For the eve of St Valentine’s Day, a touching story of youthful romance in an unromantic setting. Jim C Wilson of Gullane is the narrator remembering.


The electric fire’s one bar glowed

dully, half-smothered, its dust skin

of talc holding back the heat. In

a far-distant corner the dark


morning was ruffled by the hoarse

scrape of your tinny tranny; you’d

painted its case with flowers. Should

I wake you? Condensation dropped


down the black window glass, like cold

tears. The thin curtains couldn’t meet,

didn’t quite fit. You slept, the sheet

wound round your strange nakedness.


Cars and buses edged into the dawn.

I saw two sticky coffee mugs,

some underclothes slumped on worn rugs.

An inch of cider still remained,


half-accusing. The staleness of the

spreading ashtray clung to the dead

air and my skin. Your single bed

sank in the middle and I ached


for you in the pale fireglow in

that old house full of strangers. I

woke you for the new term; your sigh

was a little girl’s. You blinked and


were surprised to see me that dawn

in 1968 when rain

made the roofs shine and I had lain

beside you in a night as brief


as a smile. The room was filled for

me with wonder as I am now

when I think with surprise at how

you were so prepared to allow


me to stay that first October

night and then these fifty years.