petite anglaise

March 21, 2006


Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:17 pm

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


Filed under: city of light, parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:27 pm

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.

For now.

March 14, 2006

eleven days later

Filed under: parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:17 pm

I find it incredibly frustrating not knowing what is going through his mind – even if recent events proved rather forcefully that I knew at lot less about the contents of his head than I could possibly imagine, when we were together.

In my mind’s eye, I picture him delivering the news to his parents, his friends, his daughters. People who had met me; fallen under Tadpole’s spell. I try to imagine their reactions. Part of me hopes, cruelly, selfishly, that they are telling him he has behaved like a fool. That he is unlikely to get a chance like that again, in this lifetime. That they cause him to question the wisdom of his actions. To bitterly regret. To be gripped with remorse.

Deep down, I know that his friends will be feeding him the same platitudes that mine do; as everyone always does. It can only have been for the best. It just wasn’t meant to be. It would have been terrible if she had uprooted her whole life, her daughter’s life, to chase an empty, barren dream. Wouldn’t it?

Even if I have conditioned myself to agree with these sentiments, and sincerely believe that we may have been doomed to fail, I still cannot shake off this dull ache I carry around with me every day, which can flare up without warning, in the most unlikely situations, and set about gnawing at my insides.

I hear his voice in my head, marvelling at the softness of my skin, or laughing at something naïve I said, and I stop in my tracks, simply unable to believe that, for him, the bad outweighed the good. Then I replay those other words, those caustic, wounding words, to nip such pointless thoughts in the bud. A form of necessary self torture.

A confession: sometimes, I find myself scrolling through my statcounter, searching for Rennes, Brittany among the current visitors. But I won’t allow myself to call, or email. I simply cannot. Not yet. Perhaps not ever.

So, if you are out there, ex-Lover, you have the advantage.

Because here I am, an open book, with a broken spine. While you remain unfathomable.

March 13, 2006

singing in the rain

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:33 pm

This advert is plastered across the walls of many Parisian métro stations at the moment.

How very fitting.

The ad is actually for a loan finance company – and I think the “compagnon de route” in question is supposed to be a car, but it did give me a little jolt the first time I saw it, all the same.

I mean, how would you feel if you saw your name across a billboard?

What do you mean, it’s not my name?

I almost signed a cheque “petite” once…

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