Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tinyland

Before Kiki came to live with us, she lived in Tinyland, with her tiny mum and dad. In Tinyland, bonbons are good for you, and vegetables give you a sore tum. In Tinyland, being naughty is good.

In Tinyland, Kiki had three sisters, Strongy, Aren't I? and Teeny. They all had separate bedrooms, but sometimes they would swap, and occasionally they would all sleep together in one of the rooms.

'Did two of you ever gang up on the other one?' I ask.

'No,' she says.

In Tinyland they lived in the one house forever and ever and never moved. Kiki misses her tiny mum and dad, and talks about them every day. Their names are Matt and Coraline. She can still visit them, but I can't. I'm too big. If I came I would squash them and all of Tinyland. They have a sign that says No Big People. I would go to prison if I came. Kiki can go, because when she wants to visit, they just magic her tiny. She has this right, as she was borned in Tinyland.

'I wish I could visit Tinyland too,' I say.

She shrugs. 'Yeah. But you can't.'

The other day we were having a secret girls snack in her little tent and she told me how she came to live in my tummy. She was in Tinyland, with her tiny mum and dad, and one day the clouds all went away and a whole lot of holes opened up in the sky. She had to climb up a tree to the holes, and choose one of them to go inside.

'How did you choose?' I asked.

'I sniffed,' she said. 'I went up to all the holes and I sniffed and this one didn't smell good and this one didn't smell good... and then this one smelled like you! It smelled good. So I climbed up into the hole in the sky. And then I was in your tum.'

Saturday, January 2, 2016

This Year

Kiki was eating breakfast last December when she said for the second time,

'When we go Australia this year for Christmas I don't want to come back to Paris, I want us to stay there.'

This was December 2014. We were in the throes of trying to find a new place to live, as we had to move out of our apartment on the rue des Petites Ecuries on December 12. We had already accepted a 1-bedroom place on the rue de Marseille - a place many friends had rented over the 11 years since I'd first arrived in Paris from a nice wealthy lady who didn't mind if you were a foreigner and didn't have a steady job. That was rare and we seized upon it as we had neither the funds nor papers to go through the normal channels. The apartment only had one bedroom but it had a double séjour which we could split into a bedroom and a living area, as so many friends had done when they were students. The makeshift bedroom would face the street, which could be loud at nights and through the summer as it intersected with the Canal St Martin, and the kitchen and bathroom were crap, but our favourite boulangerie 'Du Pain et des Idées' was only four doors down, so that made it all perfect.

'Why do you want to stay in Australia?' I asked. 

Kiki had only spent two Christmases there and ten months of her first year - what did she know about living there? 

'Because the sun. And we can live next door to Grandad.'

The idea felt far-fetched but after Kiki was in bed we found ourselves on the couch in that familiar discussion configuration that often led to change. 

'Maybe we should,' I said, but I didn't believe it. I was testing the feelings of the words in my own body. They didn't sit at all.

'Maybe,' said Mr Rabbit. They sounded hollow. 

Our stuff arrived on a container ship in Australia in June, six months after we'd hurriedly crammed them into the huffy Indian drivers' van, which was overstuffed because we'd thought we only needed 2 metres cubed. After waving goodbye in the mirror in our entranceway in the tiny hours of December 12, we had arrived back in Australia with no clue of where we would live or what we would do. It had been almost twelve years since I had officially lived there, 8 for Mr Rabbit, Kiki's almost entire four years. We printed a photo of the three of us waving in that mirror in Paris in our coats and woolly hats and stuck it on the noticeboard of the local supermarket in Point Lonsdale, my dad's home town, with the words written on it in fat texta:

FAMILY SEEKS HOME FOR WINTER MONTHS

Someone responded and after couch surfing the summer we moved into a small holiday house near the golf course and went about setting up a studio for Mr Rabbit in a bungalow plastered with surf posters and a desk for me in the living room amongst the board games. Kiki got a little room with bunks and a shell picture with the name CHLOE on its door. 

