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We fell in love again 23 years after our 18-30 holiday fling

Allison Fingerhut and Alan Pidgeon

As Ally shared a last kiss with her holiday love, she felt a pang of regret realising she'd probably never see him again.

Two weeks was all it had taken for her to fall for the twinkly-eyed blond who swept her off her feet.

And Alan was equally smitten with the 22-year-old holiday rep who caught his eye on a Club 18-30 trip to Spain.

They assumed their holiday romance would end up being nothing but a happy memory. But 23 years later, they've been reunited... and are now about to get married.

Alan, 45, says: "I expected a few weeks of sun, sea and sex 18-30s holidays don't exactly have a squeaky clean reputation.

"But meeting Ally stopped me in my tracks. I knew that what we had was special, and even when I left, I never stopped loving her.

"When we got back in touch after so many years, I knew I had found the woman I wanted to be with for the rest of my life."

The couple first met in 1984 in the Spanish village of Sitges. Ally was beginning her second season as an 18-30 holiday rep while Alan was one of her guests.

Allison Fingerhut

Ally, now 46, says: "I could tell that Alan fancied me from the start, and he really caught my eye too.

"He had a twinkle in his eye and was very cheeky. And he had a Kevin Keegan-style perm.

"Being a rep can actually get quite lonely, although I absolutely loved the job then. You would get up at 8am and not get to bed until 3am to grab a few hours sleep.

"I'd had flings with guests before but Alan was the first one I ever fell in love with.

"I remember he asked me back to his room that first night but I didn't go because I wanted to keep it a little bit special."

Ally's feelings were shared by bakery worker Alan, who remembers the first moment he set eyes on his wife-to-be. He says: "I fancied Ally the first time I saw her and the more I saw of her the more I fell for her.

"It might sound cliched, but it really is as simple as that."

The couple shared a wonderful two weeks in the village near Barcelona, before Alan's holiday ended and they went their separate ways.

As they parted at the airport, a tearful Ally thrust her green cardigan into Alan's arms to keep him warm on the flight home.

She says: "We did love each other, but I had to be realistic.

"I was in Spain and he was in England. But we wrote and I had a feeling we would see each other again soon."

Three long years passed and Ally began to lose hope. She wrote to Alan, asking him to join her in Gran Canaria for Christmas.

But when he bluntly turned her down, adding for good measure that he had accidentally ruined her cardigan, Ally decided it was time to cut the ties.

She said: "I was angry and upset at first, but then I thought, 'Sod you! If you can't be bothered to visit me or even look after my cardigan you're obviously not worth bothering with.'

"It wasn't until much later I learned the real reason he'd said no."

The truth was that Alan was too nervous to visit his former love fearing that she'd reject him.

He says: "I loved her so much, but I couldn't stop thinking that I had nothing to offer her. She was so glamorous and loved her job as a rep, and I was just a baker from Essex. I was too embarrassed to go and see her again.

"But I always kept that cardigan. I thought if I held on to it then one day she would have to find me to get it back."

After Alan's rejection, the couple finally lost contact not to speak again for 19 years.

Ally never married but had a long-term relationship with a Spaniard who joined her when she returned to the UK to become a secretary, and later a PA.

Meanwhile Alan moved from one brief relationship to the next, trading in his baker's job for a career as a builder.

He says: "We might have been apart for a long time, but I never forgot Ally, or stopped loving her. I knew we had something special.

"Every time I met someone else I just thought of how much fun we'd had, and how we just seemed to make sense together.

"That's why a few years after we lost touch I tried to contact her again. I sent a letter to her parents' home near Guildford, Surrey. But they had moved and the message never reached her."

The love story might have ended there. But nearly 10  years later, Alan was browsing TV channels when he glimpsed a familiar face.

He says: "I was just flicking through when suddenly Ally appeared. She was on a Channel 4 documentary talking about her experiences as a rep.

"I just couldn't believe it. My Ally! Straight away I contacted an internet detective agency and within a week they had found her address."

Remarkably, Ally was living just a few miles from Alan's home in Barking, East London. And days later his first letter in over 20 years landed on Ally's doormat.

Laughing, Ally says: "The letter was very casual. He'd written 'Hi, how are you?' as if he had just bumped into me a few weeks before.

"But my heart still leapt when I saw it  because it was so fantastic to hear from him after all that time.

"In the years before he got in touch I'd thought of him a lot. So when I read that letter I really did wonder if he was telepathic. The first one I sent back started 'Flippin' heck! You took long enough to get back in touch!"

Phone calls followed the letters as the pair began to rekindle their relationship.

And as they grew closer, they found the passion they had shared so long ago remained although some other things had changed.

Ally says: "The first time I invited Alan to my house I had quite a shock because when he turned up he was a skinhead.

"His beautiful bubble perm had all gone, and I thought to myself 'Oh God, what have I done! I might have made a mistake here.'

"Luckily, he was just as cheeky as ever and had the same brilliant sense of humour.

"We had a lovely time and the next day I phoned my mum and told her I'd met the man I was going to marry."

Alan was just as excited to meet Ally again. "I was in seventh heaven on that day. Ally hadn't changed a bit although she was smaller than I remembered. All I could think was how lovely she was. I can't describe how it feels to know that I'd found the woman I wanted to be with for ever."

And while Ally was determined to take things slowly, she soon found out just how devoted Alan had remained over the years  he'd even kept her cardigan.

She says: "I'd always assumed he'd just forgotten about me.

"But when I started meeting some of his friends, they all knew about me already.

"Getting together again just felt so right and very quickly I was as much in love with him as I had been in 1984 when we first met."

After several months of dating, the couple got engaged in 2007 on a visit to Canada and are planning to get married in August.

Ally says: "I think we are incredibly lucky. But I believe that we were meant to be together. I'm so happy we found each other again."

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