Monday, July 24, 2017


Back in France  from South America ,  trimmer  due  to a  touch of Montezuma's Curse along the  way  ,  crumpled Peter  Burleigh is cruising the canals and   proving  to be  a   bigger  hit  than  President  Marcon.  He  modestly  explains  his  sudden   rise  to   fame  exclusively  for   our  dishevelled   readers   thus:  
I can now announce that I, your reporter, has recently become one of our planet’s elite celebrities. This is my story, totally unembellished by exaggerations from the rumour mill. Most International celebrities have a personal story to tell, but because they are among the world’s most beautiful people they protect their “brand image” with carefully crafted public relations campaigns. However  everything  you  will  read  here  is   true.

I was born in…but wait, rivetting as it is, that part of my personal history must wait for the release of my autobiography, to be run in 347 chapters in The New Yorker magazine.

Instead let us start a mere several days ago, in the town of Montceau les Mines (in English, Mean Monsters) in Burgundy, France. Every June, in virtually every town and village across France, the nation celebrates the Festival de la Musique. On every corner, in every restaurant and bar and in every public space music competes with itself : rock and classical, rap and romance, musical comedy and hip-hop are blended at high volume, energising crowds of people.

I attended an open-air concert in the square in front of the Town Hall, and was grooving along with an unknown band until I noticed something amiss. I thought it was  the  lead singer’s groin which held the crowd mesmerised, when suddenly I realised the vocalist was  not  the centre of attention, I was. People were staring at me. 
I am a person who attempts to entrance others through the written word, not through my physical appearance, so when people appeared gobsmacked by my mere presence at the concert, as if I was  an  angel  at a Satanist annual meeting, I was almost speechless.

 No one said anything to me, or asked for my name or my spare change: they simply stared at me like a school of stunned mullet staring at the Messiah. The vocalist finished his groin-thrusting interpretation of Julie Andrews’ “Doe, a deer, a female deer” to an absolutely silent crowd of several hundred, all of whom were fixed on me. Alarmed, I left the scene immediately. No one followed or pawed me.

What    had I done to warrant such a reaction? The crowd looked like it had been asked to explain the Theory of Relativity to an amoeba. What had happened? I checked my reflection in a shop window: no halo, just the usual alcoholic glow. No obscene tattoos had appeared on my face, and I  was not wearing my  Chicken  Suit.
Days of deep puzzlement later, while our canal boat turned south into the canal between Digoin and Roanne (towns in southern Burgundy) I concluded that it was my innate ‘foreignness’ which had attracted attention. But how could they have known I was a foreigner?
 That night at a canal-side halte, I sheltered from the rain under the eaves of a public toilet, cooking our dinner on our portable BBQ. The weather had turned comparatively cold after the heat wave, so I wore a raincoat, tracksuit pants and socks to keep my feet warm. Then it struck me. I had worn the same ensemble at the concert. People might have interpreted my clothes as an expression of style. It was possible.
The crew (Rope Girl and son Marc) posted on Facebook a photo of me standing there in the raincoat, shoulders hunched, hoodie up, socks gleaming through the straps of my sandals. Obviously nothing abnormal there, I hear you say. Yes, but no matter how strange, thousands of potential trends must have gone unrecognised in the past.

When I am in France I always prefer to drink my money rather than wear it, so fashion must have reached out blindly to touch me at a nodal point where my innocent choice of hooded rain coat, socks and sandals had caught the imagination of  a  youthful   audience. 
Burleigh socks  it  to  stunned  French  trendies .
The photograph generated major traffic. Links to YouTube featured a French rap group called Alrima whose gang members/band all wore sandals and thongs with socks, matching their downtrodden slum-dwelling appearance with the supressed poetry of the street artiste. No doubt accelerated by my appearance on Facebook I had awoken an international vibe.
The trend was so new it didn’t yet have a name.  I watched the clip on YouTube but couldn’t understand all of Alrima’s words. In fact I still don’t know what the song is about. Would one of my French-speaking readers please send me a translation, warts and all.
At one point the lead vocalist raps on about “the smells of summer” and this may be a reference to old socks. Sandals are called ‘claquettes’ in France, which sounds a little like ‘tap-dancing shoes’ or ‘clapperboards’.  It’s not a big step of logic to see that fashion trends  are linked  with entertainment.
 Now I have been a celebrity for almost a week. It’s amazing how an ordinary nerdy guy has turned full circle and become ‘cool’ and a ‘fashion icon’. My virtual friends ask me “Which hedonistic calculus applies to your revolutionary sock selection?” and “I call your style round-shouldered chic. What do you call it?” 
These are hard questions to answer. I try to be as enigmatic as possible and reply ‘Keith Richards might know’. In truth, I’m mystified. Up to now any clothes that need to be dry-cleaned or worse, ironed, have been banned from my wardrobe. Some responses  suggesting  what I could do with a suit of Lycra have been rude  and  cruel.

Only this morning Pippa Middleton was reported as jealously saying that what I wear is “only clothes”. In reply I ask would she describe a  van Gogh painting as “only paint”?

So, how long will my celebrity endure?  Doubters who quote the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes with me cast as Emperor will be proved wrong. Why do we continue to know the names of the Egyptian Pharaohs, actors like Mickey Rooney and Jayne Mansfield and characters like Billy Bunter and Noddy, not to mention authors like Enid Blyton and Mariah Carey? Because they all had something to share and they shared it. That’s the key to successful celebrityship : sharing  yourself  for all eternity.

So it’s no good looking for expensive endorsed products with my name on them. As long as I can afford socks, I will share them with all who ask me and  at  a  very  reasonable  price, too.

Celebrity is fleeting and I must soon look inward for my next big thing. My taste of fame which YouTube predicts may endure until tomorrow afternoon, hasn’t aroused in me a wild animal ravenous for his next ’15 Warhol Minutes’, it’s made me sincerely humble, self-effacing  and   unpretentious.