Once in love with amy

We all love browsing through jumble sales and trawling through second hand shops and thrift stores for novelties and items of nostalgic interest, and in recent times the second-hand market has, like many aspects of our lives, moved online, with very profitable results too. 

We have cyberspace marketplaces such as eBay and Depop to name just two, where a bargain – be it used clothes or a 1978 Beano annual – is just a click away – but in the Sixties, the internet was unknown, and most people visited bricks and mortar second-hand shops, and there were many in Liverpool, along with the ubiquitous pawn shop. 

On Valentine’s Day in 1968, Amy and Adam, a couple in their twenties from Huyton, visited Liverpool to do a bit of shopping. It was a cold but sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Amy’s first port of call was a second hand shop on Renshaw Street.

There were joss sticks smouldering in the dimly-lit shop, and colourful psychedelically-patterned hanging carpets lining the walls. 

Adam tried on a few hats, including a bowler, trying to make his fiancée laugh, but Amy went straight to the vintage jewellery and started to try on bangles, necklaces and rings. 

Under the watchful eyes of the shop’s owner, a Greek man in his fifties, Adam came across an old upright piano, and he lifted the lid, and being an able musician, he played the intro to Procul Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, and the shop proprietor smiled and nodded, remarking, “Very good.”

Then Adam saw the box of old music sheets, and one in particular  that was very fitting: ‘Once in Love with Amy’ – a song from the old Broadway musical ‘Where’s Charley?’ – and he put the dog-eared sheet on the piano’s music rest and began vamping the chords as he sang to Amy in a mock Noel Coward voice: “Once in love with Amy – always in love with Amy!”

Amy smiled dreamily at her fiancé – flattered by the rendition – but the Greek shop owner lifted he flap in the counter and shot across the shop to protest, startling the couple. “No! Stop that! Don’t play that!”

Adam ceased playing and closed the piano lid, and Amy naturally wanted to know why her boyfriend couldn’t play the music. 

The Greek took the music sheet from Adam and walked away, saying, “It’s unlucky to me, I’m sorry – I told the boy to get rid of it.”

The boy was the young shop assistant who wasn’t around today.

“Unlucky music?” mused Adam, smirking at Amy, “It’s a lovely song, for all the Amys in the world.”

Amy pulled a ring off her finger, put it back on the pile of other rings, grabbed Adam’s hand, and yanked him with her as she stormed out of the shop. 

Outside on Renshaw Street, she seethed, “I can’t stand superstitious people! I was having a good mooch then as well.”

“Ah, never mind, Ame, let’s go to that groovy shop you like – the Amber Boutique,” suggested Adam, and they crossed the street and walked towards Lewis’s Corner, passing beneath the famous statue of Dickie Lewis. 

Amy happened to glance back up Renshaw Street – and immediately noticed a man in a straw boater, a blue jacket with deckchair stripes, and white trousers. His face looked very pale, and Amy saw that he was looking at her as he marched along, twirling a walking cane. 

As the couple strolled along, Amy looked back several times, and seeing the man in the boater was following, she told Adam, but when he looked back, the stranger dramatically jumped into doorways or hid behind cars. There was something theatrical about the man, the couple thought. 

Amy dragged Adam to a jeweller, and as she gazed in the window, she and Adam saw the man in the boater standing behind them – and they saw him lift his cane! He was about to strike Adam, who turned and shouted, “Oi!”

The man vanished, and Amy put her hand to her mouth and gasped, “Oh! Adam, he’s a ghost.”

The couple went to the Amber boutique – and the ghostly stalker was already there, trying to mingle with the mostly female clientele as he spied on Amy. 

“Maybe we should go home,” suggested a nervous Adam, and Amy nodded. 
As the couple walked up Church Street, that man appeared out of nowhere, and he pushed Adam into the path of a bus. There were screams from Amy and other women as the brakes of the bus shrieked, and the double-decker halted with a tyre inches from Adam’s head. 

Adam was helped up, and he and Amy were so afraid, they hailed a hackney which took them straight to Amy’s home on Lincombe Road. 

The girl’s mother said the man in the striped jacket had just been some oddball but Amy and Adam insisted that he had vanished into thin air before their very eyes. 

That night, Amy was awakened by someone calling her name. She switched on her bedside light and saw the ghost at the bottom of her bed. He started dancing as he sung “Once in love with Amy – always in love with Amy...”

Amy screamed, and the ghost’s face became twisted with hatred, and he rushed to Amy and his cold hands seized her throat! As she felt him choking the life out of her, the bedroom door flew open and the girl’s parents stormed the room. The ghost vanished, and thankfully, after that night, the phantom in the boater was seen no more. 

The entity had evidently been stirred up by Adam playing that song in the second hand shop, and the Greek proprietor had obviously known something about the ghost, but Amy never visited that shop again.

• All Tom Slemen audio books are on Amazon.

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