Friday, July 16, 2004

Protests and pigeons

Undoubtedly Paris is a breathtakingly beautiful city; and the shopping is great once you have navigated the pitfalls of a 35 hour working week.
Is it closed on a Monday or a Tuesday?
Of course it’s closed on Sunday.
Does it close for lunch from 12.00 to 14.00?
Or 13.00-15.00?
Or maybe 12.00-15.00?
Then you can go to Madeleine Gely at 218 Avenue Saint-Germain, a shop selling handy little fur lined umbrellas and custom made umbrellas, or to Maria Luisa at 19 bis Rue Mont Thabor, the only stockist of Manolo Blahnik in Paris, carrying a small but perfectly formed collection, Or my favourite shop in Paris, BHV, though I have to admit they have reasonable opening hours; they are open on Mondays and lunchtimes. BHV is a department store (8 floors) with a fantastic Aladdin’s hardware cavern in the basement.

I’m sorry to have to bring this up but why do Parisian men have to pee on the streets?
Clearly it’s a guy thing to pee outside. Here they mark there territory on the street, that’s obviously if for some inexplicable reason they can’t do it in a car park which seems to be the preferred choice, more discreet perhaps? Or maybe it’s just a seasonal thing – car parks are preferable in the winter?

Something else inexplicable, why were the Foreign Legion marching wearing what appeared to be butchers’ aprons and carrying axes during the 14th July parade?

Protestors are out in force as we approach the strike season, there is even a website: to ascertain who is striking this week. The organisation of the protests is impressive. Groups from all over France arrive at different metro stations, and then make their way to the starting point on foot. Off they go, marching in an orderly fashion with flags denoting which region they have come from. They sometimes have balloons. Maia has become quite a fan, especially if they have balloons. They are followed by police who are followed by the street cleaners.

The beautiful wide boulevards of Paris so ideal for protesters and parades were not in fact built for the citizens so much as against the citizens. They were designed to be too wide to build barricades across, and straight enough to aim a canon at any citizens that might be uprising in the streets. Protestors didn’t have the support they enjoy today back in the time of Napoleon III. Paris was redesigned by Haussmann, a city planner. Personally I see a pattern, city planners against the people. It continues to this day, in one of the universities, pebbles are embedded in concrete to make it too slippery for protesting students to stand on when water canons are being aimed at them.

There are principally two problems with Parisian parks; firstly you’re not allowed to sit on the grass except for one small over subscribed patch of grass in the Jardin de Luxembourg, that leads to the second problem of trying to find a park bench that is not enshrouded in pigeon fertilizer.
The Parisian pigeons seem to be a lot larger and sleeker than the London pigeons I remember, but that could just be a cultural thing, obviously the Parisian pigeons are more concerned with grooming whilst the Londoners are out drinking on the rooftops.
We are talking about big fat fornicating birds, and I do mean that literally. All they do is chase each other, for shagging purposes and eat what I fervently hope are conceptive pills. It’s a vicious circle; they are supplied with copious amounts of baguette crumbs by the little old ladies of the hood, which then makes them too fat (or are they all pregnant?) to get any decent elevation when flying. Consequently when chased by children, they barely make it over the children’s heads (that surely could be intentional on the part of the pigeons). The little old ladies `tut tut´ and feed the pigeons more bread, possibly deliberately, to keep them flying low over the children’s heads.

I also have been living on bread as it is so magnifique and proof man can live on bread and, wine and cheese alone, with maybe an occasional salad thrown in. Surely more agreeable than the Otago University researchers who tried to prove that man, or possibly they meant students, a different species altogether, could live on beer and fish and chips, allegedly they all got scurvy. It’s amazing I haven’t turned into a smelly wine soaked baguette by now, but it could possibly take a little longer, I will press on with the study.

I have recently spent time in the suburbs (banlieue) of Paris, a very scary place for someone with absolutely no sense of direction; I need mappy to go to the supermarket.
Yes, if you live in the suburbs you can have a garden and therefore dogs – not that the lack of a private garden prevents the inner city dwellers from rampant dog ownership. Or you could live in the suburbs and have three dogs all needing psychoanalysis. Two big dogs, one of a nervous disposition whose fur falls out and eats her own tail, the other big one has halitosis and a taste for small dogs and the small dog that lives inside and thinks she’s a cat.
And yes, you could even have you own private swimming pool. Or you could have a swimming pool full of gold fish, which would be tragic if it wasn’t 13°C in July. It was tragic last year (during la canicule) when it was so hot that the acorns simultaneously decided to commit suicide one night at 10pm.
So I am looking forward to getting out of la banlieue and back to the city and into our apartment. Just as soon as our band of Portuguese builders and Romanian cabinet maker (certified at the University of Transylvania) leave. Five months and counting.

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