First Love – Endless Love

This is not a film review of the movie ENDLESS LOVE (1981). Though it almost could be. This post is intended as a personal memoir of sorts of my ENDLESS LOVE. My first love. I’ve been wanting to tell this – for me – magical story for some time now; before it faded from memory altogether. It’s probably already forty years too late.

In a lot of ways, the events and feelings connected with the story, to borrow an ancient chestnut of a phrase, feel like they all took place only yesterday. Five seconds ago, actually. Seen from another tack, it all feels by now so long ago I sometimes wonder whether any of it really happened at all. Time makes a mockery of memory, afterall. But your first love is something you never forget. Not really. Not this first love anyway.

Details are what make a story. I know that. But I won’t start with those, other than to say her name was Caroline Byrne, I was a few months short of my fifteenth birthday (as was she) and back then you can be certain both our bloodstreams were positively awash with the type of pulsating teenage cocktail of ‘feel good’ hormones that helped transform every thought into something a thousand times more potent.

I’ll begin instead by trying to put into mere words my memory of how the whole thing -‘thing’ meaning ‘experience’ and experience meaning romance, which btw, endured for all up only around five glorious months – made me feel. ‘Magical’ is a good word to get things rolling. So is the 2014 Scarlett Johannsen movie LUCY.

If during any part of watching that trailer – if in fact you obediently went ahead and did that – you were left scratching your head and asking yourself what in bejesus drug mules, Asian crime syndicates and Morgan Freeman have to do with Glen’s first love story, then let me clarify: they have nothing to do with Glen’s first love story. As far as I recall anyway.

The on-point comparisons kick in only from around the 1 minute 15 second mark. That’s when the trailer starts talking about the average human being only using roughly 10% of their brain capacity. For the few short months my first love affair lasted (though admittedly ‘affair’ seems too adult a word for this context) I felt like previously unused parts of my brain were now lighting up like the proverbial 4th of July fireworks display.

Not just that but, like LUCY, it definitely felt like for a time I’d acquired a range of magical powers. Nothing to the degree of being able to hurl people up against walls with the wave of my hand like the title character of the film. No, this was more like thoughts, feelings and, probably most significantly, a sense of self, way more concentrated than before.

Like a hundred thousand times more concentrated. Like a lazer. Like I’d ascended to a higher realm of existence. Like a super human who could now float on air to get around. Like, in many ways, I suppose, no less than a god. An entrancing-five-months long type of god.

In a sideways pivot, allow me to mention that American author Dean Koontz (1945 – ) penned a novel titled INTENSITY back in the early nineties. I read it last year after I stole souvenired it from the library of a mountain-based so-called holiday retreat we stayed at. (Should probably mention not many things at that ‘retreat’ were in working order the weekend we visited so I reasoned I was due some form of recompense… and I got a small bit of it claiming that dog-eared book). It’s a story about keeping one step ahead of a stalking serial killer. Incredibly the whole novel – all 384 pages of it – with the exception of a couple of brief exterior scenes, is set inside a house. First loves don’t feature.

I mention the book and it’s title here because I think the word INTENSITY summarizes the feelings and experiences that commonly come with a first love. Having attended an all-boys high school and being from a family with three brothers and no sisters, falling in love with a ‘real-life’ beautiful girl was always going to send my heart into car-alarm mode, sparks of electricity shooting into my brain and show me the real gold this universe has to offer. It did all that. In colossal, sea-salt coating tidal waves.

As if that hyper-intoxicating rush wasn’t enough, my first love also came with an unexpected bonus: elevated social status. See, I feel in love with and began ‘dating’ a cheerleader. Well, not an actual cheerleader, like Sandy in GREASE (1978) ’cause I don’t think Australia had cheerleaders back in 1981. But she may as well have been a cheerleader, cause, you know…same social status. No, Caroline was a fifteen year-old water polo player who went to the local Catholic all-girls school.

