Below is my column for CNN.com in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris (for link click here). One week after the terrorist attacks, the world is crying for Paris. The City of Light, which evokes romance and inspires dreams, has been darkened by a terrifying nightmare. The night after the attacks, the lights on the Eiffel Tower went black in mourning. Yet Parisians, refusing to succumb to despair, are showing the strength of their resilience. Yes, nervous tourists are canceling travel plans to the French capital. And those who are already here are staying clear of monuments like Notre Dame, fearing they might be terrorist targets. But Parisians themselves are defiantly flooding back into their local bistrots and onto café terraces, savoring the movable feast that is Paris. Precisely what the jihadists loathe and fear. As a
Hector and Hugo on their own street in Paris, 7th arrondissement, this sign just next to the Assemblée Nationale.
Hugo & Hector, born in Los Angeles, spend their first Christmas in Paris. Photo taken Christmas Eve on the Alexandre III bridge.
It is frequently observed, including by many Parisians, that the Pont Alexandre III is the most beautiful bridge in Paris. Adorned with exquisite Art Nouveau-style lamp posts and embellished with nymphs and cherubs, the bridge elegantly arches over the Seine as a vast avenue connecting the Grand Palais and Les Invalides. It has become legendary in the popular imagination, made famous in films from James Bond’s A View to Kill to Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris; recognised as the glamorous backdrop in chic fashion shoots; and recently used as the setting in Adèle’s video for her song, “Someone Like You”. I live about two hundred yards from the Alexandre III bridge. From my windows I can see its gold-tipped columns. I cross the bridge on walks with Hugo and Hector almost every evening, stopping mid-way to take in the magnificent
Three images of the Fontaine de Mars, which features in my memoir Home Again in Paris. Above a photo taken circa 1900. Below a photo that I took with my iPhone this afternoon standing across the road in rue Saint-Dominique. The Fontaine de Mars restaurant is on the left. And finally a photo taken last year of Oscar at the base of the fountain.
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
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
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
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
Matthew Fraser’s Blog