Torn between two lovers
Feeling like a fool
Loving both of you is breaking all the rules
You know the feeling. You’re sitting in a cozy pub with your latest squeeze; the night is young and the music’s high. A couple more G ‘n’ Ts then you’ll brave the provincial niteclub, even though you’re at least a decade too old. And then, just as you’re about to get intimate, in walks your old flame and he/she’s looking absolutely gorgeous.
That’s exactly what happened to me last Friday. I passed a couple of particularly pleasant lunchtime hours in the Bishop’s Palace ogling my new love – Wells – as if she were a voluptuous young nymph who’d just wafted in from the Mendip underworld.
Then a quick dash down the Fosse Way to a brief encounter with my first love – Weymouth – who shimmers elegantly under a gossamer midnight sky, jewelled with strings of iridescent lights. Tonight, for some reason, her beauty is almost unbearable; is it any wonder we consummate our desire over and over again until, in the early madrugadal hours, she slips into a dreamy slumber and I enjoy a post-coital cigarette.
It’s been going on for years, this affair. I can still remember the first time we set eyes upon each other, on a dreich and damp Monday morning in October 1983. The ageing train slid out of Bincombe Tunnel and there, moist and misty, lay my resplendent lover.
The intervening years haven’t always been kind; both of us have been under the surgeon’s knife, both of us have fallen in and out of love with life itself. There were several long years when we never set eyes on one another, as if each of us were trying deny the other’s existence.
But you know what Horace says: naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret - you might drive out nature with a pitchfork but she'll always come back.
I might as well come clean. I’m a serial philanderer. I’ve flirted with the classy, the brazen and the downright cheap and tacky. Edinburgh, Bristol, Mexico City, San Salvador – even Borehamwood, for God’s sake! I’ve had flings with them all yet on each and every occasion I’ve come running back into the arms of my first love.
So why on earth have I committed myself to Wells, Britain’s most beautiful cathedral city when temptation and lie just ninety minutes down the A37? Well, it’s not just the imminent arrival of Waitrose, I’ve had the hots for Wells – no pun intended – for over a decade. We’ve spent the best part of twelve years eyeing each other up, like two slightly inebriated Calistas in an eighties wine bar. We’ve so much in common we might have been joined at the hip since birth: academic, theological and vaguely ecclesial backgrounds; middle-class liberals with a penchant for decadence we aren’t ashamed to admit. But the truth is, of course, that neither of us are getting any younger and neither of us are going to surrender to the ageing process without giving it a good kick in the face.
So we’ve been shacked up together for six weeks and there’s even talk of a civil union, once I’ve completed the first draft of my definitive Wells novel. Make no mistake, there’s still a skip in my step whenever I set foot in the city’s more intimate declivities and I still profess my undying love for her on a daily basis but I might as well tell you here and now, my mistress and I are already making plans for another dirty weekend by the sea – and it’ll be more Punch and Judy than sandcastles and slot machines.
Weymouth or Wells? There's only one way to find out .... Fight!