my never-ending summer of love
A holiday romance rarely survives the journey home. For Gill Mullins it did
Sunday 15 September 1996
Back in the summer of 1990, I had crawled out of a disastrous relationship and was intent on getting a life that involved lots of fun and no more steady boyfriends. I spent the summer seeing a string of blokes and partying. Then my best friend pulled out of a two-week holiday we'd planned, and I was left with a fortnight off work and nothing exciting to fill it.
Step in a mate who was organising a two-week trip to Scandinavia for a crowd of friends. He'd souped up a LandRover, booked the ferry to Gothenburg - and had a spare place. I knew most of the people who were going from university, but one of the guys was a complete unknown. From my mate's brief description - "He's going on the Officer Training Course at Sandhurst in September" - he sounded like an upper-class chinless wonder. I didn't hold my breath.
The night before our departure, we met in a Cambridge pub. When the mystery man walked in, I rapidly revised my earlier opinion. Good looking, six foot two, and fun to talk to. Unfortunately, he already had a girlfriend, and was busy flashing pictures of her to the rest of the group.
That night, we all crashed out on a friend's floor, and I made sure my sleeping bag was near to his. Just a hint. I spent the whole of the 24- hour sailing to Sweden from Harwich the next day trying to be witty, interesting and sexy - difficult when you're plastered on duty-free vodka and sweating after spending hours in the ship's sauna. I'd almost given up hope of making an impression, until the midnight disco started. After a few minutes I found myself dancing with him, and then he took my hand
As a chat-up line, it was pretty unambiguous, and we were inseparable for the rest of the trip (nothing to do with the fact that he pretended he'd lost the handcuff keys). Rattling drunkenly around the fjords squeezed into the back of the LandRover, staging impromptu beer-sodden barbies and abseiling off huge bridges suspended over churning rivers, windsurfing to deserted islands and snuggling up together in his tent every night - it was like Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday with added stimulants.
The moment I knew it was love and not just lust came on the eighth day, as we were suspended 150ft up in the air on a 360 degree rollercoaster at Gothenburg funfair. We looked into each other's eyes, and the world stopped turning upside down. I fervently began to pray it wasn't just another holiday romance. Fourteen days after we'd first met, we sailed back to Harwich, slightly subdued, him to his girlfriend and me to my posse of men. As we kissed our final goodbyes, he told me I was really special, and that he'd ring me up when he got home. My heart sank. I arrived back in London on a stiflingly hot Saturday night, and dumped all my other blokes. The summer seemed suddenly flat, and the phone stayed stubbornly silent. My girlfriends were cynical, and told me to put it down to (yet more) experience. He'd even had the nerve to joke one night about what we could call our children, I wailed. So much for casual sex and not getting involved any more. Bastard, bastard, I muttered, stomping round my flat in a foul mood.
On the fourth day he rang. He'd finished with his girlfriend. We went for a drink, and four years later, after he finally left the Army, we got married. It's still happy ever after, and I can't look at a two-man tent now without giggling.
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