I always knew, in the ‘60s, when they were popular, when my parents were having a fondue party. I’d smell molten cheese wafting down the hall of our Balham flat and Edith Piaf songs, played on a continuous loop, echoing around my bedroom, from which I’d been banned from leaving until daylight.
Fondue was not, as my mum thought, French – it’s Swiss. However, my mum owned an old atlas, so playing French music was close enough for her. She didn’t have the proper kit and made do with an old saucepan and a Primus stove. To her Zürich was something you cleaned the toilet with.
It was hard to sleep during these fondue evenings as, the drunker the guests became, the louder the singing of “Je regrette rein” would be. My mum would come in with ‘ear plugs’ – which turned out to be Dairylea segments.
Not that I’d have known it at the time, but I think the fondue evenings were a front for wife-swapping. We lived on the 4th floor of our flats, so branches of pampas grass outside the flat wasn’t practical.
I can remember helping clear up the morning after one such party and finding a Ford Cortina key fob at the bottom of the saucepan-cum-fondue bowl. I assumed the owner must have walked home, although there was often a strange man in our flat watching TV holding a tin of Dulux whenever my dad was at work. He didn’t like it when I said, ‘it’s not going to paint itself, is it?’ ����t��q`�u