Dreamers of the Day

Some time ago I was asked to contribute something to a very special book, in which several writers approached the subject of Doctor Who encountering Lawrence of Arabia. I chose to concentrate on Lawrence’s attendance at the Paris Peace Conference, and because I could only spare two days to do it, wrote it as a 300-line poem.  The book was made as a very personal wedding gift for a Dr Who fan from his frankly loopy wife, so I think there are only about five copies in existence. And I’ve got one! I usually write for money, so it’s probably the only fan fiction I am ever likely to produce, but I was quite pleased to have crammed all 12 Doctors into a single work. There are many Easter Eggs in here for those who know the worlds of Who… or indeed Lawrence, or I suppose, the Paris Peace Conference.

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Ohana hungered for the gaze

Of others, basking in the praise of their attentions at Grand Balls

At gin-soaked parties, vaulted halls. She waited eagerly for cards

Of invitation – vellum shards for Hotel Somethings, Palais Thats

Where through a sea of diplomats she’d glide in elegant brocades,

Black hair a sculpture in pomades, her skin a doll-like ivory

A beauty there for all to see. Some of the men had brought their wives

Who stared at her with eyes like knives and whispered that this child of Asia

Was merely a transplanted geisha, which was the truth. And to be sure,

She was a youthful twenty-four, a little girl from far away,

Her task to make an evening gay with laughter, jokes or samisen

A haiku line or five or ten. A revered art in Tokyo

But here in Europe, who could know her fine poetic masteries

When only parsed in Japanese? Unable to correct this flaw,

They thought her just Saionji’s whore. Her aging Prince, with leathered face

Could wow the crowd with mots francais. He spoke it well to much delight

And so at every Paris night, when talk soon turned to books and songs,

The Conference and righting wrongs, Saionji got along just fine.

Ohana sunk her woes in wine. She sneaked out to the balconies

For cigarettes in twos and threes. She walked among the breathless throng

A sight that lasted for too long. A striking red-clad Japanese

Amazed Versailles societies, but with the summer turning cold

She felt her novelty grow old. A newer belle called Oei Hui-Lan

Fluttered beneath a feathered fan. She chased the Chinese delegate

And caused the press to speculate that marriage might be on the way,

Which made the news reporters’ day but left Ohana in the dust.

Though stay she did, as stay she must. The jealous women bad enough,

Ohana found it even tougher dealing with the leering men

Who gathered at the bar, and then would proffer drinks or light a match

And always try their best to snatch a foreign woman to their bed.

She hated them. Except for Ned. Continue reading

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My 1919

My 1919

My 1919 VCD Cover

Last week I was at the Imperial War Museum for the launch of the Makers of the Modern World series – a massive set of biographies covering all of the main delegates at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The Paris Peace Conference was a legendary gathering of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and not just among the diplomats. A young Ernest Hemingway covered the conference as a journalist; Lawrence of Arabia was an adviser to the Arab delegation; even Ho Chi Minh was there, working as a pastry chef while trying to put the case for an independent Indochina.

The Makers of the Modern World is proper, posh history (I’ve written the books on the Chinese and Japanese delegates) but talk at the party turned to the Paris Conference in works of fiction and film. The young Indiana Jones, according to Lucasfilm’s chronicles, was working there as an interpreter. A Dangerous Man (1990) starred Ralph Fiennes in what was intended as a semi-sequel to Lawrence of Arabia. And then, of course, there’s My 1919.

Continue reading