Re-acquaintance with old friends
I woke up this morning to find myself in Paris. Staying with my dear dear friend from the Mozart Academy in Poland ten years ago, waking up after a solid night’s sleep, which was very welcome after the long flight and a day spent fighting jetlag and waiting for night (and bedtime) to come.
Today has been a day of catching up with old friends and acquaintances. I started the day by practising clarinet (an old friend I haven’t spent a lot of time with recently), rediscovering the Khachaturian Trio – a much-loved old friend for both CP and I. Despite being out of practice, this piece is still under my fingers and playing it felt like a welcome return. It was smiling at me and was gentle with me.
Then I left the apartment and wandered about the Left Bank for the afternoon. I looked in the shops and smiled at people and marveled at the mild weather. Paris is something of a past acquaintance for me, rather than a friend – I have been here several times before but this visit is the longest one yet. The last time I spent a series of days here was in 1995. I came over on the Eurostar (it had only been open a very short time, and I felt like something of a pioneer). I stayed in a hostel and visited galleries and I remember very little detail from that trip other than that I had a wonderful time. I photographed cakes and pastries in patisserie windows, gathered with the young folks on the steps of Sacre Coeur at night-time, then arrived late at Gare du Nord for my return train to Paris (a mighty sin with Eurostar and the cheap ticket I had bought). I panicked and started to sob (was a bit overtired) and the kindly (and bemused) man behind the ticket counter took pity on me and wrote me a pass that would let me sit in the dining car on the next train out. All very strange as there were plenty of seats on that train, it turned out.
I am staying with CP in his apartment which is very near the Jardin des Plants. When I walk to the Metro I pass the Natural History Museum, with its woolly mammoth gracing its lawn, and skeletons of creatures visible in all the windows of the second floor. CP lives in a building that has a concierge who he describes as “a denouncer type”. Cruel, but I picked her straight away so it is clearly an apt description.
Of course, CP is the real old friend here with whom I am re-acquainting myself. I last saw him in 2003 on a flying visit to Paris where we met early in the morning at Gare du Nord, then walked the rues and boulevards of the City of Light, which was the backdrop to our conversations. He has been one of my dearest friends since the Poland days, where we would take ages to farewell each other at the end of the day, and joked that there should be a plaque on the ground where we always stood (on the path between out two pavilions where we slept) acknowledging this place where“G and C solved the problems of the world”.
On that 2-day visit in 2003, we met with his friend David, who had 2 tickets to a performance that evening by Pina Bausch’s company. But we were a group of three and the performance was sold out – in fact it was the hottest ticket in town. We went to the theatre and sold our tickets to an eager punter for 100 euro (that was what he offered – it seemed that we could have demanded far more).. and we went out to eat fondu in the Marais district on the money. “Merci, Pina!” we chorused, as we raised our glasses to our benefactor.
Tonight we are meeting with David and going to have fondu again, after an aperitif at his place. CP is practising violin as I write this. It all feels very relaxed and chilled out – how often do I write something like that? Holidays are a wonderful thing.