His name was Carlo and I met him in Milan. He had a black mop of corkscrew hair and olive skin that smelt of mosquito repellent. It only increased my attraction, and since then I associate anything Deet-scented with deep burning desire. The year was 1978, I was 17, and the smell of mosquito spray was new to me, and desperately alluring.
In Belfast we caught wasps by luring them into jammy jars half filled with water. Summers were spent watching wasps drown, not kissing boys. In Northern Ireland, we used our hands to swat away troublesome midges. In Italy our hands were blessedly free for boys to hold. In everyday life, windowsills were filled with flies knocked out by head-on collisions with panes of glass, or trapped on curl-edged sticky paper. On holiday in the sun, we buzzed around the boys like bluebottles.
On Sunday I was sitting outside in the late afternoon when Gretel came to give me a hug. “Ugh” she said, recoiling. “You stink of Off!” Obviously the bouquet of bug spray doesn’t work for everybody. Shame. No boy ever smelt better than Carlo.
The photo below, of me and my now 40-year bestie was taken on this trip. It is the only recorded sighting of me in a bikini. There were photos of Carlo but they faded long before my ardour.