tagRomanceSweet Summer Nights

Sweet Summer Nights


It seemed such a good idea: The Sweet Summer Nights with You Tour.

'Look, here's the plan,' Dougie said. 'We'll start on the Summer Solstice and go right through 'til the end of August. Yeah? Fifty dates. And as many local radio stations as we can find along the way. You know ... all those seaside towns, all those local radio stations. What d'you reckon? We'll get The Prickly Pair to open for you.'

Suzanne frowned.

But Dougie didn't really care what Suzanne reckoned. He was on a roll. 'We'll have two stages, two separate crews. While you're playing Whitstable, the second crew will be setting up Margate. And then, while you're playing Margate, the other crew will be setting up Folkestone. Am I a bloody genius or what?'



'Why Whitstable?'

'I thought you liked Whitstable.'

'It's OK,' Suzanne said.

'Well ... I don't know ... Scarborough then. It's up to you.'

'What if ....' Suzanne tried to think what if what? 'What if ...' she said again, 'I mean ... what if I get a cold or something?'

'In summer? Don't be bloody silly. You didn't get a cold last summer, did you?'

Suzanne shook her head.

'There you go,' Dougie said. 'If it was winter ... then maybe. But it'll be summer. That's the whole point: Sweet Summer Nights with You.'

And still I will remember Sweet summer nights with you

But then, one morning, after 40-something nights of the Sweet Summer Nights schedule, Suzanne suddenly couldn't remember. She couldn't even remember where she was.

To his credit, Dougie had made sure that, at each stop, Suzanne's digs had been more than adequate. Maybe not five star. Five star was a bit pricey over the summer months. But definitely better than just OK. A good bed. And enough peace and quiet to ensure that Suzanne could snooze through until 9 or 10 each morning. Still, a different room every night? Yeah, it was taking its toll.

On that forty-second (or was it the forty-third?) morning, Suzanne was determined not to let it throw her. She looked around the room. It was pleasant enough. But it was definitely not a normal hotel or B&B room. It was not anonymous enough. Anonymous rooms were something that Suzanne had got used to over the past month or so. And then there was the guy in the chair.

'Sleep well?' he asked.

Suzanne thought for a moment or two. 'I assume so. I don't really remember.'

The guy nodded.

'And you are?' she asked.

'Daniel?' He said it with a rising inflection, as if to say: And you don't remember?

He did look vaguely familiar. Early-thirties. Good body. Sun-bleached surfer-type hair. Smiling eyes. Faded shorts and an Oxford University T-shirt. 'Are you crew?' Suzanne asked.

Daniel shook his head. 'No. But if you ever need another guitarist ....'

'That's Pete's department,' Suzanne said. 'And look, I don't mean to sound inhospitable, but what are you doing in my room?'

Daniel laughed. 'Well, actually, this is my room.'


'My flat. Remember?'

'Oh. I see,' Suzanne said. Although she didn't. 'Did we ...?'

'Have the bacon butty I promised? No. Almost. I even had the pan on. But then you fell asleep.'

'I'm sorry,' she said. 'I'm on this tour.'

'Yes, I know. Days of Summer.'

'Sweet Summer Nights with You. Although, of course, not actually with you.' Suzanne didn't mean to sound aggressive, but she was feeling far from in control.

'That's what I meant. It's your new album, isn't it?'

Suzanne nodded. 'Have you --?'

'Heard it? Some of it. The title track, of course. That's been getting a lot of airplay. You must be pretty happy.'

'Yeah. It seems to be doing OK. But what I was going to say was have you got the time?'

'All day,' Daniel said, cheerfully. 'It's my day off.'

'I mean do you know what time it is?'

'Oh.' Daniel pulled out his cell phone. 'Nine twenty-seven. Why? Do you have to be somewhere?'

Suzanne couldn't remember. 'Probably,' she said.

'Would you like some tea?'

Suzanne nodded. 'Yes.' Her answer sounded terse at best. 'I'm sorry. What I mean is: Yes please. That would be nice.'

Daniel smiled. 'How do you like it?'

'Just some milk.' And then, again realising how that must have sounded, she added: 'Thank you.'

'OK. And if you want the bathroom, it's that door over there. There are clean towels on the shelf.'

'Thank you.' This time, Suzanne even managed a smile.

'I shall return.'

The moment Daniel was out of the room, Suzanne peeked under the duvet to see what she was wearing. It was some sort of oversized T-shirt. Well, oversized on her small frame. Probably one of his.

