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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Fictional Psychopath

The Fictional Psychopath

an analysis of the serial killer Clive Philip Matteson

featured in West Quarry Farm

 While being interviewed about my latest novel, West Quarry Farm, the interviewer asked if my antagonist Clive Philip Matteson (Phil) would rate high on the psychopathic scale.
While I was aware of the criteria used to class someone as having an Antisocial Personality Disorder, I hadn't actually considered putting Phil Matterson's character to the test until now. 
(Disclaimer: I am an author of fiction. I don't profess to be an expert on psychological disorders - James Sillwood) 

Without giving away any spoilers, Phil, the antagonist of the story, is a serial killer on the loose in the southern counties of the UK. He meets Rebecca, an unsuspecting young wife and mother who is taken in by his charms. Meanwhile, Melanie Williams, a woman who has been tracking Phil for years, has located him in her home town of Brighton.
The story focuses on the points of view of these three characters.

To discover how Phil would score on the psychopathic scale I have taken the twenty personality traits which the psychologist Robert Hare outlines in his Psychopathy Checklist and compared them to Phil's thoughts and actions in the story.

From the moment Phil first meets Rebecca we see how he lays on the charm to get her on his side:

He gave her a knowing smile; pale blue eyes locked on to her gaze. With the slightest effort, his shoulder floated from its resting position [against the porch] and he extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Phil.”

There are many instances where Phil gives us an insight into his superior knowledge of all subjects. Here is one example:

The man, Phil, was standing next to the bookcase reading the cover of La Dolce Vita. He looked up. The lines at the corners of his eyes creased as he smiled. “This yours?” He held up the DVD.
Yes. My favourite. But it's scratched, so I haven’t been able to watch it for a . . . ”
You ever seen Fellini’s version of Casanova?”
Yes, I used to have a copy but I think it must have got lost in the move.”
Cool. Great direction, but don’t you think the scenes were a bit fragmented? Kind of distracted you away from the plot?”
His words flowed like a gentle river.

Phil is a drug dealer and takes risks with this activity. There are a number of occasions when Phil is shown to be driving recklessly and takes satisfaction from the knowledge that his passenger is scared by his action.

Apart from his car scam, Phil's ability to tell lies is second nature.
In need of a favour, he phones an ex girlfriend, Cassandra, after ignoring her for several weeks:

"You promised you'd call me after seven days," she continued.
"But didn't you get my letter?"
"What bloody letter?"
"From New York."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Phil explained that only two days after they last met he had to fly over to the States to do a promotional tour and had only just returned today. "I only just got in at Heathrow this morning. You're the first person I've contacted since I got here."
He explained that the letter he wrote was asking if she would come over and join him in New York.
"I don't believe you. If that's true you would have written again. Or phoned me?"
After that, Cassandra hung up.
Phil came to the conclusion that he must have caught her at a bad time.

And here Phil tries to suggest he has gone out of his way to buy Rebecca a special gift to make amends:

He turned and gave her a big smile. In his hand was a DVD of La Dolce Vita, "Searched everywhere for it. I managed to find it in a little second-hand bookshop in Maidstone." He reached out to pass it over.
Rebecca refused to take it. "You didn't listen to a word I said on the phone this morning, did you?"
She picked up the DVD which he'd left on the table, opened the case only to find there was no disc inside. On the cover was written "Property of Susan Matteson" [Phil's mother]

Phil is conning potential buyers out of a deposit for his father's car which is not his to sell.
Of course, he also has a way of manipulating his victims. Not wishing to give away any spoilers, I will not relate them here. 

Apart from demonstrating a lack of remorse in torturing his victims, Phil, when recalling an earlier abduction, goes a stage further by finding the whole episode amusing:

He drained the last of his coffee and tried to remember the girl's name. That's it! Anouk.
An idea came into his head: Anouk on the hook. Why hadn't he thought of that before? The picture of her suspended from the gambrel in the curing room set him off. He doubled up with laughter.
The remaining customers turned away as Phil headed towards the door.
Anouk on the hook!” he bellowed as he stepped out into the street.

Phil appears to be helping a young and distressed girl at a coach stop on the M25, but he has another plan on his mind: 

He had been parked right at the back, near the coach area (no CCTV there). He'd been watching her for about five minutes; the same girl he'd seen at the drinks machine in the cafeteria. She was distraught, pacing up and down as if she was lost. He got out, walked around the lot and strolled back towards his car. For a moment, he didn't think she'd noticed him. He was passing by when she stopped him and asked if this was the right place for the National Express. The rest was easy. It seemed the coach had gone off without her (thoughtless bastards!) They had her suitcase on board. Her friend was meeting her in Brighton. "Did you call her to let her know you'll be late?" (He had to be sure). "No. She's at work and her mobile's switched off " (What a stroke of luck!). "Where is the next scheduled stop?" He pretended to share her concern. She checked her ticket "Somewhere called Crawley". "Tell you what, I'm going to Horsham," he lied. "I could give you a lift as far as Crawley, if you like?" (Big gallant smile). “But I'm picking my Mum up on the way.” For a moment, the girl hesitated. "We'll have to get a move on if we're going to catch up with your coach." (Good thinking Phil – she fell for it). The rest was easy. A race down the M23 (she gripping her seat all the way). He made up a story of having to dress the burn on his leg which was becoming painful and said he'd have to pull over into a lay-by (She seemed relieved). He opened the glove compartment, took out the bottle and cotton wad (she even watched him do it – what a laugh!) She struggled for a bit, but not for too long.

