A Photo Salvador Dalí kindly took of Shirley & I at our favourite Parisian Café back in ’24

It is June 1924 in the magical period of the ‘Années folles’.  We are in The City of Love.  Paris by any other name. Moreover, we are young and devoted to one another.  Overnight, spring has turned to summer and it is as if the tantalising romantic May dance of titillation has been fully consummated beneath the clear blue skies of the summer equinox.  There are no shadows under the high sun of noon this day as Shirley and I walk the Luxembourg Gardens.  Ever the actress she has adopted for this trip her very best mid-Atlantic accent in order that she will fit in when we meet up with the others, mostly arty-farty American writers of the ‘Lost Generation’, on the ‘left bank’ a little later on.  For now though, we just take our time, hand in hand thinking of last night’s wanton frolics.

“Honey, we had such a gay time with all our new friends at Gertrude Stein’s party last evening.  We really must return the favour don’t you think?”

Homing in on the ‘gay’ reference I answered in a deep voice that perhaps gave away a hint of my shock at hearing her say such a thing, “Pardon?”  However, the conversation does not get a chance to develop as walking toward us taking in the rays is a shirtless Ezra Pound.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Ezra.  Approaching us with more haste than one would expect on such a fine, hot day he says, “Can you give me the time?”  My riposte, “Ezra, my friend, I can give you dollars, francs or sterling for I have those ‘aplenty; I can give you lewd photographs or the business cards of Russian ‘ladies of the night’ immigrants, yet ‘time’ is something beyond my ability to gift.”  I’d never heard Ezra swear before yet for whatever reason I think I overheard him mumble, “Fucking tosser,” as he walked on. Presumably he was talking of T S Elliot of whom I am aware he has doubts?

Eventually, having braved the rising temperatures longer than I would have wished and walked the Boulevard St-Michel down past the Cluny and the Boulevard St-Germain we arrive at the little bohemian café of our choice on the Place St-Michel.  This is not where those writers and philosophers wishing to be noticed gather, more where the serious students of life descend upon.  We take a table outside and order our drinks.

“Honey, just why is it that the French serve up lager in thimbles for us to sip when back home it comes in pint mugs with handles all the better to gulp from?  I’ve got a thirst you could photograph about me and would certainly prefer a more substantial vessel.”

I tell her I cannot say why.  It is then that I spot Hemingway also sat outside, pen in hand scribbling away like billy-o.  I call out to him, “Hi Ernie, how’s it going then?”  He looks up and over at me with some distain before affording me a reply. “Hem to you,” he says in what I feel is an unnecessarily aggressive tone of voice.  The thing is I do not know this word ‘Hemtoyou’ which makes an appropriate response difficult. Regardless, the others have told me that Ernie has the makings of a literary giant and I guess he simply knows more words than me. “Come over and join us Ernie,” I ask of him whereupon he rises from his table, punches the waiter in the guts and storms off in something of a huff…and there was me ready to discuss the meaning of life with him; give him a few tips and such like.

The afternoon turns to evening and still Shirley and I find ourselves consumed in ‘people watching’ enjoying every minute of it.  To our surprise, just as we were about to depart for a spot of nosh who should turn up but Scott F Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.  As is her want, Zelda has been on the tilt once more and I detect is now as pissed as the proverbial rat.  I hate it when she is like this.  Her envy of Scotty’s success always leads to a shed load of insults thrown in his direction after she’s had more than a few sherbets. Recently Ernie has let me know that Scotty has confided in him saying he gets very embarrassed when she brings up the subject of his penis in public places…the size of said penis that is; not the public places!  The things she says are not repeatable here.  Today however her anger seems to know no bounds.  Somewhat out of the blue we hear her say aloud to any one prepared to listen, “Love making with this man…yes I’m talking about you Fitzgerald…is like being stung by a cotton bud.”  This cuts the ever sensitive Scotty to the core and I detect tears in his eyes as her rant continues.  We take our leave with some haste.

Decades after the events outlined herein Shirley and I found ourselves nostalgically running over the events of our lifetime together and the subject of Paris in 1924 came up.  Shirley, having long since dropped the mid-Atlantic accent and reverted to her usual plummy Surrey brogue, reminds me that that little café in the Place St-Michel was where many years on Woody Allen penned what is perhaps the best one-liner ever written, “I can levitate birds. No one cares.” My how we laughed!

NB – for the record Zelda genuinely did have the habit of belittling Scott’s member in public places.


    1. My thanks, young Holly. My apologies if you got in late. By the way, Zelda according to Hemingway’s factual book ‘The Moveable Feast’ of his early days in Paris was quite the nastiest person when ‘in drink’ and would, time and time again put poor Fitzgerald down. Not a likeable lady, methinks.

    1. Paris in the ’20’s had 40,000 Americans of artistic bent living there. ‘The Lost Generation’ they called them. Prohibition back home even lead to jazz being the new choice of music for the whole of France, plus the black guys who made the music found a new freedom in life; there in Paris. If I could turn the clock back in time and despite having the knowledge that WW2 was around the corner, I’d take it just to people watch in Paris in the 1920’s/1930’s. Good on you, Sir.

      1. If ever there was a gift to European culture it was, I believe, during that period when young Americans revealed a new take on all things artistic. For that short period ‘talent’ had found an ideal holiday home. Montparnasse, Paris was the place to be.

    1. I’ve always intended to read more about Zelda. I really must get around to it. Such terrible mood swings when ‘in drink’, she could turn on a sixpence. Perhaps Paris was the last place she should have gone to. Absinthe abounds!

