This balcony is 4, 463 miles away. It is on a dormitory block at the Teamwork Associates Christian Centre a few miles outside of Montego Bay, Jamaica. It overlooks the North of the island and the Caribbean sea. From it you can watch electrical storms light up the night sky. And the sun dance on the surface of the sea during the day. It is the very spot where I had an overwhelming feeling, thirty years ago this very weekend, that Tony Fyfe might somehow be connected to my future! He didn’t quite feel that at the same moment, but that is a whole other story and far too long for right now.
We celebrated Tony’s 36th birthday that weekend in true Jamaica style with cake and ice cream, hot chocolate and of course the birthday song… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrZ-yBzsd-M
Before we left for Jamaica for those two weeks, I had never met Tony. In fact when people asked us where we met, we laughed that it was actually at the check-in desk at Gatwick airport. A dozen people from the length and breadth of the UK, all ages and stages of life, meeting up for the first time, to travel to the hurricane devastated island and hopefully lend some helping hands.
It was an adventure to say the least. My second trip and Tony’s first. We built walls and repaired broken things and we also met beautiful people in great need. I had honestly been very focussed on this trip as a work trip. And a planning trip. I was going back to Jamaica at the end of the year to volunteer in the school that was one of the community programmes run by the centre. It wasn’t supposed to be a falling in love trip. That bit was totally unexpected.
The story that followed, the one that is too long for here, the one that spans three decades, involved long distances between us, phone calls that crossed several time zones, letters, poems, a blue VW beetle, a cathedral, sunflower costumes, a heart operation, separation, courage, patience, joy and deep, deep sorrow.
On Monday, with some friends, I will raise a glass for Tony’s birthday. I’m sure there will be stories and tears and laughter. And I will remember and be so very thankful, for that moment on that balcony, filled with a sense of future, all those miles and years away.