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As a Perfectly Foolish Young Man I Wanted 11

Article By: Carl Halling
Non-fiction


As a Perfectly Foolish Young Man I Wanted - Book Four - Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Five


Submitted:Feb 5, 2013    Reads: 12    Comments: 1    Likes: 1   


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A few weeks after Sleeping Beauty had culminated at the Buxton Opera House over Christmas 1979, David Cristiansen appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream atboth the Bristol and London Old Vics alongside legendary method genius and future Hollywood superstar DanielDayLewis,who played Philostrate; and brilliant character actor Nickolas Grace, who made a mesmerising Puck.
However, the cast as a whole was incredibly gifted and charismatic, and shortly before the opening night, David was lucky enough to see a BOV production of one of his favourite ever musicals, Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, featuring Clive Wood as Sky and Pete Postlethwaite as Nathan, which may have provided him with more unalloyed pleasure than any other theatrical production he'd seen up to that point.
After resuming his role as Mustardeed in the summer, his next acting job came early the following year courtesy of an old family friend, Howell Jones, who just happened to be the Company Stage Manager at the famous Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road at the time.
A production of Petronius' Satyricon was already under way, and they needed an Assistant Stage Manager at the last minute, and Howell suggested David. He'd also be the show's percussionist, with primal thrumming rhythms opening the show, and featuring throughout.
Also in '81, David became a kind of part-time member of an initially nameless youth movement whose origins lay in the late 1970s, largely among discontented ex-Punks, but who were eventually dubbed Futurists; and then New Romantics.
Their music of preference included the kind of synthesized Art Rock pioneered by German collectives such as Kraftwerk and Can, as well as the highbrow Glam of David Bowie and Roxy Music. All of these elements went on to inform the music of Spandau Ballet and Visage, who emerged from the original scene at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden, and Ultravox, a former Art/Punk band of some renown whose fortunes revived with the coming of the New Romantics.
The name arose as a result of their impassioned devotion to past eras perceived to be romantic, whether relatively recent ones such as the '20s or '40s, or more distant historical ones such as the Medieval or Elizabethan.
Several of the cult's more outlandish trendsetters went on to become famous names within the worlds of art and fashion. They stood in some contrast to more harder-edged young dandies such as the Kemp Brothers from working class Islington. Their Spandau Ballet began life as the hippest band in London, famously introduced as such at the Scala cinema by writer and broadcaster Robert Elms in May 1980. In time, though, they mutated into a chart-friendly band with a penchant for soulful Pop songs such as the international smash hit, True.
David attended New Romantic nights at Le Kilt and Le Beat Route among other swishy night spots, and was even snapped at one of these by photographer David Bailey, believed to have served as model for the central figure of Antonioni's enigmatic evocation of sixties London, Blow Up. But he was never a true New Romantic so much as a lone fellow traveller keen to experience first hand the last truly original London music and fashion cult before it imploded as all others had done before it.
Despite its florid decadence, it was always far more mainstream than other musical movements which arose in the wake of Punk, such as Post-Punk and Goth.
For this reason, several of its keys acts went on to become part of the New Wave, whose mixture of complex tunes and telegenic Glam image partly inspired the Second British Invasion of the American charts. This occurred thanks largely to a desperate need on the part of the newly arrived Music Television for striking videos, and went on to exert a colossal influence on the development of music and fashion throughout the eighties.
As '81 wore on, David's acting career lost momentum, with the result that some kind of family decision was reached to the effect that he should return to his studies with a view to eventually qualifying as a teacher. Thence, he went on to pass interviews for both the University of Exeter, and Leftfield College, London, scraping in with two very average "A" level passes at B and C, thanks to the infinite generosity of his interviewers, both of whom, the brilliant and charming Dr Mia Pastor of Leftfield's French Department, and the enigmatic Michael, would go on to be among his tutors.
He wanted to stay in London, so as to keep the possibility of picking up some acting work in his spare time, so in the autumn, after taking up residence in a small room on campus, he started a four-year BA degree course in French and Drama. This taking place mainly at Leftfield, but also partly at the nearby Central Academy of Speech and Dramatic Art, where the previously mentioned Michael worked as a teacher.
