Saturday, January 14, 2006

Paris - last night

Monday 9th Jan

The talk on photography at Patricia's soiree inspired me to take even more photos than usual on Monday, helped by the very good weather. But I tried to take more of the kind of thing she omits, modern French life, adopting a more documentary approach.

I felt I was getting into a routine (warned about in my talk at Patricia's the week before) by returning to the usual places for my last night on Monday. But I had been exploring the Left Bank for about five hours in the afternoon, so went back to my favourites in the evening and had a really good time again.

Henrietta, the very accomplished Dutch pianist, was playing again and waved when I came in (the "Cheers" effect). Later, as she left, she asked me how my talk had gone at Patricia's (too long and complicated - old habits die hard). There was a new, older guy singing opera - just for the love of it.

I was a bit annoyed at two young guys who came in rather noisily. I thought they were Italians, but they turned out to be Brazilians and the noisiest quietened down and listened appreciatively to the older guy and applauded loudly - and later he sang too, with a lot of Brazilian-style body movement and gestures.

Then a young blond (a Russian, I think) came in with her child in a buggy ! - and seemed to have had a bit too much to drink already. She really got into the music and was amused when I took pics of her and the child, which was just learning to walk and tottered/crawled around the bar. The two young guys played with the child then moved to her table. She then made my night by inviting me to join them and seemed quite put out when I declined - there wasn't really enough room - and she said to the two guys: "Le monsieur est si elegant." ! They didn't seem to agree :-)

The cast of characters in that bar ! - an old lady with one eye, wearing a fur coat and with a cigarette holder; a guy with beard, trilby hat and scarf looking like an opera singer; the tall doorman; the pretty young blonde barmaid; the petite, dark waitresses; another old, tall, ex pro-opera singer (I think) - a baritone, elegantly dressed - Toulouse Lautrec would love it ! I imagine it gets a lot of tourists later in the year, but for now it was mostly locals and regulars.

Then I went on to the Caveau de la Huchette - again - and apologized to Ignacio, the barman, for not bringing any women this time. Then an attractive blonde woman came and ordered a drink next to me and stayed there, so I felt it my duty to talk to her. It turned out that she was one of the singers - a trio of women in bright berets and silver ties. She comes from Amsterdam but has lived in Paris for 20 years and said she didn't know if she was Dutch or French and liked my suggestion that she was a citizen of the world. Unfortunately my ego was deflated as one of her friends introduced her to a young guy and she moved away.

Back downstairs a couple gave a fantastic display of dancing - just beautiful to watch - like top athletes or tennis players, the guy very inventive and graceful and the girl matching his moves wonderfully.

Then the three women did their second set, very good - and a big jazz band - all this for a mere 10 euros - and drinks at reasonable prices - I love the place.

The rest of the photos:
Trois Mailletz

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Soiree/Felicia's birthday

Sunday 8th Jan.

To another of Patricia's soirees, where an American woman gave a talk on photography - in Paris and Provence. The photos were very good, but all rather pretty, tourist images of France; there were no photos of bars for example, a rather typical aspect of French life - well, that's my excuse why so many of my photos are taken in bars (see below).

Soon after I arrived Patricia noted that I was quite shy at first in a group; which surprised her after my interventions in the discussion at the soiree about Ansari's film on child labour, and my extrovert man-about-town attitude when taking her and Kathy to the Trois Mailltez, etc. This time I got talking to an extrovert New Yorker, who works as a design consultant, which enables her to live in NY and Paris. But her good fortune had been interrupted by a serious personal loss recently, which had made her, like me, determined to carpe diem. But that doesn't mean a sybaritic life, shallowly interpreted; there is intellectual pleasure too and (slipping back into lecturer mode) I recommended my current reading, Steven Johnson's "Mind Wide Open", as well as Chomsky's "Understanding Power" (sadly, like so many Americans, she wasn't familiar with his work, due to the neglect of his work by the mainstream US media). I also chatted briefly to Mike, a Canadian guy, who'd gone to school in England, and was bright and amusing in a rather British, self-deprecating way. I also made sure to get Barney Kirchhoff's card, a reservoir of knowledge about Paris.

