When Ethan started seeing Sophia he knew, very quickly, that he wanted to take her to places that he’d always wanted to go. In June of that year he booked a weekend in a hotel beneath Helvellyn, one of the majestic mountains of the Lake District. It became one of the highlights of their relationship. On the way to the Lakes he turned off at junction 36 to experience Carnforth all over again, but this time it felt different. Being in love made it even more special. They sat in the tiny screening area and watched a little bit of ‘Brief Encounter’ and took in that it had been filmed there some 64 years before. Throughout the station there are more reminders about the film, the most obvious one being the huge clock that had stopped for many years before being restored by enthusiasts. Sophia really wasn’t that keen on having her photo taken, but she went along with Ethan’s enthusiasm. They kissed in the walkway beneath the platform just as Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson had and then they went to the tea room. A faithful recreation of the film set, for that was what he was although Ethan had originally thought the film was made there too, it was quaint and cute and everything an English tea room should be. They sat at the table by the window, almost sharing the same space (in his mind at least) as the film had done. For all it was just an English train station the romance wasn’t lost on either of them.
With the afternoon half over they headed north again for an hour to reach the King’s Head Hotel. A lovely place with an olde English feel about it and yet still modern enough to have all the facilities you need for a romantic weekend away. They rested a little, cuddled in the double bed (there were two double beds in the room; they’d somehow wangled a family room) and around 6pm headed off to Keswick. Parking in a town centre car park they walked into the town; the stone built town hall dominating the centre. They acted as proper tourists for a while until they came upon a small cinema. Ethan suggested going to see a film; Sophia pointed out they could see a film back home, they should explore more. He knew she was right. They went back to the car and headed out of town towards Derwent Water. Ethan’s plan had been to drive right around the lake, but soon remembered that they were close to Ashness Bridge. In his memory he was sure that this was the bridge featured in one of the scenes from ‘Brief Encounter’; he was certain that he’d seen a photo of his mum and dad at this little bridge and he knew he wanted Sophia to see it. They drove along looking for signs of the bridge, not really sure where they were looking although the OS map confirmed they were on the right track. He wondered if they’d find it before the sun went down, it was nearing 8pm, but in June he knew they would have another couple of hours of daylight left. Just as he thought that he saw a small brown sign on the left pointing to a narrow road proclaiming ‘Ashness Bridge’. The car edged its way up through the trees, then the sky opened up and they were greeted with an idyllic place of beauty. Ashness Bridge was one cars width, and made of stone over a stream that trickled down from the mountains eventually empyting into the majesty of Derwent Water. To the left just before the bridge there was a parking place and Ethan stopped the car there.
Sophia and Ethan got out. It was quiet apart from the sound of the water; it was so peaceful for a while neither of them spoke. Sophia sat on a large rock, dressed in jeans, knee length brown boots and a poncho like jacket she pulled it around herself as the heat of the day began to cool. Ethan wandered around a little inspecting the area, as men so often do. He left Sophia to reflect and think or rather to let her mind wander about how beautiful this place was. Ethan went up the hill, over the bridge and followed the road a little way past the sheep crofters house – it was empty. There wasn’t a soul around; they had this complete beauty spot to themselves; it was as if Mother Nature had decided that they would be pleased with peace, tranquillity and beauty all in one spectacular hit. After inspecting the place Ethan went back down to where Sophia was still sitting.
“Are you ok?” he asked gently.
“I think this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been,” she replied. “It’s weird as well, because I’m sure I’ve dreamed of this place before. I’ve never been here, seen any photos of here or even heard of it before today and yet I feel I was destined to come here.”
They kissed and embraced, listening to the gurgle of the stream. It was a soundtrack of peace. They walked hand in hand onto the bridge. With the backdrop of Derwent Water Ethan extended his arm as far out as he could with his camera phone in his hand and took a photo of them both. They looked at it and giggled, they both looked odd! He took another, this one a little better before getting it right on the third attempt. They looked as they were: content, happy and deeply in love. As he thought about it now he wasn’t sure if they ever felt quite so at peace ever again.
As with all moments in our lives this one passed all too quickly. It’s one of the cruel tricks of life that the most painful times seem to linger and endure whilst the most beautiful, momentous, wonderful times pass so quickly and have to be seared into our brain to recall them. Sometimes we get lucky and a photo is taken that takes us back to that place; even video doesn’t seem to capture the feelings as completely as those still images. More frequently these moments happen and pass without any permanent record to guide us back to the time, other than our memory which, over time, seems to distort and forget the small details. He was grateful for the photos he took that day, the images that captured their faces of the joy and love of a June evening late in the day as the sun threatened to hide and expose them to the night. They went back to the car and drove back down the windy little road they had driven up an hour or so before. It was a road back to civilization and away from heaven; they both wondered when they would return again.
It didn’t last though. Perhaps relationships never do last, in this idyllic state; this feeling of ‘love is all around’. As much as he wanted it to, perhaps it wasn’t possible. ‘The Notebook’ made you believe in such things, but did it really mean it was possible? What do you have to do to keep the passion of wild, crazy sex together with moments of tenderness and kindness; the times of pain and wrong words mixed with work, life, children, family and friends which do all they can to take away that perfect edge that new love has.