The First ‘Shakespeare and Company’ Bookshop in Paris

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A tenuous link to the bard’s 400th anniversary!

When planning my recent trip to Paris, I read two books. Firstly Love from Paris, by Alexandra Potter, see here for a recent book review; and secondly Americans in Paris by Charles Glass.

‘Love From Paris’ is a love story wove around an abandoned flat, with secret love letters and a link to The Shakespeare and Company bookshop, both during WW2 and also in present times. Delighted with myself for securing a romantic short break to the city of love, plus the opportunity to really explore places I wanted to go, the Shakespeare and Company was going on my list for places to visit.

Then I started reading ‘Americans in Paris’ because I love history and I was desperate to see were there places to visit specifically connected to the Resistance and the liberation of Paris, and I stumbled on the chapters relating to Sylvia Beach and the Shakespeare and company bookshop.  For me, non-fiction books can be far more exciting than any fiction novel.

I hadn’t realised that the position of the Shakespeare and Co bookshop was different during the war to its location now.

Sylvia Beach opened the first bookshop in no. 8 rue Dupuytren in 1919 just after the First World War. It was the first English language bookshop and lending library in Paris. In 1921 she moved into no. 12 rue de l’Odeon, very close to her friend and lover, Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop at no. 7.

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Sylvia wrote her own memoirs, ‘Shakespeare and Company’ and it details so many of the great writers she came into contact with during the inter-war years. James Joyce, Earnest Hemmingway,  D.H. Lawrence and Gertrude Stein to name but a few.

 

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At the top of rue de l’Odeon is a theatre, Theatre de l’Odeon and higher up, very close by are the Jardins de Luxembourg. When Paris was occupied by the nazis in 1940, Sylvia notes how she could look down their street and see the Germans arriving, marching along the boulevard  Saint-Germain as it crossed just below them.

 

During the war, once America declared war on Germany, Sylvia, like many Americans was interned, being released after six months. She closed her bookshop and hid the books upstairs. Hemingway arrived back in 1944 amid the confusion of the first few days when Paris was liberated. He was working as a War Correspondent for  Collier’s magazine. The accounts are fascinating when reading through ‘Americans in Paris’, more so when I was actually able to stand in the rue de l’Odeon and actually ‘feel’ it for myself.  I know the photo above is very messy, with modern road works etc, but imagine if you can, Hemingway roaring up with four jeeps and with him  various freedom fighters and resistance fighters all clutching weapons including machine guns. Hemingway and his bodyguard and one other  man headed into Adrienne’s apartment to see Sylvia and her and the other fighters stayed outside in the rue de l’Odeon. One of their intentions was to rid the city of the multitude of German snipers who were still on rooftops in the area and in particular the rue de l’Odeon. Adrienne gave Hemingway her last bar of soap before he and his men left to go up on her roof to rid them of the last of the Germans.

Sylvia never reopened the bookshop after the war, but after she died in 1962, another American George Whitman renamed his bookshop ‘Shakespeare and Company’ in her honour. You can visit it now close to Notre Dame.

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3 reasons why married couples need separate rooms

 

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I am seriously thinking about bringing back the time old tradition of having separate rooms for married couples. Really, I can’t think why it was done away with. It is such a good idea. Obviously, lack of space would have been the main reason, sometime around the turn of the last century, when it fell out of favour. And the demise of the ‘Big House’  of course, but I have a notion to revive the tradition.

I love a good regency novel. I adore all of Jane Austen’s books. I can read a modern Mills and Boon set in the Regency period, even a Victorian one.

I would enjoy the novelty of getting dressed up in the corsets and underskirts and all manner of clothing, but only for a day. I would not thank you for transporting me back there permanently.

Lack of painkillers, antibiotics and a decent flushing toilet would put me right off, however after this morning, I am thinking very favourably about separate bedrooms for hubby and I.

  1. Hubby and I work on different internal time clocks. I am an Owl. I love nothing more than writing at my desk until nearly midnight, and then curling up with a good book until nearly 1am. He on the other hand prefers early mornings, and is more than happy to get up extremely early on a bright sunny morning and go for a cycle. Today, I was woken at 5.30 am, as he had woken and thought ‘what a lovely day, I could cycle to work if I got up now’! I was not amused. By the time he had got dressed, been through the bathroom, banged around the house etc I was very much awake, BUT I didn’t want to be! If I had my way, my day would run from 10 am to midnight. Perfection!
  2. Hubby, as most men are, has a different body temperature to me. He will be roasting hot whilst I am freezing to death. I have resorted to an extra duvet, and at times even a dressing gown on top of my side of the bed to redress the balance of heat. Separate beds and bedrooms would be perfect thank you, then I can be toasty and luxuriating underneath  heavy layers without extra complaints.
  3. And lastly, hubby is a cyclist. Why would this bother me? Unless you are also married to a cyclist you will have no notion of where I am going with this. Serious cyclists shave their legs. In fact not just their legs, but any part of their anatomy which is open to the extremities and may slow them down, make them less wind resistant. So arms and legs then. But let me tell you, snuggling up to ‘just grown back stubble’ is not pleasant. Men, are by nature, hairy beasts, and although I had no problem with the original hairy legs, the sharp, prickly stubble is less than hug inducing. Reaching out in the middle of the night for a lovely warm cuddle, only to be replaced with a scratchy rash is a bit of a ‘no no’ in my book.

