Sam and Jim

Sam and Jim

Paris 1971 … an American and an Irishman meet by chance in a bar.

The young American tries in vain to attract the attention of a waiter for another beer. Nearby the Irishman reads a newspaper and sips a whiskey.

JIM
Excuse me. Excuse me. S’il vous plaît. Une bière. It’s no good. But hey, it’s Paris. (turning to SAM nearby) Excuse me, sir, can you speak French?

SAM
Would you like some help?

JIM
You live here?

SAM
Yes. A long time.

JIM
I live here too, now. Not so long.

SAM
I see. How do you find it?

JIM
Hey man, it’s Paris. But I can’t speak the language. That kind of bums me out a little.

SAM
Why don’t you learn it?

JIM
Why don’t I learn to play the guitar too… why didn’t I just plod away in my own garden?

SAM
Are you interested in music or gardening? Or do you like both?

JIM
More like music is interested in me.

SAM
I don’t follow you.

JIM
I’m in… eh, show-business, back home.

SAM
But you just said you live here now.

JIM
I’ve got the soul of a clown and it’s taken me a long way, so far. But who knows what’s round the next corner? I came here to get away from something.

SAM
Haven’t we all? What do you play? Maybe you sing. Is that it? Do you sing?

JIM
Classical buff, I imagine? Thought so. Well, it ain’t Schubert. Let’s just say I’m a troubadour. A minstrel. But where are you from?

SAM
Eh, Dublin.

JIM
Getting nowhere here with this waiter reminds me of a play by an Irish guy. It’s about two bums on a road, just shooting the breeze. Years ago, when I was back there in some school or other, I had to write a paper on it. I put forth the proposition that it was a Civil War story. It had a Grant, a Lee and a Slave.

SAM
What part of America are you from?

JIM
California.

SAM
Warm and dry. People can swim. They can be happy.

JIM
The water is very cold. I’m Jim.

SAM
Sam. I was in New York once.

JIM
Yeah?

SAM
It was a few years ago now. The people there… were all a bit odd.

JIM
I should have been a poet. A love poet, perhaps… I wish I was a girl of sixteen/I’d be the queen of the magazine/And all night long you could hear me scream.

SAM
Ah, sweet sixteen. An exceedingly unhappy birthday, zero by the chronometer. But why a poet?

JIM
Feelings are disturbing.

SAM
Einer muss wachen, heisst es. Einer muss da sein. Someone must watch, it means. Someone must be there. Find someone you can talk to. It’s just a bonus if you don’t mind the cut of her jib.

JIM
Jib – a triangular staysail, set forward of the forward-most mast. That implies going by first impressions. I never heard of an unattractive muse so I’m looking for another flashing chance at bliss.

SAM
When I was your age, or thereabouts, I used to console myself by saying that at least, with my initial efforts, Lord help us, I’d achieved creative fulfillment and a preparation for death at such an early age. Later, I maintained that success or failure on a public level didn’t matter and indeed that the latter had a certain vivifying air about it.

JIM
I guess you knew what you wanted to do. You just didn’t know what you were doing. What tripped your wire?

SAM
It was an extraordinarily bitter season, zero by the thermometer. The winter of forty and forty-one. The Gestapo started arresting my friends. I couldn’t just sit around, waiting for inspiration. But I ended up down South, working on a farm, just for food, until other Americans came, so don’t talk to me about gardens, metaphorical or botanical.

JIM
What did you do then? Just come back here and stroll around?

SAM
When it was over, I went back to see my mother.

JIM
Don’t talk to me about mothers, man.

SAM
That’s when I finally saw it. What I had to do from then on. I was nearly forty. Imagine. If only she could have seen that I made something of myself, in the end, on my own terms.

JIM
Some of us get the vision early. Maybe it was the acid… This waiter could be a regular guy on a bad day or he could be a real asshole. Were we in former times, back home, way out west, I could just shoot him and put him on my tab. But I haven’t reacted because at least he doesn’t know who I am. I haven’t given him any trouble yet.

SAM
It must be a pact with the Devil, setting out down that road into the high life.

JIM
It was different with me. Spring came early.

SAM
Shed some light.

JIM
I think I knew exactly what I was doing, at least at the beginning. Even when no one else knew it.

SAM
There are two great, mirror questions of faith, it seems. How should one live and when should one believe that other people actually know what they’re doing.

JIM
I knew, man. I knew.

