Thursday, February 17, 2005

paris smells

An olfactory tour of the left bank left me wondering if everything we sense as we get older is simply a memory:

From somewhere came the whiff of my damp 1978 edition of 'Paris Pas Cher' in which I found the amazing 'Bateau Ivre' cafe-concert. there Juliette, Jacques, Charles (1 and 2) and Edith - hitherto locked up in a nasty pink gramophone my nana gave me - came to life in my first sniff of live chansonniers.

Out of the grid, up my trouser leg and into my nostrils that seductive mixture of piss and croissants - The Paris metro. What is it about that steamy dreamy stench? Stale piss ALWAYS reminds me of India anyway and I go into raptures over it, but that was later. It's teenage trips where all the boys on the metro seemed suave and chiselled, holding easels or guitars rather than spotty and pasty boys holding cans.
I am not alone, I know, in being utterly seduced by it every time, and I hear the London Tube does it for the frogs too.

Issymiyake. Thought this scent was out of fashion but it's freshness brings back hair memories - mine short and blue, his which I am stroking on a coach trip somewhere between Assisi and Bologna a cornfield swaying in the breeze. Perfume really works here - lightly perfumed men especially, in nice coats (Parisiens have nice coats, lots of them). Nothing butch or pink, just a passing suggestion of a hidden wish.
Of course they kiss alot so it's worth making the effort:
2 kisses.
"Bonjour, Comment allez vous?"
"Tres bien merci, et vous?
"Tres bien, merci"
2 more kisses
This makes, on meeting your 40 colleagues every morning, a total of 160 (or 240 where we are in Provence) kisses and that's before you've sat down at your desk.
No point in wearing perfume in England as no-one ever goes near anyone else except your partner who, after so many years, prefers you un-perfumed, or the boss after a good grope.

A bijoux lawn on the Ile St Louis is being carefully trimmed, almost knitted, by it's bent capped owner and all the first days of all the springs of my life in T shirts and on bicycles, by the Thames, the Po, the Rhine, the Seine and the Long Island Sound, with Nathan, Alessandro, Rheinhardt, Franck, and Jonathan - all captured in a piece of grass in winter.

And yet, having descended to the dogshit-free Seine, there IS a new smell. No thoughts or associations here. It is somewhat naughty, oaky, smutty.....mmmmmmm

It is a tramp toasting his buttend on a burning camel packet.


Blogger Patrick said...

Better the Metro than the LU especially Oxford Circus in the rain. Wet coats, background hashish, dog (or summat) poo,Dust in the rushing wind from below stale pee, stale curry, cheap perfume - rushing here, rushing there, galoise and other (noxious) fumes.
I thought the greeting to an 'intimate' used the 2nd person. je t'aime etc etc. Love reading your blogs Hugh

11:43 AM  
Blogger ruth said...

gawd that's why we left. paris smells but it smells romantic!

9:05 PM  

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