Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Electric Unkoolaid Acid Test

It has to be admitted, that in my youth, I have been known to indulge in what the press used to euphemistically call 'certain substances'. It also has to be admitted that I had no great revelations, and that once I'd stopped indulging, I didn't miss them.

The much missed Chairman, however, indulged almost until the minute of his departure from this mortal coil, and his life genuinely appeared enhanced by them. Admittedly for the last 20 years of his life, this had been restriced to what are known as Class C drugs, but earlier he had been quite enthusiastic about the use of hallucenogenics.

Sometime in 1969, before we'd met, and when he had only been in London a very short time, he met up with other friends from the North West, and was very excited to learn that one of them had 'scored some acid'.

Now, this was a first for all of them, and I suppose there must have been some trepidation mixed with the curiosity as they swallowed their LSD impregnated squares of blotting paper, but swallow them they did, and then they wandered around Central London, waiting for something to happen.

I don't know how, but then probably neither did they, but they found themselves on the Victoria Line bound for Walthamstow, a place that not only had none of them visited previously, but they had never heard of either. Anyway, sometime around midnight they found themselves wandering down a street with early Edwardian terraced houses on one side, and a park on the other. In those days, Swinging London had not yet reached the outer suburbs, and a crowd of noisy, long haired northerners wearing brightly coloured kaftans and beads were bound to attract attention.

It wasn't long before the attention they attracted was of the uniformed and helmeted variety. A dark van drew up next to them, and several burly officers tumbled out, searched them and began to ask them questions. When they'd established that nobody was in possession of 'certain substances' - mainly because they'd already consumed them - they tried to establish what they were doing wandering in E17 in the middle of the night. One of the quickest witted of them said they'd been visiting someone in a house in the road. 'Which road?' asked PC number 1. 'This one' another bright spark added 'What's it called?' asked PC number 2. Nobody knew. 'OK' said number 1, 'What number is it?' 'We came back with our mate who lives there' said bright spark. 'OK then', said Number 2 'Which house is it then?'. At which point they all helpfully pointed at different houses in different directions.

I think the Police must have realised that though they were under the influence of a substance of an hallucinogenic nature, they weren't actually committing any offences, but they went through the motions of asking for their names and addresses, and asking for proof of identity. Most of them did in fact have driving licences or other proofs of identity on them except for one chap. 'So how can you prove who you are?' asked they by now bored young policeman. There was what seemed like a long pause, but it was probably only a couple of seconds.

'Look at me, Man' said the Chairman's friend 'That's who I am'.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Secrets and Lies

I don't think I'd realised how bad it had actually become. I knew that somewhere in N W London The Tezter had been a little over exuberant recently, but I hadn't realised exactly how over exuberant that had been.

But there he was, at 9 in the morning, standing on the threshold of my sitting room, screaming excitedly at Dani, my Romanian cleaner 'Tell me about him! Tell me about Prince Vlad Dracul! Tell me about the saviour of Europe!'. And he was wearing the dog lead.

The whole trademark manic-depressive-chic look was in evidence; the religious medals, the black t-shirt worn inside out, the waistcoat, the dog lead worn in the fashion of a Mexican bandelero, and I noticed a new addition to the ensemble - a large black and silver rosary draped around his neck. I also noticed how large and sparkley his eyes appeared behind his spectacles. Almost maniacal one could say.

Dani grinned appeasingly at him, and said that she wasn't very good at history, but she could ask her serious-Romanian-man husband. 'BUT YOU MUST KNOW!!' he shouted as he bounced up and down on the spot 'HE'S YOUR NATIONAL HERO!! THE SAVIOUR OF EUROPE!!'.

I mouthed 'You may as well go now' at poor Dani, while I tried to encourage The Tezter to leave, or sit down, or anything. She managed to sidle out unnoticed, while The Tezter decided to continue the conversation in cod German. This consisted of him speaking in one of those 'Ve haf vays of making you tork' accents so beloved of British and American film actors after WW2. I let him ramble on a bit.

'Where's Dmitri?' he suddenly roared. He rushed to the bottom of the stairs. 'Dimitri where are you, you idle ----er?'. Silence. The sensible Dmitri had probably hidden under the duvet. I heard The Tezter clumping up the stairs. 'Dmitri! Get out of bed you blank!'. 'You're the blank' came a muffled voice from the small bedroom. The Tezter then stood outside Dmitri's room shouting at him in cod French. Imagine a poor imitation of Gerard Depardieu in 'Green Card' and you'll be on the right path. There was no further response. Dmitri had wisely gone to ground.

Clump, clump, clump, clump. And he was back. There was some desultory chat about the esteemed Prince Vlad, ravening hordes etc., and I was able to persuade him to leave.

I heard the front door open. I didn't hear it close. I heard breathing. The Tezter was standing beside me again. 'There's something I must tell you' he said 'Something nobody else knows'. I waited with baited breath. 'The people who brought me up. They weren't my real parents.' he paused, time passed. He took a deep breath, 'My real parents' another pause 'Were' and yet another 'Adolph Hitler and his secretary Traudle Junge'.

And then he was gone.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Gift for my Mother

Today is my mother's birthday.

Of course it isn't really, as she died more than eight years ago, it's actually the anniversary of my mother's birthday. I wonder if the French would call it the 'anniversaire de la anniversaire'.

Still, this is the day when I tried to please her more than other days. Generally I had mixed success.

My mother was a notoriously difficult receivee. The fact that she had expressed a liking for, or a desire to have certain items in the recent past did not mean that she actually wanted them, so my father and I spent weeks trying to work out what she would actually like to own.

She was a small, immaculately groomed lady. She had weighed 7 stone 4 lbs (102 lbs) when she got married, and pretty much the same when she died, although most of her later years saw her at 8 stone 2 lbs (114 lbs), she said she was 5ft 3ins, but became smaller. Nobody was EVER allowed to see her without lipstick. This was such a fetish, that when my cousins went to visit her during her final hours in hospital, when she was unconcious, one of them said that she had to leave the room immediately as 'Auntie would never forgive me for seeing her without lipstick'.

As a young woman in the '30s, she had been a showroom model (or mannequin as they then said), modelling costumes (suits) and mantels (coats) for shop buyers, and she 'modelled' every item she wore for the rest of her life. Her clothes weren't necessarily expensive, but they always looked as thought they were. In her latter years she took to wearing her silver hair in an immaculte and sophisticated French pleat, and, because of an eye condition, dark glasses indoors and out. She turned what would have been a trial to most people into a 'look'. She had chic.

Anyway, back to the gift giving. A gift for my mother should combine the following ingredients. It should be, useful, durable, fashionable, and, unexpected. No problem there. In the past I had bought her bijoux crystal ware from Libertys, gloves from Fenwicks, and new and exciting kitchen equipment from John Lewis. None of these had been a resounding success.

So eventually I hit upon what I suppose was my own holy trinity. Perfume, chocolates, and a plant (she considered flowers to be a disappointment as they faded too soon). I will digress for a minute to tell you a little more about her. She didn't like alcohol and she had a small appetite. Her idea of a large meal was a smoked salmon sandwich on wholemeal bread (crusts removed), 6 black olives, and 2 or 3 dark chocolates. So, her birthday gift would consist of a bottle of perfume, something 30s and powdery like Coty L'aimant, or more sophisticated like Madame Rochas, a box of dark, dark chocolates, and a shiny, leafy, pot plant.

Anyway, today her present consists of the mixed memories we all have of those who have gone ahead.

So, happy birthday, mum, with love from me and Katy.