We had been away for a fortnight and forever and now on our way home.
Our last day, in Paris, May 1st, Fete du Muget is a pubic holiday. Lily of the valley for sale on every street corner, outside every metro station. Bunches sit in gentlemen’s top pockets or in the hands of young girls holding them to their noses for the sweet smell of spring or is it summer now? hard to tell in the icy wind. Shops and museums close all day so Victor Hugo’s house , Rodin’s and Picasso’s museum are all off limits. We could have known this. Paris has taken to the streets. It is the day for demonstrations. We take to the banks of the Seine where those not demonstrating are strolling, roller skating or teaching recalcitrant infants the joys of cycling.
Bateau Mouche pass at a rate , perhaps accentuated by the fast flowing tide; river police in an occasional chase hurtle after at even more alarming speed. Tourists waving from the rails demand a reciprocating wave. Hey little boy on the bike wave to me. And the resounding reply: get lost: je m’en fou, followed by clouds of giggles from the little boy on the bike, pleased at his own audacity.
I invented a character and named her Murielle. An artist whose statues defied convention; crude, rude and angry rather than witty. Then at an art fair in Paris on May 1st around the basin of the Seine at Bastille there she was . The real life artist, delicate and unassuming beside real life sculptures so much funnier, so much more subtle than anything I could invent.
The unassuming artist was Han Mihhne. Perhaps even Mihnne Han. Beautiful, slight and not so young as she once was. Perhaps a lifetime was in her statues imbuing them with silent laughter.
Statues of solid bronze seemed to float, to laugh, to play a joke. A figure half made existing of a shoulder, an out turned foot, a delicate haunch and oh, such smooth pert buttocks just begging to be touched. La Petite Danseuse without the head, without the body but with all the attitude. It was the memory of children long left the family home; the shadow of grandchildren yet to grace it. The artist put her hands lovingly on the buttocks and laughed as if the statue was her own child, and really their was the sense that she knew them intimately and with longing, regret, poignancy . How can you be in love with a statue? I don’t know but there it is.
The desire to possess the statue in spite of difficulties of carrying home the bronze bulk by Eurostar and then slow, many-changing Welsh trains and the slight fact that the statue cost thousands of euros nearly got the better of us. I’d have been pleased to have the bronze strapped to my body like personal armour, to look forward to trying the statue in my home amid accumulated post of a couple of weeks away and the piles of dirty washing any journey naturally accumulates. But then it poured, torrential rain and the only thing to do was scatter to find shelter. All we have is a card for Han Mihnne and no way of finding her.