Had a few days in Paris, it was most odd. Much more polluted than I’d have thought, all those scooters, and everyone smokes. On the plus side everyone’s well dressed and pretty good looking for it, healthy looking – sans cigs, anyway.
A lot of it was closed due to the floods, about which shitty French TV reported to the exclusion of all else. Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Louvre. The river was well up, high, swollen, gurgling swells and eddies whirling right up close to you, and the water under some bridge arches high enough to ram any boat going under, while we saw of one tour-boat jetty only the very top of the walk-through frame.
Went to some great cafes and restaurants, walked all round the city as is our wont, the locals sometimes played to type with their baseless arrogance, but we had a great time overall.
One thing we got to see was at the Musee l’Armee, a temporary exhibition of Napoleon on St Helena. I’d no idea he’d offered after Waterloo to take a backseat in the French govt, to which they said ‘furck urff!!’, so in pique he stormed off to the British, who took him to the UK first to a mass outpouring of gawping onlookers at Plymouth, then shipped him and his entourage of lackeys to the south Atlantic. I thought he’d spent his last years kicking stones alone around St. H, dying slowly of arsenic poisoning. In fact he had a gang of generals and bureaucrats, all hanging on his every word writing his history as he bade them do, most of them in a race to get out their memoirs ‘My last days with Boney’, ‘Naps and me: The Helena Years’, all these expose, kiss-n-tell memoirs, many while he was alive, as he himself sought to ‘keep the spirit alive!!’ when not winding up the governor (who only referred to him as a general, and not as emperor, pissing off Bones bigtime and their meetings always ended in shouting). When he ultimately died they then went to town on deifying him, one painting having him come out of his tomb, head aglow, really as ‘the second coming’. Utter messianic figure, a proto rockstar … who sought to take over Europe … Tony Blair … this warmongering dictator … entombed in the land of revolution in a manner that Kim Il Sung would applaud.
The last day we went back to Gare du Nord to take the train to CGD – total, fucking, chaos. The trains weren’t going from their usual platform, but (we found upon asking someone) two platforms two floors up –
accessed by a narrow stairwell down which people with suitcases were battering people coming up on crutches. Already you think this isn’t right or safe. The platforms were rammed, the trains were also rammed, people hanging out the doors til they closed, real pushing and shoving and shouting onto trains with most of a foot gap to fall into, no staff on hand to control passengers or give information, no departure boards giving information. Having had to wait so long to get close to the train doors we work out it’s one train in one platform, the other goes, is replaced, back and forth – until the train we get on (the fourth to leave), when we’re packed aboard, the driver says we’re in fact not going to CGD but to Mitray. Luckily we’d given it an extra hour to get to CGD but even so amid the chaos your pulse rises and you think ‘shit, we’ll not make it, it’s going to be a bitch of a rip-off taxi …’. We lambast British trains but I’ve never seen anything so shit in the UK. And apparently it’s like this all the time.
Since then I went to Stoke to do a NK talk, and it was lovely, just found it in time, small room, excellent questions. Wood gas! What we had in the war. Afterwards the host Chris regaled with his dissection of liberal ontology, as he hopes to explore with his MPhil. His delivery was very droll, one of these guys whose perceptive abilities are just up another level and are so much fun to behold.
Just to contrast with the subject matter of NK, at the (faded but impressive) North Stafford hotel I watched High Class Call Girls on Channel 4.
The lives people lead. You hope they’re happy.