Saturday, March 27, 2010

Enlisting Paris

Stuff I miss when I'm in Paris:

-British milk
- real Greek yoghurt
-scones, crumpets, carrot cake, chocolate cake
-my bicycle
-big green spaces
-the Times, in full, in print. Ditto the Observer & Poetry London.
-the Royal Institute of Art, the Tate, the Phoenix, the South Bank
- the tube
- people wearing colourful clothes
-smoke-free zones
-cheap Haagen Dazs
- my HBS hoodie

Stuff I'll miss about Paris:

-croissants & pain au chocolat
-the Saturday market at Nation
-very clean swimming pools
- the Velib
- Louvre, Musee Rodin, l'Orangerie
- Guys with big statement specs, stubble and skinny jeans.
- Parisian fashion in general
- the Soup bar on Rue de Charonne
- poker
- chocolat chaud viennois
- cheap wine

Friday, March 26, 2010

latex heads and lather, part II

Having moved to the 15th arrondissement, I was in need of a new local pool. During the last six months here in Froggieland I've tried out many of the famous ponds in Paris - including the pool in Les Halles surrounded by tropical plants, and the Josephine Baker pool with a glass roof, situated on a floating island on the Seine.

My experience of swimming with the frogs has been mixed. At Piscine Josephine Baker, a snotty, spotty receptionist accused me of being foreign - shock, horror - and wrongly trying to claim a discount available to under-25s who live in Paris. I pointed out that I live in Paris and am under 25, regardless of my accent. Nonetheless, she refused to accept my various identity cards, and insisted that I'd need to bring my apartment contract to get the discount. Something was very fishy about Josephine Baker - and I'm not just talking about the Seine.

My experiences at local pond Aspirant Dunant were better- although their lilipad lockers once proved disastrous when a friend couldn't get hers open and had to flip-flop to the main reception in her bikini and ask the male staff to help. They were delighted to naturally...

Now, I have found piscine paradise - finally, a pond with excellent showers, very very clean floors and a 50m pool! (This is twice the length of most pools in Paris). Its size means it's rarely crowded. In Piscine Blomet, Liliputian lockers are a thing of the past - rather than having to cram all my possessions into a frog-sized box, I can lock the entire cubicle I have been using and take the key! The showers are very good by Paris standards, lukewarm but very powerful, and the hairdryers are fantastic. Piscine Blomet is definitely my new pond - and I'm one very happy froggy indeed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

travels and tinned tomatoes

Sometimes speech is superior to novels in its ability to adapt, update and be instantly relevant. Novels are like tinned tomatoes but speech is the real thing – freshly plucked, red and ripe and juicy, smelling of today. Novels can be stored; reliable and predictable, they have a meatier flavor and melt and mature in your mouth. Novels are stocky, food-for-thought. But speech tastes of summer.

My parents are both moving on - to new people, new houses, new ideas. Which leads me to thinking. They’ve both evolved from their decades-long friendship – from their dialogue (of which I was the transcript, the novel, the endpoint). Which leaves me – where? Am I finally irrelevant?

No – I’m like the tinned tomatoes – I go back to visit both of them, I remind them of that summer decades ago when the air carried the heady scent of tomatoes and their youth glowed scarlet in the Grecian air. I’ve seen the photos of them – him with tousled strawy hair and a beard, lean and tanned – her, gypsy like with long curls and dangling earrings, skinny and beautiful, sea-skimmed.

Cassandra, by Christa Wolf, had just been published when they were living together, in 1986, as flatmates in Cardiff. Now, with mum’s copy in hand, sitting in my dad’s house in Cardiff, so near where I was born, pondering a holiday to Greece, is it any wonder that I’m drawn back to the story of my origin? The story that both my mother and father have now relinquished, the story that’s two decades old – the story that’s fast fading into gold-tinted illusionary myth. Then (it seems) anything was possible. Then they could have been together or not together. Now, they are who they are; they have become themselves, irrevocably.

Who am I to try and recreate the past? The story is old, and mythic, and very valuable. I am its author now.