Vers le sud

Sat in les Pick Clops on Saturday afternoon drinking coffee with friends, I said that while I love Paris it could do with becoming a bit edgier. No sooner had I said it than Paris became a bit edgier. We watched some Moodoïd at the FNAC Festival outside Hôtel de Ville, and as we traipsed away a platoon of armed police with riot shields dispersed pedestrians and pushed their way along the rue de Rivoli in anticipation of trouble. By this time it was searingly hot, with one hoping for thunder in order to cool things down a little, and it transpired when we got home that at Barbes Rochechouart there already had been trouble (which was ongoing).

An unsanctioned pro-Palestinian march against Israel’s shelling of Gaza had turned ugly between protesters and police, which is hardly a surprise given that in Paris you’re allowed to protest about anything you like usually, and whenever you like, but not this time. Banning such a demonstration seemed like a terrible idea to me, especially in 30c heat, and chances are if it’d been allowed to go ahead it might have been bad tempered but I suspect there would have been fewer firebombs. I guess we’ll never know.
The news was just dreadful this week (hardly a newsflash) although we felt rather disentangled from it all as we took a week’s break in the south of France. It’s an odd sensation when you’re getting WeChat friends telling you airliners have been shot down over Ukraine when you’re meant to be enjoying yourself walking around the Cubist garden at the delightful Villa Noailles. Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

We decided to escape from it all last week, and found a sleeper train south that left as the World Cup final kicked off (my interest only finally waned at the final this time), and we appeared as if by magic at Hyères – one of the lesser known but surely no less beautiful towns along the Côte d’Azur – on Monday morning. It was relatively quiet given that it’s pre-season (remember, all the gens de la ville descend on the south in August), and the plus point was that we only really came across two native English speakers the whole time, on l’île de Porquerolles.

Leaving the station with our baggage, we drank coffee with locals at a cafe where they seemed to be playing who can cough up their own lung butter the loudest, then we took a bus to the port where we were staying, which was located only metres from the beach with a massive hippodrome in the back garden (we watched horse-drawn chariots race around the mud track in the mornings). We discovered that people are really helpful and friendly in the south. I mean REALLY HELPFUL AND FRIENDLY. I mean, is this girl who keeps talking to us and telling us where to go going to eat our hearts and runaway with our baggage any minute now? No, she’s just REALLY HELPFUL AND FRIENDLY. I would go on, but hearing about someone else’s holiday is possibly the only thing more dull than having someone explain to you their last night’s dream.

However, here are some interesting facts about Hyères (you lucky things):

• Hyères is only about 20 miles away from Saint Tropez, but Saint Tropez is actually a right bugger to get to. Most people who go there probably fly in in their Learjets, the flash fucks.

• Hyères is pronounced ‘yeee-errrr’ – like ‘year’ but drawn out a bit. I don’t know why this is. I was hoping it would rhyme with ‘jeres’, because then I could have come up with a hilariously self-referential headline.

• There’s not much to do in Hyères other than eat and go to the beach (you’ll hammer around the Archaeological site there in 20 minutes flat), but there is a nice modernist residence (now a museum) at the top of the hill in the town – the aforementioned Villa Noailles, designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens in the 20′s, who often gets mentioned in the same breath as La Corbusier but isn’t anywhere near as famous.

• The Midi-Festival takes place at Villa Noailles – with some pretty interesting bands. It’s the reason I heard of Hyères in the first place (though I haven’t managed to go yet).

• Oh and finally, there’s a restaurant there called L’endroit near the Port, which French speakers will know means “the place”. Clearly it has designs on itself already with a moniker like that, and here’s a tip: don’t eat there. The food is pretty good but the waiter is an absolute twat.

