Paris is the city of overrated museums. There are so many that a visitor doesn’t know how to even begin doing them justice. So I’m both surprised and relieved that most people don’t know about The French Playing Cards Museum. After Day 1 in Paris where I overdosed on the usual tourist haunts with the way too many instagramers, I was desperate to get away from the crowds and do something a little more quiet and low key.
The tourists are everywhere. They seem to exist in a separate space to the locals. Paris is somewhat reminiscent of Tokyo: with the too many travellers who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. Like the Japanese, the Parisians are also not fond of speaking English. In Tokyo, it’s relatively easy to differentiate a local from a foreigner. In Paris, not so much. I’ve already lost track of the number of people who’ve tried to strike up a conversation with me only to receive a raised eyebrow and an awkward smile.
I was expecting Paris to have a celebratory feel after the country’s victory – but the whole city is hungover. The guy who greeted me at immigration looked like he was having the worst day of his life and couldn’t wait to get home. He stamped my passport and sent me on my way – no questions asked. I guess the World Cup victory really took the Monday Blues to a whole new level.
He was the patriarch. A gentle soul who was strict when he needed to be. I was loved. I was scolded. I was indulged. I was disciplined. Despite the distance, I received a card on every birthday – and a present every Christmas. No soul ever forgets what it feels like to love and be loved by another human being.
In some ways it is the same UK that I remember growing up. My cousins are all still here. I’m still close to the ones that I was close to as a child. They remember me and I remember them. They remember that I used to run around London by myself at the age of 16. It was my first taste of independence, freedom and… responsibility. I still know the streets, remember the food and know how to make my way around.
I spent so much time in UK as a kid that everyone (except me) seems to remember all my childhood antics and habits. Yes – I really did eat food from the altar whilst grandma was praying. And yes – I really did spit out my pacifier whenever it was dinnertime. I see the look of confusion on my relatives’ faces as they walk through the door – a look that morphs into familiar recognition once I utter my name and remind them whose kid I am. After a good 13 years, I am back in England. Although it’s been that long – it feels like I never left.
But what is the white rose? Why does it exist? And why does it continue to exist even after Death has left its mark? Perhaps it’s a reminder of purity – that even after all those transient life experiences – there’s a part of us that remains forever untouched.