notes from a paris garret
from nessa o'mahony
- 11th May 2003
So in the end, you see, it's really a question of lettuces. Or, to be precise, how many lettuces a girl can consume in a week before either they or she goes off. The reason the quantity of lettuces is so big an issue at the moment is because they are symptomatic of my first attempt, on day two of the Great Paris Adventure, to go native and do what the canny Parisians do... that is, wait until the last minute when the famous open-air Marché d'Aligre is about to close for a two-day break, and hone in on the bargains. What I hadn't bargained for was the traders' determination to sell off in bulk; no namby-pambying around with individual items for them. And trust me, you don't argue with an invective-laden Frenchman at the end of a long weekend! So it was that I returned to my top-floor deux-piece ladened down with a sack-full of lettuces, and some very dodgy looking plum tomatoes. It will be fine once I work out alternative uses for lettuce … they may have an heretofore undiscovered healing property, for example for rubbing on corns and callusses.
Alors, apart from the merchandising disasters, it's been a lovely start to my sojourn. Stereotype or no, there is something truly delightful about sitting at a laptop, looking out a window at other roof-tops, lead tiling and wrought iron balconies, knowing that one really isn't in Kansas any more. I feel I'm part of a proud tradition, from Joyce and Beckett onwards … mind you, I'm not sure how they'd have reacted to discovering they couldn't connect to the Internet without purchasing an ethernet card for the strange French cable system. A writer's life ain't what it used to be.
But one couldn't really wish to be anywhere else... there's a French chic to even the most basic of white tee-shirts dangling from a window across the court-yard; the cat dozing on the roof of the warehouse below has a 18th century aristocratic hauteur and the radio station in the room next-door is playing the coolest of cool jazz. The fact that I can only understand every third word spoken by the hip-sounding presenter merely adds to its allure. And I've already found a book-shop that sells great jazz CDs for only €7.50!
It'll be a challenge to keep myself from turning into the hackneyed tourist hack, mentioning tisanes or pastise in every other sentence. And, given that my task over the next 12 weeks or so is to write poems about a subject utterly removed from 21st century Paris, it will be a very peculiar attempt at disassociation indeed. So perhaps this journal might be the outlet I need to vent my reactions to my immediate environment. But I'll keep this first entry short and sweet … a week of who know's what awaits – there's to be the now traditional national strike, a reading or two at the Irish College and no doubt several more unfortunate encounters of a shopping kind.
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