Escape from Paris

I like to award my days marks out of ten, and one day back in March was hovering around a two.  If a day gets a score that low, I’m looking at the world through mud-spattered glasses and softly crying.  A day only gets a one if someone I love dies.

So when I opened my inbox and read the email from one of my dearest friends, I gasped with joy.  He began by alerting me to the fact that he was also feeling like life was generally shit.  What?  I thought.  You live in Paris.  In your 10th Arrondisement apartment.  With a husband who hand-makes your shirts.  You have a job which takes you to Cannes for the film festival, and you philosophize in fluent Francais with skinny people who wear tight black roll-necks and media spectacles while elegantly clutching a glass of champagne and a gauloise in the same hand.   

I, on the other hand, live in suburbia.  I sometimes have a job.  My house is the bastard child of Ripped Apart and Bomb Blast.

I was in the throes of a spasm of self-pity.

It turns out that if you’re British through and through, spending too long in Paris without returning to the mothership can cause palpitations and sleepless nights.  Self-identity can be lost in a hail of red tape, the chef can refuse to serve you lamb stew because it’s akin to blasphemy, and if you need a straight answer someone will insist on debating Descartes’ theories of toilet-flushing with you until you’ve forgotten the question.  Apparently, it’s exhausting.

He needed to get away for a while.  He needed my help.

The last time this happened, we flew business class to New York for a big gay long weekend.  We’re older and none the wiser now, but budget constraints prevent that kind of caution-throwing.

We pushed the idea of a yoga retreat in the English countryside back and forth, each knowing that within two hours of om-chakra-om we would be furiously seeking the number of a cab firm to take us to the nearest glass of red wine, but not wanting to admit it.

Seriously, he said, A yoga weekend is not very British.  I want to feel British again.

We settled on a weekend at the seaside in July.  What could be more British than that?  You find a crap seaside resort town, eat fish and chips from a paper bag while the drizzle makes you feel suicidal, shovel money into the amusement arcade, and read someone else’s left-behind copy of The Sun.

The beauty of our plan was, we decided, that it didn’t matter if things went badly.  If the hotel room was a puny bug-filled hell-hole, that would be British.  If the only biscuits available at the shop were Rich Tea or Plain Digestives, that would be British.  If proprietors were rude to us, that would be British.  We would simply relax into being British.  The worse it got, the happier we would be.

Things started well, as I bought the wrong train ticket from the incomprehensible ticket machine which was selling a ticket that it was impossible to use from the station I was standing in.  You’ll have to go to London Bridge for the non-highspeed service were the ticket inspector’s last words as I beat him to death with my handbag.  I needed to pay a supplement.  How much?  I had visions of hefty sums.  Three quid, he said.  How British.

We had an excellent time.  I like to quantify excellence in wine bottles.  We had six excellents.

Our accommodation was a ridiculously over-priced fishing hut right on the sea shore, where the sun set over the clanking boat riggings in the evenings.

We went to a traditional sweet shop.  We took a guided tour around an old folly.  We drank tea.  At the tea-shoppe they had Tunnock’s Teacakes for sale.  I’d never heard of them, but I thought he might explode with joy when I got one for him.  His grandmother used to give them to him when he was little.  And British.

How does it taste?  I asked.

Like shit, he said, grinning happily.

We whiled away an hour in the amusement arcade, feeding the 2p shove machine and not winning anything.

I beat him at the driving game.  He insisted his machine was crap, so we swapped.   I won again, and he played the part of the sore loser convincingly.  You can take the boy out of Paris…

All good weekends arrive at a Sunday night.  And so it was that we high-sped back to London and Paris.  But not without laughing like fools at this Monty Python clip on YouTube.



5 Responses to “Escape from Paris”

  1. 1 Jen August 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    That sounds like a glorious weekend.

    It’s funny that even someone living a fabulous life in Paris would have days that rank only a 2 out of 10 too. I’ll need to remember that the next time I’m having a 2 day and wishing I could escape to your fair land.

  2. 2 Mrs. G. August 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I like your number system and your friend sounds game for an adventure (be it good or bad)…that is a friend to cherish.

  3. 3 Gail August 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm


  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life August 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    That sounds like a fab weekend. And the British shore sounds a lot like Atlantic City.

  5. 5 clay ball August 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    You are such a funny writer…”My house is the bastard child of Ripped Apart and Bomb Blast.” Sounds like you are also a wonderful friend!

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