Look Back

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Look back … and if you don’t like what you see then improve on it. It’s your story after all.

I went to my storage unit. I didn’t need a storage unit until a month ago. I was renting a garage. The garage was great. It was right next to my work place. It was really cheap. But now the woman painter who owns it has been sued for harassing the porter so she’s had to sell the garage to pay for her defence. I don’t really mind because this simple arrangement had gone pear-shaped – well more sort of bike-shaped. Her fancy man [who’d promised to keep her bike in good repair – say no more] had taken to storing part or whole of his fancy man’s fancy bikes in the garage. First one, then two, then five. My belongings were crammed into a dark corner, piled on top of eachother. The decision to find the case for my Les Paul guitar to take it to a studio became ‘I’ll have to invent a folding guitar so I don’t need to get the case for the Les Paul, cos it’s in the garage under 29 boxes of CDs’. So after I did that, I decided that finding a storage cage was easier than suing her for breach of contract, reckoning that she would have some hot shot lawyer on board re the porter by now and I was doomed. It would also be easier than going through the whole process of designing, inventing, manufacturing, getting patents [which is what I had to do for the guitar] every time I thought I might need something and then I’d remember it was in the garage.

The process of moving everything to the store, if you’ve ever done it, is quite cathartic and a little unnerving. You can throw away all sorts of junk, on the basis that if it’s been buried in your garage for 6 years you can probably do without it. You’re then left with the nagging doubt that you may have thrown away something that you will find desperately upsetting when you get like all old people seem to get – fearful, vulnerable, sentimental and hoarding.

Anyway, I evidently had not thrown away the personal letter from Francoise Hardy – like anyone would ever throw away a personal letter from someone whose picture he gazed at from his bunk bed every night age 14 with his hands firmly down his pyjama trousers.

When I met Francoise she was 52. But of course the majic of mid-life onset blindness is that as long as things sound the same they look the same. Since Francoise’s voice had not changed one jot, what stood before me in the studio was a sulky, big mouthed teenage idol with long fringe, black jumper, jeans, bare feet and je ne sais quoi in cartloads.

My job that day? To sneak into the studio early with Francoise, just the two of us, and finish her vocals before Malcolm Maclaren turned up at midday to ‘go through a few ideas’. To my immense joy, it had turned out Francoise was petrified of Malcolm. No surprise there frankly. So, united in deceit and forged in a bond of protector and fearful maiden, I thrived big time!!

We got the vocals done. They were great. [Spotify ‘Revenge of the flowers’ if you’re so inclined.]. Malcolm arrived with a dirty brown envelope, a bottle of champagne, two  film projectors, an odd person dressed entirely in army camouflage and a trans-sexual counter tenor from Eton. ‘ok I’ve got a few ideas for the vocals here’.

as Francoise cowered, crouching  behind my legs, arms wrapped around my thighs [you’d better believe it boys] , I assumed my most masculine pose … legs a foot or so apart, knees slightly bent, arms relaxed at my sides, palms facing forwards, head slightly cocked - ‘no problem, Malcolm. Vocals all taken care of.’ ‘Oh good, fine, well I’ll go off to lunch then’ and the entourage sans projectors and envelope headed off to Les Deux Magots. French women have the sexiest way imaginable of doing ‘Phew!’ it’s lips together, then blow out the breath while slackening the shoulders and going ‘buoff!’ Francoise obliged, then laughed, then kissed me on the mouth, then laughed again, then did a little dance, then kissed me again … then buggered off with a 32 year old Alain Delon lookalike who’d been lurking in the door for the past ten minutes and who was, apparently, going to discuss her video with her back at her place.

If I had a euro for every bloody 32 year old Alain Delon lookalike who’s pitched up at a studio to whisk off the beautiful singer, old enough to be his auntie, to discuss the video – well I’d have as much as Rio Ferdinand spends on horrible jackets and useless ripoff massive Beats rubbish headphones in a year..

But two weeks later, in my London office, the fax machine whirred and a hand written thank you note from Francoise Hardy to ‘The dear polite Englishman’ dropped onto the carpet.

Having re-found this fax I became so alarmed that it must be fading by now, that I went straight to PC world. I’ve just spent a fortune on a huge, professional, 6000 x 12000 pixel scanner printer copyer so I can scan it in, get someone to photoshop it to push the contrast, then store it in 3 different data locations. I do want to have something for my GRAND DAUGHTER to be able to read me in the care home “REMEMBER THIS GRANDAD! IT’S A LETTER FROM A FRENCH POP STAR FROM THE 1960’S TO YOU I THINK?” “ah yes” I’ll reply hoarsely through thick breath, eyes shining for a moment “Francoise…she was a really great fuck”

Where is this story going? It’s a moral tale. Don’t give up all your memories because you can embellish them at will later and so give yourself the life you always wanted but maybe never quite got. If what happened was crap, invent a better version. It’s just as likely to be true as what you think you really remember.

Robin.