Monday, 25 March 2013

Le Havre, and what I did there. (Part 1)

My release has just been sent; you will hear no more on this subject until I know more. Promise.

And so to Le Havre. A small town on the coast which can be described simply as "grey." The beach is grey rocks under a grey sky while grey buildings stretch into the distance. But if you know me - and being a reader of this blog I like to think you do - you know that I despise simplistic descriptions.

Le Havre is filled with colour, from splashes in windows to the fragments of smooth, frosted glass that glitter on the beach. The people are colourful too; a large Algerian population means that berets jostle alongside hijabs and the market traders switch fluidly from French to Arabic. It's wonderful to listen to and realise that wherever one goes in the world, all market traders are the same: vocal, cheeky, and willing to say anything to entice you to buy. It's as though there's a global network of training schools, or a manual that's been translated worldwide.


I started the day with Kate, my uni chum, whom you saw yesterday. She is a continual fountain of giggles and happiness and so dear to me that I cannot do it justice here. She lights up every room she finds herself in, and not in an arsonist kind of way. In the way that lights do.

She was kind enough to show me all around the town. We saw the Hôtel de Ville, which translates as the Town Hall (or as near as possible) as well as various other little bits and pieces, including a couple of sculptures of birds:



Birds are a continual fascination for me, because flight still strikes me as the most beautiful and perfect way to travel, even as I grouch and growl at the fact that a trip to the US will take 9 hours. Birds have an exquisite and exclusive kind of freedom. It is to be envied by all of us who are earthbound.

We also saw the beach and took a stroll along it. Mist blanketed the sea, and from it came the call of huge ships, their deep, booming horns scattering the little yachts that flocked around the shore. One appeared suddenly from the whiteness. It was unsettling; one moment there was an unbroken wall of mist and the next a huge shape coalesced out of it. We sat a moment and then struggled up and made our way towards the town again. With aching legs we decided to take the tram. It is a thing of beauty, all sleek lines and near-silent humming. Edinburgh could learn something.

Kate and I settled for a lazy movie and we put on Les Intouchables, which has been translated into English as The Intouchables, which I feel is a lazy translation. Of course it is only me, but I would have preferred The Untouchables. Merely a letter, but for me it changes the meaning a little.

As I said yesterday, it is a wonderful film and I highly recommend it. Omar Sy in particular is fantastic; keep an eye out for him in upcoming weird-fest L'Ecume des Jours (Froth on a Daydream). Until then, however, you'll have to keep reading this. At about 5 Mary dropped by with her brother in tow and invited us back to her room for Jello shots.

I have never had Jello shots before, and if I am very lucky I will never have them again.

We headed out for a bite to eat to a Macdonald's; Peter, Mary's brother, wanted to find out if we did things differently over here - and I confess after those Texans had commented on it, I was curious too. We ate and chatted (the conclusion, by the way, was that the burgers are the same but the sauce is seriously disappointing) and then strolled gently back. Peter is a really funny guy, and it's nice that in Le Havre everything is so close.

I should mention that if you point a camera at Peter, he cannot help but pull a very strange face. I have no idea why. He is a handsome and charming man, and yet point a camera at him and he cannot help himself.

I am certain that he is already a great actor and that one day he will be a famous one too.

We got back, we went on Youtube. Kate and I shared British comedians with Mary and Peter, and in between those moments we shared stories of horrific injuries - Peter's catalogue of broken bones and torn ligaments are a story all of themselves - and before long it was 2am. I had planned on taking a train at 8pm. Having missed it by quite a margin, I spent the night in Le Havre.

And, in fact, most of the next day.