At first, he was so discontented at finding himself a student again at 25 that in an attempt to escape his situation, he auditioned for work as an acting Assistant Stage Manager, but he wasn't taken on, so he simply resigned himself to his fate.
A short time later, though, while sauntering around at night close by to the Central, he was ambushed by a group of his fellow drama students who may have seemed to him to incarnate the sheer carefree rapturous vitality and joy of life of youth, and because of them and those like them, he came to love his time at Leftfield, which just happened to coincide with the first half of the last of a triad of decades in the West of unceasing artistic and social change and experimentation.
Indeed, the adversary culture which exploded in the '60s and '70s could be said to have reached its full flowering in the crazy eighties, while perhaps shorn of much of its original potency; even if the vast majority of people whose salad days fell within its boundaries ultimately forged respectable lives following a brief season as outsiders.
As for David...as much as he loved being young in the wake of the sixties social revolution, by the 2010s, he'd come to bitterly regret the shallow narcissism that once caused him to scorn the trappings of status, security and respectability. And he'd find himself pining for it like some cruelly spurned lover.
But then, as he saw it, the flouting of all the elements of a contented life for the sake of a few seasons of joy had been tirelessly promoted in the West for over half a century, not least through Rock culture.
As to the society it had helped to create, it was somewhat akin in his eyes to the antediluvian world, whose workings of the flesh survived the Flood to be disseminated throughout the nations to spell the end of one empire after the other, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, the Roman.
And the older, wiser David saw himself as having embraced the libertine life for no good reason, having been blessed by every great gift a young man could possibly hope for, including a stable childhood and first-rate education.
Yet, as he'd come to understand it, our most treasured qualities, such as brilliance, beauty, charm and talent - which can operate together to devastating effect - must be submitted to God, lest they become dangerous, as they so often do. While the gifted, being so visible, are also more susceptible than most to a multitude of temptations. And so all too liable to fall prey to Luciferian pride and Luciferian rebellion...which is why, or so it could reasonably be averred, so many are drawn to the power offered by artistic renown. And in terms of the post-war years, it can perhaps be said that the greatest glory has come through music - the writer of the first song Lamech having been in the line of Cain - and specifically Rock Music.
Indeed, there are those Christians who believe that the Cainites were the first pagan people, and that they corrupted the Godly line of Seth through a sensual and wicked music not unlike much of the contemporary music known as Rock.
Of course, not all Rock music is flagrantly wicked, far from it. Much of it is melodically lovely. While in terms of its lyrics, its finest songs display the most delicate poetic sensibility.
The fact remains, however, that arguably no art form in history has been quite so associated as Rock with rebellion, transgression, licentiousness, intoxication and death-worship, nor been so influential as such.
And while the David of the 2010s viewed this truth with the fiery eyes of a modern day Jeremiah, his '80s counterpart still desperately sought fame as a Rock and Roll star himself; and if not as Rock artist, then actor, or writer.
And as the former saw it, it was possibly a good thing he never gained this secular form of immortality; because had he done so, he'd almost certainly have been used for the furtherance of the kingdom of darkness. And once he'd served his purpose, may well have died a solitary premature death as an addict. As has been the fate of so many men and women all too briefly inspirited by the magnetic charisma of the superstar.
And Leftfield in the early '80s was a seething hotbed of talent and creativity which provided David with almost unlimited opportunities for acting and performance.
Within days, he'd made a close friend of a fellow French and Drama student by the name of Sebastian Stockbridge.
Seb was a slim, good-looking, dark-haired charmer from the north east of England who, despite a solid private school background and rugby player's powerful wiry frame, dressed like a Rock star when David first met him, with his left ear typically graced by a pendant earring, and favouring drainpipe style trousers and black pointed boots as he'd come to recall. Together, they went on to feature in Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera.
David had two small roles, the most fascinating to him being that of petty street thief Filch, as he'd been played by Antonin Artaud in one of two film versions of the play directed by G.W. Pabst in 1931; and Artaud, an example of the avant garde faith in extremis, was one of his most beloved so-called accursed poets.
