Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 10 November 2008

Till I dropped...

A grey and drizzly day, and a Monday, when most of the museums are closed. My exchange partner had mentioned that one of the buses from here goes all the way south of the river to near the Bon Marché department store. I'm not normally one for drifting round the shops for the sake of it (I make an exception for bookshops and the DIY basement at BHV, which is full of interesting examples of how the French do household things), but on a morning like this, doing the old lady thing seemed to be a sensible option.

The nearest bus stop is at the other end of the Rue de Babylone, which belies its name to be about as genteel as you could imagine, offering a glimpse of an interesting courtyard or two.

Bon MarchéArriving at Bon Marché, I saw why my guidebook says it's not only the oldest department store, it's considered the most chic. Even the tea-towels cost €16.50. Passing through the lighting department, I was struck (almost literally, it was hanging so low) by an Italian designer's sprightly take on a chandelier, ready-wrapped in a fibreglass web for that "Voilà! Instant Miss Havisham!" look - a snip at only €2910 (must be a bugger to dust). But the Christmas tree decorations department glittered, and in haberdashery you could probably find any sort of button you liked. I did buy a book (what else - and of course it's one of the season's priwewinners, though I might not get round to reading it till Easter, knowing me), and a coffee and a very nice cake in the basement café, but on the whole I find the world of people who fall for the glitz (or worse still, take it for granted) stifling.

Coming out, the narrow passage between road works was blocked by two young firemen inviting donations for their calendar. How could I refuse? It is of course the season - I've just been interrupted by a knock at the door by a representative of the binmen and roadsweepers, but I said to call back when my exchange partner returns. I always used to say you know you're getting on, not when the policemen look young, and not when they start calling you "Sir", but when you expect that as your proper due; but it was much more disconcerting that these firemen looked to be about 16.

As it happens, I know just the person it'd be a handy gift for, but now I needed a postal tube to keep it in good order. None for sale in the post office; the stationery shop they recommended only had them about four sizes too big. So I thought I'd look in BHV, since I was planning to visit the (free) exhibition on Jacques Prévert at the Hotel de Ville, which was open today. No, only huge ones there too, and a huge queue for the exhibition too. I ended up walking all the way to the Pompidou centre thinking that somewhere round there would have a better choice: no luck, huge is clearly this season's must-have (or rather, can't have anything else).

No, I'm not much of a shopper - except for the chocolate eclair I now felt entitled to.

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