‘The power of love A force from above Cleaning my soul Flame on burn desire Love with tongues of fire Purge the soul Make love your goal’

(Just a few words I like from the Frankie Goes to Hollywood song.)

The above image is, of course, Julie Christie starring as Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd. The novel, by Thomas Hardy is one of my most favourite tales of all time and its portrayal of love in its many and complicated forms is, I think, quite outstanding. I have read the book three or four times. The film left an enormous impression on my heart, particularly as much of it was filmed in Dorset and Weymouth in particular. As a young girl, I was staying in the Royal Hotel in Weymouth as the movie was being made and Terrance Stamp and Julie Christie stayed there also. I was in awe of them both and managed to pluck up the courage to ask them one evening for their autographs. They were both charming and chatted to me for several minutes before giving me signed photographs of themselves in their starring roles. The signed pictures were lost decades ago, but the memory will remain for as long as I have electrical current travelling through my brain cells.

Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba was loved by a man who she spurned, she, in turn, loved a man who loved someone else. Eventually, however, Bathsheba was insightful enough to realize that the man who had stood by her over the years, content to remain in the background, watching over her and helping her when she needed help the most, was the human being that she wanted by her side for the rest of her days. How lucky she was. And how I envy her. Unlike Bathsheba I have never managed to find that wholesome, true contact with a living soul, no matter how hard I have tried. I have looked unceasingly, believe me, but alas it was not to be and now I accustom myself to the new dawning that love comes in many forms and has many faces. It can be tempestuous and all consuming. It can be restricting and restrictive. It can be quiet and comfortable and it can be reflected by one’s surroundings and the people who surround, with honesty, purity and the simple satisfaction of one’s needs. As I grow older, this is the love that I seek and this is the love that I believe I deserve.

What constitutes this present day love in my eyes, do I hear you ask? I have thought about this tirelessly and believe I can now answer the question with clarity and insight.

First and foremost on my list is a home. One that is mine to enjoy for as long as I wish, without fear of loss or restriction of use and without impossible and unsustainable financial burden. A home that will wrap me in its loving arms and keep me safe. I do not require a lavish abode, just one near the sea, with a bedroom, a living space and an area for creativity. A private bathroom is a must and a kitchen with its own washing machine would be heavenly. A small and, if possible, outdoor space would be the icing on the bun. Is that too much? Possibly…..

Alongside a home love is represented by the continued and rekindled contact with my son and his family. The boy is now and has always been immensely important to me. I was there at his beginning and my blood courses through his veins. We have a lifetime of memories and a history that cannot be replaced. His children are my grandchildren, his wife, my daughter in law. This love is irreplaceable. I have two sons, what of the other, do I hear you ask? He is lost. And sadly, will not return, no matter how hard I try…...Like Bathsheba, I must face this truth and walk on.

Last on my list for love, but nevertheless, incredibly important, is that I should continue to be surrounded by the lovely people that I class as my friends, both old and new. Friends are vital to one’s existence, offering companionship, support and strength. Each brings his or her own unique gift to the party of life and without them days would be unbearable.

These three things together make up the love that I require in my latter years. Too much to ask? Probably….. but I will continue to ask for as long as I draw breath.

A final word upon this most delicate of subjects is that, of course, in order to be worthy of any of the above, a girl must, herself, give love, support and kindness wherever she may roam. I try and will continue to do so. For as long as I can remember, I have endeavoured to offer love and kindness as I travelled to whoever I have met along the way. I have tried to share and be non-judgemental and never to harbour bad thoughts. It is hard to forgive sometimes but forgive, we must if we are to be worthy of love. I will continue to work on these attributes until my senses fail me. Please Oh Mother Earth, grant me the gift of love as I get old. Keep me safe and give me peace and happiness just as Thomas Hardy gave to Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd……

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