Notre-Dame

I watched Notre-Dame burn yesterday, I cried and I had to turn away from it – I couldn’t bear it. I read this by the always excellent Douglas Murray, it encapsulates everything I feel and think – he is much more eloquent that I could ever be. This is Douglas for The Spectator: link to the original article is here: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/notre-dames-loss-is-too-much-to-bear/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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Civilisation only ever hangs by a thread. Today one of those threads seems to have frayed, perhaps snapped. It is impossible to watch the footage coming out of Paris. Like videos of pornographic violence, all that can be done is to groan and turn away. It is not possible to watch the spire of Notre Dame collapse. It is not possible to watch the great cathedral consumed by fire.

Evelyn Waugh once said that in the event of a fire in his house, if he was able only to save his children or his library, he would save his library because books were irreplaceable. Only at a moment such as this is it possible to concede the slightest truth in that remark. Almost anything could be borne rather than the loss of this building.

There will be recriminations, of course. There will be disputes about budgets, and overtime and safety standards and much more. It is worth reading this piece from two years ago about the funding problems that existed around the cathedral’s restoration. But if Notre Dame can burn then all this is as nothing, because it tells us something too deep to bear. As I said a couple of years ago in a book, in some way the future of civilisation in Europe will be decided on what our attitude is towards the great churches and other cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst. Do we contend with them, hate them, ignore them, engage with them or continue to revere them? Do we preserve them?

Though politicians may imagine that ages are judged on the minutiae of government policy, they are not. They are judged on what they leave behind: most of all on how they treat what the past has handed into their care. Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents, ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame.

We would have to tell future generations what it was like, this treasure that we lost. At the start of this decade I was living part of each week in Paris, commuting back and forth to a little flat on the edge of Le Marais. Each time I headed out to the earliest Eurostar on a Monday morning I would see the great cathedral first as I turned into the street. One winter morning heavy snow was falling and as I headed to the station I stopped dead, alone in the street with the cathedral and just drinking in the sight of a building I had seen a hundred times before. When I got into London a friend could see I was just beaming still, radiating far too much joy for such a time of the week. He asked how I was and I remember simply saying, ‘This morning I saw Notre Dame in the snow’. It was like that.

Gelato

Dancing, lost to the music, nothing else exists but my body and the beat

Vaguely aware that somewhere
in the crowd, in the small pocket of shadows
you are watching
my hips roll,
the curve of my arse,
my fervid arms scenting the sky with Guerlain’s Shalimar,
my chest rising and falling though I’m not breathing

Here on my ship,
the bit parts, hangers-on,
walk the plank – you and I are the leads in bleached denim sprung back from the 80’s

3 songs and I’ll go take your hand because

I can’t resist

I’m greedy,
craving summery things,
ice cream
smeared on my lips, dripping on my skin, running down my fingers –

je lèche tout – innocence and prescience blended in one oblique look

Sugar shot from a gun triggered in the sun,
No wasting such sweet taste 

est-il trop tôt for gelato laced with innuendo?

senses overload,

tonight, ti voglio

I know

that you also feel

the need, like at seventeen, to explode
and never see tomorrow

*To mark my Saturday session on the beach with my French gang and our dancing to this perfect tune which inspired me in so many ways I ended up totally ripping it off*

La différence


You called me Marie Antoinette
in (pretend) jest
Knowing full well she wasn’t even French
You took aim, sipping Earl Grey
I loaded my pistol with clever quips and intellect
You replied with British wit, threw Maugham in my face
Quoted William Blake
Defied me with Oscar Wilde
Meanwhile
I had Voltaire, Molière and Baudelaire
You decried our catholic habits
I riposted with a line on heretics
It got worse – a sick thirst for the absurd
Propelling some kind of makeshift hearse

Nothing is as sordid as a Republic

I am disgusted by your monarchy

’twas a war between two countries
Like most wars, of course unnecessary

This battle with no soldiers and two generals could not end well

On a morning bathed in silvery light, the frost invaded the forest and a passing stag raised its head, aware of the taste of death in the air

You shot one last time, for real at last
I was hit through the heart
I fell draped in my flag
A tragic Marianne
Blood spreading on my chest
Staining my Coco Chanel
Taking on the shape
Of red poisonous flowers – the stuff of Lovecraft Nightmares

The sky suddenly burst open and it rained champagne
Like it should have on Hugo’s barricades
When Gavroche gave his last breath among other Miserables
With a song on his lips and without complaint
Never let it be said
The French are in any way mundane
We even die with a fanfare
And you, executer and witness
You covered me with your Burberry trench – must have been quite a wrench
Your British anguish
On realising how foolish
You’d been
Was nothing less than extraordinary
Unfortunately it was too late
La différence could no longer be embraced

Malaise


This is me yesterday: bleary-eyed (hence the sunglasses) suffering from a bad case of ‘the morning after the night before’ as I spent Saturday evening in the pub. I was on my way out of the house to go and vote in the first round of the French presidential elections. I may not live in France anymore but I still love my country fiercely and I very much care what happens to it. There is no question that I should do my duty even from abroad and go cast my vote.