Here are Phil and Rebecca studying a column in a newspaper

Phil picked up a newspaper from the next table and read the headline on the front page, Pile-up on the A 30 – kills 5.
Who was responsible for that?” Phil pointed to the photograph which showed a hysterical mother watching her two children being carried away on stretchers.
That’s awful isn’t it.” Becky was leaning over his shoulder. (Becky, that’s it; stupid name for anyone over the age of twelve).
Yeah, they could have asked her to stand more to the left,” Phil said. “Then they would get a much better shot of the bodies – people love to see that kind of thing.”

At the age of twenty-seven Phil is unemployed and lives rent-free in the comfortable modernised extension of his parent's home. Here he is in his spacious loft conversion:

He'd been working on the video for less than ten minutes when a voice called from below the stairwell. “Can I come up for a minute?”
Shit! What’s she after? He paused the film and closed the viewing screen. “Yeah, sure.”
A letter for you.” His mother didn’t venture any further than the top tread of the stairs. She held out a white A4 envelope. “I just wanted to ask you," she hesitated. "You’re not in any trouble are you?”
No." Phil gave her a convincing smile. "Not at all. Why?”
It’s just that a couple of men called yesterday afternoon asking for you.”
Phil took the envelope and sauntered over to the bed. “Did they say who they were, or what they wanted?”
No. They were smartly dressed – you haven’t been up to anything?”
Anything?” He gave his mother a puzzled look.
Mrs Matteson looked down and picked at the hem of her sweater. “You know what I mean.”
Phil cocked his head to one side. “No, I can’t say I know what you mean."
His mother shook her head. She took a couple of steps down and turned to face her son. “Never mind what your father says, if you do leave home again, you will let me know before you go next time?”
Phil was now laying back on the bed, his eyes fixed on the ceiling beams. “Don’t worry, Mum. I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
She glanced towards the dining room below. “Your father says he’ll need the car on Saturday, so could you please clean it before then?”
Phil didn’t take his eyes away from the ceiling. He just smiled. “Okay, sure.”
With that, Mrs Matteson left The Stables and returned to the main house.

Although controlled, Phil shows unpredictable outbursts of aggression:

No sooner was the camcorder attached to the tripod, one leg began to retract. Phil leapt forward and stopped it crashing to the floor. He detached the camera, placed it carefully on the table and inspected the tripod. A screw was missing – impossible to replace. Holding the contraption between his finger and thumb, he, like the Kung-Fu hero of his childhood, kicked out with the sole of his bare foot sending it skidding across the floor to crash against the far wall of the room. “Bitch!”

Here is another situation. An unruly customer in a bar has been making abusive remarks to Phil and Rebecca. Unfortunately for the customer, he has chosen the wrong target:

Phil marched into the men's toilet and checked both cubicles were vacant. The man in Lycra was propping himself up with one hand against the wall as he relieved himself onto the urinal. With bleary eyes, he turned and watched Phil take the mop and jam the pole against the door handle.
What the fuck’s going –”
But the man wasn’t allowed to finish. In one swift movement, he was pulled away from the wall; the stream of urine soaking the front of his trousers as he desperately tried to regain his balance. But it was no use. With flaying arms, his head was thrown forward with such force that his nose made an audible crack as it came to meet the wall. Blood sprayed across the plain white tiles and into the metal trough below.
The man groaned and sank to his knees.
The first boot-fall landed into the soft area just below his ribcage. He began to howl; a sound which was abruptly blocked with a violent thrust of the knee to his throat. Before the poor man could right himself he was dragged into the nearest cubicle.
You know, I already told you. You really should learn some manners.” Phil lifted the man from the floor and pushed his head into the bowl. “Time to wash that foul mouth out!”

This is a difficult one. Phil enlists the aid of women to help entice his victims. He doesn't have sexual relationships in the "normal" sense but, like many serial killers, gets satisfaction from torturing his victims.

Melanie Williams has managed to discover a few occasions when Matteson had come to the attention of the police: a incident at his school when he and two other boys had stolen a car. and another at university when he was accused of sexual assault. There may have been occasions in his childhood when Matteson had been displaying signs of antisocial behaviour but these have not been reported.

