Watching the movers


The people across the street are moving.  Moving men arrived this morning and sent a telescopic metal ladder up to the 3rd floor.  It looks like aluminum but it might be made of something else.  There is a platform which rides up and down the ladder to the big open window. I would call these French windows but I doubt the French call them French windows.  They probably just call them windows. A man at the top loads boxes and beds and bookshelves onto the platform and then he shouts to the man below who brings the whole load down. The man on the ground must have a button. There are sides on the platform which can be put up to protect the load from tumbling off. Sometimes the man at the top uses the sides and sometimes he does not.  Each time a load goes down or the empty platform goes back up it bumps into the branches of a tree.  The branches get bent way way back and they look like they might break but each time they smack back with a loud noise.  It is difficult for me to get anything done here because every time I look up there is another load going up or coming down. There are so many windows here and they all look straight across at the action. If I stop paying attention for long, the loud whack of the branches brings me right back to the moving activity. The street is not wide.  It has a single lane for cars driving in one direction. A moving van is parked on the opposite side of the street.  When the platform reaches ground level two men unload it and carry each thing across the street. They have to wait for any passing bikes or cars before they cross.  The man who does most of the carrying has a cigarette in his mouth at all times. It is always lit. It felt like the emptying of this apartment would go on all day, but suddenly I looked out and the truck is gone and the men are gone and the ladder thing is gone. The window is now shut.   EVH

Source: Watching the movers

Dick & Jane, Janet & John, & Brian



When I was learning to read I met Dick and Jane.  They were in our school books.  As we progressed and gathered more words, we learned what Dick and Jane did, where they lived and what they ate.  We learned what colors were in their life and how large or small things were. We met their parents and their pets. Dick and Jane taught us language to describe the world we lived in.  English friends have spoken of Janet and John.  They learned about their own world through Janet and John.  Same idea but no doubt they learned different words for the same things.

On Saturday we walked from Porte de Champerret back into the center of the city. Most of the walk was through wide streets and quiet well-heeled neighborhoods.  There was not a lot of street activity.  Each time we attempted to get off the main boulevards and meander through smaller streets we automatically came back to the big, airy places.  It was a sunny morning so the big spaces were pleasant. After the residential areas, we passed through equally wide streets with shops full of expensive things. Eventually we found more normal streets with more normal mixes of shops.  We passed a restaurant with the name Brian is in the Kitchen.  I found it a funny name.  Then it was explained to me that this is a joke which everyone knows.  It is a joke shared by French people who have learned to speak English.  It is not the learning of children but it is the same thing in that people with names and personalities are used to explain the world in another language.  The question asked is Where is Brian? The answer is always Brian is in the Kitchen.


Source: Dick & Jane, Janet & John, & Brian

A Visit to Disneyland


We passed through the entrance to the Park the other day, just in front of the turnstiles to go in. I had heard of cheap train tickets to the south from Marne La Vallée, the detention centre for Disneyland.So here we were, looking at the edifice from the safety of a station cafe. I was amazed at the depravity of it all, not least the over-distressed Hollywood Tower Hotel which looked as if it had been shot-at and burned. The Y and the W of the name panel were made to look as if they were falling off. Such artifice made me dwell on the culture of American Imperialism for rather too long, from the charade of the Wild West plywood main street made for a promotion video, to the bunker of a hotel in Disneyland. The water-tower with Mickey Mouse ears is one thing, an improvisation on what already exists, but the constructed imitation dereliction of the Hollywood Tower Hotel is another. They could probably have done it cheaper in Beirut or Baghdad, but they were only a dry-run for Disneyland. SC

Source: A Visit to Disneyland

Sharing food


We spent a few days visiting and being as helpful and cheerful as we could be. All our meals were eaten at a table in the small downstairs room where a hospital bed has been installed. Three times a day we ate at the wooden table parallel to her bed. We ate together because eating together is what we all love to do. We ate and we talked.  Sometimes she was a part of the conversation and sometimes she just ate and maybe she listened. A fire was burning in the fireplace all day and all night. When the five of us sat at the table, there was always one person on the bed side in order to hand things to her in the bed or to take things away when she was finished. We left a space at the table on the long side beside the bed for her even though she cannot sit at the table.  Two people were sort of squeezed together at each end.  It was much too hot to sit on the other long side because of the fire.   While we were there she ate small portions of everything that we ate. She ate boiled eggs and toast.  She ate tiny blinis and caviar and she ate cod with aioli and potatoes.  She ate fish soup and she ate a pig’s cheek vindaloo. She ate fresh pineapple cut into chunks and she ate olives.  She drank sparkling water with lime squeezed into it and she drank coffee. She drank red wine from a small glass which was just right for her no longer strong hands.  There was no sense that her food should be different or anyhow special.  Food is not going to save her life. She loves all the flavours but bread and butter remains a favourite.  She claps her hands with delight whenever bread is buttered for her. At moments she is wonderfully lucid and then sometimes she is not. A nurse visits in the morning and in the early evening.  The nurse sends everyone out and she washes and does the things that nurses need to do for people who are dying and cannot leave bed.  She speaks fluent French with the nurse and with the Corsican doctor when he visits. She switches back to English easily.  Her comprehension and use of two languages is not impaired.  Sometimes she babbles and sings and speaks nonsense. Sometimes she is off in her own world.  It was dreadful to say good bye and to recognize the finality of our goodbye but that is what we did. What else could we do.?


