A Girl Called Len
Chapter 6: A weekend in Paris
Copyright© 2010 by Texrep
I was asked to go to the States that January. The Yanks had developed a new and more powerful machine, and required me as a supposed expert, to go over and help develop the programming for UK purposes. I discovered that Geoff, the guy behind the idea was a Cambridge graduate, who had become disillusioned in England, with the rejection of his ideas by managements who remained firmly bolted to the nineteen-thirties. The Yanks welcomed him with open arms. We were still looking at machines which would in essence speed up the accounting process, but nonetheless records were still hard-copy as nobody had developed a hard drive with enough capacity to store a whole ledger. Geoff was working on that, unfortunately he would be beaten to the prize by others. He also had a team trying to develop a high speed printer. It would be a few years before those became available. In the meantime the electro-mechanical printer would have to do. They were also developing a system that would store data on magnetic tape, and would load very quickly. That would put paid to the hundreds of punch cards we still used. I was impressed by the vision these guys had, and the capital the American owners of the company were willing to put into the research. My time in Baltimore was well spent. I learned such a lot. Not stuff that would be of use immediately, but would eventually help me greatly when I had my own business.
The other thing I learned was that American girls were very friendly, and that my English accent was like cat nip to the pussy. The pun intended! They taught me a lot. I am sure that my American colleagues wondered why I walked around with a permanent smile all day.
Typically it was raining when I returned to England. My flight landed at ten fifty in the evening, too late to catch the train to Exeter, so I got a Taxi and dropped off at Len's flat. She had given me the key and invited me use the place whenever I was in London. The first thing I did was to boil the kettle. The tea they serve on airlines was atrocious. Then I noticed an envelope propped up next to the kettle with my name written on it in Len's meticulous hand. She knew that if I did use the flat, the first thing I would do is brew some tea.
Danny. If you ever get this note it means you are taking up my invitation to use the flat. I wish I was there to sleep with you. But the next best thing is for you to come to Paris and see the show. There will be lots of girls on the stage. Many wearing as little clothes as I, so that should tempt you. Come to the theatre and ask for M. Gerard Moiret. He will find you a seat, and allow you to come backstage afterwards. He will let me know that you are in the audience, so I shall dance just for you. It will be a lovely surprise for me to see you. Please come if you can. xxx Len.
She had written the name and address of the theatre below.
This being Friday I could take the train to Exeter tomorrow, or I could grab a flight to Orly, and go and see some bright lights and nearly naked girls. I didn't have to think about that too long. On Saturday morning a Travel Agent close by on the Bayswater Road got me a return ticket, but the first flight he could get me on was late that afternoon. It arrived in Paris at five-thirty or thereabouts. I wondered about trying to get a hotel room, but took the chance that Len would let me sleep on her floor, wherever she stayed. I waited for a Taxi at the rank outside the Orly airport buildings. Mistake! I was English and queued, the French didn't. Any cab that came along was besieged by all and sundry and the most forceful took the cab. Those unfortunates left behind rent the air with imprecations, many of them containing the word 'merde'. I knew what that meant. When in Rome ... well Paris, you do as they do. I joined the scrum.
My cab was one of those Citroen's that supposedly had that remarkable suspension. It didn't, but the driver obviously thought it did, he drove casually, hitting potholes and kerbs without a care in the world, waving his arm out of the window, gesturing rudely to all the other drivers, whilst smoking one of those pungent French cigarettes, which never left his mouth. He got me to the theatre, and grinned knowingly as I paid him. One more story of the English to talk about with his friends.
I went in and asked for M. Moiret. I was aware from the posters that the show didn't start until eight, and was planning to go and get something to eat in the meantime. M. Moiret bustled into the vestibule waving his arms around and greeted me as if I were his long lost brother. He disturbed my equilibrium by kissing me on both cheeks.
"Danny, Mon Ami. C'est Toi? Hello, it is good to meet you at last." His words, a mixture of French and English all came across in a delightful French accent. He turned to the girl at the desk.
