I know exactly when it happened. My first love affair. Passionate… Enduring… All consuming… Well, I was nine. Yes. I know what you cynics are thinking, but you are sooooo…wrong. It was not a dog, cat or hamster…the lover in question happens to be a city. Bricks and mortar, but so much more.
Frankly, I blame my parents. After all…if they hadn’t gone to Paris for their honeymoon, I might have focused my affections on Skegness! God Forbid! Anyway, they chose Paris instead. The epitome of chic in the sixties. Thank God…and thank Yves St Laurent!
I realise this might appear strange to all those well-travelled EU citizens out there. But to a shy, spider-legged girl growing up in Africa, Paris seemed impossibly sophisticated. This affection for a capital I had never seen or visited grew, but remained unrequited until university. It was there that I discovered my second love…French films. For those of you who eschew subtitles – just look away now and don’t bother to read any further!
In 1895 the Lumiere brothers were the first to present projected, moving, photographic, pictures to a paying audience of more that one person. I think that qualifies as inventing cinema and probably explains why French films are pre-eminent in my own mind. By the time I graduated, I’d watched about 100 French films. The ones I love most, were set in Paris. They usually involved complex, slow moving plot-lines and starred couth, dark haired men. Men of few words, but great passion. They wore pressed blue shirts and dined and smoked in wood-panelled bistros. They rode vespas and had complicated personal lives. Well… it’s my fantasy so I’m allowed to dream!
Last week, I set off for Paris. I had breakfast with Matisse and Picasso, lunch in a wood-panelled bistro on the Seine. A good spot for watching suave men and elegant women as they sashayed past on their way to work…to assignations…and the Rive Gauche. I spent the afternoon getting lost in the Marais, but finding myself…in the architecture, the light, the sense and sound of an old city. I fell in love all over again. Paris, j’taime!