Sunday, January 28, 2007

Leaving Paris

Firstly, apologies for the blog silence over these past 7 or 8 months. I have been living with my brother in Portsmouth and working for a company which produces prepared salads near Chichester. My life has not been devoid of interest in this time, but I guess I was not in a blogworthy (nothing like a neopropism to start a blog!) sort of mood.

Anyway, I now feel that I have got stuff to write about, but I left the story of my time in Paris hanging. In the intervening months, and even at the time, I thought of things to write, but I suppose it never became sufficiently pertinent to overcome the procrastinator within.

Essentially, my leaving Paris was not unexpected or in any way a surprise to me. For as long as I had lived in the city, I knew my date of departure. But that did not make leaving any easier. I suppose you only come to appreciate a place (or maybe even people too) when it appears to be falling through your grasp. When this moment comes, however, I find that I have a tendency to regret the things I have not done while failing to remember all the wonderful experiences I have enjoyed. In the month leading up to my departure, the main activity in my life was a singular failure to effectively consolidate four years of study in any sort of meaningful way. In other words, I was struggling to write up a project in which I had become quite interested too late, and a dissertation that I was trying to avoid writing altogether. A recipe for disaster!

Well, after I had gone back to London and cobbled together what was left of my degree, I had the last couple of weeks to enjoy living in France. So I went with Dan, an English friend of mine (have a look for "Yorkshireman in Paris") to Geneva and Lyon (where we couchsurfed - my inaugural experience as guest!) for four nights. Then I tried to get round all my friends and say goodbye to them.

In the last 24 hours, I embarked upon a feeble attempt at packing up my belongings and tidying up my room. In my experience, it's always the little things like dealing with concert tickets and other scraps pinned to the wall that take the time, but this is only because I attach sentimental importance to what other people would call litter. The night before I left, there was a party in the Foyer des Elèves, a good opportuntity to say goodbye to all my student friends. I don't remember much of the party, but I did have to leave relatively early to finish off my packing before I got too drunk. I didn't get much sleep that night, and I will not forget in a hurry the feeling of sheer panic about the idea of missing my train, and the fact that I had been sufferring from terrible diarrhoea that day.

After writing off at least one pair of underpants (having not made it to the toilet in time) and ending up dripping in sweat through having to pack in a mad rush in the heat of Paris in late June, I finally got my affairs into some sort of order. I had to catch the particular train on which I was booked, since I was travelling with a Parisian teenager who was going to spend some weeks with my mum (long story!); he didn't have a 'phone, so was incommunicado, and I would not have been able to make it back with my suitcase, four bags and violin without his help. Eventually, I managed to find a member of staff to check me out of the student dormitory, and two of my friends ran with me to the Metro station. For some strange reason, I had allowed myself to be talked out of getting a taxi, possibly because the fifty minutes I had left to get across Paris, check in and get on the Eurostar before it chugged out of Gare du Nord would not have been sufficient. Unfortunately, this meant that I had two changes to make, which involved going through those hideous automatic barriers, which, with my incumbrances, was no small order. To cut a long (and rather sweaty) story short, I only got there through an athletic determination which had always evaded me on the sports field, and thanks to the help of two kind strangers whose acts repudiated the unkind popular view of Parisians. One guy took a ten-minute detour in Gare du Nord to help me to the train with my baggage.

The upshot of all of this is that I did, eventually, make it on the train (albeit in a state of some discomfort, for many reasons), and was reunited with my friend. After such a frenetic departure, I didn't have much emotional energy left to get sentimental about leaving such a great city, but it was clear to me at the time and since that I would have rather stayed there. Whether this was purely because I didn't know what the next period of my life would herald, or simply because I wanted to perpetuate the happiest period of my student days, I do not know, and neither does it really matter, because I had nine wonderful months in a great city with some of the most interesting and friendly people I have ever met.
In case you are wondering, I didn't stop to take this photo. That would have just been silly! Whilst I have a few nice snaps of this amazing station, they are on my laptop at home, so I'm using this one thanks to Christopher Crews, from Flickr Commons


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