Hangdawg and quartered

While the World Cup scintillated early on, all that’s left now is an exclusive kennel of big dogs I can’t bring myself to love, and the lack of bite post-Suarez from the lesser teams has left one with a slightly empty feeling. The last-16 was a real effort, and felt like some of the large swathes of Swann’s Way that I’m ploughing slowly through at the moment. It’s curious how a national team – a changing organism where the constituent parts are replaced by new parts all the time – manages to maintain the knack of winning even when old players who established the nation’s might in the first place are forever reposing. The Germans and the Dutch and the Argentines and the Brazilians all had to draw from the experience of their forebears, and they all just did enough.

I love football but I sometimes wonder why I’m getting nervous or shouting at the television at men I don’t know from countries I don’t live in, hoping one might put out another. Even the French team, where I do live, seemed to care less about winning against the Germans than I did. When I turned on the news I noticed a live crowd of hundreds of Belgians dancing and singing after their team had exited to Argentina, and they were even more hapless and ineffectual than France. They seemed to be playing with the attitude that they’d gone far enough this time around and despatching themselves swiftly was the least they could do.
I’ve not noticed any post mortem here in Paris. People seem relatively okay with a quarter final place. I was also intrigued to note the rivalry between France and Germany is less toxic than it is with England (at least on the side of the English), even if – and this is all relative of course – the French could lay claim to being even more fucked off with their neighbours should anyone be churlish enough to still hold grudges and equate military mobilisation over the last century with kicking a ball around a field.

It seems more grown up somehow, and I should know, because I still find it hard to admire German football even when it’s very good. It’s like my own shameful vestigial tail, because I always instinctively take the side of the team playing against them, and I pretty much always finish a game feeling disappointed because they always win. I’ve noticed younger people than me on social media don’t have this childish bugbear and I applaud them for it. I applaud those Belgians dancing around and singing even when their team was a load of shit, and I applaud the French, who only truly get excited about sport if it’s done on two wheels if we’re honest.
It’s interesting how football fans have turned on the Dutch since the last World Cup (mainly because they were a bit dirty in the final and Arjen Robben falls over quite a lot), but have these people forgotten about the fact that this is the team that invented total football in the 70′s and has been punching above its weight ever since? Have some respect you fair weather loons! This low country only has 11 million people compared with Germany’s 80 million, and it’s bloody tough work trying to kick a football by a canal without losing it forever. It’s a team that has the legendary Louis van Gaal as manager – a man my friend Peter pointed out looks like a cross between an Oopa Loopa and David Lynch! If we can’t get behind him now when he makes tactical master-strokes like the one last night where he swapped starter goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for the larger Tim Krul just in time for penalties, and if we can’t cheer him on before he joins the red scum where we’ll hate him forever for his impending reign of terror… then when can we get behind him?

If any country deserves to win a World Cup for years of glorious service to football with no reward (apart from the European Championship in 1988) it’s the Netherlands. Although for Louis’ sake it would probably be better if I cheered on Germany for a bit with my record of cheering on losers.

Party on Wayne…

You might have taken down the St George bunting already, but there are not one but two World Cup parties going on in France right now. There were wild scenes in bars for le coq gaulois‘ bore draw with Ecuador the other night, and even wilder scenes in cars when Algeria narrowly squeezed through Group H last night. Walking up Avenue de la République, we feared for our lives as vehicles swerved in the road driven by jubilant youths with horns they were not afraid to use, and I have to say I was slightly relieved when the old bill stopped five chaps hanging out of the fenestration of their car with one on the roof waving the star and crescent, to warn them that their actions might be a bit dangerous. I’m all up for a bit of celebration (well to be honest I’m not) but you could take someone’s eye out with behaviour like that. Have the actions of the vile murderer and pederast Luis Suarez taught us nothing?

