09:49:10 pmCategories: Spaces

Summer socialising

Parc Floral, during the weekly weekend jazz concert.

One of my first blog posts in the autumn was on Le Square and the after-school socialisation among children and parents. Then came the grey and cold winter and street-life almost disappeared. Since then, I’ve returned several times to the seasonal changes and how social and communicative Parisians become as the temperature rises. Now summer is head on. The heat wave is said to reach its peak today, with 34-35 degrees in Paris. I’m staying at home during the day, trying to get on with at least one of the several blog posts that have been simmering in the back of my heads – and bothering my conscience – for a long time. Many of the neighbours across the courtyard have already left for holidays. The rest have their windows wide open like I have, and let various sounds mix between the houses. From my desk, I see the elderly lady get more visits from caretakers than usual, as the French authorities want to avoid the disaster from three years back when 15000 people, mostly elderly, died as a result of the extreme heat wave hitting Europe. Yesterday, some West African women – dressed in even more elegant dresses than usual, so I guess they had some kind of party or celebration – discussed and argued for hours somewhere in the yard. (Someone from a nearby window, who obviously understood their language, called one of them a sarkozyst on one occasion (apparently a summer hit invective – I also heard it in the park a few days ago)).

I like it when all windows in the city are open and you can hear the clattering of plates at your neighbours’ dinner table or perhaps they’re arguing a little, or listen to which football teams the apartment building is cheering for in front of their telly. (I remember when I lived in Athens some years ago, during football matches in the Greek series, we could hear who cheered for the archrival Olympiakos (half of the building) and who were on the right side with Panathinaikos (as my flatmates)). The theme of this text, is exactly emotions like that: The slightly different sensations, emotions, atmospheres and everyday routines that slowly have become part of a (long-time) fieldworkers experiences to such an extent that that they can be difficult to pinpoint and describe. But they’ll be even harder to remember when I get home and quickly get absorbed by my Oslo way of life with own, and different state of mind. Before I know it, Paris will appear as a parallel and distinctly separate universe, and I’ve many reasons to try to struggle against this mental amnesia. One of them I’ll return to in a post soon (hopefully), titled I and politics (part three of My blog, my project and I).

As I’ve written some posts ago, in the day the blistering hot boulevard is almost empty. However, in the evenings it fills up, as people gather at the terraces in front of the bistros and cafés. I’ve been hanging around there for a couple of nights, with some people playing chess for hours and hours until closing time (I don’t play though, as socialising, fieldworking and speaking two foreign languages keep my mind sufficiently occupied). When taking a break from the game, they would play some guitar, sing some variété, believe it or not – including some Edith Piaf imitation (a musical genre the banlieusard in the company knew almost as little about as I, but which a tramp who had put his chair next to us enjoyed immensely) –, or discuss the etymological roots of words with each other or neighbouring tables, and once in a while one at the table was even making few half-hearted chatting-up attempts of passing girls.

(The tramp in fact, got a free drink with us at closing time, as someone included him when we asked if the house wouldn’t give us all a drink in return for our consumption. Apropos levels of alcohol consumption; generally, people seem to drink less here than in Norway when they go out – but I think they go more out – and I’ve got the impression that its usually one in the company who’s drinking quite a lot more than the others. – In Norway, isn’t it often the case that if one (man) is drinking quickly, then the rest of his mates will do the same? – It was in fact about time that I wrote something on alcohol here, and if I haven’t mentioned cannabis yet, I should soon, as both intoxicants are very widely used. The French also consume more antidepressants than others, but that is – probably – a different matter. Or perhaps not, this is after all the country of Baudelaire’s Spleen et Idéal as well as his Paradis Artificiel…).

Almost everywhere in Paris there is a good mix between flats, cafés and local shops, and people often go out in their neighbourhood. (One of the few exceptions to this mix is in the 13e Arrondissement, along the river – that is also the only place I’ve felt unsafe when cycling home at night, as there are very few pedestrians in the streets after the offices close and the employees go home). And in their neighbourhood, or in other public places, I notice to my delight that Parisians speak with strangers and meet new people… It would’ve been interesting to make a survey on where people in Norway and France have met their friends (and partners, as I’ve already mentioned public attempts at picking up strangers seems quite acceptable here. Many years ago I actually read a survey on how many had found their future partners on the metro in respectively Oslo and in Paris. I don’t remember the numbers, but the two cities were of course wide apart). When I ask a group of friends here where they’ve met, I rarely hear “work”, “studies” or “school”, as I think the overwhelming answer would have been in Oslo, instead they say bars or even on the street – or through friends, which is of course also the case chez nous.

As all the interaction in public spaces here continues to amaze me, I was surprised to hear a girl complain about how little she thought the French used the streets. She compared France to a non-European country where she had just spent some months, and like with so much else here in France, she said that the situation for creative street-life also was getting worse under the present government – with all the “securitarian” policing. I’ve got – yet – another example of that, which perhaps I’ll post on another occasion…

No feedback yet

Form is loading...

« 14th of JulyMonday »