Thursday, May 24, 2007


My friend Lee recently wrote about her first love and, for no particular reason, tonight I thought I'd tell you about mine:

It seems odd to be writing about him at the beginning of a Sicilian summer, for it is usually winter when I think of “Winter”. I don’t know why; I was too young for the time of year to have really registered in my mind; but I think it must have been winter when I knew him, as I remember him in long, woolly socks, short , dark trousers and a grey, rough-textured coat that would scratch my face as he hugged me in the playground.

Everyone wore drab clothes then, mostly grey or a very dull green. Some women used to try to brighten things up by wearing red lipstick and dead foxes round their necks [which used to terrify me] but mostly the dreariness was unrelieved. People of my parents’ generation were still in shock from the war and certain items remained on ration. Interiors were dark, too [though people were shortly to rebel against this], there were still bombsites in Bristol and the streets seemed grey and cold. There was a lot of poverty and it was so normal for children to wear threadbare old clothes to school that no one remarked upon it.

I could only have been about five and school was St Gabriel’s Cof E, at the top of Twinnel Road in Bristol. [It was one of the roads leading off Stapleton Road, where our shop was.] I can’t remember a sunny day in that playground, though there must have been some! I can only visualise it as dark and dismal..

“Winter”’s name was actually Gunther, but there was no way I could pronounce it. He used to spend ages trying to get me to say it properly, but his tuition was of no avail to the future linguist! I can hear him now: “My name is Gunther, not ‘Winter’. Say it: G-U-N-T-H-E-R”. “Winter”, I would diligently reply. [I honestly could not understand why he would laugh and I used to get quite upset about it!] Then he would kiss me and tell me that he loved me and I would feel a warm glow for the rest of the day. It was a lovely, all-enveloping feeling of knowing that you are loved and I’m not sure if I have ever recaptured it.

I don’t know what his nationality was or what tragedy his family had escaped; he always talked about his mother, never his father. There were so many families from Central and Eastern Europe pouring into the country then and there were a lot of Poles in Bristol; but obviously his name was not Polish.

“Winter” had ash-blond hair, worn with a long fringe flopping over his forehead, large, smiling blue eyes which I can picture even now and I don’t think I ever saw him without that overcoat on.

He must, I think, have been bullied because I can remember one day telling a teacher, “Winter’s crying”. Then I was pushed aside while this Miss Adams [whom I hated with a vengeance from that moment on] dealt with whatever it was that had upset him. [It was my job to comfort Winter, not hers!]

Breaks were the highlight of my little life, because I knew Winter would come and find me and we’d stand in a corner of the playground cuddling and exchanging chaste kisses while he told me that we were going to get married when we grew up. Winter had it all planned; he was going to buy the shop from Dad! I didn’t see him at lunchtimes; most women didn’t work then , so the majority of children went home for lunch. In fact the “dinner children” were regarded as something of an oddity. I couldn’t wait to get back to school in those days!

One day he just wasn’t there. “Gunther’s gone”, said Miss Adams when I enquired and that was that. Winter certainly hadn’t known about any move or he would have told me and I’m sure he would have cried! I suppose the family were suddenly rehoused in the cold, efficient, unfeeling manner of the time; or perhaps he was taken out of school because of the bullying; or maybe his father reappeared; I just don’t know. The sense of loss was overwhelming and suddenly the world grew cold.

We all need fantasies to keep us alive and one of mine is that one of these days I’ll be strolling along a street in Modica, Catania or Palermo, I’ll suddenly stop and there he’ll be – Winter!


Anonymous said...

Nice story, I like it.

Shades said...

I had a "Winter"- she came to visit us from Australia a few years back.

I had been ten at the time and she was the surprised smitee..

Lee said...

I hope Winter returns into your life, Welsh. Wouldn't that be an exciting moment? Wonderful memories, well- expressed and heartfelt. Thanks for sharing. :)

PinkAcorn said...

What a sweet yet sad story. I am actually married to my "Winter"-my high school sweetheart. We dated three years in high school and went our separate ways then at a 30th reunion met and fell back in love and married in 2001. We have eight kids, his five, my three and 12 grand kids(just one is mine!). Yipes!

jmb said...

What a lovely story, Welshcakes. But sad too. How frustrating to always wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he thinks about you.

The only Gunther I know is German but his people came originally from Poland. I'm sure it's a common European name, well not Italian or French or Spanish or Greek or I could go on eliminating but not in the least making any sense at all!

Eurodog said...

Yes, I am sure you will run into him one day. These things do happen.

Whispering Walls said...

That is a very sweet story: it has a Persephone ring to it.

Ruthie said...

That is lovely, Welshcakes.... what a sweet story about your childhood.

You never do know, he may reappear one day. And wouldn't that be something... I wonder if you'd recognize him?

elleeseymour said...

Sicilian, that's a very touching story. I hope you one day find a Sicilian summer love to share all your lovely food with.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you kindly, Steve. Delicolor, that is sweet - how nice that she visited you. You are kind, Lee. Well, you never know! Pinkacorn, that is wonderful. What a happy story. Jmb, I don't suppose that he remembers me for a moment. I looked up Polish names and it's not there but, as you say, versions of it are common in several European countries. Eurodog, where there's life, there's hope! Thanks, WW. As you know, I love the Persephone tale. Well, Ruthie, I like to think I'd know those eyes! Thanks, Ellee - still working on it!

Ballpoint Wren said...

There must be something in the stars, because just this week I looked up my first love! (he was 13 and had no idea a certain 9-year-old was writing stories about their future happiness together).

Now he's a religious author in Michigan. I didn't try to contact him, though, as I'm very happy with Hubby. I was just curious.

I bet you could find Winter! Write to the school and ask for Gunter's last name. In the U.S., such information falls under the classification of "directory information" and should be available on request. Perhaps it's the same in the UK.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Bonnie. It seems everybody has a "Winter" in their lives and it's nice! How interesting that you found out what your first love is doing now. The school Winter and I attended no longer exists, sadly. I'm on "Friends Reunited" but he has not signed up there. You never know - maybe he'll read this blog! Yes, there must be something in the air.

Janejill said...

A lovely poignant story , told so well; it would be just perfect - wouldn't the Education Authority still have records? I have just returned from Ireland and saw my old primary school - now a courtyard of upmarket apartments; I can smell the chalk (amongst other things)and see all the teachers too. Like you, I had to return home for lunch and would try to rush back

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, janejill. Yes, I suppose the Ed Authority would have the records but would they release the information? That sounds like a nostalgic trip you had to Ireland.


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