by Claudia Rey
He was a traveller at heart. During his holidays in the country as a kid, he used to ride his bike through hills and woods, going very far, coming home very late and worrying his mother to death.
As soon as possible he started learning German, French and Spanish, so that going around the world would be easier for him when the time came. At twenty he drove up to Norway and the midnight sun with his best friend, taking shifts at the wheel of a battered old car. Had he been richer, he would have become an explorer: he became an accountant instead. And a family man. And a bread-winner.
But his wanderlust remained - and probably because of this he accepted a challenging new job in France. He started commuting between Paris and his home town every other weekend, while his French turned almost perfect and his taste for oysters and cheese improved a lot.
One summer he took his younger daughter with him, to France and Belgium. She longed for a different holiday and he wanted to show her around Paris, the Louvre, Versailles, Fontainebleau, as well as Brussels, Gand, Bruges.
And Mont Saint-Jean, near Waterloo.
Someone took a photo of the two of them that day, in the dry fields that had seen Napoleon and his soldiers fight and lose. It was June, but the weather was cold and windy. In the black-and-white snapshot the man had just a hint of a short, Mona Lisa smile; the young girl, wrapped in her raincoat, was serious, almost pensive.
Years later the man's grandson, a musician, took possession of that old photo. He liked the idea of being the real link between two possibilities: his maybe-who-knows-mother and his not-yet-grandfather. He put the photo in a frame ad hung it in the corridor of his tiny apartment.
Until a friend of his, an art-director who had been charged to create posters and programs for a contemporary music festival, borrowed the photo. Apparently the guy had always imagined that the two figures, standing there in the middle of nothing, were waiting for a space-ship. Perfect for this kind of festival, he decided. His idea was accepted.
So now father and daughter are plastered all over the city in big posters. There's a shocking pink cross partially covering them, but their faces are quite recognizable - for those who know.
The man was my father. Guess who the girl was. Is.
Corso Galleria Ferraris 98