I woke up this morning on a bench in the Jardin Public looking into the eyes of Nicholas Sarkozy. I’ll explain.
Yesterday afternoon I went to the park to read my book – A Hundred Easy Steps to a Better Memory – only to realise a minute after sitting down on my favourite bench near the duck pond that I’d left it on the sitting room table.
How I left it there was beyond belief. I’ve been reading this book for months now and thought I was making real progress on the memory front.
What’s more I couldn’t even write anything down as I’d also forgotten my notebook. Just a screwed up grocery receipt in my pocket with barely enough space on it for half a Haiku. (If that’s possible.)
‘Bah,’ I shouted at a goose who was looking at me.
‘What’s the problem, Anglais? Forgotten your book?’
‘Yes,’ I answered curtly. ‘Left it on the sitting room table.’
‘That old chestnut,’ he replied. ‘You won’t be doing that again?’
I told him I probably would as the book I was reading was rubbish.
‘Well, Anglais,’ he replied, goose-stepping over the small fence that separated the pond from the park, ‘You could always try La Boite à Lire.’
‘The reading box,’ he continued. ‘La Boite à Lire. It looks like a drinks cabinet on legs. It’s even got glass sliding doors. But it’s actually full books and magazines. You just take one, read it and bring it back. Or swap it for one of yours and take it home. C’est simple, non?’
‘Oh my God, that’s brilliant. Where is it?’
‘Là-bas,’ he said pointing with his wing. ‘Over there by the Redwood.’
‘I didn’t know there was a Redwood in the park.’
‘That’s because you’re always looking at your feet. Look up more,’ the goose suggested craning its head towards the sky.
‘I will. And thank you,’ I said and headed off towards the reading box.
And there it was just like the goose had described. A drinks cabinet on legs, standing proud in the middle of the park. ‘What a great idea,’ I said sliding the doors open.
‘Toulouse: A Guide. 1987.’
‘The Three Musketeers’
‘French Birds in Full Colour.’
‘Antarctica: The Lost World.’
‘The Castrol GTX Book of Classic Cars.’
‘Cartography and Geology.’
Plus a stack of old L’Express magazines.
Not feeling in the mood for The Three Musketeers or a geology lesson, I picked up a copy of L’Express with Nicholas Sarkozy on the front cover. Went back to my bench, thanked the goose again and started reading.
Eight hours later I was still reading it. I couldn’t take it home as I didn’t have anything to replace it with and I wanted to respect the system.
At ten o’clock I finished the magazine, closed it on my lap and promptly fell asleep with Nicholas Sarkozy looking up at me in the moonlight.