Okay, another entry finished early. Whilst not planned, it certainly wasn’t done on purpose. I had simply finished my bread board, drank the thé and felt it appropriate to move on from Le Voltigeur. And after having walked from Marais to République, I once again missed the turning to take me to Gare du Nord; the planned place de rendez-vous with the scholastic peer. Checking Google Translate for the correct spelling (de vs du), I’m shown le lieu de reunion as well as lieu de recontre. Meeting place and appointment are actually two different things. The use of place (French) would translate place de rendez-vous as a square appointment which is nonsensical. Using this concept, if the place of the rendez-vous was the appointment then it would become rendez-vous rendez-vous rendez-vous and I’d need to rethink my use of Google Translate, Maps and Calendar. Or write it into a song…
Going back to the earlier writing of three hours ago, the second route available in eating establishments in Paris is the expected – the first one mentioned was the unexpected. I don’t know if I’ve been blessed with the fact that I don’t work from an office when I’m here or that I have no meetings to attend but the fact remains that I have had no real restraints on my time. What I mean, is that in general, I’ve been able to go about my day at a leisurely pace. I’ve either had to go from A to B or simply start at A and head back to there. There’s no real rushing as the day is as long as it needs to be – train departure times, aside. And on this visit, I have truly been blessed with being able to be fully submerged in my walking and writing ideas. As I’m sat here, outside the Gare du Nord in Terminus Nord, I’m watching the people outside, milling around. Nobody is in a rush. Yesterday, as I crossed through Île Saint-Louis and onwards through the city toward the Moulin Rouge and Sacré-Cœur, I noticed that not only was it quiet in the mornings, but nobody was rushing. There seems to be no “busy busy” culture like I see in London. Even through Boulevard Haussmann and along Rue de Rivoli, there was a simple strolling about by the tourists, the residents, the workers. The marche lente, or slow march, in Paris is like me getting to the end of each of these entries. My amble ramble. Perhaps when I’m cutting from Tottenham Court Road to Piccadilly Circus, I’m in a rush and automatically see the ditherers as ants moving every which way but out of mine. I’m generally focussed on getting to where I need to be that I don’t feel the relaxed pace the others may be walking at. Just a thought, maybe because I’m in Paris and have all this reflective time on my hands that I am their slow-moving ant getting in the way of them. I don’t see it, though. And backing up this concept of mañana mañana – I know that’s a Latino expression – is the culture of cafés and bistros. Breakfast is a laid-back affair. Lunch takes two hours. Dinner appears to be an almost Mediterranean affair whereby until it gets dark, nobody eats their final meal. Again, no rushing.
Which is why, going back to the topic of routes, the expected route within eating establishments confuses me. When I walk through the front (or sometimes side) door of a bistro or café, I am immediately greeted with a smile. This smile isn’t the warm welcoming smile of a gracious host. It is a smile of a well-practiced deviant. They know what they want and they will do their best to get it from me. They are after the quick turnover. Get me in, get me sat, get me served, get me out. Alas, I don’t work like that. Not without a good enough reason. Paris is not a good enough reason. I have food to consume, drinks to sip, ambience to soak up and words to write. I have nowhere to be in no time given.
You will firstly supply me with a nice table of my choosing. Inside please. I don’t want to sit with the traffic, the pedestrians, the onlookers. I wish to remain anonymous to the outside world. Once settled in, with my bag on the seat beside me or the chair opposite, I shall expect a menu. Please don’t stand there, expecting me to know what I want. I don’t. If I did, I still wouldn’t tell you until I had a menu in my hand and you returned to take my order. The same applies to drinks. Yes, I’ll order a diabolo menthe or a rum and lemonade but only once I’ve sat down, gotten settled and been handed the menu. I could become much more than a customer with the right attitude. I could become a patron, and, as much as I’m still a down to earth chap, I expect to be treated as one. I’m honestly not a snob. Nor am I above my position in society. I do however enjoy being treated well in an industry where the customer used to be treated special, as an important individual. I only expect to be waited upon by a waiter as that is their employment. If we become friends during this time, all the better. It makes for a better experience for both of us. I very rarely look at things as a “them and us situation”. It is invariably a team effort that creates a well-rounded result. Therefore, greet me with an honest smile, let me settle in, give me a moment to judge and decide my wants. If I am quiet, I am solitary. If I create conversation, we become comrades. I may know what I want, just let me ask for it in my own time.
I mentioned earlier about the rum and lemonade. I’ve ordered rum twice in Paris. Both times it’s been a light rum. I’m after dark rum. When I’ve been in London writing, I’ve had spiced rum and that’s nice but I fancied a different drink this time around. I’m trying to get a thing happening. Like all the websites that told me where Hemingway dined, I would like to have had it noted that I was into dark rum and lemonade for my Parisian years. It looks like it’s either not going to happen or it’ll be a misunderstood urban legend – which may become equally as cool. Or maybe somethings are simply not to be. My Pernod phase has quietened down, Bailey’s seems to be more Christmas based now and all I’m able to do to provide an image of my time here is wear a bandana around my wrist and drink diabolo menthe. Which I guess is no bad thing. All artists have their thing, their quirk. Hemingway was the self-induced machismo American author. Van Gogh was the tortured painter that removed an ear. Rodin became famous in his forties. That’s good news. It means that I still have a chance of being discovered as long as I get this book out. I’d be okay of this book was published to a less than triumphant fanfare. As long as the sequel, Désolé, Je Suis Anglais, became a huge seller. In my mind, Désolé, Je Suis Anglais – An Englishman in Paris would be the actual facts written down after this prequel/behind the scenes blogfest that I’ve written. But that’s only how I see it. I’ve a long way to go here. I’m on about forty thousand words at the minute and have very little substance, in real terms. With all the notes I’ve made and taken, I have plenty of material to create a few books. Each passing visit to Paris fills me with more special memories and insights. Today, for instance, I got the chance to take a photo of the Mona Lisa for an anecdote that I need to hang on to. I’m almost halfway through this notebook already and will need to think about where I’m writing next. I have a new pad but that has recently been taken up with the notion of an actual novel. Of the fiction genre. Yep, it’ll soon be time for that to take place again. I will more than likely split the location of the novel between London and Paris but the details of plot and character have yet to be fully decided upon. Actually, the details of plot and character have yet to be started. The plan is in place, which is always a positive start for me.
Once I have a plan, I stick to it. Occasionally I finish it. In my own time. Only once I’m sat down and settled, though.