Tag Archives: la vie Parisienne

Who are these people?

Who are these crazies? Enslavers of minorities. Ham handed YouTube butchers. Mass murderers and killers. The ‘Islamic State’ or whatever. Where did they come from and who are they? Who gives, or gave them the them money to get started? Who has declared war on our way of life? Because war is where we are. We are at war, declared or not. We are at war with the miserablist philosophy of radical Islam. That which hates joy in the human heart. That which hates music and art. Specifically those who claim their brand of killjoy Islam should dominate the world. They picked this fight. Not the secular West. The Daesh (Arabic pejorative) chose to take their petty little tantrums out on civilians. Bunch of murderous shitheels that they are. A single Police dog is worth more than the whole damn crew of them.

Now we hear that two one of the organisers of the Paris attacks are still on the run and two more are dead. Others are under arrest. The Daesh (ISIL / ISIS, Al – thingummy wossname) are also going to be on the sharp end of shock and awe. From not just the French, but also the Russians. The UK is also going to pitch in against these murderous bastards. Even if it means keeping the unpopular and murderous Assad regime in power. Stuff the Yanks. Some of this is the current US administrations fault. They began airstrikes in support of the Syrian rebels and created a void for the Daesh to move in. I’m glad Trudeau has pulled Canadian forces out of that mess. We shouldn’t have been fighting Assad in the first place.

Yet from what I can see, the Daesh are simply one head of the Hydra. In order to destroy the threat the whole beast must be destroyed. It has to be burned out and cauterised at source. Root and branch. No quarter. No mercy. I think the French understand this. At the moment of writing they are going loaded for bear. It’s worth noting that France has Nuclear weapons and might just be tempted to test one on a Daesh stronghold. The Charles De Gaulle, currently deploying to the middle east in response to the Paris attacks, has just such a capability.

Well this is a bit steep Bill. My better self says. Aren’t you over reacting a bit? Mmmm. I don’t think so. A few short months ago I stood, sat, walked, and drank Cafe-au-lait on the very ground where some of the murders took place, admiring the culture, the architecture, the fashion sense and the agility of the local graffiti artists. We didn’t just do the main tourist spots, Mrs S and I took in what I call the ‘real’ Paris and tried our best to fit in and live like locals. Even if the proprietress of my favourite corner Boulangerie / Patisserie did take the piss out of my terrible accent and muffed French pronunciations. After I went back a few times for my morning baguette, I was always greeted with a happy smile. There was the kindness of neighbours when Mrs S broke her arm. Fortunately none of whom have flagged up as victims. Therefore I’m claiming an emotional connection to that area. We were, and still are planning a return trip as part of a larger European tour next year. London, Paris, Amsterdam Maybe Antwerp and Bruges. We weren’t put off by the Charlie Hebdo massacre. We won’t be put off now. Screw the Daesh. If they hadn’t got that bunch of losers to shoot up Paris, there would have been little excuse to implement the European passenger tracking system. Which I object to because I think it’s yet another nail in the coffin of civil liberties. Practically it means more bloody paperwork. More disclosure every time we fancy a nice holiday.

There is, however, a bright side. Parisian hotel and travel prices might go down a little if some people decide to call off their visits as a result of the attacks. I will need a new hat for sitting outside on sunny days. Speaking of which, some Parisians are choosing to sit outside cafe’s as an act of defiance. Which is very civilised. And very French. “You shoot down my countrymen? Pah! I drink Espresso at you, scum. Now go away before I order my afternoon cognac!”

Anyway, Mrs S and I are in Downtown Vancouver tomorrow. It’s work related, but we’ll be making this trip our main Christmas shopping visit as well. Bonne journee mes vieux. Have a nice day.

