Love Letters from the Gutter

The Pink Collection #6 - An Ode to France

It is gone! Was it you Button? Did you take it? Have your beautiful and tragic and deep eyes read my words? Seen a part of my soul I so stupidly hid during our two months together in London? If it was you then you've not replied, but it's only the second day and my hopes are alive and the world is buzzing again. Thinking sensibly I know it surely can't have been you... I mean, what kind of freak chance would that be? There's just something in the air which tells me there's magic blowing about and that maybe life is not quite ready to hang, draw and quarter me just yet. I hope you reply soon... It'd be awful if you didn't.

OH La France, Je t'aime!!! And I especially love this city. And I will tell you, Button,  I must, the things I observed this morning while taking a coffee at the Cactus Café in the Old City - the café you used to visit most days when you first arrived  and where the server remembers you and refers to you as 'the charming anglaise'. Well, sitting outside there this morning, three espressos down and a fourth balancing out the final effects of last nights whiskey, I suddenly realised I am in France... I mean real France. I am here and the streets look french, and the smells are french and the air is french. I sat there and watched as tables were laid out, as waiters dressed in classic black & white and sporting long pointed shoes arrived for work on rickety old bikes of strange colours, as the doors of an apartment building opened and a bucket of dirty mop water was slung out across the road, as the young street performers turned up and tuned up with pillow marks still across their faces and french sleep in their eyes. I understood that romance can really blossom here, that obsession can come by on the tail-end of a perfume and lead a man right from his table, down the road and off a bridge... just like that. And that same idiotic gesture of love can then turn a beautiful girl crazy, who chops here hair off and splits her top lip so she never has another life wasted over her again. And that's true Button, when a woman shaves her head it's usually because of some abuse she has suffered through love. Oh, this is the place alright... there's nowhere more perfect to be broken-hearted.

And in the people, Button, as I watched, I saw the tragedy that the french have, that longing for something which is ages old and sits on the face like a forgotten memory. You can be depressed and healthy in France... this is the great thing! You can be love-sick and suicidal and still be regarded as normal. Jean-Marc, one of the drunks who sings and pisses outside my hotel, he told me that even the doctors here take at least one day 'suicidal tendency' leave a year. He told me of his doctor who crawled out his surgery window and balanced on the ledge four storeys up, scribbling love notes across his prescription pad before ripping them to pieces and floating them down into the street below. Finally the police turned up with some decrepit looking transsexual prostitute who lured him back inside with the promise of taking him back. Everyone here is depressed by the complications of love: either what they've got and are terrified to lose, or what they had and couldn't keep, or what they need and cannot find. That's what I realized.  My sadness is healthy. I am chasing something because it means so goddamn much. And that's how I left the Cactus Café... feeling high on hope. Then I arrive here and my letter is gone! And I know, I knew, that today my life is going to change...

And so My Elusive Button, I leave you yet another letter, and I know I should be more patient and wait more days for a reply but I cannot help it. I am too excited and I want your eyes to read more of my words because thinking of that I feel like I am in your gaze.

Je t'embrasse,

An ode to the French...

     Enola Gray. XxxxX


  1. Fabulous as always... I think I should move to France.. I would be normal there.. On second thoughts mm probably wouldn't be xx

  2. Hiya Ruth, the french are great until you get to know them... and hen they're just the same as anyone else. They have their own qualities and human faults. So the observations from a café, from a man depressed and only in the country a month are probably not the definitive word on our gallic neighbours.

    As with anywhere, we bring the romance with us. If you're of that disposition you'll see beauty in Bognor Regis (even staring off the pier into a sea of raw sewage!)

    Love's not only blind, it also makes you see many things which just aren't there. XXX

  3. …as the doors of an apartment building opened and a bucket of dirty mop water was slung out across the road

    Someone who’s been to Paris twice told me this is common practice. And that Paris is one of the filthiest towns he’s ever seen, with lots of rats.

    When a woman shaves her head it's usually because of some abuse she has suffered through love

    Given the brilliant song she sang, I think this applies to Sinead O’Connor (though she said she was thinking of her mother when the tear dropped in the video)

    Sinead is also great because she tore up a picture of the Pope.

