John Lichfield: Moving story of the missing 'Picasso'

Paris Notebook: He left a painting on the studio wall to thank the BBC for having been the voice of freedom in France from 1940-44

Jean Cocteau, poet, playwright, friend of Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso and Edith Piaf, was also an occasional artist. His drawings, often erotic, frequently on ancient Greek themes, are sought after but not hugely valuable.

Shortly before Cocteau's death in 1963, he gave an interview in the old studios of the BBC. Before he left, he painted on the wall a large, lovely, non-erotic, Picasso-like drawing of an ancient Greek head and lyre. He did so, he said, to thank the BBC for having been the voice of freedom in France from 1940-44.

When the BBC moved soon afterwards, they chopped out the section of plasterboard containing the Cocteau drawing, placed it in a frame and hung it in the new offices. For the last 13 years, I have shared that office and shared the pleasure of seeing the Cocteau on the wall. It has come to be known to some members of the the Beeb's bureaucracy in London as "the Picasso".

Last month, the BBC moved offices for the first time in nearly four decades. They agreed to bring me – and the Cocteau drawing. I was able to get up the stairs, just, but the drawing, eight feet high by six feet wide, was too large.

Calamity. The new offices feel naked without the Cocteau. This week an attempt will be made to haul the immense drawing up five floors by rope from the building's back yard. With luck, we will have our "Picasso" back.

Stop! In the name of the lads

I was walking past the lovely, ceremonial gates of the Interior Ministry on Saturday when the policeman on guard duty gravely held up his hand to stop me.

I waited for a big, black, ministerial car to sweep by. A small, blonde boy on a tricycle pedalled calmly out of the broad gateway. Another small blonde boy on a bicycle pedalled in. The sons of Brice Hortefeux, the Interior minister, were playing not at cars but at limousines.

A very formal dressing down

My 16-year-old-daughter, Clare, was invited to lunch by a friend who has an excitable relationship with her mother. After the usual angry exchanges, the friend stormed out, saying: "Maman, vous êtes une salope."

Clare, who has lived in France from the age of two, was shocked. She was shocked not because her friend had called her mother a rude word, but because she had used the formal "vous", rather than the familiar "tu". It was as if a British teenage girl had said to her mother: "Mrs Smith, you are a slut."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before