Fiendish ORLs!

An ORL is an ear doctor. They are all crackers here. It must be staring into people’s ears for too long after too many espressos that does it.

By freakyparisandbeyond

I’ll get you, mon petit, says the French civil servant

My stars today :

Avec le Soleil dans votre camp, rien ne vous paraîtra impossible : vous serez animé d’un grand courage et d’une ténacité peu commune. Sachez malgré tout ménager vos forces et ne pas en arriver au surmenage. Il y a des limites à ne pas dépasser !

An idiomatic translation :

With the sun (shining) on your field, nothing will appear impossible to you : you will be animated by a great courage, and an uncommon tenacity. Know that you must neverthless handle your forces carefully, not to arrive at a meltdown. There are limits that must not be passed!

So, a good day on which to continue my eternal fight with the French administration, as long as I don’t forget to handle my forces properly. Animated by my great courage, I phone the RAM or the RSI (something to do with something to do with healthcare, not sure which is which or if they are the same or totally different or linked by a cosmic daisy chain) and ask if I may arrange a meeting with them, because Je suis écossaise et je ne comprends rien (I am Scottish and understand nothing).  The functionary on the end of the phone says it’s impossible to arrange a meeting, and that I must go to the RAM/RSI/CSI/CIA office and wait. I politely enquire if there’ll be a long queue. (I’ve spent approximately four of my six years in France hanging about in dank 70s waiting rooms in the vain hope of completing the various dossiers necessary for life to exist in this country, so I like to know if I need to take provisions and a pillow). The uncivil servant becomes suddenly hysterical and in a burst of righteous outrage, yells : Je ne sais pas, Madame! Mais comment je peux vous dire! Il faut y aller!!! (I don’t know, Madame! But how could I (of all people) tell you that! You need to go there!) She sounded like she was choking on a gerbil so I quickly wished her a lovely day, and put the phone down before she died.

My preternatural doggedness having slunk off to the kennel of all failed promises, I unstaunchly fled  to Jo-in-the-bar’s bar. Jo was playing scrabble with a Swiss man. I wailed hello and begged to know why civil servants in France are so beastly uncivil. The Swiss said it was because they are ill-liked and ill-paid, and therefore use their petit pouvoir (puny bit of power) to ill-effect. He told me I must not approach them like an angry car horn but instead like a humble cow bell. He said he went to the CMU (or EMU, or something) and he said : I am very sorry, I am desperate and I am Swiss and I don’t understand anything at all. Please will you help me?

He also opined that the functionaries who hail from la France d’outre mer (France of the Outer Sea – such a romantic moniker for stolen territory in the name of empire) are taking their vengence for bad deeds done to them and their ancestors by said empire. What a bizarre thing to say.

By freakyparisandbeyond

Paris Hallowe’en with the weird circle

I wasn’t sure what to wear to this kind of Hallowe’en celebration so I went as a nurse-ghoul and my person, very fetchingly, was a doctor-ghoul. The deep dark world of BDSM is an almost uncharted sea for us but having paddled – hehe – about in its shallows by ourselves, we thought Hallowe’en to be a suitable occasion to dive in out of our depths, to the octopus’s garden, or the shark’s chamber.

We traipsed palely without loitering through the 9th arrondissement, the Parisians who crossed our path pretending not to see us. Maybe we were invisible in our ghoulishness, or more likely just not sufficiently chic. We arrived at an ordinary door with a small brass plaque indicating the residence of the strange circle. Spooky already. We tapped in the code. Most Paris apartment blocks have doorcodes for the main door and often also for the separate staircases, but this time it felt even more like a fighting fantasy gamebook than usual. These were the print precursors to modern video games, where you chose what creepy alley to take or which door to open, beyond which there would be a freaky thing like a green spider in a jar or a scary goblin. Except this night it was Hallowe’en so Brando’s ghost in unholy tryst with recently disappeared (one of the French euphemisms) Romy Schneider would have been more fitting. And just perfect guests for this party !

Beyond the second door was a dark courtyard with a far stairway glimmering down into the earth. At the foot of the stairwell was a third door, with a discreet bell. We waited. I was jittery beneath my ghoul getup. Like Michael Stipe might sing if he were even more underworldy, every ghoul hurts, sometimes. As we were to find out. After a nervous minute, a great big man opened the door and wished us bon soir. We were in a candlelit, hall with a heavy black curtain at the end, beyond which we could hear soft murmurs, the purr that velvet would make if it could. The great big man took our coats and our names, which we’d decided on the way over would be Plaquette (platelet) and Globule (blood cell). He bade us pull the curtain and enter.

