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, 11 September 2010

Proposals in Paris

Paris is the most romantic city on Earth.  Even the pigeons here are constantly making love; no, not mating, they're making love.  The amount of saliva that is exchanged here in one day through overly-passionate kissing is enough to flood four New Orleans.  According to statisticians* lovers are between 17-24% more considerate and 3% more genuine when stood on Parisian soil.

Perhaps there's something in the hard water, or in the look of the begargoyled Hausmannian architecture which rewires the human psyche.  Whatever it is, that Paris is the most romantic city on Earth is fact, and one whose truth is so unquestionable, it defies explanation or reason.

As a classical guitarist, I don't benefit from many of societies' rewards- money, friends, understanding, etc.-except, perhaps for this one undisputed fact.

Men like to propose to their girlfriends in a manner which they hope will impress (in order of importance) their girlfriend's mum, her friends, her, and if not dead, her gran.  He wants to impress them enough that he is accepted, if not positively welcomed, into their homes at all the relevant occasions.  One way to secure a good impression, is to propose in style.

Combine what I have lengthily extolled in the previous four paragraphs, and you are left with the title of this blog.  That's right, boyfriends, you want to guarantee a 100% yes rate: you come to Paris to do your dirty work.  What's more you do it in front of someone else, ie a hired hand like me, assuming she likes you at all, she is very unlikely to turn you down.

To summarise, I now play proposals.  I've done it twice, so it's something I do rather than just something I have done.  I'd never thought that I'd be able to put that on my CV, but I reckon playing romantic classical guitar music in a suit, and bringing champagne and glasses to a predetermined spot in central Paris is not only the best hope that you have got to win over your girlfriend and disguise all your shortcomings; it's also a great money-spinner for me.

The Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge over the Seine, and site of my first accompaniment of a proposal in Paris.  (Not these two girls, but another couple.)  The padlocks are signed and attatched by lovers who then throw the key into the river.
For more info look and listen here.

*made-up ones

August is not so august (in Paris)

You may have noticed I didn't post anything to this blog during the summer months.

Like most Parisians, I decided to take the summer off.  Yes. Because somehow shops, cafés, restaurants, small-scale commercial businesses of all kinds can somehow afford to close down for the congés annuel every August.  The previous post on the subject of extortion in Parisien brasseries and bars is perhaps what pays for an August of shut shutters.

People should take plenty of time off and go on holiday, don't get me wrong.  In fact I think people on the whole work for too many hours in their week, and would be healthier and certainly happier if they worked less.  The 35-40 hour week is the fault of employers and the industrial revolution, not the average person, and this is for another discussion.  However, why all leave at the same time?

Paris is, after all, the most visited city on Earth.  Perhaps there may be some café and bar owners and holiday makers who could mutually benefit from these places staying open in high season?  We all know that weather-wise in Europe in recent years, we are no more guaranteed good weather in August than we are in May.  Maybe the stubbornness displayed in reverence to this month just means the Parisiens have got their priorities right.

Judging by the signs in their windows, the all-important local pâtisserie has to apply to the council to close for refurbishments or similar, but other places just close down without warning, rather than their owners putting someone else in charge in their absence.

The slogan for the city paper, Le Parisien, during August translates 'The only Parisien you can rely on this summer' and perhaps it's true; but newspaper can't feed or water me (for water read wine), or provide me with the unnecessary luxuries WHICH I DEMAND.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Firemen's Balls- A Celebration

You may not be aware of this most odd annual Paris event, so I shall tell you about it. Come July I was quite excited about the Bastille Day celebrations due to hit France, and Paris, on the 14th of the month.  Living in the 12th arrondissement, I'm pretty close to Bastille, (from 'the storming of the-' fame), so I knew there'd be something special planned.

I had in mind some photographs I'd seen in a Robert Doisneau exhibition at the Fondation Cartier earlier in the year.  Couples were dancing in streets lined with bunting and others displayed generic scenes of collective merriment of the sort not experienced on any other day of the year.

I had in mind a feeling of unification against the ruling classes, or at least some 'stick it to the man' type burning effigies of Sarko's melting face.  If not, at least a feeling of booze-fuelled false hope about the future of mankind.

Alas, come the morning, the incessant raindrops fell obese from the dark sky, and all joys seemed far away. The TV channels showed lifeless military parades which were only improved slightly by the absence of a queen.

A Bastille day military parade.  Whoopy shit.
Toward nightfall, the skies cleared and some friends suggested one of the Firemen's balls. I thought, well, the 'pompiers' are the first port of call for all things ranging from fires (their speciality), to destroying wasps nests, to car crashes, to -I'm sure if they were asked- getting cats down from trees. Why the hell not go to them for a dance; they seem to be good all-rounders.

I wasn't expecting however that on every Bastille Day in France, loads* of fire stations shut for the night in order that a disturbing number of people squeeze into them with the intention of having fun in the background to bad pop music. Perhaps some people enjoy being trapped in a space populated by 16 others per square metre, listening to some of the worst music ever composed. The wine is cheap, but is that reason enough to suspend one of the basic emergency services?

The Pompiers Bal; it was even worse than it looks.
We went to the ball in the Marais, apparently one of the most popular in Paris, but I imagine the intended atmosphere was similar across the city.  Despite someone throwing in some tear gas at one point, it wasn't a nice environment to be in.  More crucially though, the fact that these things take place in fire stations begs response to the question, 'what if there's a fire tonight nearby, and people die because all the local firemen are off their boobs on Beaujolais?'

You couldn't phone the police; they're too busy getting stoned out of their minds and giving eachother blowbacks.

*unofficial figure