Phil did not complete his degree at university. He had a short spell in the French Foreign Legion and has since held a position as technical assistant at a college. Mostly he has been gaining money through criminal activities. Phil Matteson has no long-term goals.

Most of his abductions are opportunistic. Here is an example where, at the risk of being caught, Phil attempts to pick up a potential victim in plain daylight from a busy train station:

It only took Phil three minutes from there to reach the top of Queens Road. Main line stations were always a possibility, but never easy. A girl was standing just outside the entrance – and she was alone. There were two other people across from her, a man with a laptop bag over his shoulder and a woman in a West Cornwall Pastry uniform. Both were smoking. Phil moved to the side where the girl stood. She couldn’t be more than sixteen, heavy make-up, skinny jeans. Phil met her nervous glance with a smile. It worked.
Can you give me a couple of quid for a coffee?” She had an accent – Northern maybe.
Yeah, sure,” Phil said. “Hey listen, I’m just going to buy a paper then something to eat in that café over there in a few minutes.” He pointed to the right of the station exit. “Fancy joining me?”
The girl eyed him suspiciously.
They do a wicked all day breakfast,” he said.
Her eyes brightened. “Okay then.”
Right, you wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.

This is shown throughout the story. Phil even makes a habit of intentionally turning up late for appointments, if he shows up at all.

Even after Rebecca has made it plain that she doesn't want to see him again, Phil turns up at her home and makes out that she is the one who wants them to continue with "the relationship":

Armed with a pair of pruning shears and a bin liner Rebecca, on her hands and knees, set to work clearing the deadwood. She had just started in the far corner when she was aware of someone behind. She turned in time to see Phil making his way up the path. Just before he reached the front door he turned to her and smiled. "Coming in Becky?"
What the hell does he think he's doing! Rebecca sprang to her feet. But too late: he was already inside. He was half way into the hall before she caught up with him.
"Did I say you could come in?" she demanded.
He turned to face her. "Well, not exactly. But your front door was open."
Rebecca's jaw dropped. She was so taken aback, she couldn't think what to say. She wondered if Amy was still asleep in the next room.
"Anyway," Phil continued as he stepped into the lounge. "You were complaining that you couldn't wait to see me. So, here I am."
"What I said was," she paused, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. "I did not want to see you again . . . "
He turned and gave her a big smile. In his hand was a DVD of La Dolce Vita, "Searched everywhere for it. I managed to find it in a little second-hand bookshop in Maidstone." He reached out to pass it over.
Rebecca refused to take it. "You didn't listen to a word I said on the phone this morning, did you?"

Phil has never been married. His longest relationship with a woman only lasted a few months.

As already stated in 12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS

This doesn't apply as Phil has never been detained in prison.

As mentioned before, in addition to sexual assault, Phil is involved in fraud (extracting deposits for his father's car) and drug dealing.

For further description of these 20 items see: Robert Hare Checklist 

It is no surprise that, after completing a few of the self-assement Antisocial Personality Disorder tests online, Clive Philip Matteson rated very high on the psychopath scale.
Of course, these self-assesment tests are not to be taken as an accurate method of determining psychopathy and, if I had the opportunity, I would suggest Phil seek professional advice. (On second thoughts, I would just stay well clear of him!)

WestQuarry Farm is availlable in paperback and as an ebook from most online booksellers. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Saturday 6th June: A dark horse.

