Walking through the streets of Paris today everything felt just so… Parisian. I was trying to capture just what made it that way – the wide pavements, the tree-lined avenues, the way the café tables spill out onto the street maybe. But mostly the people. It had been a long time I hadn’t heard a real Parisian accent, that I hadn’t been served by such a brusque waiter, that I hadn’t watched middle-aged women riding bicycles through town and managing to look chic and proper at the same time. No one stared at me or wanted to tease information out of me. Everyone was busy with their own business. The neighbourhood had forgotten all about me – all except the Egyptian concierge who greeted me like an old friend.
Ever since I’ve been accompanied by a baby out and about, everyone in Beirut stops to coo over her, kiss her, marvel over her sling. They always have advice to share on what the baby should be wearing, convinced she’s hot, cold or hungry. As another expat mum pointed out so well, they cluck at her not wearing a hat though no one bats an eyelid when whole families take their babies for a ride on a single moped without a helmet between them.
Waiting for the little green man at the zebra, along with those preoccupied Parisians, I was contemplating the individualism of the West when a lady interrupted my thoughts to warn us that the sun was now shining right into my pushchair. Surprised at her concern, I thanked her and as she strode off with friends, lo and behold she began speaking Lebanese.