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Sunday, Paris

I’m sorry to have neglected you; my work time in this little flat is infinitely precious, and I’ve not wanted to interrupt it, even for Paris, let alone writing here. It’s Sunday morning, not yet nine, and this would be a perfect time to make a dash for the Louvre, to see the Leonardo exhibit which is a must. But I do not want to leave the flat. I started work an hour ago and am getting somewhere.

My time here is even more precarious now, because I just had an email from my brother – my mother had a fall last night and is in hospital. She’s fine, he says, nothing is broken, but still, it’s frightening, she’s 88 and thin and due for a heart operation at the end of May. I will of course fly back if needed. So now, weighing Leonardo da Vinci and the chance to focus on my own feeble prose, which do I chose?
I haven’t been a complete recluse; there have been a few adventures. The other day I gave myself a fearsome challenge – to see the exhibit on spiders at the Museum of Natural History. I’ve been an arachnophobe since childhood – much more under control now than then, but still, that irrational fear annoys me, and I’d like to get rid of it. So I set out to get there early, before the lines of school children, when my whimpers would be audible to fewer people. Because I did whimper, encountering big pictures of the dreaded creature with 8 legs and 8 eyes.
But the exhibit was well done, perhaps with an eye to people like me – very few actual spiders though lots of information. In the centre was a place where you could apparently stroke a tarantula. I did not go there. In fact, I went through in a speedy half hour and felt happy to have survived. Didn’t get rid of my phobia, but worked on it. Spiders are good mothers, said the exhibit. I’ll try to remember that. I’ll try not to remember the video at the end, of a woman cooking and eating fried spiders. People all over the world eat insects, she said, it’s only in the western world that we don’t.
Hooray for us.
As a reward, I went shopping. I’m happy to report that France has changed with regard to sales. In the past, there were only government-mandated sales TWICE A YEAR. Now, each shop has the right to organize a few yearly sales whenever they want. When I was in Montpellier, there was a big sale at Galeries Lafayette, be still my beating heart. Here, if you see a Sale sign, it’s worth taking a look. I went to my favourite shoe stores, Arcus and Mephisto, to see what was new for the big-footed woman for spring, and to the nearest Marionnaud, the cosmetics and creams chain, to see Annick, the woman who advised me on my dry skin last year. We have become friends, she’s my age and has lovely skin and tells me what to do. We had a long discussion about gommage and Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream. She advised me to tame my eyebrows with it. This is what I come to Paris for.
And then to my absolutely favourite place – well, one among many – Picard, another chain in France; this one sells the most spectacular frozen foods. An unprepossessing store with rows of freezers, but inside those freezers, incredible stuff – not just prepared foods, though there are many amazing dishes ready to go, but, for example, big bags of cut up leeks and fennel, ready for your next recipe. For lunch, I had a gratin of eggplant, and for supper, marinated duck breast with spinach in cream and a vegetable melange of grilled potatoes, mushrooms and green beans. A gourmet meal, ready in ten minutes.
This is what I come to Paris for.
Yesterday I went to a grand old wreck of a theatre, Les Bouffes du Nord, to see a play directed by the resident artistic director, Peter Brook. I was lucky enough to see his famous and spectacular “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1972 in London, and “La conference des oiseaux” in Avignon in the seventies, both, particularly the former, stunning pieces of theatrical invention. Yesterday made me sad, though. “The suit,” from a story by a black South-African writer, was produced 20 years ago to tepid reviews and has been revived, and apparently updated, to take to the Young Vic in a few months. If it had been a production by an unknown African troupe, I would have thought it slight but charming; but as a piece by famous Peter Brook, it was plodding and pedestrian, even sloppy. It got five curtain calls; some people stood up. Such is the price of fame.
That’s it for excursions. In my notebook is a list of exhibitions at various museums that I must see and friends to call, but instead I’m in here, working. This little flat is full of light, with giant windows; it’s simple, comfortable and very quiet, and God knows, the food available nearby is good. I have at last cracked the mystery of the recalcitrant memoir – I was, as ever, trying to do too much. I’ve divided the last draft into several different kinds of work, and suddenly it all makes sense.
This, strangely, is what I come to Paris for.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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