November 15, 2010

Last Tango?

Warning, to spare you the boredom of reading further, this post is of a personal nature and probably only of interest to friends.

After Paris, I returned to Turks & Caicos. I would give myself a daily lecture. Buck up. Just because your health has failed doesn’t mean you are a failure. Just because you have been rejected, does not mean you are worthless and unlovable…

Oh, did I mention that I had spent the last year in and out of a difficult relationship? It once seemed equal parts delightful and complicated, but as we drew closer, it tilted ominously towards painful. I’m sure I wasn’t the first woman to have a liaison with an ambivalent man.

Sounds familiar? It would if you or anyone you know had gone through a breakup and health crisis.

A breakup you choose. Sickness chooses you.

My thoughts morphed into those comic strip clouds of aggregated words. Two big bubbles popped up: Health. Love. I was down two for two.

Working trough the clouds of sadness I spotted another loss. Work. It was always there faithfully demanding my attention, regardless of my private life. Work more than filled up my time. It kept me distracted from painful questions, such as: Do I really want to spend the rest of my days tethered to ambivalence?

Charles would call twice a day charmingly, sweetly punctual.

“How are you today?”


“What are you doing?”


“Keep it up; you’ll be going nowhere fast.”

I prop up Tolstoy at the terrace table-so I could read about Anna Karenina throwing herself under a train.

Actually, I learned very young that I was capable of falling hard, and thus learned almost as early how to protect myself. This trait, I reminded myself, revealed itself long before I got sick.

For a week, I relished feeling sorry for myself. Then I went sailing. I figured, if my strenght gave out before coming back to port, no big loss.

And then faith intervened, again, twice.

Larissa called to say that she was pregnant, unexpected, delighted, and would I be godmother?

And I met Ann and Lars.

One morning getting ready to sail Bijela fell overboard. Before I could pass out from shock Lars who was anchored next to us, jumped into the water, and rescued her before she became shark breakfast.

Thus began our friendship.

One day during lunch Lars said, “You know,” liking nothing better than telling stories, even if he had to make them up, “for the longest time I have been looking for a business partner. I design and manufacture telemetry systems.”

“What are telemetry systems?” I ask.

He explained.

“Did he know I had worked in electronics?”

He knew.


“I went to see Rosa the fortune teller yesterday. She also told me you would be a great addition to my team.” Big Leo smile.

“Did she also tell you that I have M.S.?”

“Yes. No problem. Work the hours you want. The rest will fall into place.”

It did.

That was one powerful fortuneteller. How ‘fortunate’ for me, and thank you Charles.

November 12, 2010

August in Paris.

In the early 1980’s a sequence of events unfolded, a storm, actually, that blew me from the British West Indies to a recording session in Paris, where suddenly Bach to playback had rekindled an obsession with music. I was too stubborn to be wary and threw myself like a lemming off the cliff, despite the warnings of friends.

“Stop trying to be Jacqueline du Pré,” snapped Charles. But the opportunity had come, and I grabbed it. With predictable consequences, I suffered a relapse. My ego was shattered, ripped apart, and scattered. My Don Q. towed me, by now a leaking vessel with torn sails, into port. Well, out to dinner, one creamy Parisian dusk down the banks of the Seine, looking for a restaurant.

Paris had closed down for the month of August. Shops were boarded up restaurants were closed. White shutters shrouded entire buildings into summer tombs. Outside the streets were empty. The air was close, smelling of the sticky sap that oozed from the chestnut and plane trees. There was a wonderful silence during August in Paris, and the distant murmur of traffic or the odd echo of a mobilette straining up some nearby cobbled street.

Don Q. was leaving the next day, and that night we had a farewell dinner. The following morning he left. A friend of his, a young queen came to talk to me, and suggested taking me out that night with his friends.

Round midnight, they arrived in a dreamboat, a Cadillac convertible, driven by a breathtakingly beautiful man. In the rear seat sat two rare specimens of Parisian youth.