We could keep the place until December 10, when the family would return for the summer. We would use the time to look around the peninsula for our own home to rent or maybe even buy, or consider returning to Melbourne, or set up in Sydney... find a home. A 'base' as I'd always gone on and on about. 

Kiki was over the moon. She played with her cousins, spent time with her Grandad. We put her in the little kindergarten we'd ogled from our computers in Paris, the one with the willows and gums looking over the little sea inlet. I wrote, Mr Rabbit did music. My Paris copywriting clients remained faithful despite the distance and it felt like perhaps we could continue living as we were over there, just with the beach and a freer kid. 

A wedding invitation arrived one day from some dear friends in Berlin. The wedding would take place in October in Alassio, on the northern coast of Italy. We put it on the fridge with a magnet of Kiki on a swing. It was a wedding we both wanted to deeply attend, though we both knew it was unlikely. 

Then in March a writer friend called to invite us to Spain for seven weeks in July and August. It felt way too soon to be returning to Europe and there were many discussions in the couch configuration featuring questions such as 'But isn't this year about settling down a bit? Do we really want to go back there now? Could we be putting our money to more pragmatic uses, namely, a house deposit?'

We experimented with different ideas: 
- Going just to Spain then returning, which seemed foolish as it was an opportunity for me to visit my clients in Paris, and our friends 
- Going to Paris for a few weeks, then Spain. 
- Paris then Spain then back to Paris until the following February, so moving out of this house in Australia (and going to the wedding in October). 
- Going to Spain, Paris, the wedding, then home (which would give us about six weeks to find a new home before we got kicked out). 
- Not going to any of it at all, and being safe. 

But in the end, how could you say no to seven weeks in Spain with your best friends? And what was life? And what would our next move be anyway? So far we hadn't been particularly inspired by any houses we saw, and weren't sure about living on the peninsula. Perhaps this could be time to reflect on what our next move would be, to spend time with creative friends, revisit our old life in Paris, see where it all pointed us. 

So we arranged to spend three weeks in Paris before travelling to Cadaquès to meet our friend and his wife and child, to then return to Australia in late August. No wedding. That would give us three and half months to find a home before we had to move out in December. We rented a lovely apartment off the Canal St Martin with pink flowers in the windows and after receiving a kind and unexpected invitation from the directrice of Kiki's old school, sent her back there for the final ten days of term. Her little camarades and their parents received us with an overwhelming amount of warmth. 'My little boy talks constantly of Kiki and the photos of her at the beach! Oooh we've missed you! Are you moving back here now then, for good?'

'For evil,' we'd reply. The joke fell flat as always in French, and besides by now it had well and truly worn itself out. 

'Shall I enrol Kiki in school for next year then?' asked the kindly directrice in the doorway one morning. 

'Yes,' I found myself saying. 

Work had been very very good since we'd been back, and I'd been offered the chance of a contract for a high fashion client in September-October. The only catch: I'd have to be sur place for the six weeks, to attend a regular weekly meeting with the client. 

'That shouldn't be a problem,' I heard my voice telling my client.

What were we doing? We had walked straight back into our old life. All the friends, the community we'd built over so many years had simply re-opened to us. It felt good. I wore heels again, drank cocktails with my best friends, ate dinners with Mr Rabbit, had long lunches with friends so close they were family, savoured all the things we loved. Kiki's babysitters, three beautiful brothers who had looked after her since the age of 1, swept back in and took her in their high, high arms. We were home. What were we doing?

The sun got hotter and we went to Spain. A week in Cadaquès swimming and eating and one day taking a boat out to a lagoon and seeing a live octopus cling and shoot itself around the rocks. Six weeks in Saint Marti des Empuriès, writing and eating and riding bikes and swimming and discussing and laughing and eating fresh apples off trees. We had to decide whether we'd return to Paris for the six weeks, or go back to Australia as planned. 

The couch configuration.