SAM
I admire your youthful clarity.

JIM
But if you’ve got anything to say, you’ve only got so much of it to say and you’ve got to hope you don’t run out too fast.

SAM
I admire your clarity.

JIM
If you failed first, when you were young, at least you know you can live with it.

SAM
I went on. Like almost everybody.

JIM
I was sleeping on the roof of an empty warehouse and doing a lot of acid. It was then that the orchestra started up, just in my head. All I had was a candle and a blanket and an occasional can of soup. Then I met one of the other guys on the beach and I gave him a blast. The rest is, well, you can guess the rest.

SAM
You’re in pop, I take it.

JIM
So here I am, an American in Paris, at the end of an incredible springtime. Why are you here?

SAM
It was the place that bothered me the least. Why don’t you stop what you’re doing now and go do something else for a while? Clear the head a bit.

JIM
Like what?

SAM
I don’t know.

JIM
I’m an American in Paris. What you want me to do? Start dancing?

SAM
You must have some idea otherwise. Plus you can always keep your hand in.

JIM
If I try to keep my hand in they’ll take it off at the shoulder.

SAM
There’s always the Legion. But you’d have to learn French.

JIM
My father was in the navy… could be, still… From a thin raft, one clown could be drowned while the other was saved.

SAM
Well, why not?

JIM
It’s my job. There’s no going back now. When we started out we dreamed of being big in the city or even all along the coast but then the bullshit took over and I made interviews into an art form. It’s something I invented. But I wish I could build me a woman.

SAM
Bastard journalists. I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

JIM
I gave them the best time of their lives.

SAM
Never say anything under interrogation, if you can help it at all.

JIM
Is that something you learned in the war?

SAM
In boarding school.

JIM
Now I can’t stand it anymore. I’d be so glad if people just didn’t recognize me.

SAM
Poor you. The world is full of distress. What did you expect? A land without shadows? Why should you or I think we should be any different?

JIM
What gives you the most pain?

SAM
Whatever it is, we must master our anguish.

JIM
But what gives you the most pain?

SAM
What I’ve had to master.

JIM
But what-

SAM
The past, what else? Christ, what else?

JIM
Pain is something to carry, like a radio, to keep us awake.

SAM
I usually listen to sports on the radio.

JIM
I guess that’s enough pain if it’s your guy who’s losing.

SAM
We must master our anguish.

JIM
If you hide your feelings, you’re denying a part of yourself, you’re letting society twist your reality.

SAM
What I’ve felt has been clear since 1945. I don’t care about society. I just know that I’m not afraid to stand up for my friends. That’s all. That’s me. It’s not about what I feel, it’s about what I do. It’s what you do with it. The tracks of my tears are like invisible ink.

JIM
But how’s that trick done?

SAM
You don’t have to be a saint. Heaven knows you don’t. When you have to be somewhere, you’re there, that’s all. Someone must be there. Someone must be sound.

JIM
You don’t know shit, my friend.

SAM
That’s what tortures me.

JIM
Tortures you? You’re killing me, man.

SAM
You try to grasp a piece of flotsam, only to slip beneath the waves into the black void again.

JIM
That’s the killer on the road. Is that all you have to tell me?

SAM
For heaven’s sake, boy, go easy on the sauce.

JIM
Like I said, who knows what’s round the next corner? Now I think I got to get out of here.

SAM
I’m about to leave, myself.

JIM
Come on a crawl with me, man.

SAM
I don’t think so.

JIM
Come on, man. I can show you an amazing hole in the ground just a few blocks from here.

SAM
What hole? The earth is full of holes. Getting out at night holds different meanings for us now, Jim.

JIM
Come on. Let’s move on.

SAM
I can’t go on.

JIM
I’ll go on.

SAM
Good luck, Jim.

JIM
You threw me a bone, you explained your twilight. But I’ve got to believe there’s still manna in Paris for imbeciles like me. So long, Sam.

SAM
God bless.

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Bernard Pivot & Les Mots de ma vie

Bernard Pivot & Les Mots de ma vie

Bernard Pivot was the literary face of French television for thirty years, chiefly on the long-running shows Apostrophes and Bouillon de culture. On p. 38 of his lexical memoir Les Mots de ma vie (2011) there is a quote describing the author (“un concentré de Français”) that suggests his book will reflect both sides of the French coin – bittersweet romance and meaningless abstraction – but coins have three dimensions and here there are also many passages of wit and comedy.

