Sunday, November 29, 2009


"Ca fait chier!" is probably the most (m)uttered phrase in Paris. 'Chier' being the verb 'to crap', it comes as no surprise that the idiom is so popular in Paris, probably the most crapped-upon city in Europe. Pigeons and dogs express their appreciation for the city perversely, by defecating all over its beautiful cream-coloured skyline.The phrase itself: "ca fait chier" or "ca me fait chier" means "that pisses me off" or "That bores me". It expresses an irritation or boredom that seems to be frequently experienced by people here. I quite liked the expression as a little defiant nod to the bodily basis for human civilisation, the boring mundane things people have to do, like eat and sleep and go to the toilet, before they can be civilised, cognizant beings.

I liked the expression, that is, until a little old woman and her mutt decided to make a toilet-stop on my street. Her well-groomed terrier turded the terrain right outside my flat. I went batshit. Gesticulating wildly at the dog and his gutter-gift, I walked after the woman and asked her to woman to remove her dog's faeces from my front door.The parisienne looked at the steaming pile of poo and shrugged. "Ca fait chier, huh?" she said, and walked on.

Well, quite.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

life drawing

She thought she saw herself once though, in the shimmering torso of the naked man. They had come for drawing classes and were met with Adam, the nude. The door was pulled open by a man with a moustache and a mischevious regard. He tugged them into his world of sin (what would her mother have said?) and there, before the bright lights and crimson curtains was a naked man lying on a canape. He was very intently still whilst twenty women art students focused on him, trained their eyes on his shadows.
She didn't know where to look, so she fixed her eyes on his torso and drew in a frenzy. She tried to untangle the scene but from any angle it was licentious. Life drawing. This was what she'd signed up to: sketching this naked man all flesh, displaced from Eden, ballerinaed against the blank bright screen. These women were all pursuing knowledge. They drew the blocks of shade and light over and over again, exploring the demarcations of sin/virtue with their hazy 2B pencils. Thought in the act.
His cures intersected ruler straight lines. She found she could not bring herself to draw the dangling fact, so left it blank. A neat square space between the dip of the hips and his two legs.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

latex heads and lather

Latex heads and lather sounds like it could be some kinky ritual in the shower, but actually - sorry to disappoint you - I'm talking about my local pool. Having swum on my return to the UK and enjoyed it, I promised myself I would take a dip with the Frogs. French swimming pools couldn't be that weird, could they?

My trip to the local pond proved more complicated than I'd imagined. Feeling exposed and foreign, I tried to tiptoe into the changing rooms, only to be stopped at the border and ordered to take off my shoes - wearing them beyond this point gets you a 5 euro fine. Entering the pond included dodging lilipad-swarms of AquaFitness classes and sporting a skin-coloured swimming cap, which stretched ears back beyond recognition.

Swimming with the frogs became swimming among the Frodos; our shiny bald heads and stretched ears certainly placed us in the land of sci-fi. The feeling that I had landed in some fantasy novel was confirmed by the wacky orange walls resembling Martian craters (let's face it, swimming pools are not the best place for the 1970s colour scheme that seems ubiquitous in parts of Paris). The turquoise and purple lockers were computerised and whizzed shut, nearly slamming my fingers in. Annoyingly, they did not respond to normal things like keys and thumping. Instead, I needed an 8 digit pincode to recover my possessions.

In the swimming pool, the Aquafitness class had luminous faces like distant stars. Pregnant women doing backstroke kicked the water viciously as their faces curled into sweaty masks of pain. One woman passing me had a bump like an island that she seemed to be trying to swim away from. Listen ladies, I wanted to say, save it for the delivery room... An enormous man in a tiny speedo wailed to himself as he swam. When a young and overeager kid dived into the water and missed, crying loudly on the side, I decided it was time to leave.

Swimming with the frogs was interesting, but I think I'll wait till the pond's empty before I try again.

do sculptures get crushes?

Leaves fall on them. So does faeces, rain, dust, sometimes snow. Love, never. Scuptures in Paris certainly don't get crushed by the heat of the moment, but they must get crushes - with so many beautiful people walking around, how could they ´not? Human hearts crafted these sculptures, remember - something of love still fizzles along the stone outlines.

Paris is alive. To be in a city of busy traffic, buzzing telephones and racing pulses, among scattered couples - to be among all this, and yet stone, motionless, eternal, must be torture.

Sculptures that see this vivid living daily - of course they desire it! Of course they chase it, the way men in bars chase women in red skirts and smiles - how could you not covet the life that flows through people here? Imagine being a sculpture here - perched among trees that blossom, leaves that fall, fertility consummated and confirmed before your very eyes, yearly anew, whilst you - fruitless, barren, old - are strapped in stone for ever.

I like to think that every now and then, one of these statues slips out of her stone chrysalis, winks at a beautiful young man with Monoprix bag, and smiles a little sadly when he saunters past, oblivious.