The train shot us back to Paris too quickly. And there we were, back in the 10th, a friend-of-a-friend's place on the rue d'Hauteville, a bedroom for us, a walk-in-robe for Kiki. A new pair of shoes for her first day of school, a maitre this year instead of a maitresse, her closest little friends of the quartier this time in her class. A post in my old shared office in the rue Thorel became available the day Kiki began school and I sat back in it with my magazine-editor friend and a designer and a writer and brought in my takeaway coffees and went to work, collecting an exhausted Kiki at 4:30, pain-au-chocs and Oranginas in cafés, work meetings, restless sleep. Life resumed utterly as before - even better because now we could identify its dynamism and excitement, the taste of cheeses and wine, the luxury of date nights on bikes to beautiful places down boulevards and across rivers. But again, we were stressed, my knuckles curled back up, the headaches returned, the dark circles reappeared under Kiki's eyes. Dragging her from sleep in the mornings, dressing her floppy body in bed, force-feeding her breakfast down before dragging her 'I don't want to go to schooool' face down the rue d'Hauteville, along Petites-Ecuries and down Martel, the frown of the guardienne telling her to descend from her scooter. The maitre's welcoming face. The guilt as I marched out of school straight to the office. 

Six weeks. The fashion job didn't eventuate, but a few other good contracts did. The decision to return was validated. And we were more confused than ever. 

Our ticket back to Australia was booked for October 15. A trip down south to see friends in a town called Sauve, then to Alassio to the wedding, then back to Paris. A few days before our trip down south was to happen we hit the wall. 

'If we're going to go back to Australia, I just want to go now,' I said. I felt a new kind of exhaustion. Emotional fatigue. Tired of moving. Tired of travel. Tired of the suitcase. Tired of Kiki in a closet. There were no flights until the 15th. So we boarded the train and went to Sauve for two exquisite cobblestone nights and then on to Alassio, heaven on earth. A town and an event so full of beauty and calm, we were reinvigorated.

It made me wonder. 

Should we just stay here? Mr Rabbit could go back and pack up the holiday house - it would be easy, a few suitcases worth. We hadn't even unpacked the shipment from Paris, it was all in a storage unit. Send it straight back! Expensive way to figure stuff out. But still...

'I don't want to leave,' I said, wobbly in the heels. 'This is all we know. We have a home here. We should just stay. I can't move any more.'

In Australia we would have 6 weeks to find ourselves a new living situation before we were kicked out of our house. It was too much. At least in the apartment in Paris we could stay. Everything was set up. We had school, friends, community, work. In Australia we hadn't built anything yet. We had nowhere to go. I just couldn't see the picture.

'No,' said Mr Rabbit. 'We can have a better life there, I just know it. Trust me. It's going to be good.'

The blackest of black surrounded me in those dying hours in Paris, and for the first ten days of our return to Australia. All felt wrong. We didn't fit anywhere.

We looked for houses, at rentals, at sales, in towns and villages, cities. How would we get a rental when our income was sporadic and coming from overseas? Let alone a mortgage? 

It was all too foreboding. And way too quiet. My mind was beating too fast. 

And then, suddenly, it happened. The picture. 

We had given up on Point Lonsdale as a place to live as it was too expensive but one day we were driving home from a day looking at houses we didn't like when we passed a For Sale sign we hadn't seen before, on the main street. The house was hidden behind a row of trees.  

'What's that joint?'

It had just come on the market. We could afford it!

We bidded hard, and won. We had no finance and a lot of doubt, but Mr Rabbit knuckled down and got it for us.

On December 10, we moved in.

We bought our very first Christmas tree.

We put an angel on top.

Kiki's room had her own name on it.

And now all I can think is thank God we flew by the seat of our pants. 




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gypsies

Mama, are gypsies real?

Yes, they’re real.

Where do they live?

They live in Romania, Bulgaria... in Europe... all over. Remember in Paris… 

They don’t have a home?

Well, not a fixed one. They don’t stay still. They go from place to place. They like to move around. 

She considers this. 


Are we gypsies mama?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Portrait of Le Carillon

Le Carillon is a humble corner café/bar in a quiet part of the 10th arrondissement, a block from the Canal St Martin. Now we all know its name, but a few days ago it was just a nondescript local drinking spot; a remnant of the days the 10th was far from fashionable; a bar that hasn’t changed a thing about itself as the neighbourhood has changed around it.

