To update the reader I had just met my precocious ten year old half-brother in my mother’s Paris apartment and we were about to embark on what I naively thought would be a limited excursion. As you well know by now nothing is as simple as that when it comes to the life of misadventure I seemed to have attracted and for which, I might add am not in the least culpable. Read on….
We were attired ‘insouciant Paris’ at least as it occurred to me although Shane’s sand shoes had seen better days. Most of my clothes were still in London but I managed with what I had. I had thrown a precautionary but fashionably insipid blue pullover about my shoulders as the early spring weather seemed a little forbidding. I had on a lightly checked shirt above a pair of off-white chino’s and brown loafers and my newly met brother came resplendent in denim jeans, bomber jacket and insisted on bringing an army surplus knapsack. More of that item later but it did occur to me that the child by even French law, was required to attend school. A fact which I am certain neither parent would have even considered as yet.
To add a minor addenda to our arrival on the boulevards of Paris, anybody who wore hats at this stage in human evolution were thought to be bereft of intellectual depth. Just in case you were wondering.
We had not spoken much since leaving the apartment mainly because Shane kept running ahead at great speed unaccountably and then stopping for me to catch up. This exhausting behavior was momentarily interrupted when he merrily remarked on a pink backed pelican evacuating it’s bowels on a small open river boat. I, the vessels captain nor the inconsiderate bird failed to properly appreciate the jocular quality of the event.
My curiosity nagged at me and at a later date I discovered that there was a period between 1980 and 2004 when Pelicans among other migrating wild birds had experienced a diversion of what is termed ‘Spatial Vagrancy’. This phenomena exacerbated by unseasonal weather, caused the creatures to enjoy holidays in Madrid, Athens and as we witnessed, Paris. The subsequent change of diet led to some bowel related unpleasantness.
My apologies, I do get side-tracked sometimes.
It was when we were approaching the busy Pont d’léna with the intention of crossing the river from Ave d New York that we came to a full stop behind a cavalcade of tractors and other mobile farm implements on a peripatetic jaunt towards the Eiffel Tower. Pennants and other protesting paraphernalia fluttered above the rustically capped heads of a variety of angry clodhoppers, bumpkins and agriculturalists marching beside their gaseous and growling machinery.
As I discovered later the ill-tempered Gauls were exercising their vocal organs on matters of Eurozone economics. In other words they had been diddled by the usual array of baby kissers and carpetbaggers who made up their common market representatives and politicians. Apparently this had been going on since 1957 with the advent of The Treaty of Rome as subsidizers and protectionists sucked the guileless French croppers dry. After realizing that mass suicide did not produce the desired effect, and in the absence of Rome, they now marched on Paris.
However, these facts were not in the forefront of our minds, as Shane and I were importuned in our stroll towards the Tower. The armed and edgy gendarmerie had obviously been notified and stood either side of the bridge. I grabbed Shane’s shoulder and turned, intending to choose another of the many bridges across the river. Alas an impenetrable throng of pedestrians, gawkers, slow horticulturists and what appeared to be a band of black shirted Hitler youth were noisily bringing up the rear. We had no choice but to move with the masses and confront what may at the Tower.
I was anxiously wondering if a guillotine had been erected below the eponymous girders and whether the bourgeoisie within whose ranks I must clearly be identified and would be next appearing sans noodle, a commotion of high drama seemed to have broken out ahead, along with a loud thunder-clap followed by a monstrous lightning strike and then the heavens opened dropping, I later learned, the entire years quota of rain on us all.
Although cries of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité were not heard they may as well have been as an advance guard of gendarmes had taken exception to an assortment of agronomists unceremoniously releasing a herd of pigs of various proportions and temperaments from the back of a truck. Some went squealing for cover while others brazenly attacked their natural predator slipping and sliding like particularly uncoordinated go-karts on the wet pavements. A cacophony of porcine terror filled the air and alarmed the human assemblage to a fever, born I fear, as much from a carnivorous as ideological inclinations.
Paris had not been invaded with such impertinence since the war and the local media was awash with outrage as I so discovered over my morning espresso and croissant the next day.
In our attempts to avoid the onslaught we tried to reach the side of the bridge and closer to the shielded gendarmes but at a glance at these keepers of peace I thought that perhaps an appeal for ‘innocent bystander status’ may fall on deaf ears. While I searched the grim faces of the law for entree to safety behind the shields I spied a familiar face looking back at me through the sheeting rain. Emile Krebs stood behind the police line, his handsome but sinister face dripping wet and peering out at me between the shoulders of the constabulary, as one might a marginally interesting brick wall.
