[Second of a three-part post.]
“I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad, and to travel for it too.”
—Rosalind, As You Like It, Act IV, Scene 1
We probably lasted 20 minutes—half an hour, tops—before Gary’s flat exploded with pheromones, hormones, all sorts of moans—the culmination of nearly a year of steamy, repressed desire.
And again, that fickle nature of memory: Did Abi come to me on the sofa?
Or did I go to her bed?
Whatever happened, the fact remains that on the morning of Thursday, July 29, 1982, Abi and I were in bed together.
Behind us, a night of sex. Ahead, a long journey through England, Wales, and Scotland.
But first we had eight days in London to enjoy.
The scant notes scratched in my journal indicate few details outside of where we were on certain days: that Thursday we walked around West Hampstead, where I snapped this photo (above left) of Abi in her neon blue slacks at the intersection of Frognal and Arkwright Road, about four blocks from Gary’s flat. Later that afternoon we took in Pink Floyd’s The Wall at the Leicester Square Odeon.
Friday we met up with her brother Colin for lunch at an Italian restaurant, probably somewhere near the Courtauld Art Institute, which we’d just visited. All I remember about that luncheon is Colin asking how I “was finding London,” and replying (perhaps a tad too laconically), “Interesting.”
Friday I also phoned my Manchester pen pal Lindsay.
You see, I’d neglected to tell Abi about Lindsay the entire time we’d been writing letters, recording cassette tapes and phoning each other.
Abi was tearful—furious—feeling totally blindsided. I remember explaining to her that Lindsay and I were just friends—that I had chosen to spend the whole trip with her.
So I met up with Lindsay the following afternoon in Brixton, after which she showed me Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Lindsay was a short, soft-spoken, and straw-colored blonde with a broad smile. Friday evening I rejoined Abi in Bloomsbury for a screening of My Dinner With Andre. On Sunday I hung with Lindsay, her brother Mel, and their friends in Hyde Park, later visiting Covent Garden. The journal doesn’t indicate whether Abi was with us.
Four more days in London. We hit the Tate Gallery, British Museum … and took a day trip down to Brighton on Wednesday morning, Aug. 4, strolling the seaside and peering in all the shops.
I discovered some notes about that day trip: We took Abi’s 1980 silver Austin Allegro (which “smelled of petrol fumes” and proved to be a rickety ride) down the M23 to Reigate, then past Crawley on the A23, listening to Toto Coelo’s “I Eat Cannibals Part 1” on Radio 1: “I eat cannibals/It’s incredible/You bring out the animal in me/I eat cannibals…”
In Brighton I enjoyed my first Indian curry. The air was moist and briny, seagulls cawing and screeching overhead. Later Abi and I stopped for chocolate gateau and coffee at a Brighton café.
Thursday was our last full day in London. We celebrated by catching a screening of Kubrick’s Lolita, then treating ourselves to a taxi back to the flat. The next morning we packed up the Allegro and hit the motorway north to Cambridge.
It was an inauspicious start.
The Allegro broke down outside Finchley. An Irish mechanic went to work on it and, 25 quid later, we were back on the motorway and blasting Radio 1 again.
I can’t hear Dexys Midnight Runners, Thomas Dolby, or Toni Basil and not think about that road trip—serious shivers down my spine remembering making love with Abigail, visiting art galleries, watching movies, trying new restaurants, drinking pints in pubs, coffee in cafes—it was all so … heady.
In Cambridge we booked a bed and breakfast, then went into town for dinner at the “Greek Eros Restaurant.” Later, while out for coffee and a stroll along the River Cam, we got lost. The journal notes that a “kind gentleman [drove] us back to [the] B&B. Full moon—cool night. ‘Do a good turn for someone in Glasgow,’” he said when we thanked him for the ride.
We left Cambridge on Saturday, Aug. 7, stopping briefly at Banbury, then arriving at Stratford on Avon, where we booked a B&B for seven pounds 50p each.
“Walked along River Avon,” the journal states, “went for drinks at Hotel Lounge.” We spent the entire Sunday in Stratford, visiting Holy Trinity, the Shakespeare church, swimming in the town pool, applauding “Billy the singing drunk in City Centre” on our way to another Greek restaurant where I reported having “a satori … over red wine and dinner,” later “a cool walk through a quiet Stratford.”
What “satori” exactly “kicked me in the eye”? Absent a detailed journal entry, it’ll forever be a mystery.
Back on the road Monday, Aug. 9, we made an overnight stay in Chester before stopping down to see a Welsh church at Wrexham, visiting Llangollen, then hooking back up with the motorway north around Liverpool and Manchester. After a quick stop-off at Windermere in the Lake District, we drove straight to Glasgow, where Abi then lived with her mom.
Abi’s friends and family were dying to hear about our trip.
Trina invited us for coffee in Eaglesham on Thursday.
Abi’s cynical friend Jackie called to get the latest scoop.
Months before, after listening to Abi gush about our relationship, Jackie had said: “Oh for God’s sake, Abigail. Stop walking around like the Orgasmic Bore of the Year, wallowing in love-struck happiness—it’s nauseating!”
Abi’s car barely made it back to Scotland. After we arrived, it broke down again and was towed off the motorway to a repair shop in Rutherglen. Abi and I shivered in the rain, waiting for her mother to pick us up.
At Mrs. Bilkus’ flat on Mains Avenue, I was shown my new “bed,” the sofa in the living room. Mrs. B strictly forbade us sleeping together “whilst in my home.” What we did on the road was none of her business, she’d said.
I found her open-mindedness (something I never would’ve expected from the Family Project) refreshing.
However I recall one afternoon Abi and I were taking a bath together while Mrs. B—we assumed—was downtown at her office for the day. When she came home early, Abi shushed me and slipped out of the tub and into her bathrobe to go triage the situation.
I probably slunk underwater in utter embarrassment.
And then, our first argument.
What set it off will be forever unknown, but it was on Saturday, Aug. 14. The journal reports: “University—Art Gallery—Argument—I sulk for wrong reasons…”
Mrs. B offered a trenchant observation at the time: “Well, you two have been living out of each others’ pockets for over a fortnight—it was bound to happen.” She suggested we get out of Glasgow and visit the Highlands. That is, once the Allegro was operational.
Abi’s cousin June Zatz owned a cabin on Loch Eck, just north of Dunoon, “Whistlefield Lodges, No. 10.” We picked up the key on Tuesday morning, Aug. 17, and set off for the Highlands.
Driving around Loch Lomond, then south again near Inverarity, we finally arrived just outside of Dunoon before suppertime. Abi was feeling ill, so I took over driving until we reached the cabin in the misty rain.
Behind cabin 10 lay the Whistlefield Inn, where we ate scampi, chips and salad; Abi had a Martini and lemonade; me, a couple pints of bitter. The inn was “a menagerie of British and Oriental artifacts: a beaming Buddha, a grandfather clock, a dusty, framed engraving of a fox hunt. [A] Londoner discuss[ed] American submarines in the Loch.”
Later in bed Abi told me a joke.
“Okay,” she giggled. “Why did my cousins name their parrot Onan? …Give up?”
“…Because he kept spilling his seed!”