"Clothilde. C'est Danny, vous Savez Danny." Clothilde's face lit up and she ran round and hugged me, giving me more kisses on my cheeks. She bubbled away in French of which I understood nothing, but it was obvious that she was pleased to see me. Len explained this reception later.
Gerard, as he insisted I call him, explained that he would give me a good seat, and then showed me a menu, asking for my choice. I hadn't realised that these places were Theatre Restaurants. I asked about the account, fearing that I wouldn't have enough Francs to pay. Gerard was incensed.
"Non, Non. You do not pay. You are." He stopped seeking the right word in English. "Guest. You do not pay!" He told me to come back at seven forty-five and Clothilde would take me to my seat. I had just over an hour to waste. There were plenty of little Bistro's around so I chose one that looked inviting and went for a coffee. Now in England we drink tea, probably because the English have no idea how to make coffee. The Yanks make coffee like Jet fuel, but I had got used to that, including the habit of no sugar or cream, the Yanks think that any guy who takes either of those two additives is probably of dubious sexuality. The French, now they make coffee into an art form. It's not the drink itself, which is very good, but it is the ritual, that coffee is an escape from all the rigours of life, and should be enjoyed for its own sake rather than a way of getting liquid into the body. The French always insist that they are the only civilised nation in the world, arguable, but in this respect of coffee I think they probably are.
At seven forty-five I was back at the theatre, and Clothilde grabbed my arm and took me up stairs to my seat on the balcony, all the while chattering away in French. She could have been reciting the Lord's Prayer for all I knew. What I did understand was her frequent calling to other employees, ushers and waitresses.
"C'est Danny. Vous savez, l'ami de Lee" Everyone who heard this immediately became my best friend. I arrived at my table, with an entourage of staff, all insistent on making sure that I had everything I needed. I was a little taken aback by this attention, but accepted it and enjoyed it nonetheless.
No sooner than I had been seated, a waiter appeared at my elbow. Thank Heaven! He spoke English.
"We have heard so much about you; it is good to finally meet you, Danny. May I suggest an aperitif? What would you like?" Overwhelmed with all this attention I didn't know what to ask for, and the first thing that came into mind was a Gin and Tonic. I am a beer man really when I drink, but that is only on rare occasions. But I rationalised that asking for a beer here would not go down to well. As the auditorium filled I noticed that evening dress was the norm. I was sitting here in a rather crumpled suit that had been to the States and back with me. Couple my state of dress with my asking for a beer would have really told these people that I was down-market. My seat appeared to be on a Balcony, but when I looked over I saw the next row only three feet below, and realised that the tables were arranged on terraces, rising gently to where I sat. From my view point I could see the stage easily. I was about ten feet higher than the stage and some forty yards away.
Just after eight the show started, I was grateful that the auditorium lights were lowered, the table lamps just giving sufficient glow to see what you were eating. The dark also enabled me to think less of my dishevelled state. The first part of the show was not spectacular, mainly singing and music The Dancing girls performed, but there were no topless showgirls. Probably just as well, the patrons could concentrate on the meal, without having too much distraction, and spilling soup down their Dinner Jackets. As it was Paris there was the inevitable songstress who sang the Edith Piaff numbers, and managed to get that signature 'rrrr' into her voice. The meal was very good. I ate everything, as I was quite hungry, not having eaten anything since eleven that morning. At nine the M.C. came out, and welcomed everyone. The patrons were on the coffee by that time, and the Cabaret began. Now the Dancing Girls wore sexier costumes and the showgirls paraded around. The whole routine was designed that the Showgirls would always be at the front of the line, and during the act would become part of a tableau, so that everyone could admire their beauty. The speciality acts were interspersed with another routine from the Dancers and Showgirls, each time with a different costume. It was getting close to half past ten before the M.C. announced.
