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A very metallic affair

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Picture of Scaffolding in Paris

Ready to climb the highest buildings.

I see you in town everywhere,
Like others I must stop and stare.
Your strength and your size
Elicit my cries,
My very metallic affair.

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What should we expect?

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After a conversation about expectations of men and women, brought about by the passing around of a black and white (see ‘arty’) video of a naked model posing and pouting, I had this going round my head.

If you’re annoyed about the expectations put upon men, fight against that. Don’t fight against women and don’t use it as an excuse to then expect from women, or to objectify them.

When a woman’s perfect man is strong, muscly and toned with a chiseled jaw, blue eyes and thick hair. A man who is in touch with his emotions but also stoic and supportive, tall and graceful. A man who is rich and willing to pay for dinner, who loves children and would be a great Dad, who is constantly ready for mind-blowing sex but who won’t mind cuddling on the couch. Do you think those are all her own meditated choices? Or maybe it is to do with the images of men she has seen since she was a young girl; the ‘teen’ magazines then the women’s magazines, the adverts, the movies, the TV shows, the footballers, the boy bands.

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To be read with alacrity

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n. brisk and cheerful readiness.

My new word today is one that I have read many times before, but would never have been able to give the precise definition of. When I check “alacrity” on my trusty kindle I find it is buried in there 23 times. 23 times! I have that sinking feeling; how can I not know exactly what this word means? Apparently I have read it in:

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My Cinema Habit

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M-O-V-I-N-G   P-I-C-T-U-R-E-S

In the past year I have spent 132 hours* in the cinema. I think I have crossed the line from ‘hobby’ to ‘crazy’.

It all started in September 2012. I enjoyed going to the cinema quite regularly with friends, maybe once a fortnight, and as we were under 26 we’d get cheaper tickets in a few of the cinemas in town. So my friends and I would head out to Bercy village, or the MK2 at Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, and see a film for around €5.

For those not in the know, 26 is the magic age in France at which life changes. At the age of 26 you pass from the jeune (young) category into the scary, unknown abyss of true adulthood where you are now expected to have finished your studies, secured a full-time job, and be willing to pay the normal price for all the things that used to be free or cheap (museums, cinema, train fare).

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Petit Palais

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Petit Palais

Gallery in the Petit Palais. Wonky photography courtesy of yours truly on my mobile.

When you live in a tourist-centred city it is easy to miss out on much that city has to offer.  “I can always do that another time” is the best friend of laziness.

Becoming a tour guide has really made me examine Paris through new, fresh eyes and I wish I had done so much more in the nearly 3 years that I have lived here.

Having friends to visit helps to rectify this though. Last month we had a visitor over from ‘le Yorkshire’ and she and I decided to check out the Georges Braque exhibition at the Grand Palais.

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adj: noisy and difficult to control

As I add another new word to my growing collection I start to realise something. The words I have been finding are not always completely alien to me even though I might think I’ve never heard them before.  I look up Obstreperous in my kindle after underlining it in Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls and find it right there in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I knew I had seen it before, it had been floating around for a while before it finally hit my consciousness. I hope now it will manage to stick in my memory.

I find obstreperous an interesting word. The dictionary gives an example of its use: “The boy is cocky and obstreperous.” It appears to be one of the words heavy with gender, seeming to be a typically male characteristic. From Middlesex I see the same thing: “Boys can be very obstreperous.” This is of course spoken by the main character, Calliope, a hermaphrodite who is raised as a girl and later decides to become a boy. Eugenides’s novel raises many question about gender roles and prejudice, just as The Shining Girls does, covering issues surrounding women in the 20th century.

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Walk for Women of Paris

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A bird’s eye view of Paris

Statue of Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf’s Statue in Paris

In July I came across a website and campaign called Walk for Women. Celebrating the fight of the suffragettes and acknowledging the thousands of women who marched across Britain in 1913 for the right to vote, Walk for Women were organizing walks throughout the country.

I wished I could have joined in a walk, so I organised my very own walk here in Paris to show my support. I had two weeks to plan a route and invite friends.

I was wondering where to direct us through Paris when my BFF had the idea of focusing the walk on the women of Paris. This gave me a helpful starting point and I set about researching all the monuments, statues, street names,and whatever else I could find dedicated to great women of Paris’s history.

Hello hurdle number one. Funny thing, the city of Paris isn’t exactly brimming with accolades to the wonderful females of its history. I found a few female statues, mainly of Joan of Arc (who didn’t make it to the tour in the end), other saints, or representations of abstract ideals (la justice, la patrie etc.) But eventually I managed to come up with a map of Paris spattered with interesting ladies.

Hurdle number two. The scarcity of these women around the city meant it would be impossible to cover them all, they were spaced out in nearly every arrondissement. I had to start the process of culling some in order to create an enjoyable walk. Eventually I settled on covering the east and centre of Paris, starting in the 20th and finishing in the 6th. This still left large parts of the walk free from stops, but they were interesting areas in themselves.

Map of Paris Walk for Women

The route I designed through Paris

So with 10 days to go I set up my event and invited some friends, put up a few posters, sent a few e-mails, and waited. The day arrived and only two of my friends turned up! But we weren’t going to let this lack of interest bother us, it was a beautiful day and we set off from Place Edith Piaf to do our 8 mile walk in high spirits.

