I have a thousand and one things to do this evening. The thousand things can wait; I’ll focus on the one. And that one thing is to write what will become the introduction to my book. I’ve already given the book a title as well as a subheading title. Yes, I’m a little enthusiastic, but I do like to have some sort of direction. Even if it isn’t very much. And as these entries trickle on, you’ll come to realise exactly how little direction I have at the moment.
My aim is have a book ready once my Masters is finished. In order to achieve this, I shall be writing for a year. Little bits, big bits, notes and scribbles. There’s no easy way to complete what I am attempting to manage, but I shall I certainly give it a go. One thing that is going to be a strange sensation is the chronology of the book for the reader. Yes, things will be written as they happen but then there will be flashbacks; this is nothing new for me, I assure you. In fact, it’s nothing new for diaries or memoirs. However, this introduction will be at the beginning of the book – yes, I know that I’ve written around 20 entries already.
Ideally, this introduction should take the form of an individual slice of writing or a complete synopsis of what is to come. Yet, in true fashion to how I know the book will be written, it will be a quick snapshot of how things are at the current time of writing. Any editing that takes place, will simply be editing of that separate piece. There will be no cutting and pasting of entries to make the read easier. Likewise, there will be comments that refer to earlier or later works that in reality should have been edited to make it a more natural read. That’s neither me, nor cricket. Nor an easy read.
So, introduction to the introduction over and I shall now begin with what it is I am (planning on) doing. I am (planning on) writing a creative nonfiction book about Paris. It will reflect on my thoughts of various aspects of the French capital whilst intertwining real-life events as they happen, or as I get around to talking about them. There could be some pieces that aren’t directly involved with Paris but I shall certainly be trying to run a thread through each passage.
These passages are not to be read straight through for each one contains a different thought. I am possibly looking at providing a travel guide with a personal touch bringing in elements of a diary and, to some extent, autobiographical anecdotes. You won’t get impartial advice for that’s something that Google can provide if you look deep enough. You will get true accounts of what happened to me or what I did in certain situations. I have a strange sense of humour which, I have been told, isn’t always a good thing. Actually, I’m told more often than not that people don’t get me. Whether that be the verbal me or the written me, we shall find out in around 50 entries or so.
Whilst I have been writing entries in my blue Ted Baker notebook I have also been laying foundations down in a little green book. But the problem is that my mind wonders near and far and at differing velocities – I can go from one train of thought to a completely different vehicle, entirely. For me, it will make sense to you as long as you try not to attempt too logical a connection.
The basic writing principle that I am following at present is that of a blog. Short, sharp entries. The thing is, breaking the fourth window again, I feel that you want more. Which is why, in the real world, away from my Masters, will be a little social media accompaniment. And for the scholarly ones amongst us – that means my tutor for the year – I shall be selecting a handful of these jottings and attempting a much heavier expansion through research. Some of this research will be via internet searches. Not just the good old fashioned Wikipedia, but through much more hard-hitting works. Some academic essays, some high-brow articles. But each selected piece that I read, will be hand-picked by me as my ever-increasing thought process expands beyond a reasonable quantity of reading.
This will be (another one to add to) my problem (list). Too much to read in such a short space of time (and too many brackets will be used in this individual entry). Yes, there’s an entire year left (okay, a little less than a year at the time of constructing this introduction) but there’s still real life to contend with. We are currently in what I am hoping is now the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. This alone has brought about some unbelievable changes to a lot of people’s lives. I have had so much to contend with it really won’t fit in this introduction. And actually, this introduction isn’t the place to talk about it; silver lining, eh?
And with the unpicking of that silver lining is the fact that Paris has altered. I have been lucky enough to visit the city of light prior to the lockdowns and curfews. I have also managed to visit her during the pandemic. The story of Paris is a long one and the current situation is set to make a grand metamorphosis amid certain aspects of everyday life there. With this project that I am undertaking, even once the book is finished, I am to continue my studies of her. I don’t wish to delve too deeply into the historicity of the area or the peoples, for that is down to the historians. I am looking at documenting, in a modern contemporary manner, the city itself and the interactions with the people that visit, work and live there.
