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.

Lonely in Paris

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5 am: he’s shivering, cold seeping into his bones, teeth shattering, he turns up the volume on the radio – it’s playing that song everyone hums, everyone knows. Alone in his bed, twisted in a wrinkled sheet which has seen better days, he can’t sleep, looks at the ceiling, thoughts turning, colliding – deadly ennui.

He’s losing his head and his cigarettes are all gone, stubbed out in three different ashtrays displayed around the bed. His studio is a mess of used tissues and empty bottles – it smells just how it looks: stale.

He’s lonely, fucking lonely.

He finds just enough at the bottom of a bottle to have one last drink but the glass escapes, shatters on the floor – he cuts his hand while picking up the pieces, it’s shallow, he sucks the blood on his fingers, vaguely thinks he should disinfect but on the heels of that: fuck it, let it kill me – who the hell cares anyway.

6 am: he needs to find a drink, black coffee or something stronger – he’s not sure yet, thinks: let’s leave this place, leave it to fate. Once in the street he sees some stars – in a Paris sky it’s pretty rare, what with all the réverbères – he cranes his neck to talk to them: “do you have anything to tell me?” he asks, feeling kinda foolish. They don’t reply, keep looking at him from afar.

He gets in his car, roule au hasard, goes through a red light, thinks: don’t get stopped, the last thing you need are the cops – slows down, which is how he spots a small bar squeezed between two bulging buildings. He parks the car, goes inside the tiny bar, takes a seat by the window lit so bright he’s relegated to the role of shadow. In a dark corner a platinum blonde sips on a liqueur, she looks at him, says: “champagne?” He nods: “okay.” Within seconds she’s sitting next to him, one hand on his shoulder, the other in her hair and whispers: “a hundred?” He says: “why not.”

7 am: hotel. He pays, has to dig deep in his pockets for crumpled notes, feels cheap, the clerk looks bored. The room is small, it’s a hellhole, the blonde walks to the bed, gets straight down to business. She takes off her pantyhose and the rest quickly, expertly – revealing tanned skin with an orangey hue which screams ‘fake’, like her platinum hair. She pats the empty space next to her: “coming, darling?” He takes three steps, she grabs him, her painted nails leave a faint trail on his face. Her lips are artificial red, her arched back a practised pose, his cold fingers don’t warm up on her frigid skin, her eyes are empty, blind mirrors. They’re both thinking of nothing while moving in tired synchronicity – there’s no heat between those two writhing bodies despite the groans and moans. The bed creaks, the shutters slam, he thinks: fuck it, I can’t even cum. Frantic, he makes a last desperate effort, increases his rhythm, her eyes lose their vagueness, she’s getting pissed off, it’s taking too long and she’s had enough – he pulls out, he’s gone limp, she simply says: “tough luck, time for sleep”, snatches her clothes and leaves, not even bothering to close the door behind her.

She runs away, the morning is grey, there are no taxis, she has to walk, she feels ugly, needs to go home.

8 am: she’s shivering, cold seeping into her bones, teeth shattering, she turns up the volume on the radio – it’s playing that song everyone hums, everyone knows. Alone in her bed, twisted in a wrinkled sheet which has seen better days, she can’t sleep, looks at the ceiling, thoughts turning, colliding – deadly ennui.

She’s losing her head and her cigarettes are all gone, stubbed out in three different ashtrays displayed around the bed. Her studio is a mess of used tissues and empty bottles – it smells just how it looks: stale.

She’s lonely, fucking lonely.

She finds just enough at the bottom of a bottle to have one last drink but the glass escapes, shatters on the floor – she cuts her hand while picking up the pieces, it’s shallow, she sucks the blood on her fingers, vaguely thinks she should disinfect but on the heels of that: fuck it, let it kill me – who the hell cares anyway.

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*

No Monopoly on Pain

 

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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.

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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.