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I know that place

La Belle Equipe cafe at the intersection of Rue De Charonne, Rue Faidherbe and Rue Godefroy Cavalgnac. Across the way from the Palais de la Femme. Next door to Sushi Maki. A prime breakfast time peoplewatching spot. Old stonework, fading posters and tightly spaced small steel tables and folding chairs. A small cellar. Perfectly shaded for those Parisian dog days when temperatures rise over thirty Celsius. Just a cosy little neighbourhood cafe restaurant. They do, or rather did a very elegant brunch and a very nice Espresso, not too pricey but very French. Our taxi driver recommended the place when first we arrived on the Eurostar from London. “I get my breakfast there.” He told us. Great location. Less than a hundred metres from the apartment we rented for most of May and the first week of June 2015 at 97 Rue De Charonne. Hope my landlord wasn’t caught up in the attacks. Nice bloke.

Now a regular breakfast spot and very nice neighbourhood cafe has become a venue for late night mass murder. Blood has run in streets I knew. In whose name? For what? ‘Vengeance’ by a murdering gang of scumbags who deserve only the brief mercy of Madame Guillotine or better still, Napalm. Love death do they? Then let them have what they love. Wholesale. Bulk order to go. Don’t hold the Garlic. Grease with bacon fat. Turn that sand into glass.

Reading reports of connected incidents in Belgium, it looks like the murderers were barely twelve hours ahead of the security services. Arrests would have been made, but the murderers and their accomplices weren’t bagged and tagged soon enough. Now it’s down to the regular Police to pick up the pieces. A good many of which pieces are from the seven who blew themselves up. It is one of the few points of satisfaction about this affair to note that the heads of the murderers who blew themselves up would have still contained consciousness as they flew through the air before smashing into whatever surface they landed upon. See this Wikipedia excerpt. Perhaps in those few seconds they experienced the true terrors of hell before the evil they brought to others was extinguished as their separated craniums hit the street. One can but hope.

Here in Canada, our new Prime Minister has said that we are to import twenty five thousand people from the very place the terrorists originated. Twenty five thousand immigration queue jumpers. Maybe none of these twenty five thousand have any hostile intent towards Canada and the west, but maybe they will, wittingly or not, help others who have.

As an immigrant myself I’ve had to jump serious hoops to get my citizenship and know how hard it is to get and thus how valuable it is. Like many immigrants I’m also a little resentful of people who get preferential treatment over those of us who have stood in line, patiently waiting our turn, filling in the forms, not asking for preferential treatment, just dreaming of and working for a better life. Bringing our worth, experience and knowledge to a new homeland. Unlike the terrorists, who only have death to offer.

Update 15th Nov: Just heard from a Parisian friend who lives just up the way from Rue De Charonne. He reports being a little concerned over the attacks but otherwise he and his family are well. Currently getting my news direct from France24’s Youtube live feed.

Paris stinks!

Well yes and no. Possibly. Are we going for decisiveness today? Yes. No. Oh, I can’t make my mind up. Sorry. Ouch. Actually Paris does. Stink that is. Like an overflowing urinal. Despite gangs of green overalled workers hosing benches and various little corners down from the early hours to midday. On the corner of every street it catches you. Out of the apartment, down the road, and eeuuw! Take a trip through the Metro, turn a corner and biff! Right in the nostrils. Often multiple times in one station. And the stench is definitely human, not dog or any other animal. That ammoniac reek is quite male and very particular. London is positively aseptic by comparison.

Regardless of the smell, what did I think of Paris overall? Superb, merveilleux, astounding, and amazing innit, like; a tribute to the minds of great men, and packed with more historical content per cubic centimetre than a New York Reuben Sandwich is with Pastrami and Sauerkraut. More full of good and great little eateries than anywhere I’ve ever been, and we have traveled extensively throughout Europe, Africa, and North America. All of these bars and eateries vying to be at least as good as the best in the street.

Tiny little bars, cafe’s, brasseries, and bistro’s in a semi chaotic mess around every street corner and through every working marketplace. Great little Boulangeries, “Don’t forget the Nutella Crepes”, says Mrs S over my shoulder. Heavy sigh. Yes dear.

