Worldly Goods

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She appears erratically.  Sometimes I do not see her for a week or ten days. Sometimes she pushes and sometimes she pulls a large cart full of bags and boxes and stuff. Sometimes there is a piece of furniture among her things. She does not pay any attention to traffic. The pavements are too narrow for her load, so she stays on the street. She weaves back and forth making diagonal cuts through intersections. Cars just have to go around her or else they wait for her to be out of their path. There are some homeless people who are local.  They sleep regularly in doorways or in the shelter of shop awnings. They have dogs and they know all of the people both in the shops and the shoppers. They know the people and the people know them. There is a man who sits near to the supermarket all day and then he sleeps there at night. I bought some early daffodils from a boy one morning.  He did not have change so he went to the man sitting outside the supermarket to get my ten euro note changed.  The homeless in the neighbourhood sort of have their home places within the place of immediate quarter. Maybe homeless is not really the right word.  There is a sense of home and there are regular places.  Sadly the places are outside in the cold. I do not know where the woman pushing the large cart full of her worldly goods sleeps. She just passes through.  She never seems to linger. She does not acknowledge anyone. This is not her neighbourhood. Maybe she does not even sleep on the street. Maybe she just likes to keep a lot of things with her all the time.


The Book Artist of Rue de Bretagne

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We have our very own Book Artist on Rue de Bretagne. He has been here ever since we started coming in the winter, and he makes fan and bellows-like constructions from the pages of books held open by their covers. The local wine shop uses one such construction to file away their delivery notes and receipts, much as we had done with postcards held in a rubber filter contraption from the inside of a Citroen car. It is always interesting to note the dichotomy between concept and content, even as close to home as this is. By far the most interesting thing about the Book Artist is his table, held up at one end by a broom handle and where you can feel the force of the willow bristles to push upwards and achieve their purpose. Now that is content,   not decoration. SC

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Every visit to every museum leaves me with at least one thing I think about again and again.  It might be something I made a note about or it might be something I did not even fully register at the time but it returns again and again for me to think about. Sometimes I have to go back again to see the thing which has settled into my mind.  The Carnavelet seems to be the place which pulls me back again and again this trip.  I adore the Musée des Arts et Métiers, but I return again and again to the Carnavelet. I have tried to get a good photograph of the feather of a carrier pigeon (Plume de Pigeon Voyageur) from the time of the Siege de Paris (1870-71)  but it is in a little frame and the frame is in a glass fronted vitrine.  There is just too much glass between me and the feather. The feather is bedraggled.  At the end of the feather there is a tiny little knot tied with the thinnest ribbon imaginable. The ribbon even in its thinness shows stripes of red, white and blue.  I think my drawing is better than the photograph. Also from the time of the Siege and in the same vitrine is a glass container holding pieces of bread.  The bread was prepared with a mixture of flour and sawdust.  Times were hard and there was little to eat.  A painting of a man selling rats for roasting is another example of reduced eating options.

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Chopin. Chopin. Chopin.

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Posters for music performed in churches appear regularly on certain walls and fences. They are always photocopied on attention getting  pieces of coloured paper. The posters are always the same year after year. The churches might be different and the composers being performed may be different but the format and the bold black letters remain the same. I sort of feel like the music might be the same too.  The only new note is an added strip of white paper announcing TODAY AUJOURD’HUI in capital letters.



The Finished Boxes of Pencil Shavings



We finally divided up the 6B pencil shavings of Takesada Matsutani in small bundles of cellophane bags and fastened with a label with twisted wire to seal them. The labels were rubber stamped with the narrative of the making of the edition and the particular number within it.We had to move sideways and put the parts into bags because not all the boxes had not arrived in time. Nonetheless it made for another part in the ritual of its production, and something for the small audience of onlookers to see and puzzle over, just round the corner in a bookshop in Rue Vieille de Temple. We wore white coats with project badges on the lapel pocket whist we were putting the parts together, to add to the procedure of it all, and Matsutani wrote his name in calligraphy with brush and ink, under the number on the inside of the lid.                                                                                                                           Of course all this is total distraction from walking the city from porte to porte, but it does show you can get things done somewhere other than your main base, and you can live in other places too. In fact I would recommend wearing a white warehouse coat in the street, shops and cafés of places you visit, to be taken for ordinary and of the place. The residents think you’re the local chemist, butcher, or delivery man and nothing could be more normal! It’s my number one piece of tourist advice, and we must try them elsewhere, as well as maybe finishing the porte-walks in them, as a sort of industrial Gilbert and George.  SC


