I love you will you marry me?

Did anyone listen to this programme on Radio 4?

It was a modern day fairy-tale, with a twist of tragedy.

Across a concrete footbridge high up in a crumbling concrete wasteland someone had written the words-

Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me

The words were visible for miles, and speculation became rife as to the story behind them. Who wrote it? Did Clare Middleton say yes?

In Sheffield, the stories grew like patches of mildew on the wall- some said that she said no, and the man who wrote it jumped off the bridge. Others suggested that Clare was part of a love triangle and it all ended in violence and a burnt out flat.

The presenter managed to track down first Clare’s mother, then her friends, and eventually the writer of the message, and the story took on real flesh.

Clare was a live wire who loved to dance. She was an electric presence, who was drawn to dangerous men and drugs. She already had several kids when she fell in with the writer of the message- himself a survivor of institutional child care.  By then she was stick thin and toothless from amphatamine use, but he loved her.

She said yes by the way.

But three months later they were separated, at least in part because of social work’s concerns about the safety of her children.

And then she died of cancer.

However, the ‘I love you bridge’ has become a symbol of hope. Visible tenderness, humanity and romance in the middle of all those slabs of brown streaked concrete. So much so that some artist has picked out the shaky handwriting in neon lights.

Although not the name- still there, but faded. Which seems to me unbearably sad.

Clare Middleton- you were loved.