Happiness Anon

An end is a new beginning;
A beginning for what, for whom?
The old crashed, the new emerges,
Slowly, hesitatingly beating back the pain.

For what, for whom? No answers;
Just thousands of shreds meaning nothing,
And a hope, a hope that
Maybe one day; it's not enough.

The winds of fortune will blow;
Unable to strike out I bow
To their mighty and cruel power;
willing their crashing blows to cease.

But you are not fickle fortune;
you are mine, you are there.
we'll meet one day, I know,
You, my vision of happiness anon.

One day...

"I can't breathe; I never have been able to. I guess that's what makes me pretty unique in the realm of humans. Not that I'm not human. Far from it. It's just that I'm not a normal human."

Lenteau put his pen down and contemplated. This was the first line he'd been looking for. It had taken him years to get as far as this. He used to be quite a different writer. He used to pick up his pen, make contact with the paper and off he'd go. Now things were quite different. Now he knew how one really should write. Meticulous planning was the key to everything. That's what he learnt on that week long course he went on. Meticulous planning began with detailed plotting of the story. From there you move on to the characters. Each of them needs to be drawn exactly as you want them to be. Everything needs to be clear: their physical appearance, their psychological make-up, their likes and dislikes, their relationships with other people and hundreds of other similar details. And once all this was finished, you were ready to write. At least almost. Because the writing too had to be well thought out. The first and last lines were vital. Ever since he had put the finishing touches to the last of his three characters, he'd been working on this first line. It took him several months to figure out how his novel should actually begin. Then a number of weeks to get the words into shape. After some fine-tuning it was now almost ready. Soon he would move onto the last line, and once he had that in the bag he could actually begin to write again.

Lenteau stared up at the empty writing projects folder sitting above his desk. Soon, very soon he would have something to put into it. Then he would send it out to the several publishers he had met during the writing course. He had so strictly adhered to the advice that was given he felt sure, they would be fighting each other for the right to publish his masterpiece. If only he succeeded in finishing it. Lenteau looked up again. Next to the folder lay a mass of papers, the fruit of his previous writing efforts. Writing had been fun in those days. Now it had become a serious occupation. But at least, now it was good. And people would read and wonder. On that day he'd take and burn all his previous efforts to cinders. One day... if ever that day arrived. So for now, he preferred to keep the fruit of his first efforts just in case. At least it made him feel he had once been productive even if not very good.


Towards the end of my stay in hospital my medication dosage was gradually reduced in a bid to wean me from it. What was good for hospital was apparently deemed to be bad for the outside. Not that I was complaining. For now I was slowly beginning to get my faculties back together and to think straight. Guillaume was allowed to visit me regularly and for longer periods now. And if Damien was on duty when he came, he'd try and join us. Then our discussions became quite long and involved. I began to see that the root of my problem was the failure to implement that one principle I'd inherited from my father and applied to my work at the espace loisirs. In my time at the centre I'd had to deal with a number of young people more or less pushed aside by society and given up on. My aim had always been to try and instil within them a sense of self-worth which came not from achievements or some of the many other things we put so much stress on, but something far deeper and inherent in each of us. Now, I was not exactly doubting that principle but I was certainly having difficulty putting it into practice in my own life.

That's where Guillaume had a big advantage over me. With his faith in God it was easy for him to believe that our lives had an inherent sense of worth.

We talked a lot over this issue and Guillaume was very firm in affirming in his beliefs. But he was also very fair. He never tried to force me into believing something I didn't really want to, although he did ask some very probing questions, forcing me to rethink certain issues I'd never really considered relevant. His idea of the creation was one of these. Back in Ireland I had usually gone to church with my family and paid lip-service of a kind to the notion of God the creator. But it never really meant anything more than religious rumour to me. Listening to Guillaume this notion, if it could be believed, suddenly became one of life's core issues. Love, friendship, self-worth and a reason for living all depended on who we actually were, and that in turn depended on the fact that we were created by a God who wanted us.

