Saturday, 19 May 2007


Some people say there is no such thing as a platonic friend - at least of the appropriate age and sex. My first platonic girl friend was probably only platonic because she was (a) going out with a friend of mine, and (b) out of my league by a country mile. From her point of view I was presumably an easy companion, free of tiresome complications. It was a rôle I was all too happy to take on - I effortlessly got to spend time with an exceptionally graceful and beautiful girl, without having to posture, puff out my chest or worry about any of the other things post adolescent males might worry about in such circumstances.

One lazy, June day we went sunbathing together on the beach at Alnmouth, in Northumberland. She had her eyes closed and I was chastely admiring her body, when it hit me that she had no trace of a navel. The effect was rather magical; no scar, no dimple, just a smooth, flat belly with a golden tan. Like Heva in Ulysses; "Heva, naked Eve. She had no navel. Gaze. Belly without blemish."

When I asked her she explained that, when her mother was in labour, the hospital staff had been having some sort of party (it must have been Christmas, although I forget that bit). No one heard her ring the bell, and when the staff finally came running the birth was already under way. In the ensuing mêlée the umbilical cord got torn, and her absent navel was the result.

That's what she told me, anyway. But I think maybe she was truly wafted here from Paradise....

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