Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 11 March 2011

Plus ça change..

Once upon a time, if you went to a French post office to get stamps for postcards, you could find yourself in a queue to speak to a harassed desk clerk. So as a gesture to customer service they brought in handy machines, as they did in Britain and no doubt everywhere else, so you could get your own - later upgrading these to computer-generated labels for all the different values. Nowadays (so they must be thinking), who needs one or two stamps for postcards, when there's email and Facebook and the like? Instead, the self-service machines are for fancy functions, like recorded deliveries, registered post, money transfer and banking. If you're the type of Luddite who might want the odd stamp for a friend without Facebook (yes, they do exist), there's a Captain Peacock (or Mrs Slocombe) type of greeter who directs you to a queue for a desk clerk, who turns out to be rather harassed, having to show a willing but rather slow trainee the right drawer to hunt around in for a stamp, and how to operate the till to take the money for it - all in the name of customer service. No wonder I left my shopping behind there...

Not the greatest return to the City of Light; nor is the realisation that other changes are afoot. In the Marais, blandification through the arrival of more and more upmarket generic shops for toiletries, clothes, jewellery and accessories seems to be gathering pace - chic, pretty and unmemorable.

One particular favourite, a shop selling antique musical instruments, has gone. Still, that's the way of the world.

Not that these things are without a touch of imaginative frivolity that could only be French. How many opticians elsewhere have a window like this, for example?

Elsewhere, the impossibly pretentious Merci has decided that blue is the thing:

And the graffiti artists are as impenetrable as ever:

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