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Alex Kane: Dodgem rides at Barry’s with a lovely girl... far better than Sherlock Holmes


Making waves: Josh Dylan as Bill and Lily James as the young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Making waves: Josh Dylan as Bill and Lily James as the young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Sparks flying: the dodgems at Barry’s Amusements, Portrush, in the Seventies
Alex Kane

By Alex Kane

Elvis Presley's The Wonder of You was the UK's number one single on August 13, 1970. That was my 15th birthday. It was also the day I had my first kiss - from someone who wasn't a parent or an aunt (or the very odd lady with the crazy dog who used to hug and kiss me every time she saw me. The dog also adored me).

Anyway, my mum and dad had taken me to Portrush for a few days and we were staying, I think, in the Londonderry Hotel.

I was a quiet child and rarely spoke to anyone outside of a very tight circle of friends and family; and even on holidays I much preferred to curl up with a book and a bag of Wagon Wheels (younger readers may need to Google them) rather than strike up conversations with people I was unlikely to meet again.

But on the second evening of our stay my heart skipped a beat and a few beads of perspiration broke on my brow. I noticed a girl. A very attractive girl.

A very attractive girl sunk deep into the sort of enormous armchairs you used to find in old-fashioned hotels. A very attractive girl with a book in her hand. And that book was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

This was a time when Sherlock Holmes wasn't the cult figure he has now become for a young audience.

He tended to be regarded as someone your grandparents would have known about; and while there was a reasonably successful BBC series in the mid to late 1960s, it wasn't attracting the sort of viewing figures that Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch commanded. But for me, who had fallen in love with Holmes when I was 11, the sight of a girl engrossed by my hero was catnip.

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I think it took me the best part of an hour and a half to speak to her. I walked past her chair a number of times, picking up newspapers and magazines, but never picking up the courage to speak to her. She made the first move. "Sorry, are you waiting for this book? There's nothing else to read here so I just took it. It's rubbish. Too much talking. Do you fancy a walk down to Barry's?"

Okay. She had rubbished my hero. But she was also a living, breathing girl and she had asked me to go for a walk with her. She had asked me.

She had been the first one to speak. To be honest, she could have set fire to the book and every other Sherlock Holmes book in the world and I wouldn't have issued a word of criticism. She was a girl. She was lovely. She didn't have a crazy dog. She wanted my company. This was better than Wagon Wheels any day.

We spent a lot of time with each other over the next three days. She was with her parents, holidaying from Liverpool.

She was called 'Jester', although her real name was Jessica. She was funny.

I can't remember anyone who made me laugh as much.

We both loved Barry's, but hated going on rides alone.

On my birthday she told me she was going home. And then kissed me: a long, long kiss on the lips.

"Thanks for making the holiday more bearable than I expected it to be."

The last thing we did together was co-drive a dodgem. Elvis was playing in the background. We didn't swap addresses or promise to keep in contact.

This wasn't love; it was barely even a romance. Just two people who made each other's holiday memorable enough to be recalled fondly when so many other memories have been wiped.

Belfast Telegraph


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