Paris et ma mère

My mother had absolutely made up her mind she did not need to replace her expired passport. “I’m not going anywhere, ever again,” she said defiantly. I took no notice, renewed the passport and booked a secret trip to Paris to prove a point. She was very cross when she found out, “I have not packed properly.” She reminded me of her great Aunt, who went to the smartest fashion house in London to buy a wardrobe of clothes, in order to go Paris to buy clothes.

We arrived, just the two of us, and no pesky children. We stayed in La Réserve, which used to be Monsieur Pierre Cardin’s private home, recently refurbished into a small, discreet hotel. There was no reception, you were simply whisked directly to your room.

The hotel was certainly not 5 stars, it was more like 500 stars, every possible detail had been thought of, and the French windows opened seductively onto tiny terraces, and the whole of Paris spilled out below you.

I spent a lot of time on the loo. It was such fun. The seat cover silently sprung up invitingly whenever you approached and the seat was heated. There was a control panel worthy of a NASA spacecraft, with lots of options, some more alarming than others: Pulse, Massage, Position, Front, Rear. I had forgotten how seriously the French take this.

The library really was a library, bookcase after bookcase where elderly gentlemen would turn crossly in their emerald green brocade tufted armchairs, to stare pointedly at you when you gossiped too loudly with your mother.

In the bar I was surprised not to find James Bond dressed in black tie ordering a Martini, shaken not stirred. The Parisian women who sat there sophisticated and smoldering certainly looked like they were waiting for him.

My mother and I dined alone in the formal dinning room. “Alors!” said the maître d’ with a flourish, as a micro mushroom burger with a Foie gras filling was placed before us unannounced. The poor waiter was appalled when we tried to reorganize the menu, could we not have the fresh almonds on the lobster and could the white peaches just be on the side? We confirmed everything he suspected about the British abroad. “They’ve mucked up the soufflé,” my mother whispered, “why would they put cold sorbet in the middle of it?”

I swam in the mornings in their pool, it was surrounded by sand stone pillars, clever flickering candles that weren’t really candles and luxurious cream silk curtains that were pulled closed to give you complete privacy. Did I need privacy? Maybe they thought I was swimming naked. Maybe the French only swim naked?

On the day we left my telephone rang, waking me up. Annoyed, I answered it. “Zis is your wake up call,” the voice said. “What wake up call?” I asked, looking at my watch. “I don’t need to be awake for another hour.” “Oh paarrrrdon, but your mother wanted to make sure you would be ready to leave on time.

On the train home I complained, “I really am a grown up now, I can manage my own time.”

“But darling, I can’t change my role just because you happen to be 48 years old,” she replied firmly, turning back to the window to watch the French countryside fly past.

14 thoughts on “Paris et ma mère”

  1. Not that you need anyone to say this, but you’re a darned good writer India. I love reading your work. Great story.

  2. What a lovely story. My mother died just 2 years ago and though she’d been to Europe she’d never been to Paris. I promised her we’d go just the two of us some day. Well some day never happened. So good of you to take her. You will cherish the memory forever.

  3. lovely post India! Very timely because I am reading your Mothers book ‘Daughter of the Empire’ and thoroughly enjoying it.

  4. The gift of storytelling has not skipped a generation, for you have a very
    unique way of drawing verbal pictures which your Mother also does so well.

  5. Cherish your mother while you still have her. She is right. You are still her little chick, so enjoy her. I would have laughed myself silly that my mother would have ordered a wake up call for me.

  6. Loved reading this…Reminded me of my late very-English mother-in-law who always complimented me because I wore leather gloves in winter and she– though she had lovely ones– always forgot hers at home. A bit of a role reversal, as it were.

  7. Thank you India. I travelled with my 82 year old Mother two years ago. She had always wanted to go to India and never had. We had a wonderful trip. It was magical. It had been over 30 years since we had traveled together. I hope your post inspires others to travel with their Mothers!

  8. I have a 21 year old and love to travel with her she is my best travel companion. We love the same things and talk, talk, talk!!!!! So, happy you two got away, not so easy with 5 children. xo Melissa

  9. You are indeed a great storyteller
    Please, meld them into a luscious novel, a la Hemingway or Fitzgerald…..
    :)

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