Emile was the only friend I had when I was at Cambridge and that was mostly because of a shared Swiss nationality. We occasionally conversed on matters Swiss and our studies but I found him cold and slightly unnerving. His very nature exuded a variety of duplicity. His customary facial expression conveyed an assiduously fostered smirk and the nature and delivery of his repartee was particularly unsavoury and resentful. This strangely ambivalent relationship resulted in me feeling mildly soiled after spending any amount of time with him. Despite the age difference, he was about seven years older than me we seemed to find some amity with which we could abate our mutual loneliness.
I found Emile’s presence at the protest and his cold stare somewhat alarming. I glanced down at Shane who was pulling on my hand to keep us moving and when I looked back Emile had vanished as if into thin air. I felt sure that this was not the only glimpse I would have of him in Paris and indeed I would have much to regret when next we met.
But do not permit me reader to get ahead of myself as I return to the battlefield and recount the dire and more immediate tribulations that ensued.
As the masses poured with irrepressible urgency into the Champ de Mars we were consumed by the shadow of the great tower looming above. Its extraordinary size somehow reduced its unnatural ugliness as we all played out our parts below it. Apparently up until now Paris had undergone an unprecedented period of peace so the Gendarmes were now cracking skulls of both humans and pigs with the passion that they had not been able to express for some time.
Once extruded onto the main square Shane and I were jostled and spun about like a pair of kites on a blustery day. I held the boy’s hand hard at least until a hirsute and overfed brute collided with me and commenced to combine my atoms with that of the pavement below.
Before I knew it Shane had slipped from my grasp and I quickly remembered a wrestling move that good old school master Pickles taught me. He thought I needed it just as much as the more esoteric qualifications he was providing. He wisely foresaw a lifetime of biff in front of me. I should add that Lex ‘Nuggets’ Phybros’s autobiography ‘A Life on the Mat’ has been a constant companion from the age of fifteen.
I applied the ‘Whizzer’ a defensive move to counter a lower body takedown which my opponent was clumsily attempting to achieve. The move proved a game changer and it ended with the obese and negligently barbered pastoralist unconscious and breathing with difficulty.
I ran like a madman through the crowd of gardeners, gendarmes and pork thrusting all asunder in a superhuman fury until I spied Shane on the periphery of the melee wildly flinging about his knapsack and giving one of the Nazi morons some serious lip. I launched an attack on the intellectually challenged twat but was sideswiped by a pig the size of a small elephant on his hasty escape to the nearby bushes spraying fear induced excrement wherever it galloped. As a result of this encounter I ended up colliding with the northern post of the tower, the impact of which brought me to my knees in a puddle of Parisian precipitation and pigshit.
‘Fuck’ I said with what could be construed as more than mild disappointment. I looked up a little dazed and in pain to see Shane finally connect his knapsack with the swastika lovingly tattooed on his aggressor’s forehead. The bags collision emitted a crack not entirely compatible with its expected contents along with a muffled squeal.
This same boy followed up with a resounding kick to the groin that would have elicited a standing ovation at the MCG. As the Nazi hit the ground screaming like a banshee we spied a small but opportune gap in the anarchy and made speedily for Quai Branly via the Champ de Mars north western parkland.
Needless to say this was an unanticipated ignominy on what started out as a mildly pleasant stroll along the banks of the Seine. The events of that day resulted, among other things the renaming of the site ‘The Woeful Tower’ by some wag reporting for Le Merde
Notes for your digestion…..
Jesus! I don’t know about you reading it but writing this post was exhausting. I swooned briefly from the recalled trauma washing back over my poop deck like a Pelicans guano.
I know the question at the forefront of your mind. Was The Treaty of Rome a positive economic policy for Europe?
I have no idea nor do I care.
Are you fearful for Shane’s moral compass? If you do, you have a right to be. His compass, set squares, sliding rule and any other equipment he may have had in his possession will become sorely compromised.
Is there anything in Shane’s rucksack that may become a source of consternation?
What appalling shenanigans will the odious Emile involve yours truly in? All I can say at this juncture is to paraphrase the words of the bard as spoken by Macbeth – ‘there will be blood’.