Just a little note to say that if anyone who dropped me a line to say they wanted to come along on Saturday 1st April has not received the meet up details by email, due to my poor dizzy blonde head being all spinny and full of interest rates, please drop me another line on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward you the info.
March 30, 2006
March 26, 2006
…if the offer goes through on my Belleville 2 pièces.
update: it has gone through. OHMYGOD! I’m officially stressed now at the prospect of having to woo banks and look at reams of paperwork. If any kind reader can recommend a good courtier based in central Paris I would love to hear from you!!!
March 23, 2006
“Now, about Monday…” my boss continues.
I have no idea what is supposed to be happening on Monday. What haven’t I organised? Whose hotel haven’t I booked?
“Monday… Now, let me see…” I reply, in the calmest, most in control super secretary voice I can muster, while hastily opening his calendar in Outlook to see what I’ve missed.
The computer responds at a leisurely pace, mired in the middle of some pesky spysweeper scan.
“Oh, you’re breaking up, can you hear me? Hello? Hello?” I improvise, praying that he is not, in fact, calling from a landline.
And then the window pops up and I notice “[PETITE] OFF” on Monday 27 March 2006.
“Ooh! I’m on holiday! I’d forgotten! What a lovely surprise!” I cry, unable to curb my enthusiasm.
Miss Moneypenny would never have lost her composure like that. I have a lot to learn.
I can almost hear in my boss’s silence his chagrin at having reminded me of my forgotten holiday. There is a good chance that had he not, I would have appeared at 9.07 am sharp, none the wiser, and done a full day’s work.
So. My question is, what shall I do with this day of freedom, which has fallen unexpectedly out of the sky and into my lap?
Suggestions in my comments box please. Preferably inexpensive ones, as the end of the month is approaching.
March 22, 2006
The door to Mr Frog’s apartment is ajar, so I venture in. The cosy scene which greets me is of Tadpole, seated on the sofa, cheeks a fiery shade of crimson, watching her favourite “Oui Oui” DVD. In stark contrast, Mr Frog, slumped by her side, is an exhausted shade of grey.
Tadpole has been suffering from a particularly nasty cold and tummy upset virus (a French doctor would no doubt refer to this as “gastric flu”, making it sound emergency ward, code red serious) which has been doing the rounds in Paris of late. Mr Frog, due to unfortunate timing, has borne the brunt of the horrorshow nappies and sleepless nights, while I galavant around Paris, full of the joys of Spring.
I take a seat beside Tadpole, while Mr Frog pours me a glass of coffee flavoured coca cola (not bad, but not exactly good either, whatever will they dream up next?) to taste.
We chat, mostly swapping favourite Tadpole anecdotes, and recounting flat hunting experiences, until he recalls something she had told him the previous day which made a lasting impression.
They were looking at the letters of the alphabet depicted on her coloured jigsaw floor tiles, and Tadpole had seized upon the letter “J”.
“It’s a J for Jim,” she announced, proudly.
“Oh yes,” replied Mr Frog, uneasily, wondering what to say next.
“Maman, elle a perdu son ami Jim, et elle pleure,” added my daughter.
“When was she crying?” Mr Frog enquired, concerned.
“Yesterday,” came the reply.
I am amazed. She has not mentioned his name once, not since that first horrible day when she knocked on the door, expecting him to answer. I truly thought she had already forgotten him.
I hasten to reassure Mr Frog that by yesterday, Tadpole actually means two whole weeks ago. Because, actually, after shedding a thousand tears during that first weekend of disbelief, I haven’t cried since. Not once.
There are moments when I fall victim to feelings of overwhelming panic about the prospect of being alone. Moments when I experience little pangs of regret about the plans I have been forced to cast aside. But on the whole, I’m surprised to find that I feel little remorse about this aborted relationship.
The future beckons, pregnant with promise. And I walk slowly towards it, with only the slightest hesitation, and not so much as a backward glance.
March 21, 2006
The signs were unmistakable. A feeling of buoyancy, of lightness, a renewed spring in my step. That familiar sensation of seeing the city through a filter, bathed in a flattering, glowing light.
Last weekend, I fell head over heels in love.
