Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Paris Episodes: Create Memories!

... if you want to keep your memories, you first have to live them.
Bob Dylan 

If I remember rightly, last week, we were sitting on the floor of my wonderful crumbling apartment at 18 rue St Séverin, using the blue and white striped sofa as a back-rest watching the leaves fall off my honeysuckle plant.

But I was in Paris to create my LIFE! And that meant getting out. I had to anyway, for during my first 6 months in Paris I had sooo many visiters back to back that the apartment was clearly no longer big enough to house me as well! That and the inconvenient lack of a personal washing machine meant I took the TGV 600km to Grenoble practically every other weekend to see Ex with my suitcase full of... dirty laundry. But that's another excuse story ;-)

Most times if you dropped by my apartment after work, I wasn't there. This prompted many of my new colleagues to wonder WHY I had insisted on renting such a HUGE apartment... I was still coming to grips with the conflicting international definitions of 'size,' but with respect to the price, I conceded that they had a small point. Whatever! I had joyfully taken up residence on my own back doorstep, somewhere between the Port and Quai de Montebello with its wonderful melting pot of artists, very few of whom were (and to this day still aren't) French!

Sacha was from Russia. The young blonde in the photo is indeed moi même at 24, LOVE those flattering high-waisted jeans! and the painting behind me is not my portrait ;-) For Sacha, unlike many, was a very talented artist. He could always be found together with his gentle, mustachioed giant of a Russian friend, Albiert, who was obviously the one taking this photo. The three of us would spend many a late afternoon chatting away into the evening hours as Sacha worked on portrait after portrait, explaining to me that he would one day paint a real 'Shedurvre.' As I was still only just babbling French, he was particularly patient in enunciating the term 'chef d'oeuvre' with all its syllables. Mind you, he couldn't say much else in French either!!
"Tis verimportan no' to zay ze F, Ang-ela. You mussay, 'shedurvre.'"

With my 1st major French lesson over and done with then, he and Albiert went on to explain their painting techniques and the art of capturing a soul on canvas. I was in heaven. Penniless all three were we, but survive we would on grand ideas and throat-wrenching wine! It wasn't until one night when I casually asked them where they went when they packed up shop that I realised there was Penniless ... and PENNILESS. They were living in quite a precarious situation in a type of dilapidated backpacker's shelter that they could only return to if they had earned enough during their day's work. Dinner was usually at a soup kitchen for the homeless. But, they assured me, things were fine - during the summer months...

That was it! I quickly did a PERMANENT mental redefinition of the word PENNILESS,  and promptly invited them both back for a home cooked meal of stewed pasta (find out why here) and a huge fresh salad. I gave them my address, code and all, and they arrived around 9pm- all smiles - with a bottle of real 'wodka.' Yes, the W is on purpose!

Now, I am quite partial to a glass of wine, and especially champagne, but spirits I don' like... Goodness knows that between the Farigoule, the Chartreuse, the Absinthe, the Génépi, the Prunelle,  la Calva and the ever sacred Pastis - I have had ample opportunity to acquire a taste - I just can't do it. So I politely left them to their Vodka, which they happily polished off over the course of the evening - regaling me with tales of beautiful St Petersbourg: Home & Heartland.  You can imagine that the stewed pasta went down no worries!

So what do you do the next day when your colleagues casually ask you what you did that previous evening? You giggle away telling them all about it. It wasn't till I hit the wall of dropped jaws and incredulous faces at the part where Sacha and Albiert both left my building joyously raucous and raucously joyous at 2am that it dawned on me! This was obviously not a very French thing to do - spontaneously inviting two men of whom I knew nothing except their first names and their wonderful art back home for dinner.  Had I been reckless and incautious?

Canty, our local plain clothes policeman and practical joker extraordinaire thought so. He used to lock his wife in each night when he left for work... in the streets around MY building. But I'll tell you more about his 'practical jokes' another time.
I still say that you have to go on your gut instinct, assuming you know yourself well enough!

As for Sacha and Albiert - we continued to meet down on the Quai de Montebello up until the end of October when the nights got too cool for the tourists to stay out late and their funds dwindled off. This also coincided with the arrival of 'the boyfriend,' whose love of art extended as far as auction houses and galleries, but not the street.

I came home one night to a garbled and teary goodbye message from Sacha on my answering machine which just appears trite if I write it down here... So I shall just have to leave you as they left me, hanging ...
...  for next week's episode!
I wonder if Sacha ever did paint his Shedurvre. I think of them both often as I paint mine!


  1. I love reading your story and your style of composition and tone of voice is wonderful.

    Thank you for sharing,

  2. The people we meet are often the best thing about travel/adventures.

  3. Egmont, we share a love of words I think... for I enjoy yours as much
    Anita: The people we meet are exactly that! It's always the people that ARE the adventure.

  4. Ange, I would have done the exact same thing. Following your gut can take you on many lovely adventures. Thank you for sharing this one.

  5. Fabulous story, Ange I cannot wait to hear what happens next.....


    L x

  6. Such a wonderful story. I hope you see Sasha again!

  7. Oh Ange, I soooo love the way you write! I feel like I'm right there with you in these stories. Oh Paris . . . one day . . .

  8. I do applaud your adventuressness, (is that a word?) interesting how things we do without thinking at home, are often quite the wrong thing when abroad. I would have asked those lovely artists home for a meal too.

  9. I too got myself into some adventuresome spots when I did my O.E. Some sound so unbelievable I'm not sure I should tell them, but they are certainly all part of the experience! Can't wait for next week Ange! xx


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!