It was like walking into the shadowy satiny furry pink belly of a cat. Except there was a dalmation sitting in the cosy smoking area, with a bare-breasted witch and a man in black. The dalmation belonged to a plump and frilly lady of the midnight, who came bustling over with a red ribboned bag of sweeties. She made me think of a well-to-do fin de siècle London flower girl, if all her blooms were black; Eliza Doolittle grown-up and well-fed and reimagined by Lucifer on the other fallen angels’ afternoon off. The sweets were just plain boiled though; no worms in them or anything, so that was alright. Needing a drink, we went over to the snug little bar, where green lacy hands glowed above us and the great big man served us pink champagne. A skinny guy called Grenouille at the end of the bar said hello and told us that he wasn’t an habitué and that he’d really just come to have a drink with the company. Noticing my spanking new red leather collar, he very politely mentioned to my person that he’d like to play with me, with my person’s permission, of course. The permission was refused, courteously, and courteously accepted. Novice that I am, and feminist as I shall always be, I rolled my eyes, which was fine, as I was a ghoul. Then along came Death. He wore a monk’s habit and a hood and a skeleton mask. He didn’t seem disposed to talk. I guess Death is solitary by nature, but this was a party. However, we wouldn’t have been able to hear him anyway, from under his, er, death mask. He just sat on a bar stool, scythe in hand, looking surprisingly submissive. Rather than try to engage in doubtful chatter with the Great Leveller, who was behaving more like a great wallflower, we went for an explore.

The place was quite compact, with a main hanging-out – or simply hanging – area in the middle, surrounded by the bar, a little salon area for being sociable, and various small rooms. It was all deep colours and sumptuous textures; the floor was dark Turkish carpets, which altogether muffled sound, well, except for the crack of whips. One small room which could be glimpsed from the main area had a cross on which people could be pinned. Another, behind a black curtain, housed a leather swing with stirrups and, um, a sofa. And yet another was a dinky little hospital with a couple of corrupted dentist chairs and a swing-top bin. We later learned that the latter two rooms were reserved for private use: you couldn’t just barge in and have a swing with whoever was installed in it, for example. But all this was for later. Now dinner was served in the salon, with its unexpectedly firm black latex-y sofas set around a low table. The dalmation unpeeled his face and revealed the head of a middle-aged accountant-type person, or maybe an under-project manager. He had a very respectable haircut. Death, too, unmasked himself, revealing a geeky young man with glasses on. Pumpkin soup was served, little dollops of gloop in tiny bowls. The great big man told us to make sure and stir it properly as the cream was at the bottom. This is very French, to instruct even the freakiest of Hallowe’en party goers in how properly to consume their soup. Other ooky amuse-gueules (face-amusers, or nibbles) were served and then there was a buffet of cold meats and a slimy Russian salad. The bare-breasted witch tucked in the label that was sticking up from my nurse-ghoul dress, which was friendly. Nipples ok, labels no. Another cliché confirmed, but in such a sweet way.

After dinner, a nice man in leather, who looked a bit like the actor Dominic West, but who very certainly wasn’t the actor Dominic West, was put in a cage and tied up by his caped blonde mistress. He was very convivial from the confines of his cage, though, and smiled and watched and commented through the bars. The bell rang dimly and into the party came an elegant and grandly-imposing black-haired witch in gothic lace. She soon disappeared into the swing room with Grenouille, who hadn’t on first meeting seemed to us like a very erotic sort of person, but when they later emerged, she did look like a sated, if still supremely imperious witch. While they were doing things on the swing, the rest of the Halloween people had been getting into the spooky spirit. A small and nearly naked Japanese man was tied to a hook in the ceiling of the main room. He didn’t seem to have a mistress so everyone took turns in tweaking his nipples and running scary-looking implements across his skin, and other such tendresses.

It turned out that the fin de siècle flower lady was the dalmation’s mistress. She‘d tied him to the cross in the adjoining room, but his tail kept getting in the way while she was whipping him. Tricky things, tails. Soon the dalmation was freed, and returned to the salon area where he had a little marshmallow dessert. The poor Japanese guy hung there blindfolded and poked and smacked by all and sundry for about two hours, until the flower lady freed him and he passed out in the salon room, still blindfolded, with his mouth open.

