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When I was 64 - well I thought I was

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" The Beatles

This is Collioure - on the Mediterranean coast near the border with Spain. It's a very beautiful spot - a tourist town now of course, but beloved of artists, which is how I come to be thinking of Collioure and one particular event filled day in my life. It's a tale of several moments in time, and the frailties of the human mind and body.

The starting point was this painting by Paul Signac - a page from my Met desk diary. It's lovely - sometimes I think he might be my favourite Impressionist - well eventually Pointilliste - artist. But the real reason it made an impact is because it reminded me so much of the place itself, which we have actually visited a couple of times, and of this one day in particular. A day which I thought, as I envisaged this post, I turned 64.

An aside before I continue with my tale. This is a photograph of that same beach today, well back when it was taken of course - recognisable, but not quite the same - well an artist can take liberties with what he sees before him. A camera does not lie. Of course some of the change is due to modern developments, and it's not quite the same viewpoint, but the hills are slightly different. Maybe I'm wrong and it's a different beach.

Another aside and my first mistake - I knew I was starting with a Signac painting, and this was on my desktop labelled 'signac collioures' and it did seem like Collioures to me. But no it's somewhere completely different. I have no idea why I thought it was Collioures too - even that spot in the top photograph. Or why it was on my desktop with that label. A frail, deteriorating mind.

My second mistake. It was indeed my birthday - the 20th June. But it was 2007 according to my camera although my photo library notebook which tells me which photos are in which photo library says 2006. However, I'm going with the 'camera doesn't lie' theory and it's 2007. Anyway - I turned 64 in 2003 not 2007 or even 2006. So why do I think I turned 64? Well because as we ate our lunch a singer came by and offered to sing for us. Our friend Mike asked for 'When I'm 64' by the Beatles in honour of my birthday, which the singer did not know and which caused minor derision from our group. I think we moved him on because of it. But no I was not turning 64.

I love that song - 'Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" Such a jolly, perky kind of tune to what are somewhat melancholy words ultimately. But note that feeding someone is important enough to be juxtaposed to 'will you still need me?' - a much more fundamental, even elemental thing.

I don't think there are many other mistakes to recount, but there is one mini disaster.

We were actually renting a house some distance away from Collioures, but we had decided on a day trip. When I say we I am meaning, David and myself of course, my sister and her husband, David's sister, Mike and Beth - long-time Australian friends and Graham another long-time friend, then living in Kuala Lumpur with his Malaysian wife who had been to France and therefore didn't want to go again. Apparently she had a sort of bucket list.

Alas Graham died some time ago now, as did David's sister Jenny, but in that week they struck up a real friendship - well Graham was an outrageous flirt and Jenny appreciated the attention. And here I come to the almost disaster of the day. Mike proposed that prior to lunch in Collioure to celebrate my birthday we would walk along the coast to Collioure. It was a one way trip so we cunningly left a car at one end so that we could drive back to collect the other. My sister and husband declined to walk, deciding instead to check out a suitable venue for our lunch. I almost declined as well - as it was marked as difficult, and it was a long walk, but Mike chivvied me into it.

That first photo shows the starting point - at that faraway beach taken from a relatively early point in the trek. For trek it was. In the centre are Graham and Jenny walking along and in the final photo Mike, Beth and I take a short break in one of the only spots of shade we encountered the whole way. The photos show how rough the trail was, and my face is red - showing how hot I was - plus I rolled up my trousers as far as I could. It was difficult and poor Jenny eventually more or less collapsed. Fortunately this was at a point where there was car access and so David and Graham marched on to retrieve a car so that they could come back and rescue her. When that was sorted the rest of us - we three above - struggled on into Collioure. Exhausted, but eventually proud of the achievement if a little grumbly about the whole thing at the time. Wistfully I will blame that on the heat, but I fear I was ungenerous.

Meanwhile, sister Jenny and husband had trawled the town for the best place to eat and decided on La Frégate - a hotel restaurant, a little way from the frenzy of the tourist centre. I wish I could say I remember what we ate but I fear I cannot. I do know that it was good. But then again, as I read somewhere very recently and paraphrasing the words of a restaurateur: "it's not the food that matters, it's the ambience. That's what people remember." And that includes, not just the physical ambience but also the friendliness of the staff - the whole damn thing. And that is indeed is what I remember.

Food was sort of the ultimate destination, however, and after a long and very enjoyable lunch - the other Jenny now fully recovered -we did the tourist thing and strolled around the town taking our tourist photos. It is one of the most memorable days in a host of memorable days and I think this photo of myself sums it up really. Because I do not photograph well, and even at peak fatness I really like this photo with Graham, who could make anyone smile.

I was older than 64 though, and I'm a whole lot older than that now. And slimmer thank goodness!


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T quote another older song: Memories are made of this: The sweet, sweet memories you've given me

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