    I used to think the French were the last bastion of the left in Europe. Then came Sarkosy. It’s up to we Scots now. The reason The Scottish National Party destroyed the Labour party was because they had become The Tories Mark 2. And we don’t want to be part of the increasingly fascist UK.

    I wonder if Enola is Bi-Polar. I suspect this artificial high will end in a more realistic low.

    Though I like:

    My sadness is healthy

    If you have to be self-delusional then that’s the best delusion of all…

  4. "Love's not only blind, it also makes you see many things which just aren't there. "

    How true.

  5. By the way, I AM remembering that this is set in Lyons, not Paris.

    But I do keep thinking of Paris. Maybe you could distinguish Lyons in some way. Like if Paris is the London/New York of France, what would Lyons be? I don't have a sense of it. Is it a poorer Manchester/Liverpool type city or a nearby mini London like Brighton? (I know Brighton isn't that but it seems like that to me...)

  6. Hiya Joe,

    I've never been to Paris either so can't comment on its dirtiness or cleanliness... but it surprises me hearing that your friend says it's dirty. Lyon is a VERY clean city (even with the mop water). It was one of the very first things i noticed, and on returning back to London for a visit I was kinda shocked at how dirty London is compared to it.

    Things seem to work in France. From the transport to the health system, to the city. From what i see, in many ways, it is a far superior country to England (probably the UK). Streets here are swept and picked of litter daily, and hosed down at least once a week. So generally I've found France to be an extremely clean country.

    The left in France is killing itself... that's its problem. It is so split and so factionalized that it allows the right in through the backdoor. It was because of this a few years ago that the extreme right almost slipped into power! Jean Marie Le Pen (a wonderful personality, but a racist homophobic nazoid just the same). So the left should be in power here, and the mentality of the country (I think) is left leaning, but the vote is so split that they kill themselves in the elections.

    I sometimes join marches (just to see what's going on within them... who is within them). In a march not so long back I counted 17 different leftist parties, all marching against the same issue, all for the same causes, yet all fighting for the same votes come election time. That's what's happened here.

    The left has been broken up into separate issues and each party has taken one or two and runs with them. Of course the real victor is the right, and not just getting into power. There is another, much more subtle thing which is happening: the left is becoming fuzzy and indistinct. Due to all the personal and single issues people are supporting, they're beginning to lose sight of the left as anything bigger than the part of it they're involved in. It's going the same way as Britain where people join unions and vote for the conservatives! The left is not only splitting, it's becoming lost. And even with the huge scare of the extreme right almost coming to power, and Sarkozy being in power, they still can't seem to unite themselves under one party.


    (i'll answer second comment in just a little while)

  7. Hiya Gurney, yeah, love should be a class B drug... alongside LSD (just a little more potent).

    People in love shouldn't be allowed to:

    drive buses
    drink alcohol on top
    work dangerous machinary
    read the news
    forecast the weather
    go out
    get married


  8. That's always been the problem with the left, all the factionalising. Meanwhile the right ruthlessly suppress dissent and go for power.

    Yes I think it seems as though France is still to the left. I mean they're marching, as we in the UK are, against increasing the pension age, but they're starting from a much lower age. And the health care system is much cheaper. Though I bet they don't have Scotland's FREE prescriptions.

    At least we don't have the horrors of the US system, where you pay ($90?)just to see a doctor. Unthinkable over here.

  9. Hiya again Joe,

    The health care here is complicated, but the treatment itself (for everyone) is absolutely top class. It's not blanket prescribing of painkillers and anti-biotics here, you are looked after well. For example, you go to the doctor with a sprained arm, he will tell you it's sprained, blah blah, but just incase there is something more serious he'll also defer you to a nearby x-ray unit. You'll go there, bring the results back and on confirming it's just a sprain he'll prescribe as necessary. What you will get prescribed is everything from bandages to cream to painkillers. There is waste (most french families have a pharmacy of heir own of unused medication and plasters, cotton dabs, eye washes etc. But the treatment is intensive (and thats just for small things). Doctors here are also not under the ten minute per patient nonsense here. You don't feel you're annoying your doctor or adding to his stress by going to see him... even if it's just for a spot. My experience of the UK system is that it's antiquated, of a very low standard, and not very sympathetic to anything the patient has to say. Maybe in Scotland it's different?