I know we can’t give you the sounds and smells, but here is a tiny sample of our resized holiday snaps, cut down to a meg and a half each to allow reasonably quick page loading. I can’t put them all up as we took something in the region of a thousand or so. And that’s just the ones we didn’t delete on the spot because a blurred someone got in the way of the shot, or the lens strap blew over the lens or the hundred other reasons a picture isn’t worth keeping.

A Parisian architectural incongruityI mean, take this one. Snapped from the top of one of those ‘hop on hop off’ tour buses. One of the old pre Haussman city gates. From the early 19th century when the city was simply a maze of alleys and noisome little streets, the remnants of which can be found off St Germain and the Marais, and a whole heap of other bits like Montmartre and Pigalle we didn’t spend much time around.

Notre Dame detail Oi Henri teas upWhen you’re not on one of those touristy tick box whistle stop ‘tours’ of Paris, you can take your time and discover some of the details and surprises that make it such a great place for an extended stay. This one I call “Oi! Henri! Come down, yer Teas ready.” It’s a life size bronze on the top of Notre Dame, Paris, and you can only really see it properly from a fifteen foot gap between buildings to the rear of the cathedral. Anywhere else and it’s practically invisible.

The Louvre at duskFor another example of the main tourist sites; this view of the Louvre at dusk. We never went in because, well, who wants to be caught in herds of untamed Japanese and Korean tour parties with their interminable cameras flashing all the time. Staring at priceless artworks from the back of the crowd with all that flickering isn’t much fun. You miss out on the detail from twenty feet away, and detail is what makes these things great works of art. Honestly, it’s enough to set off an Epileptic. Myself I rarely use flash unless I have to. You tend to capture more of the ambient mood of a shot in natural light. Besides, flash is no good over more than ten or twelve feet anyway and tends to flatten the image if you don’t get it right. It’s like those people who try to take pictures of an eclipse with the flash still on. No. It doesn’t work very well does it? My advice; try turning the flash off and see what your camera can really do.

Les Invalides the tomb of Marshal FochOn the topic of natural light; here’s the tomb of Marshal Foch in Les Invalides. That fabulous blue glow in the picture is natural. Using flash kills this lustrous Spielberg blue effect stone dead. Which gets annoying when someone sees what you’re up to and then uses their flash repeatedly over your shoulder, or in the case of tiny giggling Chinese and Japanese girls, sneaking in front of you, even when you’re right up to the barrier, and sticking the back of their head in front of your lens. I had to wait fifteen minutes for two garrulous tour parties to disappear before snapping that particular image.

Which makes me wonder about the nature of photographers. We were wandering out of St Germain across the Pont Neuf the following day after a visit to the Luxembourg Gardens. There’s a little triangular park on the western end of Ile Del la Cite which is a pleasant place to spend a lazy hour or two. Down below, a couple being driven upriver in one of those stylish Italian Riva speedboats were waving at someone or something. I couldn’t see anyone waving back. Down on the banks of the park were five or six guys with cameras who suddenly began running after the boat, tripping and gamboling over each other like circus monkeys on cocaine. They managed to stay upright for long enough to point their cameras at the waving couple before going into a little celebratory dance, high fiving each other, capering up and down like medieval lunatics. Mrs S and I watched this odd mini spectacle for a moment before shrugging to ourselves in a Gallic manner. No idea who the couple on the boat were, but the camera toting clowns seemed to be very excited about it. As far as taking pictures is concerned I try to emulate the careful people who take a few moments picking a good vantage place and let the zoom take the strain. The Sniper rather than the Snapper. Some might say you lose the spontaneity of a shot that way, but it depends what you’re looking for I suppose. Any old road up, that’s neither here nor there. I don’t make my living that way.

Notre dame we have ignitionBack on topic; here’s another one of the more interesting bits of Notre Dame at night. I particularly like this shot because there’s more than a little of the 3-2-1 we have liftoff to it. Those elegant flying buttresses, the high narrow windows. Who’d have thought the denizens of late medieval Paris were trying to build starships out of stone?

