Writers’ Group

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Writers’ Group

I was so close to not going. So close.

We spent the afternoon in Paris, taking a boat ride along the Seine. We’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time and finally decided, yesterday morning, that this gorgeous sunny day would be perfect for it.

But first stop: Lunch.

And then we had to take a bus to the embarkation point of the boat. This is the first bus trip Louis has been on since he became fixated with buses. Was very cute. He said ‘Bus’ a lot.

Unfortunately he was quite tired by the time we got on the boat and toward the end we were expecting a melt-down, but Luuk distracted him, wandering around the top deck.

The boat ride was great for viewing bridges, and the Eiffel tower, but it was easy to miss a lot of the other stuff we passed.

The boat took us up the river, around both Islands, and then back again, and down past the Eiffel tower. I had Elena in the sling, as usual when tripping around Paris, and covered with a muslin against the sun and wind.

She woke up about two thirds of the way through the boat-ride. I fed her where we sat, on top of the boat – her first boat ride, now that I think about it.

Afterwards she was all smiley and charming. Our neighbours missed some great Paris sights because they were making eyes at her. But can you blame them?

We got off the boat and realised the time – ten minutes till writers’ group started… a fifteen minute bus-ride away.

I was ready to give it up. My phone battery had all-but-died and I had a bit of a headache. Louis had been grizzly, and Luuk would have to take them both, on his own, all the way back to Antony.

I didn’t say anything and neither did Luuk until we got off the bus. He started putting on the sling, ready to take Elena, and he gave me directions to the writers’ group venue (my phone being unusable at this point, Luuk had looked it up). A few minutes walk later I was there, outside the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop.

And so, thanks to Luuk, I went.

The group meets upstairs in the bookshop, but I’d never been before and didn’t know where exactly. This bookshop is like something out of a dream – narrow and tall, books upon books, every surface, every wall, shelves and tables and chests.

I moseyed up, not seeing anyone official-looking and available to give me directions. So I just followed my nose and voila: at the top of a narrow staircase and through a couple of doors, there sat a group of about ten people, hunched over double-spaced pages of someone’s short story, taking turns to make thoughtful comments and critique.

I was late. There was a sign in the doorway telling me “if we’ve already begun please feel free to ask to join in”, or something to that effect. And so I waited for a pause and did just that.

After the short story we did a poem, then another short story, a poem, and the opening chapter of a novel. Each piece was read by its author and then people gave their feedback.

There wasn’t time to read everyone’s work. Two pieces went to the top of the list for next Saturday.

A couple of people arrived after me, so that was nice. I didn’t feel totally rude.

At seven we finished and went for a drink – initally at Cafe des Artistes, where we enjoyed the cheapest pint in Paris. Only 3€. And not bad at all (not that I’m much of a beer connoisseur). We later joined some of the others on the banks of the Seine, picnicked on baguette and cheese and hummus, and talked. A few were still looking at writing, but most just seemed to be chatting, hanging out, relaxing.

The whole area was dotted with group after group of people with a bottle of this or that, some snacks or dinner, spread out on the stones. There were a handful of stalls (food, clothes, Paris paraphernalia) and someone playing music.

I left around dusk, gutted my phone didn’t have enough juice to take a photo. From where I was sitting I could see Ile St Louis and Notre Dame.

And I was all on my own, in Paris – first time. It was a real treat, a perfect evening.

I went home, wary of what I might find, but Luuk had things totally under control. He was tired, and the kids hadn’t been so cooperative as to sleep at the same time, giving Luuk enough time to both make and eat his dinner in peace, but everyone was fine.

When I got in both babies were asleep and Luuk was sprawled on the couch watching the French basketball team get beaten by the Americans.