It has a run-down dusty red-painted façade with a pollution-faded black canopy over its entrance and a terrace usually strewn with mismatched tables and rickety chairs. The café looks out on a 5-way intersection that faces Le Petit Cambodge, the bustling pizza restaurant Maria Luisa, a little pottery atelier, and the corner of the Hôpital St Louis that juts on to the rue Alibert, home to a regular Sunday market.

The Carillon is the unassuming centre of this little quartier, and, to its owners’ total surprise, recently become popular: a growing number of bourgeois bohemians or ‘bobos’ as they are known (with a hint of derision) packed tightly together smoking and drinking on its terrace in the evenings. The place has been run by the same group of Algerian male family members for way longer than the decade I have been going there. Far from the glitz and glam of the ‘other’ Paris(es), this is the Paris of the locals; the students, the artists, the talkers, the readers, the musers, the sneaker-wearers, the gesticulators. The young, the old… a crude mural painted into its side glass wall of casual people of all colours and styles.

It’s local life: la vie du quartier. In Paris apartments, you need to get out. This is where you come.

*
I started going to the Carillon around 2004 when I was a student at the Lecoq Theatre School, and living in an artists’ residence across the canal. My friend Jemma suggested we meet there one night, and I agreed, though I would have much rather go to one of the trendier joints around there: Chez Prune, La Patâche, Les Jemmapes… But by then I’d learnt not to doubt Jem – she was always right.

There she is, perched at the far corner of the bar, smoking a rolly, wearing some fabulous random concoction of an outfit, a tatty book splayed on the sticky wood in front of her. Around the room is a spattering of old men drinking alone but together, the floor a thick carpet of butts. There is a cat. An old piano. A ramshackle collection of tables and bench seats and wood chairs and cracked red and tobacco-beige walls with scratchy mirrors hung along them. A wiry, hyper-energetic man behind the bar smiles wide, furiously cleaning a glass with a teatowel. He chats with us and I order the same cheap white as Jem and the sun streams through the window and we drink and we talk and we are happy.

A pact to return, and we do, and quickly Le Carillon becomes our favourite bar. Well that’s too strong – it’s not a place we revere or rave about, it’s just where we always end up. 

Where we always are.

*

There are places that make you feel at home, even if you’re from the other side of the world. Places you feel welcome. Like you belong. Where everybody knows your name. In Paris they are rare, and when you find one, you stick with it. You never change neighbourhood, for fear of having to start all over again. Even moving a few streets can change your entire life dynamic. You invest in your quartier, and it rewards you. Places become like people. Like family. They matter.  

It takes a long time of regularly going to Le Carillon before we start exchanging names. I try to remember them all, but the men’s roster is such that they appear and disappear for weeks on end. Except Ahcene, the energetic one from that first glass of wine. He always seems to be there.

It is now our regular drinking spot during the week, and always on Sundays for the markets. The Marché Alibert is a strip of convivial market stalls that open in the wee hours of Sunday morning (not that we know anything about that) and start to close up at about 1.30 (we know a lot about that). We arrive ruffled and unwashed, hoping someone has nabbed us a table at Le Carillon, in the sun if we’re lucky. From the tables we have the perfect vantage point to watch the queues across the road, waiting for just the right time to dash across, leaving someone guarding the table full of coffee cups and ashtrays and newspapers to seize upon a chicken from Rico or some fruit from Jacques or perhaps one of Mahfoud’s felafels.

Ahcene scoots out with a café crème for me and a bise for each cheek. I tell him I wanted to be more Parisian and order an allongé this time. ‘Eh beh…’ he says, and makes a joke I can’t understand, but I laugh anyway, and drink the crème. Chairs are added, subtracted, and added again as people arrive and depart, the coffees turn to beers, a rice-paper roll from Le Cambodge, a pizza…

*

New Year’s Day 2008 is Day 1 of the smoking ban, and Matt and I are huddled up at one of the Carillon’s back tables, drinking beer, eyes glued to the floor. Down there is a beautiful orange, red and beige mosaic floor. We have never seen it before, for the butts.

