Our Norman Conquest.
Well we did it!
We came; we sang; we conquered.
We landed far from the famous wartime beaches – in the romantically named Charles De Gaulle Aeroport. I know very little of the actual man, except he certainly didn’t want to allow Britain into the European Common Market, and, in my ‘umble opinion, bore a fairly close resemblance to a young Inspector Clouseau.
Touche´ Charlie !
All I know is that the aerodrome sounds terribly Gallic, and that’s enough por moi when arriving somewhere french.
Ah – Gay Paris.
It had been exactly that for me once.
This ‘City Of Light’ had certainly shown me the light!
It shone loudly as I rowed and rowed, insane on the Seine, during a trying salad day tryst I shared, albeit very briefly, with a budding young french actor.
I was sixteen, maybe seventeen. The affair was doomed. Of course it was – this was France. Plus, he didn’t quite bud enough, at least, not enough for my salad bowl!
Back to the present day and after checking into a bijoux hotel in the heart of ‘Pigalle’, the city’s infamous red light district, Andrew and I went street walking.
Not literally. It was far too early!
We hit the Metro, more for fun than necessity, and were made suddenly aware it was ‘Le Rush Heure’ ! Wedged together with our fellow passengers, closer than the filling in a ‘Croque Monsieur’, did not seem appealing, and as I was getting what felt more like ‘Cock Monsieur’ from the gentlemen pushed up against my derriere, we decided to ejaculate – I mean, evacuate!
Sorry – Just couldn’t resist that one! Ooh la la!
We disembarked at the first stop we could, and left this highly fragrant, french stew, Le Compote Des Commuters, to make our way to the surface and some plein air.
We climbed the many steps to the famous artists’ quarter of Monmartre.
Resting, part-way, knackered from the late finish of our show the previous night, we lay on the grass in front of The Sacre Couer, to pause, and take in the wonderful panorama that is the Parisian skyline.
A metropolis unspoilt.
With Monsieur Eiffel’s massive erection still dominating things, much like the dirty git on the train shortly earlier.
I have been lucky enough to have seen this particular view several times during my life (the one from the hill – not the train!) and have always been struck by the timelessness of the city sprawled before me.
Languorously spread, like an artist’s model.
Due to some judicial city planning and probably, some good old-fashioned luck, Paris does not seem very altered or horribly scarred by her age. It is very easy to imagine tripping up upon Henri Toulouse Lautrec ( well, he was small), or bumping into Maurice Chevalier on the boulevard.
Thank ‘eaven for little change,
For little change keeps Paris always gay….
We nonchalantly entered a very smart art gallery in ‘Place Something Or Other’ and next thing, found ourselves negotiating for a piece of Dali sculpture.
We had no idea it was an original until a very surreal price was mentioned. We should have taken an artful hint from the Picasso and the Chagalls that were hanging nearby. We politely made our excuses and told the owner we may return nearer christmas.
We didn’t make clear which Christmas!
But Paris is still so romantic, we must come back.
This was Andrew’s first visit and he too, was charmed.
Even when I lead us, accidently, off piste, and we found ourselves walking through a gloomy, leafy corridor, replete with old settees, and littered with junkies and less than charming drug dealers.
We eventually made it out the other end and were pleased to witness the ‘Entente Cordiale’ was still quite strong. Although, we would probably erase that particular arrondisment from any future itinerary should we return, which we surely shall.
But we hadn’t come here just to lose our way amid pimps and hookers, we were here to work too.
We left the capital and took a train to the the ancient city of Rouen. The spot at which Joan Of Arc was burnt at the stake.
Although we planned to set the place alight, we were hoping our show, in a small village
further south, would get a slightly better reception than ’The Maid Of Orleans’.
As we fiddled with our equipment for our sound check, our favourite part of any day, (to which anyone who knows us will testify!!), we noticed a beautiful cluster of very traditional french houses, and with a chocolate box church to boot, all gleaming innocently in the distance – in the exact direction our voices would later travel.
We couldn’t help but imagine what the villagers response would be should they came out to ascertain where all the pink turkey feathers were coming from.
It turned out, we didn’t have to use our imagination after all.
It sadly transpired that most of the guests from the other side of ‘La Manche’ couldn’t manage to make the crossing, due mainly to the current current in cross-channel relations….
And the fact they couldn’t be arsed.
Alors – So the majority of our audience for the evening’s performance just happened to be made up of the aforementioned french village and the nearest town. Most of them, without a word of English!
And Andrew and I, armed only with my naughty, schoolboy French, and his enormous ‘joie de vivre’ !
We wondered if our vivre would survive!
At first they were afraid, they were petrified.
Probably thought they should have packed un pistol by their side.
But they seemed to open up,
And they all changed pretty vites.
By the ending of the party they were standing on their feet.
Go on now go.
We will survive.
Just go and sling some French words in
And The Lola Boys survive.
We did our version of ‘La Cage’,
Gave them cheek and la Fromage,
At le fin they were up dancing,
We say – Vives Les Villages.
We did survive.
The night culminated in a very merry version of ‘Chanson D’amour’ around the dining room table.
Andrew also gave his ‘La Chat Shat On The Mat’ song followed by a vodka-fuelled rendition of ‘ Sur Le Pont D’Avignon’, but by the looks on guests’ faces, most of them seemed to want to leap from it!
The evening was rounded off raucously by a rousing rendition of ‘La Marseillaise’.
Roared splendidly by our drunken, french cousins.
It was both unrecognisable and indefatigable.
We had great fun – and survived. We lived to tell our tale of two cities.
Unlike poor Joan!
The stakes were still high – the atmosphere crackled – we just sizzled in a different way.
Vive La difference.