When I whisked The Boy away to London for his birthday last autumn, I remember wandering around Soho amazed at how all the pubs were so full that many of the drinkers had to resort to nursing their pints outside on the pavement. The penny only dropped when we pushed our way through the crowds to venture inside to order drinks of our own. As soon as we were through the door we realised that outward appearances had been deceptive. Indoors, all was silent as the tomb. The smoking ban had literally turned the pubs inside out, and the odour of cigarettes had been replaced with the (arguably more unpleasant) tang of stale beer and sweat.
France followed suit on January 1st and since The Boy is a hardened smoker, never to be found without a packet of Lucky Strike about his person, I shivered at the prospect of sitting outside our favourite bars in the bleak mid-winter. It was either that, I reasoned, or sit indoors, but regularly find myself alone, tapping my fingers impatiently on the table, while the smokers (almost everyone but me) took themselves off outside for a nicotine fix.
So far, I’m pleased to say, we seem to have managed to find a happy medium: bars and restaurants with heated terrasses and clear plastic awnings which effectively mean we are seated almost indoors. Granted, the patio heaters usually leave me pink-cheeked and frosty-toed, so I should probably start wearing an extra pair of socks if I want to be spared chilblains this year (yes, I know, they went out with the ark, no one gets chilblains any more – try telling that to my feet). I’m also well aware that heating the outdoors is an exercise which is unlikely to have a positive impact on the environment.
Hearing The Boy making arrangements to meet his mum for a drink this weekend – suggesting first Aux Folies, then saying “Eh merde, ils ont pas de terrasse chauffée….. Va falloir que je la rappelle pour donner rendez-vous au Zèbre…” it occurred to me that if I had an ounce of spare time, I should probably write a handy little guide called “Paris, la Clope au Bec” and pitch it to Parigramme, where it would nestle comfortably among the other titles in their collection.
I currently own “Bien naître à Paris“, “SOS Jeune maman parisienne” (I think it was the word “young” which clinched that deal) and “Les Mercredis des petits parisiens” (which despite all my resolutions, I have yet to open). Today, having browsed the full list of publications, I’d be curious to read “Comment devenir une vraie parisienne“.
I suspect that my own favoured solution – find myself a real, bona-fide Parisian, born only a couple of kilometres from where he now lives, and regularly exchange bodily fluids in the hope that some of his Parisien-ness will rub off on me – may be a little, um, unconventional…