vendredi 20 mai 2016

Nous aurons toujours Paris

I’m on a post-holiday reading jag, and I’m currently on my second memoir of the week (I love a good memoir), The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. I’m only about a third of the way through, and it’s wonderful. Beautifully, lyrically written and just a little bit strange, there is stuff in there that I relate to (maybe a bit too much, given that it’s about, among other things, addiction) and landscapes that are all foreign and new to me, filtered through the eyes of someone else – maybe the perfect combination.

Earlier this week, I read We’ll Always Have Paris (Trying and Failing to be French) by Emma Beddington.  A lovely, lovely book.  I bought it because I liked the cover (and am a bit of a casual Francophile, in my striped dress and a leather jacket that I like to think is a bit Jane Birkin-y – I know she’s not actually French but come on), but there was a lot more to it than I anticipated.  An unexpectedly emotional journey, rather than just a jolly hop across the channel and back.

France is one of those places I have always felt a huge affinity for. My parents had a house in France when I was growing up. I do realise how absurdly privileged that sounds, and feel obliged to point out here that it was literally a shack in rainy Normandy that they bought on a credit card in the late 80s.

Every chance we got, my parents would bundle my sister and me up in the back of the car with our duvets and drive to the ferry at Dover. Many of my childhood memories are set in that damp, romantic little house: the round porthole window in my bedroom, the stone floors, the rocking chair in front of the open fire, birds coming down the chimney, nearly drowning in the river at the bottom of the garden, hanging out with Aude the farmer’s granddaughter, walking with my dad to the boulangerie in the morning. I can physically feel the ground under my feet there as I write this. It smells of a particular sort of green.

The first time I went to Paris I was seven. My parents took me for Valentine’s Day. I have no idea why. I insisted on wearing my beret at all times (‘to fit in’) and had my portrait drawn in Montmartre. My dad still has the portrait on the wall in his house. There’s one of my sister at the same age, hanging next to it.

On that first trip, my parents took me to their favourite Parisian restaurant. My mum has been going there since she was a student; I have been there, with her and on my own, many times since. I took my ex-boyfriend there for dinners on Valentine’s Day and his birthday. I took my best friend there for lunch on her 30th birthday. Every time, I keep the menu – they print it daily with the date on it. I can measure out my life in Chartier menus.

I always enjoy flying and I love the Eurostar (so glamorous!) but more than that, and weirdly, I still adore a ferry. It reminds me of school trips and adventures, and they are always full of strange characters (especially the foot passengers – we always feel like a bunch of outlaws and some of them probably really are).

I am disproportionately fond of the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry. It’s unassuming and lo-fi but still, to me, innately glamorous and exciting – all the more so for being a bit of a secret and underrated gem. I have had some of the loveliest times of my life in those two supposedly insalubrious port towns, both with their industry and their rough bars and their pebble beaches. The ferry journey between the two never fails to delight me – windswept decks, computer games, overpriced bar, uncomfortable seats to try and sleep in, the lot. For not much money and in four hours, you can get to a whole other country. Best of all, it’s France. And the thing about France is, even in a supposedly insalubrious port town, you can still eat mussels and drink wine and have romantic adventures – and you’re in France. I can say with the weight of experience and full sincerity, even a McDonalds breakfast can be wildly romantic in France.

I remember once saying, in seriousness as I savoured the moment: ‘we’re in love, it’s sunny and we’re in France’. What could be better? I think I may even have been eating a crepe at the time, a late-morning Pastis on the table in front of me. That same day, I got chatting to two elderly French women who spotted my notebook and asked me if I was une écrivaine. I have, obviously, never been happier.

I finished We’ll Always Have Paris sitting at my kitchen table, eating Camembert for dinner. Wearing a stripe. Daffodils in the Pastis jug. Pictures on the walls.  Yeah, we’ll always have it. Somehow. Even if I’m now learning Spanish.

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire