Wednesday

Aug. 13, 2003

In Paris With You

by James Fenton

WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 2003
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Poem: "In Paris with You," by James Fenton from Out of Danger (Noonday Press).

In Paris with You

Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.

Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess that I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre,
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There's that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I'm in Paris with you.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris.
I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I'm in Paris with ... all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I'm in Paris with you.


Literary Notes:

It was on this day in 1940 that Germany began to bomb England during World War II, beginning the Battle of Britain. France had just been conquered, and Germany's plan was to destroy Great Britain's Royal Air Force before it began a land invasion of the country. The British had the most advanced radar systems in the world, which helped them shoot down many of the German bombers, but by the middle of August they had lost a quarter of their aircrafts. Everything changed on August 24th, when a German bomber accidentally bombed London. Britain responded by bombing Berlin. Hitler was so angry that he ordered his air force to bomb London exclusively, turning his attention away from the Royal Air Force. If Hitler had focused on destroying the Royal Air Force, he probably would have won the battle. Instead, the British weathered the bombing raids until the United States could join the war, and the Germans were eventually defeated.

It was on this day in 1961 that East Germany sealed off the border between East and West Berlin. Germany had been divided since the end of World War II: East Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union and West Germany was controlled by a democratic Government. The city of Berlin lay inside East Germany, but West Germany controlled half the city. If people living in Communist countries in Eastern Europe could get to West Berlin, they could then escape to West Germany. Between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million people left East Germany through West Berlin. The East Germany government built the Berlin wall around West Berlin to stop the flight of skilled labor, which threatened its economy. The first part of the wall was built at 2 AM on this day in 1961, made of cinder blocks and barbed wire. It came to symbolize the Cold War's division of Eastern Europe from Western Europe. Between 1961 and 1989, almost two hundred people were killed trying to cross the wall. When the wall finally came down in 1989, after the fall of the East German communist government, people rushed into West Berlin. Among other things, they took advantage of its superior grocery stores. Someone spray-painted a graffito on the wall that said, "They came, they saw, they did a little shopping."

It's the birthday of the first man ever to print a book in English, William Caxton, born in Kent, England (1422). The printing press had been invented about 25 years earlier, but it had only recently started to spread beyond Germany. Caxton printed all the available English literature, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c. 1478).

It's the birthday of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, born in London (1899), the "Master of Suspense." He directed many films, including Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), and Psycho (1960). His first big success was The Lodger (1926), a movie about Jack the Ripper. There were a few scenes that needed extra people in a crowd, so Hitchcock played one of the extras. He appeared in every film he ever made after that.




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