3 Daniel

At the beginning of 7th grade there is a reshuffling of classes, depending on students’ optional studies.  My parents had chosen Latin, so had Daniel’s.  How he and I became friends, I can’t remember.

The music club had become the guitar club and had two guitars. The club leader was a great friend of Melon’s. He was a big fan of Brassens and contented himself with managing the two guitars, one with nylon strings, the other with steel strings and f-holes, like a violin.  Actually, he managed only one guitar,  keeping the nylon string for himself. The place was a respectable one once again.

Daniel and I learned the guitar together.  At home, as I soon found out, Daniel already had a guitar. It was built by one of his older brothers and was of an unusually large size. It was a dark brown color and Daniel disappeared completely behind the sound box.  It looked like the huge Mexican guitars we’d seen in the “Zorro” television series.  His mother soon bought him a cheap electric guitar.

This one was hard to see, much smaller than the dark brown giant, almost too small, it had the headstock bending forward, which gave it a sickly air.  However, it was glitter red and had a maple neck.  It was a plank.  Anyway, we had already decided who would be doing what:  I’d comp on the steel string guitar and he’d take the melodies with his plank.  It worked out pretty well.

The steel-string guitar with f-holes I borrowed for summer holidays

I quickly made progress in comping, Georges Brassens having early on advised me a thesaurus of guitar chord diagrams published in the “Marabout” collection.  Melon’s friend wasn’t really into pedagogy and transmission.

And now I could practice at home too because my parents had offered me a nylon string study guitar that looked more or less like a classical guitar. We chose and bought it at Havet Photo in Cherbourg. There was a name written on the soundboard: Troubadour.  It was stolen in 82.  A "genial" female student to whom I lent it so she could practice at home never came back to her lessons …

We started to build up a small repertoire.  The Beatles' For No One was one of our favorite successes.

Daniel and I had found our stride.  We did everything together and were inseparable. We had the circular tree-lined driveway of the park to ourselves, and when we were not playing at the guitar club (we now had the keys), we talked music in the park.  A legendary twosome in the making.

But would school break separate us?  I have a talk with mom.  She comes up with the solution.  We shall go and ask Mrs. Renault, Daniel's mother, if I can spend part of the holidays at her place.  I say her place because Daniel’s poor father’s lungs had been taken by the Montebourg cement plant,  and he would soon pass away.

I spent the months of July and August at Daniel's house.  Definitely one of my best holiday memories.  Daniel's mom was a cheerful and very optimistic woman.  Life flowed easily, days into days, an impression of eternity.

We slept in the same room.  We were used to it.

Daniel's little brother, a brawny young man, was training to be a cyclist. He was the pride of his big brothers, who had long left the family nest.  When he came back from training, whatever the time, he had to eat:  in addition to a healthy helping of pasta, he would prepare a twelve egg omelette…

In the afternoon we’d go fishing, most of the time we’d bring back tench from the Merderet, the river of my marshland.  They tasted strongly of slime but sometimes we managed to catch eels: a guaranteed feast for the evening.

The icing on the cake was that the Renault’s, a family of modest origins, had a TV.  Daniel and I would watch it until late.  I remember a W.C. Fields cycle but most often it was Fernandel and co.

Everything comes to an end.  Come september, back to boarding school. We are no longer together, Daniel’s mother having chosen Spanish as a second language, my parents having chosen German.  An idiotic lack of coordination.  We now only have breaks, study and dormitory to see each other.

Jean Emile must have landed in our high school in 9th grade.  A little older than us, he is one of the strangest characters I have ever met.

A pianist with long fingers, very white skin, tall, an aesthete.  Cultured.  A Dali specialist and a Dylan translator!  My galaxy was to grow by a few light years.  My naïveté would   shrink by as much.  He gave me access to the big city: CHERBOURG.  With Jean Émile everything changed.  My little world could not cope with all that he induced,  it cracked at the seams.  I got into the habit of going to his home in Cherbourg.  Well, to his home is what I told my parents.

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