We went to the Palace…,

(originally opened as a music-hall in 1923, it was transformed into a cinema at the end of the Second World War. The rather banal history of this establishment though took an abrupt turn with the birth of disco, and when it was reinvented as a nightclub in 1978, a myth was born. Throughout the 1980s it became the Parisian equivalent of New York’s Studio 54, hosting shows by artists such as Grace Jones and the first public appearance of Prince. It was not generally considered a trendsetter though, but rather a jet setter. The focus was not so much on the music but on the people, and it was the nightspot of choice for princes and millionaires, fashion designers and models. For nearly 20 years it was the heartbeat of the Paris night scene, regularly reinventing itself to cater for the Gay crowd, and the younger followers of House and Techno music. Like the Hacienda in Manchester however, it eventually became a victim of changing fashions, with people increasingly seeking out smaller, more specialised locations. It had always been an establishment with a hedonistic reputation, and with moral panics over the supposed substances that people were taking in the 1990s coupled with rises in numbers of complaints from increasingly upmarket neighbours, it was fated to disappear.By 1996, the night clubbers had moved on to other places and the owners went bankrupt).

…and sat in a large booth in the half-empty club. It was Don Q. territory all right. People came and went all evening. They were a good-looking, fast moving crowd and they never stopped laughing, drinking, smoking, and knocking back pills. A handsome Woodstock hippie tottered across the dance floor towards our banquette. He sat down next to me. “Hi, don’t take any of that crap, it’s really bad for you”, he advised. I took his advise. He then managed to chaperon me the rest of the night. In Los Angeles, everyone was surly and cynical; these kids here were having too much fun. Everything about the evening was deja-vu. I realized I was witnessing the last of the glittering Disco era.

I sailed out of the club as the dawn rose behind the slate roofs.

My chaperon had followed me. We stood outside waiting for a taxi. He regarded me with a curious half-smile. “We know each other,” he said, finally. I couldn’t place him. He laughed. “Quad-Eight”, he said. For a second I was back in L.A., and the man before me bore little resemblance to…”A.?” He laughed again. “Maybe. You have my number. Call me sometime,” he blew me a kiss and returned to the unnatural night. It would be twenty years before we meet again.

I got into a taxi and clattered back to the Île Saint-Louis, as the sky turned to a pale summer blue and another long hot lazy day began in the deserted city. I was thinking of Oscar Wilde. He must have limped through the same streets, penniless and toothless, after nights spent chasing grooms and footmen in the Moulin Rouge. I sank into bed, wondering what the wallpaper had been like that inspired his final recorded witticism. (“Well, one of us had to go…”)

That night I decided to move to Paris.

I spent the summer in the South of France in my caravan at a friend’s house. At the end of September, I moved into Brigitte’s apartment. I planned to stay for a few months, but ended up living there for two years. It was a beautiful place, small, discreet, lost in a time warp. A couple looked after me. He a sweet man called Claude, she a witch called Catherine. One day I came into my room to find the two of them poring over my spread of “X” rated Polaroids, from then on the ice was broken.

I cut myself off from the outside world and lived in virtual seclusion. The past disappeared and I felt like a ghost. Being a foreigner is one of the great delights. You are a silent observer. The first year I improved my French. I let conversations wash over me and I could not have been happier.

When Don Q. came back into town, he became my official guide. He introduced me to his Paris circle of acquaintances. They were exotic blooms that lived fast and faded faster. During the short time I lived in Paris, one by one they fell away. However, that first year, they were fresh and shiny. They all thought the train they were on would stop at a convenient station and they could get off. One always does.

My friend Brigitte represented the other end of the social spectrum. Très distingué. Don Q. was always at his best behaviour. He assumed his courtly “Siegfried” demeanor in her company. To him she was Marie Antoinette. Don Q. had managed to secure a location shoot, from one of his ‘cinema friends’, at Brigitte’s clan headquarters. The chatelaine, a delightful tiny lady and Brigitte’s aunt, welcomed us on the morning of the first day of shooting. She was accompanied by her sexy grandson Edouard. Don Q. was at his best behaviour. Nevertheless, I could sense trouble.

An old school French film set was an extremely civilised affair. Filming always began with a delicious lunch. Tables with white tablecloth were set-up in the garden. Wine bottles, baguettes, and flowers decorated the tables. The three-course meal was followed by Camembert and coffee, and slowly the conversation would drift to work.

Friends came and went. The day our friend Larissa arrived, caused a big stir. Edouard was instantly smitten. The chateau was a deeply romantic place. The remains of formal gardens stretched out on all sides towards beautiful woods full of mysteries. Madame could be seen walking with her dog by her side. Don Q. would visit her often for drinks. She called him “Monsieur”, and he called her “Madame”, and their rapport was a film all of its own.

