Thursday, July 19, 2007

The boys of summer

The Boys’ Brigade has arrived. Each year, the appearance of rows of old-fashioned green and white tents and the accompanying larger communal marquees encamped in a field along the coast road seems to sound the starting gun for summer. The boys are different every year but the pattern of their two-week visit doesn’t change: football on the school field, marching with trumpets and drums down the main street on Sunday, and gaggles of teenage girls tracking their movements in the hope of bagging themselves a Scottish summer love.

That’s one of the beauties of growing up in a coastal village that gathers more that its fair share of tourists: the boys of summer. Girls, eagerly awaiting the fresh talent that will arrive in holiday cottages and bed and breakfasts, head off to summer jobs in cafes and shops beneath extra coats of mascara and lip-gloss. Some blush when they have to serve the object of their desire, others flirt brazenly. Later, they meet up in the amusement arcades, then walk hand-in-hand along the beach.

I never had a fancy for a Boys’ Brigader but I shared the anticipation of romance as the school year died and the six-week holiday beckoned. It is more than half a lifetime ago, but one fortnight-long affair remains vivid. I wore pink eyeshadow and a yellow Frankie Says Relax T-shirt. He cut a deep hole into the arm of a wooden bench with a penknife while he waited for me one evening. For years, I would remember him and smile when I walked by that seat. He wrote me a ‘I really do like you’ note on a postcard and passed it surreptitiously across the counter of the shop where I worked. When he returned home to Kent, we wrote and he would ring each fortnight on a Friday. My mum thought he was “nice”.


But when you’re 15 and mobile phones haven’t been invented, distances are insurmountable and affairs fizzle out; boys at school suddenly start to grow up and become more interesting. Summer loves are packed into memory boxes, to be taken out occasionally and smiled over, like sepia photographs. Wistfully, you wonder where they are now….

18 comments:

lady macleod said...

Just lovely. I'm still smiling..

Brom said...

Awww, nice. I could almost feel the sand in my shoes.

PS. 'Boys of Summer', superb intro, must remember to add that to the list... of superb intro's of course.

Loz said...

You gotta love summer holidays :)

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Lovely... the very idea of memory boxes in which to pack those tantalising lost opportunities... the "what might have beens" and the "if onlys" and of course being human we are liable to gild those memories, making the "lost loves" more attractive, more mysterious and better than they really were... And being human we are so liable to regret... even Edith Piaf!

Mopsa said...

Well, I should be feeling all romantic now having read that, but instead I am wondering what on earth that strange laughing cavalier type moustache is on the girl on the right of your piccy...

rilly super said...

well, I sounds like the actions to that 'bobbing up and down like this' camp fire song are a bit different around your way then M&M

Gill said...

ah! summer love,I remember it well, hitch hiking to Keswick in the hope of meeting a mysterious stranger ;-)

ziggi said...

boys' brigade - really? I never realised there was such a thing outside of Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie - they really exist do they?! How lovely and quaint.

Omega Mum said...

I like the bench-piercing. It beats doing your own ears with compass, doesn't it? It must have been a good post. I felt nostalgic and I've never even seen a Boys Brigade tent!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.. We will need a few more clues if we are to track him down for you now, eminem...

Although I must admit I thought maternal disapproval was the first of the criteria needing to be met for a romantic liaison - though maybe your mum had better taste than most.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Arh, who said romance was dead. Holiday romances; bring back memories, long gone of course.

Crystal xx

@themill said...

Lovely and so true. Is that love scarred bench still there? My initials were on the harbour edge for years until it's last refurbishment.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

What is this thing you refer to as summer?

mutterings and meanderings said...

Thankyou Lady M

And you too Brom

Hi Loz- would come n visit but you have soooooo many blogs!

YP, when you're a spinster, there is so many 'what might have beens'.. Miss Haverhsam has nowt on me ... ;)

Mopsa, I wondered that too...

Now Rilly, beahve yourslef - or rather get yourself up here for further summer romance ...

And did you, Gill?

Ziggi, the lot that come here are from Glasgow I think...

OM, I have pierced a few people's ears, including two of the holes in mine, but that was with an earring ...

Anon, the past is another country, they do things differently there...

CJ, memories of romance are all I have, sniff ;)

@themill, I miust go and check whether the bench is still there o if it has been superseded by a newer model

IMB, it was something we had back when ah wor a lass!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Ahhh M&M, you took me back to the Frankie Says Relax days when I too wandered a seaside resort (a lot further south than yours) eyeing up the fresh intake. I never got to serve them in the Guest Houses I worked at though, only old 'uns and exchange students. I once spilt a cup of hot tea over an italian girl clad in shorts...

Can you still see the hole in the bench as you walk past? You could find him on Friends Reunited, but it would probably ruin the magic!
Pigx

Jez Bell said...

aaah, that stirs some memories! My local coastal town had the Waltzer Boys rather than the Boys Brigaders. I hate the Waltzers as they just make me feel very ill but one summer spent every last penny on them in the hope of being spun round by Boy With The Long Hair!

Gill said...

oh yes I did and one of them showed me his penis in the park. Young love eh!

Karen said...

I went to a couple of international guide and scout camps when aged around 14/15 - one was in Windermere the other in Windsor.

I got chatted up by a lad from Ghana and we swapped addresses but I never got a letter from him and I didn't write one to him! I didn't know what to say as most talking was done through an English boy who was possibly pulling my leg.

One of the guides at Windermere was hanging out with a lad from Yorkshire and he put a frog in our tent one night.

In Windsor I was more of a young leader than a guide and one of the girls starting seeing a lad that we'd met at the Windermere camp. She became very boring after that. My eye was on a venture scout who was over 18 camping next door to our pitch. He was so much sexier than the other scouts but I guess I've always been attracted to older men!