Rewind the clock by 28 years and I’m 16 with the thought of a holiday raising my heart rate in excitement. Is it the down time or the lazy days that I anticipate so breathlessly?
It’s the possibility of romance.
That elusive little spark called love first flickered into existence in precisely this setting. In my fantasies I was holding hands with a tall dark stranger under the stars on an exotic beach. In reality I was holding a mop bucket for a muscled blonde stranger on a heaving boat in the middle of the North Sea!
Now that’s what I call a reality check!
This blonde stranger was one of twelve 16-18 year olds crewing on a 72 ft yacht as part of the Ocean Youth Club program in the UK. I had convinced my parents that it was very safe to send me away for a week at sea, bunking down in mixed gender cabins and going without a shower for longer than is sanitary!
Five school friends and I set off on our adventure of a life time at the tender age of 16, waving anxious parents goodbye on the dockside at Ipswich. Feeling excited and giggling with nerves we chose our bunks and met the rest of the crew.
And that’s when I saw him.
Taller than the rest, obviously the oldest amongst us, he carried himself with a swagger that claimed ownership of anything he graced with his presence.
I detested him immediately.
Swearing, smoking and cocksure, I found every opportunity to challenge his innate sense of authority. I wanted to put him in his place.
And it wasn’t long before I did.
Sailing across the North Sea is a dirty business. A heaving boat leads to heaving stomachs and after two days at sea we arrived in Holland and were promptly given the task of cleaning the vessel.
Now I had a face that looked like butter-wouldn’t-melt and nobody believed there was an evil bone in my body. For these angelic qualities I was rewarded with the important job of allocating the cleaning amongst the crew. And allocate I did.
The nautical term for a toilet is a head.
With a bit of imagination you can imagine how these minimally equipped facilities fare when being frequented by 17 people. Add to that the disturbing lurching from side to side, the chronic sea-sickness and the lack of a toilet brush and you’ve pretty much got a watered down version of how appealing they are!
Using the heads is like trying to pee in a potty on bouncy castle. There’s a lot of room for error!
So it was with great satisfaction that I allocated this job to Swagger Boy. Of course I wasn’t a complete bitch – I offered to supervise him!
It turns out that Swagger Boy had never cleaned a toilet, so I taught him! And it was somewhere between passing the disinfectant and wringing out the cloth that our eyes met across the mop bucket and something flickered between us.
Well, maybe it didn’t happen quite like that but indulge me, there has to be a place for fantasy somewhere in this story!
What did I discover while cleaning the heads with Swagger Boy?
That we shared a sense of humour, that we loved to challenge convention, that we had a chemistry between us that made me breathless.
His slightest touch was electric and my senses were super-charged when I was near him.
What did he see in me? Well I like to think it went beyond the fact that out of the 6 girls on board I was the only one who wasn’t sea sick!
There’s nothing quite so unattractive as the whiff of last nights dinner re-surfacing during a kiss!
We were kindred spirits. Adventurous. Rebellious. Carefree.
Swagger Boy was my first love and I light up from within when I remember these times.
He was also my adventure of a life time.
And we are still living that lifetime together.