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% HOT WATER TRIUMPH
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