Meanwhile, the bare-breasted lady was over the knees of her master getting a fessée, or spanking. His expression as he alternately wollopped and stroked her was one of the utmost tenderness, as if she was a little kitten he’d had entrusted to his care, and whom he would do all in his power to protect. Then he made her go get him his dessert on her hands and knees from the buffet, and got a pat, or a smack for her pains, not so much a like kitten, more like a spaniel in a 50s movie, but directed by a kinky Nosferatu. The man who wasn’t Dominic West observed all this with a naughty grin. Then his mistress pulled down his leather trousers through the bars and gave his bare bottom a whipping with a cane. Finally, they had a loving smooch and she uncaged him. Whereupon he bounded delightedly about and chatted to people, like a giddy social butterfly in bat‘s clothing, a bat in a leather thong, maybe. I asked him if he didn’t get bored, there in the cage by himself, while his mistress conversed with the other dominas, sharing whip tips. He said not at all, that it was ‘trop fort’ – that it was impossible to think of anything other than his cagedness, and the caning to come, with its stinging aftermath. And then he said something deliciously romantic : “I’d adore to stay in the cage all night,” (thereby informing me they had one at home) “but we just love sleeping together and waking up together too much to do that.” Indeed throughout the evening they were as lovey-dovey as ever a couple was, it was just that she happened to lock him up and whip him, and graciously allowed other dominas to tie him spreadeagled to a cross and thrash him, while she looked on. 

Like the tall circus-y lady who arrived late to the proceedings with a black box that looked alarmingly like it might carry weapons, which in a manner of speaking it did. A lovely collection of implements, including two small but lethal whips which she used with the dexterity of a debauched majorette. When she was introduced to us, she told us she hoped we thought the clientèle was making an effort to welcome us. We said that everyone was very solicitous of our well-being, while also frequently asking if we were going to ‘play’, as in be tied up or whipped or spanked, by each other or anyone else. And it’s true that nearly everyone made an effort to talk to us, and ask us, ‘ça va?’ (are you ok?). We got a ça va at least every fifteen minutes from somebody. That’s an awful lot of people concerned for your welfare over the course of an evening, and they did seem genuinely hopeful that we were having a good time. And that everyone present had a good time. The amazonian whip twirler wasted no time in opening her scary black box and so finally Death’s silent patience was rewarded. Stripped of his habit he was the only guest to be entirely naked when manacled to his cross. He had an odd physique, very tall and thin, but with a pot belly that drooped down from his midsection as if accustomed to disappointment. But he wasn’t to be disappointed tonight. He had seemed so shy, and he still did seem shy, except that he was desperate to be whipped in the nude in the main room in front of everyone…and his wish came true. After a mistressful beating that left his bottom all tender and pink, he knelt down to kiss the amazon’s shiny boots of leather, before retiring to put his habit and skeleton face back on. The amazon, meanwhile, had sourced the other two submissive men at the party and without more ado had one of them – who had five minutes before been ça va-ing us and chatting about this and that – pinned to a cross while she pulled at his penis, from her position straddling Grenouille, who was visibly in seventh heaven, or hell at this new turn of events. So everybody got their own particular rocks off in some fashion. Other than from the great big man, who seemed a bit too keen for us to get involved, we felt no pressure from anyone.  It was the friendliest and most relaxed evening of extremely freaky sadomasochistic Hallowe’eny goings-on that any true domina or soumise could hope for. My person and I left to a chorus of cheery bon soirs and à bientôts and smiles from people on all fours. Everyone had been so friendly and frank and forthcoming. There was just one thing we hadn’t quite managed to ask though, as we felt too silly. We’d inquired about the cages and the implements and if it were permitted for the two of us to boldly go alone into the little rooms, and do unmentionable – well, mentionable, in this company – things on the swing and the dentist’s chair. But : ‘Excuse me, what’s the French for a male domina? A domino? Noooo! Couldn’t ask that. Too embarrassing!

By freakyparisandbeyond

Is this a suicide bull I see before me?


