by Joan Armatrading that I used to sing to myself, 'Some days the bear will eat you,' and today was one of those days where I first ate the bear, then the bear guzzled me and finally I snacked on the bear. The day began with me finally discovering the garbage bins in the annexe of the Cite des Arts. Prior to today I had done a 'garbage run' to the main building, discovered bins apparently randomly in the courtyard and got up insanely early one morning to put my garbage in the bins just wheeled on to the street. This morning I met a man entering the lift with two garbage bags and had the presence of mind to ask him where he was putting them. He kindly took me down to the room where the bins are kept and told me which bin was for glass etc. and then showed me his favourite skip, because it was rarely full.
I can't really describe how grateful I was for this information. The kitchen here is small and because there's just something wrong about walking two shopping bags of garbage up the street in broad daylight, I have dreaded getting rid of it. I know it sounds ridiculous and I should have asked at reception - well, actually I did ask at reception but all I received from the charming young man who on that day was an apologetic shrug. He didn't know either! I'd also asked a maintenance man but his English was a match for my French and the word garbage had not appeared on either of our vocabulary lists.
After discovering the mystery of the garbage I returned to the studio to discover some very useful feedback about an anticipated project in my email. I was eating the bear!
Then I stepped outside to get some work printed - and promptly lost the keys to my studio. Quelle catastrophe! I searched my bag three times. I walked all over the Marais, retracing my steps. There were no keys. It was extremely odd that I hadn't heard them fall as they were attached to a long, bright orange led light, designed to be a) very visible and b) quite loud.
Before I continue with this story maybe I explain that I attended boarding school for four years and this quite possibly colours my attitude to rules. Or maybe it's being an only child? But whatever, I immediately grasp that the staff are going to be - not angry, but show disappointment. Disappointment is so much worse than anger. There is nothing I can do but confess because without the keys I can't get into my studio. It's a warm day and I also have cheese in my bag and tiny little bananas.
So I walk up rue de l'Hotel de Ville - walk up the covered walkway - and there's a man pissing in front of me. He's obviously one of the regulars who sleeps there. I detour around him and see that the man from the front desk is waving and shouting at the pissing guy and roundly abusing him. The reception desk man approaches still waving, apologises to me en passant and has a discussion with someone from the framing shop about what to do with the problem of men who piss in plain sight of everyone. I realise I can't get into the Cite because the gate's locked, so I go back and stand politely at a distance from the two men.
The pissing incident means that when I have to tell the front desk man that I have lost the precious keys, he's already a little unbalanced and that is in my favour. He doesn't yell at me. He does look disappointed but he tempers that and says, in a kindly manner in French, that these things happen. I am so grateful I could have kissed him but I refrained.
I do still have to face the administration on Monday when I will also have to pay for replacement and explain that I will be away four four days but I leave for the Shetlands very early in the morning (4.15 am to be exact) and how then am I going to leave the keys with reception, please? Given my track record they will probably want to avoid me taking them to another country, although I imagine in Lerwick they would have been handed into the pub by now!
Then I went to Shakespeare and Company to a weekly writer's workshop group. I had no idea what to expect but it turned out to be over fifteen people, not all of whom had work with them, ably led by an experienced facilitator who gave people time but also kept things moving. I had made copies of a poem I'd written while I was in Paris and I workshopped that. It was really interesting to hear what I think are cultural differences - the group was quite diverse and included an american slam poet, an english performance poet, an american prose writer and an indian prose writer (these were only the other writers who workshopped their work - there were french, swiss, american and dutch critiquers to name only the ones I spoke to. So there was a diversity of form, background and experience in the group as well, which made critiquing interesting and must have made the job of facilitator tricky although he was very relaxed while remaining very sharp.
I received some useful feedback about my poem - and it was a really good experience to be on the other end of workshopping. I'm always kind of chuffed to be a student again - it makes me think about my own role as an educator and how I better serve my students. It also makes me toe the line I teach creative creative students in workshop groups - don't argue! don't defend! listen, make notes of both the compliments and the constructive suggestions and remember, in the end, you are the owner of the work.
It was funny, too, receiving the copies back and having one person's advice contradicted by another reader. It made me remember how I always have to remind workshop groups to think about who in the workshop is on their wavelength - not that these people will always be complimentary, but that they will offer consistently useful advice.
I really enjoyed hearing the other work - probably especially the prose pieces as I've been reading short stories and think about prose poetry. After the workshop we had a drink at a bar and then headed down to the Seine for a picnic while the sun set. I snacked on the bear.
Postscript: The keys were found! Someone handed them in. Bless them!