Wednesday, 19 August 2009
From Paris 2
Same room in Shakespeare but hotter, in fact the hottest day of the year so far, about 38C in the shade. The best option this morning was a tour of the Seine by bateau mouche. The hot sun beat down but the breeze compensated and I had bought my umbrella so parapluie became parasol, only blowing inside-out once.
Our natural comparisons of the river-boat trip were with London and Budapest, both quite different. We remind ourselves that Paris wasn't bombed in WW2, also that its beauty and coherence is the product of what was an autocratic system. On the other hand the stones of the Bastille have gone to make one of the twenty-four bridges and the Louvre is no longer a palace but an art gallery. And it is beautiful and coherent. Ravishingly so on a good day. And, what is more, it is friendly, or has been to us wherever we have stopped for drink and food, the waiters jolly and welcoming. This morning the petit dejeuner at the cafe on the corner the young man practically danced between tables, grinning and joking. And a damn good petit dejeuner it was too - fried eggs perfectly done and the whole thing light, much lighter than an Anglo-Saxon breakfast. Of course it obviates the need for lunch, especially if we have it as late as we did.
My sleeping has been fitful to much delayed. Last night I was up till 3.30 am or so, now reading, now playing patience on my iPod. I have got through two books so far, on which comments later. I have found Mark Sarvas's book on the shelves here and have now bought it so it will be Budapest reading for me. Marilyn H also gave us her translation of Marie Étienne and I have started that. I can't really get on with too much necessary work here (it will be back to translating in Budapest) and it's a real pleasure to read without guilt.
The Vietnamese waiter last night was also full of larks. The only waiter in a place about the size of the average bathroom, high spirits and larking must be his shield against grinding dullness and madness. I remember noticing how the removals men fifteen years ago sang loudly as they carried our heavy cardboard boxes of books into the house. Distraction. Division of energy. One of the origins of song. The Uses of Beauty.
C had a delicious dish the waiter recommended for her, advising her against the one she first chose. One could take an uninvited recommendation as a touch bullying but the dish was so good it was a pleasure. I know I shared some of it (and C shared some of my duck as was only fair).
The ice creams here are perfect, especially the chocolate. Stop me and buy one the signs used to say. My advice: stop by any place selling ice cream and get the Berthillon chocolate, plus, let us say, passion fruit sorbet. Pick up an iced lemon drink while you're at it, solid with crushed ice.
Tips and tour guide from GS, only available at this blog. Tomorrow to Orly by RER and Orlyval - expensive! Then Budapest. But I like Paris. I want to live here for three years. All offers from wealthy patrons considered. Cheers M Gulbenkian. How you doing M Soros? Ah Mr Jameson, of the famous whiskey! May I be of service for a small consideration?