Benjamin was standing at the pear tree this morning, concerned that three toy soldiers had mysteriously entangled themselves in the upper branches. He beamed as I got the garden broom from the shed and knocked them down (for the third time this week).
Ines phoned later, asking if I'd go round to her place to run through some songs. I agreed as Alexander's still looking for a drummer and won't practise until he's found one. He can be very single-minded. When I arrived at Gavin and Ines' house I was greeted by a life size bronze statue adopting an operatic pose which dominated the front entrance. At first I assumed this to be a figure of Gavin until Ines appeared and told me it was Enrico Caruso, Gavin's greatest hero. (I always assumed Gavin's greatest hero to be himself). I followed Ines through the black and white tiled hall and into the conservatory. It was sunny this morning and the doors to the garden were open. Outside, on the patio, Gavin's elderly mother was slumped in a garden chair with an open book on her lap, her sun hat gradually sliding off her head.
The best thing about Gavin's house is his baby grand piano which takes pride of place in the conservatory and which I always look forward playing. I was seated at it when Ines asked if I'd noticed the new addition to the photo collection of Gavin's performances. She pointed to a black and white print of Gavin; a distraught expression on his face as he lay across the body of a young woman. At the bottom of the photo was an inscription; A scene from La Boheme with Rodalfo falling upon the lifeless body of his lover, Mimi.
I asked Ines why she doesn't have any photo's of herself. She avoided the subject, telling me that Gavin has been away in Munich for a few days and is due to return this evening. It was my turn to steer away from the subject this time, and we ran through a couple of songs; L'eau du Mars and Quizas.
During our break I stepped outside I admired the beautiful scented white and pink roses. Gavin's mother, who had woken from her nap, became quite animated when describing her old garden in Cardiff; a tiny patch of lawn in front of her two bed terraced house. She told me how Gavin's father had an allotment where he used to disappear, every weekend. Gavin obviously started from very poor beginnings and I get the impression his mother idolises him.
As I went back into the conservatory, Ines handed me a letter and asked if I would mind reading it aloud as her English is not too good. At first I assumed it would be a business letter, but then I noticed it was handwritten. I asked her what it was about. She seemed reluctant to tell me. I read;
"Dear Gavin, It was good to see you. The boys loved their presents but were sad after you'd left. Jake's school report was so good and Charlie's doing well with his trumpet lessons. Hope your time in Munich goes well. I know how busy you are, but please try to find time for us. Any chance of a trip to Brittany?"
The letter ended with "Love Susie."
Two photos fluttered out from the pages; school photos of two boys. One was about 11, the other about eight. Both bore a resemblance to Gavin; the younger boy, more so.
Ines was standing expectantly at my side, waiting for my reaction. I was certain she'd already read the letter a few times and this irritated me. I was being dragged into something which I don't want to be involved with. The letter was dated several months ago and addressed to a hotel in Milan. I asked how she found it. She shrugged. She'd obviously been snooping while Gavin's was away. I suggested she speak to Gavin's mother about it. She dismissed the idea, saying the old lady refuses to say anything on the subject, only repeating that Ines would have to speak to Gavin. As if to prove her point, Ines took the letter from my hand and went outside. I followed. Although she must have overheard, Gavin's mother, book in her hand, had a fixed expression as if she was attempting to ignore us.
I followed Ines into the kitchen where she made us drinks from a hi tech DeLonghi coffee maker. She asked me if I thought the boys were Gavin's sons. I told her they must be, although I couldn't tell if he was still involved with their mother (I wondered why he hadn't told Ines about them).
She was telling me how worried she was when we heard the front door opening and Gavin's booming voice calling out for her. She froze as he strode into the kitchen and, beaming at her, picked her up and swung her around. Noticing me, he came over and shook hands, asking how I was. He'd managed to get an earlier flight from Munich, wanting to surprise Ines. He'd certainly done that! Still holding the letter and photos in her hand, she thrust them in front of his face and demanded an explanation. He hesitated for only a second before telling her she was being silly. He admitted they were his sons and, apart from practical arrangements to see the boys, insisted he had nothing to do with their mother now. He laughed at Ines, scolding her as if she were a child. She asked why he hadn't told her about them. He said he knew it would worry her. I felt awkward standing there. I could see Ines was ready to believe him so I made my excuses and left (I don't think they even noticed). I said goodbye to Gavin's mother. She nodded at me, barely glancing up from her book (I don't like Gavin and I don't like his mother, but I do wish Ines would stand up for herself).

It was a relief to be get back to my cottage where Joao was cleaning the windows outside the gite. I sat in my garden and he came over for a chat. We talked about his region of the Algarve and the pretty town of Loule where I once spent a birthday.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Wednesday 27th May: Stefanie's Return.

