Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bonus content

Oh dear. It would appear I have been away for a week, somehow.

I have not been up to anything glamorous, except of course for cleaning out the chicken house (and hitting myself very hard on the finger with a trowel full of chicken shit, which is the height of chic). Mainly I have been translating and editing piles of stuff (cue some reflection on the status of the word "trendy" - is it due a comeback? Has it made a comeback I just don't know about? Or is it so irredeemably a word only used by your least with-it uncles it can never be rehabilitated?) and shouting at teenagers with the odd break to try and fail to reignite the boiler's pilot light (the instructions I have been given are: "press the red button then run away") or watch the little owl babies. I did get tipsy and buy two t-shirts on Thursday, so there's that.

It is exam season which is a source of infinite domestic woe and Belgium is on perma-strike currently, it is May '68 all over again here (sous les pavés, erm, les gaufres). Today I had to walk all the way to and from Dutch class, which is miles away, gently cursing the STIB whilst also remaining in solidarity with my striking comrades throughout. I would be all lean and fit if it were not for the fact that I have spent the last month - and continue to spend all my time - placing all the foods of Belgium in my mouth. Highly commended during my 'I am a bit glum and must eat my feelings' food orgy:

- pistachio chantilly and fresh raspberry choux from Chouconut
- cheese bread from new Eric Kayser bakery
- fish burritos from Chez Wawa
- fresh cream and Christine Ferber jam sponge cake made due to egg glut
- macaroni cheese
- stale Doritos
- chunks of cooking chocolate from the cupboard
- old cake remnants

etc etc etc you get the picture. My body is the dirty bit at the back of the temple where all the bins and scavenging monkeys live.

Anyway, I didn't come here to tell you about my alimentary shame. I came here to give you BOOK BONUS CONTENT in the form of some photos of various things that I tried to describe with my words in my book. This is probably of more interest if you have already read said book, but maybe if not pictures of austere parts of Paris will whet your appetite? One can but hope. Available at all (some) good retailers including Daunt Marylebone now, the very best of bookshops! I know this thanks to Katyboo. Also, there are very very few tickets left for my London event thing, so (a) thank you very much if you heeded my pleading and bought one and (b) if you still want one hurry.

When I was in Paris last month I went back to the street where we used to live. Here it is:

It is very elegant in that classic Parisian way, I suppose.

It is full, full, full of this kind of thing:

I did not have to lie in wait for this lady. She appeared just as I was working out which house we used to live in. There is an endless tide of well-dressed cross ladies with sturdy footwear and scarves and tweed, ceaseless waves of them, like a well-dressed zombie apocalypse washing up and down the streets of the 17th, on the lookout for babies not wearing socks and the like.

Here is Les Enfants Gâtés, the cake shop at the end of our street where I used to buy my flan pâtissier:

It has had a major facelift though and is all modern now with a shiny glass counter and shop front and salads in plastic containers, where it used to be dark and mysterious. I bought a flan anyway for old time's sake then took a picture of myself looking traumatised (and a bit hungover) outside, next to what used to be a DSK style sex club (I mean, that's how I imagined it from the outside. I didn't go in, I mean, I'm pretty sure I would have been refused entry even if I had tried):

It's all flooding back at this point and I'm waiting for someone to poke me in the shin with a stick and/or disapprove of my jacket.

After that I tried to go to the shop which used to sell me my Délice Café cakes but it had closed down, to my great sadness, so instead I walked through the market which used to terrify me, mainly because of WOMEN LIKE THIS ONE:

So, SO elegant (note the glove/scarf/shoe match and the immaculate "brushing"), yet I am quite sure that like Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha, she chews broken glass for breakfast.

This is the fish stall where the fish guys would often hold out a lobster, pincers bound with elastic bands, to amuse/terrify my infant son. They were quite nice as long as you didn't get in the way.

Here is the entrance to the dreaded Parc Monceau, scene of some of my least favourite Parisian times:

I got a bit twitchy when I got this close to the Rotunda of Doom but persisted. It was drizzling in good pathetic fallacy style by the time I got there. Did you see eleven people got bloody struck by lightning in the Parc Monceau last weekend? Typical Parc Monceau fuckery if you ask me.

This is the crêpe stand and manège where I spent all my time and money, watching my children rotate slowly in varying degrees of terror depending on their age/state of mind.

Strangely, I seemed to have managed to go there on one of the three days a year when the lawns are not "resting" and there were small children running amok across them in a manner than usually got us the whistle and the ticking off from the park guard. I ate my flan defiantly sitting on the damp grass.

It was a decent enough flan but it was not my old Enfants Gâtés favourite. Not wobbly enough or dark enough brown.

This is the mairie du 17ème, where the tortoise man in the turtleneck disdained my nursery dossier:

And this is the bakery where I ate a consolatory chocolate and pistatchio twist afterwards (and on many occasions before and after, indeed). It has also had a serious facelift and lost some of its faded charm and I was so full of cake at this point I couldn't bring myself to go in and test the viennoiserie. Another trip is required.

This is the (much nicer) Batignolles park, full of chaffinches and exotic ducks, where my son would watch the trains for hours:

I loved this park even though it is small and dusty, mainly because no one ever shouted at us there and I could hide in the bushes and eat chocolate and pistachio twists unobserved. God, I was terrible at living in Paris.


20% Stale fondant fancy
20% Dutch exam panic
20% Bad skin, can't imagine why
20% Obsessed with golf course alligator and of course the Toronto capybaras



Dydo.W said...

