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.

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