We went to Paris again for the fashion trade fair. Strange things happened. Coincidences, not things that go bump in the night. I recognised an editor who is publishing a piece of mine, in a nearby booth. By chance, in the middle of a mass of booths and fashion and flustered clients, we were both working. It was alarming and sweet. Suddenly feeling a connection to writing and my new book, while sitting on a red sofa in the midst of hoards of people and clothes.
Then when it was all over – the partying, the orders, the hangovers, the odd conversations (with a Danish designer about the Australian lady now married to their Crown Prince and mother of four??), the hotel breakfasts and long starving days – we relaxed in Paris. We were shepherded about by a friend who has just written a guide so is more-than-informed. We drank Mexican cocktails to die for and I ate a lemon tart I could have married (if one could marry a lemon tart – the patissier maybe?). We tried on clothes, swooned over jewellery, walked and walked AND walked.
And then the biggest coincidence. Our friend had to go to the printer’s. The printer had his offices in my old street. Suddenly we were driving the van up a cul de sac – now prime real estate – where I had worked as an au pair in the eighties. My old street. My old life. A skinny twenty-year-old pushing a pram around the drug-ridden 11th before the designer shops and hip cafes.
I stood beneath our old apartment in the cold, absolutely stunned. Too stunned to take a photograph. To stunned to help with the boxes.
As I stood there it began to unfold. F and R in the apartment above, sexy R who kissed me at a party, who took me to a Johnny Halliday concert. M the painter who sang above them, who took me out to films I would never have seen (I remember watching eerie James Mason in Lolita). Another affair. I remember my ‘family’ C & M whom I visited in the south last summer, how I found the advertisement at the Eglise Américaine and first pushed open the apartment door to find a trompe-l’oeil covering the walls, a painted garden of leaves and chairs and vistas. Then a hall with racks of photography books, a creaky-floored studio where C did his theatre set models, all the way around to the crammed kitchen with its mosaic shelves of broken plates where many many delightful meals took place.
Even lately we’ve said it, how that day we all fell in love.
What a whoosh, tumbling into that woman’s life. I remember how hard I struggled to find my place, how I grew up suddenly into a young woman speaking French, tapping her first novel into a crappy machine and trying to decipher what the druggies said to me in the street. Mon Dieu! I was so far away from everything I had known – from the uni student never knowing what to wear, what to say, what to be.
Standing there I remembered greyness, isolation, love, words, dancing. Never seeing blue water. Missing my folks. The guilt. The delights. The men. The books. The knowing that some sort of transportation was taking place and that this would send me forth on a certain path.
And it did.
And coincidences? My wise mate S says that coincidences happen when you are on the right path. That mouse-ridden apartment in Paris was my first true writing environment. And how on earth – by chance – did I happen upon an editor who loved my work?
Clear the decks, this ageing young rebel is going forward.
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Mille grazie to Amy Sue Nathan who hosted a guest blog post from yours truly about these last nine months of book promotion. Thanks Amy and good luck with The Glass Wives this year!