A Bit of a Dead Day:

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

…the bones of millions of souls stop the city from collapsing in on itself.

Please excuse the pun, but sometimes it’s good to avoid the living of Paris and visit the dead. Yesterday was the day we did just that. After all, the city of today is built on the foundations of the dead; literally and metaphorically.

In the literal sense, one needs to explore the Catacombs of Paris. In this maze of tunnels twenty metres, one hundred and thirty on steps below Paris, the bones of millions of souls stop the city from collapsing in on itself.

Metaphorically, the blood sweat and tears which has long soaked into the rich mineral heart of Paris created the manic entity we experience today. As you stand in one of the two queues, one on the quarter and the other one the half hour, you don’t know what to expect. Armed with a few strange pictures from Wikipedia or Google, mainly of bones, nothing prepares you for the experience.

What seems like a spooky trip to IKEA but with bones instead of fancy silicone egg whiskers, you weave your way through fifteen zones. Each one is accompanied by an audio guide delivered by the bloke who does the safety announcement on the aeroplane.

On the other extreme is the Cemetery of Pere Lachaise. I made my sixth visit to this “City of the Dead”. In order to give Joe his first. We ran into the hero of my story of two years ago.

We met the likes of Chopin, Wilde and Proust as well as the great and good whose genius and privilege brought them here. In death, like life in Paris there were extremes. Here, you were carefully laid to rest in a stone mausoleum carved from rock taken from beneath the city. In the other place, you were unceremoniously dumped in an open mass grave. Then, a hundred years later, your bones would be dug up to fill the voids left by that stone. If you were lucky, your femur or even your skull would be exposed to the gasps of Spanish or Italian tourists.

Returning to the centre of Paris in the evening, I realised that nothing had changed. It was just the same as it had always been. Only technology had replaced the lifeblood of the masses, allowing those masses to occupy the crowded cafés on each street corner, propped up by their ancestors.

Finally, I was left with a thought. Two years ago, I was lying in a sleeping bag in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert. I thought about how tiny and trivial life is on this planet, as I stared up at the millions of stars, like our own Sun. I’d had that very same feeling twenty metres below the streets of Paris.

One life – Live it!

Part Four and a mishap for our literary hero…

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