We would like to make a joke about it with the guys behind the bar, but they are all outside, smoking, kicking snow. 
Ahcene storms back in with a gust of cold air. ‘It will never last, PUTAIN!’

But it does.

Another thing is gone that day. The old men. Replaced by an attractive couple and their toddler, sitting triumphantly on the bar, sucking on a dummy.

*

The quartier continues to change. Now it’s 2012, and we’ve finished school, got new boyfriends and girlfriends, got married, changed jobs, our friends have come and gone, we’ve gone and come. The Carillon’s tables are sought after now, and we have to arrive earlier to get one, but we are older, and there are kids, so we’re up earlier anyway. There have even been times we’ve watched the marchands set up their stalls, waiting for Le Carillon to open.  

Ahcene is still hyper and makes his jokes and I understand them now and make my own smartass réplique, and then there is Frankie, and well, she softens everything. Ahcene’s lively face shows a sweet new calm as he lifts her behind the bar, tucking her little body under one arm as gets her orange juice. There is a dirty old dolly on a shelf that looks like it’s been there for decades. She points with her chubby hand to it. Ahcene pulls it down and hands it to her, telling her sternly she must look after it.

The bigger kids laugh and play, Ahcene tells them off, intercepting their ball and kicking it under a table down the back. ‘GOAL!!’ The same coffees on the table in the ever-same cups. The cat beneath. The remnants of a pain au chocolat grabbed and devoured by a tiny pair of hands.

One day we arrive at the Carillon and the roller doors are shut, an official letter sticky-taped to the door. Closed until further notice.  

We stand outside for a long moment staring at the notice.
We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves.

Those weeks Le Carillon is shut the quartier seems to lose its soul. Then suddenly it reopens as though nothing has happened. And the rhythm of life resumes as normal, to our relief.

Time passes, new cafés and bars appear in the area: a gluten-free bakery, cool coffee joints… Le Cambodge down the street opens up a sister restaurant across from Le Carillon – Le Petit Cambodge. Yes! Now we won’t have to walk the whole block to get our bobun spéciale. Now we can just migrate there when those Carillon days turn to nights.  

*

Just a few weeks ago we were sitting outside Le Carillon, as usual, having drinks. The same cheap white wine. Same watery beer. Same gentle, quiet bartender - Ahcene on a rare night off. Same rickety chair, same old crooked table.

‘I wonder how old we’ll be before this place changes,’ said one of us, leaning back on our chair.

*

Friday’s attackers didn’t make their statement via the Paris institutions the world holds so dear, those twinkling iconic places we all love and recognise. They hit at something far deeper, more human, universal, basic: a human sentiment - the pleasure of simple social moments in humble local settings. An indie-rock band. A ‘friendly’ match. A cheap glass of wine in a run-down local bar. A bobun. The simple, sacred joy we take for granted of just meeting with friends to be together. In places that are neither ostentatious, or brazen, or provocative, or denominational. Unpretentious local bars in the 10th and 11th, the Bataclan… It seems the target was a very humble kind of pleasure. The simple joys. Sharing. Talking. Listening. The pleasures the French, and in particular Parisians, have mastered for centuries, and epitomize.

*

The day after the attack, a friend from our regular Carillon Sunday table went there. The bar was locked: the world gathered outside taking photos, placing flowers, filming news reports, constructing memorials. The men from Le Carillon were there behind the doors, and saw our friend. They opened up and let him in, hugging him one by one, in silence.


The Carillon is pronounced Le Carry-On. I can only hope that Ahcene, and his family and friends, and our friends, and their friends, and all the quartier, and all of Paris, and all the world, will.  
















Wednesday, September 23, 2015

We're all gon-na die

There was a spider in the bath. In Paris. That's rare. I marvelled at it a moment. It had a bulbous body and long wiry legs. Then I killed it, with a piece of toilet paper.

