I looked at my blog plan this morning and saw the title ‘The Best Tarte Tatin in Paris’ but following the attack at Charlie Hebdo today it doesn’t feel appropriate to write about apple tart. I’ll write that one another day.
Followers of my blog will know that I usually write about the history of Paris. I write about French vocab. I write about my attempts to get my novel published. I’m not a controversial blogger and I don’t write about politics – not because I’m afraid of them, they just aren’t my area.
So then I thought that maybe I wouldn’t write anything. Maybe it would be inappropriate to write about Paris at all today.
But it would be inappropriate to not write tonight.
I write about Paris because I love it. I love Paris and I’m not ashamed to say so.
I love Paris because it is resilient. It is a strong city that has overcome some of Europe’s bloodiest wars and grown into a glorious city of peace. I never once experienced homophobia in Paris and, moving there at 18 from a small northern English town, this was a revelation. I remember being a student and having after-dark dinner parties with Muslim friends during Ramadan and thinking what an amazing and diverse place it was. Of course, like every major city, there are problems with integration, poverty, crime and, sadly, extremism. Nobody could claim Paris is perfect but there isn’t a city in the world that could make that claim.
I love Parisians. I love how they speak their mind. I love going to a café and hearing the owner having an argument with a chef and not caring at all that customers can hear. I love that people tut and grumble at each other in the metro. I love how unapologetic they are for their opinions. In London, everything is prefaced with ‘sorry’. ‘Sorry, is that seat free?’ ‘Sorry, can I get past?’ There are fewer sorries in Paris.
I love how Parisians protest. How they stand out in the street in the rain, sun, sleet and snow and demand that their government follow their wishes. I don’t agree with everything they ask for of course – the anti-gay marriage protests had my blood boiling like nothing else. But they’re out there at least, campaigning for what they believe in, unafraid to speak their minds. Unafraid to express themselves. They know it is their right to do so.
So when I read the news reports this afternoon I was deeply saddened. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attempt to suppress the freedom of expression that makes Paris and Parisians who they are. It’s an attack on everybody’s freedom. It is made doubly sad by being a senseless taking of life that is deplorable and thoroughly unjustifiable.
If I were still living in Paris you would have found me on Place de la Republique this evening. Instead I joined the crowds gathered on Trafalgar Square and held a pen in the air in solidarity with the city I love and in memory of those who lost their lives so tragically this afternoon.
It is a sad day but Paris is strong. JE SUIS CHARLIE.