Tag Archives: la vie Parisienne

Street life

Markets, I love ’em. Street markets even more so. They’re a whole circus of their own. Various stall holders periodically going into a semi manic routines when trade lags off a little. One super animated skinny blonde Italian stallholder (Well, she said she was Italian) treating us to almost a dance routine as she busily shifted stock on her fruit stall. Everyone practicing their not so much broken as mildly bent out of shape but still adequate English on me while I unstick the heavily corroded French language synapses in my brain. We’re getting by.

As for sarcasm, well, I’ve been enjoying badinage with one of our local Boulangeres, an example of which I’ll try to relate as accurately as possible, having not made notes at the time and consumed a couple of bottles of a half way decent Sauvignon Blanc in between times;
Boulangere: Bonjour (As I enter boulangerie)
Me: Bonjour
Boulangere: Well that was a ‘bonjour’ with an accent
Me: A Canadian accent
Boulangere: You’re from Quebec?
Me: Non, No, nous sommes a British Colombia, the West coast.
As conversation openers go it went, and we chatted about a few things, his visit to Saskatchewan and the unintelligibility of Quebeckers to the average Frenchman or Canadian. Oscillating between his accented English and my bent out of shape French, but it should be enough to give my reader a flavour of how relaxed and easy going most French traders (Even Parisians) can be if you at least try to learn and speak the generalities of their language. Nothing pisses the average French person off more than some arrogant English (or worse, American) twat who can’t be bothered to try. I’m even catching a little mild flak off some of the local waiters because I won’t let them practice their English on me. So I hand a little back in a good humoured way, and we all get it right eventually. It’s fun.

Yesterday Mrs S and I sat and watched a low level drug bust by the Flics across from the cafe we were sitting at. A woman fixing the tyre of a childs bicycle while her husband controlled their Spaniel and their excitable four year old little boy. It may have been a girl, no young lad should be forced to ride anything that pink. Not even in such a cosmopolitan place as Paris. An Angry Dyke stereotype (Very mannish short hair, wearing boots, jeans and golf shirt, pissed off expression nailed to her face) crossed the road and took a seat outside the cafe, ordering an espresso, chain smoking Gauloise, making fluttery finger gestures while talking sotto voce on her phone. She appeared to be watching the Police. Young Couple speaking very heavily accented French tucked into the corner. A tourist parking his sparkly hire car right across from the intersection, effectively blocking a buses turning circle and getting soundly honked for his transgression. Cars and buses squeaking down twisting narrow streets, miraculously missing wing mirrors by millimetres. And scooters, scooters everywhere. Somehow missing getting squished by cars and buses, in turn not squashing pedestrians and the incredibly agile Parisian cyclist. Close calls seem to be the order of the day. Africans punctuating the sidewalks in variants of the Dishdash or Thawb, those long lightweight robes suited more for sub tropical and middle eastern climes. Hey, but this is Paris, right? Street life in the raw.

I’m quite enjoying myself.

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Not found in the guide book

We’re all settled in now at our little Paris apartment. Stumbling over our rusty (In my case almost seized solid from disuse) French. But we’re making an effort. Which is probably why the waiting staff, and everyone generally, have been so nice to us so far. So any rudeness, intransigence or sarcasm will have to be overheard. Drat. How am I to learn?

Never mind. Last night Mrs S and I dropped by a Fondue house. Specifically this one. Which was an education. Now in all the guide books and Rick Steves / Anthony Bourdin YouTubes we’ve watched, the art of Fondue is rarely covered. And it is an art. From the well known Fondue pot (Not those prissy little stainless steel things, but the big, fcuk off cast iron variety) to the oddity of ‘Raclette‘ where a third of a 6kg (13-14lbs for those of an imperial bent) wheel of semi soft Swiss cheese is fixed in a weird looking rig and subjected to a heating element so it melts, to be scraped off onto bread, or meats, pickles or anything. At the time we didn’t know what these strange objects were, so like the cowards we sometimes are, or in this case still too jet lagged to really enjoy things, opted for a salad and a half bottle of decent red while we peoplewatched.

