p a r i s

[ 09:38 monday 24 november – eurostar 9019, gare du nord, paris ]

a cold clear-skied morning in paris. four minutes to departure. the carriage is a-bustle with people stowing luggage and finding their seats. a cursory scan suggests three quarters tourist to one quarter business. that ratio would have been reversed on trains two hours ago.

i came over on saturday morning to see claire’s exhibition at the espace porte de champerret. this is my first visit to paris since i won a traveling scholarship from my school to come and investigate electro-acoustic music in 1989. somehow i’ve always travelled further afield. paris was so close it never occurred to me to come.

thinking myself very ingenious on saturday i strapped on my backpack and pedaled down to st pancras on my folding bike, expecting to throw it in the luggage rack for the journey then have my own wheels in paris. but at check in i was greeted with a firm insistence that the bike could not come unless it was packed in a bag “for security reasons”. what? in what conceivable way is a folded bike less of a security risk if it’s in a bag? i could understand if the company wanted to prevent their trains being dirtied by oily bikes, but i hate that we’re expected to nod in acquiescence at patently absurd rules if they’re justified by security. anyway i didn’t have a bag so the bike wasn’t coming. i tried to dump it at st pancras’ left luggage but got the same “it needs to be in a bag for security reasons” mantra. so i trudged across the road to the left luggage office at kings cross who took it without question. by this time i’d missing my train but the eurostar folks were kind enough to rebook me on the next service.

over the last couple of days i’ve done a lot of walking, exploring different neighbourhoods without any map or particular objective. saturday was crisp and cold with clear flat light. yesterday it rained all day, undulating between gentle patter and full-on deluge. on saturday night we all ended up at “point ephemera”, a club in an old industrial space by the side of the canal near stalingrad metro. then last night i met pierre at an event in belleville where the walls had been covered in tin-foil, a band discharged a krautrockish drone, two girls danced  together semi-naked and a cocktail based on tomato juice and tequila was liberally dispensed. it was charming.

i spent several hours yesterday afternoon at “les puces”, a market at the north-eastern periphery of the city. it was like a huge casbah, gorgeously photogenic in the fluorescent light and rain. most of the stalls offered generic hip-hop apparel, cheap north african leather goods and chinese trinkets. but i found a few vintage clothes emporia and some inventive small-scale designers. the best find was upstairs in an indoor section of the market. walking past at ground level i spotted a mannequin in victorian dress so i went up to investigate. what greeted me was a staggering collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from all over europe, curated by a delightful couple. there were embroidered peasant clothes from romania and the balkans, servants’ liveries from mid nineteenth century parisian households, military uniforms. but what caught my eye was a louis xiii herald suit, made for a paris theatre at the end of the nineteenth century, consisting of a jacket and calf-length doublet, made from scarlet and celeste wool, decorated with braid and brass bobbles. it fitted me perfectly and was ridiculously cheap so it’s here on the train back to london with me.

: c :

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