    1. My thanks. I’ve always adored Paris. To me an over confident yet in reality, a rather stupid Englishman in the company of American giants rather amused me. If you’ve not read then do read Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’. The Lost Generation are all there in his factual account of those times. Regards, The Old Fool

  1. This is a wonderful read!
    I am fascinated by that period in Paris. I got to learn a bit more about it when I worked on a film for Showtime (costume designer). It was about the last year of Fitzgerald’s life. Jeremy Irons played Fitzgerald, Sissy Spacek played Zelda (as an hallucination) & Nev Campbell played Francis Ring Kroll. Francis was his assistant to his writing The Last Tycoon, and partly responsible for getting it published. The movie is based on this book. I got to talk with her for weeks, while we worked on the film.
    Jeremy gifted me a very large book, “The Romantic Egoists” , which is a reproduction of scrapbooks they kept in the 20’s and 30’s.
    It’s fabulous with many pics of them, Scottie, the times, magazine bits about his books, sketches… I mean it is a gold mine of the era.
    Thank you for reminding me of one of the best projects I ever worked on!

    1. My thanks, Resa. You leave me envious. Your enthusiasm addictive. That period in Paris, the Montparnasse and Montmartre districts especially, twixt the two wars generally known as the Années folles was a time…as you already fully understand…when ‘art’ trumped all else. ‘Tis the way of the French even to this very day. They have a certain panache. Each year my dear wife and I spend much time in France…far better than this wretched island we live upon. Were it the case I could have but one wish it would be to live in Paris during the late 20’s through into the 30’s. Notwithstanding the awful war on the horizon I would still wish to be sat outside of a café people watching there. In truth, in terms of most of my books be they of poetry or fictional story are for the main part themed on/in Paris in those golden years. Best regards, The Exceptionally Old Fool

  2. You are amazing.
    I enjoy reading fellow bloggers books. Yours look very interesting. I have reviewed a few… but they have gowns in them.
    I do have a small pile up of books to read, and I am boycotting Amazon. Are any of your books available on an alternative platform?
    Please, give my gracious regards to your wife, and be forever in your mind and heart in Paris, in those golden years!

    1. I haven’t been called ‘amazing’ since the old King died and even then the young lady who referred to me thus added an extra word that rather took the edge off ‘amazing’. Such is life. Sadly, my books are only on Amazon. In essence, aside from a WP post and a couple of tweets I don’t market my work at all. The whole marketing process leaves me bored senseless. My books are written in the hope that one day in the future a great, great grandchild will find them in an attic and think to herself or himself ‘what a nutter he was’! I’d rather that than a gravestone not a soul would ever visit…and why should they. Should you wish it I’m more than happy to have someone…technology defeats me in this regard…savvy with Kindle to email you some, or perhaps link you to free copies depending upon what is easier, as I have not a blind clue. The new book ‘The Blue-Eyed Cat’, also set in Paris twixt the wars, plus Berlin prior to Hitler ruining its risqué cabaret culture should be available in the next few weeks. Whatever, thanks for your enthusiasm. Best wishes The Old Fool

      1. I’d love to read “The Blue-Eyed Cat”!
        I’ve written 2 books. I give one for free as a download on my graffiti blog. Here’s a direct link… You might want to read the blurb bit.
        I wrote another book, but there’s a bit of a kinky sex thing, so I’m nervous about just anyone reading it. I mean, it’s not porn…for sure.. and I think it’s much better written than the first book.
        Anyway, if you leave a comment on the link page, I’ll have your email, or if you go to your comments in your dashboard, find this comment, then you will have my email.
        You probably already know that. Then you can email me a PDF of “The Blue-Eyed Cat”
        Best wishes -a general fool

      2. You should never worry where your imaginations take you. In a world of hatred I find it strange when abject bores see free-thinkers as ‘kinky’…better they should look toward tackling the inhumanity of violence, racism, sexism, homophobia and most other thing ending in ‘ism’. When writing together the book ‘Whatever Happened to Eve’ my wife and I allowed our minds to wander free. That Eve…the Eve of biblical origins having been evicted from a so called paradise…out of choice and harming no one did exactly what Eve wanted whenever she wanted would offend many. Such is life. I believe it helped Eve that we conceived her ribald ‘lifestyle’ while a tad worse for red wine in a tobac/bar in France. If France cannot inspire nowhere can!
        That said, I shall follow up on your suggestions. I’m truly looking forward to reading your work and sorting out how to send you my latest tome…I shall call upon my son to handle the PDF as that will be beyond my capabilities.
        I shall be in touch. Best regards, The Old Fool

    1. My thanks, young Ms Lee. The joy of time-travel in terms of storytelling is that one can invite the factual to greet the fiction in a way that is often not that easy to deal with in the ‘current’ or pre-set theatre of life. In all fiction anything is possible…you likely know that better than me…yet when time is no longer an issue imagination consumes the mind and makes it its own. It allows me not to be me for the duration. It is as if I have an invisible doppelganger lurking at my side. Only the other day dear Shirl, reading the book I’ve now finished, asked of me, “What on earth goes through you head when writing?” ‘Twas a question I could not properly answer. In essence I have no idea. Do you also enjoy such a glorious affliction or am I on the cusp of madness?

      1. Sometimes, if the story is *there* and I can truly see it, it really is like a time travel. I lose track of where I am…which can be dangerous with mischievous sons…. usually I have moments of story in the purest of clarity, like being able to reach out and feel the snow fall upon my hand, and study their delicate crystal patterns before they’re lost to water. Connecting the moments is the true challenge. xxxxxx

      2. Interesting. Seeing the story per scene I am good with. It is the only way to write. The only curse that always rears its ugly head is when I’m a quarter into a tale when I see the perfect ending. That is when my mid story suffers from neglect. The brain is a tortuous thing when takes a liberty for no good reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.