Paris is a city where straight lines don’t exist: not only do none of the roads go in quite the directions you imagine, you also spend your time weaving around mysterious objects, lost people, blocked streets, road works, scaffolding and other mysterious obstacles. And so, here is a list of my favourites.
10. The doorman from the Mandarin Oriental unloading a baby buggy from a taxi. This is an impossibly fancy hotel, always staffed with about four people waiting to stop a taxi in the middle of the road for a guest to saunter over to, as the queue behind gets increasingly agitated. The sight of a doorman in full uniform of full-length coat, mini shoulder cape and hat attempting to push a bright pink buggy loaded with toys etc. across the pavement with one hand (perhaps to distance himself from it!), without meeting the eyes of the others (who were probably immensely glad to get the rather more dignified suitcases) couldn’t fail to make me giggle.
9. The tree chopping operation. All I wanted to do was park my bike for thirty seconds whilst I retrieved a fallen glove. Instead, I had half a dozen policemen descend and tell me that it was a strictly no parking zone, and point out the bright red tape everywhere. I assumed it was a crime scene, then realised that the little pictures on the tape were of workmen and trees. Cars were being towed away, a huge machine was being backed down the street… I can’t say I’ve actually noticed a difference in tree height, shape etc.
8. The scaffolding, and the big swinging rope. There is ongoing construction work in my building, and for quite a while there was scaffolding outside. One day I went to turn right out of the door, as I do, to discover a large barrier, blocking the whole pavement. A woman who had clearly just made the same mistake attempted to carry on, only for a stroppy builder to ask if she couldn’t see that it was blocked. Well, funnily enough, it’s not exactly what you expect to find… I also have a knack for arriving at the door just as they attempt to raise or lower a large bundle of something heavy, resulting in awkward ducking from me and them attempting to stop it swinging into my head.
7. The men making some kind of homemade action film on the street. I hovered, they waved me past, then I realised that I needed to turn and cross through their entire shot, and so ended up breaking into an awkward half run to get it over with as quickly as possible. Hopefully the camera wasn’t rolling.
6. The man loading an entire kitchen sink into the back of his car. Pretty impressive, eh?
5. The fire engine cordon. Neatly marked off with dinky red cones, which made me wonder: is that the first step in fire brigade training? Is there a special firefighter who doesn’t actually get a hosepipe, and who just has to set the cones out? Is that why they’re always running around Paris: they’re practising for cone-laying-out speed? Not just speed though, since it was a perfectly formed curve too. No common sense needed to avoid that one.
4. The interesting combination of bin and bin van on a narrow street. Don’t want to hover behind for too long, but going round the side means a) getting stuck between bin and van (not desirable), b) getting stuck between bin and wall (not fun either) or c) attempting a one-handed shuffle of bin without dropping bike.
3. The awkwardly placed motorcycle policemen, who stopped side by side in the middle of the road to check if they had the right address. I wasn’t sure about the acceptability of ringing a bell at a policeman, and so settled for the pointed cough instead.
2. The man on the Métro with a golf umbrella sticking out of his rucksack, that I had to duck every time he turned (and he was a fidgeter!) If you’re going to carry it, carry it properly!
1. The man who abandoned his car in the cycle lane with hazard lights flashing, not because he had broken down, but because he was going to Starbucks. Would I have been as annoyed if he’d appeared with a baguette under his arm and a croissant in his mouth? Of course not. But when I saw that enormous plastic cup with the funny lid so that all of the cream doesn’t get mashed up, and the paper bag with a half-eaten cookie sticking out, and the other paper bags grasped in his hand, no doubt with more non-emergency cake products, well, I was not impressed. Now, where are those red socks?