There’ll always be Paris


The most striking thing about the whole scene wasn’t the flowers, the photographs of those who will never grow old,  the poems, the heartbreaking personal items or even the pictures drawn by children. It was the smell,  the sweet scent of hundreds of candles lit in memory of stolen lives.
We’d already booked our short break in our favourite city. We go back to Paris again and again,  it’s full of culture,  art and attitude. Even though we speak the language,  we can be snubbed by haughty waiters like the rest of the tourists.
When the news broke that bombers and shooters had robbed 130 people of their lives we hesitated, but only for a moment. They were people like us,  enjoying Paris,  people who would be here today except for the madness of a few. We felt that if we didn’t go,  the terrorists were somehow winning,  and we couldn’t allow that to happen.
Our hotel was just behind the Bataclan where gunmen had killed 87 innocents enjoying a gig. Barriers were still scattered around, supporting flowers and memorials. Candle wax was spilled on the road like a Jackson Pollock painting.
A steady stream  of people filed past,  stopping to read, pray,  weep. A lady who looked about my age arrived and unrolled a small poster with a photo and poem which she lodged in the railings. She then took out a candle,  which she lit. I could have taken a photo,  but I didn’t. It was a private moment in a very public place.
I’m glad we went to Paris,  behaving as normal,  though we couldn’t miss the massive police and army presence, nor the bag searches everywhere from the Musee D’Orsay to Gallerie La Fayette.  But at least we were free to do this. Unlike those living under the black flag of Islamic State.

Fook off, keese my assss, said the evangeliste.

Who would have thought it? All day long the feet of thousands of tourists had tramped over the Pont de Solferino and the first person to spot the shiny gold ring was a dear old granny.

We were faffing with something or other, I’d probably lost my sunglasses. Again. Then found them on my head. Again. The old dear explained she was a humble soul and that the solid gold men’s wedding ring meant nothing to her, but to us it was surely the luck we deserved. She must have thought we were down on our luck. Well she had witnessed the faffing.

She explained, in French, that she was an evangeliste and this was a sign for us. Yes, we thought in English, a sign that she was a scammer. Off she went, presumably on the way to Heaven, the Heaven where money and deceit are gods, leaving us with the ring. We had a lot more faffing to do  so we carried on doing just that, then, quelle surprise, granny reappeared. Would we like to give her some money for a drink? No not really, we said, but we could give her a very valuable gold ring which she could sell. Funnily enough she didn’t seem to want those earthly riches. But we gave her it anyway, though she didn’t seem very thankful.

The faffing continued, Noel sat down as I took arty farty photos. In that short while, no less than three gold rings were found, we really are lucky. As we left, an American couple were looking wide eyed at another ring. We marvelled at our shared good fortune, then hypothesised that it may indeed have been a scam.

As we finally crossed the bridge the dear old lady was no longer smiling. She gesticulated and said in broken English ‘Fook you, keese my assss.’ Well that’s like no evangelistic language I’ve ever heard before!

The photo is of graffiti that appeared outside the hotel overnight. Ooo Paris is such an arty place!


Beware pickpockets!


It wasn’t so much the one hour queue for the tickets, nor the further hour queuing in another line to get in, nor even the half hour wait  for the toilets (five seconds if you are a man – isn’t it always the case?). It was the  way we were herded through the stately rooms once occupied by the Sun King himself which I worked out cost us one Euro a minute that made me rant in my best French ranting voice only usually heard after a couple of glasses of  kir. And they had the cheek to put up a sign warning about pickpockets. Our pockets had been well and truly picked!

If we’d just spent all our time in the fabulous gardens at Versailles, I would have been happy. The miles and miles of manicured lawns and fabulous fountains inspired by the Greek gods were splendid and gave me inspiration for our own humble patch of Yorkshire greenery. Though there was a lack of places to sit as anyone who went anywhere near the grass were warned off with the shrill shriek of a whistle. I love the French, but they do do officious.

But it was a wonderful way to spend our 12th wedding anniversary. I did manage to break my glasses though, kneeling on them as I took a photo. Good excuse to buy a fancy pair of designer specs while I’m out here.