Sainte Chappelle a ceilingWhat else? Well, there was Sainte Chapelle, one time royal chapel at the back of the Palais De Justice. Incredible detail, towering painted ceilings, which one architectural critic thinks is not correct and a ‘crime’ against architecture in the case of Chartres Cathedral, but that’s one of those ‘judging late medieval art and architecture by 21st century standards’ things, and not something I want to get into in the comparative brevity of a blog post. Suffice it to say, the archaeology tells us the stonework was originally painted, so any critique of restoration work should take that into account.

Like I say, I took over a thousand decent pictures while I was enjoying la vie Parisienne, improved my French, patched up my relationship, discovered how to navigate the French emergency healthcare system and Parisian Metro. Had a lot of good, clean, old fashioned fun, ate and drank well, ending up back home in BC thoroughly culturally enriched. Despite the odd stroppy waiter, broken limb and greedy taxi driver, it was a great trip. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But maybe, just maybe, I’d take a side trip to Amsterdam and Berlin first.

Reasons to like Uber

Taxis in the mating seasonThere’s a lot of fuss and palaver about the Uber SmartPhone Ap that lets people hail a private car with a willing driver in place of Taxi services. They have, like taxi companies, set rates, insurance, and even legal cover. What they don’t have are the local authority licences.

Over the past month or two I’ve sat in the back of enough taxis and listened to the Cab Driver’s grievances about the extra competition, lack of competence, risk factors and cost to get a feel for the nature of the dispute. I’ve also had enough grief from licensed Taxi drivers (Especially the Parisian ones) to make me think they are often no better than the Uber guys, and possibly much, much, worse.

So Parisian cab drivers are rioting and beating up anyone they suspect of being an Uber driver? Right. And this is going to aid their cause how? Will the Parisian authorities cave in and enforce their ban on Uber? My question is; how can that ban be enforced without huge investment in manpower and technology by the licensing authority? As for fines, Uber has been known to just pony up and pay their drivers fines and still they make money.

Local authorities don’t like Uber because there’s a nice little earner regulating and taxing the local cab companies and their drivers. Because Uber falls outside their licensing jurisdiction, all that easy money evaporates from their coffers. The cab drivers don’t like them because they cream off fares that the ‘normal’ cab companies think they should be doing. As for honesty; a mate of mine has been both a fully licensed Hansom Cab operator and Private Hire licensed driver in the UK, and we’ve had many interesting little chats about Taxis, and the tricks some drivers use to fleece the unwitting.

Anyway, here’s some of my personal reasons for favouring Uber over traditional taxi services;

First; Uber drivers can’t charge extortionate rates because you know up front what the price is going to be like. Not like at many places where some drivers wait inside the terminal at train stations and airports to fleece arriving tourists. One driver I came across at Gare Du Nord, Paris, was demanding 70 Euros for what turned out to be a twenty five Euro fare. Needless to say, I gave him the brush off. Uber drivers have a precalculated fare you get to see on your phone before they arrive at the pickup point, unlike some cab drivers, who set their meters running even before they even get to you.
Second; Uber cabs all take credit cards. In fact you can’t pay in cash. Which is useful if you have run out of notes late at night and don’t have to beg or search your pockets for loose change. I got stuck at the Hospital on the night Mrs S broke her arm, and had three licensed cabs on a taxi rank refuse my fare because taking a credit card for a thirty Euro fare “Wasn’t worth their while.” Fortunately the Paris Metro ticket machine accepted a battered two Euro coin I found in the gutter so I actually got back to my bed that night.
Third; You can pick what sort of service you get beforehand. A high end ‘Black cab’, affiliated Taxi service or even an SUV. Which you often can’t with ‘Normal’ cabs and private hire. You get what is sent and pay the meter rate.
Fourth; There’s no hanging around in the street trying to hail a cab. You know when your ride is coming, and when it’s due to arrive. Just be at the pickup point and it all seems to work fine.
Fifth; Getting a receipt is automatic because it goes straight onto your credit card and you can generate one to be printed out later. If you forget to ask for that receipt for expenses, it’s no big deal.

