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Dean Whitbread 2013

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Written on January 3, 2012, and categorized as Flip side.
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Thoughts on my way back from Paris, Dec 13, 2011

I sit in the plane surrounded by the people in whose land I sought refuge less than six months ago, hearing the lilt and scrape, the fiddle and swing of their language. Suddenly, it is devoid of charm, and feels only parochial, odd and stilted, instead of curious, intriguing.

Speaking French and drinking coffee in one of the greatest and most inspiring world cities has effectively disrupted my plans. My sincerely nurtured, long-held desire to live in this long, thin land of oil and gas and prawns, and to fit into it by observing certain rights of passage such as suffering the winter months, and by learning to speak the hurdy-gurdy tongue of modern Norway has evaporated in eight, short, Parisian winter days of art.

French is an entire world, an intellectual empire, a way of existing expressively, vibrantly. It is the global experience of countless millions.. French is a real language, a lingua franca full of subtlety and mystique. It is the other half of my own tongue, the sexy half, the half that kisses and seduces. It is a masterful language, spoken with passion and pride, things which moralist, democratic Scandinavians in general and Norwegians in particular like to hide out of a misguided sense of propriety.

Everyone in the city of Paris is an artist, if they want. In London or New York you’re not a real “capital A” Artist if some gallery hasn’t hosted your work and rolled out wine for intellectuals and reviewers, and you can’t be a proper writer if you haven’t had a book published. In Paris, anyone can be creative, and so, everyone is, it seems, everywhere, in superb measure, often, and sans inhibition. There’s no hiding your light out of deference to an obscure concept which keeps everyone “equal”, or British class-obsession to keep you in your place; instead there’s the appreciation of talent both raw and refined, acknowledgement of the struggle along the path, the pain of creative birth, and the assumption of one’s natural place being at least as elevated as the next person.

London is the only real competitor to Paris, by dint of history and proximity. I am London, formed of it, 80 kilos of its mud and water walking around, talking English, thinking in English, planning in English. Fifty years of born and accumulated London, until so recently laying thick upon me like an old wet Cromby. But London has nothing on Paris, not air, not water, not light, not music, not literature, not fashion, not the underground nor the overground, and certainly, definitely not art, which is everywhere, unabashed, unexcused, and stupendous.

I went to Paris and something just changed. A new SIM went in. My settings became parametres, my methodology gained élan. Eight short winter days changed me for an improved model. I feel awake, interested, stylish. I want to up sticks, desert the north, and eat French food forever. I want to sleep with French women until I fall in love and plight my troth. I want lightbulbs powered by nuclear energy, and police with large, visible guns. I want irony, snobbery, intellectual, quick-fire wit, and the right to complain. I want to rail against hypocrisy at the same time as exemplifying it.

French is the other side of me, the side I deserted twenty five years ago, and I want it back.

Posted via email from Dean Whitbread

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