Tables and chairs

by Lorenzo Piccoli

There is a reason why all of my recent posts were about Paris: from 1 April 2021, Arianna and I no longer live there. In this post I will tell you about our final 24 hours there.

On the late afternoon of Sunday, we ride to Saint-Denis. This is our last chance to visit Atelier Baptiste and Jaina, our two neighbours we got to know thanks to the pandemic. In Spring 2020 we looked out of our windows clapping, at 8pm sharp. This is when we started to wave at them, since they live right in front of us. Then, in June, once the lockdown was lifted, we met at Patakrep, in Place Petrucciani, during a warm early summer evening. It has been almost one year since they first invited us to visit their Atelier. Finally, we go.

The Atelier is an incredible place: located along the Canal de l’Ourcq, in front of the Stade de France, in the first banlieue north of Paris. The Atelier is part of an old abandoned factory, with four rows of low, red-brick houses, each occupied by a group of artists: sculptures, cartoonists, web-designers, painters, blacksmiths, etc. There are two large streets with small tables where scattered groups of people sit to drink a beer and smoke a cigarette at sunset. Baptiste and Jaina welcome us in the house they share with eight other artists. They work on the clay, and guide us through their latest creations. We leave the Atelier late in the evening.

Monday is our last day in Paris, and it is sunny. We finish painting the apartment and we leave outside our furniture: it is gone in less than thirty minutes. Same story for the food that we deposit in the Frigo Solidaire outside La Cantine du 18e: an initiative to learn from. We go to have lunch along the Canal Saint Martin, near Place de la Republique, with Marco and Estelle. In the afternoon we bid farewell to the owner of the house. She has been rather unpleasant with us for some time now, but shortly before leaving she opens up about her troubles. Each person travels with their baggage, and sometimes it can be very heavy to carry.

The house is pretty empty now. We dine on the small table, one of the last things left in the apartment, right next to the window. In front of us we see Baptise and Jaina, and wave at them one last time. When they close their window, Arianna notices a reflection. It looks like there is someone walking on the roof of our house. Isn’t that weird? Curious, we leave the apartment and walk all the way up the stairs. There is a small ladder that leads to a manhole. When we put the head out, we are mesmerised. We can walk on the roof.

Sunset in Paris, a view on the whole neighbourhood, Butte Montmartre bustling with little lights. Four people are having drinking beer and smoking on the roof. They welcome us there. (They are down-to-earth, funny, half-French, half-Russian, half-Swiss, half-Argentinian. Could have become fantastic friends, if only we’d met earlier). This is quite a shocker. I spent much of the last twelve months complaining about the lack of space and light in our apartment. I did not know that we had one hell of a terrace at our disposal. I could cry about it, or laugh. Arianna and I decided to take it as a final gift, our grand Parisian finale.