Now, you know I'm fascinated by all these thousands of little quirks and curios I come across all the time in Paris, don't you? Well one of my favourite current themes is rails in parks, and other unlikely places.
No, I don't mean 'railings', I mean rails, as in things trains are supposed to chug along.
Here's a case in point. Stroll along for more than a couple of minutes in the relatively recent Parc de Bercy, and you'll be sure to stumble over what are undeniably train tracks, right there in the middle of a cobbled path. What on earth can it mean?
Well of course, it doesn't take a genius to deduce that this place isn't all it was, which was a bustling industrial area full of comings and goings and chinkings and clankings of a hundred thousand... wine bottles!
The place used to be a wine depot, and the trains needed to carry all of this festering grape juice used to roll happily along the metal lines we can still stumble over today, without even having touched a drop! Cheers [hic!].
Should I launch myself into a Paris Top 10 of wacky representations of the city's number one icon, me wonders. There must be thousands of possibilities I would think.
I particularly like this one, on an official poster from the town hall wishing us all a good 2012. The creation we see here was made by 'the florists of the City of Paris', so it says, although not by all of them I presume, as there's quite a few.
It seems that for every official event of any stature there's a need for yet another arty representation of the iron lady, so if I did start to look out for examples of the genre I'm sure I wouldn't go starved.
Well now that it's in my mind I'm sure I'll be more aware of these occurrences and will be able to judge for myself if it would make a worthy photo series. And you can always let me know what you think too of course. I wonder what the most obscure or abstract representation of the tour would be which could still clearly be discerned as the creation of Eiffel. More to come on this I feel.
Heading down the escalator on, as it happens, the last day at my ill-fated latest 'job'... what should I see, but red, green and blue, in the form of our desperately cheery free daily rag rats' umbrellas.
The picture I was going to use disappointed me because, although better composed than the one above, it was slightly out of focus. This one was even more so. So it pleased me more. There's no point harbouring half measures. There's nothing worse than meanly-baked mediocrity. If you're going to do something badly, well, make sure you go the whole hog. And then, magically, if you're lucky, it suddenly becomes worthy of something again.
This image is destined to become some sort of aide-mémoire for me - I'm sure every time I see it I'll be gently jogged back into this strange strange year of 2011 dripping into 2012. There's no point saying it wasn't the best of years, because denying what you've lived and regretting part of your life is a sad thing to do, I think. So it was good. It was useful. It was worthwhile - eminently worthwhile.
And to continue my recent penchant for Paris street artists, here's a spectacular example: Jef Aerosol's excellent contribution to the charm of the square around the Stravinski fountain right next to the Pompidou centre.
This picture was one of the questions in our Paris If You Please's group's latest pub quiz (Question: Where is it? / Who's it by?) and if you'd like to know more about our lively Paris discovery group, check out our Meet Up page: Paris If You Please Meet Up Group.
Although I've processed the pic to hell, and to be fair to myself I had to as it was taken on a grim and grimy night with not much to commend the original pic, I'd like to point out what grabbed my attention in the end, and which allows me to say that it's not just a picture of someone else's work, which I abhor. It's the little window up there which seems more significant in real life. It's almost as though the guy is saying 'Shhh..' because someone up there (this mural covers an entire building) is doing something personal.
This is really a piece to check out, if you're in the area, as the scale is impressive to say the least. It's inspiring to see both our honest and positive Paris street artists 'making it' and also the attitude of the powers that be to support what is clearly something which is widely appreciated by the populace. Shhh - what do you think?!
It's so nice to see an old friend making it. And if an erstwhile scrabbling street artist gets the call from Samsung (no less) you can suppose he's 'made it' to some extent, or to all intents and purposes, depending on definitions of 'making it'.
Jérôme and his white man are an inescapable part of the off-the-beaten-track Parisian landscape, if you've managed to get out there, and here he has his... I was looking for a fancy word for success but 'comeuppance' was the only thing that sprang to mind! As if he hasn't had enough comeuppance in the past. You come upon him all over the place...
So Miss.Tic has heeded the call, and now Jérôme, and I'm sure there will be others (maybe me!). We'll see. But in the meantime, wow, what a relief from the sickeningly slimy L'Oréals and Omegas of this world...
And I quite fancy swapping smartphone suppliers into the bargain!
(P.S. This is an advertising hoarding covering La Concièrgerie, which as I type has been replaced by another artists but still Samsung - and you can see the current tendency to give an artistic hint of what's behind the coverings)
Why, you may justifiably be asking, am I presenting you with a pic of a pee-parlour.