A lot of this was making sense to me, but it also required a lot more thought than I was either able or willing to give at the time. I do remember thinking that once out of hospital I'd like to start going regularly to Guillaume's church again. This place wasn't like the traditional churches I'd grown up with. There was life here and something real. Yet, they weren't a crowd of supersaints. They all had their struggles and their problems. But they had someone to help them through, and that for me was the bottom line.

More often than not these spontaneous discussions provoked in me a lot of soul-searching. I remember chasing after some question or other one afternoon when the doctor came in to announce that I had a visitor. It was Thérèse. And I knew exactly what that meant. My time in exile was coming to an end. Just one more shake of the magic wand and I would be free.


The word blazened across the front page of my newspaper reminded me, as if anyone in France needed a reminder, of what was at stake that very evening. I cringed at this false use of it. As a teacher I liked to be precise. As a writer I would play with words. Obviously, this morning I felt more the teacher than the writer. The rivalry between these two great footballing nations went back decades. Usually the French stood in awe of the Italians but ever since winning the World Cup the French had had the upper hand, even beating the Italians in the European finals just two years later.

Then came the infamous 2006 final. France v. Italy. This was the first time Intaglio integrated the French language. But it was there with a vengeance, and the match lived up to its promise - Intaglio promise that is for the football itself was quite boring. The powder keg was lit with a jibe levelled by one of the Italians at the French captain who saw red in more ways than one when he aimed a perfectly timed head but onto the chest of his taunter and was promptly ordered off the field. The French lost the match and Intaglio became a household word. Now here they were again about to face each other in this crucial match after both teams had put in pretty lack lustre performances in the latest tournament.

I'm not much of a football fan but I do watch the big events. And being half Italian and half French I had mixed feelings about the matter. In addition, I loved to stir things up. So I had undergone a little bit of Intaglio (new version) just the evening before, beginning with a little tease but slowly moving on to more open jibes as the wine bottle in front of us got emptier. If the truth were told both teams were up against the wall and this was the one match to sort out the babes from the men. I let them know who I thought were the babes. They were, of course, used to such behaviour from me. With a group of Italians my taunting would have been in the opposite direction and they knew it. They certainly wouldn't let it stop them, be they French or Italian, from coming round to my house that night to watch the game. I'd probably have to choke the alcohol flow just a bit but apart from that it would just one more normal evening among friends under the motto of Intaglio.

Sold Out

It was meant to show the perversity of the human mind. A hero who's not one rising to the pinnacle of the small world he had created for himself before meeting not just his culprit but his judge and executioner. That's how he could become a true hero - by facing up to what he did, accepting his punishment and submitting to the punishment of the kangaroo court, appointed to oversee the final deed.

It was his greatest play. In none other had his concept of the courageous man risen to such heights. And the highlight was that final scene when the town mayor offered him the honourable way out. The torment of mind his hero betrayed was an unequalled feat. Yet he knew, his hero must not succumb. If hero he was to be, then justice must be done. And justice could only come by the accusers carrying out the sentence themselves.

The shock in the auditorium could still be felt minutes after the final curtain went down. The applause hesitated. When it did come, it was subdued. But the true applause, the one that expressed genuine appreciation came when the audience remained hushed in their chairs long after the last actor left the stage.

The next day the papers raved and the play went down as one of the masterpieces of 20th Century theatre. No other piece had issued such a condemning verdict upon the idea of human progress so widespread at the time.

That was before Hollywood got hold of the play. In postwar Hollywood such dark sentiments were taboo. And so just as the hero was about to undergo his ultimate destiny, not fate but an incompetent Hollywood script writer stepped in, and with the stroke of a pen had his executioner repent of her sentence, thus rendering the film meaningless.

I'd like to think that the author turned in his grave at this point. Unfortunately, he was still alive and - so I've heard - actually condoned the new version. It makes me wonder whether the riches he acquired for so doing could be contested on the grounds that he was not of sound mind.

