Monday, 4 November 2013

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

I sat down two days ago to sort out a bag of paperwork that has been sitting, minding its own business for six months. I have to confess that we are neither very tidy nor very organised about lots of things, paperwork being top of the list. Or bottom of the list, depending on which way you look at it.
I was only driven to do something about it now because I want my bag back.

I have my bag back at last!

The trouble with us is that every now and again we can no longer cope with not being able to see the kitchen table. (Literally.) At this point lots of virtuous people would sit down and sort out the offending mass of mess. Sometimes I too am virtuous, but if there are too many other things going on, I sweep the whole lot into a tottering pile and shove it into the first box or bag that comes to hand.
Thus is was six months ago, and unfortunately, the first empty receptacle that came to hand was the lovely bag my mother gave me last Christmas.
Since then I have added to its contents, but not taken anything away.

I never know which side I like best

Happily - by chance rather than planning - the electricity has not been cut off, and neither have the bailiffs arrived at the door in the interim. There were bank statements, bills, receipts, newspaper cuttings, work stuff, notes to self, telephone messages and what-all else... but now, after my final stint with the bag this morning, I have reduced its contents to several piles: a large one of rubbish, one of filing (which - alas - could be the start of the next bagful, unless I actually file the wretched stuff), a small pile of 'in urgent need of attention' and a somewhat larger pile of 'on-going'. But, I have my bag back.
I also have a little heap of scraps which I discovered stuffed down amidst all the bills and receipts, which turned out to be the paraphernalia we brought back from Paris in June.

Oh joy! Needless to say, I spent more time going through that than I did the dreary bank statements.
It was the typical ephemera one brings back from holiday. At least, I presume 'one' does. We certainly always seem to have bags and pockets full of cafe receipts, gallery cards, museum tickets, maps and who knows what.

Jardin du Luxembourg

So much else has happened this summer that I haven't spent much time mentally revisiting our lovely trip to Paris, so it was very nice to sort through all the bits and bobs.

'A litre and a half of bottled water only costs 23c in Paris' I told the In-Charge, apropos of very little. A supermarket bill - which I probably didn't glance at at the time, now made riveting reading.
'Did we really spend  €14 on a cup of coffee and a glass of wine?' I asked in disbelief as I picked up the next slip of paper.
'I expect it was Les Deux Magots or that expensive cafe at St Michel,' he replied, and added sagely: 'It's a bit late to be worrying about that now.'
How true. And now that I recall, it was St Michel, and we'd dodged in out of bucketing rain at the time, and we really hadn't cared at all.

St Michel another day - watching the brilliant street performers

I found a list of incomprehensible notes scribbled on a scrap of card and puzzled over it for several minutes before remembering that we had, at long last, after I don't know how many previous visits to Paris, spent a happy afternoon exploring each and every one of the Passages - some in sad disrepair, others a total delight. If the notes I'd jotted down were even slightly decipherable, they'd be a useful guide next time round, but sadly even I can't get to the bottom of my own scrawl.

One of Paris's beautiful Passages

Probably the most famous of the Passages

And here's another - with colourful guerilla knitting decorating the entrance!

Another dog-end of paper revealed my approximation of the recipe that must have been used to concoct one of the most delicious tartes it was my pleasure to sample. So good was it, in fact, that we had to re-visit  Le Bistrot du Peintre several times to test it all over again. It never failed to hit the spot. I'd forgotten about it, but I must have an experimental session in the kitchen. (Current note to self: buy oranges, almonds and ingredients for sweet pastry deliciousness.)

Inside Le Bistrot du Peintre

And speaking of deliciousness, the next item to emerge was the business card of a chap we'd got chatting to in the Marché Bourse. He plied us with samples of his wares, and told us that although he got up before dawn every morning to cook, it was all worthwhile as he went to Boston several times a year to visit his sister. He was Lebanese, and his food was so delectable, we bought enough for supper that night and a picnic lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg the next day. (And while we were talking to him, two girls came up and presented us with a shopping bag listing all the Paris street markets, their arrondissements and addresses. How cool is that!)

There was a receipt from the Kilo Shop - the wonderful emporium on St Germain where vintage clothes are sold by weight; train tickets from our trip to Monet's garden at Giverny; passes for the Musée d'Orsay (probably my favourite of all the Paris art museums) and a billet for the Sainte Chapelle - another favourite place of incomparable beauty.

Gingham shirts in the Kilo Shop

Inside the wonderful Musée d'Orsay

Some of the amazing, original floor tiles in the Sainte Chapelle

One of the windows of the Sainte Chapelle (taken, sadly, with my phone camera)

The Rose window - also, alas, taken with my phone camera

It didn't do much to reduce the pile of paperwork, but it was a very happy half hour remembering our holiday in Paris.

'There's an un-used Metro ticket here,' I said, picking up a little blue and orange-stamped Mobilis from some carnet we bought along the line.
'I suppose we'll have to go back then,' the In-Charge replied.
It can't happen too soon.

The famous bridge in Monet's garden at Giverny


  1. I can absolutely relate to your situation ... the difference is ... I havnt sorted this years pile of letters, papers, receipts, statements and notes .... :(, soon when its wild an rainy and nobody at home I will dive deep into it ... . Hope to see you soon sometimes .... :)

    1. I think I've still got unsorted papers lurking around from last year, Tina, so still plenty of catching up to do...
      Yes, hope to see you soon.

  2. I have a growing pile of paper to add to the other already mature ones. I have such a great feeling of virtue when I clear them it is almost worth building another.
    I am so glad to hear that other people also procrastinate about these dull but necessary tasks, and end up with bags of the things around their homes.

    1. Yes, why is that - the feeling of virtue! It is a huge relief, isn't it. The trouble is, by the time you finally get to the bottom of the pile, that's it - you never want to look at another official document of any kind, so the cycle starts all over again...

    2. Yes, exactly! I have sent off the papers to the Probate Office who could not have been nicer when I called them for help btw, and now am building up to a great shredding of things I do not want or need to keep.

  3. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one with a pile of paper awaiting 'filing'. And I love coming across old bus, tram, museum tickets etc at unexpected moments and being transported back to somewhere exotic - even if only in my dreams for a few moments on a cold wet Irish winter's day,

    1. I think it's only the hope of finding something interesting that makes it possible to keep going! We have a habit of stuffing every receipt in as well, so there are endless Lidl and petrol station till things to go through as well. BORING!!! And however wet and cold the day, there are always better things to be doing!

  4. Good thing about leaving 'filing' for ages is that you can throw most of it away.
    I loved the photos.

    1. Thanks Cait, glad you enjoyed the photos. You are totally right - half of it goes straight in the bin without a second thought. Bit like photos. If you sort them when they're new, you want to keep them all, but six months later you can go through them like a dose of salts!

  5. Such a perfectly lovely post Lorely!
    I am a champion PROcrastinator and for me it is stacks of receipts that I don't want to mess with and make right my bank register.

    1. Thanks Pix. How good you are to check off receipts against your bank statements! Goodness, now I feel as if I ought to go through them all again, but I must be honest. I can't see it happening!


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