Lingeblog Home

Crtd 15-01-17 Lastedit 16-01-21

Paris: miscellaneous update

This is my third visit to the Jean Bart, which, please be advised, is NOT a house boat, but a péniche. [for background goto: Paris Péniche] .

But now I read Proust. À la recherche du temps perdu, seven volumes 3200 pages. Not quite the size of my previous French reading: Adolphe Thiers' Histoire de la Révolution Française (10 volumes, 5000 pages, depending on your edition) and Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire by the same author, 10 or 4 volumes, depending on your edition, and a number of pages in the same order). There are two differences: I could assume Thiers not to be stupid for after writing this they made him president of the French Third Republic (when Proust was born). Proust could never prove anything: he was an author, died as an author, so apart from words has nothing to show for. Except perhaps one thing: he never got the Nobel prize, and even had problems finding a publisher. That is how things ought to go when you are really good. He shares this feat with James Joyce and Robert Musil, and thus in my view is part of what I call The Great Three of 20th century European novel writing. [For the development of my Proust pages see my Proust index page]

Their is one difference between Proust and the other two: during their entire lives, while blessing us by producing Above Nobel Price Level literature, Joyce and Musil had money worries concerning their ink and food supply. Proust was dead rich.

Paris is a relaxed place to be at the moment. I hesitate to confess that I am charmed by the effect of the ridiculous media coverage of the Charly Hebdo shooting: streets cleared of tourists, passing tourist trip boats on the Seine down to less than half. But Lydia's daughter Jessica is far from amused, for her Italian teacher, a fragile Italian lady who needed my subtle psychotherapy (and the banning to deck of Koco) to board the péniche the first time she came, fled back to her country, and, though I could teach Jessica anything, it's just that for teaching her Italian I should learn it myself first.

If I would need a reason for not living in Paris - and I do - it would be that there are almost no shops whatsoever. Serious shops I mean, since without doubt you could buy your overpriced lady's handbag - if urgency arises - at your next door neigbour, or clothes, at least if they should absolutely not satisfy the basic requirement of protecting your body against the elements, or jewelry, beauty products, works of art and other things you'll never need. But if you take your bike (this time I brought one from the Netherlands on Lydia's request, for do not try to buy one in Paris) and go round to buy milk, printer paper, and a pack of matches, you're in for a two hours' deep search. To rats Paris is heaven, but to human beings it's worse than a desert: real estate is too expensive to a Leclerc to put one of its giant supermarkets there. The nearest Leclerc hypermarket that really has everything normal people will ever need in their full life time is just outside the périférique, but even there Leclerc's real estate investment per square meter has been so huge that they have to sell at higher prices than they do in their civilized French countryside equivalents. So, while from my own houseboat in a deserted Netherland's river area I do my shopping in fifteen minutes, in Paris, whatever means you use, you will surely need over four times the time and pay double.

But France nowadays is good for shopping when it concerns French wine, for though until last year French wine was expensive and wine farmers on the verge of succumbing, like everybody else here, to the tax burden the French need to pamper their labour force into doing too little too badly and thus decently drown in world economic competition - it seems a political hobby or something, left and right like it alike - last year politicians discovered that wine farmers (French wine farmers that is) have to be pampered as well, and they took part of the tax burden on wine to stack it on beer. After all, the French ought to drink wine oughtn't they? France is a free country, all je suis Charlie's say so, and that means, of course! freedom of tax for the wine farmer and freedom of beer for the consumer. I am delighted, for my beer I buy at home and good French wines have become quite affordable if you just buy them in France. And is not chasing European consumers along different countries for doing their shopping a progress of European integration? Everywhere I photograph labels and price tags, and talk wine houses with Lydia's culinary friend Jerome. 

... though as an economist I am against protection, as a frequent visitor of France I make an exception for the French wine industry ...

The advantage of a two-hour bicycle deep search for some trivial products in Paris is that as a bonus your trip is a tourist trip as well.

... Lydia's Dutch GAZELLE at the Petit Palais entrance: no matches, no milk no printer paper, for sale there, the receptionist told me ...

... Lydia's Dutch GAZELLE near Concorde, at the grass where 130 years ago 9 year old Marcel Proust played with his hopeless love, whore-daughter Gilberte  ...
... hopeless since he blew it by causing her to loose games when playing at her side ...

Paris government does make some attempts to create bicycle lanes, where impossible the bus lane is opened to bicycles, and where totally impossible, as in narrow streets clogged with cars parking and waiting for traffic lights, waiting taxis and delivery trucks, I go on the pavement, politely given way by shoppers except one old couple who, at a place where the trottoir was rather wide, managed to block me by spreading wide. I was ordered to get on the road. "Vous êtes police?", I asked the highly aged couple, with my face on happy and positive expectation. "Citoyen!", the man said and his wife nodded frantically. So after showing, on behalf of the entire public, my gratitude for them not shying away for their civil responsibility I followed their orders and lined up behind a blocked garbage truck to allow them to continue checking the row of window panes, in Rue Saint Honoré, seemingly endless, reaching to the far horizon, all stuffed with overpriced ladies' handbags.

I gave up the entire Rive Droite for printing paper and crossed the Seine at Quay d'Orléans.

... Quay d'Orleans where M. Swann lived (late 19th century) and collected his later so famous paintings ...
... Marcel Proust's grandmother, art lover, would surely have gone to see them had her acquaintance M. Swann lived in a neighbourhood where she could show herself without harming her reputation. But she judged quay d'Orleans for herself a no go area ...

After a two-hours bicycle errand it was dark but I reached the péniche with (overpriced) milk, matches and printing paper. After practicing my piano scales (I envisage boosting my entirely new career as bar pianist, started this summer in such a promising way in an IJsselmeer harbour village restaurant), I went for a world class piano trio performance a twenty minutes' walk up the Seine, near the Notre Dame. But I wrongly read the starting time, had to kill an hour and bumped into a gorgeous oyster bar about a third of the size of a bus.

... Idling due to improper reading of the starting time of jazz caused me to bump into this unforgettable oyster bar  ...

Thereafter these excellent musicians made me drink too much St. Emilion. At midnight, reeling and burping in rain along a kilometer of Seine low quay, NOT having forgotten my umbrella when leaving the jazz bar, I reached the péniche. To the utter delight of Alsatian Koco, who (correctly) reckoned with getting a nice wet midnight-go on the quay as well. 

Lingeblog Home