And hurdle number three. Near the start of the tour we passed through the Père Lachaise cemetery to look for the graves of Gertrude Stein, Sarah Bernhardt, and Colette. Yes, we even had to resort to grave gazing to honour Paris’s women. Unfortunately, Père Lachaise is a very large, very packed, cemetery and even with the map I had procured, we had a little trouble finding our women. In the end we managed to get to them all with a bit of help from a google image search. This foray through the graveyard ate up a lot of our time but thankfully the trees had provided much needed shade as the temperature was soaring.

En route to our next woman we happened to pass the office where the aforementioned BFF works and we poked our noses in to see her boss. He was super happy to see us and even prepared us a little refreshment which we enjoyed in the communal garden opposite.  A worthwhile stop we decided, to honour one of Paris’s great women of the future.

Olympe de Gouges Paris

Time to press on. Next we came to the Salle Olympe de Gouges, a very grotty looking building bearing the name of the under-acknowledged feminist, anti-abolitionist and revolutionary. I have since found a square named after her in the 3rd, but this fit nicely into our route, though it would be great to see her honoured in a more substantial way.

We had a long stretch now before the next notable woman, which led us serendipitously through the marché Aligre, where we stocked up on a bag of cherries. I love this market, it has a great feel to it and is probably the cheapest in Paris. We finally reached the Passarelle Simone de Beauvoir and had a welcome sit down in the shade of the bridge. By now it was scorching in the midday sun on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer. We dragged ourselves up and across the river, noting with jealous eyes the frolicking Parisians in the open-air floating swimming pool named after Josephine Baker.

Our stomachs and sweaty brows led us to Chez Lili et Marcel where we had a welcome lunch. A 2 hour lunch. Well we thought we deserved a proper rest. They even served Berthillon ice-cream, what a treat!

Now we were on the home straight and we headed through the beautiful Jardin des Plantes into the latin quarter. For the last time we made a little detour from the planned walk to visit the pharmacy at Place Monge. It is the cheapest in town, and we couldn’t resist a bargain!

Skirting round the Panthéon we did a small salute the TWO women buried there, one Sophie Bertholet, the wife of a chemist, the other Marie Curie, who we were to tip our hats to on the next stop at the Institut Curie.

George Sand Jardin du Luxembourg

George Sand in the dress chosen for her by the male sculptor.

Finally we arrived at the Jardin du Luxembourg where a statue of George Sand was hiding. It had been hard to pinpoint exactly where, so we ended up completing a tour of the whole garden before finding her just next to the entrance. Before flopping onto a nearby bench we had a couple of pictures with the very feminine looking Sand, a woman who in real life liked to dress in men’s clothing.

The time was 19.10. It had taken us 8 hours (with breaks). We had a great time though and didn’t stop talking all day; our chosen women were really inspiring and we discussed their lives, those women who hadn’t made the route, and the seeming unfairness that so much of Paris’s landscape and history is devoted to men even though there are so many great, intelligent, and important women out there.

I would love to organise another tour of Paris’s women, there are so many I couldn’t include in this one.


Petition for more women to be buried at the Pantheon in Paris

Collective for more women in the Pantheon

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Uncovering the masculine at the Musée D’Orsay

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We’d all seen the posters around town and on the metro so last Sunday a few friends and I arranged to meet bright and early at the quay d’Orsay to go and see the autumn/winter exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay; Masculin/Masculin. L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 a nos jours.

We braved the extremely long queue and once inside I decided to splash out on the Carte Blanche, the year long pass that guarantees unlimited entry to the Orsay’s and the Orangerie’s permanent collections and exhibitions, including skipping the line. For anyone planning on seeing more than one exhibition a year, it’s a steal at only €25 (€40 for the Duo option, allowing a visitor to join you.)

Poster Masculine/Masculine Musée d'Orsay

Poster for the exhibition. Successful marketing?

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Love Letters

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For a long time now I have had an idea to show the people I love how much they mean to me by writing a letter. I think that it is a mistake to assume that the people we are close to must know how we feel about them and it doesn’t hurt to let them know once in a while.

Now, I have no problems saying “I love you” and I will use it abundantly when I mean it. I definitely will not say it if it isn’t true, for example as a reply to someone else’s declaration of love. Why is it so hard to hear someone say “I love you” and not say it back? It feels so mean and unkind, but for me it is better to be honest with them and yourself. Please note, this kind of situation is purely hypothetical, I am not inundated with confessions of love.

Love Letters

Is this how you write love letters?

I hope those dear to me have heard me tell them that I love them. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I tend not to have many discussions about my relationships with the person in question. Hence my idea to write it down and make it permanent, also relieving the recipient of any embarrassment and awkwardness in the process. Unfortunately as I am an extremely busy person (or just because I fall on the lazier end of the scale) I haven’t got round to it. Yet.

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Changing seasons, changing moods

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red and orange leaves

The colours of autumn emerge

The clocks have gone back and the colours of Paris are changing . Autumn is upon us and brings with it the delight of crispy leaves and the promise of well deserved hot chocolates. As a tour guide, I meet people from all over the globe and am delighted when they are experiencing our seasons for the first time. I giggle when someone asks me “When is Paris’s monsoon season?” and realise how exotic these autumn colours must seem to them.

At this time of year I start to look forward, albeit reluctantly, to the holiday season and at the same time I begin to reflect on the past 10 months. You could call it personal bookkeeping. Read the rest of this entry