Nous sommes uni

I used to think there were just two types of people, those who’ve seen The Fall and those who haven’t. That didn’t stop me believing in the usual stuff; that there are basic human commonalities that bind us together in spite of differences of opinion, religion, political persuasion and all that other nonsense that can lead to a misunderstanding and 17 million violent deaths. The basic premise that we’re all the same deep deep down isn’t really up for discussion, and yet I’ve never in my lifetime experienced a period like the one we’re going through, where everything has become about Us and Them, whichever side you happen to be on.

As a consequence I and many others like me take to social media daily to reinforce our worldview by SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY at people who think just like us. I went on a couple of radio shows this week, and on one of them I did just that, although in my normal voice. It was a five minute interview for a podcast hosted by a guy who told me by email that he’d previously interviewed Noam Chomsky and Malcolm Gladwell, obviously appealing to the delusional part of my brain. As I say, I only had five minutes, and suddenly I found myself bleating on about how the liberal agenda is winning – that we’re talking more openly about addiction, mental health, sexual fluidity etc – despite the world appearing to be a scary place at the moment. It was meant to be a positive message, but by the time I shut up there wasn’t any time left for questions.

To enforce my worldview further, yesterday we visited the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration at the Palais de la porte dorée in the 12th arrondissement. We weren’t disappointed. The art deco building was constructed in time for the Paris Colonial Exposition in 1931, and it apparently has a giant aquarium in the basement. Ironically a place built to salute imperialist dominance now champions independence, diversity and multiculturalism. It’s all there written on the walls, from Turkish builders in the 60s and 70s to Jewish diasporas through the centuries, as well as Southeast Asian boat people, Chileans fleeing persecution, Spanish, Portuguese, Algerian, Hungarian, Russian, Armenian, Polish, Italian and Belgian émigrés. There was even an influx of English in 1851 (and there might be another one coming soon judging by the way things are going). Without immigration France wouldn’t have enjoyed the massive artistic contributions of Goya, Chopin, Apollinaire, Man Ray, Picasso, Benjamin, Beckett, Brel, Brassaï, Xenakis or Thierry Henry. My hero, Gainsbourg, was a second generation Russian Jewish immigrant whose parents fled the Ukraine around the time of the Revolution. Immigration therefore equals good, that’s my *Weltanschauung.

The day before we were at a wedding, our first French one as it happens, featuring our two wonderful and dearly beloved friends, Russell and Lindsey (dearly beloved is a bit of a tautology now I think about it. Don’t blame me, blame the church). The ceremony was strictly secular, with vows taken in the presence of the tricolor and the flag of Europe. The deputy mayor of the mairie gave a little speech at the end, and said that while the UK had voted for Brexit, the French would still love us all the same. I had to stifle a little tear, but it soon disappeared when she mentioned the Queen.

Russell – or Dr Williams to give him his proper title – also managed to drop mention of the referendum into his rather excellent speech, and given that there were definitely some Brexiteers in the congregation, it thankfully didn’t sow the seeds of a ruckus later on. In fact there was a lot of love in the room all night, which transcended petty differences like party political persuasions, helped on I think by my most excellent DJing skills. When you’re sober, spinning some tunes is the perfect way to enjoy a wedding. You’re able to luxuriate in the joy the happy couple exude, while not really having to talk to anyone all night – apart from the drunkards coming up and asking for ‘Uptown Funk’ obviously.

I was meant to be taking tracks from Russell’s laptop and mixing them in with a record deck, only I couldn’t work out how to queue the records up silently, and the laptop stopped working, meaning we had to fire up Spotify on Claire’s phone. It was a bumpy ride, but we somehow managed it. I learnt that ‘Hong Kong Garden’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by Guns n Roses, ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk and ‘Modern Love’ by David Bowie are all dancefloor fillers at a wedding, whereas ‘Turn It On Again’ by Genesis is a killer, despite being ace. I presume Lindsey and Russell enjoyed themselves, but for me it might well have been the best night of my life. Or certainly the best night out I’ve had in ages. I was cut off at 11pm by the bar staff for being too loud (they had noise complaints from the neighbours), meaning I never got to play any Super Furry Animals for Russell. And I never got to play ‘Big New Prinz’ by The Fall for me either. That one would have divided people.

*We’re off to Berlin tomorrow so it’s important to learn a few poncy big German words)


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