“You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do”
It’s that time again. The car is packed and the green fields of France beckon.
The journey this year includes the Green Fields of France (and those of Belgium); paying respects to young Willie McBride, along with all of his other comrades; standing at the Menin Gate in Ypres for the sounding of Last Post; pondering the rolling fields of Thiepval where a whole generation of Ulstermen were left lying in the mud. The journey finishes deep in the south-west, in sight of the Pyrenees; the land of huge sweeping beaches and passionate rugby.
But between the silent contemplation of Flanders and the Somme and the sunshine and laughter of the Atlantic coast, comes Paris, with all its mystique and the challenge to spot Marie Claire.
Of course, Marie Claire never existed. She was the invention of Peter Sarstedt; an amalgam of everything sophisticated and cosmopolitan and glamorous in the Parisian life of the 1960s.
One year we stood on the Eiffel tower and wondered which had been Marie Claire’s favourite places; once we walked the Boulevard Saint-Michel and tried to decide which fancy apartment would have been suitable for one such as Marie Claire.
It is hard to fathom her enduring appeal; why Sarstedt’s song will still be heard forty years later.
Perhaps Marie Claire represents the unattainable. There is the putdown line at the end, “remember just who you are”, but she won’t, will she? “go and forget me forever”, the song goes on, and someone who has pulled herself up will do exactly that.
How has she turned out?
Probably living in some even more fancy apartment; living on a divorce settlement from an ex-husband who has moved on to a younger model.
Marie-Claire now is probably solitary; living with her cats; having a strict daily routine and a vegetarian diet. The Napoleon brandy has long since gone, along with all other alcohol. The only bottles in the fridge contain Evian.
Paris can still conjure up such magical thoughts; it still has a perfection about it; it was the only possible stage for someone such as Marie Claire.
It would be great just to get a glimpse of her.