Monday, 10 May 2010


There's one thing that he loves
and that is flattery.
One week he's in polka dots
the next week he's in stripes,
'cos he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

They seek him here,
they seek him there,
in Regent Street and Leicester Square.
Ev'rywhere the Carnabytion army marches on,
each one a dedicated follower of fashion.

His world is built 'round discotheques and parties,
this pleasure seeking individual always looks his best
'cos he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

The Kinks (A Dedicated Follower of Fashion)

I’M CHAIN-SMOKING CIGARETTES and sipping my Bacardi and Coke on the first-floor balcony outside The Hoppin’ John, a restaurant and bar complex above Front Street in Hamilton, Bermuda. I pop the maraschino cherry the bartender had added to my drink to make it appear classier, and to indicate it has alcohol in it, in my mouth, bite it in half, and swallow the pieces. Richard rescues the cherry from his glass and flips it over the wrought-iron railing, aiming for the tourists walking below. We’re here for the Eclipse of the Sun.

It’s cloudy, dark clouds, and when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun there is little change in the light. We’re talking about books we’ve read, the ones we liked. No mention of the duds. I try to tempt Richard into having one of my Kools. He declines, common sense rather than a Mormon upbringing, I imagine. I’m chain-smoking enough for two, grey smoke in the grey and faded light.

At The Hoppin’ John I usually order the Club Sandwich in the afternoon.
One night four of us went to The Hoppin’ John for dinner in its inner restaurant. No windows, dark panelling, portraits in gilt frames, plush carpets, dim lights in the sconces, starched, white linen tablecloths and napkins. We’d been given money enough for dinner, our benefactor had thought, but we ordered turtle soup, escargots, Chateaubriand and full table service, flaming desserts and Brandies Alexander. We’d done in a few bottles of Aloxe-Corton red. When the bill came, the cash in our envelope was not enough. I was the only one in the group with money in a current account, I was employed, and I got to write the cheque for the excess.

We’d been on the television that evening, to talk up local art on "Date before Dinner". After a few cocktails and pills to help loosen our tongues, get the words flowing. I’d become wonderfully relaxed, expansive. Peter played the piano in the studio, live. Chopin, I think.

One evening a friend and I had dinner on the balcony of The Hoppin’ John. If it was not too chilly, and not raining, it was pleasant enough there, above the pedestrians and cluttered traffic, across from cruise ships and freighters. On this occasion, it was summer. Time for Bacardi cocktails: rum and Grenadine over crushed ice, sweet and sickly, and toxic. My friend, facing me, whispered: “Turn around slowly and look behind you.” A drag on my cigarette and I casually twisted in my seat. I was seated about three feet away from a face I instantly recognised. One of the most famous faces in the world at that moment. The super-model Twiggy. She was with her then manager (and boyfriend) Justin de Villeneuve. De Villeneuve was really Nigel Davies, which seems naff enough without Frenchifying himself. Twiggy was really Lesley Hornby. And the Walrus was Paul. Those were the days.

Twiggy was not only dining next to me, in a restaurant partly-owned by my mother’s brother, but she was also spending her summer holiday break in my uncle’s house, next door to my mother’s place (where I lived). We’d seen Twiggy and friends coming and going on their rented mopeds day after day, and heard their parties around the pool. One of my sisters walked over to see Twiggy, who was polite enough to invite her in briefly. My sister did not ask for an autograph, she just said: "Hello!"

In 2010, Twiggy Lawson is still one of the best-known models around, and must be the face of Marks and Spencer. She looks better now - it seems to me - forty years on.

One night I went with friends to a party at the home of the grandson of Bermuda’s Government Leader. It was next door to the Leader’s residence. Sir Henry Tucker may have attempted to embrace Bermudians of all races politically, but I don’t recall any black faces at the party I attended. It would have been rather a shock at the time. (I actually do recall the first time I ever attended a mixed-race party. It was not supposed to be that way, but a New Year’s Eve bash at the private Coral Beach Club was invaded by natives. Black lads burst in and several shook my hand in some sort of black way and wished me a "Happy New Year".) At the Tucker homestead, there were lanterns and candles, music from several stereo systems played in different rooms, and every room was packed with people, most of them smoking dope. I was chain-smoking cigarettes, but I did have several glasses of rum punch from a brand new, shiny, galvanised trash-can.

