I fell in love with Antonella Perioli the very first time I saw her, although I didnt know that was her name at the time.
But irespective of that when I saw her in the playground on that September morning it was love at first sight.
She was a first year at my School, the very un-PC named Cecil Rhodes.
But it was the 60s so heroes of the empire were still honoured back then.
I was a fourth year but I was bowled over by the skinny little brunette.
She literaly stood out from the crowd because where all her fellow first years were wearing white knee socks with their uniform Antonella was wearing black on her skinny legs.
Although I was instantlly taken with her, indeed I was completely smitten I didnt speak to her for two years.
At that time in history people talked about how they would always remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that John F Kennedy was dead.
For me that first glimpse of Antonella was a moment that would live with me forever.
And I was right.
I found out later that Giovanna, who was in my form was her sister.
I would never have guessed that they were sisters by looking at them they were completely different.
But I did overhere snippets of Giovannas conversations and got to hear about Nella, what she was doing who she was seeing, what music she liked what films she went to see.
Which was good even if it was all after the event stuff.

Over the two years between that life altering first look at her I may not have spoken to her but I did see her alot though, around school especially and if I saw her in town or in the cinema queue or at the Lido she would always smile because she knew I was a friend of her sister.
But I never had the courage to speak so i would just smile back.
Sometimes she would be with girlfriends and sometimes with a boy and sometimes I was with mates and other times I’d be with a girl.
I had my fair share of girlfriends but invariably they would have had to ask me out.
None of them were serious it was just a question of trying someone on for size to see if they fit, and some of them were a good fit but my problem was that how ever good the fit was, they never measured up against Nella.
But the older I got the braver I got and I eventually worked up the courage to speak to her and we went on to speak a lot once the ice was broken.
I was firm friends with her sister Giovanna, but I didn’t know at the time if she knew I carried a torch for Nella.

One day I was fishing up at the Ally Pally on the shady spot by the point on the south side.
It was during the school holidays though I had left school 3 years earlier.
I just happened to have a day off that day.
I worked at Carpenters hardware store in Muswell Hill and we had been stock checking all the previous weekend so I had a day off in lieu.
And as it was a nice day I decided to go fishing at the Alexandra Palace boating lake.
It was a well-stocked little lake and you could still fish it back then until some idiot decided to introduce Australian Black Swans to the lake and they didn’t mix with the fishermen so they banned fishing.
Ally Pally was one of my favourite places in the whole world back then and I had been going there for years.
Apart from the fishing, there was the boating lake, and a miniature railway picnic areas and acres of grass.
And it was the place I felt most at peace and where I was often lost in dreams.

On that warm sunny August day by Alexandra Palace Lake I was sat on my folding stool on a little peninsula fishing beneath the shade of an old oak.
I had just cast out and was enjoying the gentle breeze off the water.
“Hello” A soft voice said
I didn't need to turn around to know who that sweet voice belonged to.
It was one I knew well but I turned around anyway.
“Hi” I responded
As I looked around I saw Antonella standing with the sun at her back.
I took it on faith that it was her because with the breeze stirring the strands of her brunette hair and the golden sun behind it she appeared to have a fiery halo that left her face in shadow.
But her silhouetted shape beneath her summer dress left me in no doubt.
“I thought it was you” she said “no work today?”
“No” I replied “Day off”
The sun was temporarily obscured by a cloud and I could see her lovely face for the first time.
She had filled out a bit since I first saw the scrawny little girl with the skinny legs that I fell in love with six years earlier.
“Have you caught anything?” she asked as she sat down on the bank next to me.
“Not yet” I admitted
"So what brings you here?” I asked
“I’ve been shopping in Muswell Hill with Katie Young” she replied “and I’m on my way home”
“The lakes a bit out of your way isn’t it?” I asked already knowing the answer
“Yes” Nella admitted gazing out over the lake “but I love it here”
“Me too” I concurred wistfully
It seemed fitting to me that I should be seated at the place that was most special to me with the girl who was most special to me.
We sat there in silence for a few minutes just enjoying the scene until we were brought back to the moment by a loud splash as one of the rowers who had lost an oar went in after it, the resulting wave headed rapidly to the site of my float so I started reeling it in.
"Have you been fishing long?” she asked
“What Today? Or in general?” I responded and she laughed
“Both then” she said and laughed again
"Well today, about 2 hours before you found me” I told her “and generally since I was seven when my Dad first took me with him”
“Do you still go with him” she asked
“Oh yes” I replied “What about you?”
“Me? I’ve never fished” she replied
"Would you like to have a go?” I asked
“Yes please” she answered enthusiastically
“Ok then" I said just as the float approached the bank.
I quickly discarded what was left of the bait and opened my bait box.
“I can’t put the wriggly thing on” she said horrified
"It’s ok I’ll put the bait on" I replied and smiled at her
I baited the hook and then stood up
“Ok we need to stand up to do the next bit” I said and Antonella got quickly to her feet and dusted herself off.

