Montmartre alive, dead & olives

Today our petite ville, little city, the 18eme arrondissement, Montmartre. Checked out the Marché Ordener, not because J. hasn’t been following a private progress around supermarkets in foreign parts and we have nothing to eat, but to see what a city market offers in Paris.

The produce was good, big artichokes, endives, fresh raspberries, strawberries, figs, melons. But the cheeses at the cheese stall and olives and herbs were most exciting. We bought a small bag of Andalusian marinaded giant green olives, citrous and chilli, herbs de Provence, and took our lunch to a Park of Physical Education. Here, because most local schools give their students a day off on Wednesdays, children were gathering to play what we at first thought were impromptu matches of tennis, basketball and football on one of those red grit courts, but the footballers who’d collected all the boys, were soon cleared thanks to the arrival of a couple of adults, teachers or coaches. The female one collected a group of girls and boys together and ran them around the running track a couple of times then started in with some calisthenics. Quaintly old school. The male one organised the boys into two basketball teams – while the Algerian non-conformist kids were being pushed off the football field – and handed out different coloured bibs, and talked to one team for hours and hours while the other messed around.

We circumnavigated the Montmartre Cemetery, because we couldn’t find a break in the high and ivy-covered wall around it, through streets reeking of dogshit and pee, stained by these as well as sweating and leaking rubbish in plastic bags. I thought of the Baroness and the purple reek that according to William Carlos Williams she was said to exude. The feminist critique of modernism for its plumbing, evasion of wet patches, flows, directing them out of the artistic discourse as out of the social space via technical means, pipes, toilets, urinals, dry and signed R. Mutt. Paris is the city of wet patches. And dogshit swept off pavements into the gaps between parked cars.

Finding the entrance to the cemetery at last, under a 19th century overbridge, we strolled around under chestnuts and sycamores, leaving the roads to see if we recognised any of the names. And occasionally we did. The standing chapels were like toilet or phone booths, surprisingly dry, after the footpaths running with fluids of all kinds. (People spit here, too.) A group of young women were regilding and restoring the standing box or chapel of Countess Potocka. They directed us to where Nijinsky lay. On getting there I remembered what I had heard. Its grotesque kitsch. It was worse than I remembered having heard.

We carried on to the windmill above Les Abbesses, passing the house built by Adolf Loos for Tristan Tzara in a beautiful area. Water was running down the gutters in rivers for some reason. Perhaps to clean them?

Descending the butte or buttressing of the hill on which Sacre Coeur stands we came to the Paris, Je T’aime Wall, nipping in to get a snap against it before a fashion shoot. Then St.Jean de Montmartre, an extraordinary design, of truncated arches and rich stained glass and in the tympanum embedded ceramics, like a South American church.

There were fewer and fewer kids as we came around the front of Sacre Coeur. Or, rather, fewer local kids. And the stone used in the construction of the houses goes from sand-coloured stone to white. A uniform 6 or 7 storeys.

We have decided to live in Les Abbesses, in an artists’ quarter.

I am drinking a very good Chardonnay, L’Heritage de Carillan, from Pays d’Oc, 2009. 2,80 Euros a bottle. Went perfectly with J.’s duck, endive and lentil with Provencal herbs and Andalusian olives on rice.