Welcome to my blog; inspired by Hemmingway's A Moveable Feast, a desire to record the more succulent and misshapen nuggets of my Parisian adventure in nibble-size lobes for your light-entertainment and my anticipated future memory failure, and to get some things off my chest and onto yours.

Friday, 9 April 2010

'Dipped Thongs' Do Not Ease Pain- Full Report

Playwright George Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that the word "ghoti" could just as well be pronounced "fish" if you followed common pronunciation: 'gh' as in "tough," 'o' as in "women" and 'ti' as in "nation.*
I read this and thought of all the difficulties I have with the French language. Then I came up with the following rules to follow:
  • If in doubt, don't pronounce any letters
  • If I don't know a word in French, just say the English word in a French accent (it's surprising how often this works)
  • When using one of the infinitesimal homonyms, invoke the art of mime to encourage a general feeling of apparent effort if not comprehension
  • When trying to pronounce the rrrridiculous French 'r' put my tongue behind my bottom teeth and fein severe vomiting
  • Look deliberately into the middle distance, and in whatever tense I can muster, with the self-assured, empassioned delivery of Descartes, say...anything, preferably followed by a victorious stubbing out of a cigarette
  • "There's no such thing as people not making sense, just people who don't understand."**


Its map a tangle of multi-coloured spaghetti to slurp in; its rush-hour carriages a rare opportunity to rub up unnaturally close to another man's bottom whilst breathing into his eye; a mode of transport... The metro is many things to many people. Whatever it may be, its network forms the skeleton of the Paris travel experience for visitor and resident alike.

To me, it offers the ideal environment in which to carry out two of my favourite pastimes: listening to music and staring at strangers. Even sans ipod (other mp3 devices are available), I often find myself tuning in to the crazed industrial 'music' of the train itself. Fans of the sport will often think of that seemingly infinite bend with its infamous 'death screech' between Michel Bizot and Porte Dorée on line 8..!

One factor which is surely inescapable is the ominous and mildly distressing sound of the minor 2nd interval (think of the fear-inducing Jaws motif) emitted the moment before the carriage doors shut, as if to say, 'Shiiiiiiit! Get in (or out); I'm going!' Well, imagine the state of the average Parisian on a day to day basis, constantly exposed to this kind of aural aggression. No wonder people are on edge...the rising alcoholism*...heightened unemployment*...constant state of panic...economic crises...no wonder.

Imagine my glee then, when I heard the sonorous and chirpy major 3rd (think of the two notes that see-saw in the eternally chipper 'Do-Re-Mi' from The Sound of Music) ringing out as the train doors swooshed open and closed this bountiful spring morn. Of course, I took this to herald a new and timely ruling from the RATP to replace the unnecessary daily torture of its doleful passengers, with a gentle concordant caress.

Alas, it must have just been an electrical fault in my carriage, because the next train I rode sounded like they normally do.

Moral: the effect of everyday noises are often more significant than we give them credit for; those recorded by Christine Aguilera, for example, have been used as a device of torture in Guantanamo Bay.**

* facts 'rendered' as opposed to 'actual'.