The atrocities which occurred that Friday night in Paris has prompted me to reflect on ‘my journey’, not planned or preempted, quite literally a happening of enormous proportions, covering many thousands of miles and necessitating setting up home in eight different countries, preposterous really and whilst doing so inevitably gathering a rollercoaster of emotions and memories along the way.
Sitting here now, many, many years later and many miles from where my journey began, I sometimes ponder and wonder just what my life would have been like if fate had not stepped in and decided for me. I cannot linger long as I simply have no idea and am unable to answer my own question. I know no other way of life, obviously, this was to be my destiny, but I sometimes wonder why.
At this moment in time, many people will be wondering why too, not least those poor unfortunate souls who were caught up in the latest Paris massacre. Many of them young, happy in their being, in love with life, in love with Paris and many would have been walking along the romantic boulevards hand in hand with love in their hearts.
My heart is aching for my Paris, the Paris I found myself living in, so very long ago, memories of which are entwined within my heart, that is why my very being aches today for Paris and her lovers.
I was drawn there at a very young age, 19 to be precise, after my, some would say, cosseted childhood, an extraordinary move, I know, but it had to be. London was not for Me. although I knew it well, it never beckoned me, wrapped me in its arms, or whispered in my ear, hold my hand and follow me.
Maybe, subconsciously I found London too large, and, perhaps, thought I would be swallowed up or, maybe, stifled, or just become a little lost. A city so large and so very different from Paris which beckoned me with it’s twinkling eyes, it’s romantic coins, majestic boulevards, the glorious Seine never far from sight and last but by no means least that icon to outshine all icons the Eiffel Tower. I will never know but on first sight I was captivated, I was so young and so in love. with the idea of being in love. Like so many who have trodden this well-worn path both before and after it was the beginning of an eternal love affair.
It felt right, yes, my kind of Town! I was happy to wander where ever she beckoned without a backward glance all sensible thoughts gone with the wind.
I was pinching myself with amazement and anticipation early that morning, in September, 1961 as I stood in front of those enormous double doors which guarded the entrance to one of the most imposing building on the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoree, where amazingly that morning I was about to start work.
Quivering with nervous excitement I walked through the doors up the steps into the grand entrance, yes, I was entering The British Embassy, Paris, astonishing! I was greeted by Buster, the Commissioner and escorted to the Consular Section where I was to be working as a secretary, Mon Dieu, or should I say Sacre bleu! It was so long ago but on reflection I felt sure that entering the kingdom of heaven, couldn’t be more aura inspiring, I was truly humbled.
With out realizing a true love affair had begun, I was living in, maybe the most beautiful City in the World and working at one of the most prestigious addresses in the World. In fact, I was surrounded by beauty, Paris always seemed to have a smile on her face and when the sun shone the sheer joy and splendor of living in such a City was infectious. How on earth had I managed to cross the Channel in one easy step, arriving here was really quite baffling.
How I loved, little by little, shedding my British persona, every day I seemed to be walking ten feet tall, drinking in the pleasures that this wonderful city afforded me. She was alive, welcoming and always had a twinkle in her eye, which was so apparent when dusk fell and the fading sun bathed her rays over the magnificent buildings announcing that, yes it was that special time of day, time to stop and enjoy an aperitif and savour the moment.
As I sit her reflecting on the places I have been lucky enough to have visited and lived in I marvel that Paris was my first port of call on what was to be an amazing journey — In the year I was there we had our up and downs, but I quickly morphed into a Parisian Mademoiselle, acquiring Hermes scarves, Charles Jordan shoes and outfits that were most definitely a la mode. I also quickly developed a taste for French cuisine, at that time, so very different from English offerings, with Moules Mariniere, Escargots and Cuisses de Grenouillds appearing on so many menus. What an adventure I had found myself embarking on with another enduring love affair quietly blossoming with every amazing meal that I was so fortunate to partake of.
Last but by no means least no self-reflecting blue eyed girl could have passed a year in the most romantic city in the world without falling in love, it was a dizzy time and I was some dizzy lady. Paris had allowed me to dream, had taken my hand whilst I laughed, comforted me when I sometimes cried brushing away the tears with her smile, which was never far away.
That is why today I have such a heavy heart, dear Paris, you were so very kind and generous to me picking me up and dusting me down always encouraging me along the way, for which I am eternally grateful.
I have no doubt you will be extending the same helping hand to everyone who found themselves, quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time, that fateful Friday night. May your battle wounds heal quickly. Yes, my dear Paris just thinking about the joys you have bestowed throughout your life, I salute you from the bottom of my heart.