The tooting began in earnest during the South Korea game, with young football fans taking to their cars at half time when they were 3-0 up (and from what I can gather not returning to their living rooms for the second half), and there may be more tooting still if they beat Germany on Monday. If they beat Germany on Monday then I might buy a car, give driving a go, get hold of a flag and even learn some Berber. France are playing Nigeria on the same day so here’s hoping for two wins and one party (even if I go to bed early after purchasing some earplugs like a sensible old chap). Come Monday, Wayne Rooney will already be a week into his three weeks in the sun with Coleen.
We went to a party ourselves last night in the Jardin des Tuileries with a glorious view of the Louvre and with the Eiffel Tower flashing in the distance. The gardens were once part of the royal residency but were sacked and burned and saw plenty of blood spilt in the September Massacres of 1792, and once King Louis XVI’s head came off, they were instated as the gardens of the new republic. We were there to celebrate artist and poet Robert Montgomery’s The Slow Disappearance of Meaning and Truth exhibition at Colette on rue Saint-Honoré. It was a terrific do with plenty of fire, a live band, and three courses from Le Saut du Loup – although the fact the entre didn’t hit our tables until after 10pm caused much consternation in the tummy area and gnashing of teeth in the face!

I love Rob dearly and it’s great to see him doing so well for himself. I admire his garrulity, his unwavering devotion to Glasgow Rangers and the fact he never shuts up about Guy Debord. We hung around together when the bad old days were really, really good, and I thank him for not holding it against me for trying to sabotage his wedding (I put my head in the punch, got thrown off stage for picking up the bass and trying to join in with the band, threw meatballs at the other end of the table where Brett Anderson was sitting etc). John Paul – another dear friend – was in town too, and he reminded me of the speech I made that nobody asked for. Thankfully for all concerned the only thing that was flowing for me last night was the Badoit®.

Every man has two countries (but only one of them can play football)

Amis, romains, compatriotes*, montrez-moi l’oreilles. Mais les Anglais surtout, j’ai mots pour vous. La capitulation de l’Angleterre dans le Coupe du Monde a été une source d’embarras national. Aucun « embrassade » – personne ne mérite un baiser après ces performances – pas même Wayne Rooney, un gorille travailleur. Et ainsi donc, j’ai décidé de démissionner de mon statut d’un rosbif… pour l’instant.

J’ai déjà renoncé à la Reine, je ne voterai jamais UKIP, et je n’aime même pas « Only Fools and Horses », je suis un très, très mauvais Anglais, tellement mauvais ! Donc je prendrai ma retraite. Je m’arrêté. Je déjà quitte le pays, je reviens seulement maintenant quand ma copine insiste. Ceci est mon lettre des résignation, même si mon francais est au-dessous moyen. Mais je vais persévérer, pas comme l’équipe Angleterre. Il peut pas être facile, mais j’ai mange le pain délicieux chaque jour, qui faire moi forte et un peu gros plus autour de l’estomac.
Maintenant, j’encourage les Bleus ! je suis un traître (pas un « traiteur »; je ne vends pas la nourriture chinoise). J’étais aller a suivre les Belges, mais les Belges sont “bilge!” Je regarde et mes yeux se sont ennuyés. Je pense que cela fait sens. C’est pas grave mes amis, maintenant je suivre l’equipe France, une vraie nation du football.

Réjouir ! Pour mes blogs francais sont plus bref. Dans l’avenir, je serai un homme cornouailles véritable, et un faux l’homme francais. Bien sûr, l’ironie ici est que je n’ai pas écris cette lettre de résignation en anglais, parce que il y à sont seulement quelques qui comprendra. Je dois quitter pendant que je suis derrière. Allez les Bleus !!

And finally, to my English chums who don’t speak French, bon courage against Costa Rica tomorrow. We might even do alright with nothing to play for.

*Don’t take the piss out of my crimes again French too badly please, you’ve got to start somewhere…

Thanks for everything duly Neymar

I saw Matt off onto Eurostar and then Ying into a taxi for Charles de Gaulle, and then Claire and I went for a favourite wander along the bucolic pathway that eventually leads to Bois de Vincennes, although we didn’t quite make it there this time. As we set off in the direction of home with the sun in stealthy retreat, I was thinking that no matter what happens I’m glad I’m in Paris right now, and just then we crossed the bridge near the Jardin du Reuilly and witnessed an impossibly skinny model in 19th century gigolette garb with her naked breasts on display in the evening sun being shot by some hip young slinger (no doubt for one of those £10 magazines full of advertising that nobody buys that only exist in shops in Soho). Only in Paris, I thought to myself (or possibly Shoreditch).

