'Time and place / as elusive as air / as solid as this ground / I stand on. / Here, where I am placed / at any one time'.
Saturday, 6 July 2013
C'Est La Vie
We headed for Au Chat Noir in
Bellevue. It seemed to us to be a part of Paris that was creative,
friendly and inclusive. There was a sense of freedom there. We made
ourselves at home. The regular poetry reading was on and I was keen
Notre Dame. Paris
I'll always remember the frustrating
feel to our first morning in Paris. We frantically tried to fit in a
meeting with MnK so we could use their internet connection to find
out about the progress (if any) re the missing suitcase, as well as
fulfilling a planned rendezvous with our UK friends. The journey
involved trains and walking. Trains and walking. (A pattern we were
to get used to). In the end we got a taxi back to the apartment –
which turned out to be a good chance for Robert to try out his French
when he got into a discussion about rugby with the taxi driver.
We did make our appointment with
Chrissie & Phil, meeting them as arranged on Pont Neuf, albeit
half an hour late. It was a happy reunion as we hadn't seen them for
seven years. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon
with them wandering central Paris, the Latin Quarter, the Left Bank,
the Sorbonne district …
I found myself trying to get to grips
with Paris but no matter how hard I tried, any connection or bonding
with the city, seemed to keep slipping away. The city was turning out
to be just a backdrop to the celebration of my 60th
birthday. As a background to being with family and friends, it was
working beautifully; but sometimes it seemed I was missing the
connection I usually make with places. After all, Paris was a city I
had been to before and had long-dreamed a return.
Turning Sixty in Paris
grey is a wall, sometimes
it is a way in,
but I have to work at it.
I am in two minds
about you, Paris.
I cross your
bridges, I walk your streets
as if walking the
lines of a song;
'... off the
Boulevard St Michel'.
Hard to reach or
affect, you are old
stone yet warm with flowers.
'Where do you
go to my lovely?'
I need time
are not prepared to give
and I don't
have. You turn a cold shoulder.
Perhaps you will
the city that once, a long time ago
now or so it it seems, I left
behind in the
lines are from the song, 'Where Do You Go To My Lovely?' as sung and
written by Peter Sarstedt, 1969.
That night we attended a regular
Monday-night poetry reading in Paris. Also, I was meeting Ret a
fellow-poet and on-line friend of some years. The 'real-life' meeting
with Ret and his wife was amazingly natural. He and his wife were
just as I expected; charming, softly spoken and unpretentious. Both
of them were great company; down to earth, open-minded, warm and
friendly people. Hearing Ret read his poetry was a real treat and
certainly a highlight of our Paris experience.
Thankfully I felt calm and relaxed when
it came my turn to read. I don't always feel that way. Maybe my
confidence had something to do with the mojito that Phil handed me
(with the words, “Hemmingway's choice of poison”) before I went
up to read. In fact it was due to the support of family and friends
in the audience. Jenny asked me later why I didn't introduce myself
as having come 'all the way from
New Zealand'. I didn't have an answer for her right then, but
thinking about it later I realised my reluctance probably came from
the response of the m.c. when I signed up for the reading. I'd
cheerfully introduced myself to him explaining how I was 'from New
Zealand', to which he replied, “Congratulations”. Slightly
sarcastic, I thought, but laughed along anyway. However it must've
put me off mentioning it again.
highlight was my surprise champagne birthday breakfast that 'the
kids' (as we took to calling MnK and CnJ) put on for me on the
morning of June 25th. (The champagne bottle was aptly named 'Robert
de Montey'). Before my eyes, the table at our apartment become
magically laden with pancakes and all the trimmings with a beautiful
bunch of roses placed in the middle. Chris had had to use a fork to
whip the cream for the pancakes, which he said took him forty
Rose petals were
scattered as a music box played Edith Piaf's ' La Vie en Rose' and a
wondrous 'cake' of seperate cream cakes with a lit '60' candle, was
walked in. I blew out the candles and made my wish. Messages from our
son Steve and from home were relayed. We would have loved to have
skyped Steve & E and the grandkids in Japan but were defeated by
the skimpy internet. We did manage a tantalisingly short 'Happy
Birthday Gran'ma' from a just-awake R. at midnight that night. (A.
was sick so we tried for a Skype with her next morning – and hereby
hangs another tale ...)
headed off to an internet cafe to try and Skype granddaughter A. - to
no avail as it turned out – and in our haste, locked the key in the
apartment. Why only the one key between six people? was a cry we
often heard during our stay there. Chrissie had her bags inside the
apartment and was due to leave for the UK after lunch, so it was
vital we get back in before then. Using the cafe's phone, a panicky
call to our host resulted in 'this is a big problem' response from
her and a very long wait for us until her husband could deliver
another key. (Thankfully it was in time for Chrissie to get her
Ah well, c'est la
was another planned event, this time for Chrissie and me – a walk
down it to a cafe where thanks to a friend of Chrissie's we could
'play ladies' and treat ourselves to macaroons and a cup of tea.
Chrissie and I have been penfriends since we were eleven years old,
so a cup of tea and time together is rare and always special.
was our trip (on my birthday) to the Eiffel Tower. But would you
believe when we got there it was 'On Strike'?
Ah well, c'est la
delivered anyway, its intricate network of metal lace living up to
all expectations. It didn't really matter that we couldn't go to the
top. It also meant no crowds and no queue, so it couldn't have been
And if C'est la
vie! Then it's actually a pretty good one.