The total brutality and lack of guilt surprised me. Normally I would fuss around prior to the murder, find a piece of A4 paper or an envelope, nudge a corner towards its body and let it crawl on, take it towards the door, decide it was too annoying to go outside and what if it crawls on my hand and then up my arm, then fold the paper over and press down. Sometimes I might make it outside to a kerb or a patch of grass and watch it drop to the ground, then, grasped by impulse, step on it. Sometimes I might let it run away, and feel good about myself before the images rolled in of it crawling back in through an air vent and under my pillow.

This time I didn't give it a second's thought. The act was swift and sure and I felt a clear and absolute nothing as I stuffed the crumpled piece of tissue into the makeshift bin beneath the sink.

Why?

Why not the usual agony, the normal sinking self-loathing? I'm a horrible person. What harm was he doing anyway, simply by existing? The thoughts would last for hours, sometimes days, even over an ant, even over a fly.

The night before, we saw Sufjen Stevens at the Grand Rex. It was sublime, and I cried a lot as he sang the songs about his parents, Carrie and Lowell. Somewhere around the middle of the set he sang that pretty song 'We're all gonna die.' The lyrics are repeated over and over. Towards the end of the song there was a huge sonic build that turned into a hypnotic interlude that lasted more than 10 minutes, repetitive and insistent, and a mirror ball inside a mirror at the back of the stage cast cold silver spots of light across it beneath the ornate proscenium arch and up the walls of the Rex, which have castles and turrets sculpted into them all the way up to the very high rooftop. Our seats were up in the gods so we had a perspective of the entire room beneath us, the lights playing over the vast space. The music went on and on and I found my gaze attached to a particular part of the wall with a sculpture of the front of a house in it, and a woman's face carved into its roof. With the cold light upon it the house looked like a crypt - one of those brick houses they have in the Père Lachaise with entire families inside. I couldn't take my eyes away. It was night in the Père Lachaise. The moonlight shone on the cold stone wall. Death so cold so still and silent as the music played on and I kept watching. We're all gonna die. No movement in those walls. 

In front of me were thousands of heads, watching. Above them, me, the crypt. We're all gon-na die. I saw all us dead, wiped out. In 90 years, all of us extinct, cold, like the crypt, and not even for any horrible or unusual reason. I pictured all the bodies frozen in the way that they would die. Asleep and so still. And though the idea wasn't new to me, something shifted.

A thought occurred to me.
Maybe life is not that sacred.
The lights stopped and everyone roared. A new song began.

I squashed the spider. I felt his little round body explode between my fingers.
And I thought:
Perhaps it doesn't matter at all.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Double Scorpion

From the gap in this blog you'd think after leaving Paris I'd died, which I suppose I did in a tiny way, but you always do when you leave somewhere you love, even if it's not forever. I don't quite feel alive yet, but it's coming back, the blood is starting to pump and I'm thinking - maybe it was a really good decision. But I'm not sure. Once you step outside of the life you've been groomed for, or grooming yourself for, moving away from your own country for example, you get into this thing where you're always trying to find the perfect way to live. The quest for true happiness is of course an excellent and noble one, but it can be tiring and you become a perfectionist and lose all sense of what happiness really is. The mere fact of being able to move, because you've done it so many times before, gives you a constant never-rooted feeling - you could up and go at any time, and will. Being in temporary accommodation doesn't help this. Since before Kiki was born, every house we have lived in has had a use-by date. She has had 7 homes - 3 more than her current age. Her bedrooms have always had the names of other children on them and I know it's not long before she starts spelling her name C-H-L-O-E. The longest we were anywhere was the two years in the rue des Petites Ecuries and we really did settle in there - and it almost felt like our home, especially in the half of the period that was heavier in our favour than it was the returning owners'. Once past that first year I was already preparing to move. But to where? We tried everything on. Staying in Paris, but moving to the other side of the river, to the suburbs... staying in the 10th but buying a little country shack, moving to LA, moving to Sydney, to Melbourne, to the coast. Now we're at the coast, safe, quiet. We can stay here until December. But the decision-making is always around us. What next? We just booked a flight back to Paris in June, short term. It's great to be going with your gut, but it's definitely a different story when you have a child and you're knocking 40. You can't float forever... can you?

