Are you a romantic, a realist or a bit of a sceptic? When it comes to affairs of the heart, do you jump in feet first, run a mile at the first sign of doe-eyes, or weigh up the costs and benefits like a hedge fund manager? For example, if you were to cross the Pont Des Arts in Paris – the bridge that started the trend for couples securing padlocks to the ironwork, indelibly marked with their initials as a symbol of forever enduring love – would your reaction be to: (i) run to the nearest locksmiths and join the queue; (ii) admire the amorous sentiment but walk on by; (iii) wonder how many of the starry-eyed relationships have ended up floating down the proverbial Swanee River (or in this case, the Seine)? Actually, in the case of the Pont des Arts, the Parisian authorities eventually had to remove the locks and ban any further declarations of love (purloined from your dad’s garden shed) because of the burden the collective weight of the bolts was putting on the bridge. How could the engineers who designed it ever have thought they needed to factor in the weight of love into their design? So they didn’t, and the structure began to groan dangerously under the strain. The cynic could see it as an interestingly apt metaphor for the strain that some relationships have to bear! Maybe if every François and Françoise who had long since split up and returned the keys of each other’s flats were to come back and retrieve their locks, the bridge problem would have been solved!
Here, on my Spanish holiday island, a heavy chain railing separating the promenade from the rocks and sea below, is also garlanded à la Pont des Arts with hundreds of love locks. Presumably the keys to the locks have been thrown with reckless abandon into the Atlantic, deemed useless in the face of unbreakable love. Most of the locks are rusted shut, but a few look new – maybe they were added under the full moon of a few nights ago. And here’s the very lovely thing in it all: I look at these hundreds of locks, and all of the stories they hold, and I can’t help thinking of them as representing short-lived holiday romances. Despite the fact that the lock for ‘Mary and Jimmy’ might mark their fiftieth wedding anniversary, to me I look at ‘Raoul and Jenny’ and think that they’ve had a fortuitous fortnight fling! I hope I’m not sounding like the earlier sceptic I described, for I do believe these little lovers logos are no less sweet for my belief that they are short-term ‘forevers’! They are, nonetheless, important representations of how hope springs eternal, as is the rightful way of the world. In my opinion, those who make ‘forever love’ statements without meaning it are in the minority. Why would you put yourself to all that bother and heartache if your passion was lukewarm? By and large, declarations of forever come from a place of truth and promise, even if the most fervent, ardent and devoted ‘forever’ can be a little time capsule of love – as short as your weekend city break or 10 days in the sun. Cast your mind back to your youthful holiday romance in Paris, Prague or Portstewart and I bet you smile at the memory. And if you had a chubb lock in your hip pocket back then, maybe the two of you would have gone to the nearest bridge or railing and clicked it into place. Ah, where is (s)he now?