It's very simple. Coz this ain't any old Paris shit hole, oh no. This one's got the highly desirable, wait for it... (the thing you'll see in any number of mawkish Marais apartment ads appealing to a million dreamhome hunters): 'poutres apparentes'!
Yes, poutres apparentes folks: exposed beams to you an' me, sunbeam ;~S
In a toilet. Or 'rest room' if you prefer. That's right, you can coo as you poo in this particular drinking hole. Nice, non?
This is a sneaky one, as it's going to be a quiz question tonight in my monthly Paris Pub Quiz, so I'm not going to tell you where and what it is. But I don't really need to, do I Paris fans..?!
It was night, of course, as too many of my pics are at the moment. I'm gonna have to get out in the day more. It's just that the light hurts my eyes and my fangs ache...
This tendency isn't likely to let up soon (the night pics, not the aching fangs), as that's about the only time I'm able to take shots these days, but I'll try to throw in a few sunny ones from time to time.
My big news yesterday was that my 2012 calendars arrived, although I'm afraid I can't give you one unless you come on one of my Paris Photo Tours or come and see me personally. They're only little Vistaprint desk calendars, with 13 of my pics from last year. I think they're all iPhone pics (i.e. ones you'll have seen on this blog) this time, but the quality's ok.
That's it for today. By the way, there was a question in last month's quiz about this extremely famous building too. It was: What are the four main colours used and what does each of them represent. Feel free to give it a go!
Just had to laugh the other night catching sight of the above label in a modest little restaurant in Saint-Germain des Près (there's the Paris link- did you spot it?). At both the pretentions of bottled water producers and the hilarious tripe spouted by wine marketers: an art in itself...
So close your eyes as you sip ecstatically on your fizzy H2O, and revel in its...
"Bulles fines et légères"
- 'light' bubbles, now there's a thing (much prefer them to the heavy ones, personally)
"Nez discret et frais"
- you may not be aware of this, but your water has a nose, otherwise known as a smell. I know you thought water was odourless, but think again. After all, imagine the missed wine-analogous marketing op if they didn't mention it... Rest assured, though, the odour emanating from this particular liquid is 'discrete and fresh', which basically means it doesn't smell after all, with the fresh' bit signifying something like 'cool' in French, which, unless I'm seriously mistaken, comes from putting it in the fridge. (Is that a cloud of deep brown BS I seem to have disturbed at the bottom of the bottle..?)
"Attaque ronde et velouté"
- I'll let the stupidity of this one hang in the air tantalisingly like a particularly 'fine bulle'...
"Bonne longueur en bouche"
- a good length in the mouth. Yep folks, we're deep in the murky waters of that particularly refined strain of marketing bull: oenophileschpeak. And the funny thing is, I think they actually believe it. Oh well, if it helps them justify their regular ethanol fix to themselves and others, so be it. Cheers, and may your throat be deep enough to take it all...
- which is another way of saying 'bulles fines et légères'... just how thick do they think we are? Pretty much so by the looks of things.
- hmm, weelll, this one has me a bit stumped actually. We've already discussed the aroma, or rather lack of it, above. And now they're trying to convince us once more that this everyday and utterly banal product has yet another enchanting characteristic, which I couldn't translate if you asked me to. But it's got to do with aromas. And finesse. 'Finesse' generally being a euphemism for 'not a lot', as here. So maybe 'doesn't smell of much' would be my best attempt.
- and now, the climax! To what? Err, well, to gulping down a mouthful of water, that's what. And here's the thing - hold on to your hats - it's 'refreshing'. Yes, that's right folks, drinking water refreshes us. Finally. After drinking it. So now you know.
Of course, all our wine-wielding friends will be up in arms over this utter lack of respect being shown towards their harmless little drug habit. But it's water we're talking about here. Water! And whilst I don't really mind its image being polluted with boozy marketing bull (you don't have to buy the stuff - that's what Wallace fountains are for), I reserve the right to write about it, and leave the conclusions up to you.
Well, yes, there would be land ahoy, seeing as we're in the heart of Paris in the 15th arrondissement just around the corner from that bloody great tower we don't love quite so much as this one.
So I'm sending out a ray of hope and good wishes at the start of this new year, which for some reason seems particularly auspicious to me for some reason.
