|Tiled image in brasserie, avenue des Gobelins|
Ils préfèrent l’intérieur said the man in the flower shop when I asked about the plant I bought, with the cluster of small red flowers, wondering if it could live outdoors or if it was an indoor plant. And the name? I ask him. Kalanchoe, he says.
I have hovered around the plants for some time, and finally decided on this one.
C’est pour offrir? he asks me. Un cadeau?
Oui, I say.
He picks up the plant and goes into the shop. We’ve been outside, where plants and bunches of flowers have spilled out onto the wide pavement of the avenue des Gobelins. He goes through the shop and into a small room at the back. It’s really quite a large shop and contains many green and colourful plants, scents swirl in a thick atmosphere of plant-breath, yes, it must be the breathing of plants, that makes the air dense and almost liquid – for there is moisture in the air, isn’t there – this semi-solidity of scented air pungent with greenery, that slows me down as I walk through it.
No, it isn’t large at all yet it seems so – it is narrow, and the narrowness, and the closeness to the plants and flowers and the moisture of their breath and their thick scents slow you down and so, makes it seem long. Or – it’s a magical threshold and once you’ve crossed it this deceptively small shop entrance, it opens out, turns out to be much bigger, once you’re inside, than you could ever have dreamed it was – but that’s the nature of magic and thresholds – they expand, out of the logical, the commonplace, they half twist and turn, out of the usual perception of la quotidienne, and boundaries vanish and one enters the unknown -
At the far end of the narrow shop, full of these breathing, scented life-forms, and just before the lit doorway through which the flower seller has vanished, there is a till, a cash register. It looks like one of these old ones that used to ring, after you pressed the keys, denoting the amount to be paid in. Probably it is not, it is most likely perfectly modern and up to date. I only see the back of it. A black and white cat sits on top of the cash register. I put out my hand and stroke it. It ignores me.
The flower seller has disappeared into the brightly-lit doorway of the room at the back. He is wrapping the plant in cellophane, attaching red ribbons to the package, to match the cluster of compact red flowers.
From the Marché de la Poésie at Saint Sulpice, I sat for a while in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Movable green chairs are scattered around so that people can sit where they want. One is near the bench I’m sitting on. I’m resting my feet on the other. An older woman with short, curly grey hair, and wearing a lightweight raincoat, asks me if the chair is free. Yes, I say. She takes it off a little way, sits down, facing the grass, the trees, rather than the path. A little later I hear ripping sounds. She is tearing a piece of paper into very small pieces. Rip rip. Quite slowly and deliberately. When I look over again, a few minutes later, she has gone.
|In the Jardin de Luxembourg|
It has been sunny today, warm enough to take off my jacket. But now it has clouded over, there’s a breeze. I wonder if there will be rain as there was yesterday in the early evening. Among the scents – flowers, leafy trees, garlic and herbs cooking, the acrid scent coming up from the vents over the metro – there is a damp smell, the rain clouds throwing their shadow scents in front of them. I walk from the Jardin de Luxembourg, along rue Saint Jaques, passing a fruit shop that also sells herbs in pots, which gives me the idea to buy a plant for S as a present. After the Boulevard Auguste Blanqui I turn right up the Avenue des Gobelins, and find the flower shop.
Clutching my plant, as well as the umbrella, I walk home, past Place d’Italie, and arrive at rue Caillaux. The sky is heavy with grey and purple clouds, but it does not rain.