I hope you will excuse me, dear readers, for the delay in continuing with my tale, but I wanted to be sure the facts were straight, which meant some considerable time spent in the British Museum, not to mention Somerset House, the births and deaths registration department in Istanbul, the French consulate in Moscow, and the Museum of Religious Relics in Paris, Texas. All of which has given me confidence that the unexpected history of my birth might be true...
Monte Carlo, summer 2003: There was a friction between us that I found rather perturbing, and it was disturbing the little relaxing moment I had hoped for before the race.
Why should this man annoy me so much? What was it to me that he had disguised his Ford GT40 as a De Lorean? After all, I was trying to pass off a Facel Vega V12 as a Triumph Herald convertible. There was something in his manner that I found inappropriately personal so I sucked hard on my daiquiri to hasten my departure from the country club and him.
As I stood up, somewhat self-consciously, from the sun-bed, the watchfulness of this gentleman outraged me, and just as I was about to turn in the haughtiest way I could muster, he said, "That is an interesting ring. Who gave it to you?"
His impertinence gave me an opportunity to shake him off, I thought, so I lied and replied, "my fiancé".
He raised an eyebrow higher then Roger Moore ever did, which made me want to scream, but instead I said with an icy tone, " À tout à l'heure, Monsieur", and walked away.
"Why lie?" He shouted after me, to the distraction of many of the country club residents.
"You of all people shouldn't lie," he continued, and when I returned to his sun-bed he said, "That ring was your mother's, a coming of age present from her Sufi master."
As the midday sun basted my head, already marinated in daiquiri, this strange assertion was an unwelcome ingredient. I felt unsteady, and unable to absorb any more conversation with this man: no more sun, drinks or dark eyes.
I needed rescuing and here was my man, Pépé, the concierge, "Mademoiselle, the race..."
"Yes the race," said my stranger, with a familiar European lilt, "It will be an interesting competition".
Then he beckoned for me to come forward - somehow I felt compelled to - and he kissed me on the forehead and said, "Until our next hello."
There was no time to swoon, or stand around swaying for a few minutes, which I would have been inclined to do. Fortunately, I had already picked out my dress and hat, so I hopped into them, ate a couple of 'marrons glacés' and ran down to the start of the race.
I was filled with an exhilarating sense of foreboding, not a happy feeling but just the sort of thing that might inspire me to write a new song later.
Sitting in my Triumph in the few seconds before the starter fired his pistol, I powdered my nose. In my rear view mirror I could see my new friend.
"Typical," I thought to myself, "why do I never befriend anyone normal?"
As I watched him wildly tampering with his De Lorean, making a few last-minute adjustments, I did think something about it looked suspect. I was concerned that he might draw too much attention to himself, and reveal the Ford GT40 engine, thereby disqualifying himself, and thus arousing suspicion towards other competitors including me and my already dubious choice of Triumph Herald.
Then the pistol sounded.
I had been daydreaming as usual and I had forgotten to keep the engine running. I tried to start it in a hurry, which is always unwise with old cars, I think, and the engine refused to turn over. Again and again I tried; everybody had roared off except my stranger, who drove up fast behind me, smacked into my bumper and hurled my car down the track. I stuck her in second and we were off.
I waved a big 'thank you' to him; he pulled up with alarming speed next to me and shouted most earnestly, "Don't stay too close to me at Palace Corner," and screeched off. His mystifying comments were becoming a little de trop.
I had to put my head into gear for the race. I could relay every moment of it to you as it was quite unforgettable, but to keep my story on track I will take you straight to the events at Palace Corner.
After many attempts, I had finally overtaken the Fiat Ferrari Dino and was coming down the hill from Beau Soleil. Ahead was Palace Corner and I could see a few cars, including the golden De Lorean, flashing in the sun, trying to throw off somebody who was sitting right behind him.
I was gaining on them.
I was going to try and distract my friend's aggressor - after all I owed him a favour - but, as I approached them, the most extraordinary thing happened. The gull-wings of the De Lorean opened up and the car lifted into the air; the doors extended to about six times the width of the car and it was effectively gliding, or flying, still with the engine roaring. The car drove loftily over the Palace and hovered above the piazza for a while. The people beneath stood with their heads thrown back and their hands acting as visors for their amazed eyes, as my friend waved at them in a wildly animated fashion.
I had to pull over before I crashed, not wanting to end up like the Mercedes that had been bothering the De Lorean, which had driven into a wall.
My friend continued to show off for a while, doing a couple of wheelies in the sky and diving at the Casino until he realised that there were other competitors coming up close to the finishing line. He picked the car up and carried her out over the harbour as a short cut to the final straight.
There was a stormy Mediterranean breeze in the harbour and it buffeted the car about somewhat. I felt nervous but the driver, so pleased with himself for pulling off his stunt, was still leaning out of his seat waving at the spectators.
But how the universe loves to punish such audacity! Another kick from the breeze and the car tipped to one side, tipping out my friend. He fell from such a great height somersaulting into the sea. The people of Monaco all gasped at once and held their breath. When the body re-emerged from the sea it appeared motionless, while the golden car continued in the direction of Nice for some time before gently landing and sinking into the sea.
Monaco was in a state of shock for a day or two. I certainly was. I stayed on in Monte for a few days pondering on my friend's calamity and trying to collect any information about him:
I discovered his name was Charles Labadie, on paper a Frenchman, but with some Byelorussian/Welsh connection. He was fifty years old, a famous gambler in Monte Carlo, he played the harp, he never wore a seatbelt, he loved seafood, the sea, cars, music and claimed to have loved only one woman - a princess no less - many years ago, they said from Turkey or Argentina, Odessa or Houston; it was not clear.
With her, he said he had a child - a daughter - who disappeared with her mother four months after her birth, while they were holidaying on the Black Sea. Nobody ever believed this part of his life story, as the vicious ladies of Monte Carlo had, it turned out, spread rumours of Charles's impotence to compensate for the desperate humiliation they had suffered when he rejected their hard bodies and obscene wealth again and again.
But I discovered the truth; I was the living proof of his love with the princess. The ring, the eyes, his habits, his moustache - it all made sense now. After communicating with Yves Klein some years ago, he was inspired to give all his wealth away, which did not take him as long as he had expected; now he was rather in need of some more disposable income, hence the race, and hence the undercover Ford GT40. He could have asked his daughter - I would gladly have found the money for him.
There, now you know, so don't ask me again where I am from; it is an indelicate question. From now on, I proclaim it the height of bad taste to ask a girl where she is from.
I told this story in some detail because the events plague me and I find them quite unbelievable. I never promised a happy story just an extraordinary one.
In Monte Carlo, after the initial shock, people began to re-enact what they had witnessed in conversation, each with their own perspective. The story was embellished, rationalised, fabricated and deconstructed, until it became more of an image in their mind's eye, like just another scene from the countless Bond scenes filmed there. Somehow, it lost its potency.
To me it holds some powerful symbolic meaning, which I continue to investigate. One of the few remnants of this extraordinary day in Monaco is the expression "As the De Lorean flies". Apart from this it has not made much of an impact on the country.
As I have alluded to in this story there is still much more to be investigated. So I am still researching deeply into the truth of your Gamine's birth. Popping my head out occasionally for the odd devastatingly well-paid gig.
Until our next hello, Claudia Labadie.