So there it is. I would like separate rooms, please. I would, if it was offered, like a nice hot cup of tea and breakfast arriving at my bedside shortly around 9am too. Someone to run me a bath, open the curtains and lay out my clothes would be an unnecessary luxury, but well, I wouldn’t say no if pushed. I could lay back and send him romantic texts when I am ready to receive visitors. Mmm, it could be just the thing.

The Day My Mother Disappeared

I was four, nearly five when she vanishedlife-862967_1920

I have lots of good memories as a child. In the 70’s I lived in Yorkshire, in a small village outside of Bradford. We didn’t have much money according to today’s standards, but I didn’t know that then so why would I be bothered about it.

Mum, as practically all mothers did then, was at home with us all the time. She loved crafts and was forever making things on her Singer sewing machine which she placed on the dining table in the bay window at the front of the house.

At the back we had big glass french windows, with a myriad of small panes. One day during the autumn I tapped each spider I found hiding in the corner of the pane. They were all outside, except one and I had the shock of my life when I disturbed him and he unrolled to become ginormous. I have hated spiders since then.

I never remember being bored as a small child. One day Mum bought three tubes of paint, a red, a yellow and a blue one. One each for my sisters and I. They had to last us a while. We baked regularly, chocolate brownies were always a favourite. mum also made real chips in a chip pan, using a potato cutter with a serrated edge so it made the chips crinkly. Some days she cut our initials out  of the potato slice, but they always disintegrated in the chip pan.

One day I wandered into the rose garden and tried to eat parts of a daffodil, I even tried the small white seedy things in the swollen green part behind the flower. It didn’t taste so good, so I never did that again.

We walked everywhere because of course we only had one car, and Dad had that at work and mum had never learnt to drive anyway. I remember being placed high up on the seat on top of the Silver Cross pram, I could see for miles. The best place to visit was Five Rise Locks. I loved stretching my head up and seeing the black and white arms reaching across in pairs, tier after tier after tier.

Sundays we tended to drive to Skipton to meet up with cousins and Grandparents, and I seem to remember banana sandwiches most weeks.

I remember lots of things about the days before I started school. I even remember my first few days at school. The clay I moulded into shape. the toy cradle I used as a bed when we retold Goldilocks and the three bears, I was goldilocks of course, since I had a mop of golden curls.

Then one day, we were in our bedroom and I distinctly remember her putting suitcases up on top of the wardrobe. Where we had been I’m not sure. Possibly our other Grandparents, because we always went for Christmas or New year. Her hand went up to her neck and Mum complained it was sore. She had ‘cricked’ it somehow she thought.

And then she disappeared.

Looking back now it is just a black hole. There are no memories. Whatever I was told, whoever explained it, whoever looked after me in those first few weeks after she went into hospital, it has all been wiped out from my memory. My subconscious has buried those memories somehow, and they won’t come back.

She did return to us, eventually, after about six weeks so I have been told.

My grandparents came to look after us for the whole of that time, they must have moved in, but I have no memory of them putting me to bed. I have one image of Granny giving us chips for tea, and I wanted vinegar and tomato sauce, and she was none too keen on that idea. One meal out of six whole weeks.

I have two more memories before family life returned to normal once again.

One was visiting her in the hospital where she was admitted, in order to get the  tumour was removed from her spine, just below her brain. It had been growing bit by bit for weeks and months unbeknown to us all. Anyway, the one time we were allowed to visit, maybe a week before she came home, there was a small boy in the Day room who kept trying to throw her walking stick over the balcony. She could move her arms again, but had pins and needles still, and her walking was getting better. There was a big long slope up which we walked. But the name of the hospital I’m not sure of.

And the other memory was finding a picture of a doll, drawn by mum, with two sweets in shiny coloured paper, (probably Quality Street) under my pillow. She must have thought of us all the time, day in, day out and drawing pictures of us was the only thing she was able to do, in the years before mobiles and emails were around. Even phones weren’t used much then. It must have broken her heart being stuck in hospital, well enough to see and feel everything, but not well enough to get home.

Three small memories. But nothing whatsoever about being told, or her going away, or her waving goodbye. Nothing at all.

She did come home. One very hot day during the summer and Dad stopped to buy us a paddling pool. It must have been the scorching summer of ’76. I even remember living in my swimsuit and pedalling around on my three wheeler trike and the vicar turning up for a visit, with me still in my swimsuit.

And life returned to normal again. She had returned. For now.

My mother died when I was 11. The tumour sneaking in again and twisting itself around her spinal cord, slowly but surely strangling the life out of her.

But I knew she loved me. I always knew that.