Once upon a time I went to Paris. It was to do a creativity workshop. In the months before this trip I’d written a fairy story about a woman who unexpectedly found her real heart on the floor one morning and ran away to Paris with it. I imagined it as a piece of magical realism. An Amelie for the older woman. Actually I’m still working on it. I reckon it has the makings of a sweet Paris movie.
Anyhow enough daydreaming. What my fairy story foretold was that everything would change after that journey. And it did. Best of all the depression and grief I was dealing with got that much better. Not just because I went to Paris. It was because I decided to make it into a story.
I don’t want to be the party pooper. But your New Year resolutions are destined to fail. You are wasting your time. Sorry to have to say that.
Did you know that people who have suffered a serious health issue like a recent heart attack don’t manage to make the changes they need too. Even with the threat of possible death to motivate them.
These people know it’s time to lose the weight, get fit and change to a plant-based diet. All that stuff. Yet after an initial phase of enthusiasm and motivation the majority return to their old ways. Recognise something of yourself here.
The truth is that the brain can change. But it doesn’t really want to. It’s wired to keep the status quo. It likes things to stay the same. That’s how it keeps you safe.
I grew up listening to my parents talk about ‘the communists’. I wasn’t sure exactly who they were. Yet I was certain they were evil. That they were to be guarded against at all costs. In my childish world the communists were the Russians. Bad Russians. Americans on the other hand were the good guys. They were leading a war against the evil forces. To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure why it had to be a ‘Cold War’ or what that meant. The most important thing was that we were on the right side. The good side.
By the time I was an adult the focus had changed. A few times. Like when Saddam Hussein and Iraq were acting badly. Something needed to be done. And we all know how that’s turning out. Now there’s the war against terrorism.
Here’s my problem. It’s with this enemy thing. It seems that as soon as you get rid of one enemy another turns up. There’s a constant need for this war. A battle of the good against evil.
The battle ground has changed. The enemy morphs. The rhetoric stays the same.
The seventh Arrondissement is home to the grandest of dames. That most recognised of monuments. A cultural icon. And I confess my very favourite. La Tour Eiffel.
Raoul Dufy draws Paris
Oh gosh. There really is something about that view. I always select a window seat on the flight. It’s to look out over Paris as we come in to land. I find the tower then trace out to the other landmarks. And it’s absolutely thrilling. Every single time.
‘Before you know what Kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth….’
There has been no good news this week. It’s all a bit crap. A lot crap actually. I’ve got the ‘Sads’. And it’s more than the usual seasonal affective disorder. So I’m reading poetry to cope.
You see its winter here in Australia. A time when you watch a bit more telly. Right. Well. I wish I hadn’t. I thought it would be OK. The election was finally done. Thank goodness. I turned the ABC back on.
That’s when I saw it. Perhaps you did too. Horror. Really confronting footage. It was of indigenous children being brutalised. By the very people meant to be caring for them.
It was in the Sixth Arrondissement that I very nearly became victim to death by chocolate.
Patrick Rogers main chocolate shop was close by. I was planning on going there next. I wanted some of his lemon-grass and basil infused bars. I’d seen them in the window display. So sleek and shining. Almost sinful. I swear could taste the cocoa and herbs on the base of my tongue. Though the glass.
At the time I’d been ingesting small quantities of high quality chocolate for about three hours.
So I may have been a little delirious. Intoxicated.
Madame Pleasure has quite a reputation. You all know what I mean. Those endless warnings of the troubles she’ll bring you. The menacing reminders of what might happen. The dire ditch you are sure to find yourself in. Should you give in. Allow yourself to embrace her sweet silhouette. To snuggle up with her. To feel good.
It’s all quite undeserved. These salutations against her. Against Madame Pleasure.
There’s someone who has a worse reputation. It’s Monsieur Change. Poor Monsieur Change.
We all desire him. At some point. But he’s reported to be difficult. Too hard to achieve. Impossible to maintain. Yes ladies there are such things said.
But When Mr Change meets up with Madame pleasure. Well that’s a whole different story. Then things really do heat up. Things start to happen.
Paupers Paris. I found it the other day. It was my first guidebook to Paris. The yellowing pages still promising to show me how to spend more time without spending more francs in the city of light.
Earmarked is that first hotel. The Grand Hotel d’Harcourt.
A one star establishment on 3 boulevard St-Michel. Most importantly it was in the Fifth. Described as a very lively area. Central to everything. Facing the famous St-Michel Fountain. A short walk to the major attractions. It boasted that the rooms were recently ‘redone’ and emphasised ‘with a lift’.
These days there’s a 4 star Great Western Hotel on the site. Their online site says pretty much the same stuff.
Times change. Budgets change. We grow older. But essentially some things stay the same.
Proust warned me. I didn’t listen. I was younger. I just liked the idea of sitting somewhere by the Seine with his books. It was a romantic notion. Searching for lost time. Contemplating tea and Madeleine’s. Of wasting time. In Paris if possible.
Recently I’ve been reading him again. I’m older now. He is making more sense. About the lost time. And the remembrance of things past. The questions of how to find time. And of how not to waste it.
After all how we spend our moments is in the end how we spend our lives.
I think Proust was talking mindfulness. Only they didn’t call it that back then. There wasn’t a fashion for it.
Photography is a visual language. But a lot of us only speak autofocus. Or iPhone point and shoot. It’s a bit like knowing just enough French to say hello. You can get by well enough. But imagine how much richer your experience might be if you managed to learn to speak more fluently.
The truth of flowers