Real Life Romance
It was 1971 when I met Mike in Zambia and fell head-over-heels in love.
But when he said, “… Here’s looking at you, kid,” I had no idea why.
I don’t think anyone of our generation escaped seeing Casablanca (1942, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman), but not all of us memorised the whole damn script.
Remember Snuggling-Up at the Drive-In?
A month or so later I thought I was on track when I took Mike to Gone With the Wind (1939, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh). It was showing at the Lusaka Drive-In. But he went to sleep until the interval when he sat upright, fired up his beat-up Ford Falcon and said, “OK. Let's go!”
It took a lot of persuasion to make him stay for the second half. He didn’t believe that any film could be that long and or that turgid. It was almost the end of a beautiful relationship!
Over the years, I made amends. I sat through Casablanca at least three times, maybe five…. Not only that but our four daughters have indulged Mike too.
Yet as Time Goes By
I can come clean now; I never did, and still don’t, get it.
Ilsa tells Rick she can't think straight and he’ll have to do the thinking for both of them and Rick knows what’s good for her and packs her off without an explanation. Sexist? You bet! What is the appeal?
A wave of nostalgia did hit me though when travelling solo in Morocco for I learned that the original gin joint in Casablanca was modelled on Caid’s Piano Bar in Hotel El Minzah, Tangier.
I was travelling out of a back-pack and covered in a rash, but did my best to smarten-up and sauntered into the El Minzah, a sophisticated old-world hotel overlooking the Bay of Tangier.
Think palms, orange trees and Moorish archways; courtyards and teak lattice. The hotel was the brain-child of an English aristocrat and first opened in 1930. It has welcomed many celebrities over the years and appropriately enough, those old Hollywood stars of the 1940s; Rita Hayworth and Rock Hudson.
It was mid-morning and the hotel was deserted but I found a waiter, ordered a glass of wine and sat in the main courtyard and enjoyed a 'life is absolutely bloody marvellous moment.'
Then I tiptoed to the door of Caid’s Bar, pushed it open, and heard Mike’s voice so clearly: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”
Which is why my picture of the Piano Bar is a bit shaky...