From Jester To King LXV
By Simon Barget
My mother’s place in Fuerteventura was both special and not. I bemoaned for instance the fact it wasn’t Ibiza, you couldn’t believe how quiet it was and everything was too cheap including the property. I wondered who in their right mind would ever choose Fuerteventura over anything else. But we had a steady stream of guests. And I remember the veranda and sitting out in hot weather and the sense of cohesion of being part of something. I remember how we’d sit there whilst my mother served cakes and brownies and all sorts of goodies, and one time my sister Cheryl was round with husband and family and they were having a sort of special tea for their friends, all these strange faces milling about, and I walk in quite hungry and so Cheryl says to me, sure I can have whatever I like and plus she’s made this special sweet cream dessert which she knows I’ve got my eye on and it looks like zabaglione, so she picks it up and just as she’s about to serve me a portion she creams off the good stuff from the top for herself leaving me with a bowl that looks like off egg mayonnaise. Gross. And then before I have the chance to notice, all the desserts have been packed up and put away, certainly no sign of the brownies which were my favoured second choice, well you see how people take care of themselves before others, more concerned about what their guests thought of them, because guess who’d be having the desserts tomorrow and after, well certainly not me, but the terrace was so nice to sit out on, all the stone, and the green of the trees, whose leaves obscured things, and the potted plants, and those creepers and the hanging plants set up all around and above us to keep us enclosed. Anyhow my mother took little notice of my grumblings, kept on attending to the guests, and I couldn’t work out if one of them was the new cleaner or a mere visitor, and they’d brought their cat all the way with them whoever they were which was odd, and then I go back downstairs and get talking to this strange Italian fellow, at least I think he’s Italian, all thin and weedy, wearing lacquered black glasses, and as I tended to do with the guests, I start asking him why he’s come here, what is it that attracts him to our place, to Fuerteventura, rather than to somewhere like say Ibiza, I mean isn’t there absolutely nothing to do here, I submit, and he pulls out a business card of this place on the beach, also Italian because it has the Italian flag set out upon it, and he gives the card a couple of sharp flicks with convergence of thumb and forefinger, indicating this is the place to go, and I think he means picking up chicks, suggesting I could go along with, and I was far from sure whether I could hang out with such a weirdo, I mean I never went out all that much in the first place.
Now the really special thing was this. At times on the veranda, I could hear my father singing and I promise you this is true. I heard the voice, but of course I didn’t see the man. I could hear him so clearly, the way he made a vibrato with the higher notes, and when I heard him I would just sit there transfixed, noticing things about the way he sang that I never noticed when he was alive. I mean the effect it had had on me was comparably trivial when he was living, and it was the Kiddush I heard mostly, the ritual sanctification of the bread and wine before dinner, and the way he sang it made me look like an upstart, when I sat there and listened his voice was this siren, urgent and pressing, incredibly strong piercing through my spirit, and then at this consistent lachrymose pitch, the tremulous tenor, reaching out for the highest of notes, the pure soaring birdsong, and how I could hear my father singing I do not know, I wasn’t imagining it, and I never told the others because this only happened when I was on the terrace alone. Perhaps my father was trying to get through to me, but the main thing was how shameful I felt, shameful of my own rendition, and then it dawned on me I was only just cottoning on to the many things my father had been streets ahead of me when he’d been around.