I forgot my potatoes in the supermarket earlier. The woman shouted, “mister! Your apples of the earth!” Thankfully she said it in French so she didn’t sound stupid. Yesterday, I had to drop off some blood. The lady who was injecting me at the clinic said “bonne santé” after I’d said “bonne année” to her. I went into some detail about my current health status, correcting her that it wasn’t exactly “bonne”, but fingers crossed it will hopefully all come good. It wasn’t until I went to the Plein Soleil and said “bonne année” to which they responded “bonne santé”, that I figured out it’s a seasonal greeting. Silly me.
Another strange use of wordage occurred at the hairdressers recently. Now I go to see my hairdresser – the aforementioned handsome Jean Dujardin lookalike, Davy, star of a previous blog – every four to six months, and it’s a fair gauge on how I’m improving with the language, with all the guff you have to divulge about holidays and what not. I also think the closer you come out of the coiffeurs’ salon looking like what you asked for, is a fair indication of how you’re getting on with speaking French, as explaining to a hairdresser what you want done to your head in English is difficult enough at the best of times. Anyway, I managed with relative ease to relay the fact I wanted it cut three to four centimetres all over, and then I waved my hand around above my head like an angel trying to pull of its own halo to indicate “messy”. “Bordel,” said Davy. He said it a second time, so I looked it up there and then on my phone. Google Translate said, “whorehouse”. When I got home I investigated further, and “faire le bordel” means make it messy. I wonder what weird idiomatic expressions I use in English, or even convert into French, that make absolutely no sense at all unless you’ve had them hammered into you from the age of five.
Today is the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but I prefer to mark it as David Bowie’s birthday. Some other chap decided to mark it by turning up at a police station with a suicide belt with no explosives in it, making Four Lions look like Four Einsteins. I’m not really down with all these potential crazies in Paris right now, and I have to confess I have been suffering with violent dreams, and dreams where I’m trapped in enclosed spaces, fighting, slicing, doing anything to get out. They’ve all come on since I got caught up in the whole Stade de France malarkey, so obviously it’s related. I also have to confess I’ve also been weary of being in enclosed public spaces, which is irrational, but not that irrational. At the suggestion of my doc, I went to see a psychologist, who looks like Andrea Bocelli at his most beardy, though ironically he has the tiniest voice I’ve heard since I interviewed PJ Harvey; he makes Jon Kabat-Zinn sound like Brian Blessed. “So…” he whispered, and I babbled for about 20 minutes making not very much sense. Then he came out with the killer question, “do you like life?”
“I love life,” I replied, “but I’m frightened it’s going to be taken away from me”.
“That’s your problem I think,” he said. The eureka moment. I sometimes think a shrink is like a brand consultant; they tell you crap you already know, but that said, I’ve had some serious light-bulb moments with these people, and it’s only when I try to explain how revelatory it was to anyone else that it sounds ludicrously obvious. France is well-known as a nation of hypochondriacs, so naturally he prescribed me some SSRIs and said come back in a month. I managed to get off SSRIs when I first came to Paris, so this is an indication of how the dream has turned nightmarish in some respects. I do love life though, it’s just the psychopathic fuckers trying to impose their violence and stupidity on the world that muddies the waters.
Speaking of muddy waters (not the blues legend), I went for a walk earlier down the Rue de la Fountaine du Roi, to see men draining the Canal Saint-Martin (it’s draining men!). What they’re looking for I’m not sure, but it’s full of velos, bouteilles de vino, and maybe the French answer to Dirty Den too. Back up the road, the cafe on the corner of Rue de la Fountaine du Roi and Rue du Faubourg du Temple has reopened, with people drinking outside in front of the floral tributes that keep coming, while the Cosa Nostra looks like its shut up and may never reopen. The window now says ‘room upstairs’, and there’s little evidence, externally at least, that a restaurant used to be there at all. Paris is changing, though at the moment it doesn’t feel like it’s for the better.
Anyway, happy new year.Follow @jeres