The downside? You need a data enabled SmartPhone where there’s a good signal. If you’re a dinosaur like me, who has a wi-fi enabled tablet but only an old ‘Dumb’ phone, you’ll need that phone with you to receive Ubers SMS messages. Which can be a bit of a fiddle. Then their prices can go up if the service is busy (Surge pricing), or it’s a holiday like Christmas or New Years Eve, but the standard Taxis will have gone to Tariff 2 (Evenings after 11pm in the UK) or 3 (Evening + Public Holiday) by that time anyway. As for trustworthiness, well, that varies from driver to driver. Some would say Ubers rating system (Which ‘traditional’ cab companies don’t have) keeps their drivers up to snuff anyway.

According to my friend it’s sometimes a tough life being a cab driver, what with the constant squeeze on rates, weather, erratic cashflow, regulations, late night drunks and some of the dodgier clientelle, but when the money is good, it’s not that bad. However, he said with an I’m-glad-I-don’t-do-it-any-more grin, maybe the old style taxi system is massively under competitive and needs kicking to the kerb.

Just another little adventure

Well wasn’t that fun young Bill? Well, sort of. If you’re the kind of person who’s into into applied masochism. You know the sort of thing, whips, barbed wire underpants, nipple clamps and strange, constraining lingerie. Which I’m not incidentally. Sorry chums, but I’m a fairly straight and staid old cove. Such things have never really appealed. Colour me boring.

Holiday snapThe past weekend and a bit has seen broken limbs, interminably long periods hanging around hospitals, fretting over flights and whether they’d actually let my wife on board. Drug reactions (the vomiting was quite spectacular), and the occasional (But rare) nice meal after yet another day straphanging down the noisome Parisian Metro. As for holiday snaps, I never thought we’d end up bringing home copies of X-Rays, both before and after.

Big Kudos to Air Canada staff under difficult circumstances, our French Landlord, French Nurses and Doctors who put up with our still slightly strangulated French, our travel insurance company, the Paramedics of the Sapeurs-Pompiers, and a purple uniformed young lady at Heathrow who got us down to our flight in one of those buzzy little electric truck thingies.

Asshole of the month award is a tie between French SNCF platform staff and Stanley Tucci lookalike waiters in tourist trap bistro’s. Seriously, see a waiter with a shaven head at any Parisian restaurant or even a Starbucks, no matter how hungry or thirsty you are, walk on. The drinking / dining experience will not be a good one. For better food and service, go to one of the less well tourist trafficked areas and you will not be sorry, and neither will your wallet. A few steps extra, turn a corner and it’ll all be there. Good food, discreet service (None of that silly “How is your meal” demands when in mid mouthful.) The rule of thumb being; when in Paris, go where the locals go and ignore the graffiti. The choice is almost staggering. As for SNCF, be on your guard, because these people aren’t. ‘Nuff said.

So now we’re safely back in our little British Columbian domicile. Trying to sleep off the jet lag and clean up an inexplicably leaky toilet (It wasn’t like this when we left), and in my case failing to sleep. Which is why this post is getting written at four in the morning Pacific Standard time, or midday in the UK. It’s lunchtime in Paris, and I’m bloody famished.

All things said and done we’ve had an awesome (but expensive) time. The experiences from which we will take with us on future journeys.

There will be a short break and a word from our sponsors..

…Which I don’t have. Mrs S took a tumble and has broken her arm. Posting will grow more limited for a short while, during which travel must be accomplished with yet more scrap metal to set off airport security devices.

Watch this space. Or don’t. As the mood takes you.

We are celebrating her release from hospital tonight with a nice meal and a couple of glasses of wine before we hit the road tomorrow.

