A Love Story In France
 The Story Of Gaye 

In the late 1980s Cliff decided to write 'a love story with songs'. The result was 'A Love Story In France' - a musical play where Cliff is doing a tour of France and Gaye gives up her Air Hostess job to return to her former profession as a singer; but is ultimately employed as Cliff's road manager. From here the love story unfolds. The narrated story is generously interspersed with a selection of Cliff's songs. Cliff plays himself, and another lady, probably Pat, plays the part of Gaye. The story is based on one which had been circulated earlier - supposedly of Cliff's brief 'love affair' with the French Air Hostess, Gaye, some years earlier (now known to be purely fictitious). It is not clear whether Cliff intended this 'playlet' to appear on vinyl - or C.D., but in any event, it never made it beyond 'cassette' status. The 'B' side of the cassette contains a studio enactment of a theoretical 'live concert' that Cliff performed in America (though, in reality, while in the ' States, Cliff was maintaining his refusal to make any live appearances!). It is entitled 'Supper In Boston U.S.A.'. The cassette is well worth having if you can get hold of a copy!

The following article was taken from a 1990 magazine, and is based on 'A Love Story In France'. The article was accompanied by a photograph reputedly of Gaye, though was actually of Pat:

'Pop Star Clifford T Ward read the words from his lover with dread. Now, for the first time, he tells their story.

    Slicing through the sky, the air-liner sped towards Paris. As the stewardess wobbled up the aisle, serving coffee, one face looked familiar to her. 'Aren't you Clifford T Ward?' she asked.

     'Yes,' he replied, 'I am.' She said she knew all his songs. He had recorded one of her favourite hits Gaye. The title was the same as her name. They talked. She said she was a singer, too. The plane landed and they parted. But she couldn't forget. Later she made a record of her own and contacted him. He hired her as his driver for his French tour; and then the inevitable happened -- they made love. Only once. It was the one time Clifford T Ward was unfaithful to his wife Pat. Afterwards Gaye asked him to leave his wife and to live with her in Paris.

     'I can't do that' he said, 'My heart remains with my Pat.' He said goodbye, caught the plane and flew home, riddled with guilt. 'I've had an affair,' he told Pat. 'But it's over.'

     'Well. if it is truly finished, Cliff,' she replied 'then I'm prepared to forgive you'.

     His life fell back into balance and he pushed Gaye to the back of his mind. Then one day a letter dropped on his doormat. It bore a French postmark. He tore it open and began to read.

     'My dear Cliff,' it began. 'I see no point in going on. You have made up your mind and now I must make up mine, too. 'I really do love you, Cliff, so very, very much. When you said it would not work out between us, I felt so disappointed. Several weeks have gone by since your return to England and my return home to Paris, but I think about you all the time. I am not able to sleep and I eat little; I just think about you. I love you with all my being but I understand you have a life and a family in England. So I must say goodbye my darling. Goodbye.'  He paused, studying the neat handwriting. 'Dawn is breaking. it will be broad daylight in another hour or so.' the letter continued. 'I will go for a drive in my car while the roads are still quiet. Goodbye my love. Gaye.'

     Goodbye, my love? Clifford became uneasy. What did she mean by those words? Quickly he found her telephone number and dialled it. He heard the line ringing in Paris, then someone answered.

     'Is Gaye there?' he asked.

     'No,' said the voice. 'She was in her car. She was driving very fast. She crashed into a lorry coming in the other direction.'

     'What happened?'

     'Gaye is dead,' said the voice. Cliff replaced the receiver. He boarded a plane and flew to Paris. At the funeral, he met her parents.

     'You must try not to blame yourself,' said her father.

     'Thank you for coming,' her mother told him. 'Do not feel guilty about what has happened.' Cliff returned to his farmhouse above Worcestershire's Teme valley. But despite all efforts, he still felt guilty. Sometimes he sat indoors, fearing he was sliding towards a nervous breakdown. Only by immersing himself in his work did he fend off the trauma. His songs were being performed by stars such as Art Garfunkel, Judy Collins and Jack Jones. He was a success - that was some consolation to him. And he had concert bookings.

     One booking took him to Dublin. On his return he set about cutting his lawn. To finish it off, he pulled out a small, manual lawn-mower. As he pushed it forward, he fell over. He sat there on the grass astonished. Then he clambered to his feet and fell down again. Something was wrong. He lay there and felt numb with fright.

     Cliff stumbled indoors and Pat helped him to bed. Two hours later, he knew his condition was serious. Pat called the doctor and he underwent hospital tests.

     'Clifford,' said the specialist, 'you have a serious disease of the central nervous system - it's called multiple sclerosis.'

     'O/K, Doctor,' he replied. 'Now what do we do to get rid of it?'

     The doctor threw his arms into the air. 'I don't know,' he said. 'No one knows.'

     Cliff made inquiries. He found that one theory suggests MS can be triggered by deep, traumatic shock. Suddenly he understood why this was happening to him. It was Gaye. It was her suicide. This was the way his guilt was surfacing. This was how his subconscious was punishing him.

     It was the beginning of the end of his career as a stage performer. Soon his fans would never again see him sing hits including The Best Is Yet To Come, Home Thoughts and Sometime Next Year.

     Through it all, Clifford had kept Gaye's letter. As the disease took hold of him, confining him to his home, his mind was drawn back to her suicide. 'I'd like to write a song about it, he told Pat.

     'Go on,' she said. 'write it. It will be therapeutic for you.'

     So he sat down beneath colour photographs of Pat. But there was also one of Gaye, pretty and fair-haired, in a green top and cream skirt. He picked up a pen and began to scrawl.

     'I fell in love with an air hostess... Together we flew the skies with Air France... I wanted to give her a copy of my record... But I did not have the self confidence.'

     He wrote until he had told the whole love story in his lyrics. He reached the end. 'She drove her car along the highway... at very high speed... and crashed into a heavy goods vehicle... coming the other way... Gaye died instantly.'

     Now major record companies want to release Cliff's latest album. A privately recorded cassette of A Love Affair in France and many of his other hits is also available.

     'I have never got over her death,' says Cliff, now 44. 'She killed herself because I would not leave my wife. I wish I had never got involved. It was such a terrible waste of a young life.

     Clifford has three grown up children and a daughter Polly aged 11. 'Life is often wretched,' he says. 'If it wasn't for Polly and Pat, I'd end it all. But they are two angels, far more than I deserve.'

     'Writing about Gaye was painful. I remembered conversations we had word for word. It seemed so private I lost patience with myself. Often I'd throw down my pen thinking I couldn't go on. But I did. And the song I wrote is her memorial.'

Peter Reece. ' 

(1990)


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Mick Armitage (e-mail)