I sometimes think my blog would be really compelling if I actually did anything. This morning I threw away some butter by accident, and now I miss de beurre (which I’m sure you’re aware rhymes with Chris de Burgh – so not a total disaster). Someday soon maybe God will tell me what my mission in France is, like he did with Joan of Arc all those years ago, but for now he’s keeping tight lipped. Bloody favouritism.
Perhaps I’m meant to be the man who gets the French saying “bon matin”. A worthy cause but I still keep uttering “bonjour” even if it’s dead early. What sort of a place is this anyway where people don’t say “good morning” to each other? A place where there’s no word for “enjoy” either I suppose. I think about breaking out and flamboyantly and infectiously booming out the words “bon matin!” without a care in the world, but then trepidation sets in and the prospect of being stared at and humiliated for daring to break with convention sets in. Especially when I’m being served at the arsey boulanger (not to be confused with the staff at the lazy boulanger, a delightful bunch if a little prone to bouts of inertia).
Those working behind the counter at the arsey boulangerie are truly the rudest and meanest people I’ve had to encounter on a daily basis since my brief stint in PR, but the catch is, their bread is surely the best in Paris. They have this loaf called the Pain du Marais and it’s an astonishing mélange of flour and yeast like you wouldn’t believe, and so scrumptious that one is forced to abandon principles about not going to shops where the people serving are a bunch of arseholes. I should mention that one of the girls is nice to you if you’ve spawned and will enthusiastically hand out those delicious miniature doughnuts to minors for free with a rictus smile. Claire and I have discussed having a baby in order to appease her, though we’re not sure if this is yet justification enough to bring a new life into the world.
Fear not, this isn’t turning into a diatribe about how rude the French are, because that simply isn’t true… mostly. I actually think I’ve worked it out. Most Parisians are perfectly affable, just like most Londoners are, but customer service isn’t as sparkly or as disingenuous as in the UK ( and especially the US) and here’s why. I went for a job the other day which I didn’t get, and the person interviewing me had done a presentation previously which included some details about French employment law. Once you get put on a contract it is actually practically impossible to get sacked in France, which means you can be as surly as you like basically, and if I worked a front line customer service job then you certainly wouldn’t catch me smiling like an idiot all day. In fact the last time I worked in a pub in London, that was the reason I got bloody sacked, well that and the fact I was rubbish. Hell, if I could speak the language properly then I’d really fit right in here.
So anyway, the other day I applied to be a ‘plongeur’, which anyone who has read Down and Out in Paris and London will know is the word the French use for dishwasher and dogsbody, even though it actually means ‘diver’. I had no idea how I could best convey the fact that I positively dream of washing dirty plates part-time to help subsidise l’existence du pauvre écrivain so I started prattling on about how “as a writer there’s a romantic notion about getting a job as a plongeur, because of course George Orwell did it, but I’m also aware it can be bloody hard work.” And then I told them I don’t moan too much.
The job had already been taken but the chap said he’d give me a call in a couple of weeks. Croisons les doigts my friends.Follow @jeres