After the talk, two American women, Lyle and Felicia, came over and said that Patricia had told them that I could tell them about places they could go on to - already I am the expert here on the local night-life ! Being an English gent - and aspiring bon viveur - I offered to take them.
We went to the usual places - to Trois Mailletz piano bar, where they played Happy Birthday for Felicia and brought her a little cake with a candle at midnight, when her birthday started - she was almost in tears.

Then she was embarrassed when Lyle seriously asked what language they spoke in the UK ! - as she couldn't understand many of them there, though she could understand me. But then many accents are so strong that we Brits have problems understanding people from some areas; so her confusion is understandable.

Dancing in the aisles at Caveau de la Huchette

Then we looked in at the Caveau des Oubliettes where there was a good jazz trio, but it was rather crowded, so we went on, a mere hundred metres or so, to Caveau de la Huchette. I think they had a nice time. Some of the people jiving were quite impressive. Then Lyle got Ignacio - the barman, who's now my pal :-) - to take photos of the three of us and then I took one of him with them, more quickly, and Ignacio said: "Il est professionel" - fortunately it came out OK.


After the New Year in Paris I went down to Cannes for a few days. The weather was lovely for the first two days, so I was able to eat outside on the beach (see the photo in the title bar above, taken Jan. 5th). I met up with Monique, the mother of one of my ex-students and her partner Lionel, who introduced me to a friend, Sylvie. We all had a pleasant evening in an old restaurant I had spotted in a sort of mini-Montmartre area. There was some live music and a lot of chansons sung by Charles Asnavour on the hi-fi - a very French evening (and I had to speak French all evening, so a bit tiring too).

On my last day in Cannes, I had a trip to Antibes with Sylvie, where we found a lovely bar, with art exhibitions and a view of the sea.

We left it late to get back to Cannes and I missed my train, but luckily it was no problem. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was another train in about an hour and I was just issued with another ticket - no extra - I don't think this would happen in the UK. It might even have been a good thing, as the later train had plenty of empty seats, so I wasn't irritated by people on mobiles, etc. In fact I was quite disciplined and finished my book - "Mind Wide Open", how neuroscience shows Freud was wrong - of course - Steven Johnson, recommended.

This took four hours. I then rewarded myself by going to the bar where I chatted to the conducter and barman, who were a bit bored as there were so few people. The conductor had lived in the US for a while, and spoke English well, but I forced myself to get some more French practice. The barman had lived near Bournemouth for a while, and quite liked some aspects of British culture, pubs, etc. It was reassuring that they thought my French was OK and that I should have little problem if I moved to France.

I arrived back in Paris at about 11 pm, checked into my hotel and then had a late omelette in Cafe Phare at Bastille - where cafe philos started.


New Year's Eve

Patricia gave me the phone number of Mike, another expat, who was having a NYE party. He had too many people, but, as they were mainly women, he let me in - 40 euros and a bottle of champagne. It was rather crowded and somehow I just couldn't get in the mood. The food was good and plentiful, but I just had some lamb. I'd told Kathy about it, and, since she knew him, she managed to get in too and I chatted to her for some of the time. I chatted to Bertrand, who works on satellites, and told him about my talk at Patricia's - despite that, he turned up for it.

I also chatted to Gabrielle Garz, who was wearing a very brightly coloured dress, rather cheering in the Jan. gloom.

She had studied science, but now she is a painter. She showed me some of her abstract paintings, some based on natural forms. I suggested she might do more distinctive work if she used science as the basis for her ideas, especially as she'd studied it. She said that a dealer had said there were a lot of works like hers, and a friend had made a similar suggestion to mine - so she wasn't put out.

Gabrielle's site

S. (my ex) had also made a last minute decision to come to Paris, just over New Year in her case. We met at a favourite place, the garden bar in Studio 28, Rue Tholoze, Monmartre; the cinema where Bunuel and Dali had shown their films in the 1920s and where they'd met the cultural elite of the time, Picasso, etc. The cinema was attacked by a Right wing mob.

We wandered around, S. turning down some restaurants as being too quiet. So we tried Rue des Abbesses and seemd to run out of choices, mostly crowded bars. We ended up at Le Relais Gascon, also very crowded. We narrowly avoided a row about where to sit, then it got even more crowded, people queing inside and out - and all those nice, empty restaurants just up the road.

Earlier in my trip I had done my own tour of Montmartre, checking out a couple of piano bars on Rue Norvins.

Then I walked down to Rue des Martyrs and checked out Caveau des Arts for the first time.