She threw back the duvet and sat, for a moment or two, on the side of the bed. Bacon butty? Yes, she vaguely remembered. There had been a group of them. Some people from the local radio station and a couple of guys from the record company. They had gone to a bar. Down near the harbour. In some sort of cellar. She remembered going down some stairs, past framed black-and-white photographs of jazz stars from the '60s -- Miles Davis, people like that. She remembered feeling very tired and someone offering to walk her back to where she was staying. But then on the way, she had suddenly felt really hungry. And he -- presumably this Daniel chap -- had offered to make her a bacon butty. After that? No, nothing.

She padded to the bathroom, turned on the cold tap, and splashed her face with cool water. She studied her reflection in the mirror. Was that really her face? It looked like the face of someone who had just run a marathon.

'Are you OK in there? I've put the tea beside the bed.'

'Thanks,' she said. 'Yeah, I'm OK.' And then she added: 'I don't suppose you happen to know where my clothes are?'

'On the chair by the window.'

'Thanks. And my bag?'

'On the floor beside the chair.'

Suzanne showered. Quickly. And then, after firmly closing the bedroom door, she dressed in the clothes she had been wearing the previous evening.

No sooner had she finished dressing than there was a sharp rap on the door.


Suzanne opened the door to find Daniel holding her cell phone. It was playing the opening bars of Sweet Summer Nights with You.

'Thanks,' she said. 'Hello?' And then, for a long time, she said nothing. Finally she said: 'Yeah, well, I'm not there, Dougie. Also, I'm kind of busy. I'll have to call you back. Give me half an hour.' There was another long silence. And then: 'Look, Dougie, I told you: I'll call you back in half an hour.' And she pressed the End button. Firmly.

'Problem?' Daniel asked.

For a moment, Suzanne said nothing. Then she shook her head. 'You know, I'm not sure that I can do this.'

Daniel waited.

'I mean ... it's OK for Dougie. He doesn't actually have to do anything. OK, so he schmoozes. But he doesn't have to get up there on the stage night after night. I need a break. I need a day off.'

Daniel nodded. 'Can you do that?'

Could she? Suzanne tried to think through the implications of not performing, of taking a night off, of getting some rest, of getting her head back into a sensible space.

Daniel retrieved the untouched mug of tea from the bedside table and handed it to her.

'Oh. Thanks,' she said.

'What about some breakfast? You can't make big decisions on an empty stomach. I can make you that bacon butty that I promised.'

'That would be nice,' Suzanne said. 'Yes. Thank you.'

Daniel's idea of a bacon butty was rather more elaborate than Suzanne was used to. He started by thinly slicing some mushrooms and sautéing them in a little butter with some black pepper and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. While the mushrooms cooked, he grilled several rashers of bacon, and lightly toasted four slices of ciabatta. Finally, he assembled the butties, adding a couple of slices of gruyere and smear of crème fraiche. From start to finish it could not have taken him more than five minutes.

'There you go,' he said. 'Almost 12 hours late. But, hey, better late than never.'

'Bloody hell! You should be one of those celebrity chefs.'

Daniel just smiled.

They had barely finished eating before Suzanne's phone rang again.

'Look, Dougie, I said that I'd call you in half an hour -- and, by my reckoning, that was only 15 minutes ago. Which bit of that didn't you understand?' And then she listened while Dougie clearly had plenty to say at the other end. 'Oh. I see,' Suzanne said eventually. 'Oh, well, that's OK by me. I need a day off. And, no, don't bother picking me up. I'll get a train and meet you tomorrow afternoon. Yes, I'm sure. Bye, Dougie.

'Well, I have my day off,' Suzanne said. 'Tonight's show has been cancelled. Apparently the forecast is for torrential rain and the sparkies say it's not safe. I guess that's one of the risks you take with outdoor shows.'

'So you have your wish.'

'Looks like it.'

'In that case ... more tea?'

'Thanks. That would be nice.'

Daniel filled the kettle and placed it on the gas hob. 'So what are you going to do?' he asked. 'With your unexpected day off.'

Suzanne frowned slightly and then smiled. 'You know ... I have absolutely no idea. A day doing nothing would be nice. It's been ages since I had a day doing nothing. But first I'd better call the B&B and let them know that I'll need the room for another night.'

Daniel grinned. 'Would this be the same room that you didn't need last night?'

'I don't remember too much about last night,' Suzanne reminded him.

'Well I'm happy on the couch, so you can stay here tonight if you like. Up to you of course.'

'My bag's at the B&B,' Suzanne said.

'So? We can go and pick it up.'

'But you don't want me hanging around your place all day.'

'Why not?'

'Well ....'

'Look, we'll just have our tea,' Daniel said, 'and then we'll go and retrieve your bag.'

'I'll think about it.' Suzanne wasn't entirely convinced.

