In Belgium there is a statue of a small child pissing. It is, I believe, called The Pissing Boy. It is, I’m told, not a grubby, weird thing, but a cheeky aside, a thumbing of the little willy to the earnest seriousness of our modern world.
In Paris, outside the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre metro stop was a man. He was pissing. Fully clothed, just at the top of the steps, into the gutter. It looked to me as if he lived there, or at the very least spent a lot of his day there. No one paid him much mind and I did my very best “ooh, look over there A CAR! IT’S BLUE!” Of course, all this did was turn on my children’s highly tuned What doesn’t he want us to see? Sensors. It did, at least, give rise to a teachable moment as we were able to have a discussion about homelessness and why some people might be homeless and others “like us” aren’t. I did my best, fellow bleeding heart liberals, I did my best and maybe one day we’ll deal with it better than we do now. Still, a Parisian Penis at 10 am was not how I intended starting the day.
Sightseeing is all about keeping your eyes open for the little things. Yeah, you’ll see all the big stuff, but paying attention to the everyday is always a good idea. Had I been paying attention I might have noticed that the cute looking cafe we chose for breakfast was opposite a shop called Dior. Diagonally opposite the Dior shop was another fancy looking outlet called Jimmy Choo and the shop opposite that one was called Chanel. I hadn’t checked the menu yet, but when I did the first thing I noticed was the lack of prices. I began noticing more and more and more – in fact, my highly tuned HOW MUCH? sensor was melting. It turns out that a Pain au raisin the size of a £2 coin was €6 and a café American was (Dad, look away now) €15. Great service mind you, and the staff called Toby ‘Une Petit Monsoir” which was cute.
In an irony not unnoticed as I was inside pissing money up the wall a man was outside literally pissing in the street. Funny old world.
We went to the science-y museum Cité des Sciences et de de l’Industrie – much of which was in French, but plenty in English too (FOR SHAME!). Lots of interactive stuff to play with and a nice break from the “ooh, la la, look at that expensive bit of marble/oil on canvas.” “No, I Don’t know why it’s so expensive” “no, no one decides exactly how much it’s worth” No darling, the post card isn’t worth the same” “No darling, no” “Here darling, have a mint to suck”
The Musee d’Orsay is a on object lesson in maybe we’re not that bad at stuff in good old Blighty after all. A train station that was built too short for the trains is now an art gallery. Beautiful really. You could spend all day here – you could do it in 45 minutes (once you’ve queued that is, even with the museum pass we waited a good 45 minutes to get in). Naturally, the d’Orsay is worth a visit whatever, but this was a personal journey too. Niamh and I like Monet. Not in any meaningful understanding of what art is or what part it plays in the human condition way, just a shared appreciation of some paintings wot we like. Here, in the d’Orsay we looked at the ACTUAL poppies and that one with the lady with a parasol. We also saw the van Gogh self portrait, and what I called “the unmade bed” before realising what an artistic monkey I was. “Not the unmade bed!” I exclaimed “Eminem did that one I think, second album” I said with Dad joke mode turned up past 11 to cover my shame. Still, a moment of pure shared joy in the gallery on the 5th floor of the d’Orsay and some rip roaring dad jokes on the 2nd. Fun times.