There was no show in the cellar bar, but the bar was full of boho types and a young guy, who looked about 15, who was belting out classic songs in a very professional way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Paris Xmas/New Year 2005-6

Just before Xmas I decided to go to Paris - carpe diem - it turned out to be a very good decision - possibly life changing, since I'm now thinking of moving to Paris rather than Montpellier, at least for some time.

Last time I came to Paris I found, thanks to the wonders of the internet, two American ex-pats who hold soirees/parties. I went to the Jim Haynes' one last year. This year Patricia was having one on Xmas day. It was SO much more fun than many of my xmases; nice turkey meal and wine; an English woman sculptor, Pre-Raphaelite looks, red hair, did an apple crumble - all this for a donation of 25 euros.

The hostess had Aslam Ansari talk about a film he made about child labour, mainly in Pakistan. He didn't have a lot to say, and I got into lecturing mode a bit :-) talking about the recent popularity of documentaries like Supersize Me and Michael Moore's docs, also about the new possibilities of making docs cheaply, using the new digital technology. I have to say it was good for my ego, a couple of women afterwards said they'd found what I said interesting :-) Then Patricia asked if I'd like to give the talk next Sun. ! Actually not SUCH a big compliment, since it means she doesn't have to look around for anyone else.

Trois Mailletz bar, Paris

I stayed on talking to her and Kathy, another American woman, and I mentioned how I like to stroll around at night and check out interesting bars, e.g. an old favourite of mine which I went to on Xmas eve, Le Trois Mailletz, on the left bank, just across from Notre Dame. The guys who built ND are said to have drunk there. It has a large cellar bar where they have late night cabaret. Upstairs. Henrietta, a Dutch woman plays the piano very well, and a wide variety, from opera to pop numbers. A young Japanese woman sang opera arias VERY well, and also, Jim, an older Scottish guy, a retired pro opera singer, a great showman, who wandered around the room singing to people. He has a very powerful voice for a relatively small guy and a good sense of humour. There was also another French male singer, who must also have been a pro. What a great night !

Patricia said that she knew the place, but had never been inside, and said it's not so easy for a woman to wander into bars on her own. So I offered to take her, then Kathy said she'd like to go too. So I agreed to take them both on Tues. I went back on Monday to check that there will be music and it won't be empty early in the week. I shouldn't have worried, it was very lively again, and I got talking to Jim, the Scottish singer, Pauline, his New Zealander girlfriend and to the Henrietta, the Dutch pianist. Unfortunately he and Pauline are returning to home in Folkstone today, but there will be a female singer. We might go to the cabaret, but I think it will be too late for Kathy, it doesn't start till 11.30.

I then went on to Caveau de la Huchette where Leah Kline was singing with Bert De Kort and the Intenational Jazz All Stars. When I arrived it was the break so I stayed upstairs in the bar. Then a woman came and ordered a drink beside me and coughed - I said: "It's all these French smokers". She said she just had a cold - and she was Leah Kline ! We got chatting and it turned out she'd possibly like some help with her web site and I suggested she start a blog. I also poured scorn on the guy who was going to do some illustrations for her poems, but with an Arty approach, i.e. they'd have nothing to do with her poems !

Leah Kline at Caveau de la Huchette
Leah's blog set up by me.

Trois Mailletz/authenticity

Tues. 27th Dec

I took Patricia to the Trois Mailletz on Tues., Kathy couldn't make it. It was fairly empty but that meant less noise and a choice of tables - on the left, just inside the door - good view of the pianist/singer and less smoke.

I was developing my talk for Patricia's soiree in my head; it's was to be about authenticity - after all this is the Paris of Sartre and Camus.

But there will be a media angle, relating it to Ansari's talk of the week before; it will be about authentically documenting life (objectivity, NOT balance, etc.) and living a life worth documenting, i.e. living authentically. The latter involves taking a certain amount of risk and leaving oneself open to experience, like coming to Paris at Xmas. The hostess was quite entertained by some of my stories about what's happened to me on my various trips abroad, so I thought I'd build them into it, rather than making it too academic.

It will also involve the value and danger of habituation; we can adapt to almost anything, people had good and bad days even in concentration camps. But we do tend to stick with old habits (sensible from a survival point of view, if they've worked they probably will go on working). I remember reading that after about 30, MOST people don't try new things.