Through this production he went on to play jive-talking disc jockey Galactic Jack in the musical play, The Tooth of Crime, its director having been impressed by Seb and himself in The Threepenny Opera, and so cast them in the lead role of Hoss, and Galactic Jack, respectively.
It's no coincidence that its author, Sam Shepard, has gone on record as having been influenced by Artaud in his own work, as the latter's concept of a Theatre of Cruelty has proved prophetic of much of the theatre of the post-war years, indeed art as a whole, with its emphasis on assailing the senses, and in some cases the sensibilities as well, of the public through every available means.
Before long, David was channelling every inch of his will to perform into one play after the other at Leftfield, while any real ambition to succeed as an actor receded far into the background.
When it came to his French studies, in his essay writing he often flaunted an insolent outspokenness perhaps partly influenced by his favourite accursed artists, but also reflecting his own exhibitionistic need to shock. And while some of his tutors may have viewed these efforts with a jaundiced eye, one came to thrill to them and await them with the sort of impatience normally accorded a favourite TV or radio series. This was the remarkable Dr Elizabeth Lang, born in Lancashire in 1924, as the only child of working class parents who went on to gain a place at Oxford University, before becoming a lecturer there, and then at Leftfield.
What an ascent...from humble northern roots to a lectureship at the most hallowed place of learning in history...little wonder she was so fragile, almost febrile as a person, but so kind, so single-minded in her devotion to those who shared her passionate view of art and life:
"Temper your enthusiasm," she'd tell David, "and the extremes of your reactions. You should have a more conventional frame on which to hang your unconventionality. Don't push people, you make yourself vulnerable."
Was she was trying to save him from himself, and from the addiction to self-destruction that so often accompanies extreme distinction, whether of beauty, intelligence or talent, as if it were the lot of some of the most gifted among us to serve as examples of the potentially ruinous nature of privilege when operating in a purely earthly realm?
For David so loved to play the accursed poet and to scandalise by way of the written and spoken word. How close this carried him to the threshold of a terminally seared conscience it's impossible to say; but one thing is certain, his compassion would soon suffer, a process that would prove excruciating to him.
That's not to say he ever fully stopped being a caring person, because he certainly didn't, and he continued to be repelled to the core by those artistic revolutionaries who advocated actual physical violence. At the same time, he was slavishly devoted towards certain favoured artists who sought the total demolition of the established order, a consequence that inexorably results in increased crime and violence, not that this occurred to him at the time.
This nihilistic love of destruction kept uneasy company with a high and mighty dudgeon towards what he perceived as social injustice, and among its chief targets were dictators on the right wing of the political spectrum - in fact, the political right as a whole - and while he also opposed left-wing oppression, he reserved his real animus for the right.
The 1980s was a decade of protest and riot in the UK, and all through its years of raging discontent, David allied himself with one radical lobby after the other; including Greenpeace, CND, Animal Aid, Amnesty, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement which published one of his characteristically apoplectic letters of protest.
And he marched against the looming nuclear threat in London and Paris, and was a remorseless disseminator of rants, pamphlets, tracts, postcards, and whatever else was at hand as a means of spreading a message of social revolution.
He would ultimately contend that his was the self-righteous fury that is rooted in a false notion of the perfectibility of Man, that fails to recognise that oppression stems from the sin we all share, and that has no real satisfying motive other than its own existence. But at the time, he knew nothing of any of this.
In the summer, a faction from Leftfield, culled mostly from the Drama department, took Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to the internationally famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and in their production, Shakespeare's Illyria was transformed into a Hippie paradise, with David playing Feste as a Dylanesque minstrel strumming dirge-like folk songs with a voice like sand and glue.
Among the wildest of them descending many a night on the Fringe Club on Chambers Street were, apart from David, Massimo, a dashing Britalian of passionately held humanitarian convictions, who played Sir Toby Belch, Denny, with the deep-set blue eyes with whom David would go on to form a close musical partnership, and Jez, a tough but tender Scouser with slicked back rockabilly hair, who played Malvolio in a mesmerisingly understated manner.
