A hot spicy afternoon in Paris
In the early 70s I was invited to Sousse by a young Tunisian colleague at the London Hilton, called Chelly. He suggested I book a double room while he would stay with his mother in the Medina. He thought he was getting a cheap deal until he discovered, after I had booked on a cheap package holiday, that Tunisians could not travel at the same cheap rate as us Brits and that he would be fined by Air Tunis for the difference on arrival. Naturally he cancelled, leaving me high and dry. Guilty, he gave me gifts to take to his mother with a letter of introduction and more gifts for his 2 brothers, one rich, living in Tunis and the other a poor dolmush driver. A mishmash of class structure with his mother, I was to discover on arrival, eating Couscous on the floor.
Eventually I was invited by the generous rich brother, Ali, to stay a couple of nights at his home. I was thence driven to the hilly tourist village of Sidi Bou Said where I fell in love with the famous birdcages that were for sale everywhere and di rigeur in the 70s.
While haggling for a good price, I encountered a Jewish Tunisian couple from Paris, originally from Tunis and back to visit his parents who had never emigrated. Madame, being nosey, wanted to know the name of the family I was staying with. On hearing the name Chelly, she turned to Andre, her husband, proclaiming it was not a Jewish name! Well why would it be?
I excitedly said to businessman that I would love to return to the enchanting city of lights and could I look him up as I knew no one to show me the sites? ‘Mais oui’ said he, proffering his business card stating he was an Agent Immobilier.
A few years later I came to live in Paris in 1977 through Happenstance having kept Andre’s precious visiting card carefully in my Paris box, put aside for a rainy day.
I rang the man even though I could hardly recall his facial features, only that he had middle age spread and a pot belly. Frankly he was amazed and perhaps had no idea who I was. He told me to come to his office in the business area of Faubourg Montmartre in the 9em. I had visions of him inviting me to a North African restaurant for a good Couscous and then driving me around Paris. I was young and gauche back then. Little did I suspect what he had in mind for his just desserts!
I found his office with difficulty. It was down a dark sinuous passage. A naked lamp bulb hung over his desk, housing a stack of papers in two piles. He was dressed in a dark grey suit, a pressed white starched shirt with a loud stripped tie, smoking a huge Havana. Shaking my hand warmly, he snapped his fingers and a genie appeared magically. Andre ordered him to bring the car round to the front saying he would return in a few hours.
We got into his large chic shiny silver Mercedes with burgundy leather seating that smelt of style and quality. He drove a few yards and stopped in front of a merguez sandwich stand in the busy street. Rolling down the window he beckoned the seller over, ordering in Arabic, 2 enormous baguettes stuffed with sausages. That was lunch? Did I not merit more?
The car purred slowly to its destination or should I say to Andre’s chosen destination. A part furnished apartment in an expensive gated block with a big double bed in the chic Ile Saint Louis. Silently he took 2 plates down from the glass streamlined cupboard, placing the wrapped baguettes on each, saying ‘Mange!’ I had never experienced a merguez before. I took one bite into the spicy sausage and screamed for water almost falling off my chair. Mon Dieu I was in culture shock. He was in orgasmic heaven.
I ate nothing. Andre was satisfied with his lunch and then I saw a familiar glint in his eye as he mentally undressed me. Sex was on his mind. An afternoon fuck his wife would never know about. Of course he presumed that was what I wanted and needed! I was lucky he didn’t rape me but after I had told him I was a respectable Jewish girl from Liverpool and not looking for a quick fuck, he became quite paternal and asked me if I really wanted to see the Paris sites.
Mais oui and so we purred away. Moi, starving but Andre, a satisfied and beamused cunning successful Havana smoking businessman and man of the world, took great pride showing me some of the key points of his adopted city. Paris.
We, bien sur, never met again nor have I tasted a merguez since!
Written in Culture Rapide, Belleville, Paris on 13.9.18.