I’ve always been a sucker for a good saying, and as far as ditties go, this is easily a new favourite.
On a recent car trip to the Pisa airport with one of the most interesting, bright, funny and thoughtful human beings I think I’ve ever met, this saying was peppered amongst the many stories she told (I was hanging on to every word, trust me).
‘Why,’ I asked, ‘do you keep saying that with apparent randomness?’.
‘Oh, one must’ she replied, ‘whenever you see a lone magpie before noon, you should always ask how his wife is- it will avert a catastrophe.’
If only I’d had this one in my teens, my twenties and for each year leading up to this moment as I sit here like an expert mid thirties cliche in a cafe in Paris, doing what so many have done before me.
I spent most of my childhood in Australia waving my arms at magpies telling them to piss off. Karma may indeed be reigning.
Back to the cafe. The coffee is terrible in Paris, it’s not a myth- it really is quite revolting, but there is something strangely comforting about the creaminess of the milk, the tepidness of the strength and the temperature at which it’s served- pretty cold really. And just like the coffee, today is cold and the sky is grey- Paris has served up a big cup of pretty average soup for the second day running- but not dissimilar to the coffee, a similar comfort is abundant.
I woke yesterday convinced it was Thursday, and after resetting my phone to European time and checking the weather (the app on my phone kept telling me it was Friday), before going through all of my lunch receipts for the week (there were four, and it was only midday- that’s pretty telling I would have thought), I googled ‘what day is it today?’. It was Friday, (all day, as Dad would say) and I found myself feeling fairly wistful and wanted to trap that moment in time- ‘just stop,’ I muttered under my breath as I walked out of a peaceful afternoon sermon in the beautiful Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.
Normally, I would will the time away- I’d beckon the weekend with wide open arms because with Friday afternoon comes a freedom to be at home, to open the windows, to enjoy the sunshine and to walk everywhere- finally, I can breathe. It also brings me one step closer to payday, a monthly occurrence and one I always look forward to because I’m very good at spending, but not so good at saving.
Here, I have no routine, no payday, no one to tell me that I’m late and most importantly, no one to tell me what day it is. It is one thing to be alone, but another to be lonely.
I spend hours alone, I always have and there is a really sobering freedom found in being alone. But I hardly ever feel lonely, and I was reminded of this as I peeled off my pajamas for a shower this morning. I looked out the window to the apartment across the street where I saw a rather anxious looking face looking in at me before turning his hand to the piano. I was surprised, after that impromptu and unintentional performance from me, that he was able to go on and play at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted and flawless Mozart.
The lady who owns the apartment housing this piano playing spy is old and grey and she looks incredibly sweet. The room in the left side of her apartment is usually rented out to music students, and she lives in the room on the right. I lean out my window at night to breathe in that cold, still Parisian air and she dusts, adjusts the cushions and potters about like a little mouse – I love her, she keeps me company every day.