For my smoking friends on my sidebar, as for the ‘smoking ban’ so rigorously prosecuted back at home, lets just say the French have perfected the art of the shrug. That gentle juggling of shoulders which means “So what?” Which is the attitude applied to the smoking ban, now enshrined in law throughout much of Europe and the Anglophone West. None of this ‘No smoking by anyone near anything anywhere or even looking at a cigarette at all- ever’ rules. M’sieur wishes to smoke? Just outside the door, under that nice snug little awning out of the immediate draught. Okay? As Mrs S and I had elected to eat at an outside table, the waitress, determined to practice her English on us, seemed surprised that we didn’t smoke, and there were children under five at the next table! Mon dieu! Call Les Pompiers! (Fire brigade) Whose van was round the corner while the lads were bunking off for a quiet Gauloise at the next Bar Tabac.

Paris isn’t a clean place. It’s busy and inexplicably dusty at present. Which if you’re overly houseproud or germ phobic might lead to a touch of the vapours. Off the main boulevards, down the side streets it’s all narrow sidewalks and busy people. Motorcycles and scooters parked on every space unoccupied by cafe tables. It’s hard to take your time unless you do so assertively. Give people room to get by and you’ll do fine. You will get bumped and barged if you’re in the way. Get used to it. You’re a touriste and therefore fair game. The locals walk briskly and with purpose. They have places to be, there’s not much room, and if you’re in the way; move it, sucker. Pavement (Sidewalk) dawdling and window shopping is best reserved for those days when the locals are still in bed or at work.

As we headed from Gare Du Nord via taxi, at Place De La Republic there was a noisy demonstration of sorts going on. More like a concert than a demo. According to our driver it was a strike. When asked who by or what it was about, our man said he didn’t know or care. “There’s one every day.” He explained as he squeezed our cab through gaps with barely a cards breadth between them. Man, I am glad we didn’t hire a car. Paris driving is no place for the faint of heart.

BTW; today’s post was written while wearing my PJ trouser’s and brand new blue paisley dressing gown. I may go out wearing a bow tie this evening. I have brought two, one formal black and the other a genteel metallic paisley pattern picked up before we left London. Just in case Mrs S steers me into an establishment where ties are required. At which juncture I will defiantly tie it in sight of the Maitre ‘D (None of these cheap ready mades for me – no style whatsoever).

Hey, I’m on holiday. Meanwhile, back over the Channel, some sore losers have been kicking off because the voters didn’t see things their way. Ah, les pauvre petits. Wnakers. Bless.

Fortunately for me….

Invading ParisI shall be enjoying la vie Parisienne later this year. I will also be enjoying it at a time when a bunch of joyless nerks who love to tell all us plebs things like ‘the science is settled’ aren’t there. Which is complete codswallop, science is never settled about anything. Even the most cursory glance at the history of scientific research and endeavour will demonstrate how ill informed and stupid that oft-regurgitated claim is. But my reader knows this, and will forgive this minor sour note.

Essentially the Paris conference is yet another propaganda-fest designed to convince us that politicians have discovered the philosophers stone for controlling the weather (Hah!). Fortunately I won’t be in Paris when all the pseudo-green activists and their financial masters are out on the town, keeping the local prostitutes gainfully employed and drinking lots of Beaujolais Nouveau on the taxpayer dollar. To be honest, these climate conferences actually do some short term economic good, particularly if you’re a prostitute or purveyor of intoxicating substances. Apparently a lot of paid sex and drugs goes on at these events with so much raw money sloshing around. Mostly while the wide eyed useful idealists are busy knitting biodegradable clothing out of leftover linguine.

Anyway, my impending holiday (my first proper break in ten years) has had me practicing my French conversation which has become a little rusty of late. Like all vices and skills, a language needs constant practice to maintain its edge and it’s been a while since I passed the citizenship language test. However, to make up for this shortfall I have been practicing saying things like “Désolé monsieur” or “Désolée madame” and “Aww, mon pauvre petit.” in as insincere a voice as possible without giving the whole game away. My goal here is to become equally as sarcastic, ironic, patronising and dismissive in French as I can be in English. I’m told there are Parisian waiting staff who give masterclasses in the aforementioned. I will be studying them eagerly as they parade their expertise, feeling suitably humbled before the worlds formost experts in linguistic ledgerdemain. Even if it is not in my native tongue.

I’m quite giddy with anticipation.