So Long, Marianne

Sunday 31st July

This was the first Leonard Cohen song I remember hearing.  It must have been early 1969, I was with Carol and we were living for a few weeks with three crazy Canadian guys in Stockwell.  It was a dump of a flat and almost a commune with people coming and going and constant drunken parties.  Late in the evening and the Canadians would put on Songs of Leonard Cohen and this song, and Suzanne of course, became our late night companions.  I was struck instantly by the refrain – “So long Marianne, it’s time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again”.  How brilliant – to use the repeated and reversed laugh and cry in the same line.  But the whole song was brilliant especially the lines “You say that you’re beside me now, why do I feel so all alone.  I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider’s web is fastening my ankle to the stone.”  It has been a song I return to all the time, I never tire of it. But what became of Marianne?

Marianne Jensen was just 23 when she met Leonard in 1960 on the Greek island of Hydra where a sort of pre-hippy colony was living.  He was standing in the doorway of the tiny village shop and he invited her to join her.  They lived together in Montreal, Hydra and New York.  Leonard called her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and dedicated many poems (some later becoming songs) to her.  Leonard wrote his books ‘The Favourite Game’ and ‘Beautiful Losers’ in Greece and many of his songs too.  Later in New York as Leonard became famous they split up.  As lovers do.

Carol and I split up a couple of years (as lovers do) after I first heard this song too. When she left I bought myself a record player and my first record was Songs of Leonard Cohen.  I would lie awake at night, my son asleep beside me and listen to songs of Love and Loss and think of Suzanne and the Sisters of Mercy and of course, Marianne.  The song and Leonard’s voice helped to heal the wound.mariannebot

Marianne, who later became Marianne Ihlen, died on Thursday.  So long, Marianne, it’s time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.


It Has Suddenly All Gone Quiet

Saturday 30th July

After all the fuss and the fights and the fury, the shock and the turmoil – all has gone quiet.  For a couple of months everyone cared, everyone had an opinion; all at once the usually imperturbable British Public was roused from in front of their tv soaps and got a bit angry.  At first the campaign was barely noticeable.  Referendum – what referendum?  We had had a referendum a few years back on changing the voting system to Proportional Representation and it hardly caused a ripple on the lake of placidity the British were floating on.  Nothing changed.  Of course nothing ever would change, would it?  Then we had a real scare as the Scots almost broke away; they were promised the earth to stay, and yet even in defeat they weren’t gracious, they didn’t say thank you at all, they merely grumbled that next time, and pretty soon there would be a next time, they would win.  The losers came out victorious.

But after a slow start and a catalogue, a veritable cornucopia of World Leaders and Experts had pontificated on the dangers of us children daring to venture out of the garden gate, things started to hot up.  Nigel started banging on about Immigration, controlling our borders and getting our country back; the Official Leave campaign tried to ignore him but then had to join in as all this Nationalistic xenophobia proved really popular.  And the tsunami grew and hit the shore with force, sweeping away Dave and George, and even Boris refused to stand up, Nigel waved bye-bye, Gove got stuffed, markets and the pound sank and then rose again, predictions of disaster were slightly overstated.

And now it has all gone quiet.  A new Prime Minister, new Chancellor, new policies – almost a new Government.  And even the row in the Labour party seems to have quietened down.   It is all as if nothing really happened.  Calm again after the storm; the people have spoken, the order has been changed and life goes placidly on….for the moment.