Well done on the selfie! You look smooth of cheek and lovely. When I turn my phone camera to selfie mode it secretly selects 'old lady crumpled wrinkly skin' setting and I always look a fright. I have never succeeded in taking an acceptable selfie. There was the one time when I put it on video by mistake and ended up with footage of me saying to myself...is it working? am I doing this right? whilst posing ridiculously. Deleted of course.
Loved all the pics of Paris...it's so... Parisy. It made me think of all the French movies I've seen. I love them. Thanks for your amusing post. I am absolutely going to detour to the French bakery now and get a slice of flan.

Jonathan said...

In a strange sort of way, your photos make me want to go back to Paris (we used to visit often in the days before children), but then I also found myself giggling out loud at the commentary between the photos. We once lucked into a hotel near the Eiffel Tower after ours appeared to have no stairs - your photos brought back many, many memories.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I love the bonus photo content! The park looks every bit as grim and unwelcoming to children as you describe it. The old ladies are terrifying, particularly she of the pink scarf/gloves/shoes. I think my psyche is too fragile for Paris.

I want to say how touched I was when I saw the acknowledgments.

Stacy said...

Those tweedy older ladies patrol the streets of Madrid, too, often with odd, burgundy-colored hair. The sensible (but heeled) shoe and scarf is required there too. I was never accosted by any, but I imagine them to be just as scary as the Parisians. Can't wait to read your book.

Sparkling Red said...

I live in Toronto. I am hoping that the capybaras remain free long enough to initiate a local, feral capybara population. I would love to wake up one morning to see a capybara wandering around on my front lawn, perhaps eating dandelions, along with the usual squirrels and robins.

frau antje said...

Every time I get on the train I live in fear of any incident that causes me to blurt out, "Hello, people! You're in the train!"

Waffle said...

Frau Antje - There is no inappropriate time to do this, I feel. Do it really LOUDLY then maybe speculate on an imminent disaster.

Sparkling Red - Truly this is the dream.

Murphy said...

I love the pictures of Paris! I'm American, and we have those critical older ladies here, too. When my children were small (they're grown now), the old lady critics seemed to be everywhere. Maybe they missed being young and in charge?

Anonymous said...

The 80s called and they want Mme pink scarf's outfit back. You know, when you see a person who clearly felt the most *themselves* at a certain point in time and then never changed their dress in order to try to maintain that feeling.

Recent Essex example: a braless grandma wearing a white sundress to best show off her extravagantly memorial-tattooed dowager's hump. On one hand, brava. On the other hand, no thank you.

Claire said...

Loved this little tour of a few of the book's sights! And hurrah for Daunt Marylebone, a treasure amongst bookstores!

cruella said...

A good ten years before we met, my husband lived in Rue de Saussure not so far from your old address. The other year when visiting my sister I decided to go have a look. Did Parc Monceau and LOVED it, was amused at seeing L'Arc de Triomphe from a secret angle. I also bought cèpes at the market and envisioned drying them for lovely pasta dishes in future. Back in Stockholm the valise smelled very much like the hamster cage when change was overdue so my ambition died quickly.

Love photos of everyday Paris!

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle, have you ever considered becoming a BookTuber or doing a podcast? I think you'd be brilliant at either and I for one would watch/ listen religiously!

Anonymous said...

Yes, absolutely, Stacy, these scary ladies do indeed patrol some of Madrid's more stately neighbourhoods. I live in fear of them as well and have had a couple of encounters over the years. There was one terrifying incident years ago when I was walking along, lost in thought and pushing my daughter in a buggy laden down with groceries, and one such lady, who was walking towards me in full regalia and big hairdo, made a huge fuss because I wasn't walking "on the right". She was purple with rage, yelling "llevo la derecha" insisting that I should have veered the buggy to the right so that she could continue her march undisturbed. I hadn't the faintest idea what she was on about and was completely clueless about this pavement protocol, which is apparently a thing and was drummed into these ladies' heads, probably during the dictatorship. I remember muttering back to her that yes, her manner was most definitely right-wing. Not one of my finest moments, it just made her more angry. I scuttled away (on the left) in my no doubt grimy jeans.
I also endured a lot of indignant staring from these ladies for daring to breastfeed my baby in public places without cowering in a corner (one shouted that only gypsies did that and anyway, Nestlé babies were much healthier and I would regain my figure faster for my husband if I stopped!!), for daring to carry her in a sling (you'll damage her spine for life!), for daring to leave her feet or head uncovered (she'll catch her death!) and a long list of other crimes against scary self-righteous ladies. One particularly intimidating neighbour berated me for the fact that my baby apparently cried a lot (we only ever passed her on the street occasionally and thankfully did not share any walls or ceilings/ floors with her, because she would surely have gone mad).
There is one notoriously bitchy neighbour on our block that knows absolutely everyone's business, where they work, whether they're married, divorced, separated: you name it, she knows it and she makes a point of spreading this information around. I think she is quite resentful of the fact that she hasn't been able to "place" me or find out much about me so all I ever get is a curt "hola" with no smile. Probably just as well! The whole block lives in fear of her. Can you imagine that she literally asked one girl (who was about to be married) where her "other man" was when she happened to meet her with her fiancé one evening? Turns out her "other man" was a colleague from work that Mrs. Hawk Eyes had seen picking her up/ dropping her off in his car a few times in the previous year. Thankfully her fiancé was a reasonable chap and knew that his fiancée sometimes got a lift to or from the office with her colleague so they laughed it off. Some people just love interfering!! She has also mused out loud about how strange it is for my husband to be so short and for our first-born to be so tall. My husband loves winding her up and the last time she said this, a few weeks ago and in front of my son, he said that he himself had wondered about that a lot over the years, but that she shouldn't worry, because he has already done a paternity test and he is indeed the boy's father. I haven't seen her since but I imagine that she has passed on this information to the local scary lady brigade so I'm probably off the hook for being a shameless hussy, at least ;)

Waffle said...

Oh my god. Madrid ladies sound FULLY TERRIFYING.

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