Source: Sharing food




Searching for a great Italian coffee, we found a small cafe in Rue Charlot, sort of trended-out and full of everything ‘bio’, almost verging on what they call a ‘concept-shop’, but still really a cafe. It did indeed have a good coffee, which I now pursue with a vengence in the form of a small ‘machiatto’, with it’s head of spume from the hot milk, and the addition of a few crystals of white sugar. The harshness of the solid arabica coffee bean in its bitterness is just tempered by the ‘stain’ of milk and the moment of almost sweetness from the tiny bit of sugar. Sitting over a cup one day last week, I noticed the empty poetry shelf between the novels and the cartoon books, and wondered if they had either sold out, or never had any stock in the first place. I am loathed to rectify the situation by any suggestion I might make, so I’ll continue to stare at this consummate hollowness. SC

Source: Poesie

Happy Birthday To You


The man taking apart the scaffolding round the corner was whistling Happy Birthday To You at top volume, and I realised I had never heard anyone whistling that tune. It was constant and so repetitive that it caused the cafe owner to rush out and castigate the construction worker with some venom. I must admit that it is a tedious song, but until that moment I had never heard anyone offer it this way. Maybe it was the only song he knew, or maybe it was his fellow worker’s birthday, and I thought if that was the case, it would soon seem like parody and be even more annoying! SC

Source: Happy Birthday To You



The police put a note on the front door.  It was about parking. Actually it was about not parking.  It was about not parking on the street on Thursday the 28th through Sunday the 31st.  It was about restricted parking even at night during those dates.  On Wednesday there were lines spray-painted on the curb of the footpath.  Each section between two lines had a number.  The sections were equal and each was maybe 3.5 metres.  I decided that the numbers and the sections were about some digging up to be done.  I wondered how digging and putting back together could be achieved in just four days. On Thursday large vans began to arrive.  Most of the vans were white.  A lot of furniture and stuff was unloaded. Tents were put up.  Some of the stuff was packed into tents and then the tents were closed up or they were tied up tight with rope. Through the night more vans and trucks appeared.  The vehicles were blocking the side streets. Some stuff got unloaded and was left covered by plastic sheets and some was left out in boxes and on tables. A lot was probably still inside the vans.  The vans and trucks stayed where they were all night. Instead of going very quiet late last night, the street remained active in a not normal way.  At 5.30 we woke up.  It was not because of noise. It was just the sense that something was different outside. Looking out we saw tables had been set up on both sides of the street. People were going from table to table in the dark.  People were carrying flashlights.  No one was using smart phone torches.  They were using flashlights and looking at the stuff which was out for sale.  Tables were uncovered. Tents were open. From two floors up we could look down on the tables but we could not see much of anything because individual flashlights did not illuminate much for us from up here. Neither did the street lights. As the day got lighter it was easier to see things.  It was the first time I had looked down at a flea market from above.  It all looked scruffy and disheveled.  Later, as we walked through at street level the objects for sale looked much more interesting. There was furniture and clothing and ironed tablecloths and huge numbers of small chairs for children in a vast variety of styles. There were table lamps and dishes and frames and signs and the entire contents of shops which must have been bought up and brought here to sell.  There was hospital equipment. The tables and displays and tents continue for blocks and blocks and around the side streets and everywhere.  This sale of brocante was planned for November but was cancelled after The Terrible Events of that month.  It is now being held to cheer up the month of January. Today is bitterly cold and there is a sharp wind.  I wonder how everything will be stored and covered over for tonight.  I wonder if tomorrow will bring an even bigger crowd.  I shall need to go out and wander through it all again.  There will no doubt be new things to see.  At the very least the things on display will be organized in a different way after a night under cover so they will look different.


Source: Brocante