I got home with half an hour to spare before the World Cup kicked off, and within minutes I was cursing Andy Townsend and wishing I’d bought a flat screen for the occasion. My nachos and dips and bag of Maltesers made my four year old iPad look rather an inadequate portal to watch something as historical and majestic as a World Cup in Brazil (via two apps and a dodgy VPN connection). We have an orange box tucked in a TV cabinet with all of France’s telly on it, though the cabinet itself may as well be used for shoes given that Claire accidentally broke the TV a few months back by tilting it (or maybe it was me having hung our wet socks on it).
I have lived without a television before and they were happy days indeed, but at times like these you need a decent box (or slick, wafer-thin symbol of working class aspiration), and so I have resolved to furnish our front room with one in order to enjoy every second I can of the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. I went to DARTY earlier and had a look around, and I surprised myself by how excited I was by TV screens. Previously I would bark “darty” in my best Irish impression as I walked past as an admonishment of those of easy virtue, but now here I was actually inside realising that it’s an electrical store par excellence, or at least it’s a bit sexier than Dixons. Corr, big telly’s and stuff, I never realised I was such a flippin’ geezer. Look at the LED backlighting on that etc…

So despite some cheating from the Brazilians it was a fairly entertaining opening game, though I do hope FIFA don’t let them win like they did the French in ’98. Neymar played alright in a haircut I had when I was going to Trash in 2002, Oscar played brilliantly, Fred deserved an Oscar for his dive, and Croatia should feel hard done by though I’m not too fussed as lots of their fans are fucking racists. I’m hoping there’ll be plenty more incident to distract me over the next 30 days, and I’ll probably write about it from time to time here, which I’m sure you’re just thrilled to learn. Best of all, if I do get a TV and plug the orange box into it, then I can improve my French by listening to les commentateurs français and I won’t have to listen to Andy Townsend’s thick bullshit while I’m at it. Le bonheur absolu.

The breath penalty

We’ve found a lot of things in Paris recently that were sous les nez as it were, and they’ve made life infinitely more bearable knowing we can visit them any time and fritter away all our spare cash on hunks of plastic and black-and-white projections in charming little picturehouses (astral ones maybe, but more of that in a bit). It’s quite remarkable that I never knew about Fargo – the world famous French record store I knew nothing about – which is about as close to my house as the imprint of Jim Morrison’s four decade-diminished arsecheeks (about two blocks away in other words). I’m already on first name terms with the owner. Actually I’ve forgotten his name, but if I remember it again then we’ll be back on first name terms. Or at least I’ll know his.

We’ve found cinemas that show old films (we knew about them already, but hadn’t actually stepped into them until recently) and perhaps the golden ticket is me finding myself on le sécurité social thanks to some persistence from Claire. I may even get my Carte Vitale in a couple of months, which I’m sure I’ll use for more than chopping up lines of gak like Gilou (I just started watching Engrenages again for anyone wondering what the hell I’m going on about).
Maybe a little more odd was something that happened yesterday. I’ve been saying for ages that I’d like to find somewhere to meditate in Paris, though the only places I’m aware of charge €30 a session, and I’m not giving that sort of money to a fat man with some scented candles so I can essentially breath in and out for half an hour. Anyway, Claire was looking on the internet, and she said she’d found somewhere that did guided meditation in English that was free and started in about an hour. She called them up and they told us to come on down, just like that.

When we arrived we were met by some friendly, though essentially starry people who gave us some nice nettle tea and told us all about their own division of Buddhism; led by a charismatic Scandinavian, the Tibetan breakaway movement has a moniker that sounds more like a Ponzi scheme than a denomination. Singing bowls pealed and alarm bells rang. We thought we’d stop and have a go anyway – it may not be mindfulness, but breathing is breathing and the discipline of sitting in a room with other people and practising meditation is an enjoyable one and will probably achieve similar results, and besides, sitting on a Buddhist prayer mat and listening to some people ommming is far less challenging than making small talk with religious fanatics you don’t know. Come on, we’re not interested in what each other does, let’s cut to the money shot shall we?