    The down side of the french health service is that it's not free on point of service. It's not expensive (and is mostly fully reimbursed), but can still be a struggle for poor or problem families to have the initial funds to see the doctor and pay a percentage on some prescriptions. It's a public private system which works well and has made me rethink my stance towards such systems.


    Is Frances second city. Is four times smaller than Glasgow. Is over ten times smaller than London. Is more like a huge village. It's a feminine city with two rivers running through it. As a city it is twinned/sistered with Birmingham and Frankfurt. But actually, thinking of it as Paris is no bad way to imagine it (the Lyonnaise will kill me for saying that). If you were to drop Lyon somewhere in Paris it would fit in nicely as another borough. I think with each post of Love Letters I'll try and link to some pictures to give some idea of what the place is.


  10. So when I first started reading I started noting lines that I particularly liked so I could put them in the comment I'm leaving. But, by the time I was half through I realized if I kept it up I'd end up with the whole letter re-typed. HAHA!
    I'm in a really foul mood today (including but not limited to being pissed at the bf) and this made me feel world's better. You have really pegged the feelings of being in love, even if you may have already lost it. It's a real beauty.
    I'd really like to talk to you more about your ideas for a writers community/ website. It truly is something I am interested in trying to create in the next few years if the need still exists once I've gotten through enough school to know what I'm doing. Things are really starting to click in my creative project (after a brief moment of doubt) so soon I'll have something for you to see.

    (The Reset Kingdom. We own it.)
    D R .

  11. I'm not a great expert on the GPs here because I don't go to them that much (I tend to try to ignore things. And most times they go away). But they're good at referring you to specialists.

    If I ever got any real money I'd love to go private and say 'Test me for everything!'

    I'll imagine Lyon as a sort of village then. But NOT as Birmingham! Shudder...

  12. Hey ya Dr,

    I think that often the feeling of love is most intense just as we think we've lost it (or have definitely lost it). Then the beauty is cut through with sorrow and hurt and it's very raw. To express it we need just type out our tears.

    I'm a loyal person and i give myself to the extreme... i give my all to certain people. I don't hold back to protect myself. But that means I can get sorely hurt, and i have been. But I've also been tremendously loved, and have loved tremendously. The letters come as second nature... it's not the first time i've written them! haha

    The writers community thing is interesting and I really think just now we could have a unique group of people involved and people all on the brink of their own success. I've never been into movements as such, or movements like Bauhaus which kinda regulate expression. So I would like a community that is ruthlessly individual in its artistic thoughts but comes about more through respect and admiration and where we can not only learn from each other but also promote each other, link each other, etc etc and where by if one person manages to have success we can use that as a means to get everyone through the same door. There's so much we can do and it becomes very exciting. The more of us working together the more visible we all become... especially online. More than anything it is having a web of reputable links leading back to yourself... links which encourage people to visit, read, be apart of it and then pass the message on that something exciting is happening. BUT, i think it needs to be more exclusive than Sometimes They Don't Come Back. We just published anyone there, regardless of if it was any good or not. That's not the way to go, as for a proper community we need to be sure that any writer or artist that someone happens upon (that we are associated to), that their work is stuff we are proud to be alongside and endorse. In that way their work is also a great advertisement for our own.

    There really is a lot we can do with the correct group of people.

    We've spoken a bit about this kind of stuff before and so we both have quite a bit of knowledge of the others thoughts and ideas already. We'll mail each other about it.


    ps: BF troubles. Boys are trouble... look at us!

  13. (just back from Ft. Lauderdale).....It is so interesting what people see and draw from these letters. I can see the pillow marks on the street performers faces. You are such a visually descriptive person!

    BTW, Joe M. I pay just under $900.00 per month for decent medical insurance. Proving age does not have its privileges in the US; as it continues to go up every year. Stay where you are!

  14. Hiya Jim... hope you had a nice trip and welcome back.

    $900 a month for medical insurance? That seems insane. You could buy a new body for that! (an arm or leg at least.)