Teenage female water-polo players all resembled well-proportioned, majestic Amazonians. Think WONDER WOMAN if that helps. Caroline was one of them and sat most assuredly atop of the popularity tree. She could have had anyone and she picked me. I’ve been trying to work out the why of that puzzle for forty years.

I debated long and hard whether or not to include some type of (approximated) image in this recount to give an idea of the type of face I fell head over heels Dunlop Volleys in love with. Words, and imagination to fill in the blanks between those words, are so much more powerful in many ways. In the end I succumbed to the wisdom of a picture being worth a thousand words. Not that I’d mind writing those thousand words. But you know, could drag on a bit.

Fifteen year old Caroline, my Caroline, was a blonde goddess of teenage beauty in anyone’s language. Mine especially. With all cherished photos of her (come to think of it I only ever had just the one – a Year 10 school head ‘n shoulders shot enclosed in a plastic keyring case) long since lost to time, the closest resemblance I can lay my hands now on is an early-nineties version of Britney Spears.

Memory tells me Caroline was even better, cuter looking than Britney (she used to wear her hair in ‘Heidi’ style plaits as well). But at the risk of sounding like a cheap – or not so cheap – novels’ unreliable narrator I’ll refrain from saying that. But maybe not thinking that.

Caroline’s best friend was another girl named Caroline. Caroline Rogers. She was blonde and stunning too – kind of a Jessica Simpson clone. If anyone remembers her. Word back in the day was the two of them used to walk past building sites together and attract a chorus of wolf-whistles. Construction workers have long since been forced to clean up their act so that could never happen these days.

I remember one Friday afternoon after school a group of us gathered together at The Pancake Manor in Charlotte Street the City. With plastic menu in hand I found myself sitting in a leather-clad booth sandwiched between the double-act cascade of loveliness that was the bff Carolines. I was a bee nestled in-between honeycomb either side; a kid in a candy shop; Jack on the bow of the TITANIC shouting “I’m King of the Worrrrrrrld!” What’s for sure is that day had beauty to burn.

My Caroline was fully two to three inches taller than me. The height difference just seemed to underline my view of her as half-god to my mortal. Seated, that contrast disappeared. One such occasion of extended sitting occurred when we went to see the Brooke Shields teen-romance movie ENDLESS LOVE (1981) together.

Don’t remember much of the film but I do remember caressing the entirely lovely shape of her earlobes and of course… our kissing. Our weightless, time-stands-still, heart goes ‘whomp’, non-stop kissing. Teenagers in general deserve praise on this front. On the kissing love-0-meter scale they can more often than not rate a ten. They leave the majority of adults, who’ve long since progressed their attention to other items on the menu, a lot of the time completely and unequivocally for dead.

I had the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie duet from ENDLESS LOVE going through my head the entire time I was typing those words so may as well drop it in here below. That’s a very young Tom Cruise btw glimpsed at the 1 minute 35 second mark.


Precious memories – the title of one of my favourite 1980’s Bob Dylan songs btw – from this magical five months of my life come as spring blooms, only ever needing an invitation from the sun. I can see them, feel them now, as if I were back in that time. I remember Caroline’s voice on the phone to me the first time she told me she loved me. I remember asking her to say it again because hearing those words made me feel so wonderful.

I remember all the charming, funny and sincere love letters Caroline wrote me, signed with ‘Love Forever’ back in a time when the word ‘forever’ was imbued with meaning and belief by the both of us. I can even still see the different types of stationary they came written on.

I remember the school dances we attended together. Better still I remember some of the secret moonlit spots we found ‘out the back’ amongst the shadows to cuddle and kiss – and sometimes a bit more. I remember her whispering in my ear at the High School Prom that year “other people say we look great together”. And I remember the day we arranged to meet at lunchtime outside her school gates.

It was about a 1.5km walk from my school to hers. When I got there, with a busy road separating us, instead of seeing her across the lanes of cars I was greeted by two of her friends. We communicated via hand signals and raised voices across the din of traffic. They explained that something had happened that day and the girl of my dreams wasn’t able to meet me.

