What was I doing that sad night when it happened to the “City of Victory”? I tried to recall. It was just an ordinary night and I was thousands of miles away from NICE (its name means victory). It was meant to be a day of national celebration. I then remembered the day July 14, a certain long gone year, when I was in Paris. That was my first Bastille day.
A colleague with the name Henriette(Pronounced “On-Yet”) called and told me they were going to watch the parade. “Please come. I will meet you at the Champs-Elysées Clemenceau Metro.” She met me and explained to me the excitement I should see that day, “The French national holiday on July 14th is a huge celebratory event in Paris. From morning to night, a raft of exceptional events make this anniversary an especially festive one. With a military parade, evenings with dancing, and a fireworks display, there is something for all tastes and ages.”
It was a fun day. Henriette was helpful and tried her best to be a good guide. I was new to her country and she was determined to play the hostess that day. We had ice cream and snacks. We bought paper periscope so we can view the parade through the mass of human walls. We watched all sorts of street performances. She told me that the folks from the provinces came too as a special day out for the family. Later we decided to find a spot at a cafe along the street at Champs-Elysées and just rest our feet. We walked miles that day. There were crowds of mixed nationalities everywhere. I could hear many different languages being spoken. Henriette told me that there were many from many parts of French colonies in Africa. Of course, most of them spoke French. I was tired and decided not to stay for fireworks.
I went alone later to the Tuileries Garden towards the evening. There was music in the air. Then I regretted not going to WH Smith, the largest English bookshop in Paris since 1903. I had a studio near the Eiffel Tower and the Tuileries Garden. I went to the garden every Saturday and sat there, just reading. There were always some old people round. I was probably the youngest person in their midst. But we were regulars and we greeted each other. The ground in spring time was covered with tiny yellow flowers. One day I decided to buy a pot of African violet as recommended by my South African colleague Gillian. The violet flower lasted until I was ready to leave Paris.
Coming home my dreams have always been sweet and gentle. I cannot recall a nightmare with Paris. The books, the cafes, the gardens, walks and the people are sweet and gentle in my memory.