Thursday, 4 September 2014

That Paris This Paris

I'm not being needy but, why have only two people written in my Au Pair forum? Why aren't au pairs flocking in their thousands to ask each other advice? Is it because I have overestimated the global market for a Left Bank Manc Au Pair Forum?


No, that can't be it. I suppose you are all just thinking up really good questions to ask.

Sigh. Now's as good a time as any to finish talking about my return to Paris.

So, after walking in the warm rain and the morning quiet, and after reaching Julia's lovely apartment, built around a courtyard with a fig tree growing in it, I had a quick shower and went to the au pair family's house for breakfast.

Back on the metro- that strange staring at the door handle again and feeling like it was anchoring me between all my lives, that Paris and this Paris, me Then and me Now. Then the same walk from the metro station to the family's house that I used to do twice a day, shockingly familiar, like blasting myself into the past.

I know I keep going on about it, but I thought maybe I'd somehow found myself in an old self and was looking through old eyes at my old life. Maybe I was really sat on the couch in London, vividly remembering scooting round the crowds outside Monoprix, people stopping to look at the market stalls outside the entrance, then the narrow pavement and the fruit and veg shop on my right, glancing at the raspberries that always caught my eye as I walked past.

Then walking up to their blue front door, ringing the bell...

It was exactly the same. We fell into old patterns quickly- at first I ate croissants and chatted with the mum, but soon I was back on the living room floor, playing a ball game with the ten year old (now eleven) and the toddler (now a four year old, I think).

Me and the ten year old plaited each other's hair and discussed the never-ending saga of her tempestuous friendship triangle (the latest: the other two were spending the summer flitting between each other's country houses in France and Mallorca, they didn't invite my girl- bitches).

The four year old kept showing me a photo on the iPad of him and his dad on holiday, taken from the back as they both have a wee. In the photo they are both naked. The mum pretended not to notice, which made it even more awkward.

I love how I can teach the little boy English phrases in about five minutes- I'm not just saying this because I looked after him, but he is so clever. During the ball game me and his sister would shout 'Who wants the ball?' 'Me!' 'You?' 'Get the ball!' and after twenty minutes he'd understand what we were saying and he'd start saying the same phrases as us.

I suspect the parents think I'm a bit touched, because after making awkward conversation with them for five minutes, I wondered off to talk about lions and dancing with the kids, just like I used to when I worked for them.

(They looked at me a bit weirdly and said I looked different... when I saw myself in the mirror later on, I realised that my pupils looked like two fucking moons- shouldn't have taken that Valium so close to Paris.)

The parents disappeared upstairs and without thinking, I helped myself to a glass of water like I used to and stood in the kitchen doorway, watching the kids playing. The dad came downstairs and laughed when he saw me- I forgot I haven't worked for them for a year. I was acting like it was just another night at work.

After I'd said goodbye (thinking I'd see them again one day, but who knows if I will), it only took me half a second to decide what to do next. I wasn't meeting Abby for a couple of hours, so I got the metro back to Saint-Philippe du Roule- my old metro stop.

I went to look at my old front door and as I got there, it opened. A little dog trotted out that I recognised- my old enemy- and then its owner, my old neighbour, stepped out and glanced at me across the street. I don't know if he recognised me or not. I felt like a ghost, observing a life that used to be mine.

I know, I know... I can't quite grasp the fact that things change and time moves on, but god it was so weird. I took the shortcut to Place du Concorde- the same way I would walk twice a week when I came home from my morning class in the nursery- and it felt like I was walking through ghost-versions of me, all our eyes on the trees, all our feet on the pavement, all of us/me walking simultaneously, around everywhere, blurry and almost invisible and then all concentrated in me, in that moment.

Ok I'm freaking myself out now.

Also my housemate is on her way back from kickboxing with some McDonald's for our tea.

Before I go...

TC and OJ and everyone in their disco circle went to Wilderness Festival this summer and I couldn't go due to the fact that I got back from Spain the day before (really it was because I'd spent all my money on alcohol and kimonos). When they got back everyone kept telling me about Greg Wilson's set on the Saturday night and he's put it on Soundcloud.


This is the reason I have been having private discos in my living room:


  1. Aghh reading this whilst deciding whether to move back to Paris or London....exactly how I think I would feel. also because I bumped into an old school friend who I haven't seen for five years and at the end she said "wow in 4 years you haven't changed at all!" .....and inside I was thinking fuck you yes I have but also thinking omg maybe I haven't....have I?!?! I will never know what she meant by that. Paris or London paris or london?!?! If only I could find a job where I could do both. Do those exist?! Sorry for the ramble. Another unemployed life-questioning spell on the sofa watching re runs of sex and the city thinking I have neither sex nor a city to live in. Sigh. X

    1. Hmm that's such a hard decision- I felt like that until February and I almost went back when the au pair family asked me to, but around the same time I got my internship and things just fell into place. I enjoy London now but if I was unemployed and living up North I would be back in Paris now! If you want to live in London though, you should definitely give it another go because you know Paris will be good but you can go back any time. I think jobs do exist where you can go between Paris and London- they are called extremely well paid jobs where you're so rich you can go back and forth when you fancy, or maybe you could be a trolley dolly on the eurostar?? I don't think it's a bad thing to have not changed in four years- it just means you are still a nice person. Enjoy sex and the city for now, but find a city soon x

  2. I still miss Paris after almost 4 years; somehow I think I'll still end up there although not much sign of that happening in the immediate future and I just keep getting older...sigh.
    If I'm still single 3 years from now then I'll just move back no matter what.
    I've heard too many moving-to-Paris-as-a-single-woman-in-my-mid-thirties stories that I so know it's doable. These women also tend to end up with a decent French bloke so perhaps that's the only way to do it properly!

    1. Ahh you see there's always the choice to go back, it's an especially good idea if you have no ties to England. When I first left I dreamt about moving back every day and I told myself I would only stay in London for a year (so at least I could say I gave it a fair chance)... There must be so many girls out there dreaming about the Paris they left behind... Thanks for commenting!

  3. I somehow ended up back on my Paris blog after over a year of not giving it a second thought, and soon got caught up reading the posts you've written while I was AWOL. I ran away from Paris and my au pair family when my auntie was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I haven't looked back since, but reading your blog was like going back to that point in my life again, as if I was my 21 year old self again. Since then my auntie has died, I ran away to Australia and returned again, I've got a career as a primary school teacher, I'm an auntie and ive bought a flat and a car. I think I too am struggling to grasp that things change and time moves on, and the strange nostalgic feeling in my throat and my increasingly itchy feet when I read this post have made me wish for that uncomplicated time in my life. I don't really know why I felt the need to comment and offload, except that I had such a strong reaction to your post. And that I feel the same way as you do, it would seem. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, it's really nice to know other people know exactly how I feel about how things change and especially that strange feeling about Paris... It's almost like it never happened, or like it doesn't exist. I'm really sorry to hear about your auntie... It's nice that you're now an auntie, I bet you couldn't have imagined that when you were living in Paris. Glad to know other people out there can relate.