    A real strange thing I noticed over here. People pay a supplementary insurance in France (only around 30 euros a month) which covers certain medicines and treatments not fully covered by the state. Many go a lifetime of paying this charge and never actually being ill, and what i've noticed is that people are almost happy when something eventually goes wrong so as they can finally get their money worth in treaments and scans and full body xrays. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a small brain tumour at the base of his skull. It meant a major (life-saving) operation. And although he wasn't glad to be in that position there was still a part of him which seemed to enjoy the fact that all that money wasn't for nothing and that he could go through hospital brochures, and choose his doctors and his after care plan and recuperation house etc. There was a pleasure there that he had kinda won, as he calculated that the treatment costs would be something like 3 times the amount of what he had invested over the years. Maybe that was just his way to cope with the stress??? but i'm not sure as even before he was diagnosed he had began guessing all the probabilities of what the growth could be, even working out costs for each possibility:

    "Shane, you know, if it's brain cancer it'll cost hundreds of thousands!!! And theres a great hospital for this type of thing in the south... only 45% mortality rate!"

    He did survive and is now having some kind of surgery on his eyes... even hough there's nothing wrong with them, haha.


  15. Grouchy,your monthly $900 insurance is 75% of my net monthly salary - $1200 (for 20 hours work).

    Per month I pay $42 (£27) National Insurance, which is our medical insurance. 4% of net pay. Seems like a good deal.

    As in France everybody pays whether they're ill or not, but it's worth it to have the peace of mind that no matter what you need done it will be done. I hear American friends saying they have to stay in a horrible job because of its health insurance. You're all being terribly ripped off. Like you didn't know that!

  16. Here,...if its not the insurance companies, its the drug companies, and then the oil companies etc.... We are sooooo fucked by the special interest groups in DC. They hold so much power!

    In a hospital, it is not out of reality to be charged over $100.00 for two aspirin. (and you wonder why I'm grouchy)

    Shane, hurry with a new entree so I won't blow a gasket. ;p

  17. Hi again Jim, very briefly as I was just getting into my Jim-jams and going to bed, haha.

    $100 for 2 aspirin... this is where privatized health care does the opposite of what it's there for. It'd be interesting to see the average life expectancy in america between different income groups and gauge whether the care has reached a level of privatization where you can not only buy better health care but life. It's really sad if that's the case. My prediction is that it will not be long before there is some kind of major civil disturbance because of healthcare and insurance... and that there will be something like a hospital being taken at gunpoint and forced to carry out an emergency operation (if it's not already happened).

    New post...

    I was desperately trying to have one of the genre stories ready for tomorrow but (even though really nice in parts) it's got a little bogged down in the middle and is giving me some headaches. (And no, you can't flog me some aspirin for it!) So that'll probably be for friday now and tomorrow I'll post another letter. The genre post will be of the forensic detective who on seeing the crime scene suddenly comes down with amnesia. I think you'll like that one Jim. X

  18. Stick with anarchy, and you don't need to worry about left, right or centre.

    French medicine is usually good, IMHO, though paying for it can be a drama. The French spend a lot of their money on health. That, food and fashion. I suspect they have got their priorities slightly better-aligned than most!

    I sometimes drove lorries through Lyons a couple of decades ago: it was a really nice city for a stop-over. It certainly had a village-feel then. It is also situated at a kind of transport nexus, too.

    Class B love ... it's an interesting concept. I wonder if the French make it available on prescription?!

    Have a lovely day. G =]*

  19. Hiya Gurney, Oh I've been an anarchist but I asked one too many difficult questions and they booted me out in the street. My history with the Communist Party didn't end any better (and slightly more violently). So now my disinterest with the lot of it is my overall political stance. Rather than world views and huge agendas I now ally myself alongside anyone who'll chuck the bricks at fascists. I don't know what i am, but i do know what I'm not. It's easier like that.

    Yeah, that thing about lorries and Lyon... I've noticed that too and Lyon has become very industrialized on it's outskirts and I believe has the fastest growing economy in france. But I think it's always been a kind of stopping off point for travellers and commerce, and even evolved as it did because of it. History's not my thing but it does seem like a historical linking city from Marseilles in the south to Paris in the north. I think there's even some tale that Hannibal marched through here with 8 elephants. Well... lol

    Hope you're well Gurney... not too bad here. X


If you're here to write something malicious I thank you in advance for wasting your precious time on me. X