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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Pinky and Scotto in Paris

Literally, the first thing Scotto did when we arrived in Paris, was to step in dog poop.

Figuratively, the first thing Scotto did when we arrived in Paris, was to lose his shit.

I’d only recently calmed down from my phobia of travelling on the Eurostar under the depths of the English Channel and couldn’t offer much sympathy.

As the train had plunged into darkness on the journey, I couldn’t decide if it would be better to die screaming as a plane hurtles to the ground or to drown in an under-the-ocean tunnel. For some inane reason, I’d forgotten it was a tunnel and had imagined we were travelling along the bottom of the ocean in a waterproof train. I’d spent the whole journey examining the walls of the train carriage for tiny cracks and tell-tale drips.

“We’re in France now,” I said to Scotto when he came back from the toilet and we’d emerged from the darkness during his ablutions.

He didn’t look that impressed. He was sick with a horrible flu and was coughing like a four pack a day-er.

I was elated due to the fact we’d survived the trip without drowning and I had my nose pressed against the window scanning the countryside for anything that looked French.

“I can speak a bit of French, you know,” I said.

“Good,” he’d replied, his eyes gazing around, red and watery, and blowing his nose for the millionth time.

Therefore, it was great to be able to inform him that I knew the French word for ‘shit’ when he stood in it.

It was one of the only words that most of the boys in my Year Nine French class had committed to memory and it has stuck in my mind for forty years.

“’Shit’ in French is ‘merde’,” I told him. “And dog in French is ‘chien’, so I suppose dog shit is ‘merde de chien’, or ‘shit of the dog’.

I suppose if you wanted to be a bit more couth you would say, ‘caca de chien’, which is ‘poo of the dog’.”

I spent most of the three days in Paris translating words I remembered from my lower high school French class and saying ‘merci’ and ‘bonjour’ at every opportunity. It must have been annoying for Scotto.

On hearing the Gallic expression for dog poo, Scotto merely grunted and continued to scrape his boot violently on the pavement and mutter that he ‘hoped’ the poo was from a dog and not a human.

Why he thought there might be human poo on the Paris footpath, I’m not sure.

Maybe it was because the area we were staying in was a trifle dodgy. At least fifty police vehicles blocked the entrance to our hotel when we returned from sight-seeing on the first day. 

There were water cannons at the front door, and we had to request a police escort to enter. We found out later it was because of a protest by Eurostar workers. I’m not sure what they were protesting about. 

I hoped it wasn’t because of cracks in the tunnel.

We noticed a multitude of French dogs pooping in the street after that. They looked to be a lot more arrogant than Australian dogs. Australian dogs look shifty and slightly tense when they publicly poop because they know their owner is standing nearby, ready to scoop up the offensive material in a plastic bag before they’ve had a chance to get a good long sniff of it. 

French dogs know they can take their time and leave artistic Matisse-style swirls of excreta in the middle of the footpath and sniff with gay abandon. 

One of the highlights of Paris was spotting Will Smith. I was busy taking the perfect photograph of the Eiffel Tower when I suddenly heard a gasp from the crowd and felt Scotto frantically shaking my elbow. We love Will Smith and seeing him was on an equal level of thrill factor as seeing the Mona Lisa.

I am fully aware that what I just wrote will confirm your suspicions that I am, indeed, a bogan moron. 

The queue

We had to line up for fifteen minutes to see the Mona Lisa and when we finally reached the famous painting, we had about thirty seconds in which to take a photograph before we’d be bustled away by the burly security guard.

“You take a quick selfie with her and then I’ll take a selfie, and then you help me take a selfie because mine are always tres merde, okay?” I conferred anxiously with Scotto as we stood in line. I wanted my photo to be Instagram perfect. 

You don’t get to visit Paris and see the Mona Lisa every day!

Sure enough, we dithered around taking the photos, arguing about angles and filters, until we were hurried off to the side by the irritable guard. 

I turned to Scotto after we’d checked and posted our snaps. “Did you actually look at the painting?” I asked him, suddenly struck by the fact that I hadn’t even glanced at it.

“No,” he admitted.

We tried to move back in to the roped off area, but the guard was having none of it.

Merdey bastarde!

When we were walking around Paris, I spotted the Eiffel Tower in the distance and pointed it out to Scotto.

He looked at me sceptically. “That’s not the Eiffel Tower,” he rasped. “It’s too small and the top of it is the wrong shape.”

“What? You think they have a miniature Eiffel Tower in Paris as well as the real one?" I couldn't believe him. That’s a load of merde, Scotto!”

I was pretty sure it was the bloody Eiffel Tower but after mistaking a Ferris wheel for the London Eye, I had to keep my trap shut and just keep walking in the opposite direction because that’s what his GPS was instructing. Plus, Scotto was sick and he gets cranky when he’s sick so it’s best to humour him.

Eventually, the GPS led us to the structure in a roundabout fashion and it WAS the Eiffel Tower (of course) but there was no apology from Little Lord Fauntleroy who was growing paler and breathing heavier by the minute. 

That night, I was kept awake by the sound of Scotto attempting to suck in oxygen and I kept imagining him having to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance. 

I pictured myself sitting in a Parisian hospital waiting room, gnawing on a stale baguette and wondered how much it would cost to fly his body home and if he would mind being buried in France.

The next morning, I insisted he visit le docteur.

Ze docteur deed not speaka ze Anglais.

Neither did the pharmacist from whom we purchased a plethora of medications. Scotto almost drank one of the concoctions he was meant to use to bathe his eyes. Even my expert Grade Nine French was ineffective when it came to translating the French instructions. 

By the time our three days in Paris was up, we both decided against buying an ‘I Love Paris’ t-shirt because neither of us really felt like we loved Paris.

It was alright. Not quite the romantic tryst I’d imagined though.

But did I tell you? We saw Will Smith!