29 April 2007

Stormy Paris

Dressed all in white, an elderly woman holds herself upright on two metal crutches and stares strait into the sky, watching it throw down a storm. Her dog faithfully but coweringly, with tail and head hung down, waits for her to fill her eyes so they might move on. I sit under a canopy watching the busy street of Sunday-closed-shops and listen to the thunder. Opposite me is the Boulanger Patisssier Denis, an orange enclave of cakes, sweets and sandwiches. A man with a parrot on his shoulder and a brown leather bag buys a sandwich while I drink my coffee and listen to the rain.

A little later I've found the delightful creaky wooden-floored flat where I will sleep tonight. The warm glow from yesterday's sun still lingers on forehead, especially when I lift my eyebrows. I have a day to linger here and prepare my talk. This flat is the ancient Asian home of my great aunt, currently lived in by a cousin, and it has recently acquired hot water. To my surprise there is a distinct non-existence of a toilet. Sometimes in small Parisian flats they are in shared by several flats and have a separate door from the stairwell – but after a little adventuring I find it is not the case here. A phone call to my mum, who once lived in this Asian treasure trove of china and dark wood, reveals the curious geography of this flat: there is a secret door to a neighbours flat who has a toilet. When I get back from the phone box, I bang the ornate gong and nod to the Buddha.