Interesting question

Well our guests have returned to blighty in safety, with many a sigh and parting hug. Over petit dejeuner at a cafe yesterday, we hopeless old romantics were greeted with the news that all the padlocks on Pont des Arts over the Seine are being removed, and the easy to padlock to steel mesh replaced by solid panels.

Locks and hearts brokenThis news sparked a short lived philosophical discourse about reverse causality, and the disastrous effects on all those relationships ruined by the locks removal because of the well known principle of metaphysical consanguinity. Lock represents relationship, therefore using the symbolic shamanistic principle (upon which all such beliefs are founded) the symbolism of the lock being broken or scrapped ultimately means the relationship symbolised by the cheap security device in question will fail.

Have the local authority in the city of romance and light ironically unleashed a wave of broken relationships? Perhaps divorce lawyers will be heard singing “Happy days are here again.” as their business undergoes an uptick. Could this prove the stimulus the worldwide economy needs? Enquiring minds would like to know.

Update: What the Pont Des Arts looked like about 5pm June 3rd 2015. Is there an art critic in the house?
The new look Pont Des Arts Paris

The Ring cycle

Every so often I’m hit by a big dose of Deja vu. An internal nudging grin saying, “Well young Bill, you’ve been here before.” Yesterday’s attack of semi nostalgia came when I was busily lining up to take a picture opposite the Palais Garnier.

While getting ready to take my second shot, I was approached from behind by a fat, middle aged, middle European accented woman, who palmed a heavy gold coloured ring at me, appearing to pick it up off the floor, pressing it into my hands, saying how lucky I was. Which caught me off guard. Up until that moment, my brain had been happily going “This is nice. Hello trees, hello, flowers, hello Mr Sun, what a lovely Parisian day.” I’d just had a lovely Steak dinner with a beer and was about as relaxed as I ever get.

From what I could make out, she wanted me to ‘share’ my good fortune with her by giving her money so I could do what I wanted with a very heavy feeling man’s gold(ish) wedding ring. Had my old street senses been online at this point, I would have given her a tight little smile, waved her off and walked on. As it was, I wanted another shot of the building from my chosen vantage point at the pedestrian crossing’s edge and didn’t really want to budge.

Now I’ve seen this particular scam before, and this was one of the finer examples of the art. The ring was almost convincing, and even had me pulling out my reading glasses to examine it. But the question bubbled up in the vestiges of my nasty suspicious mind; why the hell wasn’t she taking this ‘lost property’ to the Police, instead of pressing it on a total stranger? Memory provided the answer. I’d seen this before. The Ring Scam. So I said, “No, no, you take it to the Police. It’s not mine.” And made to place the offending ring on the pedestrian railing. Ooo Sticker, you cunning old SOB. At this point I became acutely aware that I wasn’t watching my camera bag and pockets as closely as I should. My internal mental compass spun and suspicion gyro’s lit up, senses sounding for any unusual intrusions around my pockets. I’m acutely aware these guys often work in teams. So I quickly pushed the ring back at her, insisting that she hand it to the Police as lost property, making it plain that no cash was coming her way from my wallet. To my internal amusement she was getting quite shirty at this point. Then I ducked my camera into its bag which was zipped pointedly closed, managing to convince the scam artist that I wasn’t going to bite. I’ll give her this, she was persistent. She just didn’t seem to know she’d been rumbled.

Abandoning hope of getting another shot of my target, I moved across the street with a bunch of other tourists, catching up with Mrs S, who had gone ahead of me while I was being a happy snapper. My good wife asked (as wives often do); “What was all that about?”
“Con artist tried to pull the old ring scam on me.”
“Oh, so that’s what it was.” Mrs S has often been regaled by my tales of street life, and recognised the term immediately. We moved on. It was too nice a day to dwell on it and the bars were open.

Scooters and stuff

In our little Arondissement (District) as well as many others, I’ve noted before how many scooters there are cluttering up the sidewalks and promenades. Particularly this type of thing and their contemporaries made by Piaggio and Peugeot. While I’m not a fan myself, I can see the utility for those who find it difficult to keep a motorcycle or scooter upright at walking speeds (You pussies).

