So, I’m in Paris. Paris hates me already, Paris wants to beat me up. I suspect Paris hates me because I’ve spent the last day or so walking around in some fizzy, angular fog due to a lack of sleep, a waking hangover, and an excess of coffee that somehow seems to have both negated and intensified the lack of sleep and waking hangover. Yesterday I arrived at 6:00 am having not slept and spent the day still not sleeping whilst looking and behaving liking a maniac.

It hasn’t been fun. In fact, it’s been disastrous. For a start I can’t speak French. In order to make up for this I’ve embarked on some English-Spanish-French hybrid language, the likes of which hasn’t been heard on the streets of Paris before, perhaps hasn’t been heard anywhere. I keep saying “Si” when I mean “Oui” and blurting out “No parlez vous Francais! No French! I’m English. J’Englais! Hablas Espanol?!” when anyone asks me anything which seems to be all the time. Seriously. I’ll be sitting there minding my own business in a park or outside a cafe and strings of people will come up to me and ask me things. What things I don’t know, so I’ll just bark at them in my mixture of French and Spanish and English or otherwise just sit grinning at them like a maniac until they leave.

I don’t think I like travelling to foreign countries. I don’t like it because I’m pretty terrible at it. I hate those travel writers – or any writers – who write stuff like: “This hip, easy to miss gem is tucked down some obscure side street but make an effort to find it and hang out with the beautiful people.” I don’t think I’d ever like to visit a hip, easy to miss gem and if I ever did want to, wouldn’t have the patience to find it. Wherever I am I like to know – or at least look as if I know – where I’m going. I also hate consulting maps and so I’ve spent the last day or so just careering round Paris, pounding the streets as if I’m on my way to an important business meeting and am already late but this acting means that I keep getting lost and having to walk much further than I should and so spend all my time thirsty and tired and covered in blisters. If I were to ever write a city guide book my advice would be along the lines of: “Just fucking bowl around the streets chain smoking like a maniac until you collapse.” It’s actually quite good fun, in a way.

But as regular readers will know I didn’t come to Paris to simply pound the streets and have some kind of irregular holiday. I came to Paris to write, to work on the three books I feel I should be working on.

Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that that hasn’t happened. Nor is it going to. Shakespeare and Company – the bookshop I was hoping to stay in for free – is full of writers at the moment. They can’t house anymore. They told me as much this morning.

“We’re full,” said the girl behind the counter. “We’re always full. And the owner’s not here. All I can suggest is coming back at the weekend and trying again when she is here.”

“But you’ll be full still?”

“Probably, we’re always full.”

“Okay. But if you weren’t full – if I came back at some point and found out you weren’t full – what are the criteria for staying?”

“You have to be a writer,” she said and then looked at me for a while. “And young.”

I wanted to say, “Is 35 young for a writer?” or, “I thought this was a refuge for penniless writers, not a place for young rich American college girls to hang out in the summer and pretend to be writers” but I didn’t, I probably said something like, “Cool, I might pop back then” and walked out.

When I walked out Paris was still there, still hating me, still sucking what little money I have out of my pockets and I thought about buying a raft of wine and sitting in a park and drinking until I passed out but instead I just pounded business-like through the streets until I found a cheap hostal where I am now. I’m a little concerned that I have hardly any money, only one pair of clean underpants and no clue what to do next.

I need a plan, and fast.



26 responses to “Paris

  1. Pitch,

    I spoke to my girlfriend. Her best friend’s on holiday in Spain. He’s pretty much the only one who could have put you up for free. Still, if you go to a shop called Tati in Barbes I hear you can buy really great French underpants at a very reasonable price. Sorry I couldn’t help with the room.
    Best of luck.


  2. Very occasionally people will give rooms to people in exchange for English lessons. Have a look in Fusac, the free small ads magazine for the English speaking community, and also on noticeboards in the American Cathedral and American church.

    Also you could try contacting this guy: he might have some advice (no, I don’t know him, just know of him). He’ll probably be in Edinburgh at the moment though.

    There are also language exchange drinks sessions, advertised in Fusac where you can meet people, talk French and English and maybe someone could help you out.

    Would you like me to ask around my friends there?

  3. Chris: Thank you. You tried, and that’s enough for me. But fuck undercrackers: I’m going commando from now on.
    Little Me: Thank you too. In fact, thank you very much indeed. But I reckon I’ll be temporarily leaving Paris later today and returning in the Autumn. Paris is much better in the Autumn. I’ll be much better in the Autumn. I’ll make a note of the things you mentioned above and hopefully employ them then.

  4. I’d agree that August is a shite time to be in Paris.

  5. I know this doesn’t exactly help, but this had me in stitches, cheers! “Just fucking bowl around the streets chain smoking like a maniac until you collapse.” is more or less my plan of attack too. Find it impossible to settle for more than 20 minutes when in a new place alone.
    Are you on twitter? Never know who might help you out there, ala Twitchhiker. I read that book about Shakespeare & Co and reckon your analysis is spot on there too.

  6. Thanks very much Jools. Is there a book on Shakespeare & Co? A whole book? I might try and hunt it down. Then burn it. Not really. I’m not on Twitter, no, but keep feeling like I should be and yet at the same time thinking that if I were on it then I would keep feeling like I shouldn’t be. Jesus, what a clunky sentence.
    Today’s search engine terms are exquisite:

    pitching the world
    frank mcgrath forearm
    frank mcgrath
    “crack house”
    fucke vry puke
    my nan geting shaged by the postman
    house wifes that fuck hamalten

  7. When you first mentioned the idea of staying at Shakespeare and Company, I thought to myself, “I do hope that dear old Pitchy has phoned ahead to confirm that there’s a room free”.

