One of the great things about not living in England is you don’t have to give a flying fuck about anything Jamie Oliver has to say for himself. You can pretty much boycott all the exaggerated umbrage Twitter has to throw at you too. You see people getting agitated over what will seem trivial in a couple of days and you just shrug and think to yourself, ‘I don’t live there any more’. It’s very easy to become detached when you live away, and actually, it’s kind of a luxury being dumb. I did find myself getting emotionally involved the other day when parliament decided against taking any action in Syria, and I’m a little flabbergasted Francois Hollande is making cooing noises across the Atlantic, but hey, politicians are just policemen who were shit at P.E.
Operation Yewtree might be systematically making its way through the comedy repertoire of Phil Cool in England right now, but a sex scandal is a rare thing in France because when it comes to sexual impropriety, nobody really seems too bothered or surprised. Prurience coupled with righteous indignation is as British as fish and chips and spanking and public school. Piss down the aisle of a plane when you’re not meant to here and the shrugging might stop. Threaten to leave the country with all your money and people will get a little bit annoyed. Be Gérard Depardieu basically.
Inappropriate behaviour will likely cause some tutting over opprobrium – and in a rare case like that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn -the shame came mainly from the fact it had gone international. But it’s not like there’s no coming back from it, like in the UK. Apparently there’s a new movie about DSK coming out, and guess who’s playing him? That’s right! Monsieur lumpy himself! Depardieu is a giant in France, and like Gainsbourg or Piaf he’s done some really stupid things, and yet the French public will always forgive for some reason. DSK might have some more time in the doghouse though, if the “aggravated pimping” charges stick.
I went to Édith Piaf’s place the other day. Not her actual house, but a museum in her honour. It’s a funny little two rooms within a residence off rue Oberkampf run by this mostly sweet and slightly crochety old fanatic called Bernard. Marcel Cerdan’s boxing gloves and a furry dress Piaf wore in New York are the two most interesting curios, and just for Elephant Man-type thrills, a life-size cardboard cut-out of Piaf that’s all of 4 foot 7 inches tall and really brings it home to you how miniature she was. You need a code to get in there, and it’s taken me ages to secure a viewing, so I’m pleased I finally did it. It’s actually 50 years since Piaf died on October 10th and I want to write more about this place for any publication that might fancy it, so I’ll say no more for now. I tried to nail down an interview with Bernard there and then, but I think he might be buggering off on vacation until the big day, and even if he did grant me some time we’d not be able to understand each other very well. It’s something to think about…
Another dead person I saw recently was Seamus Heaney, although he wasn’t dead at the time. He was in Paris in June to read some poetry and he did his’ Digging’ poem and I dug it. Funnily enough I saw Ted Hughes do a poetry reading not long before he died either. You know that Dead Poet’s Society, yeah? Well I’m holding the bloody guestlist. If you hear Pam Ayers is in the area then I’ll put some shades on and spare her from my Medusa stare for now. I’ve still not seen Pete “poet of the people for those whose second language is English” Doherty roaming the streets of Paris just yet, and it would take more than a quizzical look from yours truly to kill that sucker. It’ll be him and the fucking cockroaches, you mark my words…Follow @jeres