I spent my days drawing naked women with barely a carnal thought entering my head because, come evening, I would be in the arms of my delicious Penelope. We bonked in cupboards, we banged on doorsteps, we fornicated on lawns, we copulated in trains and we reached seventh heaven in the laundry. We coupled on the floor, on the table, on the lavatory. Once we fucked in the pulpit of St. Simians Cathedral in Wessex while the priest snored in the confessional. Occasionally we even conjoined in a bed.
What a time it was, but it was not to last. One night, after a demanding thrash at the Pint and Punch on High Street, my Penelope was bitten on her delectable derriere. We found ourselves in a disused lot, enjoying what is tantrically referred to as the Passion Pretzel on a brick-pallet. The murderer was a Saw-scaled Viper, the most venomous snake in the world. This was a first because the species had hitherto been unheard of in Britain, being a native of India and eventually apprehended enjoying the sun on a nearby discarded chaise lounge. A determination was made, the slithery beast had been shipped over in a container of Brinjal Pickle. This theory was the result of some clever detective work on the part of Seraphina ‘Smelly’ Sock, a customs officer of under stimulated talents. The stowaway serpent had come in contact with my beloved in the vicinity of the London docks and it reeked of fermented aubergines. I never forgot the remarkable Seraphina and had reason to call upon her expertise at a later date.
These facts, however, were no consolation to me or my dear girl who could not be saved and died of a brain hemorrhage after three days in a coma. I fell into a funk of grief. I wept and wept for days on end. I attended her funeral on a bleak and rainy London day. Her parents did not know me and I suppose they must have wondered who this spiky, troubled teenager was keening over their twenty six year old daughter. For once suspicion did not fall on me.
I continued my studies in a desultory cloud of grief and anger. I became more punk than the punks. Truth be told, it was a milieu suiting my tastes remarkably well. I screwed myself silly with a succession of less than satisfactory heroin addicts until I procured a dose of scabies that left me reeling. For weeks I was a seething mass of diabolically itching pustules. I rose in the mornings with my sheets spotted with blood and spent the day trying to find ways to limit the scratching to something less than perpetual. Eventually, I overcame the pox with a few white scars that only enhanced my reputation in the underworld.
I was still favoured by my parents with a monthly stipend. In time, they discovered their offspring was in the process of bringing the family moniker into disrepute once again. and dispatched their lawyer to remonstrate on their behalf. This lawyer was Dimitri Bland; a young man who became involved in my life thence forward.
Dimitri Bland from Bland, Bland and Sham was 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. I never saw him as being particularly jurisprudent but rather a bookish, 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, 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 college without distinction and then bored myself to distraction at Marseilles for a week 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 Carmen at the The Royal Opera. Of course, she was magnificent but gave me 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 favour, 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 nevertheless 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 I enjoyed at this juncture, I was in complete accord with Roth’s sentiments. There was an unassailable truth to his particular genus of angst and I acquired a taste for reading novels. Wilde, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Salinger, Greene, Highsmith, Irving, Doctorow, an indecipherable pinch of Pynchon, Vonnegut, 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 inclinations, ‘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 Empanada’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 with my abrupt departure. Then there were the dreadful events which occurred in Colombia involving a shipment of ancient Mayan artefacts. By reasons of still pending litigation, I am unable to discuss the matter further. Dimitri has been running interference on some of these outstanding issues for decades.
Following some correspondence from the redoubtable Dimitri I was summoned by my mother, Giselda to attend to vaguely alluded to family matters and for want of anything better to do, I decamped for Paris. 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 ’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 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 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 salacious Carravagio, I later learned, was entitled ‘The Corruption of the Innocents’. It was clear not a single one of the many entwined bodies depicted in this piece of blatant fifteenth-century pornography suggested anything remotely innocent. Needless to say, I coveted the great work the moment I laid eyes on it. Another wall sported a priceless tapestry and yet another a large bay window above a plush seat commanding 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.