vendredi, août 19, 2005

it must be the heat

Time to catch up. Weeks of lazing in England (one week on the north Norfolk coast, two weeks of very intense socialising in London, at the expense of my parents' - who babysat - hard-won tranquillity). Then a really wonderful week in Burgundy and the Cevennes. Burgundy was the location of the maddest, most ridiculously enjoyable party (think michelin-starred food, hot air balloons and belly-dancing, all in the middle of a field far from anywhere). In the Cevennes we went walking and ate wholesome and delicious stews in a delightful auberge, before spending three days in a chateau, guests of our friends Nick and Christine and their lovely kids Alexander and Julia.

Back to Paris to hang with Martha, my best friend of all time, for a whole luxurious week. Mellow days with the kids, swimming and sightseeing around Paris, then even more mellow evenings drinking red wine and smoking far too many cigarettes, whilst running through the minutiae of our lives. We used to live together, way back when in our early twenties, and we haven't spent this much time together since then, except for a fantastic month in Colombia where Martha was living, ten whole years ago.

so we had lots of catching up to do.

We had such a nice week, except for all the nutters we kept happening upon. Either we have serious karma for attracting the loonies, or Paris is just rife with them. First, at the Palais de la Decouverte, we reported an abandoned rucksack.
'Well, whoever left it there will come back and get it', says Irritable Museum Explainer.
'Well, it's just that, you know, we're from London, and what with the bombs there and everythin..'
'So what if you're from London? I'm going to London in 2 weeks. I could even speak English to you. That doesn't give you the right to insult everyone who works here.'
At this point I was getting cross, so I asked for his name.
'Je vous emmerde'. (Twice. This translates roughly as 'I'm really pissing you off'.)

Second nutter encounter of the week was at the sandpit next to Notre Dame. My three kids were playing at one end, building a rather elaborate underground city. Two littler kids were charging around and after about half an hour one of them took a running jump and landed deliberately on my kids' sand city. I was horrified and asked their middle aged nanny/grandma to keep her children from destroying my kids' sandcastles.

'Why should I? It's a public sand pit, they can do whatever they like. You have no right to tell me what my children can and can't do'.

Half an hour later the same thing happened. This time Martha says in English, 'you really can't let your children destroy things that other children have spent half an hour constructing, it's not fair'. The woman turns out to speak perfect English, and screams at Martha 'You are a lunatic, thinking that everyone has to do what you say. You have no right to come here and tell other people how to behave. This is a public sandpit and my children can do whatever they want'.

An old English couple is eating eating sandwiches on another bench and looking on with perplexed horror. 'That woman is barking mad and her children are monsters', the man remarks to me. At this the woman advances, she's really really furious now, and starts screaming at me in English, 'You are the devil, and your children are devils. You think they are saints, but they aren't, they are devils. You act like Great Britain runs the world' - at which I start to laugh, for it occurs to me that this woman hasn't got over the Olympic Games being awarded to London.

But to my surprise it's even worse than that. As we walk off, laughing uncontrollably at the venomous witch, she screams after us, 'You invaded Iraq, and now you think you can invade our sandpits!'

And today, another brush with French psychopathology. I just called the switchboard of France Television - which is kind of like the of retarded sister of the BBC (apologies for the unacceptable use of the R word, by that I simply mean it's nothing like the BBC because it's crap, but it is a bit like the BBC generically because it is the state-owned TV company). I ask to speak to someone in the PR department. I get put through to someone who quite sweetly says that this is the wrong dept, that I have to go back to the switchboard, and ask for someone else. So she transfers me back, someone at the switchboard tries to transfer me, I get cut off then I call back. Some receptionist asks why I keep calling back, I explain I got cut off, she says 'No, you put the phone down.' I explain again that I didn't I got cut off, she tries to put me through (really), I get cut off again. Next time I call someone else answers, really furious. 'Who are you, why do you keep putting the phone down, what is your problem? she expostulates, really furious. I explain that I am a journalist, and I want a press release. 'Who do you work for?' A small British magazine, you won't have heard of it. 'Non, c'est sur, on est completement bete en France.' I begin to shake, literally - I'm about to have another mad encounter, and I can't handle it. The woman goes completely ballistic, screaming at me for putting the phone down, for lying, for wasting their time, for being a bitch. I swear, it was like devil lunatic woman the other day but worse, because she WAS THE SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR FOR THE NATIONAL TELEVISION STATION, and all I was after was an official press release!

Jess and Philippe were here yesterday, and Philippe, who is French, reckons that in Paris people are actually getting madder. Jess asked someone the other day in a patisserie what a cake was made of and the woman was totally insulted and yelled at her for being rude about her cakes. I really don't remember people being so completely and utterly mad and paranoid when I was last living here.


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5:01 PM  
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