Karl has just told me that several nights ago, at about 3.00 a.m, he'd heard a noise in his house that sounded like footsteps. Going downstairs and still half asleep, he was amazed to find Stefanie in the kitchen. She had the fridge door open and was, literally, stuffing herself with food. He was shocked by her appearance. Her hair was lank and greasy, she was pale with black shadows under her eyes, and was wearing a torn t-shirt and stained jeans. He got her to sit down and tell him what was going on. It turned out she'd been living in Tomas' squat with no electricity, heating or hot water. Karl was extremely angry that she'd hitchhiked all the way from Berlin. When asked why she couldn't pay for the train fare, she admitted she had no money, as she'd lost her evening waitress job. Karl wanted to ask if Tomas had anything to do with this, but reluctant to bring up the subject of Stefanie's boyfriend, he thought better of it.
By half past three Karl could wait no longer, and had to ask where Tomas was. Stefanie spent ages before admitting that he had been arrested after the police questioned him about a break in at a pharmaceutical research centre with thousands of Euro's worth of damage to the factory and hundreds of rats, mice and rabbits released from their cages.Two other boys from the squat were taken in with Tomas but Stefanie insisted that, although she did know about it, she had nothing to do with the break in. This was not a first offence for Tomas and he has been sentenced to four weeks in prison as he was unable to pay the fine imposed by the court. Tomas' parents are wealthy bankers who could easily have paid, however, they had washed their hands of their son, and want nothing more to do with him. Karl did his best to comfort Stefanie, assuring her that Tomas would be fine and would probably soon be released. He told me, however, that he was relieved to see Stefanie return without him. She'd done so well in her end of year exams and had been determined to continue on in September.
Since coming back she's already found a summer job at the local kennels run by a Dutch couple who breed Poodles and Labradoodles just outside Languidic. Stefanie studied their website before walking to the kennels to enquire about work. She's been there for two days and told her dad she's really enjoying the work. Although she assured him she has no intention of releasing any of the dogs, or causing any damage to the property, Karl is very concerned. I pointed out that, now she's not in touch with Tomas, she's started eating properly again and already looks much better.
Karl asked me to come and look at her room. I followed him up the stairs and into the small bright room overlooking the garden. Photos of Tomas and Stefanie, along with pages of letters and poems were taped all over the walls. Stefanie had made a chart of the days until Tomas was due to be released and was religiously crossing each day off. A threadbare jacket lay across the bed which had a damp musty odour. Stefanie refused to wash it as it was Tomas's. As we made our way back down into the kitchen Karl told me he was concerned about what will happen when Tomas is released.
Yesterday was Stefanie's twentieth birthday and Karl asked if I would come over and could I also bring Ann-Sofie? When I asked Ann Sofie, she was very enthusiastic to come and Solange agreed she could have the time off.
It was late afternoon when we arrived. Ann-Sofie was given a guided tour around the house and gardens and we sat down by the lake to watch Gary the goose. Stefanie certainly seemed much happier than the last time I saw her. She was followed everywhere by a collie dog, Bon-Bon, who she said had followed her home from the kennels. She dismissed Karl's concerns, saying the dog was a stray and unwanted. Ann-Sofie and Stefanie spoke to each other in English and seemed to get on well. She asked for a piece of paper and began sketching Bon-Bon. Stefanie showed it to us, clearly impressed.
Dinner, cooked by Stefanie, was roast chicken with potato dumplings, red cabbage and carrots. She'd also made a Gugelhuf; a hoop shaped cake with a chocolate filling. She's placed twenty pink candles around and explained that in Germany it's traditional to keep the candles burning for as long as possible.

Karl said she used to have a wooden birthday wreath with twelve candles, one to be lit each year, until she reached the age of twelve. Ann Sofie told us that in Sweden a child is brought breakfast in bed with a piece of birthday cake; traditionally a Princess Cake, layered with sponge and cream and topped with green marzipan. We gave Stefanie our presents (chocolates we'd bought on the way over) and we sang Happy Birthday in a variety of languages.
Karl had given Stefanie money for clothes. She asked Ann Sofie if she would go with her to Vannes or Rennes for a day's shopping and maybe to the cinema. They checked on her laptop and discovered a zombie film called Maggie about a teenage girl who becomes infected in an outbreak. Of course Ann Sofie was enthusiastic about this, telling Stefanie all about her book. Karl and myself teased her, suggesting it was the perfect film for her. Ann Sofie was interested in hearing about Berlin and the university. Listening to all her questions I did wonder if Stefanie is destined to become the next character in the zombie book. There was no further mention of Tomas.
Stefanie borrowed her dad's van for the evening and, after they'd gone we sat talking whilst Bon-Bon sat whimpering at the front door. Nothing would distract her (not even the offer of food). When I left, she was still sitting there, waiting patiently for Stefanie's return.
I haven't seen Ann Sofie today and wonder what Stefanie's told her about Tomas.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunday 17th May: Breton Myths and Legends

