I began this five years ago, caught in a moment of yearning and loss by a TV programme ~ I think it belongs with my post on Cartoons & Romance.
I watched a short film about the Vespa scooter this morning – English made in 1999, but with much lyrical and evocative comment by Italians. Oh! the clutch of nostalgia – for the machine, for my youth, for high old times in Geneva in the 1950s. I hardly realised until this moment how much I loved my Vespa, the mobility and freedom it gave me, the jaunts with my flat-mate, the sheer mechanical pleasure of driving, so much greater than I felt later in a car.
Looking back on my two years in Switzerland, working with the World Health Organisation, it seems that that was the real me – the me that my therapist tells me is still trying to get out of the woman I am now in my 70s. I ‘had a ball’ there, a fling, the time of my life. It was magic, imagination, romance, excitement and adventure. It was being liberated and fancy free, sexy and attractive.
It was a lot of men, too - a girl had to keep her head in the international community out there. So many of the fellas who acted as though they were single were actually on postings away from home and family, and it was not a group in which to find reliable husband material. And most of the Swiss boys were put off by the enormous salaries we earned. So I came home after two years to get married to an old sweetheart, but there is still a small unassailable corner of my heart reserved for Alex, son of Russian emigres but adopted by Swiss parents, who worked like me with the World Health Organisation.
I met him at a Hogmanay party and asked him to dance. He was bear-like and almost ugly, but there was something about him..... There was an initial misunderstanding, involving a struggle in a dark room, in the course of which I kicked over a drum kit waiting to be played by the back-up band. But I managed to make my point, and it wasn't long before we negotiated terms.
He was a man who wrote me poems, drew cartoons on paper tablecloths, told me dirty jokes, and had some very dubious friends. A man who was deeply moved when I first called him ‘cheri’; who scoffed when I told him that I wanted to make love to the sound of Scheherazade, the music of his fellow countryman, but agreed eventually that I was right. His wooing was so varied, so scurrilous, so romantic, so full wit, of soul and of angst, that I was captivated. We could never have lived together, but he is the only man of whom I can say that his spirit soared with mine.