Son et Lumiere…

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!