I often wonder what happened to Mansour Ben Amer. His dark curly hair and deep brown eyes remain in my memory fifty-odd years later. But, in the days when we students were a rather wild and unpredictable lot, it is his gentle manner and perfect etiquette I marvel at. This in spite of his once telling me that, should his sister be insulted, the onus would be on his brothers and him to undertake some act of retribution. Yet still, to me, he was the most gentle of young men.
Mansour came from Tripoli, where his father was Mayor. We met in the QM, the hall where Saturday dances were held, at the top of the humped University Avenue in Glasgow, for students of all kinds. We danced to Bill Haley and did the twist with alacrity, and he always saw me safely back to my flat.
Sometimes, when we walked through the city, passers-by would comment on his ’great suntan’ and, though he did not react, I would dip my head to cover my blushes of shame and anger at their intolerance. Little did they know that in the holidays, while I was home in Helensburgh, he and his friend would visit Venice or some similar exotic destination.
Once he pulled a box from under his couch and asked me if I wanted to meet his pal, which turned out to be a skeleton. Not surprising, as he was studying medicine. They were real bones.
I can’t remember how we came to part. In the years that followed, Britain became less than friendly with Libya. I have often wondered if, and how, he remembers his time here; the weather, the people and the very different mores. I really hope within him there remains a small light of affection for Glasgow and for his one-time girlfriend.
Submitted by Catriona Malan, 78, Helensburgh