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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 03, 2003


On the third day, Doug offered to take Lucy up in his Cessna Skyhawk, so she could get an aerial view of the old coastline. I thought this sounded a great idea, though Lucy was slightly blasé, as it's the sort of thing she does on a regular basis. I was surprised when she asked me to come along.

"You sure? Not sick of me yet?"
"As if. Twenty years since I saw you, I'm going to get sick after a couple of days?"
"Well, it's not beyond the realms."
"Anyway, Doug's keen to have you along."

I'd never flown in a small plane like this before, though I had been on a couple not much bigger when we were on tour. I always said a prayer to Buddy Holly on take off, and taking off from the small airfield was no better. We'd driven down there in Doug's hire car. He posted a flight plan, and did the pre-take off checks. While he was doing that I asked Lucy if she'd spoken to Dave.

"A little bit. Not much to say."
"So how is he?"
"Same as ever. Keeps talking about Getting a Plan and that. Never satisfied with his life, always wants to make you feel that the life you've chosen is inadequate, and that there's something miles better round the corner, if you would only Get a Plan."
"I'm surprised to hear you say that. I thought it was just me felt that way."
"No, like you, I had my fill of him years ago. I wish you'd stuck around. You were so much more my cup of tea."

Doug arrived at the end of the conversation. "Cup of tea? No time, I'm afraid, we'll get a take off slot now if we get on."

Lucy had her digital SLR with her, and started snapping away as soon as the Skyhawk was in position. Occasionally Doug tilted the plane to one side so she'd get a better angle on the ground. We flew along the coastline south as far as La Rochelle, and then back up along to the Island of Noirmoutier; then he circled around and when Lucy called out, followed the same route along the old coastline. It was obvious from the air, where the reclaimed land met the old. There was quite a lot of it, and it was amazing to think of how many people were now living on what used to be under water.

While Lucy exclaimed and took her photos, Douglas asked me about the life of the song writer.

"I lost touch with what you were doing after that first album," he said. "Then a couple of years later, I was talking to someone -- can't remember who -- and I mentioned your name, and they said you were dead. Seriously. I think I meant to go away and look into it, but I must have got side tracked, so for all these years I thought you were dead."

"That must have been nice for you." He said nothing, smiled, and I asked him about the Cessna. "So is this thing yours?"

"Sort of. It's my company car, really. Means I can fly on company business all over Europe."

"But it's a perk really."

He laughed. "Of course. Because I'm worth it. It's only got around a thousand kilometres range, so you can't go mad in it, but it can cut your journey times in half."

Lucy finished taking photos and joined us in the front. I was starting to feel a little green from all the tilting and turning, so I was relieved. Doug headed back to the airfield. Lucy said,

"St Guthlac Sur Mer is just about bang in the centre of the old coastline, if you know what I mean."
"I think so."
"I really need to find out from someone the history of that place, the church, how the name came to be transferred. But I don't know where to start."
"Start with Didier," said Doug.
"Why do you say that?" she asked, warily.
"You know he's from a very old local family? And he went to a seminary at one point. He was going to be a priest, I believe, but there was some incident."
"No idea, the kind of thing people don't talk about. But I'm sure he knows a lot about the history of the area. He was saying on the first night, after you went to bed, that he could trace his ancestry back to the Vendée war, and further still."
"Somehow I think Didier will be hard to persuade," I said.


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