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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Shelagh Williams

Last night I had a dream of Harry and Felicity Dowling. They were sitting on the pavement alongside a small bookstall, both dressed in brightly coloured clothes. Felicity was not the first great love of my life, but I went out with her briefly, largely because I felt it was about time I had a girl friend. It started badly. We agreed to meet outside the Cavern in Matthew Street, but she didn’t turn up. As she said later, she hadn’t thought I’d been particularly serious. The second time was more successful, but coming home on the bus, I noticed her face looked slightly yellow beneath the fluorescent lighting and I lost enthusiasm.

Harry Dowling was a working class Marxist who also enrolled at the Liverpool Institute for Further Education. Within a few months, he’d discovered the delights of romantic poetry, psychedelic shirts, and Felicity Corcoran. And shortly after that they married. I haven’t seen them since - except in that dream. Nor have I seen Shelagh Williams since then.

She taught me what it was to be in love. She could have sat under a ten-gig watt fluorescent strip, a face with the tonal quality of butter, and I would still have loved her. Fortunately she never put me to the test.

Shelagh had a lean, intelligent face with a wry smile and dark shoulder length hair. Her mother was a teacher, her father head librarian in Bootle Library and I realized I was scaling dizzy heights. Even her name, Shelagh, was spelt different to the Sheilas I had known.

Our first date would have to be special. She was educated, more cultured than I, intensely bohemian. I settled on Ballet - The Nutcracker suite, and read a book on what it was about. To my relief she settled on the pub.

It’s hard to recapture now the excitement in first holding her hand. I tingled in ways I’d never tingled before, but we’ve all been there, so enough about emotion and strange sensations. I just enjoyed being with her, even when she cut her hair short and took to wearing a grey pinstripe suit. My last abiding memory of Shelagh was at a party. She wore a black dress. Sergeant Pepper was playing, and we got gloriously drunk.

We split up when I was at University and I was heartbroken. I hope my own children never experience this, though the odds are they will…and then get over it.


alyscambray said...

I remember Harry and Felicity Dowling when they lived in Fieldgate Lane in Kenilworth. They used to have Young Socialist meetings in their flat - I was 13 or 14, very impressionable, and at that age, and appreciated the fact that Fel and Harry and their contemporaries there, were cool about allowing me to have, and express political opinions. Thanks for reminding me of this period of my life, Mike.

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Alys, and thanks for dropping by. It was a good time to be alive, but then again any time is good to be alive, I suppose. When was this---the Keniliworth period? Harry is on Facebook. You probably know this,


alyscambray said...

Late 60s. early 70s, I think, Mike. Specific events in my life during that era seem to have seeped into each other but it would be from somewhere around 1968, 1970 when my father stood against Angus Maude in the Stratford on Avon constituency. I don't remember them being around in 74 (Kevin Gateley march) but I may be wrong. Just watched a video of Fel in Wrexham in 2010 - felt like a time traveller :-) There is an Adlerian counsellor on Facebook who looks how I imagine a much older Harry would look? Pure chance that their names came to mind when I was remembering the political arguments with my parents, and then, when I Googled, your blog post popped up.