Benjamin and Madeleine have been particularly noisy this weekend, banging on my door, demanding to come in. Solange was outside yesterday, weeding the pathway when I overheard her shouting at Benjamin, ordering him go back indoors. When she brought him over for his piano lesson today, she told me he'd been caught drawing on the kitchen wall and that Pieter was very annoyed with him. She left him with me, giving him strict instructions to behave. He nodded and smiled sweetly up at her.
We ran through Au Clair de La Lune from his music book and for the first five minutes he concentrated. After that he started running around the cottage, crawling along the carpet and leaping on and off the sofa. I could see we weren't going to get anywhere so I took him back next door. Solange said they were going out for the afternoon, as it was her mother's 75th birthday. Ann-Sofie who in the kitchen I invited her for dinner, saying Celine was coming and was keen to ask her about illustrations for her book.
When Celine arrived, she was holding something which she passed to me, telling me to read it carefully. It was an envelope written with her name and address. Inside was a formal wedding invitation, printed on cream card with a border of roses.
As a joke, I asked if I was invited too. Celine snatched the card from me and read it out loud. The wedding was to be held on 31st July at St. Jean Baptiste Church at Pouy-Sur-Vannes between Adele Marchent and Jacques Ditronc. I laughed and told Celine this was great news as we wouldn't be bothered by Adele following us around any more. Celine was far from happy. She insisted this was not a normal wedding invitation, and asked me why I thought Adele would send this to her. I couldn't see why this mattered. I admitted it was an odd thing for Adele to send, but at least now she would be someone else's problem. I went to the fridge, took out the bottle of wine Paul had given me to celebrate his baby's birth and poured out two glasses. Raising my glass I made a toast: No More Adele! But Celine wasn't having it. She sighed and shook her head. She asked me if I recognised the man's name. I told her I couldn't care less who he was, and couldn't understand why she thought I should be interested. She looked at me, clearly irritated, handed me the card and told me to read the name. Jacques Dutronc. It meant nothing to me. I conjured up an image of a respectable business man, solid and dependable. I felt only sympathy for him, whoever he is. Celine was questioning me again, asking me if I was certain I didn't recognise the name. I insisted It meant nothing to me. She told me it was name of the actor who plays Van Gogh in the 1992 film of the same name. I asked if she was sure and wondered if the name could be a coincidence. But then I remembered Adele had been keen on Van Gogh's paintings and fascinated by his life. This all made sense. I explained this to Celine who said Adele must be using her to send me a message. If she is, I don't know what the message is. The whole situation is just ridiculous. Why pretend she's getting married? She must be completely insane. Celine is very concerned by the fact that Adele knows where she lives, but what can we do?
We were still discussing all this when Ann-Sofie arrived. Celine asked if she would be interested in illustrating her book, explaining that it was all about myths and legends. Ann-Sofie was very enthusiastic and went next door to get her sketch pad. By the time she'd returned we'd been through another fruitless discussion about Adele and her wedding invitation. It was a relief to change the subject. Ann-Sofie showed Celine her sketches, including the one of Marie's twin brothers. Celine asked if she could draw three creatures, the Nain, the Goric and the Ankou. Ann-Sofie scribbled notes whilst Celine gave a brief description of each of them. I remembered the Nain resemble gargoyles and have feline claws and devil type hooves. They are dark and small creatures with gleaming red eyes who speak with harsh rasping voices. They haunt ancient dolmens where they dance around, chanting the days of the weeks (except for Saturday and Sunday, which are sacred protected days and cannot be spoken of). Ann-Sofie was making notes and I listened to Celine's descriptions. The Goric are dwarves who inhabit druid monuments or hide beneath ancient castles. Every night they dance around the stones of Carnac and, if a human interrupts them, he would be forced to join in until he dies from exhaustion. When they're not dancing they guard hidden treasure and, rumour has it, that a golden hoard lies beneath one of the Menhirs of Carnac. Ankou, is a spirit, who takes the form of a skeleton and collects the souls of the dead. He travels around Brittany in a cart pulled by horses and wears a large black hat to hide his face. 

Ann-Sofie sketched as she listened to these stories, and Celine said she would particularly like a picture of the dwarves dancing around the Menhirs. She also asked her about the myths of Sweden.
Ann-Sofie explained that trolls originated in Norse mythology, appearing in both Sweden and Norway, as do dwarves and elves. She told us the story of Huldra. a troll woman living in the woods. She's fair and beautiful but has a long cow like tale which she hides when she meets people. She's not evil, unlike Nokken, a mysterious water spirit who resides in lakes and ponds. He's a handsome young man and talented musician who plays his violin throughout the night and entices woman to their deaths. Ann-Sofie is a born storyteller, and obviously loves talking about her homeland. Soon after dinner (tomato and caramelised onion tartin served with salad) Ann-Sofie left, as she has a test at the language School early in the morning.

Celine and I discussed the drawings, but it wasn't long before we returned to the subject of Adele and the invitation. I said we should ignore the whole incident, as she's clearly looking for a reaction. Celine said that it's easy for me to talk and pointed out that she's the one being targeted. She was subdued when she left. Maybe I'm dismissing Adele's behaviour too easily. But I really don't see what we can do. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday 7th May: Zombies

I was on the phone to Alexander when Ann-Sofie knocked on the door. She sat and waited patiently whilst Alexander continued his diatribe against our drummer, Michel. Apparently, he and his family had left unexpectedly and returned to Canada. I can't say I was surprised after what happened at the Golden Wedding party, but I do think he could have given us a bit of notice. Needless to say, Alexander was fuming. I noticed Ann-Sofie had brought over her latest instalment of Midnight Hour Zombies, but Alexander was in full flow and would not be stopped. It was another five minutes before I managed to end the call. 