Jez was a fascinating, charismatic guy with a hilariously dry sense of humour who had been in a band in the early '80s at the legendary Liverpool Post-Punk club, Eric's. He and his girlfriend Gill, who'd designed the flowing Hippie costumes, and was also a very dear friend of David's, never stopped encouraging him nor believing in him:
"I think you should be one of the greats, David," Jez once told him, "but you've given up and that's sad. When I'm 27, I'd be happy to be like you. In your writing, make sure you've got something really unbeatable...then say...'here!'"
Yet, while he was complimented by many at Leftfield, others betrayed their disquiet with their words, as if he had the power to remind them of the true tragic essence of sed non satiata:
"You give to everyone, but are incapable of giving in particular."
"I'm afraid...you're inscrutable. You're not just blase are you?"
"I'm afraid there's something really troubling you, that you don't want to tell anyone."
"There's a mystery about you...you change."
"I like it when you really feel something, but then it's so rare."
"Don't go away so long like that, David, it worries me."
"Disabused."
"Blind, deaf, indifferent."
David's relationship with Leftfield was one of the great passions of his life, and one destined to haunt him for the remainder of his days, as if he knew he'd never know such depths of intimacy again, and be increasingly prey to the torment of fading affect.
Then the following year, his second at Leftfield, he lived in an upper floor apartment in Golders Green with his close friends from the French department, Seb, a former Sedbergh School alumnus, and fellow northerner Stephen, whose alma mater was Sedbergh's age-old rival, Ampleforth, a Catholic college largely run by Benedictine monks.
Steve was an incredibly gifted pianist and guitarist who despite a misleadingly serious demeanour was a warm, affectionate, witty, eccentric character who endlessly buzzed with the nervous energy of near-genius. He might not have wanted to ape the way his flatmates dressed and behaved, but he was fiercely protective of them despite their social butterfly ways.
And David was determined to live like an aesthete, even if it meant doing so on a shoestring in a cramped little flat in suburban north London, which was hardly the city of dreaming spires; and to this end he organised what he optimistically termed a salon, which although well-attended didn't survive beyond a single meeting. For as aesthetes, David and co. fell pathetically short of the new Brideshead generation that was thriving at Oxford in the wake of the classic TV series.
But David couldn't have cared less, for self-doubt simply wasn't an issue for him in the early eighties and he was a truly happy person; in fact so much so that he may have exaggerated his capacity for depth and melancholia as a means of making himself more interesting to others.
In the final analysis though, what possible reason was there for him to be discontented, given that his first two Leftfield years were fabulous...an unceasing cycle of plays, shows, concerts, discos, parties set in one of the most beautiful and bucolic areas of London?
His second year drama project was centred on a theatrical production of Playing with Fire, a one-act play by the controversial Swedish dramatist August Strindberg. He was allotted the task of supplying the music; as well as the leading role of Knut, a sardonic Bohemian painter forced to endure the adulterous behaviour of a friend. This being Alex, played by budding playwright Paul, who following an invitation to stay with him at the house of his upper middle class parents for a few days, embarks on an affair with his wife Kerstin.
Later in the year, Paul asked David to appear in a short play of his entitled Wild Life in which he interpreted the role of a violent young psychopath intent on causing mayhem at a house party, just one of a succession of plays or shows in which he was featured during that heady second year at Leftfield. The others including Twelfth Night with the Edinburgh cast more or less intact, and a Rice-Lloyd Webber showcase in which he played his former idol Che.
After the second year ended in the summer of 1983, David had a few months to spare before travelling to Paris to work as an English language assistant at a Lycee Technique in the suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge in Essonne...some sixteen miles south of the city centre.
This spelled his exile from the old drama clique, and he'd not be joining them in their final year celebrations, and the knowledge of this must surely have affected him. He was, after all, severing himself from a vast network of gifted friends of whom he was deeply fond, and so losing an opportunity of growing as an artist in tandem with like-minded spirits. He could have opted for just a few weeks in France, but did he really want to be deprived of the chance of spending more than six months in the city he'd long worshipped as the only true home of an artist?
