Dimitri Bland from Bland, Bland and Sham was actually not a bad sort and advised me thoroughly over many pints of beer. He was a young man, a scion of the Bland dynasty on his way up. Frankly I never saw him as being particularly jurisprudent but rather a quiet, thoughtful fellow who never refused a Lager and elicited not the slightest alarm at my rabid appearance. We undertook to fit as much debauchery into his schedule while he was in London and from then on we were firm friends.
I doubt whether either of us could perceive the source of this mutual attraction but we were always happy to see each other. Later in life he was retained as both proctor and drinking companion. I am sure you can imagine, dear reader, that Dimitri Bland was occupied to his full capacity in this regard.
After the loss of Penelope I carried on the fraudulent life of a gutter snipe for a little while longer but my heart was no longer in it. I graduated from the Spade School of Art without distinction, or at least without the distinction they had in mind, and then bored myself to distraction at Marseilles for a month and a half participating in a pointless relationship with a beautiful but vacuous design undergraduate from Belgium.
I met up with my mother briefly in London when she sang Wagner’s Brunhilde at the The Royal Opera in 1979. She was one of the few who could do it justice. Of course, she was magnificent but gave me fairly short shrift when she received me in her dressing room. Before I could say how much I enjoyed her performance she said a Duke somebody or other was picking her up and she had to go immediately. She glanced at me without favor, touched my sleeve briefly and left me to be shown out by a stage hand. She was not a good mother this much I knew from an early age but unaccountably I shed a few tears, for both myself and her, in the cab back to my digs in Shepherds Bush.
Though Portnoy’s complaint was not one that I enjoyed at that juncture, I was in complete accord with Roth’s sentiments. He described the very world my youth permitted. There was an unassailable truth to his particular genus of angst and I suddenly acquired a taste for reading novels. Wilde, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Salinger, Greene, Highsmith, Irving, Doctorow, an indecipherable pinch of Pynchon, Vonnegut, Orwell, Capote, Wilson, Yates, Wolfe and the list goes on.
I was a sponge for the stuff to the point of jettisoning the spikes and Doc Martins for the ‘American in Paris’ look. All Loafers, pale pullovers and louche cum sardonic image, ‘the whole nine yards’ as someone from over there once said. I read Dorian Gray one spooky London night and I felt the cold curse of Narcissus touch me. I did my best not to look too deeply at my reflection. I suspect when I did, the person staring back was the very definition of self loathing.
The next few years saw me rambling about the world becoming involved in one asinine imbroglio after another. I was arrested in Portugal when I attempted to extricate my hands from beneath the brassiere of a Tapas Bar waitress who had accidentally fallen on top of me whilst serving Crab Empanado’s to a table of Algerian snake milkers with whom I was discussing my recent bereavement. In Delhi I was accused of the crime of “rendering a cow unfit for reverence”. In Florence I hid in a convent disguised as a nun for eleven months because I was the subject of a Swedish extradition order on a charge of “copulation with a woman under thirty without a condom”.
Though the Swedish lady failed to be got with child, the coltish convent cook, Sister Isabella, on the other hand left the convent inconvenienced by a bun in the oven. The happy event coincided precisely with my abrupt departure. Then there were the dreadful events which occurred in Bolivia involving a shipment of ancient Incan artifacts. By reasons of still pending litigation, I am unable to discuss that matter further. Dimitri has been running interference on some of these outstanding issues for decades.
In November 1982 following some correspondence from the redoubtable Dimitri I was summoned by my mother, Giselda to attend to family matters and for want of anything better to do, I decamped for Paris.
Apparently my parents had purchased an apartment on the Rue du Bac – Musée d’Orsay and when I arrived at the address provided. I was astonished to find that ’apartment’ barely passed as a description. It was situated on the entire top floor of an elegant sixteenth century building. It was an enormous pile furnished in Belle Époque style of over seven hundred square metres in the 7th Arrondissement next door to the Louvre.
In the fiscally desperate days of the early Eighties when agricultural markets ditched and interest rates propelled entire economies into a tailspin the price of this abode would make a bankers ears bleed. It appeared that the hotel business boomed as farmers necked themselves.
The maid showed me to a room extraordinary of size and elaborate of decoration the least of which was a particularly salacious Carravagio, I later learnt, was entitled ‘The Corruption of the Inncocents’. It was clear that not a single of the many entwined bodies depicted in this piece of blatant fifteenth century pornography suggested anything remotely innocent. Another wall sported a priceless twelfth century tapestry and yet another a large bay window above a plush seat that commanded a view across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower.
I had never been to Paris and the view from this portal was as sublime as one might have anywhere in the world. Much of the ensuing months were spent admiring the city from this seat and reading the works of Hermann Hesse. ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is always associated with Paris for me.
The first evening I spent entirely alone in the lofty mansion except for the maid Brigitte. There were instructions as to my choices of comestibles and liquor and the comely Brigitte made sure I wanted for nothing. I slept better than I had for some time and when I awoke it occurred to me that perhaps my heart had mended as best it could from the loss of Penelope.
I found my mother in the parlor. It had been about three years since we had set eyes on each other and I can’t say that it was an encounter noted for its warmth but nor was it acrimonious. I had long known that an association with my parent that would meet normal expectations was not possible whether I desired one or not.
‘Your father is coming tomorrow.’ She said. ‘He will be accompanied by your half-brother Shane’
So that is your lot for the moment. I am writing it all down furiously as I remember it although perhaps I have been too kind in regard to my mother’s behavior.
There seems to be some suggestion that I took advantage of the maid in Paris. Completely unfounded – it is just your filthy mind.
I swear the breasts of the Tapas bar waitress were unharmed or at least barely bruised. If you believe I had done anything to promote the ‘accident’, think again.
The Incan artifacts were fakes and I had nothing to do with it anyway.
All will be revealed about Shane next time.
Comment without fear or favour. I expect some of you think my behaviour reprehensible but I was young and much can be forgiven of the young…..or not.