I’m not sure if I told you all that I was in Paris with my darling friend Penny recently. Paris was everything it should be; French, romantic, iconic and just lovely. We wandered the streets of Belleville like locals (until they started speaking French to us, that caught us out quick smart!!), dined on Steak and frites overlooking Saint Martins canals, lined up for Falafels in the Jewish district (not even joking it was the BEST falafel of my life! See L’As Du Fallafel), watched people watching people from a café in Montmarte , avoided the gypsies and the pigeon man in front of the Lourve and enjoyed a moment of tranquility listening to the angelic sounds of the nun’s of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (personal highlight and insiders tip for those reading at home!!).
Although those things are very excellent, one of the standouts of the weekend for me was a little conversation with a stranger. While sitting in the sunshine for breakfast at a café on the banks of the Seine overlooking the Notre Dame (that itself is pretty standout, but keep reading!!). He was a ‘real, proper Parisian’, which If you have been, you will know in Paris are just as difficult to find as a ‘real proper Londoner’ in London, especially in the tourist districts. He was quietly enjoying a Sunday morning coffee and cake while tap tap tapping away on his laptop next to us. Penny and I were deep in a conversation about goodness knows what ** while I munched on my croissant and sipped my macchiato, I looked over to see a bee on his cake. I instantly reacted by letting him know of his invader and nearly shooed it away by instinct. He just calmly said (in his perfect French accent!) ‘oh yes, but she is ok there. I can share with her, she wont eat much and it wont hurt me!’
I was really taken back by what he said and it was a great reminder to be tolerant, patient and calm. Although it was a bee, the same should apply to people. Sometimes we react defensively or selfishly out of instinct or self-protection when actually what they are doing will not hurt us at all. Sure you cannot let people just do whatever they want at cost to yourself, but if you are capable of giving kindness and gentleness to people, especially when they don’t deserve it, you will be better off because of it, it wont hurt you and it might just make a difference to them.
I can on occasions be a little hot headed (I hear you all gasp!) and as such, I am not necessarily always the best at this. Sure I will do what I can to squish in a little closer to the other commuters on the tube so that one more person can get home two minutes faster (and I feel like Mother Theresa herself !) and I try to spend time to be understanding and let things go when somebody has done something that may initially upset me, however I will also get irritated at having to dodge the tourists on London Bridge on my walk home and will be sure to make it known if my place in a line gets taken by a queue jumper (thank you very much Mr in line at Nero’s on Sunday!!). In reality, it doesn’t hurt me to just wait a few more minutes or in the case of the tourists, I should be letting them remind me that I live in a pretty epic city and I should take a leaf out of their book and slow down or even stop to admire the view of Tower Bridge for just a moment, instead of trying to beat my personal best time at getting home so I can cook myself dinner and spend time on my couch.
This was the other thing I admired about this guy. He was still in love with his city. He was out enjoying it, despite having lived there a while. He was proud of it and wanted to tell me exactly why he thought it was so great. We talked for some time over our coffee and I took a lot more than the fact that they have bee hives on the roof of the Notre Dame in the 30 minutes spent chatting to this lovely Parisian and I have already used this little interaction as a mental reminder to offer kindness and understanding rather than anger.
** The deep conversation was the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ .. one of my favourite ways to get to know more about a person!