It hit me first on Friday, when I stepped out of the métro at Odéon. Shivering in the cold as I waited for a friend to arrive for our cinema date, I took in the animated bustle around the monument everyone chooses for a rendez-vous point. Girls waiting breathlessly for a special boy to arrive, smiling shyly when he appeared. Groups of students arguing over which film to see. Mobile phones pressed to every available ear. A buzz, an excitement, which I had long forgotten, but which reminded me of my early days in Paris, of Mr Frog and I when we shared a tiny maid’s room near the Sorbonne, went out in St Germain almost every night.
Saturday, stepping out of an apartment building in the rue des Envierges, I decided to take a detour through the backstreets of Belleville, where it is so easy to imagine the village it once was, with its cobbled streets and few remaining villas with walled gardens. The sky was periwinkle blue, the birds were singing, and I felt my spirits lifting; overwhelmingly glad to be alive.
Later, leaving Le Flore, the taste of a sinful, thick hot chocolate lingering on my lips, I took a stroll along the banks of the Seine, on a whim. A vague, half-formed plan to buy a book, was casually shrugged off in favour of letting my feet lead the way. My boots took me across the Pont Neuf, where I half-smiled at the sight of the couples gathered in its alcoves; bemused to note that seeing them caused me no pain.
Sunday, pleasantly exhausted after a long evening which began with a bar in the rue Montorgeuil, continued with a restaurant, and ended with a pendaison de cremaillère where I met some fascinating people and talked until the small hours, I struck out for a friend’s house near the Park Monceau, a bunch of delicate pink tulips in one hand, a warm baguette under my arm (and flour on my coat, because I haven’t mastered quite how one can do all those things and yet remain immaculate).
Monday morning, despite grey skies and light drizzle, a distracted glance from my kitchen window as I cupped my bowl of steaming café au lait fell on the deep, buttery yellow of the crocuses I had the foresight to plant in December.
Last weekend, Paris opened her arms to me and I fell into them, gladly. Gratefully.
I had forgotten how much it is possible to love this city.
March 17, 2006
Easing my hand gently out from where it had been lodged – between someone’s left buttock and a standard issue French teenager’s Eastpak rucksack – I glanced tensely at my watch. The métro was taking an eternity to leave each station, the doors failing to close on the tightly packed mass of commuters and student demonstrators compressed within.
I was late for my first appointment with my new destiny; getting progressively more flustered as the minutes ticked by.
Red faced and panting, I finally arrived, complete with Tadpole and pushchair, at the address I had scribbled on the printout. A smartly dressed man with a briefcase awaited us in front of the entrance, and he motioned us inside, although not before woefully mispronouncing my surname.
Tadpole was in a very chatty mood.
“I’m going to help mummy choose a new house today!” she announced. “I’ve got three houses: mummy’s house, daddy’s house and tata’s house! And now I going to buy an udder one!” Normal rules do not apply to Tadpole-speak, a language punctuated exclusively with exclamation marks.
Mr Agent Immobilier raised his eyebrows, probably thinking that 32 square metres of working-class Paris looking onto an interior courtyard doesn’t normally qualify for “house” status.
He rang the doorbell, and a harried looking student answered the door, before scuttling back to her dissertation.
I looked around me, finally able to appreciate, after combing my way through all those petites annonces, what thirtysomething metres really felt like. Tried to imagine fitting Tadpole and me, plus as many of our belongings as possible, into a space half the size of the apartment we occupy, but can no longer afford.
I couldn’t, without resorting to use of the word mezzanine.
The indignity. Thirty four years old this year, teetering on the brink of getting myself 165,000 or so euros into debt, and I will be reduced to either sleeping on a convertible sofa in the living room, or adopting the bed-on-stilts approach in order to share Tadpole’s bedroom.
Obsessed as I may be with clambering onto the first rung of the property ladder, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to do so in quite such a literal sense.
I forced myself to pay attention to the kitchen, the bathroom, the electrics, the central heating, but concentration was difficult, on account of a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Because the word “mezzanine”, to me, spelled the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one which I am rather hesitant to embrace. I closed my eyes and let myself contemplate my dream home, a stone cottage nestled in the Breton countryside, one last time.
Then I took a deep breath and let it go.