I asked Ann-Sofie why she wasn't at language school, then she reminded me there were no classes on Thursdays. It was also her day off from looking after the children. Instead of having to look after them when they return from school and kindergarten, her time was her own. She told me her class at the language school are learning about French food and they each have to take in an example of a Breton dessert or cake. (No doubt everything they take in will be eaten during the lesson). I suggested a Far Cake. Ann-Sofie was keen on the idea of a Pommes au Tart, although I'm not sure that's specifically Breton. I was planning to go to the supermarket near Lorient, and suggested she come along.
Ann-Sofie had brought her sketch pad, in case she spotted anything of interest to draw. I told her we must go to Dinard, with all the lovely old buildings, she'd have plenty to draw there. (I must remember to mention this to Celine).
On the way out I showed her my three Clematis plants, two of which are starting to wind their way up the trellis. I've put my herbs outside too, they're doing well, even the Basil which survived the rain over the past few days.
The supermarket was packed as usual; irritating electronic music playing over the speakers, forcing shoppers to shout across the aisles. While I was trying to decide what to have for dinner, I noticed Ann-Sofie sketching. She was drawing a middle aged woman in a a bright red hat and a matching dress who was standing by the cakes and desserts in the patisserie section. I couldn't see why she was of any particular interest. Ann-Sofie came over and joined me. She was looking for illustrations of the zombies in her novel, and this woman fitted one of the descriptions perfectly (Poor thing! If only she knew!) Looking at the sketch, I was again taken with Ann-Sofie's drawing -- so much better than her writing, although I don't want to discourage her with either.
We were loading the food into the car (including the Tarte Aux Pommes) when Ann-Sofie nudged me, pointing off to the left. Standing not far from us, loading their dirty white van with crates of lager, were Marie and the Twins. I explained that they were neighbours and told her about Hilda, the magic cow. She seemed to be fascinated by the twins, with their usual blue overalls with matching caps. They both sported pencil moustaches (a fashion statement for the summer, perhaps?) and Marie's outfit was as strange as ever. She was wearing a yellow flared trouser suit, blue socks and bright blue sandals with high heels. I can't imagine where she gets these clothes from. Ann-Sofie insisted on being introduced to the twins. I warned her they weren't exactly friendly, but she wouldn't listen and had already started to approach them. I decided I'd better go over and join her. Marie, yellow headscarf fluttering in the breeze, turned and glared at us over her dark shades. When I asked after Jean-Luc she started blurting out something about the lottery and a system. She spoke so fast it was difficult to follow. The twins didn't appear to notice us and continued loading the van. Ann-Sofie went over to them and held out her hand. She introduced herself halting French and said she would like to draw them. They stood side by side and stared at her with expressionless eyes, but they said nothing.
As soon as Marie noticed she began to shake her head and called out "Non, non, non!"
Several people stopped to watch as the mad woman dressed in yellow pointed in the general direction of our car and urged us to leave them alone. I suggested Ann-Sofie to follow me as I marched off. What was their problem?
We stopped off in Languidic as Ann-Sofie was keen to sketch the church. I left her to it and said she'd find me in the café bar. Whilst I was chatting to Andre, the proprietor, the door swung open and in marched Marie and the twins. They didn't seem the type to frequent bars, but then, without having to ask Andre nodded at Marie and went over to the coffee machine. I watched as he served them three coffees. No words were spoken. There were only a few other customers in the bar and they were all amused by Marie and the twins. I was thinking about Jean Luc and his mad family when Ann-Sofie came in and sat beside me. She showed me her sketch, which was very good. I asked if she'd thought about applying to Art College, but she seems unsure. It wasn't long before she spotted the twins and with the sketch pad on her lap, she started to draw them. I hoped they wouldn't notice. Not that they'd say anything, but Marie certainly would. Thankfully they didn't stay long and left without speaking to anyone. Once they'd gone Andre looked over and raised his eyes. When he came over to clear our table we told him what had happened at the supermarket. He smiled and told us that, about a month ago, a Psychology Professor from Paris had been staying nearby with his family. He came into the café quite often and spotted Marie and the twins on several occasions. He tried to speak to them, not appearing to be bothered by Marie's rudeness. Andre was concerned and he warned the Professor about them. The Professor explained that he had studied twins for many years and was fascinated by the idea of telepathic connections between them. Andre told us that Marie had become angry and told the Professor to leave them alone. Andre had heard that the Professor had been up to Marie's farm several times to try and make a connection with them. He had also heard from the owner of the gite where the Professor was staying, that his tyres had been slashed and a note left on his windscreen advising him to leave. The note had been badly spelt, made no sense and was obviously written by Marie. The local police were informed but said they could do nothing. The whole incident became a source of much amusement in the village. The unfortunate Professor and his family returned to Paris as soon as their tyres had been replaced (with the usual at extra charges reserved for Parisians).
Before we left the café, I asked Andre if he'd heard from Jean Luc recently. He'd seen him a few days ago and he mentioned he was working on a new system designed to predict winning lottery numbers (so Marie hadn't been lying about that).
Back at the cottage, Ann-Sofie rushed next door, saying she'd be back later. I'd finished dinner and was watering my garden when she returned. She held open her sketch pad and showed me her finished work. I had to laugh. The twins, wearing their blue overalls and blue caps, had been transformed into a pair of grotesque zombies with bloodshot eyes and blood dripping from their mouths. With a backdrop of dark and cloudy skies, they were staggering through a deserted country field. Ann-Sofie explained that the twins were now characters in her novel, two of the most feared and dangerous zombies.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday 26th April: 50eme Anniversaire de Marriage

Last night's gig was to celebrate Michel's parents-in- law Golden Wedding Anniversary. At Alexander's suggestion, the party was held at Andre's restaurant in Carnac. 

