Epilogue: City of Light

Sunday, 23 February 2014 by

  I cried for Leo for three months. There was no summer holiday for me. There was no summer. I retreated into a heart-broken depression that anyone who has lost a beloved pet can understand. The vet told me that Leo had died of an intestinal haemorrhage provoked by the toxicity of the cortisone treatment over the years. It was one of the known risks. I had been so optimistic. I believed that Leo had many more happy years ahead. But in the end the drug that kept him alive killed him. I felt defeated. I hated myself for not taking more precautions with Leo’s medication. The vet reassured me that I’d done everything possible, especially as I’d always kept Leo’s dosages low. “You did the right thing,” said the vet. “Leo lived a longer and happier life thanks to

Chapter 10: Leo Ascending

Saturday, 22 February 2014 by

There’s a saying in French that un malheur n’arrive jamais seul. It means bad news is always followed by more bad news. When you are down, expect another cruel blow. My own instinct, perhaps due to my Scottish upbringing, is to regard good fortune as suspect. I’m not sure that my personal philosophy helped much as the weeks turned into months, as a new calendar year was upon us, as the Easter holidays were approaching. True, there was no reason to feel miserable. In fact, life in Paris was splendid. My favourite month, April, was arriving soon. I like to say that April may be the cruellest month – except in Paris. Still, there was no reason to feel reassured either. I was still a convicted criminal in France with a tarnished casier judiciaire. After my judicial setbacks I couldn’t

Fontainebleau

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 by

The day began like most mornings in Fontainebleau. Leo was licking my knuckles. I was at the wheel of my battered silver Peugeot driving down the boulevard lined with plane trees at the edge of town, the municipal hospital on one side and local cemetery on the other. In small French towns the two are often morbidly convenient neighbours. I reached back and dangled my free right hand on the back seat, gently squeezing Leo’s little white paw. He returned my affection by licking my dry knuckles with his soft pink tongue. Oscar was directly behind me on his hind legs, peering out the window as we turned up the narrow road leading into the woods. I was glad to be back in Fontainebleau for the weekend. After the move into Paris, I’d decided to keep my apartment here for

Chapter 9: A Nation of Shoplifters

Saturday, 15 February 2014 by

  My court date was a long way off, but I couldn’t escape a nauseous cocktail of guilt and self-loathing. I felt like a condemned man living under house arrest at my Poodleland flat. When I ventured outside to walk Oscar and Leo, the familiar sound of droning two-tone Parisian police sirens made me panic – I wondered if they were coming for me. When I spotted a police car, I feared they would stop and handcuff me for some undisclosed crime. When standing in front of my students in lecture halls, I suspected they all knew I was up on criminal charges and facing serious porridge. When I came across the French homeless man with his aged black poodle Boulie, I almost envied his uncomplicated existence. I couldn’t shake the shame. Oscar and Leo were the main beneficiaries of

Chapter 8: A Fateful Dinner

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 by

The dinner invitation from Adam announced the turning of seasons as the hot sun-blanched boredom of August gave way to the moist, cool air of the back-to-school rentrée season. It was September in Paris. “I’m having a few people over,” said Adam on the phone. “Nothing too formal. You can bring Oscar and Leo.” I’d spent most of the summer outside the city, away from the minor irritation of tourists asking for directions to the Eiffel Tower. Paris doesn’t belong to Parisians in the summer. Most decent restaurants in the city close for the entire month, posting the familiar sign, “Fermeture pour congés annuels”. Even the boulangeries and pressing cleaners are shuttered for most of August. For the denizens of Poodleland, early August is when they discreetly escape to their résidence secondaire in Brittany, in Provence, or on the Riviera.

    I have decided to write about Camille. After I published Home Again in Paris, I sincerely believed it would be best if her true identity remained unknown, mainly for reasons of discretion. I have changed my mind. I want to reveal Camille’s real name. She was too important in my life to remain anonymous. Readers have asked me about Camille. I have received several notes and emails inquiring about her. Some wished to know if we were now happily together, even married. The other day I received a note on Twitter from someone who had just finished Home Again in Paris and asked for an update on Camille. Everything in my book is true, it all happened, nothing was invented. The book is a memoir. I decided before I began writing it that my narrative must be an

Chapter 7 – A Week in Provence

Sunday, 02 February 2014 by

  You know you have arrived in Provence when you reach Montélimar, a town famous for its nougat but better known as the gateway to the south. Passing through Montélimar in summer is like crossing into a territory whose climate and colours are strangely different. Suddenly the world is bathed in warm honeyed sunlight. When you reach the town of Orange, the fragrant scent of lavender sweetens the air and the heat throbs with the familiar sound of cigales pulsing in the trees. You are in Provence. “We’re in the south now David,” I said. “The land of the Romans.” David looked sideways at me and made a vague grunting sound to acknowledge my comment. He was gazing, as if hypnotised, at his iPod. Oscar and Leo were sleeping in the back seat. We’d been on the motorway for more

  I never thought I would find myself writing this final epilogue so soon. I believed Oscar was immortal.. Home Again in Paris ends with the death of Oscar’s little brother Leo. Oscar was the survivor in that story. Oscar was the symbol of my faith in life, my reason to carry on, my holy lamb. Which is why I ended the book on a note of hope as Oscar and I cross the Concorde bridge heading toward the Tuileries for a walk in the gardens. Oscar was my hero, my saviour Oscar saved my life twice. The first time was following the death of my wife Rebecca nearly eleven years ago. Oscar was actually Rebecca’s dog, a fact that surprised many of my friends in France who couldn’t imagine Oscar with anyone except me. My close friends from Toronto

I was at my usual spot on the Café Tourville terrace with Oscar and Leo perched next to me on silver rattan chairs. We were settling nicely into our new life in Poodleland. The Café Tourville is just across from the Ecole Militaire, the French army academy where Napoleon trained as a young and obscure officer. The café has become my caffeine stop following a meandering stroll with Oscar and Leo that usually ends on the Champ de Mars. The terrace offers a wide vista of several boulevards converging on one place – an animated Impressionist tableau of the morning Parisian bustle going by in a blur of colour and hurried movements. When I look up, I can see the tip of the Eiffel Tower peeking over a row of burnished Second Empire façades. On our way here I stopped

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  I was trying to conceal my elation as the estate agent showed me around the fabulous Art Deco flat. I loved this apartment. As we glided into the spacious dining room he looked up and gestured toward the cube-shaped lamp fixture on the ceiling. “Original from the period,” he said. “Thirties. A work of art.” The agent, a bald and garrulous little man called Michel Allard, next led me across the marble-floored vestibule and down the hallway into the kitchen. He pointed to the large window overlooking a back courtyard. “You can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower,” he said, “but at night you can see the light beam coming from the top of the tower. You know the Eiffel Tower is right there.” I nodded approvingly. When we returned to the vast and empty sitting room, Michel stopped and

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