Pivot seems to have been especially amused by Vladimir Nabokov. Marguerite Duras turns up a couple of times too, such as when he didn’t want to encourage her after she rang him at two in the morning to read some newly written text over the phone, but the account of Nabokov’s studio demands is perhaps the funniest.

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That Nabokov’s teapot contained whiskey was well known but on Apostrophes the great man didn’t want to present the French public with the spectacle of a man drinking on live television. Therefore a verbal formula was devised to enable him to tipple away discreetly on set. Encore un peu de thé, monsieur Nabokov?

The novelist also insisted, on the basis of some prostate trouble, that an emergency urinoir be installed behind the studio decor but this demand was quietly ignored and of course Nabokov forgot all about it. He kept talking long after the final credits and then used the regular toilets like everyone else.

Such a happy ending did not ensue the last time someone was allowed smoke on Bouillon de culture. An unfortunately placed camera made it look like a female guest – Jacqueline de Romilly, already nearly blind – was engulfed by the cigarette smoke of Philippe Sollers. This led to the switchboard being inundated by protest calls and a snowstorm of letters accused Pivot of complicity in such boorishness and barbarity.

Invited by RAI to watch an episode of an Italian programme he was told was inspired by his own, he emerged horrified after an hour of shouting – fuelled by a noisy presenter – in which the guests brandished books like the Red Guards waved the thoughts of Chairman Mao. Though he never learned English properly, Pivot also mentions he was reliably informed that English political and literary talk shows, in contrast, were just boring.

He claims that foreign writers, especially Americans, were surprised to be able to talk about their books on French TV with a host who had actually read them. This happened without being interrupted by ads or having a minister, a stripper or a golf champion on as fellow guests. Pivot then likens the differences in talk shows to different national styles of playing soccer. His love of le foot is a recurrent theme that helps put a more regular face on the writer.

In other passages he is an anorak, not least about food. Only a Frenchman could be an anorak about food, though his exploration of its impact on French slang and idiom is instructive. There is also a pair of funny food stories, as in the time Pivot, as a young journalist sent to report on a theatre, was nabbed trafficking spuds into Belgium.

On his way to Brussels he stopped off to see his wife’s family in the Pas-de-Calais, where a thirty-kilo sack of potatoes was placed in his car boot by his father-in-law. A Belgian customs officer demanded that he open the same boot, whereupon a bunch of them converged to accuse him of smuggling potatoes. They asked if he didn’t know Belgium was already a great producer and consumer of chips / fries and if the sack was a present for the director of the theatre he was about to visit. In the end he had to turn the car around and give the potatoes back to his beau-père.

In the entry on freeloaders and gatecrashers, Pivot distinguishes between those who come just for the show and those literary ones who come to eat and drink, wolfing glasses of wine and sandwiches in the morning and champagne and petits-fours in the afternoon. Always located very near the table or the bar and sometimes shoved aside by impatient publishers, without ever protesting they give way just enough to regain their strategic position with minimum delay.

Not all Pivot’s comedy is intentional, though, as in the classic line, Certains couples lisent au lit, puis mettent un marque-page, referment le livre, éteignent et font l’amour (‘Certain couples read in bed, then place a bookmark, close the book, switch off the light and make love’). Only a Frenchman could solemnly sketch that scene that in the English-speaking world would always be played for laughs.

Pivot retired as a regular TV host in 2005. The day after the maiden broadcast of his first programme, Ouvrez les guillemets, back in the early Seventies, the channel boss Jacqueline Baudrier phoned him to tell him the show had not been good but that was normal, as it was his first time out.

Ne remettez cette veste : vous aviez l’air d’un garçon de café. Je suis sûre d’une chose : vous êtes fait pour la télévision.

(‘Don’t wear that jacket again, you looked like a waiter. I’m sure of one thing. You were made for television.’)

BIO DURAS-TELEVISION SHOW-PIVOT-APOSTROPHES

Biarritz, June 2017

Biarritz, June 2017

19th June, Monday

Resting in the hotel, Le Gamaritz, where I was checked in by a lovely (both senses) girl of no more than thirty. Most probably less. Her father was recently in Ireland. He liked la bière. This morning I got a taxi to the station in Bordeaux. If you tell a Frenchman that you’re from Ireland it seems fifty-fifty that he’ll mention rugby. At the station I just sat there, conserving energy. Nearby a little blonde of five or six watched a lame pigeon. She spoke to her father. Il a mal.

