Thursday, November 15, 2012

1981: Splits a family in two

"Paris is my favourite city, second only to London,' I exclaimed grandly, parrotting a phrase I'd heard on a TV show or in a film and applying it to my own situation.

Yes, the sixth formers were off to Paris and we were really excited. But in a matter of a few weeks from us hearing about the trip and putting our names down to us actually going, me and the friend whose family I was lodging with for this one (eventually abortive) year had drifted totally apart.

So when the time came to atually go to Paris I'm not sure we even spoke to each other. We certainly didn't go round together. I can't put my finger on why we suddenly fell out. It's a bit like that, 'you don't really know people until you live with them' thing, and basically I think we thought we had nothing in common. Which wasn't strictly true. I think I was the odd one.

So off to Paris we went. Different ends of the coach, with different friends. It was a strange trip though. After a long seasicky ferry ride and a pelt though France in the dead of night, it seemed we were staying in a Clockwork Orange-themed Novotel on what seemed like the very fringes of Paris. Frankly it could have been anywhere, only people spoke French. We were bussed into the centre for the next two days and basically left to our own devices.

All I remember doing is palling up with some people I half-knew, buying fondants* ostensibly as a Christmas present for my brother and it being cold and dark. I certainly don't remember 'doing' the sites, and as I had little money there was no other shopping to be done. Plus, worrying about how trendy I wasn't looking was engulfing me, and all in the all the trip was a bit of a damp squib, though I'm sure we laughed a lot.

Back home it was a different matter and my time lodging was shortly to come to an end. I wasn't fitting in with the family, and they clearly were finding me a handful - perhaps because one day I put green colouring in my hair. I was just experimenting. I was driving to do it, get it out of my system. I've never done it since. But it didn't go down very well. And of course there was the smoking and an incident in the bathroom we shan't go into.

Mainly though, it was a case of money being too tight to mention. Though my parents paid for my keep, it was plain to see cash was in short supply. There was a big house to heat, six mouths to feed and one wage coming in. The weekly shop was exactly the same to the last Rich Tea each week, it was a cold and joyless household with a pompous Captain Mainwaring of a father and a clearly rather frustrated and depressed mother. They had sex once a week, on a Tuesday. I know because my bedroom backed on to theirs. (I don't know for sure but I believe they are no longer together and consequently careers were reignited and things got a lot better for both of them).

One day my mum called and read me out the letter she'd received saying they couldn't have me living with them anymore as money was too tight, and despite my parents' contribution it wasn't going to work.

I was relieved. But what was I going to do now?

I moved out a few weeks later and I never spoke to my friend again. But we'll always have Paris, and this song which always, always makes me thing of this strange trip.

*I ate most of those fondants in the run up to Christmas resulting in my brother getting a tie-bag with about four sweets in it.


  1. *coughs* Can we go into the bathroom incident discreetly - or have a clue perhaps?

    I remember wafting a hand and droning on about Paris to gathered pals - and all I'd done was sailed past the place on the bypass (at night) heading to Canet Plage. Must have been unbearable..

    Under Pressure makes me think of the science rooms at school - when the metal fans were waving music papers in the air, loving the fact champ of the punk fans had tagged up with soppy ol' Queen

  2. I was desperate to get to Paris after Paul Weller's stab at French in 'Long Hot Summer', but didn't manage it until a few years later when I went with a boyfriend who turned into a nutter on arrival and gave me the worst weekend of my life (*blog entry possibility; will swap you for the bathroom incident and a photo of the green hair*). It was years before I could face going back but I do love it there now.

    I bet this song was MASSIVE there at the time you went. Mind you, it probably still is, knowing the pace at which France embraces new music. Hah. They think they're so cool...

  3. What I would do to be young and in Paris.