Advice to Young Children

Friday 29th July

  • – Play With Your Toys….all your life, if possible. Always keep your toys handy; of course you may have to hide them sometimes, especially when you get married.  But play with them often, this is the best state to be in – the world of the imagination.  Toy cars are far safer than the real ones and just as much fun to drive too.  Dressing up dollies is much more interesting than trying on real clothes; dolly always looks pretty and won’t be criticised for being too fat or too thin.
  • – Don’t Rely Too Much On Technology….it will change faster than you can keep up and sooner or later you will be left behind; that i-pad of Mum’s may look cool but believe me it will be an antique soon. Try to rely on real things, simple machines which work without batteries are a good place to start.  Get your hands on old-fashioned tools, a hammer and a saw, a spade and a trowel –they will give you far more satisfaction than anything electronic.
  • – Read Books….even on kindle. Especially fiction, which happens to be far more truthful and honest than any internet search for facts ever is.  Lose yourself in the inner world of words, absorb the ideas of others; discover real emotions that you have to share, by reading and relishing stories of other people’s lives.
  • – Buy A House….as soon as possible, you may well need help from Mum and Dad, but a roof over your head is the best survival tool in the harsh economic world you are about to enter. And worse comes to worse, you will have somewhere to rest your weary head.
  • – Laugh A Lot…. especially whenever you look in the mirror. You will discover much later on that life is really a joke, often at your own expense, so learn to laugh – at yourself and with others.  Laughing is far more fun than crying, but don’t be afraid to cry either.
  • – Get Lots Of Sex…. it is probably the only thing that will still be free when you get old enough, and as long as your partners are willing, go for it. Discover how to please someone else and you will be happy yourself.  Remember – most old people regret not getting enough sex when they were still young and attractive enough.
  • – Try To Leave The World A Better Place….to be honest there isn’t much you can do to change things, but have a go anyway; the struggle is good for the soul. Involve yourself in the World, be interested in how things are developing and if you don’t like it then protest, organise yourself and try to make things better.  You probably won’t – but hey, that’s life.
  • – Don’t Take Advice From Old People….especially those who write blogs, they know nothing.

The Madness of the Night Markets

Thursday 28th July

The first two or three were fairly quiet, not too many stalls and not too many people.  But now we are in full swing; hundreds and probably a thousand or more people stream into the town, it is almost as if there is an escalator carrying them up from another level and disgorging its load at the ends of the roads leading into the square.

Monsieur Moules et Frites is right next to us and the queue forms before seven and doesn’t die down until after 9.30, the three big moules pots being replenished with mussels wine and spices at regular intervals.  We are quite busy at the Café serving mostly cold drinks and ice creams, a few coffees and glasses of wine.  We seem to be a magnet for our friends who, like iron filings attach themselves to our few tables, bottles and glasses of wine appear at regular intervals and we jump up to look after the occasional customers.

The real madness is in the square itself – it is full of stalls selling clothes and nick-nacks, hats, soap, pottery – and in fact anything and everything you never knew you wanted.  There are pizza, barbequed duck, chicken and chips, a very good vegetarian stall, crepes, candy-floss (barbe de papa), cakes, toffee apples and donuts (chighis) and a few wine stalls too.  And they are all doing business, tourists and residents alike opening their wallets and eating and drinking and buying presents for the children, teenage girls having their hair braided, women buying jewelry,   Slowly and almost imperceptibly the tide turns and people start leaving – back down the escalators we presume.  We close up around 10.30 and walk back through the square, which now in semi-darkness is still busy; the Café de Paris is packed with drinkers who will be there until the small hours of the morning.

And yet the next day the square is empty and clean, it looks just like usual – you would never have known that the madness had happened just a few hours ago.

P – is for Pink Floyd – The Classic Years

Tuesday 26th July

Well, despite my meeting them in ’67, Pink Floyd made several more records, but they were hardly making waves any more; they had become almost an irrelevant side issue in all the new music of the late sixties and early seventies.  Syd Barrett became reclusive and Dave Gilmour, an old friend became lead guitarist and they continued making records of interesting but not exciting music – Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Meddle and a soundtrack album ‘Obscured by Clouds’.  I still liked them but was getting a bit bored with their noodlings.   Then in 1973 they released Dark Side of the Moon; it was a wonderful record – ostensibly about madness and isolation but full of brilliant melodies and superb music.  It went on to be a million seller and still sells all over the world forty years later.  They had somehow discovered themselves; after years of practicing they had found their sound and style.  Roger Waters increasingly bitter lyrics softened by Dave Gilmour’s guitar and always there Rick Wright’s splendid understated keyboards.  They also introduced another trade mark, the inter-track sounds and voices somehow linking together all the songs.

They followed this with Wish You Were Here, a call to the now disappeared Syd.  Another triumphant success, and I think that this record is slightly better than Dark Side, especially Shine On You Crazy Diamond which is reprised at the end.  They toured extensively and became mega, and yet almost reclusive still, stars (they rarely appeared on their record covers and gave almost no interviews) letting the music speak for them.  Animals, a record I have never loved followed and in 1979 came “The Wall”.

