. I had forfeited the opportunity of finally rising from my seat, swaying over to her and saying, "Hi! We have been travelling on the same bus for five years now and well, I have finally plucked up the courage to tell you that I fancy you and wondered if you'd like to see Jethro Tull with me at The City Hall?"

A few months after transferring to Beverley, I spotted her at a well-attended "dance" in Brandesburton Parish Hall. She was with some girlfriends. No doubt they danced ritualistically around their handbags. Perhaps now I could finally pluck up the courage but no, the inner strength would not come for by now she had become something like an unattainable goddess in my imaginings. We had grown up together, without even speaking to each other. She just wasn't like other girls. After all this time how could I ever speak to her?

Early the following year, at another "dance" in Brandesburton Parish Hall I saw her with a handsome, roguish fellow called Junior. He was a wealthy farmer's son with an air of confidence about him. He was two years older than me and already had his own car.

They were holding hands and laughing and in that painful moment, after all that longing and all those imagined romantic scenarios, I knew that I had lost Susan forever and ever.

32 comments:

  1. I too read chris' blog and like you enjoy its style
    This blog entry, for you, is very different,but i liked it

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    1. Thanks for calling by John... and for leaving a nice comment.

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  2. Your post rekindle memories of my own...of youthful fantasies...none of which ever progressed into reality. Nonetheless, the memories remain...fondly...and always with smiles. Love from afar is exciting in our years of wonderful innocence is special. I was always to shy to talk to the subject/s of my distant admiration.

    I enjoyed this post; and when I get some spare time I will venture forth and read Chris' blog...thanks for the head's up. :)

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    1. I find it hard to believe that you were once a shrinking wallflower Lee - tittering behind your fan - but perhaps that uncertainty and romantic idolisation is a feature of growing up for most young people.

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    2. I was very shy when I was young, Yorkie, and to a degree, I guess I still am. I just learned how to handle it and disguise it as I grew out of my childhood years. Never believe all that you see or imagine another to be. In lots of cases what is within is not what others see on the outside. I became expert at hiding my shyness.

      I think many of us have our facades to help us deal with the world and those in it...without the protections we build around ourselves we wouldn't be able to progress.

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  3. It's making me smile this morning...reading about all of you male bloggers and your high school unrequited loves! What a sweet post, YP.

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    1. I bet there was a teenage lad looking over at you on your school bus...

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    2. No, I didn't have very much male attention as a teenager. Hence the truly awful boyfriend I acquired in high school that treated me terribly. I look back and feel so sorry for the girl I was--who thought it was okay to be treated like that. There are many things I wish I could do over from my younger days, and he's the main one.

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    3. In England "do over" can mean to physically beat up!

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  4. "Pedestrian Writer"? never heard of him ;P

    Seriously, thanks for this mate. I'm so glad you enjoy my blog and found a little inspiration in writing. It made my morning!

    Now, as for this post and Miss Hawkins...she must have been something special for you to remember her so well. It's a shame you never spoke to her. And what of that Valentine card? Did you send it without signing your name to it, or would she not know the difference since you never introduced yourself?

    "Of course, I fantasised about her. Not lurid, pornographic fantasies but fantasies of love." Yes, exactly. That's how I always feel when I crush on a girl.

    "Perhaps now I could finally pluck up the courage but no, the inner strength would not come for by now she had become something like an unattainable goddess in my imaginings." This is sooo true as well. Crush on a girl long enough and they achieve legendary status. Mere morals like us dare not approach...

    Fantastic post, YP. Sad ending though. I s'pose we all have our own personal Susan Hawkins :/

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    1. I didn't sign the Valentine card but of course I hoped she would somehow know. Thanks for calling by again Chris and for giving me the courage I needed to write this little story.

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  5. This could be my story. I'm sure many males would admit the same thing. When my dad was 93 he told me a similar story.

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    1. I guess it's all about wrestling with new feelings - discovering the primeval mating urge within.

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  6. Faint heart never won fair lady.

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    1. So true. Paul must have the heart of a lion.

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  7. I really loved this YP - you captured the teenage feelings perfectly and I suspect have written the story of many teenage boys (and girls too for that matter.)

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    1. Thank you Mrs Weaver. I bet you were one of those coquettish teenage girls, fluttering your eyelashes at hormone-crazed Lincolnshire farming lads.

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  8. This could have been a teenage novel in the making; I know how well you can write (apart from your blog posts which are always well written) and would definitely buy it.

    If you never spoke, how did you know her name, her sister's name and where exactly they lived?

    I wonder what became of her and Junior. Who knows - she might by coincidence stumble across your blog post and get in touch. Only that it's too late, since you found Sheila and the two of you make the impression of a happy couple.

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    1. Sheila? How did you know about my mud-wrestling mistress? Of course my wife is called Shirley but you are not the first one to make that mistake...

      I wonder if I should have used a pseudonym rather than the girl's real name... I don't want her getting in touch. By the way, my mother knew her mother and our villages were just a mile apart.

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    2. Stupid me - I've made the mistake about your wife's name before. So sorry!

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  9. Ah yes, we've all been there, YP ...

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  10. It is better to have loved and lost... is utter rubbish. You really should have posted that Valentine's card from your home town so Susan might have had a clue. Perhaps in another universe you did and you are now a happy farming couple. Or criminals on the run like Bonnie and Clyde :)

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    1. Was Mrs Parrot your girl on the bus?

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  11. Absolutely brilliant. Most of us teenage guys had a Susan Hawkins in our lives if we're honest about it, I did, someone called Suzanne.

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    1. I am so pleased that this post resonated with other people. I kind of thought my emotional torture re. Susan was rare.

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  12. Oh yeah, we all had a Susan. (Or in my case, a Kenny.) I wonder if Susan will Google herself and read this?!

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    1. Do you know what Steve, I am going to remove her surname from the main body of the text - just in case.

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    2. I saw this comment and had the brilliant idea to Google Danielle. It appears she's married - and has an even more common last name than before. And so I can't find "my" Danielle anywhere. Your Susan has a common name as well; I think you're safe ;-)

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  13. You never know Mr. Pudding, one day when you're sitting in the old people's home and you look across the room and there she will be - and if she is, for gawd's sake speak to her.

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    1. Thank you for the advice Derek. I shall probably say, "Pooh! What's that smell?"...or "You silly old bat! You've spilt tea all down yer cardie!"

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  14. I refer to Leyburn YP. I wouldn't like to live in Hawes - it is too remote, everyone is a native (or almost) ane most of them related and the weather is pretty dire.
    I rarely go to Richmond although it is only about ten miles away.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.