Maybe it's simply because it would be a shame to think that the coming 12 months are going to be crap, but I think it's more than that. Practically everyone I'm reading at the moment seems to be feeling positive about 2012, and I don't see why I shouldn't join the club - or are they joining mine? Well whatever, membership is open to anyone and it only costs a smile and a thanks!
So let me share a sailory smile with you today, and offer a heartfelt premonitory thanks in anticipation of all the great things to come floating my way, or, why not, the good or at least interesting things I'll launch yours!
On the second (of Jan), on my first (day of heading into the city this year), I'm as usual preoccupied with what the next year will bring. I should say, what the next year 'should' bring, being someone who believes in self-determination as opposed to predestination, as it means there's actually a point for doing anything at all.
One of the things I think it should bring, that is to say, one of the things I think I should bring about, is more discipline.
There are heaps of things I want to accomplish this coming year, but I often feel I dissipate my efforts and fritter away my time on less important things. I don't mean 'quality down time' or 'hanging five' or moments of quiet reflection or just being available for my kids and family. I mean total, complete and utter wastes of time. The vast majority of those have gotta go and be channelled into more productive tackling of one of them thar heaps.
And as for which heaps to give priority to...
I know from experience that I can't be a one-heap-wonder. Restricting myself to one area of human endeavour would frustrate the hell out of me. How could I choose? A poem a day? Better drop the painting then. Writing that Paris book? Well there's your street photography course out the window. Learning Spanish seriously? Bye bye creating my killer on-line English course. Getting properly fit this year? Really making use of that cinema pass? Actually reading some of those books I buy? Oh dear, the list goes on. And being a better dad, son, partner and hey, why not get some friends? Looks like I'll have to lose all of the others above.
Heaps of stuff, and that's just me talking about 'free time' activities. Free time? Hah! Reach out and feel the radiation of my mirth. Hence discipline.
The need to choose a handful of things - maybe just two or three - and really go for it. I mean them. But not too many, or you won't see any results. And not too few or you'll be like the circus freaks we see on creepy Christmas cabaret shows: able only to do one utterly useless thing utterly well.
And what's the other thing they say in all those 'change your life' books? Oh yes, little and often. Small, regular steps; make them a habit. Eating an elephant, a mouthful at a time. And what'll happen next? Probably heaps of stuff. And hopefully not too much proboscidean poo to go along with it.
The streets teach us history, this has to be understood.
Sometimes it's extremely subtle: a scrapped insignia or a crumbling carving.
Sometimes it's more obvious: in-your-face sidewalk slogans for all of us to enjoy or abhor. Depending on your personal sensibilities or, why not, lack of them.
I'm a fan of those who try to make themselves heard as long as it: doesn't damage the environment and existing beauty for others; is funny, clever, ironic or otherwise original; makes us think.
This one here made me think, for no better reason than that I'm useless in French history so off I scuttling went to my points of reference to see if this was referring to the 1789 revolution or the 1968 student 'uprising' or what.
If you want you can simply wonder what that bright blob up in the top right is; hell, I don't want to impose viewing choices upon my readers! Now I'm off to be a bastard and swim in some Communards' blood, apparently...
They say that Paris and the Ile de France area is actually the biggest river port in Europe. Well ok, the second.
That's a little difficult to swallow when we wander along the sleepy quays of the Seine and see a handful of gently swaying residential barges, surrounded by its collection of plastic bottles and other floating junk that doesn't look like it's gone anywhere much this side of the millenium change.
Yes, but Ah-Hah! There are other sides to the Seine, you see, or rather, you tend not to see, even within the official city limits. Head east from the centre along the banks of the river and as soon as you hit the 12th and 13th arrondissements you'll see stuff you probably wouldn't want to take photos of.
Head south-west after the Eiffel Tower and the same thing happens as you near the périphérique.
Go even further out of town and you hit places like Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (where the Seine meets the Oise), not forgetting the picturesque Gennevilliers, Bonneuil-sur-Marne and Limay. No, I'm kidding. We're talking heavy industry here.
Heavy industry which, nevertheless, means we don't have to double the French road network with all the pollution and eyesores that would entail.
And all of this coming from a simple mural. The symbol of Paris, the modest boat, here seen gracing the wall of a school for little ones. The motto of Paris is Fluctuat nec mergitur, which means something along the lines of 'Shaken by the waves but does not sink'.
I wonder if those little kiddies passing by this bright red boat each day are even the slightest bit aware of the turbulent history of their native city. Hopefully one day they will be.