This grew from a small concept into a huge double album recording a character ‘Pink’ who becomes a huge star and in the process build a wall around himself, blaming his mother, schoolteachers, the early death of his father and his wife for the state he was in.  He eventually is ‘tried’ and then tears down the wall and liberates himself.  All paranoid nonsense – but I loved it.  Gerald Scarfe created filmed cartoons and the whole show went on the road where a wall was actually built between the band and the audience as the show went on.  During the making of the record Rick Wright became more and more disillusioned and practically left the band at this time and the band would itself implode during the making of the next record, which ironically was called ‘The Final Cut’……

See original image

The Italians Are Here

Monday 25th July

A couple of weeks ago we first got notice that there was going to be an Italian Market in Eymet.  We didn’t really know what to expect, but a few days ago some tents were being erected in the Parc Gabriel.  This is also the venue for the Thursday Gourmande evenings and come Thursday there was indeed some confusion; was the Gourmande going ahead or not.  As it happened it did, though there were fewer tables and chairs, and the whole thing felt a bit cramped and disjointed.

The Italian Market officially opened this weekend, it is a few tents with Parma Hams and cooked meats, Amaretti biscuits, Pannetones and wines and large Restaurant and a jewelry tent.  But a couple of times a day there is a parade by three or four masked and beautifully adorned Venetian characters slowly parading and twirling through the town square.  Everyone rushed to be photographed alongside them and they were quite spectacular.  And last night we had a meal in the tent.  It was only pizza or pasta and not that exceptional, but it was nice to be sitting in the park and eating a proper meal.  The waiters were all middle-aged Italian men who looked and acted as if they would far rather be somewhere else entirely; that serving us French and English was quite a bore.  Still, we had a good time and the whole Italian market will be over on a few days time.

There seems to be much more cross-cultural movement here in continental Europe.  After all France does border 7 countries and 9 if you count Monaco and Andorra, whereas poor old UK only has Ireland and France, and you mostly have to cross a stretch of water to get to either.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons we have always had a semi-detached (soon to be completely detached) relationship with Europe; that and our far closer cultural ties with America of course.  Anyway, we will return to the Italiian market in the days to come and stock up on some of that Pannetone and cheese.

The Bombay Busserie

Sunday 24th July

The French don’t really get curry, their version is always bland, but a recent addition to the scene here in this little corner of South West France is the Bombay Busserie.  And it is a real bus; one of those short single deckers, that has been converted into a fast food van.  Although when I say fast, I mean actually quite slow.  It is gradually becoming established and for the last few Saturday nights has been outside the bar in a small village a few kilometers away called Allemans sur Dropt.  And there is music too; our friend Kenny sings Blues and Rock’n’Roll and plays harmonica and vocal duties are shared by James Anderton who has been on the West End stage and has a more varied repertoire even including a bit of Opera.

The food is really good, even if you have to order and pay for it and then wait until the food is cooked and your name is called  – usually about an hour.  They do three types of curry – Madras for Men, Bhuna for Women and Korma for those who don’t really know what a curry should be – hahaha; and you can have lamb, chicken or vegetable.  There are also onion bhajis, samosas and naan bread.  And it is pretty good too, almost approaching an English High Street curry cooked by Indians, Pakistanis or Bangla-Deshis, but surprisingly this is cooked by an English couple.  So, we settle back, have a glass of wine and listen to Kenny and James and eventually get our curry.  Strange that we have come all the way to South West France to get a decent Indian curry cooked by English people.

And Now We Have The Threat Of Deselection

Saturday 23rd July

Some of you may have gained the impression that I am a rabid left-winger, but that isn’t really true.  I suppose I would describe myself as Soft Left.  In my youth I would have welcomed a Revolution and been one of the first to man the barricades.  However I have seen too often the abuse of power and have maybe mellowed a bit over the years.  A year ago, during the Labour Leadership Contest I at first supported Andy Burnham who came second, but I was amazed at how Jeremy articulated the arguments better and became the favourite.  A part of me really liked what he was saying – but there was always this huge elephant of doubt in the room.  Jeremy just didn’t sound or look like a potential Prime Minister. Well he won, but that doubt still exists – only more so as time goes on.

I almost despair at the situation we find ourselves in, a Parliamentary party at war with the elected Leader and most of the members.  Both sides are guilty of stubbornness; they need to really sit down and talk to each other, but this has been tried by Tom Watson and the Unions and it hasn’t worked.   And now into the mix has come the threat of deselecting M.P.s who disagree with Jeremy (or the movement he leads).  I was around in the early Eighties when a similar situation was happening – and it all ended badly, until Neil Kinnock knocked a few heads together and saved the party from self-destruction even if he lost two elections and it took eighteen years for Labour to get re-elected.