On the train, a quite elegant lady sat across the table but spent much of her time nose-picking, while reading documents. I nodded off a few times but in Biarritz there were no taxis at the station.

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Got a bus for a euro to the Mairie and then set off on foot in the general direction of the hotel. A green neon pharmacy sign said thirty-six degrees. Bag or no bag, I took a break in the church of Ste. Eugénie before getting the camera out along the rocky seafront. This is a tasty resort. Surf crashes on the brown rocks both onshore and offshore and falls back into the varying twinkling shades of blue. The swimmers down below look and sound happy.

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Though I found the street name at a T-junction, I took the wrong turn that wound around to a very hot hill but a retired gent put me right. Je vous accompagne. After seven I headed out.

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Dined very well at Casa Juan Pedro, which overlooks the water at the Port des Pêcheurs. A fillet of hake and a half-litre carafe of white wine were followed by some fruity ice cream. Less than thirty euro.

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Thirty-one years ago (1986) there was a plan of sorts for a family holiday in Biarritz. It fell through and my parents took themselves to Antibes, on a bus via London, I think. They were harder times.

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While I was at the tip, there were some swimmers (and surfers) hundreds of yards offshore but still inside the outer rocks. There must be strong tidal currents, though, as they changed position very fast. From there I wandered around to the rocky harbour that now only contains pleasure craft. By the time I left the table at the restaurant (it’s all al fresco) some cloud had gathered, out at sea. Wind rose down on the Grande plage.

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Bordeaux, June 2017

Bordeaux, June 2017

17th June, Saturday

I’m in the Black Velvet Bar at eight, with a pint of Carlsberg. A burger is on its way. Though this place was on my list I’ve just found it by accident, in that I took a left off the Quai Richelieu to photograph something, on my way to the Bourse, and spotted the street name.

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The Garonne is muddy filthy, like a series of chocolate whirlpools. Though very warm, it isn’t as hot here as I’d feared. There is a breeze. I was right about a wine convention bunging up the local hotels. At the airport I saw a sign for the VinExpo and the taxi driver asked had I come for it. Non, le rouge me donne une gueule de bois. That was my way of saying red wine blows my head off. Too much of it.

At nine, I found the Café Brun. I took some photos before it filled up.

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The DJ is behind my end of the counter. He had a problem with his Mac charger. Wires exposed on the lead meant it was fumé – i.e. ‘smoked’ – and he had to shoot home on his scooter for another.

“Lor” AKA Lorenzo also told me he was ordered by le patron to play Eighties stuff tonight but I got him to put on some French hits from that decade, starting with France Gall and Ella Elle L’a. The crowd liked that. Anyway, there was a bit too much English junk otherwise (e.g. Pass the Dutchie) but Hoegaarden’s on tap & I even got a buy-back. I’ll be back.

After leaving there I wandered around some more, lingering in Place St. Pierre and thinking this city is lovely, not least at night with the calm, warm ambience. It’s a mini Paris, without the hassle.

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I went back to the Black Velvet Bar and had a few more. I was joined by two young lads, one of whom banned the other from practising his English. The former later threw up in the toilets, in a brief time-out. Another character to appear was a flower seller in a fetching blond lady’s wig. Except he wasn’t selling flowers. They were plastic sticks with lights in them. He had a quick drink and kept going. The other time-passer was the silent TV screen showing a documentary on Lemmy. The subtitles were English. It never ended. Almost like Lemmy.

18th June, Sunday

It was a long walk to Gare St. Jean and I’m feeling the heat a bit more now. Resting on a soft seat, I’ll have to go about a return ticket to Biarritz soon… That’s done for tomorrow but I’m in no hurry to leave. The tickets cost €62 plus a few cent.

I’m in the St. André cathedral. It’s cool in here and there are lots of chairs. I could eat, I could sleep, I could take a leak. On the wander back from the station I passed two cardboard begging signs – in Arabic.

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La Terrasse St. Pierre: an elderly American woman nearby seems to have married more people than Elizabeth Taylor but in a professional capacity. She was on about doing it in Nepal and then performing on the side of some hill. That was before she got on to her “Anne Frank experience” but I didn’t catch those details. I’ve had a duck burger here to fill a gap. It’s not that I’m into duck. Burger du canard was chalked on the board and I was curious.

