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Morrocan Feast chez Atelier Steiner

Since Grace is here it seemed like a good idea to have some people round for food but numbers grew so one of the guests, artist Adam Steiner, kindly said I could host the party at his atelier on rue de charonne in the Bastille. It's just beside our old I V Y gallery space on rue Keller and Whitey and I got to know Adam was thru showing his work there - he is a metal sculptor and also makes fantastic furniture and lamps. His atelier is an unbelievable Aladdin's cave. Deep underground is 100m² of workshop, kitchen, dining area, office, hanging out space and bar. Adam has lived in Paris now for over 20 years, he went to the Ecole des Beaux Arts and immersed himself in French culture. My favourite story about him is how he was absolutely outraged when someone cut the "point" of a piece of Brie at one of his parties. Terribly bad form. He is practically French unlike some of us.......The cave as we call it was abandonned when Adam discovered it and he moved in and renovated it entirely himself, it had dirt floor and was partly submerged under water in places.

There is always great ambient music playing through a sound system Ali-G would be proud of and his lamps and sculptures turn the place into a facinating place to explore. Every part of it tells a story and Adam's penchant for visiting auctions where companies who have gone bust flog the contents of their factories means there is a treasure trove of historical machinery, artefacts and a rare slice of industrial Paris disparu. "See that?" I got it for 15 euros, he says pointing to something that looks like it came from the early days of the industrial revolution. Don't ask me what it's for, I'm a girl. Another hunting ground is the vide-grenier (sort of car boot sale/massive garage sale - the best are held in the Paris suburbs. You can pick up all sorts of weird and wonderful equipment, clothes, bikes and the like at these events. Amongst the spider's webs and the old fake skulls in the bathroom (which just add to the ambience) are old workshop signs in French hanging crooked on the wall, every type of metalwork machinery you could ever imagine and some you couldn't, and a collection of highly original lamps and furniture. Nearly every item has a story and I never tire of poking my nose into this or that and coaxing Adam into giving me the object's history. He is my font of knowledge about Paris in general, , the history of the Bastille artisans where to get cheap art suppliesand anything else you'd ever need. I share his love for the immediate neighbourhood and we often

Adam is always busy with interesting commissions as well as his own work, one day he is making a cage for some beautiful solid metal birds, the next a wrought iron "Pandora's Box" to hold 200 kilo slice of the Berlin Wall for an expo in Korea. More about another (bigger piece) of the wall later..........

Having raided the Marche d'Aligre for the best fresh spring salades, halal chicken (it's mainly arab butchers), fresh herbs and spices and pain semoule/morrocan bread, it's time to get cooking. In my memory from Adam's dinners there is a huge industrial stove but when it comes to cooking there myself I realise I am having a dinner party for 8 in 2 hours and have only a gas bunsen burner to work with. No joke. Luckily Grace is helping and we concoct the feast in plenty of time. We shouldn't have worried, my boyfriend and his friend the Chilean guitarist Coque are coming and their watches run on South American time, they're about 1.5 hours late. Surrealist writer and artist Matt Rose comes by scooter and proves to be on great form. Also invited is a lecherous beast called Frederic who makes a bee line for Grace. Luckily she speaks great French and is canny enough to deflect his advances with her no-nonsense-dealt-with-the-likes-of-you before Irish charm. She was at school here for years as a young laydee and is well able to handle his advances. Her stories of life as part of an exceedingly bourgeois Parisian family are hilarious. The training must have stood her in good stead. Apparently they were sent on holiday with a tipsy great aunt who fed the kids of 7- 10 years old with strawberries, cider and little else for a week. Frederic is one of those men who think it's fun to have affairs and seem to want a medal for admitting they have a wife/girlfriend. Un-fucking-believable. "But don't you applaud my honesty for telling you I am married with two kids?" "Now come on Cheri, it's jolly decent of me to tell you - now shut up and let's get on with it............."
The chicken and haricots verts tagine goes down a treat and soon everyone is having a rare old time. The singing begins. Matt and Grace are in fine voice, Matt seems to be in a Muddy Waters kind of mood and Coque (you gotta pronounce this name "coke-ay") treats us to a virtuoso performance on his accoustic guitar. He does classical but eventually whatever it is any of us want to sing or hear. He is a great musician and has recorded and brought out a CD in his last port of call New York. I wish he would get off his arse and get himself some kind of artists visa because right now he cannot get any proper work with no papers.........c'est la vie. Coque, please launch that half finished website and try and promote yourself. He tells me he prefers composing music.........I guess I don't blame him.
It's finally time to go but not until Adam collars his guests for some manpower. Not sure now is the right time as we are all a little wobbly but we're taken to the other storage atelier down by the Faubourg St-Antoine and he asks if all 7 of us can help move a HUGE piece of the Berlin wall onto some supports a few feet away from where it's propped. Adam is working on this particular piece for another artist for this show in Korea. The Wall looks menacing and is emblazoned with a skull and cross bones in yellow and black graffiti. I'm sure this is a job for the men and stand well back. Adam's no chauvinist (well sometimes) - it is really going to take 7 people, the thing weighs a ton. Even more funny is that we are all told to make absolutely NO noise in case we wake the voisins, as the workshop is on the ground floor of a residential building in a beautiful Bastille greenery covered courtyard. What follows is a ridiculous Ealing comedy type struggle with 14 drunken hands gripping this piece of graffited mur de berlin and lumbering precariously towards the not so steady looking stilts. It's someone's artwork too and due in Korea at this show in a couple of weeks. What if we drop it? Of course all the men are "screeching" in stage whispers, "no this way" "move over" "DON'T let it go" "get out of hissss wayyyy" but the wall safely reaches it's resting spot. Thank God. We'd have lost feet rather than just toes if it had dropped. I'm struck by the enormity of the stone and just as it came to the crucial manouvering point I started pondering the weight vis a vis the massive significance of the fall of communism and the eastern bloc............I figure it's kind of like the story of Saint Christopher carrying Christ across the river and bearing the sins of the world on his shoulders. What a night.

