I'm glad this fortnight's post is entitled first LOVES, plural, because honestly there have been so many times in my life when I thought I was in love, IN love, as opposed to loving. I have loved so many people in my life, some I am ashamed to admit had names I can't even remember, yet when we touched, when we connected, it seemed as if they were the most important people in my life.
Reading Baldwin or Durrell I wanted my life to be like those characters on the written pages. Regardless of the tragedies that unfolded in those stories I wanted a life lived in Paris or Venice or New York, anywhere but in the humdrum trappings inflicted on me by the restrictions of my birthplace.
Looking back of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with where I was born. Scotland was, and still is, one of the most romantic places in the world - if you can believe the hundreds of novels written by romance writers - Kiss of the Highlander, Heart of the Highlander, Embrace of the Highlander etc., etc... The covers of those books really do depict those 'Highlanders' in grand style, toned pecs, six pack abs and just a hint of a bulge behind that swinging kilt. Och aye, lassie, I am the verra one ye've been searchin' for a' yer life.
Ah well, I guess I missed out on that part of my life in Scotland.
Working in the theatre as I did for several years it was so easy to fall in love, however briefly, with one or more of the beautiful people who strutted their stuff on the stage. Actors, singers and dancers are special breeds, fancying themselves removed from the rigors of normal life, as if the rules and restrictions outside the world of the theatre don't really exist. Behavior considered merely naughty in theatrical circles might be viewed as outrageous in our stricter society. And here I was at the rampant age of nineteen surround by a smorgasbord of male and female beauty, the door to my own sexuality still open
But I digress, because the first time I fell in love was not with the blue eyed, sooty lashed leading man who smiled disarmingly at me during first rehearsal. It had happened earlier in my mid teens, and it wasn't a person, or rather it was an unseen person whose voice I fell in love as it flowed like liquid honey from the speaker of our old family radio.
The song was Everytime We Say Goodbye. I'd learn later it was written by Cole Porter, but it was the way in which the words were sung that captivated me and had me hanging on every note, every nuance of tone and phrasing. To my ears, unpolished, unsophisticated as yet and unused to hearing such beauty in the age of raucous rock'n'roll this amazing voice was a revelation. I had never heard anything quite like it, and I was instantly in love. Fortunately I was home alone so there was no one there to witness me pressing my ear to the speaker in order to catch every dulcet, perfectly shaped syllable and heart stopping purity of sound.
At fifteen, perhaps the words shouldn't have meant as much to me as they did, and maybe sung by anyone else they wouldn't, but right then, listening to this love song, I think the romantic in me was born.
"There's no love song finer,
But how strange the change,
From major to minor,
Everytime we say goodbye..."
The singer was Ella Fitzgerald and right there I began a life long love affair with her that some might say bordered on the obsessive. "Better shut up," friends would say, "Ella's on." And it was true to the point of rudeness. Anyone's conversation would fade into the background as that beautiful voice caressed my senses and commanded all my attention.
And to this day, she still does. During all the years of falling in and out of love with more people than I care to mention, she remained my one constant. I could rely on Ella to bring me joy when I was down, solace when I was lonely, and the most romantic mood music when I was... well, I'll leave that to your imaginations.