The place was decorated with red and yellow balloons and banners strung across the ceiling proclaiming Felicitations Bernard et Yvette and Heureux 50eme Anniversaire de Marriage. Each table held a vase of red and yellow tulips. Somebody had gone to a great deal of trouble. Alexander and Kieron were already setting up. Kieron was in a cheerful mood, entertaining us with stories about his crazy customers. Michel arrived a few minutes later and wanted to show me the table in the centre of the room set up with a disply of framed photographs of his parents in law on their wedding day with several of their daughter, Antoinette, and a couple of their little granddaughter, but none with Michel. I had the feeling he wanted me to comment on this, but I said nothing.
The guests were taking their seats as Ines turned up with Gavin. They'd been asked to sing a duet; the theme tune from the 1964 film LesParapluies de Cherbourg by Michel Legrand (Bernard and Yvette's favourite song). They'd been practising and were looking forward to performing as it. Gavin was in his usual form; hard to ignore his fake laughter as he circulated amongst the guests, dominating their conversations.
The guests stood and applauded when Bernard and Yvette made their entrance with Antoinette. The room soon fell silent as Ines and Gavin began their duet. They performed the beautiful love song so well (obviously been rehearsing together). Bernard and Yvette were beaming; they looked so pleased. When the song came to an end the applause was deafening. Gavin bowed, kissed Ines, and then announced in French that he had an important announcement to make. Clasping Ines's hand, he announced in his booming voice that a date had been set in September for their wedding. This drew further applause from the guests. Gavin gave several more of his theatrical bows, paused to congratulate Michel's parents in law, then, leaving Ines on the stage, made a grand exit through the front doors. I wondered where he was off to: there's something so fake about him.
As soon as waiters started serving we began our first piece, LesFeuilles Mortes as sung by Yves Montand; another request from Bernard and Yvette, but there was so much chatter at the tables I'm not sure if anyone noticed. Our next piece was Besame Mucho by Consuelo Velasquez. Ines was singing well, probably because she was in a happy mood.
During our break Alexander and I wandered out into the moon lit garden while Kieron had disappeared into the kitchens. Michel was already out there, pacing up and down, smoking. I asked him what he thought of the evening so far, but was unprepared for the rant which followed. Violently grounding what was left of his cigarette into the grass, he told Alexander and myself he was desperate to return to Canada. He hated living with Antoinette's parents. While they fussed over his wife and daughter, they constantly interfered. He often felt as though Antoinette was ganging up against him by siding with them. Although they were saving, his job in the music shop didn't pay well enough for them to find a place of their own. Antoinette had just found out she was pregnant again. We congratulated him but, although he was pleased, he was now worried that Antoinette would use the new baby as an excuse to stay at her parents' home. 
When we returned to the restaurant, Michel made no attempt to go over and speak to his wife and parents in law. In fact, it was Ines who was talking to them, showing off her engagement ring. During the second half we livened things up with Capullito de Aleli and the upbeat So Danco Samba before the speeches. The first to speak was an old man, a friend of the couple who'd been their best man, but I couldn't hear a word he said. This was followed by Bernard's speech; a long rambling recollection of his wedding day and stories of married life. He mentioned their grand daughter and I wondered if they knew about the new baby. I noticed Michel making a study of his drumsticks, seemingly bored with the proceedings. Photos were taken of the couple and several with Antoinette. Just as the replica of their wedding cake was about to be cut, Michel dropped his drum sticks with a loud clatter and strode over to his family and announced he would like to say a few words. The room fell silent. Bernard looked worried and whispered something to him but Michel turned away and shook his head dismissively. First he congratulated his parents in law, then, putting his arm around Antoinette, he announced they were having another baby, and, soon after the birth, they would be leaving for Canada to bring up their family there. I couldn't help feeling sorry for Yvette. She looked devastated. I thought she was about to cry. Bernard put his arm round her. Antoinette stared ahead, her body rigid. She was fuming. The guests were unsure of how to react. A few clapped and some called out congratulations at the mention of the baby, but most were silent. Michel avoided looking at us as he returned to his drums. We listened to a recording of Sacha Distel singing C'etait plus Fort que Tout (the French version of I Can't Stop Loving You) whilst Bernard and Yvette cut their wedding cake. 
I was glad to get away at the end of the evening. I went over and congratulated Yvette before I left. She thanked me in a quiet voice. Bernard was nowhere to be seen. I asked Antoinette if she'd enjoyed the music and she hardly looked at me when she replied. She was still extremely angry. Michel was also quiet as we packed away; just muttered goodbye to us as he left. His wife and her mother were busy collecting their photos and presents and ignored him as he passed by. I understand Michel's frustration but I don't think he should have made his announcement. I hate to think what will happen when they get home. One of them is going to have to compromise and I don't think it's going to be Antoinette.