French Letter: Paris Gare de Lyon, May 16

Flickr CC shot by La Petite Gourmande 'Stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you'

Ray Bradbury


Dear Tom,

It has been a while. I forget whose turn it is, but for sake of ease I shall both ask and answer my own question - a simple one.

Where am I?

It is a device, more than a question, to uncork my tongue as I sit here, in Paris's Gare De Lyon. Life shakes its stuff around me, and I shudder inside with the weariness of one who didn't sleep before he left, who has been travelling for 12 hours and is a good half a country away from where he should be right now, and a further city of soho-istas between him and a warm, if not comfy, bed.

You missed the man with the roses.

flcikr cc photo by paparutziA picture postcard by that photographer who keep poster shops in business with his coy loving poses, sees our young hero, with hip hop hat pulled over scraggly hair, leant casually against a signpost watching carefully the train unloading before him. But held behind his scrufy gait a  bouquet of velvet petalled roses, wrapped in thick shiny card and tissue paper, the kind of care only the best flourists would use to prepare only the best roses for only the best girl.

He waits, the roses carefully hid behind his back, and once the phone rings. Myself, and well, whoever else was watching this drama prayed it wasn't an apologetic excuse kind of call, and as he stood there nodding it appeared not. But still he waited, and still he hid the roses, like a frog refusing to acknowledge his royal routes until the last possible minute.

Sadly my tickets for this show did not include the all impressive finale, but it did have further clifhangers as the phone rang again, and his face wavered between anxiety and resigned cheerfulness. He was my hero today. And he was real.

The beauty in a woman relaxed, or a man or me for that matter is something to behold, anxiety works greater havoc on the face than any natural turns of fate, and to take such creases for love is a certain kind of sacrifice (yet nobler than to take such creases for work, no doubt)

You found out before me, I think, that you may lose everything, have everything taken from you, but that one's voice cannot be lost, or rather it is only by our own choice and laziness that we forefeit it, and even then, with a little effort it seems to return.

Almost eight years ago I sat in the Hotel de Ville in Paris. I had completed three weeks mad trolley dash around Europe - a morning in Vienna, two days in Spain, and so on,

-- a few hours have passed, I now sit on the train to Cannes --

But sat there, after what had happened early that year, in February 1999, I lay down in the square, in the sun, and for the first time in six months, I felt confident to think. Ideas and words came easiy after months of being unable to communicate, being unable to speak to myself, let alone to anyone else. And it felt amazing. I wondered about the relationship between objective and subjective truth and the paradox of how the most objective way of understanding something subjective such as love would be to experience it.

And eight years later, in the square outside the Gare de Luon, the same freedom returns. I am shattered. I have spent £150 of money I don't have because RyanAir closes checkin three minutes before the first bus arrives at the airport, but here, in the square, no internet, no phone, no friends even, just the flying darting birds, their endless chatter, and a grey marbled paper sky, and the freedom returns.

flick cc by welovethedarkPerhaps it is the city. Some places have geometries, it seems, deep hidden and unknown tides that flow, that restore or offset, make alert or corrupt. Oxford street and the South Bank, Hampstead Heath and Dalston Road. Part geography, part people, part activities, and part something else, something unseen, like the million footsteps that build up a path and road over many centuries.

And perhaps it is the fatigue. The day has see-sawed between catastrophe and relief winding its way towards a kind of acceptence that things go their own way. First the missed flight to Marseille, and then seeing a friend of a friend in the queue before me. A new travel companion and advisor who took me to Gare De Lyon and helping find me a train when all seemed sold out. Lunch in Paris, almost justifying the expense, and then a miscalulation of time sees me missing my very expensive and - what seems - last ticket to Cannes. Back down again, ready to return to Scotland, defeated and accepting of my bad karma when a ticket turns up and in a wonder of the French system I'm refunded 36 Euros as it's cheaper (in the UK I would have been lucky to change a ticket after a departure, and then only with a £20 charge and  no repayment for change in price). Vive France!

But the seesaw is rhythmic, tidal, like the waves of my life, shrunk down. Now it is good. now it is bad. Now it is good. When was it ever, seeing all time, truly one or the other. We are such an interconnected mesh, how can we hope to distinguish ourselves from the swarm, but for those moments where we sit quietly, watching, breathing, listening and relaxed.

So Cannes awakes with her fanged jaws open. It is the stuff of nightmares and dreams. I will possibly be underwhelmed. Disapointed with people, and with myself. Alienated and awkard. Paranoid too perhaps. But, I can also see it as a riddle. Every moment the chance to appreciate something that at first appears wrong, turn it inside out.

And then let go of it all.

All of it.


days pass, and again I'm here to answer the same question. where am I?
i don't know. all i know is i'm sorry.


it may take some time to fill in the gaps between these two journal entries, but I will try.

photos from the flickr creative commons by attribution pool - scrollover for credits