What I did next is as clear in my mind as if it happened five minutes ago. I felt in my pocket and found that, handily, I happened to have a packet of the then iconic Hubba Bubba bubble gum on my person. I lobbed it with my best throw over the lanes of traffic to the dutiful messengers. They picked it up where it landed on the concrete on their side and indicated they’d heard me when I shouted over the traffic noise “Give it to her”.

A few days later Carolyn wrote in a letter to me how she loved receiving that gum. Reading that would have had me ringing like a happy bell. Some memories are as clear as color prints. The irony is they’re alive and dead simultaneously.

The final memory fanning the flames of yesteryear concerns money. Not spending it but inscribing it. At some stage in our relationship I must have latched onto the idea I needed to announce our love for each other to the world. What better way to do that, my fifteen-year-old brain reasoned, then to write on every banknote that crossed my path the love-code letters GD4CB.

Back then you could do that as Australian money notes were made of paper. I mostly confined myself to $1 and $2 notes, ’cause that was the currency I chiefly dealt with in those days. I think I even continued for a while after things faded away and Carolyn and I went our separate ways. When the $1 note got withdrawn from circulation three years later in 1984, all my ‘engraving’ work went with it. In 1988 the $2 note got killed off as well, and that was that.

Silly, eh? Sure, but it’s the sort of harmless, innocent and well-meaning-at-the-time thing you can look back on with a laugh. A lot of laughs. These days, getting a tattoo of your current flame’s name only to be stuck with a permanent reminder of it after things go belly-up and splitsville is a whole ‘nother level of silly. I think we can agree on that.

First times for anything are always memorable. First loves supremely so. But am I right to look back on this as the happiest time of my life? It’s tempting to. Yet in a way that seems almost disrespectful to the countless other joyous times enjoyed from all facets of life both before and since; not to mention the other enchanting love affairs as well as life milestones like marriage and starting your own family that the woven tapestry of a person’s life will come to be made up of over the passage of time.

What I will say is if I could magically transport myself back in a time machine and relive any five month period of my life, this five months would most likely find itself first pick. Most likely? Pfffft! Who am I kidding? Without a micro-seconds hesitation, it WOULD be first pick.

This beguiling chapter in my life was so relatively short it was able to be perfect. There were no arguments – no struggles – no responsibilities. It was pure and undiluted, before the concerns of the adult world were allowed to take hold. Nothing can ever compare. And so nothing should be compared.

In at least a few ways I can look back and say I was never more alive – if ‘alive’ means the ability to feel. For a brief time I had the type of self-belief and certainty that can lead armies into battle. I felt super-charged and wonderful. It was all so long ago.


Some time after high school ended I got word that Caroline had ended up becoming a nurse. I was never able to find out for certain. I tried a few years back to make contact with her again via an ex-student’s organisation on Facebook attached to her old school. I never heard anything back.

For someone so resplendent, so golden, so…lovable as her back in the day, you can know with the certainty of a sage I would have been just one of a long, long list of suitors. I’ll admit there’s a chance today Caroline may not even remember my name. That’s ok. I can remember our time together back then enough for the both of us.

Reasons I’ll Never – and I mean NEVER – Write a Novel

It’s a melodramatic scene lifted straight from a literary version of an AA meeting. And it’s been jangling around in my head for some time.

A dozen or so institutional-grey metal chairs are positioned strategically in a ‘covered wagons’ style semi-circle. While clearing their throats and taking in a series of quick breaths, one by one each occupant of the chairs first stands, introduces themselves and then utters the most dreaded, god-awful phrase they prayed they’d never hear themselves say – “I’m a writer… but I’m never going to write a novel”.

Does it even need saying the undisputed Holy Grail of the literary world is without doubt the long-form novel? This Everest of words, this most prized version of narrative nirvana is the benchmark for success for writers world wide. And it’s been that way since at least as far back as the 18th century.