    I wasn’t surprised to see my fears confirmed, but as with all your very funny fuck ups, at least it will make for good material for the book.

  8. Brilliant. Last time I was in Paris, I kept barking out random words from a whole range of inappropriate languages too. Not only did I say ‘Si’ when I meant ‘Oui’, I also once accompanied it with a palms-together half bow. I am English.

  9. Dan, the problem is you have to turn up in the flesh and meet the owner before you can stay. There’s no other way. But my thinking is that the sorts of writers who SHOULD be staying in bookshops for free aren’t the sorts of writers who have the money and wherewithal to travel to Paris and stay in hotels in case they can’t stay in bookshops for free. Does that make sense? It came out kind of soupy. Perhaps I’m just bitter.
    Kirsty, how brilliant. You’re funny. I particularly liked the palms-together half bow and shall start using it immediately. Thank you.

    • It seems a deeply flawed system. My guess is that the people there are mainly youngsters on gap years funded by ma and pa, who fancy the idea of playing at being writers in Paris. There should be more room for proper writers who are desperate to work somewhere else than their nan’s dining room in Boscombe.

  10. Why thank you. You’re funny too. Are you on Facebook? We should be friends.

  11. I thought we were friends? And no, sorry, I’m not on Facebook.

  12. Pitchboy, I am aware that an award winning Blogista has a birthday today< ithought I should contribute to the usual piffle hereabouts by wishing you an award winning birthday in Paris – I'm trying hard not to imagine you in a Parisian shop doorway wrapped in the past few copies of Le Monde, rather that you're whooping it up at a huge party thrown by your newly aquainted bohemian buddies The Left Bank Massive.

    I have to say that I love the "barking in a foreign language" thing from Kirsty – a hoot, I'll have a go at it next time I'm away

  13. Happy Birthday Pitchy!

  14. Happy Birthday Pitchy. I think I went to that bookshop and it was made famous by some movies, so it’s all their fault. I am sure it featured in Before or After Sunset…..What next??!?!

  15. I wish I was in a Parisian doorway wrapped up in Le Monde Old Bloke, but alas I am elsewhere.
    Thank you Martin. Are you a Martin I know? I know four Martins.
    Lisa, it was in Before Sunrise, yes. Before Sunrise, unfortunately, is no Dazed and Confused. As for what next, I’ve little idea. It’ll be good though.

  16. is a lovely place. Ask Paul Theoroux, You visited, didn’t you Paul? After Riding the Iron Rooster? I do hope all was ok.
    Shitspeare & Co sounds ghastly, like a shit Thai island. People can be unkind, intense and fake deep with a dollop of intense crap, umm Nope.

  17. Um, thank you Marge. Paul Theroux reads this blog all the time.
    Here are today’s search engine terms:

    pitching the world
    frank mcgrath
    earth from outer space
    erotic review
    subscribe sabotage times
    slender means
    mcgrath frank
    pitching the world annoying
    frank mcgrath forearms
    pitchng the world

    Can you believe it? Not the obsession with Frank Mcgrath and his forearms, but that thing – I can only call it a thing – fourth from the bottom. I can only assume that someone was writing “pitching the world annoyingly brilliant” but gave up halfway through. Well, three quarters of the way through.

  18. That thing, fourth from the bottom – envy right there. Or, it could have been the owner of Shitspeare & Co. I reckon he is so gutted that he wasn’t there to recieve you personally and to give you the only bed-bug free room in the place. I bet he reads your blog every day wishing talent like you would grace his doorway, well, too late! – you have other places to go/people to see etc etc

  19. Hey Pitchy, the struggle continues, but the words are flowing well. Good on you, me old mucka! Shakespeare and Company sounds truly grim, but I do hope you get in there, if only to tell the tale. I believe it will be ripe with candidates who deserve to have their handbags shat into.

  20. Yeah, you know Marge. I reckon you’re exactly right there. Thanks.
    Thanks to you too Eric Murphy. I reckon you need to resurrect your blog.

  21. Sorry to hear it was all a bit well….shit. However it was very funny, I know you shouldn’t laugh at others misfortune and all that but, hell, your’e a funny guy pitchy. One question, why are you not writing a script or sitcom about all this? It’s funny as fuck! Please excuse my french dear boy, sometimes there’s just no other words in my volcabulary that can describe it any better.

  22. Oh how I love people saying ‘funny as fuck’ wrenfrost65. Thanks. The plan is to turn it into a book and then for someone to snap up the film rights. I know, a bold plan. Let’s see though shall we?

  23. Pitcherman, I agree. Paris is shit. I am currently writing from Paris, on the floor of my squalid flat, which is the only place I can get the internet to work. All I have done is wear myself out walking around Paris trying to kid myself I am Amelie, being hated by waiters, shopkeepers, and complete strangers.

    If I type much more than this from my floor, I will need a neck brace. So, just to say, I am going back to England on Saturday, to sit at my desk chain – smoking and pitching. Again.

  24. Hello Mia. Do I know you? Are you me? A female me? Best of luck with the chain smoking and pitching. And, if it comes to it, the neck brace.

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