I first met Fred Ryland when I was sixteen, we met at the Birmingham flat of a couple of mutual friends, Dick Doyle and Dave Sevier, I can`t honestly remember how I met Dick and Dave it`s all so long ago.
We would sit around on the floor, cross legged or me with my feet up on the sofa, for hours each evening and most of the weekend. Fred would roll a joint and share it with whoever was visiting, we would listen to The Doors, Velvet Underground, The Strawbs and Jimi Hendrix and talk the sort of philosophical, stoned nonsense that you talk when you are kids.
Fred was incredibly handsome in an olive skinned, hippy kind of a way. His hair was jet black and shiny and hung around his shoulders like a girls. His teeth were large and white, and he had a full and inviting mouth with very red lips. He grew a beard, in fact once he`d grown the beard he resembled Che Guevara, I thought he was fabulous. He was also mega clever, I do like clever men. By the time he was at Aston University in 1972, he was studying pure mathematics and writing new computer languages.
I met Fred shortly after his dad had died. Fred`s mum and dad were German. His dad was in the German Luftwaffa and was captured by British soldiers during World War Two and taken to a prison of war camp in Cardiff I think. It was here that he eventually met and married Fred`s mother. I recall that Fred told me that she had a very difficult time towards the end of the war, getting out of Germany, it may be that her family was Jewish, Fred certainly looked Jewish. He had a lovely throaty laugh and a slightly German way of pronouncing words, he pronounced his `v`s` as `f`s` and I found that very endearing. His mum may have survived her son, the last I heard of her in 2007 was that she had Alzheimers and was in a nursing home in Cheltenham.
Fred`s father liked to smoke and drink, and he eventually paid the penalty, dying in his late fifties with a massive coronary. Fred awoke one night to hear his mum frantically calling out for him and when he entered his parent`s room in the middle of the night, his dad had already died. I remember he talked to me about the indescribable shock and utter confusion he experienced when he saw his father on the bed because his dad had suffered a hemorrhage and had lost blood from his nose, mouth and tear ducts. Fred had to deal with his own and his mother`s grief at the tender age of sixteen. It affected him massively and it is hard to believe, he was bullied at school after his father`s death, shame on them.
Fred had a Norton Scrambler motorbike which was his pride and joy. It took us everywhere in the days before we had to wear helmets, our hair was constantly tangled from catching the breeze on the bike. He would even take me on the bike up the M1 to see my sister in Leeds. Him all concentration and his pillion passenger reading a book which was typical of me. I read The Happy Hooker once, all the way to Leeds.
We fell terribly hard in love. They do say that first love never dies and it really is true.
We would lie on his big old feather bed at every possible opportunity and listen to our favourite musicians, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell….. and make out. A massive poster of Marsha Hunt, black, oiled and naked, lying across a Harley Davidson motorbike, gazed down at us. I would read juicy bits of Forum magazine out to him. Forum was a liberal sex publication available during the flower power, love and peace seventies but without the pictures, we didn`t mind that because we liked to read to each other. It was considered a very risqué magazine at that time, about 1972 but we liked it and would try out all the things we fancied. Ah, those were halcyon days indeed.
When Fred and I had been together a couple of years, he discovered parachuting. It became his passion and he went on to be a great teacher and jump out of aeroplanes all over the world. Sadly, we were growing up and growing apart and our relationship came to a somewhat acrimonious end when I was nineteen. I was broken hearted, it was mostly my fault and in spite of lengthy and valiant efforts to get him back, he was having none of it. In the end I moved on but I never forgot about Fred.
I was lost in a memory this morning, walking my little dog along the stream at Brueton Park for it was there in 1971 on a similarly hot, summer`s day that Fred and I lay down in the grass by the stream, me in my orange bikini, he in his black shorts and we absolutely baked ourselves. When I got home my mother made me lie in a cool bath for ages, she was scared I would get sun stroke and then Fred and I lay down on my bed and slept in each other`s arms, both of us burned to buggery.
I recently heard that Fred had died. Just like his father, Fred had a heart attack in his late fifties. Perhaps he had an idea that he was going to die because he came to see me in the spring of 2007. I was 53 and I hadn`t seen him for thirty six years. He stayed with me for four days. I am immensely grateful for that time and I will never forget it, it was lovely to know that he had never forgotten about me. He wasn`t well when he stayed with me, he slept for a good deal of the time. Although the passion of our youth had disappeared many years ago, the tenderness we felt for each other and the love still remained. It made me very happy just to be with him and it has left me with a good memory of him. It allowed me an opportunity to say I`m sorry for my bad behaviour all those years ago and to be forgiven. His visit made me understand how important it is never to lose sight of love and to be grateful for the good times.
I hope that Fred rests in peace, he was a really cool guy and I adored him.