No, what I’ve been looking at is a simple piece of kit marketed by an Italian company, mostly for scooters, but I’ve also seen their ilk wrapped around BMW LT1200’s, and having seen how useful they can be, I’m quite taken with the idea. Basically the cover acts as combo leg shield, bike cover and waterproof leggings. Not only that, but it costs less than a pair of leak proof waterproof trousers. Oh, and you have to love their advertising.

A set of these and some handlebar cuffs, and those long rainy Vancouver Island Winter months won’t seem so damp any more.

Weird shit

Okay, apart from the usual touristy sights and sounds. Today I’ve come across;

Two Gendarmes in full body armour carrying FAMAS assault rifles on their regular street corner, adjusting each others ballistic clothing and appearing to ask each other“Mon cul semble-t-il grand en ca?” (“Does my bum look big in this?”)
A hippy juggling feral pigeons in the Tuilleries gardens outside the Louvre. Honestly, they were jumping on and off his hands like he was throwing juggling balls, and he was getting ‘his’ pigeons to perch on the tourists themselves, which if they’d seen what pigeons do to all the statues, all the time around Paris they might not be so keen to have winged rats landing on their arms and shoulders. I’ve even found a Youtube video of him from last year.

This year he’s sporting a beard and shades.

We’re here for another few weeks. But I can say that we’re having a seriously wonderful time, despite a few hiccups along the way. Am currently de-dicombobulating myself with a couple of glasses of Bushmills Single Malt.

In praise of rain

What is it? Just condensed water vapour, falling from the clouds. Yet there is a poetry in it; a soft lilting cadence in even the most torrid downpour. Even when raindrops are coming down so hard they splash and meet themselves coming back up a foot above the ground, forming a sparkling fairy carpet of silver. When even trees provide scant cover against an aqueous bombardment rattling their leaves. Must be the Irish in me that sees such beauty in torrential rain.

Back in my foot patrol days, I liked being out in the rain. Unlike so many of my contemporaries, for whom the mere occlusion of a cloud over the sun was cause to stay close to base. Days when I’d go out bang on time, spending my day under trees and lurking in doorways, and having done my stint, get back to base only to find I was the last man out there. Not that I minded. Even when the rest of our crew said it made them ‘look bad’. As if I cared. Being paid to take a walk, which was my definition of the job, was my idea of heaven. In any weather. The authoritarian part of it was an inconvenience, but I was never the most enthusiastic enforcer, only resorting to that part of the job when contravention was so blatant that even the most liberal would cry “Oh FFS, Bill! Book him!” in frustration. The general dyslexic still kept me busy. Was it that long ago? Well I never.

Today I’m watching rain fall from our tiny Parisian apartment as the skies dump a cleansing dollop of airborne water over our little Arondissement. The Plane trees in the centre courtyard occasionally thrashing like manic dancers under periodic downdraughts. Cafe owners glowering up at the leaden grey and counting the Euros lost. Locals and smokers lurking under their umbrellas or in cafe’s until the pleut passes.

Then the clouds, having divested their skirts of so much water vapour, will sail sedately on like fat women after liposuction and the sun will bless the world again. Umbrellas will be returned to their stands, cafe proprietors will lay out their tables, people will stop by on their way back from work and a cleaner world will turn once more. Then there will be the warm, clean smell of wet earth replacing the odd ammoniac whiff of Eau de Tramp, garbage, traffic fumes and spilt diesel. At least for a while.

Not a lot of people know that

I recently posted this Tom Scott video about Paris and ‘Paris syndrome’. What Tom doesn’t tell you is that the Parisian padlock craze isn’t just on one steel mesh guard rail bridge over the Seine. Around Ile de la cite, it’s all of them.