After chilling at the hotel for three hours, I walked back over the Pont de Pierre. It was baking in the fierce evening sun. The brown water runs one way, then the other, but that must be the tide fighting the river.

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A tall cruise ship has somehow made it upriver to dock north of the Bourse. It must be here for the wine. I sat on a stone bench on the Place de la Bourse. At ten past ten the lights came on and I filmed the show.

 

Happy Nights

Happy Nights

Happy Nights

© John Flynn 2006

Characters

PATRICK, a burglar
MICHEL, a burglar

Scenario

Happy Nights was inspired by a real event. One night in July 1961, Samuel Beckett’s Marne cottage at Ussy was burgled. According to his biographer James Knowlson, the burglars, as well as enjoying all the food and drink they could find, stole his clothes – even his old underpants – but left a painting that was quite valuable untouched. Happy Nights was produced by Red Kettle theatre company and premiered in Ireland at the Waterford Festival of New Plays in April 2007. John Hurt was the special guest at the first performance.

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Set

A representation of a window is seen in the centre at the back. A bookcase stands to the left of the window. A rectangular bureau desk, stacked with papers, stands to the right, with a chair. A round dining table should be placed in front, flanked by two wicker chairs, each with arms and a cushion on its seat. A small wicker footstool and a large wicker wastepaper basket should also be present.

– – –

The scene is darkness apart from moonlight in the window. From off left come the sounds of a shutter being forced and a window broken.

Enter PATRICK and MICHEL, dressed as tramps. PATRICK switches on the light and MICHEL ducks under the furniture.

PATRICK limps, having hurt his leg gaining entry. He grimaces, mutters, holds his knee. MICHEL observes but makes no comment.

MICHEL
Hope nobody comes.

PATRICK
We won’t wait around.

They take time to size up their surroundings.

MICHEL
What time is it?

PATRICK
Past midnight.

MICHEL
Never knew such silence.

PATRICK
At this place, at this moment, all mankind is us.

MICHEL
I like it that way. We should have plenty of time.

PATRICK
We have time to grow old.

They begin to search through books and papers and quickly make a mess.

MICHEL is rougher at this and shows less finesse. He throws books on the floor.

PATRICK
Take it easy. Have some respect. For the books, at least.

MICHEL takes it easier. After a couple of minutes, PATRICK halts.

PATRICK
I’m hungry. Do you want to go and see if there’s anything to eat?

MICHEL
That’s an idea. We could feed ourselves.

MICHEL exits left.

PATRICK

Calling after MICHEL

Don’t bother with anything like carrots or radishes. No vegetables of any kind!

PATRICK examines the contents of desk drawers. Pots and pans rattle off left.

MICHEL returns with a re-corked bottle of wine and two glasses. He pulls the cork with his teeth. They sit on the wicker chairs.

PATRICK holds his knee. MICHEL sniffs the wine in the bottle.

MICHEL
This wine should still be all right. There is a couple of unopened bottles too.

PATRICK
Any food?

MICHEL
Some tins. But I couldn’t find an opener or a corkscrew.

Brief pause as PATRICK reflects.

PATRICK
How did prehistoric man open cans? What did he use?

They sample the wine.

MICHEL
It’s a pity. I’m hungry too. Damn.

PATRICK

Producing a knife

Be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything.

PATRICK hands the knife to MICHEL, who exits left.

PATRICK resumes the search.

MICHEL returns with a couple of open tins and sits again. He samples the contents before passing it to PATRICK, who tops up their wine glasses.

PATRICK tries the contents of the tin and they both drink some more wine.

MICHEL stands up again and exits left. He returns with his arms full of clothing and footwear (a pair of boots, a straw hat, a working jacket and an old pair of underpants).

They inspect and swap these items continuously until PATRICK is wearing the straw hat and jacket and MICHEL the boots and the underpants (on the outside). They sit again.

PATRICK raises a toast.

PATRICK
To our absent host.

MICHEL
He’s a writer or something, isn’t he? Personally I wouldn’t know him even if I met him.

They guffaw.

PATRICK
To the maestro.

MICHEL
What if he comes?

PATRICK
Maybe he’ll come tomorrow. Back in Paris, he is sleeping. He knows nothing. Let him sleep on.

MICHEL
But while we’re not sleeping…

PATRICK
Others suffer. We’re no saints. We make no appointments.

MICHEL
But arrive unannounced.

