'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, August 01, 2005

Dead Drunks' Society

On Saturday afternoon, pre-party chilling, I walked down the footpath from the chateau across the fields to the nearby village of Celigny. Beyond a stream I found the municipal cemetery, entered through an imposing arch above which the words Ici, Egalite were carved, though whether as theological truth or satirical thrust at the French Republic a few kilometres up the hill was unclear.
On the way back I found my way to the Old Cemetery a few hundred yards beyond. This was an altogether more neglected spot, uncared-for graves and moss-covered crosses leaning at alarming angles. To my surprise just inside the gate there was a well-kept and monumental headstone. The inscription read 'Richard Burton'. Ten yards away against the opposite wall was the only other cared-for grave. The name on its headstone was 'Alastair Maclean'.
I paused for a moment and wondered what chance had brought two heroic drinkers of the Celtic diaspora so close together in death. Presumably in the 1960s Switzerland was the tax-exile of choice, and working class boys who had made the bigtime were more likely to flee on the basis that they were never sure how long their good fortune would last nor how quickly the money might dry up. None of which explains their decisions to invest so much of it in the export division of the Scotch whisky industry . . .


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