I don't know if you've ever wondered what made me decide to put down these adventures in writing. Well, it all started right there in the hospital. I quickly struck up a friendship with one of the male nurses on my ward and he often came to see me when he had a few spare minutes. He wanted to improve his English and I was glad to have the opportunity to speak my mother tongue once again. Strangely enough, I never really spoke English with either Annie or Jean. I guess it never crossed our minds. Damien had lost both his parents in a car accdient when he was just thirteen years old. He was the only survivor of the accident. For a long time he'd been ridden with doubts as to the justice of his surviving when his parents were both dead and had spent most of his teenage years in and out of therapy. It wasn't until a therapist got him writing that he'd begun to see his way through the thicket built into his mind. His experiences with therapy was what made him want to become a nurse and help people in a similar situation to his own.

To me he was a godsend. Every day he would come by and we'd chat together for a few minutes. After a week or so he showed me some of his writings and explained how therapeutic it had been to him. He couldn't promise any miracles. All he said was that it had helped him and it might help me. When he saw that I was interested he brought me a copy of a small pamphlet his therapist had given him at the time. All it contained was some advice on how to get started, with several practical tips on what to write, how to keep the ideas flowing, how to continue exploring my inner self etc. To be honest some of what I read made little sense to me. But it got me thinking and with Damien's help I started to turn these thoughts into writing.

Most of what I wrote at the time was far too personal to open up to you in this book. Some of the things that came out frighten me even now. But I guess I needed to face up to them. And I did have one outlet. I began writing long and frequent letters to Morgana, trying to explain the things I was working through. I had in the meantime discovered that she was not allowed to come and see me, and in fact I wasn't allowed to have any contact with her but Damien was wise enough to realise how I needed a third person to relate to and he smuggled out my letters for me.

In the end I spent nearly six weeks in that hospital and in a sense it did me a lot of good. The regime was so appalling that I was determined never to let anything similar happen to me again. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on the staff. I'm sure they tried their best to help me, but maybe they let their system get in the way of their humanity. Whatever, I resolved there and then that there was no way I would be going back to that place. Although I was glad to meet up with Damien now and again. And it was at his instigation that I decided to throw myself into this project to let the world know what an insignificant Irishman was doing in France.

Another Day Jim

Jim was convinced this was going to be his lucky day. Luck wasn't exactly the first word that entered your mind when you met Jim. He was a happy go-lucky guy who enjoyed life despite the fact that life hadn't been particularly fortunate to him. Even the day of his birth Lady Luck seemed to be smiling on everyone but him as either he lost his parents or, more probably, his parents seemed to have lost him - if parents he ever had.

As a result he was brought up by a dragon-like, elderly lady who instilled in him the importance of finding a name other than Jim, at which he was volubly assisted by a classful of young prep-school brats who gratefully proposed several such appelations none of which Jim felt particularly at home with, and of which only one stuck.

Jim was a bright intelligent boy who enjoyed researching things of all kinds. Indeed, it was the general opinion of most of his teachers that he would go far in whatever direction he chose to go. Until, at least, his teacher had the bad luck to mistake a single letter on a chemical formula for an after school experiment to be conducted by several of the more promising school boys; The bad luck might have been the teacher's but it was Jim who concocted the explosive mixture. So the school got a new science laboratory paid for by the insurance but all Jim got was a ceremonial boot in a rather sensitive part of his anatomy.

So Jim returned home and did his best to eke out some sort of a living as a writer. Indeed, he was quite talented at it and several people seemed interested in his work. A friend even promised to do what he could to alert an uncle of his who was in the publishing business, so at last it seemed Jim's luck was changing. Well, indeed it was. Jim's work was read and published and the author soon became a household name... at least the supposed author. For when showing the work to his publishing uncle Jim's friend had actually taken all the credit to himself, conveniently forgetting to mention that it was actually Jim who had written such wonderful masterpieces.

It was then that his one stroke of luck really came about. After a short but difficult illness the dragon finally became no more. At last, Jim was free of her constant taunting about her name and revelling in the prospect of the will. Jim was convinced there could be no other other inheritor than he, and so it was with great excitement that he learnt two days after the funeral that he was now the proud proprietor of several thousand pounds worth of debt and a totally unsellable country mansion. Negociations with the state brought an offer to take over the house at zero cost if Jim promised to vacate within the week. But Jim's hope of obtaining reverse death duties, i.e. have the state pay him taxes for inheriting nothing but debts failed to materialise. It was just two days after relinquishing the house that the Van Gogh was found.

