I stumbled across Ahmed Merabet’s shrine yesterday on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. We walk that way all the time, and I’d almost forgotten that the atrocities of last week happened there. Marching through and then becoming aware we’d just trod through the scene of a murder, oblivious… well, it felt odd. I’m sure when I lived at the bottom of Brick Lane I walked absent-mindedly through the scenes of murders by Jack the Ripper all the time, but this is still so fresh in everyone’s minds, and still so painful. I could have cried for Ahmed there and then for all the good it would have done.
People keep asking me if Paris has changed, and to be honest I don’t know, as I’ve hardly left the flat. I’m pretty sure Lutetia has big enough shoulders to cope. It’s a big, metropolitan city with a history of resilience and resistance, and while it doesn’t feel like it right now, it has weathered worse. In my last blog I mentioned worrying about men on every corner with guns. Well earlier I took a walk down the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth, and there were men with guns, military men, stood outside a synagogue, watching, waiting. I wonder how long they’ll have to remain there? I hope I don’t get used to them.
I mentioned in an article in The Guardian the other day that ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is everywhere, and you wonder if it’s going to look as tired as an I Shot JR t-shirt in 1981 quite soon. I’m still not going to backtrack and renounce the hashtag, I think it was important for solidarity, even if it feels a bit hackneyed now. One day it’ll become just another answer in a pub quiz, but right now it has taken on a life – or many lives – of its own. I was looking forward to reading the Charlie Hebdo paper and enjoying the beleaguered cartoonists ripping into the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu, but the sloganeering has been so effective that you can’t buy the publication for love nor money unless you’re up very early and committed.
Today things feel a little more normal. I’ve had trouble sleeping recently and on Wednesday – the day the paper was published – I was clearly rattled. A scruffy young Arab boy came around to read the gas, and after I’d let him in I realised we didn’t have any gas. It went coursing through my mind – as embarrassed as I am to admit this – that he might have read one of my articles and not liked it, and suddenly I was treading into a land of enormous egotism and taking a boat ride to the isle of paranoia. Later that day I saw an Algerian man with the biggest rucksack I’d ever seen walking into Parmentier Métro. My heart stopped as I recalled 7/7 and the way London felt in the aftermath, and suddenly I found myself calling Claire and telling her to get out at République, which to her credit she ignored. Suddenly I was faced with two futures. 1. that the station blows up, or 2. I end up feeling like a racist. I was marginally more pleased with the second outcome. After rebuking myself, I resolved to drink less coffee and read less bullshit – two slogans I think we can all get behind. The historic march on Sunday was unifying, and we mustn’t lose sight of that, no matter who tries to fill our heads with angry nonsense.Follow @jeres