Speaking of métro and Paris, this is one of my favourite songs ever. It is so cheekily French: yes there is accordéon, but its French essence therein does not lie. It’s in the juxtaposition of the lazy lower-class Parisian accent, the slightly melancholic tune and lyrics mixed with animated dialogue from a group of friends having a drink at a bistro. Shame there isn’t a proper video for this song (although the one I’m imagining in my head, with grainy métro footage of the blue and white tiles, and twinkling city lights is probably prettier).
We don’t hang things on the wall at our house: we frame them and place the frames on furniture instead. This little fragment is probably my favourite framed thing – because of what it is, and because of the story behind it.
It is a piece of an old old Paris métro map – so old that it shows the station Arsenal (which closed in September 1939).
And I came by it because I ripped it off the wall during one of my many commutes (it was peeking from under layers of miscellaneous posters and if there is one thing I can’t resist, it is an old map. Or an old document. But especially an old map).
I can’t remember at which station the deed was done, but I can offer some advice if you also see something you like on the wall of a Parisian métro station but are plagued by hesitation (or manners).
- Own it: don’t look around to see if other people are looking at you. Rip the damn thing off. You want it no?
- Do it during rush hour, casually as you are walking by (or more accurately being pushed forward by the grumpy mob behind you). You are less likely to be noticed or have anyone comment on what you are doing.
- Someone will probably comment on what you are doing: an old lady who’s bored, a smart ass who finds what you are doing puzzling/hilarious/both. There is no wrong way to respond: not saying anything is good, or if the smart ass is old saying that you enjoy things that are decrepit is good too.
- Avoid ripping things off the wall in front of the para-military police that patrol the métro with machine guns. But I’m sure you’re smart enough not to do that.
- Frame it: it’ll look really neat. And you will chuckle when you look at it thinking back to how you’re a vandal at heart. Sort of.
In the last 7 days, I turned 31 years and 31 days. I thrifted the perfect denim skirt for $4. I watched ‘The Hunt for Red October‘ for what must be the 15th time. I caught my first cold of the winter. I overslept my alarm twice. And according to this picture, I mixed patterns (stripes) once. Because my favourite warm scarves were both in the wash. Oh yes. I’ve been busy.
Fry: So I really am important? How I feel when I’m drunk is correct?
Nibbler: Yes. Except the Dave Matthews Band does not rock.
From my favourite episode of Futurama, that I have already gone on about. And the title is meant to be a pun – it’s taken from the only Dave Matthews Band song I know (vaguely) off. So I can’t actually confirm whether or not they rock. But I do laugh (and slightly snort) at that line anyway every time I watch the episode.
I was recently given a medical diagnosis and, simply stated, I won’t be allowed to eat bread for the rest of my life. Ever again. Or anything made with delicious pastry (adieu croissant, pain au chocolat, brioche…*). Please don’t anyone suggest there are plenty of alternatives, because I am freakishly gifted at detecting the taste of tapioca flour, and I am not ready in my mind to accept some grainy and squishy Frankenstein as the same thing as baguette. Or tartine.
Not to mention that in my own country, I am now a ‘little nature’: it’s not looked at with very much mercy not being able to eat everything. Let me tell you: the Frères Jacques sang about the difficulty of eating jam on a tartine. Not on a corn cake.
And by the way don’t be fooled by their black tights: I think that song is a cunning metaphor for how unpredictable and sticky life can get…
(*Says I in the spirit of Jean de la Fontaine).
(Image from here).
We both blow our noses very loud (and have been known to wake people up doing so). We are both partial to the Barber of Séville which he took me to see when I was 12 (also both partial to its comical rendition by the Quatre Barbus). We love a good glass of wine or, even better, champagne – which neither of us can hold very well and which makes us giggly. Neither of us can lie. We both love our chocolate dark, our coffee black, and watching the Légion march. Neither of us is really handy…
Except… My father has an impressive skill which I do not share: if you give him a mandarine, he will eat it (so far, that I can do just fine as well). But he will eat it in such a way as to hollow out the peel and preserve the central tangle of fibres. And then he will turn the empty intact mandarine peel into an oil lamp.
I’ve only seen him do it a couple of times, and the rarity of the occasion and time gone by have just made the memory even more magical, bright and elusive.
But me, when I eat a mandarine it looks like this. And I haven’t tried but I’m pretty sure setting the random pieces of peel on fire wouldn’t look as impressive or magical…
It is one of my most vivid memories from school (apart from the 7:50AM starts): standing at the black board and reciting poetry by heart, in front of the whole class.
I have a theory about this: I think it cracks the teachers up to listen to a 6 year old’s rendition of French Romanticism. Or a 13 year old’s rendition of French classical theatre. Or a 15 year old’s rendition of a Renaissance sonnet (with some old French thrown in). Or a 17 year old’s rendition of Baudelaire describing his perving on the seamstress workshop next door. All of which, you guessed right, I had to render.
And doing quick maths albeit with a glass of wine on board, I can confirm it’s been decades since my Alfred de Musset performance – my first récitation ever. And I can still feel my little 6 year old body shaking as I was trying to remember one verse after another – all about the damn moon: ‘Ballade à la Lune‘.
I never got it at the time – for me the days when we would recite were like the worst type of lottery: the one you don’t want to win but that you’re entered into anyway. But I think I get it now. Because when I look at the moon, I start to recite Alfred de Musset in my head. And boy, is the ‘Ballade à la Lune‘ beautifully written and strikingly imaginative (the man isn’t my idol for nothing…) And my love for him started there, during récitation, and has only grown stronger.
This aside, I still maintain the exercise is intentionally designed to torture and mock little school children, and petrify them by demanding they speak publicly in old French…
(The image is my 1959 copy of Alfred de Musset’s ‘Premières Poésies‘, which belonged to my mother – and which she gave me when I moved to Melbourne. The pages have yellowed to perfection, and it smells respectable like an old book should.)
If you have had a conversation with me, you would have found me saying words directly translated from French (which I do often) – then realise what I said did not make sense, curse, and try to substitute the right word with the right meaning. Like, say: ‘Syrup. No, crap! Cordial! Cordial!’.
It’s a funny thing living in a country where I don’t speak my native language day in, day out. Most of the time, I feel that the way I speak is wrong, or off. That I’m a fake. That I wasn’t born to speak this language (and it’s true: my first language is French – stating the obvious here). I may know enough words to communicate on a decent level, but my sentences are built according to French grammar and expression: long, long, long. Convoluted. Long.
I always worry I will say the wrong thing, or use a word which has a meaning I am not aware of. And insult someone unwittingly or come across as a pompous tit. I still put my head in my hands when I think of the time I qualified the seasons as ‘backward’ in Australia, when I meant ‘reversed’. Dang.
But I do love it for a few reasons, despite feeling daily like an impostor. I get a unique perspective on both languages: a foray into the economical qualities of ‘anglais‘, and a comparison of how we articulate our thoughts with such flourish and use some damn funny expressions in French.
Like ‘You are pumping my air‘ when someone is annoying you. Or ‘It’s pee in a violin‘ to dismiss something that’s unimportant. I wouldn’t want to trade the chuckles I get when I translate some of these into English.
So I may feel like an impostor, I may have two souls according to Charlemagne (read this article, I don’t have delusions of grandeur), it may be tricky to navigate and reconcile French brain and English brain, but it’s also kind of cool. Which by the way, translates to ‘cool‘ in French. Now that was easy.
(Image from here)