Earlier in the year, his close friend Madeleine, a brilliant dynamic woman of North African Jewish ancestry had told him something to the effect that while many were drawn to him, it wasn't just in consequence of any magnetic attractiveness he might have possessed:
"They sense death in you," she chillingly opined.
Cognizant as she was of the intellectual worldview of the great psychologist Sigmund Freud, who identified a death drive subsequently dubbed thanatos, she may have divined some kind of will to destruction within him, or rather, self-destruction.
As things turned out, she was right in doing so, although this was barely embryonic in the early '80s, if it existed at all, but he would ultimately attribute its existence to a cocktail of intoxicants, namely, alcohol, the occult, and intellectualism, and to be of the belief that each exerted a terribly negative effect on his development as a human being.
It was not, he would contend, that intellectualism is evil in itself, but that intellectuals are more tempted than most by pride, rebellion and sensuality, and that the same could be said of those blessed with great wealth, great beauty, and great talent. He'd see intellectuals as among the most powerful men and women in history, and the Modern World as having been significantly shaped by the wildly inspired views of men such as Rousseau, Darwin, Nietzsche, and especially Marx and Freud.
To the man he'd become, their theories fanned the flames of a largely bloodless revolution in the 1960s, and rather than fade once the latter had been largely quenched, set about infiltrating the cultural mainstream where they became more extreme than ever. And so to enter the realm of the Post-Modern, while remaining the ultimate consequence of centuries of Modernist influence on the Judeo-Christian fabric of Western civilisation.
However, David was never a true scholar like Madeleine, so much as someone who was both troubled and fascinated by the idea of hyper-intellectuality. Reading Colin Wilson's The Outsider in the early '80s, he especially identified with those intellectuals who were tortured by their own excesses of consciousness such as T.E. Lawrence, who wrote of his nature as being "thought-riddled".
As a child he'd been extrovert to the point of hyperactivity, but by the time of his late adolescence, found himself subject to rival drives of equal intensity, one towards seclusion and introspection, the other, attention and approbation.
In his quest for the latter, he subjected his body, the creation he tendered so lovingly at times, to a ruthless almost derisive work ethic, and intoxication mild and otherwise - facilitated the constant socialising that brought him the affirmation he so craved, what could be termed a narcissistic supply. How else to explain the sheer demented fervour of his endless self-exaltation?
That's not to say that he wasn't a loving person, because he was; but precisely what kind of love was it that he spread so generously about himself? One thing it wasn't was agape, the perfect, selfless love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
He was hardly less remorseless towards his mind than his body, bombarding it with information so much of which existed on the dark side of knowledge. Little wonder then that he turned to drink as a means of pacifying it, although alcohol still wasn't a serious problem for him in the early '80s, when his exhausting daily regimen tended to be fuelled instead by massive quantities of caffeine tablets. That said, Madeleine didn't like it when he drank to excess, as if she'd already singled him out as someone who'd go on to develop a drink problem. In this as in other things she showed remarkable insight.
"Your friends are too good to you...it makes me sick to see them...you don't really give...you indulge in conversation, but your mind is always elsewhere, ticking over. You could hurt me, you know...you are a Don Juan, so much. Like him, you have no desires...I think you have deep fears...it's not that you're empty...but that there is an omnipresent sadness about you, a fatality..."
In the autumn of 1983, David took residence in a room on the grounds of his allotted school.It was during those early days in Paris that he became infected by a serious sense of self-disillusion, as a new darkness spread over his mind.
This sea-change marked the onset of a real drink problem that went way beyond the usual student booze-ups into the murky realm of drinking alone by day, and which David would ultimately attribute to a conscience that was starting to become calloused through repeated defilement. His well-being, however, remained relatively unaffected, in fact, for those first few months, he was happy, blissfully happy to be a nomad in the city which had inspired so many great poets to write classics of the art of urban idling. He wrote of his own experiences, usually late at night in his room, and almost certainly with the assistance of alcohol and cigarettes; and while few of these notes survived, some incidents that may once have been committed to paper stayedfreshinhismind.