PATRICK
Unlike billions.

Pause to look around

Far from this Marne muck.

MICHEL
As though the world were short of slaves.

PATRICK
It’s a vile planet.

MICHEL empties the first tin, scrapes it and leaves it on the table.

MICHEL

Cocks an ear

What’s that? What’s happening?

PATRICK
A robbery is taking its course.

MICHEL
Hope nobody comes.

PATRICK
You should know better. There’s no hope of that happening. Not now. Relax.

MICHEL
I don’t know. I can’t relax. I can’t go on like this.

PATRICK limps to the window to look out past the curtains.

PATRICK
Uninhabited.

MICHEL
Do you think we’ll ever be caught?

PATRICK

Deep breath first

The chances are fifty-fifty, I’d guess. Over an entire lifetime of crime, that is.

MICHEL
It’s a reasonable percentage. From a life.

PATRICK
Or maybe one of us will be safe, while the other is damned?

MICHEL

Trace of anguish

Until then, must we go on?

PATRICK
We’ll go on. Unless you have a better idea.

MICHEL
I have no idea. Well, none worth talking about.

PATRICK
We won’t despair. Whatever we find here.

MICHEL
We won’t presume, either.

PATRICK
Never presume, except that somebody might be hanging around. It’s safer to presume that much, at least.

MICHEL
Yes, but-

PATRICK
Yes?

MICHEL
Maybe you’re different but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.

PATRICK
I think you’re hearing voices.

MICHEL
A normally reliable little voice told me about this place.

PATRICK
And? Drink your wine and count your blessings. I wanted to do this one because it’s an ugly little thing.

MICHEL
I thought this chap would have lots of stuff.

MICHEL tosses more papers onto the floor.

PATRICK
Quite spartan, isn’t it? Never mind. It’s good to be in his den, in his old rags. And we always find something, eh, to leave the impression we existed?

MICHEL
There are still those bottles of wine.

Points off left

There’s a painting out there too, if you want to take a look at it.

MICHEL hands the knife and the second tin to PATRICK and then pours more wine.

MICHEL
And what if we do get caught? What if? One day – one night – happy pickings, and then – bang! – all our troubles are only beginning.

MICHEL takes the empty tin from the dining table and throws it on the floor.

MICHEL
What time is it?

PATRICK
Stop asking me the damned time. Are there any more tins?

MICHEL
Billions. This was the break we needed all along.

PATRICK looks up. He puts down the knife and tin, as if something is dawning on him.

PATRICK
Do you have some aspirations?

MICHEL
I think more of resolutions, these days.

PATRICK
To drink less?

Brief pause

And to eat more, at this very moment. Are you sure there’s nothing else?

MICHEL
There are some bananas. But they’ve gone off.

PATRICK
Ah.

Pause

Have you grown attached to those underpants?

MICHEL
I’m going to keep them.

PATRICK
After you, I wouldn’t want them back.

Brief pause

MICHEL

Smiling

No, I wouldn’t want them back.

PATRICK removes the jacket and puts it on dining table.

MICHEL
Have we sunk so low that we’ve gone too far?

PATRICK
There must be something in here.

MICHEL
Don’t you think we should stop?

Spreads his arms

While the going is bad.

PATRICK
All life long the same questions.

MICHEL
The same answers. You should have been a lawyer.

PATRICK

Indicates his shabby clothes

I was.

Brief pause

MICHEL
And if we do get caught?

PATRICK
They’ll make an example of us. So much happens around here.

MICHEL
So many robberies.

PATRICK
We’d have to repent.

MICHEL
Our being thieves.

PATRICK
All the break-ins.

Brief pause

PATRICK and MICHEL

Together

We’d be crucified!

They both ponder in silence.

PATRICK
Then we’d wonder if we’d have been better off alone, each one for himself.

Pause

PATRICK
In the meantime, let us converse calmly.

MICHEL
We are capable of being silent.

They go silent.

MICHEL
How’s your leg?

PATRICK
Bad.

MICHEL
But you can walk.

PATRICK
I’ll live.

MICHEL
Is this any way to live?

Brief pause

MICHEL
We should have done something else.

PATRICK
We should have thought of that a million years ago.

MICHEL
Back in the Fifties.

They think of the Fifties.

PATRICK
We have our excuses.

MICHEL
It’s because we want drink.

PATRICK
Add naked bodies.

MICHEL
So she said, last night.