Had I taken the trouble to see what Claire had found on the internet then we probably wouldn’t have gone there (not her fault, she’s new to all this), and some investigation afterwards makes me uneasy and suspicious, and yet I have to say that afterwards I felt truly quite terrific. We smiled, shook hands, put our trainers back on, stuffed literature into our back pockets and wandered back out into the evening sunshine. I have no idea why imagining having blue light firing out of your chest and red light coming into your throat will energise you, but I actually felt better than I have in weeks and found myself bounding along the Seine. Who knows if we’ll return there, but I do need to find somewhere to meditate in Paris. Right now there is LITERALLY – and when I say LITERALLY I mean FIGURATIVELY – a bad moon rising (although LITERALLY as well if you’re being euphemistic), and I can’t be any less cryptic than that at this stage. Not for the first time one is croisant les doigts.

Clocks & clochards

I’m not sure whether it was the fact I nearly missed my flight from Helsinki that made me so glad to see Paris on Saturday afternoon, but it looked especially beautiful as I descended into Charles de Gaulle. I could see the Stade de France come into view as we hit 10,000 feet and Tour Eiffel was clearly visible in the distance too, and I spent the last five minutes before touchdown trying to locate my house (a fool’s errand). I’ve been in Paris a while now, but it still feels fresh to me, and almost like I’m still on holiday but not quite (I think Claire thinks I’m on permanent vacation). I’m not entirely sure I’ve earned the right yet to call it home to some of the people who’ve lived here all their lives, but from the plane window it looks inviting nonetheless and I couldn’t think of a nicer city to come back to.

That feeling of estrangement may fade when I can communicate effectively. I know what you’re thinking, not that old chestnut… learn the lingo, son! It’s harder than it looks you know. For instance – and I learned this in my lesson the other day – le champagne is the drink, whereas la Champagne is the region. It’s a good job I don’t drink because that could get confusing, especially as I haven’t tried drinking a region dry for about four years.

I’m definitely improving where speaking and reading are concerned but my comprehension is still a sticking point, and I wonder if I’m a bit backward or if it’s because I’m fundamentally a selfish person who likes the sound of their own voice while never listening to a word anyone else says. These days I speak Flustered French, which involves panicking every time you’re addressed but pretending you know what someone is saying before replying and then running away as quickly as you can in the hope they don’t rumble you. Unless it’s someone who looks like they’re asking for money, in which case you just say “je ne comprends pas” and walk away hoping they don’t stab you.

There’s a man who shouts at me from outside McDonald’s every day and I have no idea what he’s saying. He stands there from 9am to 5pm and I think it’s his job to harass people. He’s a bit chinny and looks like a much more wiry and hard version of Fauno in Pan’s Labyrinth , and I hope what he’s shouting isn’t too threatening, or the date he’s going to slit me from ear to ear in the street. It’s actually become a little bit clochard-y around our way recently, which no doubt will be blamed on M. Hollande and his term of no growth. My friend Russell told me Stephen O’Malley from SunnO))) is my neighbour though, so swings and roundabouts. I wonder if he’s the guy on my floor who can’t play the trumpet. I suspect not. I digress. I always digress.
I fear how the electorate might vote here with the European elections coming up – given the ever present threat of recession – but I’m sure it’ll be no less dodgy than the polls back home. There’s been a certain satisfaction bordering on schadenfreude with a dollop of smug on top for a long time in Blighty whenever Marine Le Pen storms to 22% in a General Election before being eliminated in the round that counts, and if UKIP clean up as they’re expected to do then I hope people in Britain shut their fucking mouths in future. Observing the rise of the right in the UK from afar has been genuinely alarming, but probably not as alarming as it is if you live there.

