But for me his work has never been about the Eldorado cabaret posters of Bruant, or the cynical twisted grin of Mlle Weber as she enters a restaurant on the arm of her sister. It has always been about his fascination with the demi-monde and his - and I mean this - respect for the girls who made their living sleeping with men for money.
Look at that photo. That is (fairly obviously) my mother and father on their wedding day. I would like to say that my dad looks as dashing as my mother looks beautiful, but basically he just looks naughty. It's quite possible that he was also feeling extremely hungover or even inebriated, but as that's not my story to tell I won't tell it - oh wait, I just did.
Last Mother's Day I wrote about my grandmother because it was very close to the date that would have been her hundredth birthday. Not out of any lack of love or respect for my Mama - quite the opposite - she would I know agree that without my Gran'ma she would (literally, ha, ha) be half the person she is.
But I definitely owe the P a post. She is going to kill me for putting this photo in, so I may as well go hell for leather and embarrass her totally.
She is my best friend. If you are a grown up (or semi grown up in my case) woman and you are able to say 'my mother is my best friend' consider yourself very, very fortunate indeed. As a teenager - forget it. You are going to scorn everything your mum says, wears and does - and then as an adult probably end up saying, wearing and doing all the same things (in my case yes, sort of and yes). You will scream 'I hate you' and then if you are smart, apologise.
But as an adult - yay. The thought of not talking to P on a daily basis is one that frightens me so badly that I stick my fingers in my ears and go 'la, la, la' until the bad men go away. She is the still, calm voice in the centre of the hurricane that constitutes my brain.
She is my inner eye.
My mother is an amazing woman.
She would be the first to scoff at this. She is incredibly unassuming
and very modest. She has no idea of the quiet impact she has on all
those she comes in contact with. Her employees, her friends, her family.
Me. Always me. Even when we have fought. If I am in a strop, I really
do try to stop and think 'how would P handle this?' - because invariably
it would be with better grace and humour than myself.
has handled blows that would fell strong men. She has watched her
children mess up time and again - and sadly had to watch one of them go
through illnesses that I know in her heart she blames herself for, despite
there being no reason for it. It's not her fault. As the one going
through said illnesses, I say this with certainty. But I hear that little
voice inside her saying 'yes it is' and as that same voice ticks inside
me I will not attempt to shut it up, but simply say this.
Mumsy, Mama, Big P.
are my sanity and my succour. You are the first person I turn to -
always - even if I am narky with you. You are the snort at the other end
of the phone when I need to let off steam. I laugh til I cry with you
about stuff which nobody in their right minds would find remotely
amusing, or understand, and that is fantastic. The fact that we have had
a running joke of one word for well on twenty years is testament to
both our combined sense of the ridiculous and what can only be called
deep, deep love.
find it hard to put into words the respect that I have for you, both as
a mother and as a woman. So let me just say I am grateful for you, I
will continue to be grateful for you, and I will try to show it every