PATRICK
We should have done somewhere else.

MICHEL kicks papers around.

PATRICK replaces a couple of books on the shelves.

PATRICK then sits again, grimaces again. MICHEL follows suit.

PATRICK
Have a last look in the kitchen.

MICHEL
You look this time.

PATRICK
But my leg-

MICHEL
If you tell me any more about the blows you received I’ll stick a carrot up your arse.

PATRICK limps off left. More rattling. He returns with some more tins and puts them on the table.

Then he exits right again, this time returning with two bottles of wine. He puts them in the same place.

When he limps off a third time MICHEL sits up and pays attention.

When PATRICK comes back he is carrying a bottle of whiskey.

PATRICK
Finish your tin.

MICHEL
Finish your own.

Pause for MICHEL to indicate the whiskey bottle.

MICHEL
I suppose you’ll want to keep that for yourself?

PATRICK
You can have the wine. And the clothes.

MICHEL
We ran out of stuffy little bourgeois types to rob. Then you just picked on people you didn’t like.

PATRICK
Ignorant apes.

MICHEL
Just what do you want now?

PATRICK
Whiskey.

Pause as PATRICK examines the bottle.

PATRICK
Even then I didn’t let you take anything of sentimental value.

Brief pause

For sentimental reasons.

MICHEL
People get sentimental about money. I needed money. Now I’ve saved some.

Brief pause

Why don’t you just leave this place?

PATRICK
I can’t, I’ve spent mine.

MICHEL
Don’t you ever think of something you’d like to do, apart from this?

PATRICK
Lie on my back and fart and think of Beckett.

MICHEL finds no answer to that.

PATRICK
Just how much money do you think you need anyway?

MICHEL

After a little hesitation

Enough to open a little shop.

PATRICK

Laughs wildly

That’s no job for a man.

MICHEL
Maybe not, but there’s no money here for us, buried up to our necks in books and papers.

PATRICK
If you ever open that shop I’ll rob it. And lose my last friend here. Maybe then I’ll leave.

MICHEL exits left and brings in the painting. He examines it from various angles before PATRICK grabs it, turns it the right way up and props it against a leg of the dining table.

The audience cannot see it.

PATRICK
Don’t put a boot through that.

MICHEL
I’m more cultured than that. What makes you think…?

PATRICK
Whether you do it on purpose or accidentally, on purpose.

MICHEL
These boots are starting to hurt me.

PATRICK
Take them off.

MICHEL
I can’t. They’re stuck.

PATRICK
Just like the underpants.

They sit again, facing each other, having moved the chairs and footstool closer together.

PATRICK pulls off the boots. MICHEL sighs, puts his shoes back on, then picks up the boots.

MICHEL
I’ll keep them anyway. I might even give them to some tramp.

MICHEL puts the boots on the table. PATRICK examines the unopened tins.

MICHEL
Are you going to take that stuff too?

PATRICK
I thought I might eat it. But I’ll give it to the dog.

MICHEL begins to assemble a clothes pile on top of the boots. PATRICK grabs the jacket and puts it back on, rubbing his knee.

PATRICK

Referring to the old jacket

Don’t worry, I’ll give you this later.

MICHEL
What about the painting?

PATRICK
Put it back. How would we get rid of it around here?

MICHEL
Except hang it from a tree?

They pause for an un-enlightening bout of reflection. PATRICK sticks tins in the jacket pockets.

MICHEL
Well, shall we go?

PATRICK
Take off your underpants first.

MICHEL removes the underpants, folds them and puts them on the straw hat on top of the boots.

PATRICK picks up the bottles of wine and passes them to MICHEL.

Then MICHEL picks up the underpants again, in order to wrap the bottles after he places a bottle in each boot. Finally he places the hat on top of the finished pile.

PATRICK lifts the whiskey bottle and then takes a book from a shelf. He shows the book to MICHEL, who lifts the pile in his arms.

PATRICK
He signed it. I’ll sell it, down the line.

MICHEL
I can’t do this anymore.

PATRICK
That’s what you think. We are French. We don’t care. Nobody cares unless it happens to him.

They take a lingering last look around the room.

PATRICK
Well, shall we go?

MICHEL
Yes, let’s go.

They leave.

 

Paris, November 2016

Paris, November 2016

18th November, Friday

Over here it’s not as cold. JP was in the hotel (Verlain) when I got there. We were in adjoining rooms. I suggested going to the Quartier Latin. We got two fine planches at La Méthode on the little square/junction on rue Descartes where I stayed in 1996 and 2000.