Secret Chalk Mark

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Two young men came out a door on the opposite corner just as I was crossing the street.  They were Japanese.  Or maybe they were Korean. The first one walked briskly up the street while the second one squatted down on one knee.  He made a little mark with a piece of white chalk on the pavement just to right of the doorstep.  He stood up, pocketed his chalk and hurried to catch up with the other fellow down the block. I looked down at his mark.  It looked like a y or an h. There was the remnant of another mark which looked like the same mark but in blue. The blue mark was partly rubbed out and the new white one was written on top of it. I wondered if the guy making the mark needed to find it on the street later to know what building he was staying in. Or if his mark was a sign for someone else who would come later. Maybe he just marked the pavement every time he left any building. These little marks might be all over the city by the end of each day.  He might mark everywhere he has been until he runs out of chalk.  One day blue. The next day white.  I went to the same spot today to see if there was a new mark and a new colour. The white is still there but it is smudged now. The blue is faint but still visible.  There has not been a new colour put down today.

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The Best Bit is the Finding


I am always happy to find things in books.  I like to find a bus ticket or a train ticket from some far away place. I like to find a card from a restaurant or hotel or a rubber stamp shop.  A photograph of a person or a place is especially good.  Postcards are lovely to discover.  The address reminds me of where I was when the postcard was received as well as who sent it, from where and from what year.  A postcard offers a lot of information. Staying in this book-filled apartment offers me the added delight of finding the memories of other people between the pages of their books.  It makes me wonder and worry about a future with people reading fewer books.  If people are reading on electronic devices and not reading books made of paper they cannot lend their books, nor can they shelve their books and they cannot leave things in the books. There are a lot of things that are not important enough in themselves to keep but are just perfect to use as a bookmark.  When a book has been read, the book mark is left behind. Michael Asher did a project in 1991 at the Centre Pompidou where he collected all the bits of paper he found as he went through every single one of the books in the Centre’s psychoanalysis section of the library. I do not know how many books that would have been but he found a lot of things.  He made elaborate charts about what had been found in which books, locating them within the shelving system of the library. It all became a kind of playing at analytical scientific classification.  I did not see the show.  It sounds like it got rather too serious about the pleasure of nosing around.  I have seen other exhibitions where artists have culled bits of paper from the volumes in various libraries.  There is an intimacy in the finding.  A rumour always surfaces of someone finding a slice of bacon in a book.  I think that is an urban myth.  Anyway, I am most interested in my own finds in my books and in the books of people I know. If someone else finds the left behind paper and presents it to me and or to a larger audience, they deny me the best bit which is the finding. EVH

The Rotunda


Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s Rotunda, finished in 1788 and now marooned between the overhead metro, the boulevard and high-rises at Paris Stalingrad, has been restored in recent years. It is a very elegant neo-classical building of utopic pretension. There is a curious two-thirds scale about it, and at the same time almost all exterior, with inside, a deeply internal squat column of a space, which is now a cafe. The circular column leads upwards to the flat lantern of light that illuminates it. From the piazza in front of it, there is that silence of newly-arrived architecture, only just implanted in its space, that you feel in paintings by de Chirico. SC

Porte de Versailles


rolled and bound carpet fragment used to baffle water-flow whilst cleaning the streets

The direct way from the Porte de Versailles back into the centre of Paris is one of the most satisfying of routes. It is nearly as complete as the directness of purpose of the route from the Porte de Charenton, which follows its eponymous street from the edge all the way to the Bastille.Here the journey follows the Rue de Vaugirard almost from the péripherique past the Porte itself and the lumbering Parc des Expositions, until eventually past Montparnasse it turns a corner at the Jardins de Luxembourg, and meets Boulevard Saint Michel. The street is an archetype of Paris : the tall narrow buildings meeting in the middle as if they were leaning together, creating a funnel that you walk into, as far as the eye can see. This, below is not Rue de Vaugirard, but Rue Popincourt in the 11th, on of my favourite streets doing that very thing I describe, and of an older unchanged Paris than that walked back from Porte de Versailles.SC


Source: Porte de Versailles

Starting from Porte de Sevres

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We set off from the Porte de Sevres in cold bright sunshine. Walking at a good pace was essential because the wind was so sharp.  Hats and gloves were also essential. The neighbourhood made for a peculiar start. We were surrounded by the huge complex of buildings belonging to the Ministry of the Defense.  It seemed to be mostly involved with the Armée de l’Air.  We did not investigate.  We passed a bus stop with a shoebox sitting at one end of the bench.  It was a small shoebox and it was open.  Inside the box was a brand new pair of children’s shoes. Whoever bought the shoes must have been admiring them or showing them to someone else when the bus arrived.  Off they went on the bus and the new shoes got left behind. I wondered if they had just been left or if they had been waiting there all morning. I worried whether anyone would come back looking for them. I worried about them off and on for the rest of the day. On a less sad note, I was happy to once again pass the Cultural Center for Blind People and Their Friends.


Source: Starting from Porte de Sevres