Every student looks forward to the long 'vacs' in summer sunshine, when outdoors mean pleasure and fun. Port Erin was my destination that year and I viewed it with more trepidation than previous holidays. I obtained a job for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, helping to catalogue histological slides of fish blood (Plaice – Pleuronectes Platessa). The high spot came at the barbecue on the beach. Duncan who worked at the marine Biology Institute arranged for the Mutton to be slow-roasted by a local Baker in his ovens the previous day.
The warmth of the dying sun; its indolence reaching out across the Irish Sea had me sitting in a starving languor as I watched that whole sheep, roasting on a spit above a scientifically constructed bonfire. The wafting odours floated on the sea-breeze and sculpted a ravenous hunger in all who watched.
My girlfriend, also a medical student, was there too in her new white mac. We sat together, eating dark and greasy meat, drinking cans of Carlsberg and sharing a moment as unique as it was memorable. Beer in hand, we danced on the beach as night descended and stars winked like diamonds above us. We walked hand in hand when the time came to go home, until we reached the frontage of the Peveril Hotel where she stayed in her new guise as a chambermaid.
Words of love came then, soft and heart-felt; for romance was, after all, in the air all around us. A fleeting thing it was, for it could not last. In the bright glare of the foyer lamps, with the backdrop of the beautiful bay of Port Erin, I realised my groping hands had wandered more than they should. Sheep-black and greasy, the evidence was there: all over the now white-and-black gabardine of my truelove’s coat.