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Then, around the corner on rue Laplace, I showed him Le Piano Vache, which he liked even more. I hadn’t been in it since October 2000.

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The first time, it was a June afternoon in 1996, when an outrageous little flirt named Estelle bent over further than a gymnast when poking in her school bag, across the bar. Elle portait la culotte bleu pâle.

Anyway, JP didn’t care for the nearby Le Violon Dingue (nor did I, though I’d been there before too) and we soon headed back for the Cork & Cavan on the Canal St. Martin. I saw no familiar face there. We didn’t stay too late.

19th November, Saturday

Today we walked a long way. We started at Place d’Italie and headed to Montparnasse via La Butte des Cailles and Place Denfert-Rochereau.

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After lunch at Le Select, we got the metro on to Charles Michels, just a street away from the river and Allée des Cygnes.

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From there we walked past the Tower, near which an anti-Trump demonstration was in progress, and cut down to rue Cler before passing Hôtel des Invalides on our way into St. Germain.

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The metro took us from St. Germain des Prés to Goncourt, back near the C&C. D. joined us. He had witnessed a couple get shot dead, one after the other, outside a restaurant on Bataclan night. He was upstairs in a bar across the street.

The lads played darts. I’d made sure we got that narrow corner of the bar. A pretty Cavan girl called Aisling told me we’d known what we were doing by getting in there. I ended up drinking a couple of glasses of water before the end. JP and I left around one.

Paris, December 2013

Paris, December 2013

26th December, Thursday

Hard frost shrouded the night. My throat felt like the aftermath of a tonsils operation without anaesthetic. The drive to Cork was slowed by ice and frost. I had a bit of a skid on the Youghal bypass, where a driver got killed a few mornings ago.

Rugby players: Peter Stringer was in the security queue; Ronan O’Gara was on the plane. I only spotted O’Gara on the airport shuttle train in Paris. He grunted something like thanks when I let him disembark before me with his wheelie bag.

After a shower at the hotel I went to the 15e, to the Allée des Cygnes, where Beckett used to walk.

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From there I passed the Tower in the twilight.

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I ate in a nice, informal place on rue Cler (L’éclair), where the chicken burger and chips were good and good value. I had a notion that I might watch some of a match in Kitty O’Shea’s but it was closed. The front door looked sandbagged. Last time I looked, there was a hole in the door window, like it had been shot at. I was sick of walking by then. Back in the tenth I went down the canal to see if the C&C might be open. It was. The legendary owner (Kevin) was out to play. He was up on the counter at one stage and speaking Irish at another.

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27th December, Friday

Having stayed in bed until two, my only symptoms were of the cold. Somebody on Amazon.com bought a copy of The Cynic’s Handbook. Hanging in there – my nose and chest have it now – I dined in Café le Buci in St. Germain at four, after searching those streets in the damp chill. The côte de boeuf (€22) was big and tough but the waitress was sweet. Dark and pretty too. Bonne fête, were her parting words. When I got back to Gare de l’Est it was dark and wet. I’d been filming down by the river. Some Indian then sold me two dodgy-looking choc ices, leading to some more customer dissatisfaction. The Mars bar was OK. I ate that.

Earlier I passed a place where I dined well, before (Au Père tranquille, next to Forum des Halles). That was before descending into the ant pit in a vain effort to get on the Métro there. With the swarm, it was too difficult to get a ticket. I’d go home right now because of the sore nose and the cough. By the river I took some photos and made two videos: one from Pont des Arts, when it was still day, and another of Notre Dame over the lights shimmering on the river, from Pont St. Michel.

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I’d have slept and rested better this evening only for f*ckers/guests around me constantly opening and closing their squeaking doors. The room is a return to the street noise too. I’m finished with the Sibour. In future I’ll get a better hotel.

Three pints in the C&C left no mark. For a second night I was with a Middlesbrough father and son. The son is stuck in Paris. The wife has put him on a couch. There are two kids and a bust company. Why is my tongue sore near the tip? I was sweating in the pub but can only hope it’s a good symptom.

28th December, Saturday

A night of nightmarish discomfort was followed by a lull of sorts before the more usual kind of nightmare of security at the airport. Home is colder than Paris and I missed another storm (on the twenty-sixth). Even my teeth are sore.