It was of course delightful to be on the other side of Don Q’s schemes of seduction. He loved weaving his web. His eyes glittering at the beauty of his fabrications. He held the crew enthralled. His fantasies very much depended on his moods, and those moods changed with the wind. Luckily he soon tired of the country life and disappeared without a word back to Paris. Larissa and Edouard were married a year later. Don Q. was best man. (Are you paying attention Clive?)

November 09, 2010

"I Love You Friend"

Whether it is the one whom we say vows to-
Father’s heavenly and earthly.
Mothers, brothers, sisters.
Sons, daughters, godchildren.
A beloved Friend.
These words are important.
We need to hear them, we want to know.
I LOVE YOU FRIEND, and all is well with my soul. 

Happy Birthday. May you live all the days of your life.

November 04, 2010


I am not a writer. If I were a writer, I would write a story with a beginning and an end. No, I am just a person with memories… and I only thought about it now, because now is the time of year for remembering.

In the autumn of 1984, I was staying with a friend in the South of France. Driving back from Toulon one day we saw an old gypsy caravan sitting in a field with a For Sale sign beside it. We parked the car and I went to have a look. It stood under a pine tree and was covered in needles. There was no one about and the door was open so I had a look. Inside was a little kitchen, with wooden cupboards, a sitting room, and a bed at the end.

When I was a child, I would spend the last day of the long summer holiday beside the road. I had a small suitcase beside me and a massive plan. When the gypsies would drive by I would join them and run away.

They never came.

I have always secretly longed for a gypsy caravan. When young I explored them at every opportunity and always asked to be permitted to come on board so I could marvel at the ingenious use of space. The gypsies were always indulgent and kind.

My find was falling to pieces but I HAD TO HAVE IT. One condition, a dog came with the caravan. Where was the dog? Nobody knew. A week later, the caravan limped up the steep drive to my friend’s house. It became my holiday place.

The white shadow, as I called her, appeared one morning and just stood and stared solemnly at me. I decided a visit to Madame A., the village gossip, was required to find out more. “O Christ, prends pitie…” she intoned dramatically. Apparently, the owner had died suddenly and left the shadow orphaned.

Un étranger, from the Balkan, said Madame A., an artist, and a very strange person. The dog is very strange too, and Russian.

Apparently. Did the dog have a name?

Yes, something...

Something what? She could not remember.

I called Rene to ask for advice. He gave me a dozen words to try to see if there was a response.

I took my list, found the shadow, and called out the first and in hindsight the most obvious word, “Bijela”. She came, stood, and ever so slightly waged her silky tail.

That night she sat in the corner of the caravan as I lay on the bed. Slowly she began to edge closer. I fell asleep. When I awoke in the middle of the night, she sat next to me, staring at me. Gently she sniffed my hand with her long cool nose, and looked at me with her shining almond shaped eyes. Then, she gave a heartbreaking sigh, wagged her tail, and went to sleep. This was the beginning of a long love.

Bijela remained a white shadow and a dream of a dog. Never once did she bark.

When friend Rudolf first met her they had a long intense conversation, in Russian, naturally. He was very mysterious about it. Finally he revealed her secret. Bijela was the reincarnation of a Balkan princess. "When she stands motionless and stares her soul wanders". "Sometimes", he said, "I go with her". How, I ask. "Oh, she shakes her beautiful white fur and covers me with it and we fly off together".

Imagination and whimsy are the most fun I think. Don't you?

November 01, 2010

How light will be earth (wie leicht wird Erde sein)...


kao što se prolazi prolazi
pa ako se susretne susretne

the way we pass we pass
so if we meet we meet

© 1987 Anka Za, © Translation: 2003, Sibila Petlevski


Jedne od slijedecih godina morat cemo umrijeti, mozda
i odrasti. (Ne zakljucavaj. Ne zakljucuj. Ne sklapaj Knjigu.)

In one of the years to come we are going to be obliged to die, maybe
even grow up. (Don’t lock up. Don’t make your mind up. Don’t shut the Book.)

© 1987, Hrvoje Pejakovic, © Translation: 2003, Sibila Petlevski