Saturday, 9 January 2010

Jane, Charlotte and me

Over the past week or so I’ve found myself in a terrible quandary. You see first I loved Jane. Then I loved Serge. Now I think I’m in love with Charlotte. It’s terribly fickle but I just can’t choose between them; it seems that once you fall for one Gainsbourg, you fall for them all.

It all started when I interviewed Jane a couple of months ago. It was my first “celebrity” interview for the paper and I wanted to be armed. I read every article about her, every profile, looked at every photo. “Your questions are bit complicated,” Mindy sniffed, as we role-played beforehand, “I don’t think you need to tell her about things she herself has said and done. She knows more about her life than you do.”

This was debatable. By the time I was whisked to her dressing room, backstage at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, I felt I knew her intimately. My heart fluttered, my tongue was tied. This, I decided, is what it feels like to really be in love.

She could have said anything to me in the fifteen minutes that followed. I was sitting next to my idol sipping tea: I let her do all the talking whilst routinely pinching myself. Hard-nosed hack I was not; the last thing I wanted to do was upset her.

The next day I woke up transformed: I was clearly channelling Jane. From this moment I only adorned bum-skimming jumper dresses and copious amounts of black eye liner - on the lower rim and the top lid.

Maggie and Mel got behind my new persona quickly. They agreed, after flicking through Google Images, that she was babe. “You are looking so Jane Birkin today,” Mel began saying, slightly salaciously, whenever I walked into the kitchen. As far as I was concerned if this look was working for a lesbian as hot as Mel, I was onto a good thing. I could tell when I was having an off day because she would simply say I was “cute”, which left me feeling wretched until I could change into something more Jane.

Fully channelling my heroine in the style department was all very well but it was not enough for me. Jane was cool on her own to be sure, but she was so much cooler with Serge. All the sexual provocation and creative passion left me insanely jealous.

With Serge being dead and thus not an option, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a Serge-alike and I thought I’d hit gold a couple of weeks ago when I came across a jazz ensemble in an American bar. The saxophonist, in his lumberjack shirt and slightly greasy flop of hair across his forehead, didn’t display talent as a genius lyricist it's true but he did look a bit arty and his fingers possessed such a degree of dexterity that I was hypnotised into a trance.

During a band break I made my move, approaching, with my business card aloft, under some pretense that I was going to write a story for the paper about local jazz musicians. “That was brilliant,” Mindy nodded at me as she returned to her seat, carrying inside with her the scent of stale cigarettes. I frowned. “The way you just swooped in then. The whole manoeuvre was caught on a giant screen. I was watching from the terrace.” I shrugged: manipulating my job to snare a Serge? Jane would approve. “I can feel an infatuation coming on,” I tilted my head and gazed at him, aiming for coquettish, “it’s quite exciting, I haven’t stalked anyone for ages.” “And he’s on crutches,” Mindy pointed at the metal poles resting against his bar stool, “that makes it much harder for him to get away.”

Back in my bedroom, I was scanning Deezer when an advert flashed up for IRM, the new album by Charlotte Gainsbourg. I clicked on the link instantly and loved every song, listening to them on repeat as I trawled through the web for images, interviews, articles…

“Actually,” Maggie said, not looking up from the Nana she was cutting out for our Niki de Saint Phalle scrapbook, “I like Charlotte’s music better than Jane’s.” “I know,” I widened my eyes, “I didn’t think it was possible but I may be even more in love with Charlotte. Physically, she’s a quirkier version of her mum and she has the musical talent of her father. I’ve got the biggest crush.” Living with lesbians, I can declare my love for other women without as much of a raised eyebrow. And it was true: I really couldn’t decide if I wanted to be Charlotte or just make-out with her.

“You know, I went on, suspending my paint brush in the air, “it was thanks to Charlotte that I went to hospital the other day. I was reading about her brain hemorrhage on Wikipedia when it occurred to me that I could be having a hemorrhage too. Do you think I should write to her? I mean, she basically saved my life.” “Oh you should. Definitely,” Maggie said, ironing out a glue crease. “And we’ve been through a similar experience, you know IRM is inspired by all the MRI scans she had.” “Plus you interviewed her mum,” Maggie interjected, her eyes still fixed on the Nana. “That’s true! We should be friends.”