It’s genuinely baffling seeing Nigel Farage making the political weather, and even more astonishing seeing Labour making overtures about immigration because of it, especially when they know that what Farage and his party are spreading is egregious bullshit. Shame on them. I used to live in the complacent assumption that it would be unthinkable that someone like Hitler could rise to power in the modern era, but now I don’t feel as confident that that will never ever happen again. People have got some funny ideas, and suddenly they’re all saying them out loud again.

On Saturday night we went along to the Pompidou for a late night session. Christian Marclay’s The Clock was showing, which strikes an excellent balance between the populist and the prodigious (see what I did there?). It’s a 24 hour installation rammed with movie scenes that features a lovely bunch of timepieces of various sizes and flavours (some are as big as yer ‘ead) and it splices together footage that directly correlates with the time as it’s happening. So at 01.09 there’ll be a shot from, say, a Woody Allen movie where it’s 1.09, and then Humphrey Bogart will appear at 01.10… or something like that. It’s better to witness it for yourself, so do take yourself along if you see it showing at any time. Sit and be mesmerised for a bit as you begin to feel it’s all happening in the present and concurrently in different parts of the world. It holds you at arms length though, and you never get the chance to get too drawn in, unless you’ve been smoking l’herb.

We made our way home around a quarter past one, which seemed like the right thing to do after I’d stayed out late the night before for a mind-melting Huoratron gig in Finland, only to oversleep two full hours and then make a mad dash for the airport. It was nice to have time on my side again but I know it won’t last.

In Ivry dream home a heartache

My dear friend David dragged me out of my bobo-land bubble this evening, and before I knew it I was heading out of the periph and into the wilds of Ivry-sur-Seine, which on the face of it seems like a conurbation of overgrown geometric dream homes fallen into disrepair, squat parties and perpendicular haircuts as far as the eye can see. Or the place we went to certainly was, full of peacock mohawks and studded leather and people who live in an alternative universe where they all dress the same. The festival we found ourselves at was as much anachronistic as it was anarchistic.

There was a time when rock ‘n’ roll was a young man’s game. Not any more. I remember a time when Mick, Macca and Freddie were being mocked for daring to consider rocking into their 40′s, and social commentators wondered at how preposterous it might be if they were still performing into their 50′s, god forbid. Now rock seems to be the hobby of a lot of people over 30 who are mostly white and whose records were predominantly made in the 70′s. And actually there’s no shame in that. I’m not sure if I have any desire to go through the hassle of performing on stage as a musician ever again, but I’ve started picking up the guitar and scribbling words in a vaguely poetic fashion in stolen moments. I’m pleasing myself really, and that’s not something to be ashamed of, although it sounds like it is the way I’ve described it.
My friend David retired from music a few years ago when he was 40. It was such a momentous occasion that he dragged his mum all the way down from Scotland for the gig. Since then he’s been on tour shit loads. Bands keep snapping up his services, and off he goes, and from what I can gather he’s enjoying it far more than he ever did before he brought the curtain down on his musical career.

Right now he and Chris Low are reunited again (David managed Portuguese punks The Parkinsons and Chris drummed for them) playing in Part 1, an anarcho-punk outfit who have been described as “perhaps the ultimate cult deathrock” punk band by people who know about these things. They were first a going concern in the early 1980′s, and have revived themselves recently much to the joy of rabidly committed fans who used to clandestinely hang on every thrashed cymbal or lyric about dying slowly from behind the iron curtain. Fans turn up now with tattoos of the band that they decorated themselves in with broken Stolichnaya bottles and some heavy duty Soviet bitumen.

It’s all quite romantic, and on stage the band bring a former era to life again with a welcome intensity. The singer comes on and reads a long lament to the fact he’s still alive or something, while the guitarist looks like he’s going to jump straight back into a sarcophagus as soon as the gig has ended. All the while there’s a raging, angular noise they’re creating, and the kids are going batshit for it, and quite right too.

