09:21:56 pmCategories: Paris

Noctambulism (viewed from a balcony on 7th floor)

There’s a time for everything, I’ve thought many times the last two years: One does one thing for a while, and then things change again. This time, I hear the night birds down in the street slowly making their way home after a night out in Paris, while I sit at the balcony listening to my child talk about the - for him – new wonders of twilight: “Look! Stal!”, “Play in the darkt!” and “Go down there!” - probably not because he wants to join the people hanging around down there, but because the street sweepers have turned on the water to flow through the gutter before they comes with their green broom at places where the little green sweeper and high pressure water cars can’t reach. He likes this early morning procedure (apparently earlier in weekends than in the week, as it usually happens a little later, at the when we go to the bakery to get breakfast. Maybe it’s because it’s more debris after Friday and Saturday night.) And I like it too, and I think about all the work that has to be done continuously to maintain good living conditions in an urban environment where the population density is as high as it is here (Around 40 000 per km2).

6:30 in the morning is a time I’ve seen very rarely in Paris, only when I’ve been out the whole night myself. I don’t think there’s anywhere I’ve spent the whole night outdoors as many times as in Paris, - perhaps only beaten by the town where I spent my teens, far up north with its light summer nights. Maybe because noctambulism is quite common here – they’ve even got a word for it. The hot July I spent in Paris when I was 17, we hung around at Beaubourg, outside Centre Pompidou - under a large art installation of a dangling planet earth - until we could get on the first metro together with the friends we’d made and eat steaming fresh croissants from an early bakery and warm ourselves at their place. During the fieldwork, there were some nights of wandering as well, of just going from place to place and hanging around and meeting people.

But now I see the other side of it. Once again, I’m living in an extremely noisy street, and this time it’s the night life. (But it doesn’t bother me, because I’m finally in a position where I both need and can afford a certain comfort, so contrary to in Faubourg du Temple the windows here can be properly closed.) In the beginning of the week it ends reasonably early, but already on Wednesday night it intensifies, and Thursday is a small weekend, whereas at Friday and Saturday it culminates when most bars close about 3-4. Then the chatting of the noctambules go on long after the morning has started here at my place and the street sweepers have come with their brooms.

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