There was the time he sat opposite a same-sex couple on the Metro when he was still innocent of its labyrinthine complexities. "She" was a slim white girl, dressed from head to toe in denim, who gazed blissfully, with lips coyly pursed, into some wistful middle distance, while her muscular black boyfriend stared straight through him with eyes in which desire and menace seemed to be mixed, until one of them spoke, almost in a whisper:
"Qu'est-ce-que t'en pense?"
He came to recall the night he took the Metro to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, where he slowly sipped a demi-blonde in a brasserie, perhaps of the type immortalised by Brassai in his photographs of the secret life of '30s Paris. At the same time, a bewhiskered old man in a naval officer's cap, his table strewn with empty wine bottles and cigarette butts, repeatedly screeched the name, "Phillippe!" until a pallid impassive bartender with patent leather hair filled his glass to the brim with a mock-obsequious:
"Voilà, mon Capitaine!"
And then there was the afternoon when, enacting the role of the social discontent, he joined an anti nuclear march through Paris which ended with a bizarre street cabaret performed by a troupe of neo-hippies whose sheer demented defiance may have filled him with longing for a time when he treated his well-thumbed copy of the Fontana Modern Masters bio of Che Guevara by Andrew Sinclair as some kind of sacred text...
A day spent as a nomad in the City of Light would often end with a few hours spent in a movie theatre, perhaps in the vast soulless Forum des Halles shopping precinct, and there was a point he started to hate the movies he chose, as he struggled more and more with fits of deep and uncontrollable depression. For the first time in his life, he was starting to feel worse after having seen a film than before, the result perhaps of creeping anhedonia, which is a reduced ability to enjoy activities found pleasurable by the majority.
He grew bored of watching others perform. What joy, he reasoned, was to be found in watching some dismal movie, when there was so much to do in the greatest city in the civilised world?
He'd never really been any kind melancholic up until this point but this situation may have started to change in his first few months in Paris. If his travels failed to produce the desired uplifting effect, he'd fall prey to a despair that was wholly out of proportion to the cause.
As a means of protecting himself, he started squandering his hard-earned cash on endless baubles and fripperies. These wholly pointless trinkets included a gaudy short-sleeved shirt by Yves St Laurent, a retro-style alarm clock with the loudest tick in Christendom, a gold-plated toothbrush which he never actually used, a black and gold cigarette holder and matching slim fit lighter, a portrait drawn of him at the Place du Tertre which made him look like a cherubic 12 year old, and a black vinyl box jacket procured from the Porte de Clignancourt flea market.
Mention must also be made of the many books he bought, such as the three Folio works by Symbolist pioneers, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam and Josephin Peladan; as well as the second-hand books of poetry by such obscure figures as Trakl and Deleve...part of Seguers' Contemporary Poets collection.
Could the kids who loved to wave and coo at him from all corners of the school have guessed that their precious David who looked like a lost member of Wham or Duran Duran was prey to dark depressions?
Could they ever have known he was a collector of the literary works of late 19th Century Decadents...and a social discontent given to recording snarling rants on a cheap cassette tape recorder?
The simple answer is not in a thousand years...for he was leading a double life, perhaps even a multiple one. Little wonder, therefore, that he was starting to drink to try and make sense of what was happening to him, which was something akin to the fracturing of the personality.
It wasn't long before he tired of his solitary existence; but then becoming more sociable may have simply been the result of being in one place for a significant length of time and nothing more meaningful than that. In fact, he'd already befriended twenty year old Theresa "Tessa" Evans, English assistant in the neighbouring town of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois while they were both attending classes at the Sorbonne intended to prepare them for the year ahead. And they went on to see more and more ofeachotherastheir Parisian sojourn proceeded apace.
She'd been a close girlhood chum at convent school of his great Leftfield friend, Ariana Hansen...in fact, one of the first times they met up was with Ariana, when they saw Gimme Shelter in some dinky little art house theatre. This being, of course, the documentary of the Rolling Stones' 1969 American tour which culminated in the infamous Free Concert at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California, which helped to put an end to the Hippie dream of peace and love.
