Sitting in the Cafe de Paris yesterday drinking a coffee and old Lithuanian guy sat next to me and started talking to me, in Lithuanian at first. He asked me if I was writing a book on my laptop, and then started talking about rock music. He said he got lots of emails telling him the latest rock music news. I asked him what kind of rock music and he said the old stuff. I said like what and he said donovan. But then he mentioned Steppenwolf, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Nazareth. Nazareth were Scottish, he said. I looked up their website – www.nazarethdirect.co.uk – and found out they are indeed Scottish. I’d vaguely heard of them and always thought they were American. The old guy also said they were jewish, but I’m not sure what point he was making about that. He said something about Gershwin. Possibly anti-semitic but I’m not sure. His English wasn’t that good.
He said he was a drummer. He was into John Bonham, the Led Zeppelin drummer I think. He’d played in a band during Soviet times. Half their music had been rock n’roll and half of it had been the sort of things the authorities wanted them to play. I’m not sure exactly what that was. The authorities would check up on them every so often to make sure they weren’t playing things they shouldn’t be playing. I asked if he was able to get hold of Western music then. He said he was, though it sounds like it wasn’t easy. He said a friend of his in those days, also a musician, kept talking about escaping to the West, but never did. I never tried to leave, he said. I stayed here, and now capitalism has come to me and I’m free. I was tempted to ask why he thought capitalism rather than democracy represented freedom, but decided it wasn’t worth getting into.
He’d asked me earlier whether I liked the pretty Lithuanian women, to which I didn’t give a yes or no answer, not wanting to get into where that was heading, but then as I stood up and was packing away my things he asked me how tall I was. 175? No. 170. Why are you asking me how tall I am? Well, he said, some men have a complex about women who are taller than them. And then he’s saying he’ll be in the cafe tomorrow at 7 and will I be there? I’m there most of the time, I said. But now it is tomorrow, it’s 6 o’clock and I’m sitting by the river Vilnelé with a beer. Maybe I’ll pass by later and have a look through the window, just to see if he’s sitting there with an attractive young Lithuanian woman.
When I came out of the café the French were coming out of the French Cultural Institute next door where they’d been watching the election on TV and drinking wine. Apparently three people had been seen applauding Sarkozy’s speech, but it’s not clear whether or not they were French.
One of the French asked me why the English had a complex about Napoleon. You have Trafalgar Square, Wellington Place… And Waterloo Station. Napoleon was a great leader! I think he was joking.
There were some other nationalities there. I sat at a table outside on the unmadeup road with a Spaniard, a couple of Lithuanians, some French, a French-speaking Belgian and a Spaniard. One of the French guys was hammering away at one of the Lithuanians, asking him what Lithuania would say when it started to speak, because at the moment Lithuania wasn’t saying anything it was just trying to integrate and was run by the mafia anyway, which the Lithuanian strongly objected to. he said when Lithuania starts to speak what it says will probably be quite conservative: pro-family, anti-gay, traditional values etc..
Explaining Lithuania’s point of view he talked about how during the Soviet occupation (which is how he put it, though the old guy earlier said during Soviet times) Lithuanian men were fighting the Soviets in the woods and Western Europe didn’t do anything, and nor did America. He agreed there wasn’t much they could do, but another Lithuanian was saying that after that their attitude was reality that everyone just looks after themselves. Any idea of there being a community, either in Europe or in the world is just an illusion. So we just want to make some money and make things a bit better for ourselves, and we should pollute more and more because business will come up with a solution for global warming eventually.