Last October I went to Paris in a most unusual and out of season trip, for I never even think about Paris past July or indeed before April. There is something about it that intrinsically pairs it up with spring for me, just as New York is consistently frozen in a memory made up of frigid weather, scarves, down coats and fabulous Godiva chocolate strawberries for Valentine’s Day. Early in life I used to love summer, probably because I was off school and could spend my days reading and writing without the tyranny of classes. I started appreciating autumn when I came across John Keats and when rainy days at Lancaster University were spent day-dreaming in the library, on and off books, intoxicated by the familiar smell of pages, ink, hardbacks and spines.
My year doesn’t begin on 1st Jan, it begins on 1st Sept, not just because I was born on this day, but because I am still deeply bound to academic life, despite the office job, and to the burning desire of it, which my dragging-on PhD is living monument to. So you mention spring and I grow cold and snort. I think slugs in the porch, dogs up at 5 am, never-ending days, early mornings, spiders, never knowing what to wear, hay fever, BBQs that stink up the whole neighbourhood, John Lewis that markets wedding days ad nauseam, balmy nights that are referenced in every mag and catalogue but which just never happen. I could go on. There is just nothing cosy to my spring; when it’s sunny, I sit at the office transfixed and unable to concentrate on anything other than the baby rabbits scuttling across the front field; when it’s rainy, I long for hot chocolate, October, Halloween, Bonfire Night and, ultimately, Christmas. Yet, get one decent day, and this erratic mind of mine wanders by the Seine, wearing a white cotton dress and blue wedges, hopping from postcard to book, treading the Louvre in adoration without a care in the world.
I am really describing my trip of June 2006, when the whole of Europe was sweltering in a heat wave, but Paris was cool, yet sunny. I had combined a business trip to London with a hop on the Eurostar and felt free and unbound like I hadn’t in a very long time. I felt like life as I knew it did not exist, did not even happen, my worries annihilated by the splendid Dying Slave,
my wonton eyes trapped in Psyche’s resplendent curls,
my wings unclipped, flapping at Mercury’s heels, spiralling up and up to Olympus, delivered of the cage of preoccupation.
Now I look at the flowering trees and as I feel the tepid breeze on my face, Paris calls as I struggle to do any work, as I crawl room to room unable to pick up any of my projects, yet so desperate to re-capture the hedonistic bliss that I experienced then. I suggested many times to a single friend of mine to head to Paris for a few days in order to experience a touch of romance. It is not at all unusual for a woman travelling solo to be chatted up in the most charming of manners and even though I was married the last time I went there unaccompanied, I cannot say that the compliments blown my way left me indifferent. Ah l’amour, ah Paris... je suis toujours en train de rechercher le bonheur du temps perdu.