"Mesdames, Messieurs, et Mademoiselles. Nous présentons fièrement, La belle 'Lee'! (trans, We proudly present the beautiful 'Lee'.) All the stage lights dimmed and expired. Even the table lamps went out. Then in the darkness I could sense the curtains opening, and then the spotlight that Len had called Super Trouper picked her out in the centre of a set of simple black drapes. The spot gradually increased in intensity, and the music gradually swelled. She began her dance.
Of course I had seen the dance before, at least five times, and to me it was lovely. Seeing it on the stage it was crafted for, was a different experience. The black backdrop served to emphasise the beautiful girl on stage picked out in the white spotlight. For the first time I could appreciate the obvious Ballet steps she incorporated. The chiffon as it unravelled from her body floated away, and got lost in the darkness. But more than anything I was suffused with the knowledge that this lovely creature desired by so many watching her, had happily accepted me into her bed and into her body.
The finale was greeted with an absolute silence from the audience until suddenly they collectively realised that they had seen something really special. Then the applause came. Slowly at first but building to a crescendo co-incidentally as the table lights came back on. Patrons got to their feet clapping enthusiastically. I had been alone in a small world watching Len, and didn't realise that at some point Gerard had joined me. He was smiling and nodding his head. His arms came up in that typical Gallic gesture.
"Alors! It is always like this, Danny. You must be very proud as the inspiration behind this dance." I must have looked shocked.
"Come, Danny. Lee has told us all that you had the ideas and helped her create the dance. You must not be so." He fumbled for the English word. "Réservé." It was said in French but the word was so similar to English that I understood.
He tapped my shoulder.
"Me suivre, s'il vous plaît." Then remembering that I didn't speak French said it again in English. "Come with me. I'll take you to Lee." I followed him across the balcony and through a door hidden by a curtain. We then started downstairs. It was obvious that this was not the public part of the theatre, Instead of plush, warm curtaining and lighting, this was plain painted walls, and fluorescent strip lighting. As we descended lower we entered a world of bustle, and shouting. Girls in various stages of costume change rushed past, it would appear that none of them had any qualms taking off one costume before they got to the dressing room in their rush to change for the next routine. I have never seen so many bared breasts in my life. One of the Showgirls hurried past. She was tall, her height accented by the plumes she wore on her head and the six inch heels of her shoes. What costume she was wearing was mainly sequins stuck in strategic places. She looked at Gerard then at me.
"Blimey, is this Danny?" Pure East End cockney came from her mouth, totally at odds with the picture of statuesque beauty. I nodded. She reached down to me and kissed me firmly on the lips. I just stood there speechless.
"Nice to meetcha. Tell Lee that it was Janey who put the lipstick on yer gob. She'll understand."
Gerard now took me up another set of stairs. There was less bustle here. He stopped at room five and knocked.
"Quelqu'un vous voir, Lee." (trans. Someone to see you, Lee)
"C'est Danny?"(trans. Is it Danny?)
"Oui." The door was flung open and Len, wearing a kimono style wrap, hurtled out and into my arms.
I looked round to thank Gerard, but he had vanished. Len pulled me into her dressing room, and glued her lips to mine. She was so alive at that moment. Her eyes sparkled and the smile on her face seemed to be permanent. I apologised for the lipstick that was there. She shook her head and laughed.
"That would be Janey. She always said that if she ever got to meet you, the first thing she would do is plant a smacker on you." I grinned.
"She certainly did that." I was holding Len's hands in mine, and she didn't pull away, so I pulled her against me again and we kissed once more. This time Len opened her mouth and our tongues slipped together. There seemed to me more passion in this kiss than we had before.
Len seemed reluctant to let go, but had to get on with the business of taking her stage make-up off. As she creamed her face and wiped with tissues, she talked.
"Where are you staying?"
"I haven't got anywhere. The earliest flight I could get got me into Orly at five thirty and I came straight here."
"Good. I should have said not to book anything in my note. You stay with me." She turned to me, her face glistening with the cold cream.
"What did you think?" She could only be referring to the dance. I took my time before replying, marshalling my thoughts.