"Dad," he asks on the way home, "did you have a stag night before your wedding?" "Certainly not," I reply. "As a matter of fact, I have participated in only one such event. It was the penultimate night of our undergraduate careers. So we all got a bit merry. Except for the husband-to-be who, as tradition demands, got blind drunk, threw up, and passed out. Next morning, he recalled that he didn't own a tie. Nevertheless, we got him, correctly attired, to the church on time. Fran was there, of course, though in those days she was neither your mother, nor even my girlfriend."
At the end of that summer (the last of the 1960s), we travelled to the Isle of Wight together, to hear Bob Dylan and The Band. After that, we went our separate ways: Fran to St Vincent, to do good deeds, me to Santa Cruz, to further my education (and catch the Stones at Altamont). How, then, could I resist the lure of Bob Dylan in Hyde Park? In the absence of Fran, I took Seth.
A cold coming we had of it, though the month was June. Things warmed up quickly, however, when we were approached by a blonde. "Have you journeyed far?" she enquired, revealing traces of an unidentifiable accent. "A long way," I replied, thinking of the Isle of Wight and all that happened after. "Do you mind if I ask you some questions?" she continued. Do I believe in free love? Sure. All sex should be gratuitous, otherwise it is prostitution, Dream on! The girl was from People magazine, and wanted to know if the tastes of a born-again hippie had been inherited by his progeny. Whereas all the man from the Indie wanted to know was her phone number.
Dylan, meanwhile, was roaring through "Highway 61 Revisited", sounding like he'd just swallowed a Harley. Then he swung into "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", with its evocative overture: "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez, when it's Easter time too, and your gravity fails, and negativity don't pull you through ..." Well, I found it evocative, having been in Juarez on Easter Monday myself. My first act, upon arrival in Santa Cruz, was to purchase a Ford Falcon. Some six months later, a group of us piled into it and lit out for the Mexican border. Among the number was Annette, dedicatee of my first novel (written after I had returned to England, and my muse to the Southern Hemisphere).
"Dad," said Seth, as the old troubadour told how he started out on Burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff, "did you ever take LSD?" It was a question I had long been dreading, but in the end I had to tell him the truth, whatever it did to his image of me. "No," I replied. At least Dylan's reputation wasn't compromised by the presence of Prince Charles (patron of the charity we were supporting by our attendance). Bob's constituency consists of stoned heads, egg heads, bald heads, but surely not crowned heads. When the heir to the throne did show up, the VIPs in the corporation seats rose and clapped. Even the riffraff on the grass (there were 150,000 of us) waved and cheered. Cheer? I nearly wept. Instead of applauding, we should have been throwing rotten tomatoes and chanting Republica Britannica! Seth, knowing the consequences of treason, begged me to behave myself.
Hints from the Palace notwithstanding, I did not invite HRH to my recent book launch at Bernard Jacobson's posh gallery. It was an occasion for old friends, some of whom I no longer recognised, or mistook for other people. I bounced from guest to guest, like a pinball in a pinball machine, until a new arrival stopped me in my tracks, "Hello," she said, "my name is Shael. I'm Annette's daughter." Forget False Memory Syndrome; this was, in Kafka's miraculous phrase, a memory come to life. "You look like your mother," I said.
So does my son, lucky for him. "I've just got a letter from Shael in Australia," I announce over breakfast. "The last paragraph concerns you, 'I do regret not having spoken to Seth at the party,' she writes, 'but had to rush off to a show.' Now she has a question for you. Would you be interested in writing to her little sister? Lorien - that's her name - is keen. Apparently, Shael fibbed and told her you were good looking. Well, what do you say?" "Right on!" replies Seth.
'The Lady with the Laptop and other stories' is published by Picador at pounds 12.99Reuse content