The cafe du coin where they lost my keys, remember, has become my number one cafe of choice: my QG (HQ) and a.m. office.
At the moment, I'm there almost every morning. I'm the one in the corner with the portable (laptop) trying to look inconspicuous during the breakfast rush.
Paris is an inside-out city where apartments are so tiny that you have to go out to have breakfast. And, when you do, it's a social occasion. It's a party.
And what do Parisians do at a party? They like to argue.
The bar's already crowded. A group of mecs (guys) stack their moto-helmets on the bar, and begin earnestly discussing the pouvoir d'achat (cost of living). This is the French equivalant of an English conversation about house prices - and if you're from the UK you'll know exactly the level of detail this implies. What are they saying? Apparently the essential foodstuff by which the rise in grocery prices is measured is natuaral yoghurt (hausse choquant do 40% - 40% shock price rise!). Natural yoghurt - a dietary staple? Only in France.
So I go in and sit a little away from the bar (all those bodies block the WIFI signal, right?) and order my café andtartine - a skinny ficelle baguette with a thick central vein of butter that melts on contact with coffee. They bring it with a large and necessary carafe of water to let down the caffine.
Outside the window neat mamans and mamies take their children to school, impeccably turned out in little quilted jackets. One mamie is leading her charges on a micro-scooter. They run behind. No-one laughs. Micro scooters in Paris are just another way of getting around, like - erm - rollerskates, and another way that the French take seriously what the rest of the world consigns to the playground...
There's an old French guy the bar. He's wearing a hat. He's talking to everyone. Is he a regular, which makes this bar a kind of Paris equivalent of Cheers, or is he just a little dingue (crazy)?
I order another coffee.
Vous etes Anglaise? He asks me.
So you must like football? (Donc vous aimez le foot?) He indicates the screen in the corner which is showing a report on last night's game.
Euh (Yes, I really had a go at making this essentially French sound)...Assez bien - mais je ne le suis pas. (it's ok but I don't follow it)
This is a big lie. I have no interest in football. I'm just being typically, Englishly, aquiescent. No wonder the French think we're slippy. If I can't even say out loud that I don't like football in a no-pressure situation, what hope is there for my nation?
Ah! - vous n'etes pas une vrai Anglaise! (You're not really English) he says with satisfaction, and goes back to asticot-ing (needling) two women at the bar about their non-arriving breakfast dates.
About half an hour later, he turns back to me.
Vous aimez le biere?
(What? Are you offering me one? It's 9am.): Oui - erm - je l'aime.
Actually this it not strictly true either. My answer to question 1 would fit it better; I like it ok.
Old French man with hat: (looking crafty) Ah - Donc vous etes une Anglaise - un vrai! (So you're really English after all).
Happy, he goes back to his own morning demi. I go back, a little disquieted, to my cafe and computer. He's right: I am so English. Just maybe not the sort of English he was expecting.
*Le Roi du Cafe - The king of the cafe