Monday, 9 January 2012

The Staircase Mystery

Hello? Is anybody reading this? Is anybody out there? I'm not being needy- I am just panicking because there is a very strong possibility that I am a ghost...

I've just got back from my 'théâtre en Anglais' lesson (it was fucking terrible, the kids were even more Mental than usual and I found out that next week I have to teach them all on my own). On the way home I bought a baguette and a croissant. I was feeling very French and productive: I decided I would eat the croissant; do some blogging; tidy my room for when the girls come this week; and even go to H&M and return those Clown Pants that are still hanging in my wardrobe, taunting me with their seductively silky, ill-fitting waistband...

Oh! But what fresh hell is this? I got back to my building and the lift was broken. I've never taken the stairs, not just because I live on the sixth floor and I am quite lazy, but for another reason- a reason so strange and disturbing that I don't like to talk about it because it freaks me the fuck out. But I'm going to tell you because you're a good listener and I don't think you'll judge me...

(When I say 'you' I mean 'me' as I'm the only person reading this as I type. That's kind of weird when you- I- think about it. Have I gone mad? Have I finally snapped? Have I?)

(I'm pretty sure I have.)

The staircase in my building is one of those sweeping, typically Parisien affairs, with banisters of dark, polished wood and a strip of royal blue carpet running down the middle.

But the staircase that leads from my floor looks like this:

They are clearly not the same stairs!

And I'm not just being an idiot; they didn't run out of carpet or anything. One day, when I was feeling energetic, I tried to walk down the stairs and they stop after two flights... I live on the sixth floor! I crept back up the stairs and vowed NEVER to think about it again but then when Amy came to stay, she tried to go down the stairs as well and she had to come back up again, confused and freaked out. When she told me, in a horrified whisper, that my stairs didn't lead anywhere, I told her that she wasn't going mad, but that perhaps we shouldn't mention the 'stair thing' to anyone else. And up until today that can of rotting worms has stayed firmly shut and hidden in the back of my cupboard...

But when I saw today that the lift was broken, I knew I would finally discover the Terrible Truth that lay at the heart of the Staircase Mystery...

I decided to walk up the nice, carpeted stairs Just To See. There are definitely no Nice Stairs anywhere on my floor, but I still couldn't quite believe that my floor could only be reached by lift... After all, it is a very old building, what did all the servants used to do who lived in the little chambres de bonnes? Scale the outside walls? Climb down the chimneys? No, they took the stairs, obviously. Just I like I would do, once I had located them...

I walked up the Nice Stairs to the fifth floor and could get no further. I was now 100% certain that the Nice Staircase stopped one floor below mine. I thought that maybe there would a secret door Or Something, but all the doors had labels and doorbells. I didn't want to try rattling any of the doors in case they thought I was a burgular.

Suddenly, all the blood drained from my face. I knew what was happening! It was that moment in a scary film where the protagonist discovers he is a ghost. He tries to get into his apartment and it's locked, so the breaks down the door to find a dusty ruin that has clearly not been lived in for years. He looks around, confused and then he hears two people in the corridor behind him:

"Has that place sold yet?" a sporty, tanned girl asks her boyfriend, wrinkling her nose.
"No, it's been empty for years. Ever since that guy went mad and killed himself by accident."
"What did he do?" the girl asks, a macarbe glint in her eye.
"He was fixing Christmas lights to the roof."

And the main character widens his eyes in comprehension and shock, because at the beginning of the film he fell off the roof whilst fannying about with Chrismas lights and he was amazed he survived and that's when weird things started happening and now it all makes sense!

Yes, it was exactly like that, except without the Christmas lights or the falling off the roof thing or the couple. (I'm glad because they sound like Smug Dickheads, don't they?)

I went back down the stairs. There was an old lady in the entrance. She walked straight past me without seeing me. Honestly, she did. And I was carrying a bottle of milk and a large baguette- Parisien people normally stare at things like that.

"Madame!" I yelled, hoping that if I was a ghost I was at least a poltergeist.

She turned round and looked confused. She couldn't see me.

"Madame!" I yelled again, running towards her.

She put her glasses on and frowned at me.


Ah. I wasn't a ghost, I was just a Randomer holding a bottle of milk and shouting.

I asked her if she knew how to get to the sixth floor, because the lift was broken. She told me to walk up the Nice Stairs. I explained that they only went up to the fifth floor. She smirked.

"Donc, vous avez besoin d'escalier du service."

For those of you who don't speak French (and for the people who do speak French, because what I wrote above probably doesn't make any sense at all), she told me I needed the 'Servants' Stairs' and that she didn't know where they were. She didn't seem to realise we no longer live in the 18th century. 'Just you wait for the revolution,' I thought.

I knocked on for the gardienne but she wasn't there. I went and looked in the Bin Room in the courtyard, in case there was a secret door hidden in there, but there was nothing in there. (Except for bins, obviously.) I found a door behind the lift, but when I managed to pull it open, all I saw was a staircase leading down- turns out there must be more than one Staircase Mystery in my building.

