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.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bird Shit & Julie Delpy

No, not the title of a new art-house short, but a ying-yang of fresh ickysplat on my white t-shirt swiftly followed by a serendipitous sighting of my favourite lady actress-cum-screenwriter.

I'd seen Audrey Tautou last week on stage, playing a comically and overtly dramatic Nora in a production of Ibsen's Doll's House in Theatre Madeleine- which was great- but a very different sensation to seeing someone you felt like you know well (only in 2D) by mistake.

It's a pretty normal experience for many of you, I'm sure, but having only fairly recently moved to a capital city where widely recognisable people live, it was quite a thrill. My nearest comparable experience during my previous life in Cardiff involved a sighting of Chris Eubank bodyguarding an infamous local arms dealer (according to the proprietor of a nearby greasy spoon on a fag break).

So let's revive the moment. I was writing on the first page of a new notebook under mild sunshine on a late mid-May afternoon, in what was for me the newly disovered Square du Temple in the 3eme, when a dollop landed on my shoulder from above. Pissed off, mostly at not having a tissue, I wasted a fresh page in vane trying to cleanse myself and then got a load of the (weirdly green) gunk under my fingernails as it began to rain.

Now I'd always assumed that the superstition of being the target for a bird's shit being good luck was actually an inversion of the truth designed to cheer up the recipient of the unwanted moist present. Today my belief was topsy-turvied.

As I vacated the park via the exit to my left, I walked past Julie Delpy. And as confirmation of that fact, Julie Delpy's dad, as confirmed by the film Two Days In Paris, in which Julie Delpy's actual dad features as Julie Delpy's dad, then walked past me in a hat. This confirmed for me a strangely normal fact: do famous people sometimes go for walks in parks near where they live with their dads? Yes. Yes, they do.

So in a slight fluster of exitement where I had to stop myself from the natural inclination to say 'hi!' because I knew her (or thought I did) when she had no idea who I was; I trusted my instincts, and followed them.

About a minute later, after watching Julie Delpy not acting but living, in real life- waiting at a pedestrian crossing, then crossing the road and taking umbrage from the rain under a cafe's canopy, I decided that I probably had nothing to say to her, even if I did manage to pluck up enough courage after several minutes of stalking.

What should one do in this situation? If you have any idea, please comment below. You want to say something nice in return for the pleasure her work has given you- but what? In retrospect, I could have asked what she thought happened with Jesse [in Before Sunset]- did he stay with Céline? But what would have been more likely to come out of my mouth would be something like, "Hello. I love your films...[slightly mumbled]...Before Sunrise. Amazing." To which she would have probably half smiled and quickly moved on.

And then I could never watch those films again.

Though amongst my favourites, the horrible pangs of embarrassed shame experienced during my nervous momentary encounter with their star would inevitably liken watching them to re-reading old letters from an ex. You keep them, of course, but for what? For the idea that a horrible, bubble-popping moment of memory, reality and fiction merging be a pleasurable one?

Of course. And it sort of is.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The price of beer in cafés, brasseries and bars

That's right, there's no delicious play on words with this blog title. This is serious business.

As I write, news of my country's first hung parliament in 34 years is just a few hours old. The future of our great nation is in limbo, and yet while I wait to see if Clegg will really pair with the right wing Conservatives to give them a majority, there seems nothing more pressing than to discuss 'The price of beer in cafés, brasseries and bars', in Paris.

If you've been to one of these establishments here, you will have found the prices, no doubt, a little bit of a surprise. I live in the 12th arrondissement in the extreme south-east of the city limits. My appartment is several miles from the Eiffel Tower; people living here haven't even heard of the Arc de Triomphe. And yet go to a local brasserie, not necessarily even on a place (square), and you are likely to pay between €6-8 for 50cl (LESS than a pint.)

And please don't think it's just down to high taxes on alcohol- in a shop, beer is priced very reasonably- wine extremely so. But when it comes to cafés etcetera, proprietors have just weed on the rule book of decency (by J.R. Hartley) and decided to create a sense of trepidation and resentment amongst café-goers as they fulfill their French-istential destinies.

And that's another thing: the coffee, a diversion I'm sure I shall get another thousand declamatory emails about, but one with which I feel I must aggravate you a little further. Arriving in puny two-sip cups with enough caffeine to ressurrect an incumbant prime-minister; the coffees in Paris are actually expressos. What mess of a humanoid actually gets off on that? Ok, a quick snifter of the black stuff after a long lunch to keep you alive for the rest of another dull day in the bureau, but what if you've actually got more than eight seconds to spare? Ask for a 'cafe long' and you get a double: four sips if you're lucky, and that'll rob you of nearly a fiver.

Back to booze now. With a group of four other people, two rounds of drinks on the Place de Bastille in a very normal Brasserie on a night out not long ago came to the incomprehensible sum of approximately €130.

W.T.F! One might very reasonably acronyse.

Le Bastille: don't do it.

Look Paris, you've done something wrong, you're making a grande erreur, and someone needs to sit you down and tell you. Your 'cafe culture' which you boast about, for which you're so famous will suffer for this. People can't be expected to pay between double and four times the normal price for these drinks than they would in any other European city, so you need to take a look at yourself and think about what you are doing to your hardy patrons. This simply can't go on.

Or can it?

Certainly, the laughable arrogance of your waitstaff defies the logic of any returning customer base. Perhaps the attitude comes from a place where they feel like servants in a world where everyone else is equal. Perhaps they know that actually you love that they are an integral part of the Parisian café experience and it wouldn't feel right without them there.

Anyway, you know we will all return to your half-open doors and half-meant tolerance as we sit down on your sunny pavement terraces, sat seven centimetres from a stranger, pretending that the 25 minute wait for a three minute coffee is reasonable and that €3.60 is a fair price to pay, before tip, just because this is Paris.

It wouldn't happen anywhere else and you know it. Sadly, my nearest bar, 'O' Kleins', is an "Irish" style pub, in that they've, I don't know, got a bar, and chairs. They also charge €5.50 for a pint- in happy hour. That would be ok if it had a half-decent atmosphere and wasn't next to a McDonald's and on a main road. The Irish would not stand for this; and they've been through a lot.

My nearest brasserie charges about €8 euros a pint. This is just within the boundaries of Paris, I remind you. How the fuck did Hemmingway afford this shit - and in the 5th where he lived? Well, it was probably the streams of artists like him who flocked to Paris in the first half of the last century who have created this outrageous pricing situation in the first place. Tiger-hunting bastard.

Alas, it's another can of Kronenbourg at home for me. Paris is a very pretty woman, and she's not afraid to squeeze her ample bosom together and pretend she's just folding her arms. She'll take your money along with your pride just by flashing an eyelid; before you've even got your trousers half-way down.