Ah, those formative years on La Rive Gauche. Pernod in the Café de Flore. A copy of Cahiers du Cinema under the arm. Gitanes dangling expertly from lips. Gathered around the booth of Sartre and de Beauvior. Eavesdropping the great minds pontificating wildly whilst playing Scalextric. ‘The living are but corpses and fate is the maggots feasting upon our eyeballs’, says Sartre as he comes up on the inside track. And there too, enjoying it all in his own quiet way, is Pol Pot. Pol Pot, with his shy smile and funny ideas. Pol Pot, fixing a broken wireless for a glamorous member of the Cercle Marxiste.
And tomorrow we will emerge from our bohemian abodes and spend the afternoon competing in the Montparnasse Swing-Ball Tournament (Le tournament du Swing-Ball Montparnasse Formidable). Cocteau flying into a rage due to another defeat at the hands of Resnais. Gainsborough and Birkin rutting in a near-by hedge. (Ooh la la.) They were all there, those that mattered: Beckett, Goddard, Picasso, Tubridy, Gilson. Absorbed in passionate intellectual discourse and heady competition. Leaning over the Scalextric, the Simon, the Operation, the I Vant to Bite Your Finger or standing poised by the swing-ball, bat in hand.
And sweet Pol Pot. Coy Brother Number One. Always there, on the periphery, noting the to and fro of the ball and the ideas exchanged. Gleaning wisdoms. Wisdoms with which to return to his homeland. Finding inspiration, as I did, on the Left Bank, in Paris.