Part 1 return for two encores, and afterwards Claire and I head off past the intriguing edifices of this slept on part of Paris and look to spend the rest of the evening relaxing while David gets worshipped by apparatchiks from the former Eastern Block. It’s a monstrous noise they deliver tonight, and I should know as they’re still ringing in my ears as I type. Tomorrow we shall sit down together properly in the 11eme. For part two in fact.

Blue is the wettest colour

Last night we went to Le Train Bleu, an ostentatious Belle Époque restaurant located within the Gare de Lyon – and get this – we weren’t even getting a train anywhere. It’s a curious place to find an eatery so ornate to the eye and expensive to the wallet (this blog was brought to you by Claire’s parents, and we’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsors). It was built in 1900 to presumably cater for l’Exposition Universelle and beyond that the new Parisian obsession for heading south. Called le Buffet de la Gare de Lyon originally, here vacationers could wolf down one last epic meal before traversing into the unknown, where they might not have food stuff and ting. Chartier, another beautiful fin-de-siècle building offering French fare that I’ve already written about in this blog, is a fraction of the price, but the opulence of Le Train Bleu has to be seen to be believed, if just the once. Come in with a camera and run away again if you like. That’s perfectly legal, if a bit weird.

As for the food, well it was good food, but as a vegetarian I sometimes wonder if there’s something I’m missing out on where posh restaurants are concerned. To me it seems you pay for the ceremony. Someone will sit you down and then take your plate away before anything has been eaten from that plate and then bring you another, along with a load of forks you don’t need. Then they’ll take away a glass you don’t need either, to show they’re earning their money. I got to play my own little game with the maître d’ when he brought a trolley full of cheeses over and challenged me to choose my own. Luckily I had my best pointy finger with me. This I’m sure is as close as I’ll ever get to fingering a lobster and then having the poor little bastard fished out of a tank and boiled for my delectation.
The meal was only slightly hampered by the fact god has struck me deaf out of retribution for my hypocrisy. I had to sit there and nod and smile through a lot of conversation that I didn’t hear, but it was okay because I had 15 different types of cheese on my plate. I woke up the other day and couldn’t hear out of my left ear which was ironic, as had I been deaf over the weekend then it might have been a blessing.

Is it hypocritical to hate the thing you once were so much that you want to destroy it? Dramatic maybe, but I’ve got your attention in a Dan Brown kind of a way now. The situation with the neighbours escalated on Saturday and Sunday when they decided to have an 18 hour party that spilled out all over the building, and it might have turned into 24 hours and beyond had I not intervened. I liked to party all weekend when I was a snivelling child like them – and certainly a lot older still – and so I gritted my teeth and held back for as long as I could, until something snapped. Suddenly I was hammering at their door and shouting at them in English. The element of surprise clearly worked in my favour as I haven’t heard much noise coming from their apartment since, which was quite grown up of them actually, as I would have told me to ‘fuck off’ where I them. Their compliance was even more embarrassing as I’d already grassed them up to their landlord via a text, and he called Claire to see what all the fuss was about once I’d returned. With that and the recent internet incident, I suspect we’re off their Christmas card list, though they did leave a grovelling apology sellotaped to the door downstairs for everyone in the building to see. Apparently it was one of the girl’s 25th birthdays.

Things have got weird at chez nous recently. The posh Proms announcer who has a flat downstairs and comes here when things at Radio 3 get really tough, had problems with his waterworks again. I’m not talking euphemistically. For some reason whenever he comes back to this flat, there’s a problem with his plomberie, and he comes knocking on our door asking what’s what because we’re the only other rosbifs in the bâtiment. He’s quite calm about it considering the fact that something always goes wrong when he’s back in Paris. One Christmas he was flooded, and just when he got the place straight again and redecorated, he got flooded again. Embarrassingly the problem seemed to be coming from our flat, not that we knew anything about it, and he was far too nice about the whole thing. And this time his water wasn’t working at all.