And the walls and people melted and rose up, and the dim colours one could make out swirled to the music. The music became tactile. Voices became music became colours became pulsing artwork.

I do not recall how I got home, but the pictures in my head, with accompanying soundtrack, lasted into the next morning. I had a telephone call not long before midday to confirm a lunch date at The Hoppin’ John. I knew nothing of it, but I was not at work that day and arranged to meet in the rear porch at the restaurant as it was too cold to sit on the balcony. When I parked my moped and went inside, it turned out that I’d invited about a dozen people to lunch while under the influence at the party the night before. A couple were people I knew, but not exactly my close friends. LSD will do that to you. The bar bill was steep, but I believe we ate burgers and club sandwiches. And I wrote the cheque.

I am chain-smoking cigarettes, and I’m, as usual, a little over-dressed. A friend and I are having lunch in the CafĂ© Royal at the southern end of Regent Street. Here Lord Alfred Douglas dined with Oscar Wilde and on one occasion Bosie’s father, the unpleasant Marquess of Queensberry, was actually won over by Oscar’s dinner table talk and charm. Of course, Queensberry destroyed Wilde in the courts and we got "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". I’m wearing clothes left over from Carnaby Street days, a pastel-coloured shirt, floral-print tie from Liberty of London, just up the street, double-breasted, slash-back blazer with a brilliantly-coloured silk lining. We’re watching the patrons within, and the crowds moving towards Piccadilly without.

The Frostop is a burger joint and drive-in on the road, State Street, at right angles to Main Street in Hurricane, Utah. There are few tables inside; most people eat in their cars, trays hooked on the vehicles’ windows. I eat inside, always a BLT, very greasy bacon leaking onto the toast, extra mayonnaise, Diet Coke. In cold weather the windows are slightly fogged-up. I’m watching the cars outside, in the parking area and headed back and forth on State Street. I’m not smoking; the Mormon gods would not like that. There’s no place where one might get a Bacardi cocktail. Once a friend came to visit me and we had to join a private club so that he could get a rum and coke. The membership fee must have been many times the high price of the beverage. The club had no windows. One could smoke inside, the gods couldn’t see through the bricks. Or didn’t care to. The Ten-Mile Mormons would drive that far from town for a drink their bishops would not approve of.

I’m sitting at a table in the buffet restaurants’ eating area at The Rio in Las Vegas. For very little money, one can go back as many times as one can manage to the eight different buffets. Chinese, Mexican, Mongolian Barbeque and so on. I look to my left, directly into the crotch of a very tall, young woman wearing only a bejewelled g-string and pasties, a peculiar headdress featuring feathers and fake-diamonds. She’s in towering heels, and holding a small silver tray. “Keno?” she says. I have no idea what exactly Keno is, and I don’t gamble in any case. I watch her bare arse as she moves to the next table.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m on a double-date with friends in a French chateau that some wealthy American bought in France and dismantled and shipped to Utah, reassembling it on the benches on the east side of the Salt Lake Valley. Up here, above the City, there’s a great deal of snow, but the chateau at the Quails’ Run is warm, with central heating and open log fires in vast fireplaces. The food is fabulous and expensive, but I’m a guest, not paying for my date and me. Looking out of the window there’s a snowy yard, and it’s snowing, and in the open there’s a small heated pond on which there are swans swimming slowly. I wondered if they were real, apparently they are. They seem quite content in the steam rising off their swan lake.

In a moment I’m going to pop along to the minimart for a sandwich and some pomegranate juice to mix with diet lemonade. I shall dine in my kitchen and watch the clouds racing towards the flats from the north, the rain beating on the windows. There’s volcanic ash fresh from Iceland’s Eyjafjallakull up there. It may be May, but it is cold today, snowing in the Northern Isles, we’re to expect frost tonight. I’m concerned that my flowering plants in the courtyard may not take too much of this. Cailean is asleep in his bed below my desk; he burrowed under his blanket when I sat to write this. My observations today go down on the keys and up on the page. Later, a cup of tea, no Bacardi cocktail.

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