Nomadic Nights - Choro treat

Last night I saw a fabulous concert at the Fondation Cartier's "nomadic nights" series www.fondation-cartier.fr This is a beautiful glass building which shows contemporary artists on the Blvd raspail in 6th arrond.. Their Nomadic Nights happen each Thursday throughout the Summer - usually dance, music or performance art. I have a "Cercles des Amies" card which allows me in for free - luckily - I feel happy to be in Paris and off to see a top class concert gratos. I invited my friend Stephanos Papadopoulos. He has come to Paris to carry on with his writing, he's a poet who’s been living in NYC and has already published one book. He's leaving for the summer, (it can't be that time already when tout le monde leave Paris........shit, it makes me restless) and we talk about how he's enjoyed living in the 9th near Montmartre.

He's rented his apartment out while he's away and says he'll let me take care of it next time, it was so much hassle. I'm sure one of my clients would have loved it. It's true, it can be quite stressful to organise these rentals if you're not used to the admin and the bank transfers etc. He takes my Bonapart Consulting business card to give to a writer friend Breyten Breytenbach whose daughter is coming to study in September. We agree to get together for our long planned but never materialised bike tour of the city when he comes back.

It must have been intuition but it turns out Stephanos is as big a music fan as me and is the perfect person to have asked to the concert. We talk about Rembetika music from Greece which I heard in Athens a few years ago and both of us love performance by trio maderia brasil - the choro music is new to both of us. We giggle how typical it is that the tres snob Fondation Cartier have Phillipe Starck type see-thru plastic chairs for the musicians. During the performance we're kind of shocked to hear the audience calling out to correct the musicians when they make grammatical errors in an introduction to a couple of their songs. My God - I guess it's just a cultural difference but it seems so god freakin' rude! The guy is doing his best to speak French and is already so totally talented but totally humble. I guess they don't feel it's insulting...........but really!

They could have gone on for hours and we'd still have loved it. One plays mandolin the other two guitars and the music and singing is beautiful. Time flys. Bruce Gilman says:

"Choro is not only the Brazilian music which is closest to European classical, it is the essentially Brazilian genre. Developing from European forms, African rhythms, and a classical spectrum of harmony that had been modified by the early masters, choro eventually acquired its own identity. Among all the styles that come from Brazil, it is the genre that speaks most of the Brazilian personality."

I'm definitley a new convert. It's a small venue too so it feels intimate and there is a magical feeling in the room. I've always had a soft spot for musicians and I ponder on how someone average looking (ok, like the bass player) can suddenly become (to me) a ragingly desirable prospect whilst cradling a guitar and coaxing a sweet melody from it. The musicians faces seem to soften and become calm and beautiful, like they were embracing a lover or a child in their arms instead of musical instrument.

It's late but I head to Gare du Nord to meet my friend Grace coming from London. I love the meeting point for Eurostar. It's a beautiful to see friends and lovers embracing and the sheer joy reverberating in the dirty old station - the best time for this is a late train coming in on a Friday night. I'd love to film this sometime and do some interviews. Of course there's also the haggard looking business people trundling along with their briefcases but at least they probably get to come bizness class. Small comfort for being a corporate whore I suppose.

We head to the Marais and get a bit tipsy drinking Rosé and catching up on our news. Chatelet was closer but after half an hour at a table outside the Cuban Bar beside Place Saint Opportune les drageurs (pick-up merchants) become pain in the ass. These guys won't stop hassling us to strike up a conversation, give them a cigarette - anything. Ignoring them doesn't work and telling them to piss off only excites their ardour. It's a slightly dodgy spot too close to Les Halles. We have to move to Le Chinon on rue des archives further inside the Marais, it's more fun here and exceedingly pretty amongst the hôtel particuliers (Marais mansion houses).

Grace comments on the male interest barometer here when the waiter cracks on to her and how different it is here to the UK. Yes, it was once a novelty for me too and kind of enjoyable a first but now this more "Latin" male attitude just gets on my nerves. I'll explore this another time.

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