As I am a crackpot cat, I have to take medication, and spend lots of time getting on and off things (not things like trains, though I do like trains; drugs, I mean). I’m thinking about adding a new ingredient to my pharmaceutical cocktail – I wonder what that might be called? Manic Mule? Bats on the Beach? Starting taking new medication is usually a bit dreadful, but nothing like as monstrous as getting off it. Here’s something I wrote last year, when I was stopping taking a certain fiendish drug, and the very expensive Parisian psychologist forgot to tell me there would be side effects, or symptômes de manque, ‘symptoms of missing’ :

It’s 3am and I can’t sleep because my sinuses are aching from crying and I keep thinking crazy things. So I looked up citalopram – the drug I’m trying to stop taking – on Google, in English. As I live in France, Google sometimes automatically translates web pages. It’s very thorough. So here are a few of the effects that this drug may have :

it may cause convulsions in depressed Islamic scholars
it often works as an anti-depressant for hunters and priests
it may mean amputation for Dutch adventurers
it may cause delays in intestinal worms in Mediterranean people

…good news for hunters and priests, but I’d be worried if I were a Dutch adventurer

it may give you a knowledge of kings
it may work for Anyone!
it may cause Mexicans only to imagine healing
it may cause the suicide bull to appear in France
it may cause village communities with ruddy complexions to need help
it may cause billion-dollar-armour-plated-like skin deformation
it may cause primitive nomads to reach Europe

…wouldn’t like to meet the suicide bull in some midnight Paris backstreet, must keep a look out

it may cause a psychiatric November

I quite like that one…

people taking it may get a citalopram withdrawal pet

Absolutely! Everyone trying to come off citalopram should get a citalopram withdrawal pet! I’ll think about that and maybe I’ll get to sleep. I have my citalopram withdrawal pet here on the bed beside me. She’s snoring and she has her paw tucked under her chin.

I recently tried to find this web page again. It is nowhere at all. But it was there! I didn’t imagine the suicide bull! It wasn’t a product of my mangled mind.


By freakyparisandbeyond

The Spare Leg in the Museum of Lost and Found (Musée des Objets Trouvés, Paris), Part 4 : Return of the Spare Leg, and a lost forensic examiner of elephant poo


So in my previous lost and found posts, I talked about a mislaid Lost and Found museum (the Musée des Objets Trouvés) that purportedly harboured a prosthetic leg; an existential  midnight woe on a station platform with a stolen suitcase and a mental mathematician; and the poem I wrote about it all, which began :

I went to the Museum of Lost and Found
to look for you there.
I’d heard there was an urn, complete with ashes
that someone left in the Metro.
I’d heard there was a leg, prosthetic,
fished out of the Seine.
You’d think the owner would need it –
but perhaps they had one to spare.

A few weeks after I wrote the poem, I went home to Edinburgh for a couple of weeks. With only hand baggage. The night before I was due to come back to Paris, I very sensibly stayed up drinking with my mum until 5 in the morning, as it was her birthday, though we would have done the same thing if it hadn’t been. The next day we didn’t feel very well, but she succeeded in making coffee and so I got to the airport on time. I checked in and then went to wait in the passport control queue. The person immediately in front of me was standing on one ordinary, fleshly leg and one prosthetic leg. In his right hand, he was carrying another prosthetic leg. My hungover brain shuddered. But it was real. I felt a bit peculiar. Most of all, I wanted to say, hello, I wrote a poem about your leg…the spare one. I longed to tell him that his existence right in front of me in the queue seemed a spinningly wonderful thing. But how do you tell somebody that their presence with their spare leg in front of you in a passport-control queue is making you delirious with delight? That it makes up for a lost museum and a lost suitcase? (though not a boyfriend – had he really been lost, not even a spare leg could have consoled me for that.) I wanted to invite him to tea, to meet my boyfriend, and my cat. Ok, the cat isn’t part of this particular story but she’s behind the curtain of every story I write, twiddling buttons. Cleverly, as she’s not a polydactyl cat. I wanted to read the spare leg poem to the spare-legged man, and perhaps to re-enact in the bath the fishing of the leg from the Seine (I was in the Seine once, so I’m an old hand. An old hand, a spare leg, what else do we need?) I thought, if I were a person with a spare leg in a passport-control queue, I’d like to know that I was (sort of) making a poem come true. Of course, that probably wouldn’t be true if I had just lost one of my original legs. I would be more likely to want to murder the poet – and I would have a convenient weapon to hand, or leg. You have to be careful with these things. But the spare-legged man didn’t look like he was new to prosthetic legs, spare or otherwise. He looked quite at home. Would he mind? I thought. Would he? Shall I..oh. The spare-legged man had showed his passport to the passport police people and marched away through some sliding doors, like Vishpala returning to battle; or maybe he was just going to Luton. I asked the passport police persons if they often had spare-legged passengers coming that way. No, they said. I sped through the doors, I looked high and low, above, below, but no spare-legged man was to be seen. Only three men in bear suits. Disconsolately I went up to one bear and asked if he had seen a spare-legged man, and by the way, where was Goldilocks? The  bear said he hadn’t, and that they didn’t have a Goldilocks, they were just three bears. Well, I thought. Then I went and sat in the departure lounge. I told myself that the spare-legged man mightn’t have wanted to know he’d just (sort of) made a poem come true. I pointed out to myself that, just because the spare-legged man didn’t know this, it didn’t mean it wasn’t true (sort of). I called my mum and she agreed. So that was alright.

