It’s a rainy morning in Paris. Warm, fragile droplets of rain softly tap onto the pavement creating a soothing scent of asphalt, summer and freshly baked baguettes. The drizzle, is feeble, dampening the dust of the city streets after the recent alerte rouge weather warnings. The light mizzle stops and starts, almost as though it has been so long now that the clouds have forgotten how to precipitate. In my jeans and t-shirt I luxuriate in the sensation of rain on my skin as I head down to Café Reinitas for my early morning coffee.
Monsieur Angel Hair
There are two old men, animated in discussion sitting next to me. One, has a long, white froth of beard. He reminds me of a latter day William Morris in his crumpled beige mac, trilby and wooden stick. A character in some eighteenth century tale of Montmartre intrigue. A detective perhaps, Monsieur Angel Hair, we will call him. His friend, sits, laughing conspiratorially, running his fingers backwards and forwards through his dark wavy hair. It’s the kind of hair that mothers boast about. Thick, wavy and almost blue the black is so intense. I picture his aunts, grandmothers and neighbours cooing over him as a child “Isn’t he beautiful? He’ll be a heartbreaker one day.” Now it’s salt and peppered, flecked with age at both temples but probably as thick and as wavy as it always was. He is the kind of follically gifted man I imagine to be envied by his peers for that full head of hair. They both explode into raucous of laughter. Shake hands. Straighten out their bones, rendering themselves upright and slowly leave.
Three legged race for septuagenarians
Opposite, a woman in her seventies is pulling a wheeled shopper along with one hand, arm in arm with her friend in the other. Her short grey hair, bobbing along between passers by. Her friend walks at the same pace, her white cardigan floating in the wind behind her. In their sensible flat shoes and pleated skirts, they sway rhythmically together, side by side, down the street as though they are in some three legged race for septuagenarians.
Boy George “Un Succès Inspèrè”
Coffee cups clank behind me. Stacked as swiftly as they are taken down and used again. Boy George “Un Succès Inspèrè” appears on a large screen TV in the corner. His face beams out from under a huge turquoise top hat, eyes ringed with lashings of kohl. A dapperly suited elderly gentleman sporting a flat cap along with a maroon and navy striped tie pauses in front of the cafe. He examines Boy George open mouthed before he continues his morning walk.
La Pirates de Montmartre
The stalls opposite are setting up for the day. Wooden crates are being stacked. A middle aged man in a blue oilskin apron opens the rear doors of a white van with ‘La Pirates de Montmartre. La Poissonerie’ painted on the back. A skull and crossbones sits in the centre. This is the fish delivery for the fishmongers up the road. Huge blue plastic crates of ice sit next to thin legged metal tables. Fish of every description is unloaded and swiftly laid out for the day’s trade. Salmon, Mackerel, Lobster, Langoustine, Oysters. Already people are lining up in anticipation to buy it fresh from the van.
The rain that fell during the night has cooled the city, for now. Damp, dark stained pavements still hold puddles of water that reflect the Haussmann buildings and silver sky. A young woman on a bike with an empty baby seat fixed to the back, waves “Bon journée” as she slowly peddles off. A wiry woman complete with ubiquitous Saturday morning shopping trolley stops in front of me. She eyes an apple in the gutter that has fallen and rolled away from one of the stalls opposite. She stoops down, picks it up, giving it a quick appraisal, wipes it off and pops it in her shopper. Waste not want not.
The rain continues to plop forlornly onto the round metal topped table. It’s early. Well before 8.30am on market day. The drizzle has not stopped the legions of elderly shoppers who colonise this Parisian street at this time of day. They’ve come to get their shopping done whilst it’s quiet, before the city becomes hot again. This is my early morning tribe.
A woman wearing a shiny black PVC raincoat sits down on the table next to me. A crumpled red rose clipped above her ear, nestles in her shoulder length blonde hair. She wouldn’t look out of place in some French arthouse film on the grey, damp morning as she lights up a cigarette and purses her vermillion lips to inhale. It might be Montmartre but this is no hipster café. If it were a film genre, it would 50s kitchen sink. Montmartre kitchen sink. Real. Urban. Sometimes banal but never boring and always riveting.