Frozen in Time | Pushing the Wave

Frozen in Time

Opinion, 17 March 2024
by L.A. Davenport
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris in March 2000
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, photographed with a disposable camera in March, 2000.
Last week, I wrote about returning to Paris and enjoying being in a city that I know well and love to visit.

Wandering the grand avenues, I find there is something reassuringly constant about the French capital. Like Rome or Milan, it is rather agreeable to return to a place time after time and know that you will always be able to find the same cafés, bars and restaurants, and sit at the same table and have the same meal.

It lends a certain charm to the place, although one is left with the impression that Paris never changes, never evolves.

The metro is more or less identical to how I first found it getting on for 25 years ago, aside from a few additional water leaks; so much so that one could almost navigate it with one’s eyes closed. And it seems as if, apart from the rampant touristificaton of the Marais and consequent flight of ‘real’ Parisians looking for evening entertainment to nearby quartiers, the streets and boulevards have remained unaltered for decades.

It occurs me sometimes that there are almost no concessions to modernity, as if someone realised sometime in the 1990s that the world as we knew it was slipping away and they pressed a button on top of a the clock and stopped time, like a giant chess game in which the only opponent is our changing selves.

Don’t get me wrong, Paris is a wonderful city to visit and one of my favourite destinations. But after a few days I find myself becoming weary and, dare I say it, even a tad bored. What else is there to do other that which one has already done? What is new?

I used to think I would love to live there for a few years, but in all honesty I don’t think I could last more than a few months.

One has the opposite problem in London, of course. The landmarks remain the same but the pace of change is so great in every other aspect that it is almost impossible to keep up.

The occasional visitor can quickly lose their bearings, and certainly can’t rely on being able to eat at the same table in the same restaurant. In the meantime it will probably have replaced by a bar, then a boutique, then an art space and finally gone back to being a restaurant, but now serving a hip cuisine that no one had heard of until last week.

I lived in London for 18 years but the metropolis I first new in the late 1990s is long gone, and while there are some notable improvements I do lament the loss of a place that was a real city for real people, rather than a playground for the well-heeled, with the populace largely pushed to the margins.

Even though it’s too late to complain, perhaps I would like that more of old London had been retained. Maybe even for someone to have stopped a clock and frozen time, at least just for a while.
Having expressed my love of red carpet-watching on several occasions in recent weeks, it will come as no surprise that I was hotly anticipating the outfits on display at this year’s Oscars.

Turning to the New York Times for the lowdown, I found myself admiring the choices of Emily Blunt and, wearing a nearly matching suit, her husband John Krasinski, as well as the ensembles of Lupita Nyong’o, Chris Hemsworth, Kate McKinnon, Catherine O’Hara and, for some classic tailoring, Jeffrey Wright. I also liked the dresses worn by Zendaya and Jennifer Lawrence but I didn’t think they had the requisite red carpet glamour.

But what of the winners at this year’s ceremony? I have to confess that I haven’t yet seen most of the them, or even the losers. I discussed Killers of the Flower Moon a few weeks ago, but despite being nominated and highly fancied in several categories it didn’t walk away with anything.

I have watched American Fiction, however. I recently stayed with a friend who is on the BAFTA committee and we saw it together as part of his ‘homework’. There were elements of the film, Jeffrey Wright’s performance and some of the scenes and plot twists, that I appreciated greatly, but I didn’t think it hung together well as a film. I was particularly surprised to see it win best adapted screenplay.

To correct my neglect of the nominated films and winners, I have made a list of those I would like to see (including Oppenheimer, Poor Things and, yes, Barbie) and the aim is to work through them one by one over the next week or so, time and life permitting.

My writing projects have taken a notable step forward this week, not least the announcement of two forthcoming books, the first one a collection of pieces from the first five years of this site: Pushing the Wave 2017–2022. It contains a mix of short stories, reviews, recipes, drawings, photographs and much, much more, and I am very excited to see it take shape.

The other is an all-new and completely rewritten edition of my first novel Escape, entitled Escape, the Hunter Cut, told through the eyes of the protagonist, John Hunter, as he battles with himself and the events that threaten to overwhelm him.

I hope you enjoy them both as much as I did writing them.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Frozen in Time | Pushing the Wave