03/04/11 -- Paris, France
There is a strangeness to learning how to lose someone that you already missed. How do you deal with grief and loss when you've gotten so used to living with the absence of loved ones? Right up until N. cried in front of me for the first time, I didn't really believe that he was gone. It felt untrue, like a badly-told story, like an infinitely cruel joke. But he's gone. And I'm not confronted with the shock of that every day because I've already been practicing missing him for eight and a half months.
05/04/11 -- Paris, France
I didn't notice last time how many cats there are in Pere Lachaise. Feral little things the lot of them, but oddly charming. There's one black one in particular that's been following me around the place. I'm sitting next to Oscar's tomb right now, and he [the cat] keeps peering around graves to watch me, disappearing for a bit, and then checking in again. It's almost like he wants me to follow him.
06/04/11 -- Auvers-sur-Oise, France
The song might be about Paris, but it feels like spring for the first time here. Everything is golden and bright, and flowers are blooming everywhere. I got up early this morning and caught the train here, changing at Pontoise where I basked in the sun for half an hour, soaking the heat into myself like a cat. The train ride here was charming, in a carriage I shared with a raucous group of boys on their way to school. When I walked out of the station onto the main street, the bells of the Eglise were chiming 10 in the morning, and I knew instantly, the way you do, that this was the right place for me to come.
On the hill about the Musée Daubigny (where Van Gogh lived and died), there is a concave cliff. It is clay-coloured, but wreathed in the green of the surrounding forest, and dotted with the reds and yellows of wildflowers. In a shelf set into the cliff near the top, there is a small white statue of the Virgin Mary.
(written on the train back to Paris) The last place I visited was the grave of Vincent and Théo. It's in a graveyard just outside the town, past the Eglise. It is not a famous Parisian graveyard; there are no markers on how to find certain of its inhabitants, and despite being clear of weeds the graves themselves are mostly badly upkept. I was the only one there. I have visited a lot of dead people here, and I do so again tomorrow in the Catacombs, but none of them have moved me like this. The brothers' grave is on the edge of the graveyard, and the simplest but strangely beautiful thing: two white headstones, and a thick patch of green ivy rather than stone. Even in death, even as one of the most famous and important painters of all time, Vincent is modest and practically uncelebrated. I stood at the foot of it for a long, long time, and cried.
08/04/11 -- on the bus ride back to London, primarily the Chunnel
Last night I drunkenly wandered the streets of Montmartre at 2am, looking for crepes. Paris, Paris, you will always hold a piece of my heart. Maybe one day I will even live inside you. For now, though, it's London that's home.