The man in the Paris café

Recently I came across a photograph that had been pinned in some kind of headlock upside down in an overpopulated kitchen drawer. Perhaps unsurprisingly (though in fact I was quite surprised by the whole procedings) the photograph was of myself .... sipping a glass of Pinoit Noir in a Paris street café.

Finding yourself in such a manner allows for reflection .... for self rediscovery ... possibly even for self evaluation.

The man in the café is wearing a hat. A summer trilby-like straw affair that clearly makes some kind of statement, though I'm not sure what it's saying. Apart from a cream linen jacket everything he is wearing is black. Black jeans, black amnesty international t-shirt, black moccasins. That's another statement, but psychologists differ on the nature of its subtext.

He's reading David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas". Now there's a book and a half. (From other research I know that he also loves "Black Swan Green" and indeed every other David Mitchell book, not to mention pretty much all of Haruki Murakami, Douglas Coupland and Jonathan Saffran Foer and has not been disillusioned by the so called James Frey revelations, but to move beyond the scope of the photo is perhaps to take liberties with the process here)

The face shows traces of the resigned cynicism that comes with age - he was 52 then, back in May 2005 - though his eyes are sparkling in a way that could suggest that one too many glasses of the Pinoit might have been consumed on that Paris café afternoon. Or maybe the book is creating it's own magic, and the wine is merely enhancement.

He looks what he is - as Joni Mitchell once so wonderfully described it - "A free man in Paris, unfettered and alive, nobody asking me any questions, nobody's future to decide". Sans staff, sans office, sans clients, sans all the trappings with which he uneasily coexists during the working year. By his side is his notebook. Somewhere in his brain sits the germ of a possibility that one day might become an idea that grows into a story that forms the basis of a book that could live in the house that......anyway, enough of such frivolity.

His wife is not in the photograph. Shopping as I remember. Interestingly they have learned to live apart often .... as she works and lives in Belfast, whilst he plys his profession in Dublin. Weekends and holidays provide the opoportunity to develop and grow the intimacy of body and spirit that have nurtured a 30 year relationship.... no wonder there's a contented smile on his face.

His children love this photo; this copy is the last one left in his home. The doctor, the sociology lecturer and the er...herbalist all know this man well. They are his friends. His confidantes. He has known them since they were tiny.

Closing my eyes I return there. Back to the café and the smoky jazz club, the gallery afternoons and the long long conversations.... always the long long conversations.


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