Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Bakelite and the French Foreign Legion
The fourth chapter of 'Luxembourg' begins with a phone ringing in a pub. A bakelite phone. From 1986. And two things sidetracked my writing. Firstly, had I spelt 'bakelite' correctly and how do I describe the ringing of a phone in the hallway of a pub. Checking the spelling of bakelite led me to learn that the technical name for this plastic is 'polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride'. I absorbed, dismissed and moved on. That was the first sidetrack dealt with. Then - there was the description issue. I know what a bakelite phone sounds like - the ringing noise is in my head. I considered watching some old re-runs of The Sweeney as a bakelite phone is always ringing by John Thaw's bed - maybe that would remind me. And ITV4 rerun this show most mornings these days. But in the end I will probably settle for an 'empty drilling noise, interspersed by echoed pauses'. The character on the calling end of the phone is based in Corsica. The friend in the English pub he is trying to contact is someone he hasn't spoken to for almost a year. Pete, who has just signed away 5 years of his life to train and eventually become a French Foreign Legionnaire is a complicated character - in fact when he joins the Legion he is placed within a unit called the 'Deuxiemme Rep' - a unit renowned for parachuting from extremely low heights. It is where the Legion puts men who they consider to be slightly unhinged. Pete needs to contact Tom to connect to a sane part of his life. Pete needs to speak with a normal person. Someone that knows how he used to be. Away from this madness. In future chapters Pete will visit Tom during his periods of 'leave'. Tom later describes being with Pete as 'like walking around with a loaded gun'. In real life 'Pete' was someone I knew very well and 'Tom' - that was me. And the 'adventures' when 'Pete' visited 'Tom' during his leave will be accurate and true. Personally, I am looking forward to detailing events in my past as they were exciting and entertaining. Inserting 'truth' into fiction is a good way of making a story readable.