I was getting worked up now. Why is everything so... difficult? Why can't I have a staircase that leads to my room? Why do I have to live on a floating floor, that can only be reached by Father Christmas or fairies? (Actually, that sounds like my Dream Home!!)

I marched up the Nice Stairs again. I saw I had left a trail of croissant crumbs all the way down. Good. Let the Posh Bastards have messy stairs. At least their stairs don't lead to the Twilight Zone.

No, there was definitely no secret door.

On my way down I met two gentlemen, so I asked them for help. They suggested everywhere I'd already looked and then shrugged their shoulders. They gave me a look that said 'You are a silly idiot' and then they left me dithering about in the courtyard. I wanted to eat my croissant. I wanted a cup of tea. I wanted the world to make sense and I wanted to live in a building where all the stairs led from the ground floor to the top floor.

I knocked on the gardienne's door again, just because I couldn't think of what else to do. The door opened. She had clearly been in there the whole time, watching the television whilst giving herself a pedicure, or whatever it is that caretakers do when they are not taking care of me!

"Oui?" she asked.

I explained my problem for the third time. In fairytales, everything comes in threes. The third brother fights three dragons to get to three eggs, the third of which has a magical golden ring inside, that kind of thing... I really hoped that something out of the ordinary would happen, that it would be Third Time Lucky, that the gardienne would produce a tiny emerald key that opened up a hole in the wall, revealing a sparkling, glass staircase that led directly into my fireplace... or something.

She told me to take the Nice Stairs up the fifth floor. She said there was a door there that led to the escalier du service. Oh fuck. I'd already looked up there! I asked her is she was sure it was open, she said yes, it's the only open door. Right, so all I had to do was rattle everyone's doors shall until one of them opened.

I trekked all the way to the fifth floor. By this time I'd eaten most of my croissant and had started to nibble away at my baguette, adding more crumbs to my Hansel and Gretel trail along the royal blue stair runner.

I reached the fifth floor just in time to see the Bolivian Lady who lives next door to me closing a door behind her. It was quite a big door, with a doorbell and a label next to it that made it look as though it was somebody's apartment. What a fucking stupid idea.

ANYWAY. The door leads to my horrible, skanky stairs. The servants' stairs. Mystery solved. I'm back in my Cinderella room. Phew, I'm going to have a nap now.


  1. I can't believe this ! I feel like we tempted fate when I stayed. But on the bright side, wouldn't you rather know now whilst holding a baguette than find out as a fire ravages the building and you are trapped on the 6 th floor?
    Every cloud. Does this mean when I come to stay we hve to climb the stairs every day ?

  2. Erm, I think it was a temporary thing. I think! I'm hoping it will be fixed now, because all the electricity was off and now it's all back on again...

  3. You're not a ghost. Ghosts don't write blogs. Although, that would be areally good idea for a television show -- Ghost Blogger.

  4. This reminds me of something that happened to me last night. Okay, so I don't speak French, pas du tout. I lied, un peu, lol. So you know there's usually only one toilet on the floor. I used it and IT DID NOT FLUSH. It backed the fuck up. I flushed twice, and I was freaking out, like wtf, wtf, wtf do I do?! The water damn near came outta the toilet! Not to mention it was late at night. I ended up calling a friend overseas cause I was really freaking out and I didn't want anyone to see me leaving the scene. So I snuck out of my room quietly, and I posted a large note on the door: Les toilettes ne sont pas de rinçage. (google translate is my friend)

    This morning I noticed that someone removed it and was like, ah - okay, it's probably working now. As I'm leaving the building the gardienne sees me and says I should wait. She asks me did I leave the note, and I'm thinking I can't lie because any other person would've known what to do, so I say oui. Plus I think one of the older women on my floor probably told her it may have been the English speaking girl...Then she proceeds to tell me in French that she doesn't have anything to do with it. I had no fucking clue that we're expected to clean the toilets, figure out what's wrong with it, etc. (This brings me back to a month ago where I was thinking when is someone going to clean this grubby toilet)

    And I don't know anyone on my floor, so I'm just like, is there a schedule for something like that. And who unclogs the toilet? There's no plunger, just a toilet brush!

  5. So --- the toilet is STILL clogged. I'm going to be TMI just because I can (and thank goodness this is somewhat anonymous!!!). I'm on my special time of the month and I need to do #2. Yay - for - fucking - me! FML. Wtf do I do??????????

  6. Notes from the intern- I already thought it would be a good idea for a short story, someone who starts following a blog and after a while they discover the 'person' writing the blog is a ghost... Good to see you back in blogging land. Oh my god, I think I need to start blogging less that sounded really nerdy and weird.

  7. StoneCold- I feel your pain, au pair life is full of awkward hideous moments like that. Why don't you shit in a plastic bag and leave it outside the gardienne's door? It won't really help the toilet situation but it might cheer you up a bit? best wishes :)