And yet, for the first time in my adult life, there wasn’t a single candidate I identified with. I had to make a tactical choice and vote for the person I thought had the best chance to keep Le Pen away from the presidency, because she is a real menace. It was predicted she would get to the second round of the elections but her chances depended on who would join her there.

Should she win, heaven forbid, I will slap (hard) the first idiot who comes up to me to inform me that the French are obviously a bunch of fascists. Because should she win, it would be thanks to a wave of protest votes against politicians and politics, just like it was with Trump in the US.

Liberals are dismissing people’s concerns, political correctness is breeding resentment, so people are turning to the one misfit who makes loud (false) claims to be different from other politicians – the one who actually addresses (seemingly sincerely) the issues they care about. I can understand that, I used to be a socialist in France until they started patronising the working class on a grand scale. It’s one thing being fucked by the conservatives if you’re working class, you expect it. But when it’s the party that is supposed to be championing your rights doing it, it is that much harder to take.

The problem is that people who vote for a Trump or a Le Pen don’t realise that those would-be leaders are actually insane. And you don’t put insane people in charge of a country. You just don’t, no matter how angry you are and how disenfranchised you feel.
And yet people are doing just that: voting for dangerous lunatics who should be under the constant care of a good psychiatrist.

Where is good old common sense? It’s lacking from our current society and nowhere is it more felt than in the political field. I, along with too many others, am disillusioned – I would rather stick pins in my eyes than vote for a Trump or a Le Pen though.

At the time of writing, the results in France have given us Macron and Le Pen in the second round. I think it’s safe to say she hasn’t got a hope in hell of winning now, everyone will rally round Macron. Still, I have no faith in him like I had no faith in any of the other candidates; this political malaise is real – even if we escape the dreaded Le Pen peril, there’s just nobody to believe in.
I can’t help but ask myself if this what the climate feels like when a revolution is brewing.

Hypocrites (warning-naked French ladies walking down a Paris street)

Wit and personality count for nothing in a world which worships skin and sex
without context —
so I’ve stripped and bared everything; do stare and point at my shame, you hypocrites.

Vous l’avez voulu, vous l’avez eu.

*For those who’d never heard of this video, yes it’s genuine. Some say the French do it better… I don’t know about that, but we do do it with an arrogant pride going back to Louis XIV – Le Roi-Soleil*

A whole lot of nothing

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sometimes I want to be a Jean Paul Gaultier doll
a stylishly vulgar androgynous bottle
with platinum hair
and sexy stare
couture tattoos
& no taboos
dancing on a creaky barge on the Seine

then, there are times when I feel very much
like the Coco Chanel bird
tweeting in her golden cage
too exclusive to be touched
feathers
dripping with Frenchness
and a cool intellectual sexiness

what about the rock chick
and her worn leather
vertiginous heels, chunky rings
messy eyeliner
she gets her kicks
from breathing smoke in dirty bars
getting drunk on anaemic guitars

last night, I was none of those things
but a mix of Nicole Kidman and Grace Kelly
I was the icy blonde Hitchcock was so fond of
a Stepford wife lookalike
only—one who would bite
if anyone should be taken in
and not realise I was just play-acting

remember: don’t judge a book by its cover
appearances can be very deceiving
there are many facets to my personality
today I am covered in flour and cocoa powder
channeling my beloved grandmother
making a cake while writing
a whole lot of nothing

Hell is empty and all the devils are here

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Last night
14th of July, Bastille Day — when my country celebrates the day the People took control, getting rid of the monarchy and inherited privileges — a day which represents Freedom.

Families, fireworks, freedom
and a single lone truck
mowing people down
hitting at random
indiscriminately
purposefully
leaving a trail of blood
on the road
The promenade becomes
a crime zone
innocent people thrown
everywhere, like rag dolls

What kind of an animal
targets a crowd full of children

I forced myself
to look
at the carnage
crudely orchestrated by some savage

Why shield my eyes
when I can’t shield my mind?
So, I look
It’s horrific
incomprehensible
My heart falters and pleads: no more!

Today
I am still in shock
but mainly
I am angry
furious, actually
I am seething
Enough is enough is enough
Leave France & Freedom alone
you sick fanatic fucks
You’ll never win,
regardless of the blood & terror you’ve sown

🇫🇷 My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims, my thoughts are with anyone affected by this latest assault on freedom, my thoughts are with my country I love so very dearly, my thoughts are with the people of France 🇫🇷
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No Monopoly on Pain

 

Pic Syria

Over the last few days, much has been said about the fact that the Paris attacks have received an unprecedented amount of attention. There’s been an outpouring of grief and support for Paris coming from all over the world. Some people have pointed out that there are other atrocities that have gone on, or are still going on, which deserve and don’t get the same level of attention.

