It’s been a surreal few weeks. Work has taken me from Stockholm, to Amsterdam and Paris…via Wales and London. On Monday – as a deranged (and I mean batsh*t crazy!!) Parisian cabbie drove me from La Defense to Gare du Nord – I had the luxury of sitting back and absorbing the scenery. As regular readers will know, Paris is one of my favourite cities – not least for the food, the art, and the fine underwear available for purchase at Galleries Lafayette!
On this day however, I was marvelling at the weather. It’s February, and although days are lengthening in the Northern Hemisphere, blasts of winter ire still rain down in the coastal reaches! But in Paris, it was a balmy Spring! As I crossed the Seine, Winter light illuminated the architraves of this elegant city…Life felt good!
This got me thinking…are human beings conditioned by climate? I blame my hot temper on the fact that I have Irish, South African and Italian blood running through my veins. But perhaps I am a fraud? Perhaps the climate in which I find myself determines my mood? My true love is for Winter – log fires, red wine and convivial evenings with friends. And yes, while I am drawn to Summer – I really do hate the heat – freckles and humidity – Eeuww! Autumn is good because you can be melancholy with justifiable reason – and you get berries, apples and pumpkins as harvest! But at the same time, Spring means fresh starts and renewed vigour as nature (and life) bring hope with longer days. In my language we often describe people as ‘being in their element’ – meaning they are happy in that particular space, place and time.
Forget about personality type, culture, or class – perhaps people have a season… What’s your element?
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!