Seriously. On a sunny day they glitter like they’ve been gilded. Nor is this phenomena constrained to Paris. According to legend, this ‘tradition’ began in Serbia prior to WW1. Moscow has special wrought iron ‘trees’ for those determined to display their undying commitment by shackling an overpriced cheap lock to a piece of steel railing. I say ‘overpriced’ because some street entrepreneurs set up shop at either end of the bridge when Les Flics aren’t around, and flog locks at thrice the price and more to unsuspecting lovebirds. As well as the cheap sheradised models of La Tour Eiffel. One detail of which I’d forgotten.

Around premiere etage of said steel song are listed some of the great 18th & 19th Century scientists (Lagrange, Coulomb, Ampere) only half of whom I could remember from school and college. Everyone in the Anglosphere knows about Newton, Faraday and Hooke, but these men were also intellectual giants of their day, laying much of the groundwork for modern technology.

Meanwhile, back on Earth; just around midnight last night I was awakened by the noise of sudden heavy rain accompanied by a good deal of shouting outside in the street. I rolled over muttering “Noisy bloody kids.” and went back to sleep, thinking it was some of our less worldly neighbours celebrating the rain. This morning on my way down to the Boulangerie, I noted one small storefront had lost its plate glass door and a good chunk of a tempered glass window. Hmm. Don’t know if the street noise and damage were related, all I know is what I see.

There is nothing worth quite so much doing……

………..as simply messing around in boats. Truly. You see so much more from the rivers that still form trade arteries. Details on bridges, views of strange architecture and places, people and oddities that engage a mind more fully than any bus tour.

Recommendation: BatoBus day tours. Sixteen of the best Euros you will ever spend, and a reminder that when it comes to real Fcuk off monuments, I don’t think anyone does it better than the French. Even the most crazed dictator with a coterie of truly terrified style advisers simply lacks the flair of the Frogs for commissioning and placing poems of gilded rock and bronze around the landscape. Style. Bags of it. Even the beggars have a certain je ne sais quoi.

This is rapidly becoming my favourite city in the whole world. Although my feet are telling me not to try walking so much of it at once. Letting my pauvre pieds have the day off tomorrow, when I shall be attempting to improve my French by launching into Marc Lemonier’s epic treatise; ‘Dictionaire de Gros Mots‘. A tome worthy of minute study for the really serious student. I mean I did the stuff for the citizenship test, but you can never really claim mastery of language until you can freely bandy insults around, and understand when they are friendly banter, and when they are fightin’ words.

By way of an aside; I hear Ed Millipede has slunk off to Ibiza to lick his wounds. The moment I heard the news, the thought crept into my head; what if Millipede got all tranced up to dance naked on a nightclub table. I’m reliably informed that such events do happen in certain Ibiza clubs. And nobody noticed? Evil snigger (Simultaneously in English and French).

Be alert, your country needs, erm….. Lerts

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’.

Slow news day

It’s May, the UK elections are over, political blood is being mopped up and the ‘silly season’ stories have begun to take over the headlines. Like giant killer asteroids and the Loch Ness Monster. BTW: a kilometre (Not a mile) wide asteroid pootling by at 26.5 lunar distances (6 million miles, not 3, FFS! That’s over 10 million Kilometres) is hardly cause for the mass panic some think it should be. Although the tabloid media would be dead in the water without sexing up scary stories to fwighten all the poor ickle bunnies out there. Personally, the only use I have for tabloid newspapers is for lighting fires or as an emergency substitute for toilet paper.

Although I am deriving some quiet pleasure at watching all the UK based control freak lefties beating themselves senseless with wet Che Guevara T-shirts over the Tories getting a majority. Oh, vraiment? As I’m learning to say over here. Les pauvres (Avec un rire sarcastique). You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.

Had the piss taken out of me royally first thing when my pronunciation slipped and I asked for ‘Doux’ not ‘deux’ pain au chocolat at the closest Boulangerie / patisserie. The proprietor corrected me and when I’d acknowledged my goof, was all smiles and ‘abientot’. I’ll be back. Demain.