During my time at the university in Wellington I spent the long summer holidays working on the Wellington wharves doing a variety of jobs, by far the best of which was driving a tractor, bringing goods to and fro between the ships and the sheds. It was here that I met Luc, a Dutchman about 10 years my senior. He spent his winters in the mountains skiing and teaching skiing and the summers as a tally clerk on the wharves. For the first time in my life I was speaking to someone who was really versed in classical music. He had a huge collection of records (LPs), which his mother sent him from Europe and which he was happy to lend me. Because both our jobs involved a lot of waiting, we could often talk together for long periods undisturbed. He knew all the Beethoven symphonies, which I loved and also the Brahms symphonies, which I was keen to get to know. He talked of the Beethoven 8th as his skiing symphony and whistled the opening theme, a theme, which has remained as our family call ever since. He also knew the late Beethoven quartets, which I had just read about in Huxley’s Point Counterpoint and lent me the records of them. He told me how he got to know Monteverdi madrigals through Steinbeck’s character “Doc” and so I learnt some of these too. When I bought a recording of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat and couldn’t make much sense of it, he listened with me and said: (although it was new to him) “I think you could come to like this”.
Shortly afterwards he returned to Europe and in 1966 when I came here for the first time, I could stay with him in Leysin, Switzerland, and we took up our music conversations again as if they had never stopped. I told him in my hesitant way how I wanted to study music in Italy and in Germany and that my first objective was to study these languages. “I don’t know how you think you’re going to learn Italian and German” he said, “you’re not even fluent in English”. But he said it in such loving way, I couldn't possibly take umbrage—besides he was right!
This was 1966 and new drugs (eg. LSD) were starting to appear in Europe. Luc was interested in a scientific sort of way (he had read Huxley's "The Doors of Perception") and had asked a visitor to Club Vagabond where he lived to find him some which he did: it came in the form of a sugar cube. At the same time he often worked closely together with the local police—because of the many foreigners visiting Leysin and because Luc was fluent in English, French and German (plus his native Dutch and Indonesian where he had been interned during the war) he was an important interpreter for them. Now he received a visit from the local constable saying that they had heard that drugs were in circulation and that he should please keep a look out and inform them if he saw anything suspicious. Luc said that he had also heard that LSD was around and that it was often disguised to look like a cube of suger—so saying, he picked up the very cube had received the day before. The policeman thanked him profusely for his help! Some days later I agreed to sit with him while he tested the drug. We sat opposite one another, he set a tape recorder running so that he could hear later all he had said, and for several hours I listened while he talked about what he was experiencing until he finally fell asleep. I still hear his words: this could be very dangerous—one has the felling one can walk out of the window and fly.
He often made fun of my passion for ordering the music I was listening to according to composers and period. Years later when we were living in Christchurch he sent me a parcel of 5 kilos of records from East Europe, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to read the labels and would have to listen without ordering! But I couldn’t change. I worked out that they were early classical composers from the Mannheim School and so was able to keep them in my poor head.
Luc was homosexual and only towards the end of his life did he find a permanent friend: René. We met them for the last time in 1981 changing planes in Amsterdam. Six years later (in his early 60s) he died suddenly of a heart attack, no doubt as a result of his predilection for unfiltered Gitanes. He remains as the person who taught me most about classical music—without even trying!