When I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle, I went to Objets Trouvés. Not because I thought that the thief – who had stolen my suitcase the last time I arrived at Charles de Gaulle – would have handed it in, caught on the prong of a sudden fork of conscience upon seeing my lovely red boots that unbeknownst to her/him were once in a sculpture called a Nido, filled with scarlet feathers. No, I didn’t think that (not least because he or she would have had to have been a bit psychic. But then…how handy for a thief to be psychic. Wow. I wonder why more psychics aren’t thieves. Or…) I just thought I should go and ask because I was still floaty and hungover with a head full of spare legs, and bears. At Charles de Gaulle, Objets Trouvés is hidden away in the basement,as if embarrassing things are to be found there, ones that might not contribute to la Gloire de la France. Next time you’re in Paris, have a walk around and see how many times you spot these words. Everywhere you look there are monuments to the glory of France. They’re as ubiquitous as the dog poo on the streets. Interestingly, the next part of this story concerns poo, too, but of a size that’s more the stuff that dreams are made on….

The two ladies who work at the CdeG Lost and Found are as sympathetic as you could wish lost and found ladies to be (not like the pike ladies at the lost Lost and Found museum) and when they heard my sorry tale of the suitcase, the mathematician, the leg in the poem and the leg in the passport-control queue, they let me in to have a nose about, which they don’t normally. In the crammed back room, amongst the computers (100 a week turn up), the batches of phones and iPods and all those things, there were paintings and bird-headed canes, waders and a violin, ballet shoes and a flea circus (I made the last one up, but I’m sure there were plenty of fleas in there, making their home amongst soft porn paperbacks and suncream-sticky bikinis). I asked the lost and found ladies what was the most surprising thing that had ever made its way to them. They thought about it, and then they said a mallette scientifique (lab kit) had arrived. Inside were instruments for forensically examining la bouse des éléphants. Bouse? I asked. Ah. Dung. Right. So a forensic elephant poo examiner mislaid his or her lab kit case and didn’t get in touch with lost and found. Did they think it would be impossible to find among all the other forensic elephant poo examiners’ lost lab kits? Maybe they had just had enough of elephant poo for one lifetime, and flew off into the sunset of running a little gîte de charme in the Dordogne. Probably not; I imagine it’s like being a proper alcoholic : once a forensic elephant poo examiner, always a forensic elephant poo examiner. Think of the FEPOOE Anonymous meetings. Stinky. Though the lost and found ladies were more interested in the fact that the the kit was new. Toute neuve! they exclaimed. What a waste. Before it could be used to examine even one elephantpat. They shook their heads. So did I. Then I thanked them effusively and made my way into Paris, and I didn’t lose anything at all on the way; maybe my time in the heart of lost and found will protect me from those who would be tempted to steal my underwear, and deliver me from those who would question my existence. You never know.



By freakyparisandbeyond

The Spare Leg in the Museum of Lost and Found (Musée des Objets Trouvés, Paris) Part 3 : The Lost and Found Poem

The day after losing my suitcase and thinking I might have lost my boyfriend or even myself, I was feeling a bit strange. I thought about the museum, the prosthetic leg, the urn; I thought about what it’s like to lose things, and people. So I wrote a poem. I didn’t know it was going to be as sad as it turned out to be, but I felt better after writing it :

I went to the Museum of Lost and Found
to look for you there.
I’d heard there was an urn, complete with ashes
that someone left in the Metro.
I’d heard there was a leg, prosthetic,
fished out of the Seine.
You’d think the owner would need it –
but perhaps they had one to spare.

