When Life Gets You Down, Go Shopping

Thud thud thud, ring ring!

I woke with a start, I was waiting for someone to shout out POLICE OPEN UP to follow the urgent ringing and banging at my door.

Who could this be.  Julien is the only person who knows the two codes to enter the apartment block.

Fumbling to strap on the wonder shoe and in a daze glancing around the apartment searching for something that could act as a dressing gown, the banging continued and something in French I didn’t quite understand.

Cracking open the door in an attempt to hide my scantily clad body, I squint to see two burly men on my landing huffing and puffing, trying to wake myself from my sleep, I recognise the two plumbers from yesterday.

You have got to be kidding me, I hiss at them in English.

 

All I can understand from the flood of words that come out of their mouths is chauffage.  They have come to replace the heating system.

Still peering through the crack in the door, I try to explain it is working, it is hot, yes I know hot but I can’t find words to say I am still in my pyjamas and un-showered.

They are not impressed, verging on angry.  I open the door wide voilà I exclaim as I sweep my arms wide and brush them down my legs to explain, I have no clothes on.  Albeit my cute recently purchased, frilly shorts, a singlet and the wonder shoe, I am standing in front of two burly men, almost naked.

It is hot now, I explain, it is working.  They follow me into the apartment as I hobble through in my PJ’s, leading them to the heater.  Then to a tap.  It is hot.

Raising their eyebrows, shrugging their shoulders, talking amongst themselves, they are surprised.  Yesterday it was broken.  They shake their heads puff up their cheeks – phuhsss, they blow out air.  Well too bad, they have the new heating system and they are ready to get started.

Hang on a minute, this means another day, kicked out of the apartment without a shower my hair was slicked against my head like an Elvis impersonator.

NO.

Come back in an hour, I am having a shower.  I am putting my broken toe down.  This is just too much.

I call the apartment manager, of course he isn’t there I yell at the girl on the other end of the phone in a rage, he is never there, I spit out.

Speak to these men, I am not letting them in until I have a shower.  But you didn’t know they were coming today, she calmly asks me with her sweet French accent?  Oh boy, that is my whole point, no-one is communicating anything to me.  I am sorry but they have to wait, tell them and I throw the phone at the large bearded plumber with a number gypsy earrings in one ear lobe.

They are not happy and I understand, it is not their fault but I have to stand up for my rights, my right to have a shower.

They pile all their work gear into my bedroom.  The bedroom is the first room to enter, when arriving at the apartment.  Tool boxes, the massive box containing the new ‘chauffage’ an array of other gear.  One hour, one hour they repeatedly ask me, to confirm we all agree and understand the time frame.

Cleaner, calmer, I invite the men into the apartment, at exactly one hour after they had left.

I try to apologise, calmer, I can now find a small amount of French words to explain the situation and they, on the whole, understand.

The sales start today and I need to shop, as a release of course!

After having a quick coffee in a nearby cafe, I hobbled in the direction of Les Halles in search of my favourite clothing store.

Sirens are part of Paris life, with their distinctive sound.  The firemen, ambulance and the police always seem to be rushing somewhere with sirens and lights on.

Today I heard a different siren.  The long whining, drawn out type of sound that I connect with war sirens in movies. I look around to see nothing but Parisians going about their day.  Two police on bicycles whizz past, faster than I have seen them move before.  I shrug and continue to head towards my shopping destination.

 

Trying on clothes a couple of days ago, I already knew some of the purchases I wanted to make and was relieved to see they still had them in my size.

The coat in their latest range and no chance of dragging on the ground, it was snug and had long deep pockets, which I consider to be a must for storage, warm hands and deter thieves on the metro. There was no need to procrastinate any longer, it ticked all the boxes and I strutted out the door with a large bag containing not only my old coat but a few other purchases.

Thinking I wouldn’t mind going to a museum but having to lug around my shopping and old coat was not practical, it wasn’t too far to the apartment, I could drop it off and have some lunch.  The plumbers should be gone by now.

I listen at the door to see if I can hear movement, nothing but when I turn the key, the dead lock isn’t on, they must be still there.

Walking into the apartment to discover their jackets strewn over the sofa, the TV blaring in the lounge room, the radio blaring in the bathroom, I felt like saying, make your self at home boys!  Instead I said bonjour, ça-va?

Oui, oui they both nod with smiles on their faces, ça-va, they answer, all is going well.

 

I almost expected them to be sitting on the sofa with beers in hand watching the TV, the way they had spread themselves about the small apartment.

I offer another apology for the confusion, they are all smiles, it is all ok. This is when the bearded plumber with the gypsy earrings offers a reason why the TV is on.

12 people have been murdered by Kalashnikov wielding terrorists in Paris, under 1km from where I was shopping.  Killing journalists from the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, including two police officers.  One police officer, shot in the back.

