The ‘bug’ had struck me around six o’clock but, by ten, what had begun as a mild headache and gathering thickness in the throat has come roaring into life as a full blown malady. Some might call it a cold but I personally think it much more than that. The Word Health Organisation needed to be informed in order to set up a quarantine. For that reason alone, I ask you not to get too close.
‘I’m been talking with Mark,’ said Judy, dumping her handbag on the work surface and quite obvious to my fever.
‘Mark,’ asked I, in a whisper. ‘Which Mark is this?’
‘Mark Ronson. The music producer.’
‘Ah,’ I replied, testing the Lemsip with my elbow and deciding that it was hot enough to drink while being cool enough to avoid a trip to A&E.
‘We’re going to record a song.’
I gave her one of my hard stares, at once doleful and cynical yet with an undercurrent of the mildly delirious. ‘A song?’ I repeated. ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Judy, but there’s a sick man standing in your kitchen. Beneath this dressing gown is a body wracked by fever. Don’t you notice my pallid colour and general lethargy?’
‘There’s nothing wrong with you but a slight sniffle,’ said Judy, ever the humanitarian. ‘Don’t you want to hear the good news?’
‘Okay,’ I wheezed. ‘What’s the song?’
‘Not just any song,’ said Judy. ‘It’s one of your favourites. I’ll give you a clue. It’s French.’
‘Not “La Vie En Rose” by Grace Jones? Some say it’s a camp classic but it always gets my testicles swinging.’
‘Close,’ she clapped. ‘It’s actually "Bonnie and Clyde". You know... By Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot?’
Shocked? I dropped my spoon in the Lemsip.
‘That’s wonderful,’ I said. ‘How on earth did you come up with an idea so brilliant?’
‘Oh,’ blushed Judy. ‘I knew we needed a bit of money so I thought we might cover the next few months by getting a single to the top of the charts.’
‘Ah, but not any song,’ I said, already shuffling my feet to the tune I knew so well. ‘My favourite song.’
The truth is that there’s a story to all this. Way back when I was a young man, Serge Gainsbourg was my idol. I modelled myself on his stick thin look. What people now think of as my creepiness and slight resemblance to a reptile is just a deliberate attempt to copy the French maestro. When I was old enough to afford to travel, I actually went to Paris and hung out with the great man. Though I spoke little French, we seemed to share an understanding that went beyond language. It was the universal language of the misunderstood genius. In a way, you might say that Serge was to me then what Fry is to me now.
I picked up my Lemsip and knocked it back in one go.
‘Steady there, champ,’ said Judy as it dribbled from my chin.
‘I need to get well,’ I said, staggering towards the door on my way back to bed. ‘I’ve suddenly got a reason to live.’
‘I’m glad your happy,’ said Judy, taking my arm and helping me to the stairs. ‘Mark’s very excited about the project.’
‘It’s bound to be a hit,’ I said. ‘He’s a great producer.’
‘The best in the business,’ she answered. ‘I think it takes a special kind of genius to come up with a twist so novel.’
‘Twist?’ I asked.
‘Oh, didn’t I mention?’ said Judy, as I we made the landing. ‘I’ll be playing Clyde and you’re playing Bonnie.’ She paused and took a step back. 'Oh dear, you do look bad, Richard. Should I call a doctor?'
'Just call me Brigitte,' I said, feeling nausea overwhelm me.