(Muriel Belcher by Francis Bacon)
Hi! It’s Candia again. I’ve been festively overwrought and last night I fell asleep listening to Irma Kurtz on Radio 4’s ‘Something Understood.’ She had constructed a compilation on La Vie Boheme, mentioning La Rive Gauche, Greenwich Village and The Colony in Soho, owned by Muriel Belcher, where Francis Bacon was paid to bring along interesting guests who were on an ‘odyssey of creativity’.
As a student, I had worn a cape and affected a feathered hat until my dad told me to tie my hair back and remove the offending headgear.
Then I woke upto someone singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas with a voiceover chiding John Humphrys with a reminder that there were more things on Heaven and Earth than had been permitted in his philosophy. Rather surreal to have the announcement of Bradley Wiggins as Sports Personality of the Year juxtaposed with cosmology and moral philosophy at 8am.
I had a somewhat unusual request yesterday, Dear Reader. A visitor asked if he could have a guest appearance in my blog. And who is this budding self-publicist? I hear you wonder aloud. Eh bien, he was a rather elegant Frenchman that I introduced to Costamuchamoulah’s café society via une promenade round the aspirational, but pas trop authentique Francophile Sunday morning market in our beloved ville. This event of global significance was ‘appening on the High Street. (Why do I always think in terms of Gorden Kaye’s Franglais when I am narrating anything of Gallic content?) Anyhow, it was with un soupcon of Rousseau’s irony that I directed said gentilhomme’s footsteps down the less than sunny side of the street to Suttonford’s burgeoning version of Maxim’s.
We did not recognise anything remotely familiar to this European voyageur in le marche and so I headed him off past the bookshop-alas, not Shakespeare & Co, with a resident Jeanette Winterson, but to the cosmopolitan hub of Suttonford’s Café Society. On the way across the street my boulevardier remarked approvingly on various expensive vehicles, parked in bays, which screamed mid-life crisis.
He seemed more interested in the clientele, though the owners of Costamuchamoulah have not yet cottoned on to the device employed by Cornuche, the proprietor of Maxim’s, who remarked:
An empty room! Never! I always have a beauty sitting in the window, in view from the [pavement]
Here it is more like Novello’s version of the experience: And Her Mother Came Too!
(There are one or two widows, but not necessarily of the ‘merry’ variety.) Woody Allen was distinctly absent, but there were no Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds,(sic) at least.
Ensconced in a corner, at an unwiped table and on hard chairs- not the sumptuous banquettes which might reveal hidden treasures lost down the cushions- we ordered our upwardly mobile beverages, while he showed me photographs of his international girlfriends on his Blackberry – ( is that Murier, I me demande?) Monsieur was keen to exhibit pictures of himself in Les Deux Magots. Was this a kind of Parisian, urban, if not urbane, Crocodile Dundee equivalent of showing me that THAT was a café, in the same way as Paul Hogan had demonstrated the superiority of his jungle knife? Whatever. I was miffed that he had assumed that I would not have heard of such an establishment, so beloved by les philosophes, let alone having patronised it with my custom.
Les Deux Magots has thankfully nothing to do with maggots. Un magoh was the slang term for a miser. I don’t think misers would search out the pitchers of decadent hot chocolate found therein, nor would they pay their prices to see Oscar Wilde, Mallarme, Rimbaud etc. In Costamuchamoulah, we pay the prices, but don’t see Apollinaire, Verlaine or Hemingway. Apparently, Pippa Middleton might have breezed through, though I don’t know whether it was to check the sales of her book which is displayed beside the edible ladybirds and so froth. Pun. Formidable rear isn’t la meme chose as formidable intellect, in my book at any rate.
But to my tale- pas Perrault, but tant pis! Ah yes, I remember it well. The Husband and I slipped on the glacial trottoirs of St Germain- des- Pres, in the days when he went out, seeking the church of St Sulpice with its Rose Line and gnomen, but thankfully with no resident albino monk assassins. The fountain was frozen and great slabs of sheet ice almost prevented us from venturing to the Café de Flore or Deux Magots, for it was the Advent season, as it is now. Ah, those were the days and nights of Angelina’s and other beau monde haunts, where we expected to encounter Mimi, Manon, Musetta and Rodolfo and perhaps, if we were very blessed, Proust himself. Mimi had wanted to lose her senses and Musetta had forgotten the regulation of their economies and had asked the boys to order champagne. We were a little less extravagant.
For that is the problem with such cafes of Enlightenment. Before you know it you are emptying your bank balance, merely to see and be seen.
My current companion looked around the room, panning the four corners for a barefoot Brigitte Bardot perhaps, but his eye fell upon a smart blonde woman in her fifties. Quel surpris! He confessed that young girls were not for him. Like Cocteau, he was well aware that:
..to undress one of those women [would be] like an outing that calls for 3 weeks’ advance notice…it [would be] like moving house.
So, it was on my first sip of Mocha that I had the flashback, the Epiphany-and it came without the madeleine. I will enlighten you further.