In The Footsteps of Nick and Jena. Part Three. Citizen M.

by | Jan 14, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Citizen M is all a hotel should be. A real home from home but with enough novelty to keep one returning.

As we boarded the tiny Embraer 170 jet, I recalled forgetting, as usual, to check in online. My tardy actions left me with no seat choice . However, 7A was one of those orange seats you normally have to pay extra for, and a window seat to boot. The cherry on the aviation cake came when no one sat next to me.

This allowed me to look over the turning point in L’ Esprit. However, some necessary people-watching came first. An attractive young married woman I’d noticed at the gate, sat in the aisle seat before me. She was joined by a lad in his early twenties, about ten years her junior. He endeared himself to me by immediately reclining his seat. His new companion glanced around at me apologetically but did nothing. The young fella engaged her in conversation and she responded eagerly. I hated him even more now.

After a few introductory exchanges, however, he launched a monologue which would have downed the Titanic. Every word saw her sink lower into her seat. I felt a strange glow of satisfaction at my singularity. By the time we’d taken off, they were ignoring each other like an old married couple. The final blow to the youth came when she put on her headphones, to which he responded by putting up his hood.

As the plane levelled off and the warning lights were extinguished, I located the key part of the story where I’d deviated. For some reason, I’d spared the trio by making Lucien fall in love with a pregnant African woman. I decided that’s where I’d start. What I needed to do was immerse myself in the atmosphere and culture of the eighteenth arrondissement. Having booked myself into the Citizen M hotel at Charles de Gaulle, I’d given myself time to relax and plan ahead.

Originally, that involved retracing Nick and Jena’s steps from Gare de Lyon to Montmartre. I decided to change that and head into Château Rouge and the Goutte d’Or. This was where Lucien had his apartment and surgery. I wanted to improve the quality of description and characters in the first seventeen chapters.

Then I would take a train to Brittany and hang out in the beautiful port town of Morlaix. I missed it so much, being one of my favourite places in all of France. The flight was short, sweet and pleasant as I was absorbed in my plans. I couldn’t wait to get to my favourite bolt-hole a few hundred metres from the terminal two railway station.

Citizen M is all a hotel should be. A real home from home but with enough novelty to keep one returning. I deliberately book in here, even though I can be in Paris within half an hour of arriving at the airport.

I feel it gives me a relaxing way of slowly transitioning between the UK and France’s vibrant capital. It’s like being in a big family, surrounded by all the things you love. Friendly staff, beautiful decor, state of the art rooms and great food at reasonable prices. I can sit in the huge lounge, in a choice of locations and work in my favourite atmosphere. The following day, I can wake up refreshed to an incredible buffet breakfast and a ten minute stroll to the RER B train station.

I checked in by scanning my passport, chose my room and view, and validated my room key. I slipped the obligatory free drink token in my pocket for later. That pint of Affligem blond would be my welcome to France!

Sitting in the lounge, following a superb shower and a nap, I opened the laptop. I located the point of deviation and began to read.

***

The train announcement heralded Morlaix and Lucien gazed out of the window to see the beautiful Breton port town below. The train crossed the famous Morlaix viaduct which stretched between the steep sides of the valley in which the town is located. Despite being several kilometres from the sea, the place has a maritime feel to it , thanks to the tidal river which passes through.

This was the point at which the rewrite would start.

Lucien was greeted by André Plaurit, an ancient Hippy with snow white shoulder length hair, roughly scragged into a ponytail. His matching beard hung several centimetres from his chin and was stained yellow around one side of his mouth, from which poked the tiniest of cigarettes. His clothes were well worn, sixties, but clean. As he grabbed the cases from Lucien, he noticed the rough calloused hands of a grafter. André greeted the doctor with a string of Breton words which went straight over his head. Reverting to French, the ageing rocker repeated his greeting.

In the original story, André is in Mali rescuing more children when he is arrested for child trafficking. The French government denies any knowledge of his activities and their support for him. It is Christine who meets Lucien at the station. Pascal does not exist. Only the twins are at the mansion with Christine.

***

I began typing when I became aware of someone staring at me from the adjacent table. I looked up to see a woman from the Indian subcontinent, locking eyes with me. She made no attempt to look away and smiled demurely. Her pure white teeth were emphasised by her dark, glowing skin and showed through plump red lips. She wore designer horn-rimmed spectacles of the type that enhanced the beauty of the wearer, and boy, was she a beauty. The specs weren’t for show as with some young people; the lenses magnified her already huge moka eyes. Her nose was small but broad, giving her an almost African appearance rather than Asian.

“Mister Nick. Pleased to meet you.” Her West Bengal accent was unmistakable. She had repeated the words of my old landlord in exactly the same dialect. I couldn’t help but smile, which encouraged the exquisite siren to continue. “Are you writing the sequel? I’ve heard it’s called The Coin. Is it true? And is Jena real?”

I was overwhelmed by her questioning. Or was it her presence?

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    And so it begins.

    Reply

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