Daniel made the tea. 'So have you always wanted to be a singer?' he asked.

'No. Not really.'

'But you've ended up as one.'

'It would seem so. For the moment anyway.'

'So, how does someone who didn't want to be a singer end up as a singer?'

'I did a maths degree,' Suzanne said. 'I thought I might become a teacher. And, while I was at university, one of the girls I was flatting with wanted to audition for the Choral Society. I went along to the audition just to give her a bit of moral support really. And, to cut a long story short, we both ended up in the choir.

'I discovered that I really got a buzz out of singing -- well, out of performing, I suppose. I guess I just enjoyed being on stage and showing off.'

Suzanne took a sip of her tea. 'Most of the other people in the choir were either doing music or performing arts. I think I was the only maths student. Anyway, there were all these parties where everyone did a bit of a turn. For some reason -- don't ask me why -- I started doing contemporary country rock songs.

'And then at one of the parties I met a guy from GlowWorm Records who asked me if I wanted to sing backing vocals on a few tracks that Toss Marsden was putting together. After that ... one thing led to another. I guess I was just lucky.'

'And talented.'

'Well, luck was a big part of it,' Suzanne said. 'Being in the right place at the right time. Meeting a few of the right people.'

As they drank their tea, Daniel tidied up the kitchen, loaded the dishes into the dishwasher, and swiftly wiped down the hob and countertop with the assurance of someone who had done it many, many times before.

'Right,' he said, 'let's go and get your bag before you change your mind.'

Suzanne smiled. 'I didn't realise that I had decided.'

'Oh, you've decided,' Daniel assured her.

On the way back from collecting Suzanne's overnight bag, Daniel stopped the car outside a trendy-looking restaurant. 'I just need to drop off these keys,' he said. 'Won't be a moment.'

The restaurant was closed. But Daniel tapped on the door and, almost immediately, it was opened by a woman who, Suzanne noted, greeted Daniel with an easy familiarity. Daniel handed her the keys. The pair chatted briefly. And then Daniel returned to the car. 'Done,' he said.

'That place looks nice.'

'You think so?'

'I do. Do you go there often?'

'Umm ... yes. Yes, I suppose you could say that.'

'What sort of food is it? French?'

'Umm ... sort of European fusion. Bit of this, bit of that. Whatever takes the chef's fancy.'

'It's quite nice around here, isn't it,' Suzanne said as they drove back up from the harbour.

Daniel said that he quite liked it.

'First time I've ever been here,' Suzanne said. 'I just hope the rain doesn't get this far.'

Back at the flat, Daniel carried Suzanne's bag into the bedroom.

'Thank you,' she said. And then, suddenly: 'Oh, no!'

'What's the matter?'

'I think I've left Buddy.'

Daniel frowned. 'Buddy?'

'Buddy Bear. He's ... well, let's just say that he's been everywhere with me since I was about seven.'

'That's OK. We can go back,' Daniel said.

Suzanne fossicked in her bag. 'Oh, no. Here he is.' And she produced a small teddy bear wearing a slightly skew-whiff tartan bowtie.

Daniel grinned. 'A handsome little fellow. I can see why you might choose him as your travelling companion.'

Suzanne zipped her bag closed and carefully placed the small-but-sartorially-elegant bear on top of it.

'So ...' Daniel said, 'what would you like to do now?'

'What do you suggest?'

'Well, it's a bit overcast, but we could go to the beach. Go for a walk. Sit on the sand. Throw stones into the sea.'

Suzanne frowned. 'At this time of the year! The beaches will be overrun with kids, won't they? I was thinking something a little more ... relaxing.'

Daniel smiled. 'The beach I'm thinking of won't be overrun with kids. I wouldn't think it will be overrun with anyone. It's a secret beach.'

Suzanne nodded slowly. 'I see,' she said.

Daniel gathered up a couple of beach towels, some sun block, and a couple of bottles of water. 'Right. Let's go.'

They drove back through the village, and turned left and then left again onto a narrow B-road. Continuing on, they passed a faded-red barn and, just beyond the barn, they turned right onto what was little more than a bridle path. Six or seven hundred metres further on, Daniel pulled over into a small layby.

'Almost there,' he said. 'Just a short walk and you can kick off your shoes.'

Daniel led the way, pushing aside some scrubby foliage to reveal a narrow track that led to a set of steps cut into a low cliff. From the top of the steps, Suzanne suddenly saw the secret beach fringing a small horseshoe bay.

'Wow!' she said.