I thought you might be there.
I thought you might be there,
curled up around
a slightly saggy, taxidermied bear.

It’s surprising, the things people lose
when they don’t take care.
I’d heard there was a yakusa sabre,
mislaid in a taxi.
I’d heard there was a human skull
crying tattooed tears.
I went to the Museum of Lost and Found
to look for you there.

I went to the Museum of Lost and Found
but they said it was locked
Deep underground ; it was just
for the police, they said.
I tried to assume
the air of a sergeant,
or a detective,
bent on finding out.
I tried imploring
the pike lady at the desk  –
I told her I’d lost you,
but thought you might be
Deep underground, alone
with the urn,
the sabre,
the leg,
the tears,
and the slightly saggy, taxidermied bear.
I thought you might be there.
I quaked before
the pike lady’s pike-lady stare.
At last, I said I feared
I’d never find you ;
I said I was lost,
until you were found .

And then, in some unheard-of gesture,
some buried instinct,
grasped from her musty past,
or dug from a childhood dream,
the pike lady fetched a key
And took me down.

You weren’t there,
I don’t know why.
But in the Museum of Lost and Found,
the urn,
the sabre,
the leg,
the tears,
the slightly saggy, taxidermied bear,
and I,
are waiting for you
to come home.

By freakyparisandbeyond

The Spare Leg in the Museum of Lost and Found (Musée des Objets Trouvés, Paris) Part 2 : The Lost Suitcase

A couple of months after the lost museum of lost and found, I was on my way back to Paris from Madrid when en route to the railway station, a shuttle bus thief gang stole my suitcase. This is the second time in nine months this has happened (the last suitcase was nicked by a Scottish train robber) and I’ve suddenly found myself without underwear. It’s very disorienting to lose all your underwear in the wink of an eye. You feel buoyant, but not in the sense of optimistic. Just buoyant in the sense of jiggly. And I reckon even Marilyn would have agreed with me that jiggling body parts are not necessarily always a girl’s best friend (though they can be handy for a career as the world’s biggest bombshell). And in the suitcase were also my swoonsome red leather boots, which I’m wearing in the photo below as I pour feathers over my head in a metal thing that is called Nido, a sculpture by a fab octogenarian Brazilian artist, more of whom anon. Nido means nest in Spanish – I don’t know why she didn’t give it the Portuguese name, maybe she doesn’t like ninho, or thinks people might confuse that with the Spanish niño (child); it’s true the Nido doesn’t look like a child, well, maybe a spaceship’s child)… :

Me in the Boots in the Nest

So now I was bootless on a midnight suburban Paris (these type of trains are called RERs) railway platform. All the other shuttle bus passengers got on the train to Paris while I sobbed on a bench. The stationmaster was a dear man who was terribly apologetic and rushed off to get the police, telling me not to move. I phoned my boyfriend to tell him what had happened, but his mobile wasn’t working and so I called his house phone. It was answered by his mad mathematician of a house guest who was staying with him for a few days. This guy is like Sheldon the physicist from the Big Bang Theory, without Sheldon’s occasional expeditions into the world of reasonable human interaction. He told me that he’d never heard of me and that he doubted I was my boyfriend’s girlfriend. Being told you might not exist by a crazy mathematician when you’ve lost your suitcase and you’re weeping in a station that isn’t even Grand Central is no fun. I told him that the cat whom my boyfriend had been visiting every day while I was away was my cat; I told him I knew he was a mathematician in town for a conference; I told him I knew he and my boyfriend had been meaning to go to the Paris Sewer Museum that day but hadn’t had time…none of this convinced him. Now I was a telepathic non-person. Then the stationmaster came back with the police and I had weepingly to witter on about bus thieves and underwear whilst wondering whether my boyfriend had a parallel existence as someone else’s boyfriend. The stationmaster was so worried about me that he asked the train driver if I could travel in his cabin back to Paris, ensuring I wouldn’t have to undergo unpleasant interactions with any of the witching hour ghouls who were the only other travellers on the last train. So I ended up racketing through a blade-runnerish night, all sudden neon and indecipherable alien sounds, with a friendly train driver, who told me about an old lady who left a plastic bag filled with 30,000 euros in 5 euro notes on one of the trains. She wandered the tracks for days, moaning for her money like Edward Lear’s Lady for her Yonghy-Bonghy Bo. In the dark of the cabin, on my high flip-down seat, shaking slightly in shock, I was nevertheless aware that her predicament was probably worse than mine. Still, the RER trains that link Paris to its suburbs are so long they barely seem to have ends, so to be in the very front of one feels kind of avant garde – unorthodox and experimental, like the dictionary says – but never more so when you’ve just lost your underwear, maybe your boyfriend, and maybe even your mind. When I arrived at Gare du Nord I was met by my boyfriend who explained that his house guest was a bizarre person who had confused me with the person whose cat my boyfriend was sitting, i.e. he had confused me…with me. I bet even Sartre never had to deal with that.