Yet sadly I will never know the triumph of this unique form of extended self-torture. For now all eyes have come to rest expectantly on the one person in their grey metal chair yet to rise. That person is me. Mustering every morsel of mouse-courage I have, I stand, blink rapidly for a few seconds and then hear myself say in a low but surprisingly calm voice – “My name is Glen Donaldson and I am never going to write a novel”.


Not counting life itself, I’m not known for my participation in ultra-marathon events.

As much as I love words – and it’s taken me some time to realize this – what I love more is ideas. The shiny, unclouded purity of ideas – especially the good ones – before they’re translated into mere words – is for me where the real magic lies.
Whether those ideas come from the field of medicine, philosophy, aeronautics, sport, the construction industry – it matters not. But good and even great ideas alone, as any writer will tell you, don’t necessarily make, or in most cases, come even close to making a worth-ploughing through novel.

File this one under ‘C’ for consideration if you like. I have more respect for other people’s time than to try to foist my at best mediocre hobby writing on them in a gargantuan, read-a-thon-sized dose.

Last time I attempted that – with a mere peanut-sized short story – sent in the general direction of a couple of my nearest and dearest (should have known better!) I got something close to the following response…

The number of self-published books released annually topped the one million mark back in 2017. Each year that has followed, another at least one million ‘amateur’ offerings – each one no doubt representing some budding author’s much-sweated over and loved literary pride and joy – have hit a market that, thirty years back, would have been labelled ‘super-soaked’.

In other words, every man and his dog, cat and frill-fested canary not only firmly believes they have a book in them but is now actually going ahead and writing that book. To go through the effort of grinding out 80 000 words with the lofty ambition of actually entertaining other human beings, I would want to be rewarded with no less than the keys to the city.

Throw in a couple of boast-worthy accolades like a TIME magazine cover or two and … let’s dream big here… a six figure cash advance, and I might actually begin thinking all the toil and agony and hand-wringing it would take to produce that number of artistically sculpted words might be worth it.

But to embark on an intrepid word journey of this mind-frying magnitude only to be greeted at the end of it all with just a handful of obligatory family and friends cheers and slaps on the back, deafening silence from anyone else and a mere 250 digital copies sold (that’s the average number of sales IN ITS LIFETIME for a self-published, digital only book) – is simply – ‘in my book’ not worth the effort – not to mention the self-abuse and self-delusion it would take to pull that feat off.

Three little words – one big problem: SAGGING MIDDLE SYNDROME. Let’s take the last novel I read as an example. THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman was published in 2020. The first 80 pages of that story are possibly among the most perfectly manicured, witty and polished prose I have ever had the good fortune to read. And then I hit the sagging middle – all 50 000 words of it.

Result? That story and I parted ways long before the final chapter. Do I really want to inflict my sagging middle, and for that matter probably sagging beginning and end as well, on unsuspecting punters? Some people would call that being considerate.

Rather controversially I’ve now reached the conclusion that gifted writers are born not made. I can train and train until I’m sleep-deprived and I will NEVER EVER make it as an Olympic runner. I simply do not have that within me.

Likewise with writing. There are whole galaxies of on-line courses, books and personal writing mentors happy to try to convince me they can turn me into a better writer. And, in one sense, they’re all probably write…er, right.

Thing is that degree of ‘better’ is still not going to be anywhere near good enough – no matter how much money I hand over or how long I stick at it – to write something of a sustained length like a fully-blown novel that will actually do what it sets out to do – entertain the socks off people.

Which leads me to my next point…

Via ‘duty reads’, I’ve trudged through at least a couple of full length novels over the years written by hobby writers. While I admired the tenacity of those people to pen that many words, as a reading experience they were – how to put it? – carob-coated to say the least. And I have zero reason to think I could do any better.

I’m acquainted with a person who wrote a god-awful heaving mass of black and white pudding he deemed a novel (it’s ok, I know this person doesn’t read this blog) only to have the good sense to realize he should stop after the one go at it.