Jim was by now in fairly desperate straights. He was penniless, homeless and living off the charity of his good friend Wild Oscar who had apparantly not succeeded in persuading his uncle to sell any of Jim's but who had become a renowned author himself. Wild, in an obvious attempt to atone for his subterfuge, was showing an uncharacteristically charitable disposition towards Jim and the two were seen everywhere together. It was in Wild's library that Jim found the book.

It was an old volume of case histories and the moment Jim read it, he knew it was going to make his fortune. To cut a long explanation short, if an item of value is found within one month of its having changed ownership, the original owner had the right to claim 10% of its value, on condition that he staked his claim personally and within the hour of the item having been sold. If that was true, then Jim's luck really was about to take a turn for the better. After all, 10% of 70 or so million would be a tidy sum to live off in anyone's book.

Jim realised that a lot of his back luck, at least the kind one experienced every day, was due to his own lack of organisation. So this time he promised himself to be particularly meticulate in preparing his plan. The auction was to take place at the Sotheby's house in Paris. He would travel over to Paris the evening before. He knew enough French to stake his claim although it was likely that English would be acceptable. He booked a hotel just 100 metres from the auction house and he checked and double checked that all the papers he needed were on hand and valid. This time nothing could go wrong. This was to be his one lucky day. In 48 hours he would be rich and his luck would change. Indeed, so lighthearted was he as he made his way to the local train station that he completely overlooked the large billboard outside the newsagent's which read:

Lightening Transport Strike Paralyses Eurostar

Doubt is a strange thing. One moment you're on cloud nine and then out of the blue it hits you. And once it has you in its grips, it never lets you go. Looking back I still wonder what it was that began it all. But to be perfectly honest I can't remember much about it. There was certainly no outward reason for me to sink into the depths of despair as I did. I'd just got engaged to the most wonderful girl. I had a job and I enjoyed an adopted home in which I had found true friends for the first time in my life. Then one day I woke up and knew it was all too good to be true. Good things didn't happen to people like me. I'd had my bit of luck and I'd enjoyed it. But now it was over and I had to get out before it all turned sour on me. That was the one certainty which bolstered me that Wednesday morning, as I closed the door to my flat, turned the key and stepped out onto the street. I had nowhere in particular to go. My letter of resignation, hastily scribbled out after breakfast was in my pocket, but I knew I would never be able to face up to those who had placed so much trust in me. I'd slip the letter into the centre's box and quietly make my way down the railway line to the next village. From there it would be easy slip into the train and begin my journey back into oblivion. And three days later I woke up in hospital and didn't have a clue how I had got here.

The analysts had a difficult time figuring out what was going on inside my head. I had at least two sessions most days and sometimes more. I remember thinking these sessions would have been more inspiring had the therapy room walls been more cheerful than the drab medicinal white which stared at me from all sides. I cannot say any of these sessions did me much good. The doctors tried their best to show me life was worthwhile, that my life was worthwhile but I was not convinced. If the truth be told, their hands were tied by their own system which did not allow them to administer the one remedy I needed most - my friends. And their absence - I was not aware at the time that it was an involuntary absence - only served to feed my doubts. Nothing surprised me any more. Gensdouce had taken me up like a long lost friend upon my arrival there. But now that I was gone, they had forgotten me like a child discards his favourite toy in search of other pursuits. Images of Puff and little Jackie Paper playing together often flashed themselves upon my mind and Jackie alternatively took on the features of Thérèse, Morgana, Jean and Annie. On one night even Puff's aspect underwent a change and looking uncannily like Javert Demille. Occasionally, Guillaume was allowed in to see me. But never for more than five minutes at a time and he was forbidden to talk about anyone else I knew.

I don't know if any of this is making sense. I was pumped with so many different medicines in hospital that even now it's a struggle to think straight. And as I'm beginning to get dizzy with all this writing, I guess you'll have to wait for more.

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