By freakyparisandbeyond

The Spare Leg in the Museum of Lost and Found (Musée du Service des Objets Trouvés, Paris)

The Museum of Found Objects, or the Lost and Found Museum) is housed in the police headquarters of the 15th arrondissement in Paris. Except it isn’t. Or it might be. A French website told me it was, and the hours and the address and all that. The website said that the museum contained all kinds of things that you mightn’t expect people to mislay, like a prosthetic leg; a wedding dress (even if the bride changed her mind and galloped off naked with a Mexican revolutionary, the dress would still be a curiosity in the Museum); a funeral urn with ashes inside. People speak of loss. They say, I lost my mum last year. What if they actually did, on the metro (so crowded) or in a fleamarket (ditto) or under a table in a bar? The last one is the most plausible, but a person might take their mum on the metro where a pickpocket – or peekpoquette, as it’s pronounced in Paris. It’s now a French word with its own special way of being said, like dayjahvoo in English – would likely take a shine to her urn (ok, urns are quite large, but pickpockets have deep, um, pockets…).The person might well take her to a fleamarket for one last trawl and leave her on a table, maybe even pick up an urnish-looking vase instead (blinded by grief, and all the junk). The fleamarchand would never take an urn to lost and found, they’d sell it on. You have to hope they’d put the ashes in a little bag and hand them in, but how could a person who went to lost and found tell whose ashes they were? What if it happens a lot, and there are lots of little bags of ashes? Maybe we have a special nose for the ashes of those we’ve been close to, but what if we don’t? Anyway if I were some ashes in a little bag I’d feel (yes, probably not, but let’s just imagine) dreadfully lost at lost and found, but even more lost if I was supposed to have been put in the lost and found police department’s lost and found museum, and then it turned out that the museum itself was lost…that’s one version of loss, I think you’d agree.

To explain: on the third floor of the Préfecture (police HQ) there’s a long grey room staffed by long grey people behind long grey counters. But sometimes grey things conceal colourful things, like in the Wizard of Oz. So I was willing to believe that this room and these people hid a dazzle of surprises. Unlikely delights that for one reason or another got lost somewhere (if not over the rainbow).  So I went up to the counter that said ‘Objets Trouvés’. The counter was womanned by two bureaucrattes. I said I’d like to visit the museum. Bureaucratte No. 1 told me there was no museum. This was confusing. Then Bureaucratte No.2 said there was a museum, but it was locked. ‘C’est que pour nous,’ she said. (It’s only for us – the police). This was more confusing, especially because No.1. had told me there wasn’t any museum. I said to No.1., how can this be, if there is no museum? She said, well, there isn’t any museum. I said to No.2, but you say there is a museum, but it’s locked? She said, yes, that’s right. But, I said again. But, but. No.1. and No.2. smiled, in complete agreement whilst also maintaining their own, opposing, positions. This is not as unusual as you might think, especially in Paris. When wielded by somebody in the pay of the state, the truth is mutable and not a priority, easily trounced by the power of the desk. Apparently the leg and the wedding dress and so on both existed and didn’t exist, but there was no way I was going to get to see this Schrödinger’s kitten of a museum. I left. By the time I was on the metro (where by happenstance there were no urns to be pickpocketed), I’d decided that if anything was simultaneously to be and not be, it might as well be a museum of lost and found.

By freakyparisandbeyond

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By freakyparisandbeyond