WARMING THE COCKLES

In January 1984, David Elliott had flown to Montreal from London to host a sales conference for our North American reps. It was the first time he had undertaken such a trip, brought about by Quartet’s expansion in the region. David was there to brief the sales force on those forthcoming publications that were likely to be of interest in their territory. Marilyn Warnick and I flew up from New York to join him – her involvement was vitally important since the whole American operation came under her jurisdiction. My purpose in being there was to become more familiar with what was going on and then to wrap up the conference with a short address to give the occasion an air of gravitas.

Beyond its successful outcome, nothing unusual happened except for the weather. It was bitterly cold, with temperatures the lowest I had ever encountered. I had a single worse experience a decade or so later when I visited China in mid-February and hired a car to drive me out from Beijing to see the Great Wall of China. I took the precaution of putting on many layers of warm clothing complemented by a fur coat and hat, and a pair of thick gloves, but my ears and eyes were difficult to shield from the cuttingly icy wind that swept in from Mongolia and seemed to penetrate into every fibre of my body. The resulting pain was excruciating as my face was pelted with particles of ice which stung any bit of flesh they managed to land on. I never felt so helpless and desperate as I did when negotiating the Great Wall, hardly daring to open my eyes for fear of some crippling injury to my eyesight.

The Montreal winter, bad as it was, was not in the same league as its Chinese counterpart, though it was still my first taste of extreme weather conditions. Marilyn, David and I wore heavy overcoats as we set out on our last day to brave the elements by taking a walk in the city centre, looking for places of interest, especially the leading bookshops. Our ears and hands were already painfully numb when we chanced on a cinema showing 3D projections for adults only. Marilyn held back, perhaps embarrassed at first, but then decided anything would be better than freezing to death! We bought three tickets at the box office and were given special coloured glasses for viewing the film. It had to be admitted that the spectacle was technically sensational, though the content was nothing more than a pornographic display of sexual acrobatics. The images hit you from every side until you felt you were yourself a participant in the ongoing orgy. For the first ten minutes the senses were stunned, but the novelty began to wear thin when the action became so confused it was impossible to distinguish who was copulating with whom. When we left the cinema the crisp cold outside air had become less of a problem. The hour spent watching people engaging in libidinous activities had given our blood circulations a boost to fend off the cold. We spent the evening quietly before flying back to New York the next day.

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