It is undeniable that the Paris attacks have overshadowed everything else.
Is it right? No. Is it fair? Of course not.

Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for Paris but not for Beirut, it was the first time that feature was used for something that was not a natural disaster. Why Paris and not us, wailed Lebanon? Can you blame them? Definitely not, I would have reacted in the same way had I been in their position. Mark Zuckerberg explained that moving forward, FB was now going to activate Safety Check for more disasters. The implied statement is that Facebook just happened, coincidentally, to change their policy about safety checks at the time of the Paris attacks. Hmmm…

Facebook users were also given the option to use a filter enabling their profile picture to be covered with a French flag to show support for France – more grumbles from victims of terrorism in other countries.
Many of the world’s landmarks were lit up in the colours of the French flag in the wake of the Friday events in Paris, people in many countries organised gatherings to show respect and support for Paris…what about us? cried Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and others.

paris

Yes, indeed, what about you?

I can’t justify the Paris attacks overshadowing everything else so I’m not going to try. All I can offer is an explanation of sorts. I’m not going to speak on behalf of the rest of the world, I can only speak for myself and the thing is this: I keep myself informed of what goes on in this world, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, civil wars, the Middle East…whatever happens, I know about it because I read about it, it’s actually very difficult at times for an empath to keep up with the worldwide news because there is so much pain and bloodshed. There is a temptation to shut it all out and ignore it because it’s just too painful.

The situation in Syria right now is tragic, hell, make that the situation in the entire Middle East! There is so much wrong going on in the world, you don’t have to stop at the victims of terrorism or war, what about human trafficking, the number of women and children forced to work for a pittance or used as sex slaves? Modern day slavery is what it is, and it’s going on right now – when I think about it, it makes my stomach turn, yet is it something you hear about on a regular basis? No. The world is not lighting its landmarks in support of the women and children who are sex slaves.

I’m sure you can tell where I’m going with all this…so many atrocities, death and misery in so many parts of the world…the Paris attacks are just a drop in the ocean, right?

Pray for world hands

And yet, Paris is at the heart of Europe, Europe isn’t divided by war, France is a quiet civilised country, there’s no civil war or political unrest there. When people are murdered in the capital city of such a country, it’s utterly shocking and traumatising. The people who were murdered were going about their business on Friday night, they were out, they were having fun, just living life without a care in the world when mayhem descended on them out of nowhere – a bolt of lighting in an otherwise beautiful blue sky. Some would say it’s only justice, payback and retribution for being lucky enough to live in a quiet country in Europe, far from unrest and war.

At a time like this, the French are getting a small taste of what it’s like for people in the Middle East, right? Right, only you shouldn’t have to pay for being lucky, you shouldn’t have to suffer because you were born or happen to live in a civilised country.

France Liberty

I am not living in France at the moment, but I was absolutely devastated by the attacks in my country because I saw them, like most French people, as an attack on Liberty, on freedom, on our values. There are so many countries torn by civil wars and political unrest, so many places where terrible things happen on a daily basis, why oh why should the few parts of the world where people are lucky enough to have a good life be pulled down and made to experience horror?

It’s not as if the French haven’t fought long and hard for Freedom, there’s been a lot of blood shed over the centuries for what we now have, it wasn’t handed to us on a plate. If you listen to our national anthem, you will know exactly how hard it was for France to become what it has, and you will know why we cherish and will fight to the death for Freedom – Marianne is not the symbol of France for nothing: she is the Republic, she is Liberty – and when you hit France, you attack Liberty…and she weeps and bleeds…this, of course, being the very reason why we were attacked by terrorists who won’t rest until they’ve extinguished all the light and life in this world.

Liberty crying
The world’s support for France was for those very same reasons, I think. It’s France, it’s Europe, it’s a symbol of culture, history, of a way of life, of freedom — to have it attacked in such a senseless, hateful way threatened the foundations of democracy, of civilisation. The “free world” as I shall call it, also felt for Paris because it could have been “them”, is it selfish? Yes, but who isn’t a little selfish? It is just human nature, after all.

I empathise with all the victims of terrorism, wherever they are, wherever they’re from. I am outraged and appalled by war, racism and slavery, I wish the world was a better place and I wish it was a fairer place. If you are suffering somewhere on this planet right now and think it’s unjust that France is receiving waves of love from the world, I’m sorry, I truly am. But I can only reiterate: what happened in Paris was as shocking, in a different way and for different reasons, as what is happening in Syria, Lebanon or Palestine right now — there isn’t, and there should be no monopoly on pain, we all bleed the same.

Tears of blood

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I heard their screams
I saw them bleed
life ripped out of them
brutally and without mercy
their peace shattered
without heed or warning
all in the name of hatred
and crazy ideology
My people
My country
I saw the face of Liberty
like me,
she was weeping
tears of blood
as her children
were being murdered
———————————
Le glas sonna
mon cœur se brisa
Je vis le visage de la Liberté
qui, comme moi,
pleurait des larmes de sang
alors qu’on assassinait ses enfants

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