Our enjoyment of Paris on a sunny Friday in January was probably heightened by the whole Brexit thing. I’ve not yet psyched myself up to listen to Theresa May’s speech about what Brexit actually means, but the view from our 6th floor (no lift) flat was made more intensely beautiful by the spectre of separation.
It was an afternoon of pottering around, enjoying the tree silhouettes that were created on buildings by the late afternoon sunshine, and standing like children at the windows of independent cake shops and book shops and cheese shops, gazing at the treasures within.
Our freezing meanderings were punctuated by a coffee in a little place so untouched by time that I almost expected Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to walk right in, and by forays into stationery shops, just to smell the leather notebooks and run our hands over sheets of handmade paper, all so simply yet perfectly laid out. The afternoon was concluded by a visit to my favourite cozy book shop cum wine bar in Le Marais to sip a lovely glass of vin rouge at a rickety table, warmly surrounded by large coffee table books about art and the pristine whiteness of French literature.
Ok, so i know that I was on a bit of a holiday high (and that my holiday tastes are somewhat geeky), but I do just love that unmistakeable feel of a European city.
It had to be done though. We made ourselves do it: we got home and watched the inaugural speech, softening the blow with prawns, goats cheese and better bread than British bread.
It was awful. Awful. (The speech not the French food). It actually hurt to hear those calls for self-preservation, self-aggrandisement and self-interest. And what hurts – even angers me – the most is when people support him in the name of the one who crossed borders, served and bestowed dignity on all people, eschewed worldly wealth and power, denounced injustice and sacrificed himself for the sake of others.
It meant that the next day we took to the streets in the name of human rights, human dignity and human kindness. Although I’ve probably wanted to march through the streets of Paris since being captivated by Les Mis at an early age, it kind of sucks that it’s 2017 and we’re still calling for liberté, egalité and fraternité (and indeed soroité as many of Saturday’s banners proclaimed).
After marching we wandered back along the river. We saw art, admired the architecture and ate more delicious food. We watched our breath hit the cold air and dissipate into nothingness. We were blinded by the sunlight bouncing off the frozen water in the park. We chatted and took photos. We appreciated the ubiquity of aesthetically-pleasing French men. This world isn’t all bad.
So, here’s to goodness, creativity and beauty at the start of a confusing and unknown year. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. The people are singing.