I felt a pang. “Oh I’m so disloyal,” I wailed. Only a week ago I was all set on Jane, now I’ve dropped her for a younger model. I love Jane.” “It’s alright,” Maggie soothed, ”there’s no rule saying you can’t do Jane and Charlotte, switch depending on your mood.” You can always rely on Maggie to be practical. She’s right of course: some days I instinctively want to channel Jane, other days Charlotte. And sometimes I just want to be Serge.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

All I want for this year is a French doctor

“You do realise,” Maggie grabbed my elbow, “that he’s basically given you an engagement ring.” We continued to walk down the street, now with our arms linked. “I think you’re right,” I tried to turn my head to face her, winced, went back to centre. “He's so clever, with the Velcro, it fits perfectly.” I reached up and tugged at the neckbrace to loosen it a little.

Rewind to Monday: my life was hanging in the balance, I was just waiting to have the prognosis confirmed by Dr McFrenchie. “Well, the good news is that the CAT scan came back clear, nothing wrong with the brain,” he informed me without smiling. “And my spine?” I frowned. “Oh nothing serious.” I tried not to look crestfallen. “You’ve had a bang,” he continued briskly, “there’s a small fracture and a lot of bruising. You’re head too. I’m going to give you a,” he put his hands around his throat. “A neckbrace?” I asked, my eyes lighting up. “Oui. You wear it for six days.”

“You work?” he asked, whilst simultaneously scribbling on his clipboard. I grabbed the newspaper I’d been reading, “Yes, yes. On this,” I shoved it at him, “I’m the editor.” Contrary to the impression I was probably giving him, I was in fact also a serious, professional. Look, I was saying, we’d actually make a great couple. “Er, right,” he looked up vaguely, “it’s just I sign you off if you have to go to work.” “Oh no, I’m on holiday until the New Year.” “OK, good. So now you rest, you watch TV, you do what the British do, drink beer right?” “No,” I mocked horror, “no beer from now on.” I widened my eyes like a young doe. He didn’t look convinced. “After five days, if you have pain still, then you are allowed to come to see me again.” I thought the choice of the word allowed interesting. “What about the neckbrace, don’t I need to return it?” He finally cracked a smile, “No, you can keep that, a Christmas present.”

As he helped me down from the trolley I pressed the newspaper in his hand, “Here, you can have this. To practice your English,” I added quickly. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” he nodded gravely at me. “Oh no, not at all, perfect. I just meant, um well, just to read something in English, if you wanted.” Obviously, I couldn’t tell him that I hoped he’d use the contact details on page 2 to track me down, after he’d realised that I was the girl he wanted to marry. That would have probably scared him.

At our flat the next day, Maggie and I were sitting around the kitchen table. At intervals she rotated her head and pressed her hand to her ear. “I have an ear ache. Do you think it’s an aneurism?” “I’d say that’s likely,” I couldn’t nod so I blinked affirmatively. “Hey, why don’t I take you to A&E? It’s almost lunchtime, I’ll take my doctor a sandwich at the same time, he’d like that.” “Your fiancée,” Maggie corrected.

We typed aneurism into Google. “You can,” I read from the screen, “either have a true aneurism or a pseudoaneurism. I’d say, of the two, you’re better off with the pseudo one. You’ll still have to go to hospital. It’s a win-win situation.” Would this, I wondered, count as Munchausen by proxy? I was aware that it was a slippery slope.

“Perhaps we should open a worst-case scenario clinic,” Maggie mused. “Someone comes in with a bruise, we diagnose gangrene and prescribe immediate amputation. That kind of thing.” “I think I get it," I interrupted. "Someone comes in with a funny looking mole, we tell them it’s stage four melanoma, you’ve got 24 hours if you’re lucky." It sounded like a winner to me. "Just think of all the people who’d get a second chance at life. I know that my own recent brush with death has made me see the world with fresh eyes. I feel more alive than ever. It’s why I have such a connection with my doctor…” “Fiancée.” “…my fiancée. We’ve been through the very worst of times and the best.” Suddenly Maggie rubbed her temples. I could see pseudoanuerism was getting worse.