Ok, we know that these days Valentine’s Day means over-priced roses and awkward dinners for two, but it wasn’t always that way. So we ask you to set your cynicism aside for just a few minutes and indulge in these true first love tales.
Ian Clayton: writer and broadcaster
In the 1970s a gang of us used to go to The Kinsley Hotel, a big rambling old Victorian pub, opposite the greyhound stadium. One Saturday about a dozen lads and lasses took the bus from Pontefract there.
At that point I didn’t know one of the women, except that she was called Heather and just back from a stint working in the hotels in North Devon. Heather looked like Audrey Hepburn, that’s if Audrey Hepburn had been a punk rocker. She drank pints and wore Doc Mart’s below her mini skirt.
It was a boozy night and I decided to show off and climbed onto the bus shelter roof and started to do cartwheels. An old bloke in a flat cap shouted, “Who the heck do you think you are?” I don’t know why now, but I shouted back “Ludmilla Touresheva!” At that time she was a famous gymnast from the Soviet Union.
The double-decker for Ponty came into view. Heather shouted “Jump!” and I did. I landed in a crumpled heap and Heather pulled me up. She had the loveliest smile in her eyes. I said thank you, dusted the muck off my jeans and gave her a peck on the cheek. We sat next to each other on the bus all the way back to Pontefract and we are still together now.
David Ganley: Actor
Ok,so, if memory serves a 45 year old well, the first bit of my young heart was given over to an equally young extraordinarily exotic French girl, at a summer camp in Ireland, when I was 13. Exotic anyway for Dublin in the 1980s, though that just meant not pasty and colourfully dressed.
To me she was the most beautiful girl I’d seen. Blonde corkscrew hair bounced around her sun kissed face, and her sea-blue eyes held me in a foolish giggling trance. My French was good and I made her laugh and that seemed to be our thing- talking and laughing, with some swimming, rounders. Then the bit of summer camp I liked best, movie night on a Friday where you could hold hands in the dark and not get jeered at.
Looking back I love how innocent, pure and simple it was. Holding hands meant we were special to each other, a small token of affection. When it’s pure, it’s pure magic. Thanks Veronique. I wouldn’t change a thing.
(David Ganley will play the lead in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s new production of Uncle Vanya).
Michelle Clarke- Stables: artist
Now when I think about it I was glad when my first love finally passed just like one of my moods and that time I fancied Boy George. Actually I’m not even sure whether it was love which I experienced at the tender age of 11, but it was the first time I was obsessed about something. Horribly obsessed.
The only problem was that when it came to the object of my affection I had stiff, spotty competition. He was dark- haired, had a broken voice and was popular for mostly being unpopular. He was a gifted sexist, consistently in the bottom set for every subject and he also claimed to have dated older girls who didn’t wear training bras. He was a real winner and ticked every box I would spend the next 26 years trying to avoid. But I was in love.
Being an only child and over achiever I think I must have decided he was the most desirable and challenging of the bunch. I pushed my common sense and fears of rejection aside. I wanted to be his girlfriend, and tried to persuade him he wanted to be my boyfriend with the immortal words, “Want to come to mine for tea on Wednesday? I’ll make you a jelly”. He took up my offer, but as I really was only offering jelly it thankfully didn’t develop any further and I moved on, upping the game and playing the trifle card.
Martin Pilkington: Ilkley Film Festival director
As a 16 year old stroppy teenager working at my local River Island, I was always very reluctant to go to work on Saturday mornings. That was until the new girl started. It started with stolen glances from across the shop floor, a nervous exchange of phone numbers and an elaborate ‘all you can eat’ date at the nearest Pizza Hut; I knew it was love when I couldn’t finish my ice cream.
Having never been in love before, I didn’t really know what I was dealing with or how to deal with it, so I spent my pitiful wages in Clintons purchasing her gifts such as teddy bears or cards with teddy bears on them – anything with teddy bears.
We’d send texts to each other declaring our undying love, go on romantic walks and frequent the local cinema at the weekends. I think we both thought for a while that this would last for ever; of course it didn’t. She found an older, richer (he earned £1.20 an hour more than I did) boyfriend, who was six driving lessons ahead of me and I fled to university.
Ian McMillan: poet and writer
My first love and I got together every Saturday night when I was about 10 years old. We’d meet up in the front room at about eight o’clock and I’d have been in the bath and washed my hair. I would have a glass of pop and a big bag of plain crisps. I couldn’t offer her any of course because that would have been silly.
My first love was Emma Peel from The Avengers played by Yorkshirewoman Diana Rigg. I was at that age when things were beginning to change for me and I wasn’t sure why or how. All I knew was that my voice was going up and down like a squeaky gate and I felt a bit confused.
Emma soothed all that. There she was, on the telly with boring old John Steed in his bowler hat. She was glamorous. She was brave. She was kind. She was clever. She wore a leather catsuit. Of course she didn’t know I was there watching, even though when my mam and dad and brother went out of the room saying things like ‘It’s a bit far-fetched’ I’d give her a wave. I’m sure she noticed.
Cherie Federico: founder and editor of York-Based aesthetica magazine
I can remember all my crushes really well, but as for my first true love and I mean love with a capital L, the story is so far fetched it seems completely impossible. But it’s all true – every single moment. It began in the summer 1998 and I was backpacking through Europe. One by one all of my travelling companions dropped out and returned home to America, but I decided to keep on travelling. It was while I was making my way from the South of France to Italy that it happened. I’d caught the train from Nice with just a few seconds to spar, but just after crossing the border into Spain stopped. The conductor announced there was an Italian rail strike and we would have to get off at the first town, Villamonte.
There were hundreds of people milling around the station with nothing to do. With all the time in the world, I sat down and took out my book, reckoning I’d sit the strike out. I was interrupted by two British men, one of whom said in slow English, “Do you know there is a train strike on?” It turned out he thought I was Spanish.
By this point, several people had gathered, and no one seemed to know when the trains would be running again. That was then the British man said, “Let’s go get a pizza,” which is how 12 strangers came to be sat on a beach together having something to eat.
I sat next to the British man, and he had a presence that was compelling, he was kind with stunning green eyes. We talked and talked, by the time the strike was over, I flipped a coin – head to Venice or to Pisa, Florence and Rome with the British guys. It was heads and I set off on a wholly unplanned adventure.
By the time we had seen the Coliseum, we were in love. He quit his job back in England and I missed a flight back to New York. By the time we reached Spain again, I knew I had to go back to the USA so I said, “Come with me.” And he did. We’ll still together and will be celebrating our 17th anniversary in 2015. Not bad for a chance meeting in an Italian train station.