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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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Peace for Paris

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At least 128 people have died and around 180 were injured last night in Paris in a series of carefully planned and coordinated attacks. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, citing Paris as “the capital of abomination and perversion, the one that carries the banner of the cross in Europe.”

I don’t think anybody was surprised by the fact the horrors in Paris were committed by the Islamic State. We all guessed early on that it must be behind it, because, who else in this day and age still goes on insane crusades?
Isis said the carnage in Paris last night was “a holy attack facilitated by Allah” as if anybody in their right mind could ever think that fear and horror can, or should be, associated with God and religion.

Insanity is the only word that can describe “this”. What happened in Paris yesterday could have happened anywhere. It wasn’t just the French that were attacked, it was Democracy, Liberty, Equality.
As I was reminded last night of how low humanity can sink, I was also shown its capacity for kindness: texts and phone calls flooded in from friends in England who wanted to show me their support. My friends and family in France also sent texts and called, the lovely people here on WordPress were incredibly supportive. I stayed up half the night glued to the horrific news but talking to friends and family and bloggers as well. Similarly, in Paris last night, it wasn’t just about carnage and brutality: people reached out to each other, with taxis drivers taking people home for free and Parisians opening their doors and offering shelter to anyone left stranded in the city…kindness won out over hate, like it should do, like it always will.

This morning, I don’t have the words, either in French or English to describe how I feel. All I can say is: the French are strong, we were subjected to vile attacks earlier this year and we survived them, we will survive this. We are not going to be intimidated, we are not going to be afraid, we will not bow down to insanity and terror.
Terrorists attacks are meant to divide, they are meant to sow fear. We will not be divided and we will not fear. My heart bleeds for the victims in Paris and my heart bleeds for their families and friends, but I stand here today as determined as ever to uphold the values of any civilised country – I am not, and will not be afraid.

People gather in solidarity of the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Masked gunmen shouting
Image Credit: Jean Jullien

The Girl under the Paris Bridge

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She could only be found by the pure-hearted
the ones who believed in magic
and possibilities
the ones in dire need
the scarred, damaged

she gave them sweet caresses
or tender words
gently, she stroked
body or soul
sometimes both
whatever they needed

within her embrace
they found themselves
lost,
found,
broken apart,
remade

her voice, rising and falling
echoing under the bridge
musical notes cascading down
an unusual sonata composed
of nothing but arpeggios

whirling, shimmering in the air
getting caught in her wild mane of dark hair
reflected in the deep green pool of her eyes
the musical notes held them
told them
that anything could be fixed

before they left, she would
place her hand palm down
over their heart
and whisper
tu n’oublieras jamais

And they never did forget

they took the moment,
softly laid it in a piece of Chantilly lace,
folding it carefully
and tucking it away
to be taken out
and marvelled over
on sunless days
and starless nights

Like them, seek the girl under the Paris bridge
if you want to change your story
and choose your own ending

More drunken writing from me… this girl under the Paris bridge popped into my head out of nowhere and I found that I so badly wanted her to exist that I just had to make her up, give her life — now she’s real ❤

Written by Nathalie – October 10th 2015 (3am)

Image Credit:weheartit.com

The City of Light, again.

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It’s funny (or prescient) that on Friday I was reminiscing about last year’s Paris trip  – because that very same night, Sweet Boy suggested a day trip there for my birthday. Well, not on my actual birthday but that same week. Providing he can get the time off work as well. But still, I may just be seeing the city of light again very soon.
A day wandering across this unique city soaking up the atmosphere is just what I need to replenish my French soul. A few more photographs out of the hundreds I took last year is in order. And a couple of quotes too.

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.”
― Victor Hugo

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The Eiffel Tower has to be seen at night when it’s illuminated. It could be seen from the hotel, keeping an ever watchful guard in the background

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Because I’m classy (ha!) 100 Euro note next to a glass of wine and surrounded by French bread crumbs 🙂

“I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.”
― Amy Thomas

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“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald