Let’s go back, to when a pair of boots was the most valuable thing a man could own, and virtue a woman. Those would be incidental details but none of the far-ranging possibility, none of the frustrations of now would be at issue. In those days, meeting owed itself to geographic proximity; chance played only a limited role. People stayed in the same place, more or less. The pool from which love could be fished was a small one. I doubt that it was better so, though of course it must have been simpler.
Perhaps I’d be the grandson of the retired couple who ran the Sailors Arms, the young landlord with big ideas and a fantastical sense of adventure; you the village schoolteacher, clear of purpose, beloved of her pupils, not easily cowed. And then we’d see.
In summer meadows we would wander. I would go barefoot, the laces of my boots tied together so that the pair could be slung over my shoulder. In the middle of the field we would drop from view and once stretched out across a bed of meadow grass, you would soon feel that virtue was of no further use to you. I’d say, finally, you are lying in the sailor’s arms, and smile a smile which would at once appal you with its wickedness and charm you with its love.
With my grandmother relenting in the face of our certainty, we would marry – of course we would – and carry on living in the lee of the line of hills which resembled a sleeping giant and every Sunday we would walk them, me in my boots and you in your bonnet, and from the ridge running between the giant’s nose and his knees, we would look down and out to sea. On the clearest days we would be able to see the Needles; on others, early morning blue-white wisps of mist would lie curled about the contours of the landscape. Born and raised within sight of these hills, we would be of the same place; mist or sun, we would love in it.