I watch the TV, trying to grasp and process as many words that I can.  The plumber sits on the sofa beside me, in solidarity. I try to ask questions to learn where, what arrondissement and he does his best to answer my questions.

It was then that the constant live broadcast began to release some of the names of those who had been killed. He recognises the names of the journalists.  Merde – shit, we say in unison.

I head to my bar in haste, perhaps they will be able to explain a little more to me.

The bar was somber but a buzz with talk about the recent attack. I try to listen to the discussions around the bar as I eat a plate of rillettes and cornichons.

Not in the mood for museums anymore, I wander around the Marais, feeling a little lost not sure what to do with myself.

 

Having to leave the pavement to negotiate around a large removal truck from England parked half on the footpath and half on the street, I noticed that the blue double doors that I often pass on Rue Vieille du Temple, with ornate lion heads is open.

Do I or don’t I?

Who cares, what is the worst that can happen, I will be asked to leave.  I step over the base of the door and down the flagged stoned driveway.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I confidently leave, I pass the removalists with large heavy boxes.  I am becoming quite an expert at sneaking into courtyards. I nod to them with a polite bonjour.

Still unsure what to do with myself, I wandered and ended up at The Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville or BHV, as it is familiarly known, the large department store on Rue de Rivoli.

Shoppers were busily shopping, seemly unawares of the devastation that had happened only 1 km away.

Did I buy yet more clothes?  

Of course I did.  

In view of what has occurred today, life is short.

The fashion this year is made up of lots of printed fabrics.

It is frowned upon to photograph in the department stores but when in a cabin, a dressing room.  Who is there to stop me.  There was no stopping me today.  

Whether it was demanding a shower or sneaking into a private courtyard.  I was full of courage.

Besides, I needed to photograph this dress, to remind me to find it later, when perhaps the price will drop a little more and make it affordable for me to buy.

 
 

Perhaps it was a build up of rage, that had until now, laid dormant, deep down somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

But today, my frustration and rage was taken out on a young lady and her friends in my favourite bar tonight.

Deciding on a quick pit stop, one glass of wine before heading home and try to make sense of the news, I secured a stool at the bar.

A slightly drunk but polite man engaged me in conversation and between his English and my French, we managed to discuss today’s events.

The bar was quiet and I like it when it is like this.  My friend Bouba admired my new coat and noted a different feel about the place.

Another man, quietly sitting in my favourite spot, also at the bar, slipped outside for a cigarette, leaving a piece of paper, rolled up and secured by an elastic band, his sunglasses and a large glass of beer.

Four, unusually rowdy Parisians arrived and asked if the stool is free, no it isn’t.  This one beside me is but that one is taken and I pointed to the man’s belongings sitting on the bar.  This didn’t stop them and they muscled in.  

Petit fer a Cheval is a very tiny cafe.  It’s signature, horse shoe shaped ancient bar, taking up most of the space. It can get crowded and when it is, we snuggle in politely, at close proximity but still allowing a small amount of private space.

She backs up against me and giggles, her friends follow suit.  They know they are being cheeky.  She flicks her long dark hair over me.  Gathering it up into a bun, skimming the top of my glass.  I lean back, give a quick glance of disapproval.  They giggle again.

The cigarette smoker returns, unable to get back to his stool, when they finally make way for him to enter, he is pinned in the corner.

There are other places available around the bar, but they decide to stay.

This should have been my cue to offer my stool and leave.

But something inside me and the offer of a glass of wine from my companion made me stay put.

MADEMOISELLE, I say to her, long and drawn out, knowing that offering mademoiselle, the younger form would add a hint of sarcasm, she giggles again. After a calculated pause, I add – s’il vous plait.

oooh, her friends add and they giggle again.  She shrugs her shoulders and raises her eyebrows, feigning innocence.

I can’t find the French words, I can’t be bothered, but I try with, I am sorry, I don’t speak French well but … she interrupts and replies in English with a smug look on her face.  I speak English.  Good, I answer her in English, this will enable to express myself properly.

You are being rude.  I am not, she childishly retorts as she starts to strip off her layer of jumpers.  Shivers, she is getting ready for a bar brawl!

You are, I insist.  She rattled off something about being in France. Non Mademoiselle, it doesn’t matter what bar or what country we are in the world.  You are lacking manners, you have muscled this guy out of his seat and you are aware of it and I point out the man, who has now moved to the other side of the bar, where there was ample room for them to move.

She apologises.

Not long after, as I leave the bar, I offer them a bonne soirée. A good evening and she very politely offers a bonne soirée Madame.  Civil, we smile.

Maybe it wasn’t just me, maybe it was the tension in the air.

But I was tired of putting up with stuff.  Je Suis Paris Adèle.

 

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