Other close friends included Metal Work teacher Milan, the son of Yugoslavian parents from the suburb of Bagneux whose impassive manner belied the exorbitantly loving soul of a true poet.
As well as Maths teacher Jules, who was the generous-spirited son of an army officer, and a furious hedonist who worshipped the Rock and Roll lifestyle of Keith Richards and other British bad boy musicians. I can see him now, tall, thin, dark, charismatic, with his head of wiry black hair, dressed in drainpipes and Cuban heeled boots, playing the bass guitar - but brilliantly - at some unearthly hour with friends following a night's heavy partying before rushing to be with a girl friend as the dawn broke.
And Jean-Paul...another Metal Work teacher as he'd come to recall, possibly from provincial France, and one of nature's gentlemen, sincere, warm and convivial.
So many of the people of Bretigny went out of their way to make David feel welcome and content from the headmaster all the way down to the kids, some of whom staged near-riots in the classroom whenever he appeared. He felt so unworthy of their kindness, of the incredible hospitality that is characteristic of ordinary French people.
However, if he was much loved in the warm-hearted faubourgs, in Paris itself he was at times as much a magnet for menace as approval.
In fact, he was hysterically threatened in the streets of Pigalle only days after arriving in the city; and then verbally assaulted later in the year, this time on an RER train by some kind of madman or derelict who'd taken exception to his earrings and was furiously urging him to go to the Bois de Boulogne. But what he suggested he do there is too obscene to print.
And mention must also be made of the sinister skinhead who called him a "******* anglaise'' for trying on Tessa's wide-brimmed hat while travelling home by train after a night out with her and Ariana. But as ever, he was mysteriously protected against all the odds.
On a far brighter note, he spent a sizeable part of the journey from Paris-Austerlitz to Bretigny with a self-professed "voyou" with chilling shark-like eyes, who nonetheless seemed quite fond of him, as he made no attempt to threaten him. He even gave him his number, telling him that unless he phoned as promised, he was merely what he termed "un anglais ***."
David left Brétigny without saying goodbye to so many people that it was painful to think of it afterwards, but frenetic eleventh hour socialising had left him exhausted. However, there was one final get-together, organised by Tessa and a few other friends. Milan was there of course, as well as well as several mutual friends of Tessa's and his. Sadly though, Jules wasn't, although he bumped into one of his girl friends, who, her voice dripping with incredulity, asked:
"Où est Jules?"
Seized by guilt for having failed to invite him, David phoned him at home to ask him to make a last minute appearance, but in a muted voice, he told him:
"Nah, I'm in the bath, man, it's too late."
It was the last he ever heard of him. As for Milan, he and David were to talk on the phone once the latter had returned to London, but they never saw each other again. On the other hand, Tessa and he stayed friends until the early '90s, by which time she'd got married to a fellow church-goer and former Cambridge University alumnus called Peter, who also became a good friend. And some two decades afterwards, they'd resume their friendship, and so regularly assemble as a trio with Ariana.
His parents stopped by that night to pick him up on their way to La Ribera where they were due to stay for a few weeks before returning to the UK, and after a day or so spent sightseeing, they set off. Soon after arriving, it became clear to David that over eight years after the death of Generalisimo Franco, with Spain's beatific innocence long gone, his beloved pueblo had changed beyond all recognition.
In Murcia, while quietly drinking in a night club with some very dear friends of his from La Ribera's golden age, he found himself in the surreal position of being visually threatened by a local Punk who clearly objected to the bootlace tie he was wearing which immediately identified him as a hated Rockabilly. As he saw it, such a thing would never have happened ten years before; or perhaps even five.
As for the youth of La Ribera itself, where once they'd been endearingly naive, now they seemed so worldly and cool that David was in awe of them, as they danced like chickens with their elbows thrust out...almost certainly to the latest hippest hits, such as King's Won't You Hold My Hand Now, which David endlessly translated for them.




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