'I'm afraid the steps are a bit uneven,' Daniel said. 'So be careful.' And he put out a hand to steady Suzanne as they descended. 'And here we are,' he said, as they stepped off the last step and onto the sand. 'Not too overrun for you?'

Suzanne smiled as she scanned the near-deserted beach. There were just six other people. Although four of them did seem to be rather naked.

'Oh, I probably should have mentioned,' Daniel said, catching the faint look of surprise on Suzanne's face, 'among the locals, it's tacitly agreed that this is a clothing-optional beach.'

Suzanne nodded.

Within perhaps a minute of them stepping onto the beach, the cloud rolled away and the beach was flooded with warm summer sun.

'So, what do you think?'

What did Suzanne think? 'It looks pretty good to me,' she said.

Daniel spread out the towels, kicked off his shoes, removed his T-shirt, and started walking towards the water's edge. 'Coming?'

Suzanne, too, kicked off her shoes and ran to catch up with him. 'You know, I never think of going to the beach in England.'

Daniel grinned. 'We'll I'm not sure that I'd be racing off to Brighton or Margate myself. But then why would I when I've got this place on the doorstep?'

Together they walked along the water's edge from one end of the beach to the other. And then they turned and walked back to where they had started. Suzanne, who was wearing jeans, tried her best to avoid the occasional wave that made it as far as the beach. But her efforts were in vain.

On the return journey, Suzanne slipped her arm though Daniel's. She didn't even notice that she had -- until she had.

'These jeans weren't the best choice,' Suzanne said as they plonked themselves down of the outspread towels.

Daniel smiled and shrugged his shoulders. 'Just take them off,' he said. 'I won't tell anyone.'

Suzanne hesitated -- but only for a moment. 'Oh well ... I suppose I could.' And she wriggled out of the wet-bottomed denims and laid them out on the sand to dry.

'I'm not saying that your legs are white,' Daniel said as he passed her the bottle of sun block, 'but better safe than sorry. Don't want you ending up like a lobster.'

For the next couple of hours, Suzanne and Daniel just lay in the sun, chatting, talking about things they had done, places they had been. Daniel wanted to know how Suzanne went about writing new songs. But, as she told him, it was something that she couldn't really explain. She didn't have a process. Songs just 'came to her'. And what about Daniel? Was he really a guitarist?

'Depends on your definition of guitarist,' he said. 'Can I play guitar? Sort of. Am I the next Eric Clapton? No.'

For a while after that, neither of them said anything. Daniel just lay with his eyes closed, feeling the sun; listening to the water lapping and the gulls mewing and squawking. 'You know ...' he said eventually. But then he realised that Suzanne had fallen asleep. Oh well, she had said that wanted a rest day.

Suzanne was asleep for the best part of half an hour and, by the time she awoke, the cloud had returned and the temperature had dropped a few degrees.

'Sorry about that,' she said. 'I think I must have nodded off.'

'You did,' Daniel said. 'But I was here to protect you from invading Vikings. And marauding children.'

'Thank you,' she said, and she reached out and squeezed his hand. 'I felt very safe.'

Since the cloud appeared to be building, Daniel suggested that they should probably head back to the car and maybe go and find somewhere for a cool drink.

'Well, at least my jeans have dried out,' Suzanne said.

Daniel said that he knew a rather good pub just down the road. So, instead of heading back to the village, they drove in the other direction for a few minutes and came to a stop outside a picture postcard inn.

The pub was almost empty. But the woman behind the bar greeted Daniel almost as soon as he walked in the door.

'Hello, stranger,' she said. 'I thought you'd be chopping onions by now.'

'Day off,' Daniel said.

'Oh, yes,' the woman said. 'I had one of those. Back in 1998 I think it was. I remember that it rained.'

Daniel turned to Suzanne. 'A white wine spritzer?'

'That would be nice.'

'Two?' the woman said.

Daniel nodded. 'Thanks.'

'Take a seat and I'll bring them over.'

Just as they sat down, a new song began to drift from the speaker in the corner.

And still I will remember Sweet summer nights with you

'You're everywhere,' Daniel said.

Suzanne just smiled.

When they had finished their drinks, they drove back to the village and, once again, Daniel stopped the car outside the trendy-looking restaurant. 'Won't be a minute. Just need to pick up one or two things.'

The restaurant was still not open but, once again, Daniel tapped on the door and, once again, the door was answered by someone who greeted Daniel with an easy familiarity. For a few minutes, Daniel disappeared into the restaurant and then reappeared again carrying a shopping bag and a bottle of wine. 'A few essentials,' he said.

'Take out?' Suzanne suggested.

'Sort of.'

Back at the flat, Daniel again asked Suzanne what she wanted to do.

'Is nothing an option?'

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