That person has since turned their attention to short story writing and morphed themselves into a short-story writing teacher. Make of that what you will.

And speaking of short stories, let’s consider for a moment the harsh-reality, unforgiving maths. The time and effort it would take someone the likes of me to amass 80 000 words for a novel – would be far more pleasurably spent producing 80 separate, one-thousand-word short stories. And that’s something I know I could do.

For someone with as short attention span as mine to be stuck with the same characters and scenarios for a full one to two years – the time it would take to write such a monstrosity from start to finish – is an excruciating, pain-ridden thought.

Stephen King said it best in ON WRITING (2000) – “The feel of the new – nothing beats it”. I recognise I derive far too much enjoyment from that feeling of wrapping up a project and moving on to the next one to get bogged down with the same story going round and round in my head for months and years.

If I look at my own reading tastes, I’m a non-fiction guy head to toe. For every novel I’ve made a start on (note I stop short of actually committing to using the word ‘read’) I’ve devoured 30 non-fiction works – biographies, memoirs, true accounts of war-time battles etc.

With a lopsided ratio like that, the odds are further stacked in favour of me never writing a goddamn.. what do you call it… novel doorstop!?

If you thought I’d trot out the old chestnut about not having enough time to write a novel, you’d be wrong. But don’t think it didn’t cross my mind.

Just the other week I had a completely brilliant short story of mine (tee hee) knocked back by one of those super serious on-line lit mags with 12 monthly readers. This little word concoction of mine took all of about three days to chisel out so the fact it didn’t get a thumbs up, well… no biggie.

But imagine spending a year or so pouring your heart and soul into writing a gosh darn walloping great novel and having that knocked back a couple of hundred times to the point where you completely gave up on the idea of it ever seeing the light of day for an audience.

Yeah, that’s gonna hurt.

Before Jim Carrey there was Jerry Lewis. I’m guessing neither of them like rejection…

Why deny it? I enjoy the background research aspect that frequently underscores good fiction writing – the journalism component if you will – way too much!

The thought of having to go off on a never-ending series of writing tangents all in the name of a multi-layered plot and just so I can make the 80 – 100 000 word length, leaves me, I don’t mind saying, absolutely stone frigging cold.

The disproportionately large ‘filler’ component of so many novels reminds me of some of the music albums I used to buy as a teenager. One, or two if you were really lucky, decent tracks and the rest unlistenable and just plain lousy.

I reckon we’ve all read a novel or three that goes into passionate detail about certain events that ultimately have no bearing on the plot. The reader is essentially mislead into believing that future events will relate back to these things, leading to confusion when apparently significant happenings vanish like a stone into a lake.

Would I want to do that to unsuspecting readers? I would not. Consideration, once again, wins out!

If ‘getting my name out there’ via publication of a novel was ever the goal, I know now I’d have far more chance of hooking an audience and finding maybe a slither of fame along the way through writing by becoming the neighbourhood graffiti artist.

There are many reasons why people write. And by write I mean creatively. For me, above all else, the act of writing is a thought release. It gives my hounddog mind something to latch on to.

As far as writing ambition goes, these days I’m pretty much kicking a ball around the local park – not someone trying to make the New Zealand All Blacks (football team).

To use another analogy, I’m just a guy strumming his guitar in his bedroom – while now and then pretending his hairbrush is a microphone – not someone trying to make it on Broadway.

So novel? Who needs one of those?

My final reason for knowing I’ll never write a novel may very well supplant all the other reasons combined. And that reason is… I can’t! I simply don’t have it in me to write something of that magnitude with the accompanying complexity of your average computer’s internal wiring, circuit boards and hard disks combined.

How do I know this? Because I’ve tried.

And just in case anyone may have received the mistaken impression this post was tinged with the crestfallen tone of hurt and bummed-out defeat, may I point out the title of this blog was most definitely NOT – Reasons I’ll Never – And I Mean NEVER – Write A Book.