Maybe.

I've been thinking I'll make a home inside the unknown. Rather than trying to guess or control our future, live between countries, embrace that. Even if it's just in my mind. It's modern. I mean, I still work in Paris, but I live about as far as you can get from it, by the beach, with scorpions on my bath mat. Scorpions! There were two last week - one night after the other, which was deeply unsettling. One was an anomaly, two... a nest. And I had been freakin' over spiders. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Goodbye Paris

dear bunny
so you've decided to leave paris. the place where you sort of became yourself, where you nearly died one night, where you fell in love, gave birth, where you watched so much snow falling. where you slipped on your arse once on the faubourg st martin so hard it made tears come out. where you screamed on bikes and got down on a wobbly knee one night on a bridge with a ring. where you sweated in black clothes for two years in front of a row of artists you admired so much you couldn't speak to them in social situations and who shook their heads over and over as you wriggled and writhed and tried and tried and tried and failed and failed and occasionally you flew. where your read your first experiments with writing out loud and a lady described them as 'demeaning'. where you always felt inspired to make and do stuff even if it wasn't finished and made you look like a dick. where you were never afraid of someone saying 'pipe down bunny.' where you lived in your first apartment alone but for the cockroaches. where you learned to pee standing up. where you were near raped by a hotel desk clerk and learnt quickly how not to be so Nice. where you got your heart broken over and over, and enjoyed experimenting with how far you could push it. where you once screamed C'EST FINIIIII on a metro step thinking you could rip out a pole and javelin it down the stairwell at back of the disappearing head. where you rejoiced alone at having your first story published. where you watched kids in the park from your window and then became their parent looking back up at your own wistful ghost. where you tried to remember what it was to have time to be wistful and look out windows. where you smoked a thousand cigarettes and drank wine that made you go silent with joy. where you learned to boil an egg and never learned how to make a tarte fine though you did once try very hard. where you made deep friendships and felt a new sort of pain at every departure. where you wheeled a squeaky trolley piled with instruments down a crazy street to a stinking studio on thursdays and made music with a group of boys. where you created a business by accident and got serious and figured out how to act in meetings and also got your paperwork in order (almost). where you learned to say Go Fuck Yourself and said it one day to an awful man on a phone who said he would sue you; where you finally learned how to pronounce phrases containing no consonants. where you swore at traffic, amazed at fashion and cried well enough to secure a bank account. where you learnt the importance of presentation. where the beauty of the ever-changing light never ceased to stab you in the soul and where there was a time that nothing made you happier than wandering the streets all day long with nothing but your camera. where you always felt excruciatingly alive - never one single banal or average day to pass you by. where no matter what, you always somehow felt yourself - too yourself - every characteristic and emotion exaggerated to breaking point: grief, idiocy, elation, hope, fury, wonder, melancholy. where you revelled in solitude. where you learnt how to look out over a bridge alone and truly see it, just for yourself.

i want to mark this day, bunny. it's ten years since you arrived, and things have changed. but don't be sad: remember it like leaving the theatre school. you weren't nostalgic because you'd put everything you had into it - and once you left you were surprised to notice that you never wanted to go back. you still live right around the corner and to this day you pass that painted blue door regularly and feel nothing but a sense of joy and completion. 

you feel that same sense of completion now - almost - you're ready, but nostalgia-dreading. when you've tried to move away from paris before you've often looked back and wondered - were those the best days? and you've run back and felt safe because in paris you're either so enraptured or exhausted by the everyday you have no choice but to live in the moment. plus, even after ten years it is still so unfamiliar you can always feel the edges of yourself. but don't worry bunny, you don't need to fear any more that you're not living. you'll live this now, and you will be in it, and when you pass that doorway, which i'm sure you will, you'll think - well that was awesome. and you'll walk on and buy your bag of oranges.