With all this being said, and now with this introduction taking an absolute age, I actually think I may not use this as I had intended. I know it’s far too long for a blurb on the back of the book. I could use it as an entry, which, until placed in its final position, will remain a mystery to myself. And this is what I meant by chronology issues. By the time this is read, you will know whether it is the introduction or if I have placed it as an entry; dated the 19th October 2020. The whole book, whilst appearing unstructured will be just that. But in a Tommy Cooper way. It’s how I used to give my lectures on Salsa dancing to teachers. And students. I like to look like I have no idea yet, it is a painstaking method to have to work through in order to make it look that way.
It is here that I wish to mention an actual introduction to a book that I have started reading. This book hasn’t influenced me although the introduction resonated with me. If I could write something like this, with the intensity, drive and enchantment, I’d be very proud. My tutor wouldn’t be, though. The introduction of The Insider’s Guide to Paris is a lot shorter than is required for my initial assignment. Yes, this is the piece that will be the beginning of my final year of my Open University Masters. It’s been a long journey to get here but a very enjoyable one. My final assignment will be a much broader version of what I was hoping to be my final assignment of last year. The lockdown saw to it that the piece wouldn’t be written. There’s a story or two about this later on (or you’ve already read it) so I won’t spoil it (unless you’ve already read it).
The more I write – the longer the introduction becomes – the more I think this will be an entry. One without research required. If I were to write a proper introduction now, I would mention briefly about what the book will be based on. I would also mention typewriters, desks and lamps as well as fountain pens. And I would make a passing comment to a future entry when I was sat in a Costa Coffee at Heston Services on the M4 by Heathrow airport. I would then make a little side note about Umberto Eco and Kate Muir. Nothing fancy, just a nod in their direction. I would even possibly mention the amount of internet searches that I had carried out and the number of books I had purchased covering a small range of Parisian interest.
My knowledge of the French language is another point that I would raise in the real introduction. I know very little of my schoolboy French. Google Translate has become a little bit of a helping hand for me. As such, I have tried to include little bits of French that are either commonplace knowledge or failing that, I’ve added a translation somewhere along the line. But don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to be pretending that either of us are fluent.
As a Londoner myself, I am fully aware that most of our beauty is hidden from the regular worker or shirker. There is an old saying that goes ‘the most beautiful parts of London are above the eye line.’ I have no idea who said it or where I first heard it but blow me down if it isn’t true. Yet there is more to London than simply the buildings; I want to share the Parisian equivalent with you all. From the tiny aliens that adorn the street corners to the amazing churches that act like sporadic oases throughout the city. Obtaining a face-to-face person-orientated perspective won’t be easy, meaning some inventive methodology will have to be implemented along the way. One more level of excitement for me. Yes, the task is an unbelievably daunting one. So much so that I’m even using clichéd over-used expressions. There’s room in here for the old ways and the new, experimental ways. Not just in terms of the reporting but the reported. Of course, we can look at the Eiffel Tower (you can’t really talk of Paris without it) but what about the souvenir sellers that frequent the streets below, hawking their wares?
There is truly much to be said about Paris. I hope I do her justice and present it in a way that invokes the excitement and anticipation that I have upon every journey I have taken and will take. I have my favourite haunts, I cannot lie. But looking deeper into them has already cost me more hours than I care to admit. The more I dig, the more I find. One Tassimo coffee too many and the mind wonders off at incredible tangents only to find new areas of interest in totally different places. These locations are sitting on my to-do list on Google Maps. The days of getting bored are now long gone. The days of travelling to see the sights of Paris are beckoning. Not just the Lido or the Moulin Rouge, but the secret little places that only the locals are aware of. I’m also wanting to find the secret little places that not even the locals are aware of. This piece of creative nonfiction, this objet d’art, is my biggest objet d’amour to date.
“Mon cadeau de Paris est mon cadeau pour Paris”*Paul Dribbell (2020)
*My gift from Paris is my gift to Paris