Sunday, 22 September 2013

Three Thin Women of Antibes - a postscript...(for Suzanne & Lavanya)

Source: les40kartierslesplusdifs2.skyrock.com
In a comment on my last post Suzanne expressed her curiosity about the presence or otherwise of any Frenchmen in my life during my year spent teaching English in a school in Cannes at the end of the 70s.  I explained that there was one rather unconventional fellow called Pierre that I hung out with, who later became the subject of a (true) short story I submitted to a creative writing competition hosted by Good Housekeeping magazine.  I won third prize!  A small box of chocolates, no less! Which was an improvement on the shoehorn and tablet of butterscotch I scored from the Australian High Commission when I was 11 for a scrapbook project on kangaroos.

I should point out that I never dated Pierre.  He was a little on the thin side for one thing, and had trouble remembering where he had parked his car.  Milk for tea was an alien concept. Tea itself was an alien concept.  I spent one night on a camp bed in his living room, having declined his invitation to 'walk a portion of the way' with him, which I took to be code for a cosier sleeping arrangement.

So without further ado, here is my story:


"Pierre was a philosophy student at Nice University with Communist leanings, a punk haircut and a year to live - something about an Alsatian and a heart attack.  Certainly his cadaverous features and shabby clothes suggested a fey attitude to life, as did the squalor of his ant-infested council flat.  A dog-eared poster of Lenin hid peeling paint in the bathroom, while photos of Watford cemetery decorated the living room walls.  An insomniac, Pierre spent most nights in the abattoir opposite, 'looking on'.  He rarely ate, and the only provisions in the flat were a tin of salsify and a bowl of pear halves, black with mould.  For entertainment, he read overdue library books and listened to bootleg tapes.  He once gave a party, but a fight broke out, the stereo was clogged with peanuts and Pierre collapsed.  He turned a disquieting shade of purple, but survived."


Source: moderndaytruth.net

22 comments:

  1. Where's the rest of the story? I can't believe that paragragh (as great as it is) won you a box of chocolates... Or did it?

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    1. Hi Undina,

      Yep, it did! 150 word limit. The fact that Pierre survived the shock of the fight is intended to be the 'surprise denouement'. His health was always presented to me as very fragile you see, following an encounter with a dog which had triggered a (very serious) heart attack. Consequently I was always on my best behaviour towards him during our brief friendship. He is still about today, I have just ascertained!

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    2. PS I guess with so few words, pithy and obscure inference is the name of the game, though it is hard to fit all the relevant facts in!

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  2. You deserved a box of chocolates just for the experience. I was thinking if you did go to his room, that might have done him in-thus changing the ending.

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    1. Hi patriciacha,

      Haha! Or we might just have discussed philosophy and both lived to fight another day...

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  3. What a wonderful place to have a wacky non relationship. The story is perfect.
    Portia x

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    1. Hi Portia,

      You sum up my time abroad perfectly. ;) It was certainly enriched by meeting such unusual characters!

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  4. Oh poor Pierre! Now I want to see a photo of him, to see if how I picture him matches up with the real thing. BTW, is he still alive?

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    1. Hi Carol,

      Sorry to disappoint, but I have no photos of Pierre - or my villa mates come to think of it. I think there is only one of me taken the entire year, no idea why. ;)

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    2. PS Oh yes, very much alive. Has filled out a bit - suits him. Remarkably easy to google in fact.

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  5. I loved this, Vanessa. Now we want the Kangaroo scrapbook too :-D

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    1. Hi Asali,

      Glad you enjoyed it. ;) I am afraid the scrapbook has long since bitten the dust - or rather, I think the Australian High Commission may actually have kept it, which amounts to the same thing!

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  6. If he was thin and sickly back then i don't think he's at all very good looking now. I could be wrong but just in case-Vanessa i'm going to disreguard your description of him and go with my imagination instead. I see in my minds eye a tortured Johnny Depp type.

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    1. Hi patriciacha,

      He looks like a warm and friendly family man now, to be honest, with thinning hair and glasses. The punk haircut has long gone. I do think very thin men improve with age as they gain weight, also in the face, which seems to be the case here.

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  7. Really evocative, V.

    Third prize is impressive. GH is no small magazine. I bet you were really chuffed.

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    1. Hi tara,

      Thanks - I was pleased and gobsmacked to win all those years ago. I remember thinking that my subject matter might be a bit dark/oddball for the Good Housekeeping target audience, but not so!

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  8. Haha - nice story,, Vanessa!! I love that he read 'overdue library books'..:)
    Thanks for posting- you've managed to very skillfully condense his essence into few words..:-)

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    1. Hi Lavanya,

      Glad you liked it. ;-) I must say I am not normally that concise, and I thought initially that I might have had a word limit of 250, but it must have been 150 instead, as that totals 148.

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  9. I'm with APJ, what a wacky relationship. :-) Thank you for sharing, it's like a little window into another world that no longer exists.

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    1. Hi Ines,

      You're right that it is a world that no longer exists, before the Internet or the mobile phone - and before I was ready for a serious relationship with a boy... ;-)

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  10. Heh heh, I was thinking exactly what Patricia was thinking: it's a good thing you didn't "walk a portion of the way" with this guy - you might have had to revive him (and considering the shade of purple he turned when he collapsed at his party, over the shock of a fight breaking out, I'm not sure he would have been hearty enough to survive). Glad to hear, though, that he apparently found his way and is doing better now, if appearances are anything to go on.

    Thanks for sharing this, Vanessa! And isn't it funny how your story of such an untidy chap as Pierre made it into "Good Housekeeping" (of all magazines)! :D

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    1. Hi Suzanne,

      I know you and Patriciacha were joking, but death in flagrante is a very real risk would you believe - for it happened to someone very close to me. Not on the very same day, but with a short delayed effect. Both in their 60s at the time, very sad, as he was a lovely bloke apparently. Happens in hotels quite often too. I don't know who I was speaking to to glean this general information - it might have been a documentary on 'life behind the scenes' in hotels in fact. ;-) And the couple I know where the man overexerted himself - that was in a B & B I think.

      And how funny - you rightly point out the irony of such an orderly magazine printing this tale of domestic chaos. ;-)

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