At one point this week I was sitting on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes. It was a break in the rain, the clouds were still ominous, brooding, heavy and fat but they were just sitting there. A kind of ceasefire. People had come out; the neatly manicured lawns, all the flowerbeds with their orderly planted rows of exotica, were teeming with Parisians strolling arm-in-arm between the intermittent sunbeams. Not everyone was smiling as such, but there was certainly peacefulness. Lording over the whole scene, at the end of an avenue of trees so neatly trimmed they must’ve used a razor reclined the Natural History Museum, all beige rock. Names inscribed all along the facade. Names I didn’t recognize but felt I should because I assume they’re the names of past directors, people who helped make this garden what it is. (I’m reminded of the director of the Istanbul Museum, Osman Hamdi Bey, or something like that, he convinced one of the very last Sulatns to establish a Museum such as they had in places like Paris, to recover and look after Ottoman history – so much of which (admittedly a lot of it pre-Ottoman) had been taken by European museums, anyway, he eventually managed to get the museum to such an impressive level that three immense wings were built to house the collection. The Great War started soon afterward. )
Children were running about, cute little things in their bright coats, chasing pigeons. And even though it’s a really obvious and kind of lame thing to be struck by, nevertheless I was struck by how kids are the same everywhere – pause the rain, put ‘em outside and they will chase the birds. It was so cute, I smiled.
Later, I was walking way over somewhere I didn’t really know where. It was a lovely wide, tree-lined boulevard (they do them so well) and most of the trees were covered in gorgeous yellow blossom. Spring. From the corner of my eye I saw two young men nod in my direction and stand up. They started to walk along with me, at a distance, requisite hoodies obscuring their faces and bobbing with every step. Oh jeez, was I that easy a target? One walked several paces ahead, the other just behind my shoulder. As I slowed down, so did they, as I sped up, they too. Fuck. In broad daylight! I began to panic, looking for a shop to turn into, a passerby to stop and ask directions of, anything. Nothing. They turned into a supermarket a block or so on. Poor old scaredy cat Eric, always seeing ghosts in hoodies.
Hollande was elected last night. The feeling in the air was exciting. A bit like Kevin, or Obama – I guess just ‘change’ really, ‘hope’, ‘promise’. All day had been relatively quiet, the beige streets silent for Sunday, the sky mostly grey, mostly wanting to rain. Then after the count, scooters zipping back and forth horns tooting like epileptic clowns, groups of smiling people striding (let’s not say marching) along the streets waving the tricolour, fists beating the air. I want to say I heard a chorus of champagne bottles popping but to be honest it was probably my hangover. Monique pointed out how interesting it is that in Australia, only a certain kind of person would walk the streets waving the flag – it’s just not something that is generally done in Oz. She’s right of course and my gut response is that only jingoistic people would even want to. Except, I’m an Australian, so my view is skewed? And I assume young men in hoodies on a street bench of an afternoon are up to something. Unless they’re really young and chasing pigeons, in which case I can be reminded that we’re actually all the same.