Spare us from brilliant ideas that are badly thought out. La Fille and I went to Paris Plage with a friend and her two daughters. I think having a summer "beach" on one of the city's main roads is a fine idea, even though I loathe sand. It's a poor substitute for those who cannot afford the real thing, but Paris Plage is infinitely better than cars. I go every year to support the idea. Every year I really want to give it my wholehearted, unqualified, no-buts support. Every year I am disappointed.
We thought it would be a good idea to take the girls for a swim in the open air pool but when we arrived we told it was only open to organised groups from organised clubs so we'd lugged bags of towels and costumes across town for nothing. Instead, we sat on the man-made beach and chatted while the girls threw sand onto the road and made castles that wouldn't stay up because the sand was silk fine and clean and untained by sea. "It's cleaner than most sandpits in Paris," remarked my friend. Then she spotted a cigarette butt and we mused at what kind of alien stubs out on a fake beach where children are playing.
We then set off down the promenade, wonderfully free of cars and exhaust fumes though not cyclists. I am a great fan of Bertrand Delanoe the Paris Mayor but he has one major blind spot in my view and that is he cannot see that homo sapiens cyclistus may be of the same genus but is certainly not the same species as homo sapiens pedestrianas. (I would put the former rather nearer the neanderthalensis branch, with occasional addition of helmet shaped growth on head, and the latter nearer to the larger brained homo erectus, if you were to ask.)
Dodging the two-wheeled neanderthals, we headed for a spot on the map that looked child friendly and found a handful of bright blue plastic tables surrounded by a dozen bright blue plastic chairs. No toys. No paper. No crayons or paints or even old newspapers. Nothing but blue plastic mini furniture. The two older girls sat down on the blue plastic chairs at one of the blue plastic tables. They stared at the blue plastic. They looked at each other, then jumped up and ran into the path of a speeding cyclist on the promenade who rang his bell and shouted in a Stone Age sort of way..
But what is really, really neanderthal, and I mean utterly bone-head, Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble par exellance is the idea of putting the children's lending library right next to a part of the river bank that has absolutely no barrier, no fencing, no wire, no chain, no concrete, no plastic, no impediment whatsoever to stop a child plopping straight into the Seine and drowning without even trying?
My friend had brought along a pushchair; that made three energetic children interested in books running around near a fast-flowing river, and a buggy between four adult arms. I leave you to work out the logistics and the stress factor.
Our attention was momentarily hijacked by a peroxide-blonde strolling up and down the promenade in a skimpy bikini. "Extraordinary", both my friend and I exclaimed at the same time. I wanted to say: "Excuse me, you know this really isn't St Tropez but a strip of city centre highway," but of course I didn't. I just stared. "Only in France," my friend added before I could.
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