from the FPG Chronicles / Paris

Updated on June 16, 2020
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Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....



At one of the Glastonbury festivals we were trailed by a beautiful French woman. As dawn broke she approached us and offered her address, somewhere southeast of Toulouse, and promised us accommodation if we ever made it that far. She added that there was a sizeable and thriving counter culture community down there which, she was emphatic, would be pleased to see us and be very supportive of what we were playing and doing. I took her note and filed it under W for Why Not?

We ruminated on the possibility over the course of the lengthening nights of the coming winter. As the hump of winter darkness passed and spring seemed within reach, we counted our money and reckoned we could just about busk our way there and be back in time for the festivals. I had additional incentives in the form of trying to track down old friends I hadn’t seen for years - especially my buddy Wali who had married a Catalan woman and established a pottery in Barcelona.

So, with minimal further planning, we set off for Dover one dark morning, accompanied by my sister Tonia and Ian (the young son of my good friend “Molesworth” Tim) who’d come along for the first leg of the tour. We caught the cross channel ferry and arrived in Paris later that day. I managed to track down my long lost pal Didier Jalon (now long lost again - si tu vois ceci Didier, m’ecris).

I’d met Didier in Corsica years before. He was a tall intense guy with a striking and imperious curiosity about everything. He had the same natural wonderment that I had for the “reality” constantly unfolding around us, but he was much more focussed and determined to understand things. He had become an antique dealer largely because he couldn’t see ancient clapped-out objects and not wonder how they were made or how they worked.

On this occasion he had taken a lease on an enormous decaying building in the Arab quarter and was combining his penchant for accumulating antiques with an entrepreneurial effort to start an illegal club and put on “evenements”. He showed us around the massive place, spread out over about 4 floors - including a cavernous cellar area. Down there were catacombs leading off in different mysterious dimly lit directions.

“Vois ceci,” he said and led us off into one of these dim directions until we were up against a crumbling wall just below the vaguely trafficking street outside. He pointed to a massive cable running in and out of the rubble at the top of the wall which he claimed was the city’s mains electric. He proudly showed us where he had simply hammered a couple of massive nails into that cable and wired them up to the electrics of the entire building. “I pay nussing for mon electricitee,” he said smiling.

It was Didier who inspired one of our FPG strap lines - “Bon a rien”. He regularly referred to dossers and layabouts and police as “good for nussings”. I asked for the French version of this, and the strap line was born. (In the hills of Corsica, if we were ever at a loss for a footpath, he had often said “Follow ze muttons”.)

In the course of that first evening we went out to an Algerian diner and discussed ways we might work together. Later, Tonia, Nick and I found bits of mattress and sofa to roll out our sleeping bags and crash. Ian opted to sleep in the van - which was just as well because he was awoken in the night by teefs trying to break in. He managed a deep-throated “Hey”, and they scarpered. (Good one Ian.)

The next morning we finessed a plan to busk for the following week but also to hand out leaflets advertising a gig at Didier’s “club”.

Worked a treat. Nick and I played the Pompidou and various locations nearby, and Ian and Tonia handed out leaflets. We made some good money and built up to a nice little following for the evening at the weekend. With Didier at the door taking the dosh and running a small bar and Tonia and Ian showing people to seats, Nick and I waited out of sight at the back. The “house lights” went down leaving a small illuminated spot on the low stage at the front. With everybody facing forward, we started playing at the back and strolled up the dark central aisle towards the low light. Got a big round of applause and, later, split a nice little wad of cash with Didier.

Didier's place wasn't far from Place Pigalle where I was struck by the number of absolutely amazing (apparently mostly Brazilian) transvestites. Gorgeous, but with voices in the lower registers when they spoke.

One night he took us on a midnight tour of the Bois de Boulogne, a large beautiful park in the light of day, but a central hang out for soliciting transvestites at night. We joined a slow scattered queue of cars weaving in and out of dimly lit scenarios of potential debauchery, with alleged males looking stunningly seductive in sparse attire and alluring poses as the headlights of the passing cars caressed them. Actual debauchery was apparently taking place a few strides off into the woods where one could catch glimpses of naked bodies engaged in uninhibited groupings and movement.

After about a week, we said our farewells to Didier and piled into the van.

Nick and I dropped Tonia and Ian at the station.

From there she transferred to a plane to Toronto, he caught the train back to London, and we headed south.

© 2020 Deacon Martin


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