Reveil, Boulevard de Clichy – Anders Zorn, 1899

Drunk on Pernod, lost to opium and thoroughly fatigued, gifting smoke rings to ungrateful stars, contemplating an interlude with an immodest, exiled Geisha touting for business somewhere along the Boulevard de Clichy, she found me; saved me. Slapped my wrists, gave me the evil eye, even had the cheek to make mention that a hot bath might lessen both my stupor and body odour, adding, “This will never do, will it? You’re an Englishman abroad, letting the side down,” before frogmarching me off to the sanctuary of the bare lightbulb, blindside of The Eiffel Tower, meagre loft she called home.  Little did I know then, that so soon I would claim her as my own.


Submerged in a claw foot bathtub, clad in just the Homburg I insisted stayed in situ, she in a tatty claret dressing gown possibly of silk, perched precariously on a creaky old wooden stall, a threatening, jumbo honeycomb sponge in hand, we shared a single chipped mug of piss weak, unsugared tea. Apropos nothing, she told me of a much extolled painter, by all accounts a rake of some notoriety, who was insistent she maintain eye contact while he arrested her flawless image, a thing she said she would never countenance. Put bluntly, her reaction, “Such contact creates pornography not art for it belittles the muse, betrays her flesh. The female form, Sir, is art. The sitter’s inner self is irrelevant insofar as you are concerned. To attempt otherwise is to insult all women.” With that said, she dressed, threw half the hard currency he had previously handed her at his feet, kept the balance, slammed shut the door behind her. Smart lady. A looker to boot.

Three days and nights glued together within her loft, eventually as exhausted as the crumbling mattress, we only succumbed to the horror of daylight when lust’s savage hunger gave way to a pressing need for nourishment; a hunt for ripe Mimolette and a baguette to share or die of starvation.


Even now, these chilly times of gold plated homeless leaves, she is still known by the tag I christened her with back when, ‘Shortarse’, although occasionally, deviating from the norm I might call her, ‘Titch’, not that she is that short, more that I am taller than she. Either way, it amuses her; never fails to induce a smile. That is all that the ever mattered.

She has been my eyes since the dawning of perception, keeping me off the straight and narrow cliché. In times when self-doubt passes arbitrary judgment, sentencing me to the eccentric persecution that is belief, she reminds me that prayer is a hedonistic thing born of either guilt’s own guilt or absurd hope and that we only ever bother to call the name ‘God’ aloud when la petite mort is realized, that, in essence, I should just cease whinging and get on with loving and living, for that is all we possess.

44 thoughts on “THE ENGLISHMAN

    1. My thanks, young Ms H. Writing is a little easier when one has been a waste of space when younger and when one has been rescued by a lady reluctant to live life by the standard rules. I trust you had a splendid Christmas and wish you a truly happy new year.

      1. An incredibly quiet Christmas that suited me fine. We all chose to prepare our own dinner based on our favourite meals. Mine, albeit perhaps boring on the face of it, was bead, cheese and salad. I should add it was French bread from France, smelly, sweaty French cheeses and red wine to die for and on. Others told me the pong from my chosen dish was overwhelming. I never did care for turkey.

  1. “gifting smoke rings to ungrateful stars” “the sanctuary of the bare lightbulb” lovely, descriptive phrases. It’s gems like these that make writing exciting and reading enjoyable. Wonderful story.

  2. Oh I love the quiet drive here. I feel like this is being told beneath the stars and lamps of a yawning city street, where the cafe’s chairs all sit upon their tables but ours, and your own smoke rings join with the past as you regale the story that proves that all that matters is the smile of one’s love. Perfect. x

    1. Kind words, Ms New Fool. I think you paint the picture better than I. The concept, whether it be by way of fiction or a snap shot of real life, of lost and found has always fascinated me and you are correct, a ‘smile’ is all that matters, Regards, A Very Old Fool

  3. Another Englishman saved 🙂
    Thank you for this beautiful watercolor prose that I am reading in the first hour of 2019. Happy New Your to you and your family! Peace, health, love, and more love!

    1. My thanks for such kind words, Lionel. Yet another letter from Her Majesty. The pile grows by the year. This time she even sent presents. Zinc tablets to keep the testosterone levels up and a brand new ear trumpet. Deep joy.

      1. How very true, Lionel. Given that the earhole is, in my experience at least, the only orifice one cannot blow through, it rather renders said trumpet of little use to man or beast.

    1. An interesting point, Annabelle. The English male stereotype is bland in character; reticent, yet back in the day the upper crust in society and mad artists of all genres were all…almost all…true Bohemians. I think the tag Bohemian heralds from France where even now you’ll find all sorts of ‘going’s on’ are accepted, whereas we Brit chaps are frowned upon as abject, overly polite bores. A fascinating subject. As to the turkey, I’ve been a veggie for years now and cannot face the thought of scoffing animal flesh. It all started years ago, when working too hard, too long I got fat and ended up a type 2 diabetic. Thanks to a website in California I followed their instructions; gave up meat; ate a complex carbohydrate veggie diet; took to exercising every single day, Christmas included; lost 8 stone in 7 months and have kept the weight off for a dozen years now. The big plus is that I’ve been out of the diabetic zone for 7 years now. My thanks to California/America for improving, perhaps even saving, my life!

      1. I rather like hats myself. Presently, what with the cold weather in Blighty I have my Joseph Stalin furry number on most times…much to the dismay of the wife!

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