Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Anything in French?

Funny you should ask that.

Only yesterday, I got an email from someone in France who goes way back to my time in Toulouse.

So, I'd arrived in Toulouse to this church building in a modern shopping centre - the church was a kind of plate glass shop front. I was going to sit in my office reading for my PhD in French catholicism (I got it, but only nine years later and that's another story).

Anyway, as I looked out of my office window, I could see people using drugs and a guy sleeping it off on the doorstep till about midday. I had to decide whether to chase them off or invite them in so I chose the latter and started giving coffee.

Shortly after this, a young couple arrived in the church and told me they'd had a background in homelessness, drugs, alcohol and the like. Between them, they set up a charitable association and together we set up the practical side of making breakfasts for about thirty homeless people - and their dogs, another nother story.

The bloke, Patrick I shall call him, had been a founder member of one of France's most notorious punk bands - Berurier Noir. He'd been thrown out of that for being too extreme (!) and had begun a long career of petty crime, suicide attempts, prison and the dreaded bottle.

Patrick and Myriam had become Christians just before joining out church. It was a tempestuous, turbulent time but eventually Patrick was accepted on a course to be a kind of street-based social worker but unfortunately the influence of some of the other students led to him having an alcoholic relapse. I'll always remember that night. About two in the morning going up in a lift to the ninth floor with INXS getting stronger on every landing. I've never been so sure of being thrown off a balcony in my life.

If you are interested, you can read all about Patrick in a novel I wrote in a previous life. It's called Playing at the Roxy and you can get it on Amazon.

Patrick and I wrote two songs together: "Brisons les Murs" and "Au cours d'une nuit de printemps" which is all about a homeless person being set alight in his cardboard box refuge. True story. i still sing these songs today and I find them very poignant.

Patrick died in 2007 of Hepatitis C. He was only 44. Myriam emailed me yesterday and she's doing well. She always was a calming influence on Patrick . . . and me.

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