Saturday, April 28, 2007

Of heat and homelessness

Welcome to my first blog! I hope you're excited: I know I am! This is a little run down of the week that was, from my return to Paris after my Easter séjourn in the UK. So, make sure you're comfy, as I begin.

It was on Monday that my holiday in England came to an end to start my holiday of sorts here in Paris. As I left London on the Eurostar, the weather on that side of the channel was decidedly greyer and cooler than previous days. But arriving at Gare du Nord, although it was seven in the evening, it was ridiculously hot. And things haven't changed from then.

Tuesday was just as hot and sunny, so before going to my only lecture of the week, I went on an hour walk. Well, two walks, since I found it impossible to tackle the Nation mega-roundabout and find the road I wanted. So, instead, I caught the métro to Châtelet and continued from there until Tuileries. Walking by the Seine in the summer air: it can't be beaten. Since our lecturer wasn't there, which was no change as we have had him for a total of four hours approximately out of the timetabled ten, the lecture was taught instead by a PhD student, whose name I can't remember, and never will again. She was really good actually, although she became frustrated by the very little general information we seemed to know. In the evening, I went to church, which had a new format; we got into two small groups and talked about a topic. My group was 'decisions'. I have to say I really enjoyed that evening. Although we did get onto slightly bizarre side tracks, like having one's head cut off.

Wednesday, I wrote some of my art essay in the morning, and for lunch I went for a picnic with Nicky on the Champs de Mars, just by the Eiffel Tower. Nicky has the fortune, or misfortune, of living right besides the Eiffel Tower. I then went swimming, but I was quite disappointed, as the swimming pool was covered (I thought it was outdoors), I had to pay the full fee (a whopping 2€60, extortionate!), and it was crowded. But that's what you get for going on a Wednesday, as all the schools are closed. I could have swum in one of the designated lanes, but since when I swim I look like I'm drowning (well, that's what my report for swimming said at school), and the swimmers already in the lanes looked incredibly serious, I decided it was best not to disturb them. Some people were taking themselves far too seriously, but that's the French for you... and I know as an Englishman how easy it is to upset the French.

Thursday, I wrote more of my art essay, and then I had ice cream with Lucy and Katy Dey. Katy Dey has quit uni but is still working in Paris. We went for ice cream on Ile St-Louis, which has a ridiculous number of ice cream shops in a really small area. Although that is what the island is known for. And there were people queuing for miles (slight exaggeration, but 50 yards sounds less dramatic) because it was so hot. But we found a small ice cream shop with no one queuing, and the ice cream was really nice. There's always a possibility that there's a reason people weren't queuing for that one but for others. But that's how tourists work. They only go for ones where there are already really long queues to be on the safe side and then moan about how long the queues are. I had a very nice raspberry ice cream (at least I think it was raspberry). I'm sure that counts as one of my five fruit and veg a day. We sat by the Seine eating ice cream while Lucy explained why she hates Paris so much. We then walked through Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame, crossed over the river and past Hotel de Ville, and decided that because it was so hot we'd have another ice cream. This one wasn't fruit orientated, in fact it was chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. A bastion of calorific temptation, but it was worth the possible later heart disease. There Lucy and I parted from Katy and went to uni to collect our results for Literature. I then went back to Lucy's apartment (she lives with Nicky) where I had dinner, although I did help pay for it as we purchased it on the way. Chicken nuggets and boiled potatoes. Loving my healthy life style.

Friday morning I wrote my shortest ever essay, 150 words! That's ridiculous. It was a film review on the 1966 Bataille d'Alger. The "essay" only took about an hour to write. I haven't even watched the film. Although that's possibly a good thing, since Thursday I got the mark back for my literature essay (see above), a text commentary on an extract from La Nausée by Sartre. I hadn't read the vast majority of the book, and I got 16/20 - a very respectable mark even if I do say so myself.

After spending the entire afternoon in a comatose state owing to the heat, I spent the evening handing out sandwiches to homeless people. Our group of three, I believe, was the only group who didn't get rid of all their food. But as it was my first time, I can only get better. There were several examples of people who were probably homeless but we weren't absolutely sure. Offering food to a non-homeless person isn't a great idea, since they may get the wrong idea. So we mainly went for ones with sleeping bags, just to be on the safe side. Paris has a phenomenally large problem with homelessness and unemployment, it's really sad. Paris is such a city of two extremes. Near my church, in the incredibly wealthy 8th arrondissement, there are shops selling hand bags and the like for hundreds of euros. And then there's the lavish Hotel de Crillon, where a starter can cost 35€ or more. And then there are the hundreds of people who are homeless. And I'm not exaggerating. By St Lazare, homeless people put their tents above the grillings in the road to catch the warm air rising from the métro. On the way to making sandwiches, a homeless person sat opposite me on the train. Although he was slightly abrasive, he wasn't doing anything criminal. But the middle-aged woman next to me tutted as he sat opposite, and when she left, people refused to sit in the vacant seat. Handing out sandwiches to homeless people, as Ekkardt from my church pointed out, is a total reversal of normality. Normally, you try to avoid homeless people - I know I do, especially the ones who smell, and when I say smell...imagine a person who has defecated in their trousers and done nothing about it...that's what I mean smell - but today we were actively trying to find them.

And today, I've done absolutely nothing. Well, that's a lie. I had a shower, and got my clean linen as we have a linen exchange, and I started this blog. And had a cup of tea.

Hope you enjoyed reading that rather long monologue on the life that is mine. A la prochaine, mes amis !

No comments:

Post a Comment