Taking our daily post travail Parisian perambulation this lunchtime, Mrs S and I were meandering down the street when we noticed a fully armed Policeman, uniform almost blending into the painted wall on a street corner, automatic assault weapon at low port. “Hello. I think there’s a terror alert on.” I vouchsafed.
“Really?” Said my other half a little sceptically. However, suspicions were confirmed several times during our wander round Ile De La Cite, where we came across four distinct patrols of soldiers. Not Police or paramilitaries, but soldiers toting FAMAS Automatic weapons. Berets were being worn, but Spectra pattern helmets were slung within reach on belt packs.
Mile for mile, I’ve never seen so many police and military kitted up and loaded for bear. Locals, National Gendarmerie and full on military all looking for trouble among the tourists. While Mrs S and I were sitting and chatting, full of ourselves and Irish Coffee, three soldiers wandered close past us (Within two metres) in the Notre Dame gardens, giving our tourist camera bags the eyes over in case us two old farts were undercover Al’whatevertheyarethisweek terrorists and not two slightly inebriated Canadians enjoying the early evening sunshine. As for being a terrorist, whilst I freely admit to having done the odd Dance with Danger, Tango with Terror, and mildly unco-ordinated boogie with a bit of bovver, today we just smiled and chatted away to each other while the guys (and gals) with the guns meandered past.
A few years ago, armed Police would have made me very nervous indeed. Now, like the rest of the populace, we affected the “Oh so M’sieur has a gun? – Pff.” and got on with our lives. Apparently the heightened alert has been on for three months. Oh well, street life continues, and everyone’s out and about as usual. Drinking, eating, talking, doing business as usual. If it wasn’t for the Police and military presence, you wouldn’t have known.
Incidentally, while we were out, we didn’t see one of the notorious white faced French mime ‘Street Entertainer’ artistes. A few buskers and beggars, but only one clown, who honked his nose at a few Ile de la Cite tourists before moving on. If we’re lucky, the Police National have kept their zero tolerance policy on clowns after the 2014 Halloween ‘killer clown’ scare. Well isn’t that nice? Vive les Flics say I. Maybe they have a shoot on sight policy for all those white faced ‘artistes’, who go around terrorising tourists with their mimicry and invisible panes of glass.
Footnote: Just to clarify, I am of the Vetinari mindset when it comes to street mimes. They should all by chained upside down over hot tar facing a big sign saying; ‘LEARN THE WORDS’.