A weekend working in Paris. Wonderful to be back in a city I lived in very happily for five years. Getting a cab to the studios, we pass the end of my old road and delightful memories come flooding back. Running to and from work (did I really do that!) through the oldest quartiers, shops opening on the way and closing on the way home. Walking along the river, catching sight of favourite views.
It’s like running into an old lover years later, when all that remains are the good memories and none of the arguments. You hug and are just pleased to see one another and a little wistful. The past is still there, but it’s not the same as the present.
Two long days of work is fine, I can manage, but know I’ll need a few days to recover. But oh it’s worth it to feel that old adrenalin running through the veins, discovering that I haven’t forgotten my trade and that I’m really rather good at this.
One of the few good things about having a stick is that it whizzes you through the queues. So I come off Eurostar to find a queue of about a hundred people waiting for a cab. A gendarme armed to the the teeth and straight out of central hunk casting, welcomes me to Paris and ushers me to the head of the queue, chatting aimiably.
Paris is full of heavily armed guards and there is a palpable feeling of anxiety, unlike London, where we are just as vulnerable. Something to be said for English phlegm ( as the French call it), not so much stiff upper lip as a stubborn refusal to live life differently. Without the spitting.
As we go through security on the way back, another gendarme asks me if I can walk without my stick. I want to go full Simpson and say ‘duh’ but know better. I lean against the security. barrier while they test my stick. Then set off the alarms when I walk through with stick. Any metal bits or plates? I think, but no. He produces a magic searching wand which beeps when it gets anywhere near my ankles. He hums, I ha in a noncommital sort of way. I sense we are approaching removal of shoes time, not easy without a chair, or being unable to stand on one leg. He prods both my ankles but finds no metal. He hums again, I lean heavily on my stick and he smiles and lets me through.
See you next year, says the French course leader. I do a momentary double take and realise she doesn’t know I’m ill. Next year is a long way off, I deal in quarterly bites between tests. But who knows? There’s a bitter sweet wistfulness as I look for Montmartre as we pull out of the station. It’s still there and so am I.