He’s like some forlorn Biblical character who has also been afflicted by the Almighty like my ear has. Jesus never had trouble with his water – he was flash where H20 was concerned. He could do all sorts of tricks with it, splash it about, walk on it, turn it into wine. The posh guy downstairs went to stay at a friends in the end. The next time we inadvertently flood his flat we’ll maybe take him to Le Train Bleu to say sorry. No riff raff there, he’d be in his element. After another ordeal of Biblical proportions, what could be better than be taken for some posh nosh by a mal-entende and have someone in bib and tucker stand over you while you select your own fromage.

From Disquaire to where

It’s Disquaire Day today here in Paris, which is what everyone else calls Record Store Day, but because it’s France it has to have its own semantic spin. It’s like l’Académie française – the organisation that spent ages trying to decide what to call email and came up with “courriel” three years after the universal word had already passed into everyday vernacular here – well, if you believe The Daily Telegraph that is. It’s not just the French; I’ve heard people jokingly refer to Record Store Day as Record Shop Day in England, which is quite right too; a store is something for hoarding rather than vending. Disquaire Day is a bit of a misnomer too as it’s on all week, and yesterday I went in search of the Rough Trade pop-up store ordinarily at Rue du Jour only to discover it had moved to Point Éphémère in the 10eme. Not to worry, it gave us a chance to flâner.

Good Friday is just another day in Paris with all shops open and people going about their regular business, something I did find surprising. Obviously it stands to reason if you remember the country’s fine tradition of laïcité (it dissolved any church involvement with state as far back as 1905), but you’d think some lazy bureaucrat somewhere would have wangled off the day Jesus was supposedly crucified on when they’ll usually find any old obscure patron hallow of cream cheese sandwiches or Tonka trucks to strike yet another business day off the working calendar. That said, it’s the mark of a mature society that they can move forward in secularism without denouncing all of the traditions or tearing down (too many) of the churches. There’s so much beauty to behold, even if it’s tainted, so there’s no need to throw the bébé out with the bathwater.

We had a wander around Rue Saint Denis and Bd de Sébastopol yesterday afternoon, and it became evident that Good Friday is a fine day if you want to pay for a fuck. Here we were après-midi with girls brazenly lining Rue Blondel in leather skirts like Kanye West, shirts open like Engelbert Humperdink and all with faces like Nadine Dorries. One chap came steaming out of a brothel and said goodbye to two ladies (who also looked like Nadine Dorries) and he appeared especially pleased with himself, like he’d just won an easter egg hunt. That street is going to give me nightmares like some distopian Chris Cunningham video, only instead of Aphex Twin’s face, Nadine Dorries’ face is everywhere and I fear closing my eyes in case she’s lurking behind my own lids. We swiftly headed for home.
Claire and I did get down to Point Éphémère to mooch around the ephemeral Rough Trade shop earlier on, and we may return to watch John Grant play there later. I saw a bit of Liz Green who it transpires makes me feel as murderous performing live as she does on record, though it’s my problem, not hers. There were few records I actually wanted to shell out for (€15 for one Grace Jones track seems excessive even if it’s limited) but I did get a buzz from being in the hub of people excitedly (okay, nonchalantly) flicking through racks of vinyl, and it made me feel comforted because that’s what I did every weekend when I was a teenager. I thought – like I’m sure a lot of people think on Record Store Day – why don’t we do this every week? There’s enough of us! Let’s congregate in stores across the world every seven days and hold hands and thrill ourselves with hunks of grooved plastic! But then I’m probably just indulging the fantasies of someone of a certain age longing for halcyon days that were actually a bit shit were it not for the escapism of a new record to disappear in once in a while.

Getting a weekly record wouldn’t be a highlight any more like it was when I was 13. I live in a city I love with the girl I love, I get to write about music for money and I’ve just been on a break to Córdoba to check out the mesmeric Mezquita–catedral, something I’ve wanted to do for like 4EVA!!!, and we went on a day trip to Tangiers too (which was certainly interesting once you got past all the snake oil salesmen… and I’d tell you all about it here but this is Paris Natch not Tangier Natch, – soz). Life in many ways is better than it’s ever been, which naturally (or naturally to me at least) makes me wonder what might be lurking around the corner.


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