‘We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just thought we were having fun’. (Winnie the Pooh).
My grandmother Posy and her friend Sal could often be found leaning against the gate wedged between the established shiny leaf hedge that formed a fairly flimsy boundary between their properties, situated in a tiny, isolated seaside town at the very bottom of Australia. Ash from their cigarettes would drop onto their desert boots, causing neither to flinch as they lit another, continuing to inhale and speak at pace as if the art of talking was about to become rationed.
They preferred to listen to ABC radio streamed out of Tasmania (‘less crackle’ they’d explain convincingly) and their conversations were endless- I wish I’d recorded everything they said because neither of them are here anymore, but I hold the memories of both of these incredible women tight in my heart.
On Friday night I sat on the terrace of a cafe in the 7th arrondissement and listened intently as Sal’s granddaughter Thea, told me all about her three month internship in Paris. She’s every bit as bright as she is beautiful and we laughed about our two grandmothers and their funny, independent ways, before toasting them as the metro clattered loudly above on an open line – ‘hopefully they know about this,’ we agreed. Several glasses of wine and feast of steak and frites later I caught a taxi home, and as I rounded the Musée de l’Armée before hitting Boulevard Saint Germain, I reflected on the interactions I have here in Paris- leaving the Eiffel Tower behind me sparkling under an almost full moon.
I hadn’t seen Thea since she was a tiny little girl, but as it so often happens, our lives in Paris have brought us back together after all of these years.
I first came to Paris when I was 19. I thought I knew everything but in hindsight (ha! No surprises there), I knew very little. My school friend Skye was my travel companion and we stayed in a caravan park outside the périphérique, venturing into Paris by day to see all the exciting things like the Eiffel Tower and the Bon Marché, and we also made a very important trip to a pharmacy on the Champs Élysées to buy nail scissors, which became the conduit to me cutting off all of Skye’s beautiful, long blond hair.
Skye and I met when we were 13 years old at the salad bar of an ‘all you can eat’ diner called Sizzler. Our fathers had been at school together many years before and on the day that we met, I was embarking on my much anticipated foray into a new life at boarding school. Skye had been there for a year before me, and once I’d enthusiastically waved my parents goodbye my new ally introduced me to everyone I needed to know, and taught me everything I needed to understand in order to keep out of trouble. She was always in possession of an enviable stash of wrapped chocolates, with my supplies being limited to stale homemade chocolate cake. I’d explain the importance of sharing, and she was ever obliging.
We were opposites in every way – she tiny, incredibly sporty and popular with the boys, with me being rather large and awkward and as the second of four girls, painfully shy around the opposite sex. As 13 year olds we became the firmest of friends, and as we headed deeper into the years that were our glorious teens, we became fiercely protective of each other, with my thick set Viking stance providing the perfect shadows for my tiny friend to hide within.
In the midst of preparing my visa application this year, Skye telephoned to tell me that she was coming to Paris. ‘When?’ I asked (yet to book my flight and sceptical about the visa process), ‘oh in October, you’ll be there’ she replied, ever optimistic. Yesterday I positively bounded out the door and down Rue Christine, making the easy 200 metre trip to the hotel where Skye and her mother Janie are staying for the next week. They greeted me with two giant jars of vegemite and a bag of jelly snakes- my favourites. We spoke at a million miles an hour and laughed at the memories of 20 years ago when we first came to Paris together.
Last night, as we feasted on dinner and plentiful wine, a trio on brass played on the street below. This morning, we enjoyed a breakfast feast of croissants and coffee at Cafe Marly overlooking the Louvre courtyard, and at one stage Skye pinched me, almost causing me to elbow the handsome waiter in the groin- ‘I cant believe we’re here’ she giggled.
Tonight, after a big day under the beautiful ceiling of Galeries Lafayette, we will enjoy a well earned gin and tonic on the end of the bed in their hotel room, before the three of us head up the Tour Montparnasse to cast our eyes over Paris from the highest possible vantage point this city has to offer. I love nothing more than taking in views of my beautiful new home, as I reflect on the opportunities it has brought me and the friendships it nurtures and rekindles- old and new, some many years old, and others born right here, in Paris. But most importantly, through generations and years gone by, for me, the dots are continually joining, right here and right now.
While the puzzle of today will one day be just a distant memory- the most important thing is that these memories are made having fun, with people who are important to this moment as well as moments past, and the days that will inevitably follow.
Posy and I loved talking about Winnie the Pooh. Therefore, it is fitting that he opens this post and I close it with a thought for my wonderful grandmother, as I reflect on her continued emphasis on friendship and the importance of bringing people together – regardless of where you are in life and where you may be in the world.
Pictured: Just like when we first met. This time, 20 years later under the beautiful domed ceiling of Galeries Lafayette.