I showed her the basic principle of casting and then I stood behind her as
She held the rod in her right hand.
God she smelt good, her hair, her skin, her clothes.
“Concentrate” I said to myself as I breathed in her perfume.
I put my hand on hers and indicated the best place to hold the grip.
“Now pull some line out with your other hand”
She did as said and I took my right hand off hers,
“Right you’re on your own” I said and rested my hands on her waist
Swiveling at the waist Antonella swung the rod to the right and then snapped it forward and the float sailed through the air and plopped a respectable distance from the bank.
It was a good job I was holding her waist otherwise her momentum may have had her following the float into the water, well that was my excuse anyway.
"I did it” she squealed
"Great cast Nella” I said “Right now comes the patient bit, you sit down and watch"
I indicated the stool
"No, I’ll be fine on the ground” she said
“Nonsense anglers privilege” I insisted
"Well thank you" she said perching on the stool then in a whisper she asked "What’s an angler?"
"It’s another term for a fisherman” I confided
Then I sat on the floor and got a nice look at her legs which were no longer skinny twigs.
“Why is the floaty thing bobbing up and down?” she asked concentrating intently on the task while I was concentrating intently on her legs.
“That means you have a bite” I replied
“What do I do?” she yelled excitedly
“Strike” I said
“What’s that?”
“Jerk the rod up sharply and then reel it in”
I stood up as she reeled in frantically and looked down at her and she was the picture of concentration with her tongue poking out the corner of her mouth
She noticed I was watching her and withdrew her tongue and smiled at me and then returned her full attention to her task and poked her tongue out again.
The float was getting close to the bank and in its wake there was definitely a fish
"Should I stand up?” she asked
"If you want to” I replied
She stood up and reeled furiously for the last few feet
"Now lift the rod up slowly” I instructed and as she lifted the rod up vertically the fish left the water and swung towards her, I reached out and grabbed the line and wriggling on the hook was a little Roach.
“And there’s your fish” I said and she beamed broadly
“No I can’t touch it” she squealed as I offered the fish to her
“What kind of angler are you?" I asked "you can’t put the wriggly thing on the hook and you won’t touch the fish”
“I'm a girlie angler obviously” she said and giggled
I carefully unhooked the fish
“What are you going to do with it?” she asked frowning
“Let it go” I said and put back in the water and it swam away.
She beamed me a happy smile and squeezed my arm.

I don’t know how long Antonella and I sat on the lakeside but I do remember we were doing more talking and laughing than fishing.
Nella looked at her watch and suddenly leapt up.
“I have to go” she said
“If you give me a few minutes I’ll walk with you” I suggested
“Great” Nella said
I quickly packed away and put my tackle bag over my shoulder and with my rod bag in my hand we set off around the lake and down the hill towards Wood Green.
I couldn’t remember a time I had enjoyed a fishing trip so much, it had been a great day off and I enjoyed the walk down from Ally Pally more than I had ever done before.
I didn’t want the day to end but I knew as we reached the bottom of Bedford Road that time was running out because when we crossed the footbridge over the railway we would have to go our separate ways because she would go right and I would go left.
So I knew I had two hundred yards or so to summon up the courage to ask her out.
We stepped onto the footbridge and I couldn’t think how to ask her.
She chatted all the way across and when we reached the end of the footbridge I still couldn’t think how to ask her out.
We stood on the pavement and were about to part.
“I really enjoyed the fishing” she said
“Me too” I said with my stomach in knots.
It was no good I was just going to have to blurt it out and hope for the best.
“Do you want to go to the pictures on Saturday” she asked “Casino Royale is on at the Odeon”
“I’d love to” I said immediately relieved.
I felt ten feet tall as I walked the last few hundred yards to my home.
How typical that finally almost six years since I first saw and fell in love with Antonella Perioli I had a date with her and I hadnt even asked her out.
But however it came about it was the begining of the love of a lifetime.
On the day Nella caught her first fish and I caught my first love.