This entire site is the sole copyright of Valerie Wood 2018
'Hull's answer to
BBC Radio 4's Front Row
Award winning author of
novels set in and around
Hull | City of Culture 2017
Every moment we spent together was packed with new experiences. I smoked my first cigarette in a small dark café near the port in Dieppe. I felt so dizzy I thought I was going to pass out. You laughed and held me steady as we stumbled out into the fresh air and told me smoking was bad for my health.
With you I tasted the ripest camembert I’ve ever seen; a creamy yellow gunk that smelled like death but tasted divine. I made you baked beans on toast out of a can I’d brought over in my suitcase. After a few mouthfuls you put your fork down and told me it was the strangest thing you’d ever eaten.
You weren’t my first but you were the one who showed me what my body could feel. I was like your guitar, you strummed my soul and my body sang your song. We came together in a kiss that tasted of apples and for six amazing weeks I was your Eve. I lost weight without trying. I wasn’t hungry because you satisfied all my needs. You never said you loved me but I know you felt something. I’ve still got that photo, the one of us standing together in the dappled sunlight of the orchard. Your arm’s slung across my shoulders and you’re looking at me not at the camera. You look like you don’t want to let me go.
There were no fragile promises to be broken. There wasn’t to be a tomorrow as we’d already had the best of today. I swallowed down the tears as I waved to you from the ferry. Always the gentleman you had come to see me off but I made sure I was the first to turn away. I had to. The pain of watching you leave would have broken me.
I married a man who looks a little like you; dark hair, blue eyes - I definitely have a type - but in other ways he’s completely different. He is my rock and we’ve built a life together, a roller coaster life full of good times and bad. I sometimes wonder if you married someone like me, a crazy girl with candyfloss lips and punky hair. Someone who makes you laugh.
I hope life has treated you well my darling. I like to think of you building bridges in Asia or overseeing a nuclear power station in France. Perhaps you went into finance and have your own hedge fund. I’m sure that whatever you’ve done you’re a success.
I was such a bad cook when you knew me, who would have thought that one day I’d have my own restaurant. I worked as a translator for a while after leaving university but went back to college to train as a chef. No, we don’t serve baked beans but we do sell a local cider and sometimes after a long day I’ll pour myself a small glass. It never fails to cheer me up.
Before I sign off I want to say one last thing. I know it’s easy to find people these days but I’ve never looked for you and I never will. For me you will always be 21 and perfect. I don’t want you to be anything else. My memories of that summer are too precious to share. They rise unbidden to the surface, taking me by surprise, making my middle-aged heart beat just that little bit faster. A split second of pure happiness when I connect with my younger self. A tiny quiver in time when I think what if.