I don’t believe that most M.P.s are simply self-serving and right-wing, but many of them are realists, to threaten to de-select them simply because they disagree with you smacks of Dictatorship.  You can spout all sorts of wonderful slogans and promises in Opposition but until you gain power you can change nothing.  And unfortunately we live in a Media dominated world where unless you sound convincing to the general public you will get nowhere.  I think we are in for at least ten more years of Tory rule; not because people love them but because Labour has been seen as unrepresentative and disunited and are fighting their battles in the full glare of TV, it is almost a nightly soap-opera at the moment.  So, I am probably going to vote for Owen Smith; at least he looks and sounds as if he is competent and is from the same section of the party as I find myself – to the left of the centre, but not too far left.


2066 – Janek is still in a bad way

Friday 22nd July

Record date 20661118

Attempting once again to depress the keys by power of thought alone, but it is too hard.  Back to finger-typing, I still cannot talk so lip-reading is no use either.  The screen is sympathetic and tells me to take my time.  Everyone has suddenly become sympathetic, they are treating me as some sort of invalid, which is maybe what I am.  Makes a change I suppose.  And is that fear I can read in their shifting eyes, that staring into a space just behind my left ear rather than into my eyes.  What do they think?  That I will be angry with them, that I blame them somehow.  No, I do not blame them.  Are you reading this William?  I do not blame any of you.  I do not even blame myself.  There is no question of blame, but I would like to understand just what the fuck is happening.

I cannot talk, I am wheeled around in a wheelchair because my legs are not doing what my feeble brain is telling them to do, I cannot retain any thoughts, at least none that I can remember, and I have a dull deep low throbbing ache at the back of my brain.  It never lets up; it has almost become my friend.  I ask myself if this will be temporary, if like after my first conjoining I will re-learn all of these functions, and I am strangely sublime.  It doesn’t, nothing actually, seems to matter.  I still sleep most of the day, though I am waking by myself for an hour or so every four.  Or so they tell me.  So, is that progress?  I do not know.  I don’t really feel that different in myself.  I still think I am Janek Smith, but that doesn’t seem so important either.   I cannot access, but can remember recently reading, the data banks of the Hypercom I was conjoined with.  But now it is like a white brick wall.  Shiny white bricks whenever I go there, quite pretty but definitely solid bricks.  I stand before them and gaze up and up and they go on forever.  An amazing structure, I wonder who built it.

But it must have been me, there is no-one else in here with me.  I am like a small wonder-filled child wandering around in my own mind, picking up small pieces of debris, turning them round in my hand and dropping them back.  I cannot remember if they are the same pieces I examined yesterday.  It doesn’t seem to bother me though.  The only thing that annoys me is this headache.  I know they are giving me drugs to dull the pain, but they simply dull my senses even further.  They are also pumping me with wonder-nutrients, known for improving the damaged brains of accident victims.  And that is what I am.  An accident victim.  They must have got the settings wrong.  Maybe it was a mistake to try for a total transference in one attempt, but I was one of those asking for it.   You see, I can still remember stuff from before my conjoining, not so clearly, a bit blurred, foggy, the sound dampened down a bit.  It is simply that I do not seem capable of remembering anything since then.

But William, for I know you are reading this, don’t worry.  All knowledge is useful.  Do not give up on ‘select’.  Do not give up on me.  I will get better, but it may take some time.  For now, that is enough.  I want to, I need to, sleep again.  Next time, why not talk to me face to face, like we used to.  You once asked me if you could be my friend.  Why not, William?   I could do with a friend just now.  For now, that’s all I want to say.

The Summer Is In Full Swing

Thursday 21st July

We had a wet Winter and an even wetter spring, or so it seemed to us here, praying for some sunshine, some little glimpse of hope that Summer might be on its way.  And suddenly a couple of weeks ago the sun seemed to break through the cloudy skies and we have bathed in sunshine.  In fact of course it has been too hot.  We humans are never satisfied are we?  And the Summer Festivals and Night Markets and Gourmande evenings are upon us too.  We struggle to actually have a quiet night in, especially as this week we have my parents and my sister and her partner.  We will be eating out every evening, mostly in the open air, in parks or squares.  The clocks are an hour later here too, so it is still light at 9.30 and even at ten it isn’t quite dark yet which makes these evenings so pleasant.

And we seem to have been thrust suddenly into Summer, and yet there seem to be fewer tourists around than in previous years. Maybe a bit of Brexit, or news of petrol shortages or the euro exchange rate.  Anyway, we are all enjoying the sunshine – come what may.