ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

from A Squandered Life / Paris '69

Updated on March 26, 2016
vrdm profile image

Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....

Riotous Police

The day came when, with my worldly goods, a sleeping bag, and a waterproof poncho strapped on to the chrome rack of the BSA, and wearing a pea jacket and a leather jerkin, I said my goodbyes to Maria and one or two others who happened to be around and chugged off down the winding drive to the main road. I was bound for the Channel ferry at Dover for the shortest sea trip to mainland France. My plan, if you could call it that, was to “see” Paris and then head south in search of warmer weather and travel around Spain, stopping near Gerona where I had a contact who would “almost certainly” offer me some work. As the year progressed, I would then follow the warm weather back up north to Germany and to Scandinavia where I would explore the homeland of my mother and bask in the midnight sun.

I approached the ferry docks and, after passport control, was waved to the front of the waiting queue of cars and trucks. As the gigantic end of the ship opened up, I was ushered up the ramp, into the cavernous space, and along to the front where I was tucked up close to the side superstructure. I dismounted and watched as the seamen strapped my bike down to lugs in the steel deck, then went upstairs to watch the mystical white cliffs fade into the distance. At about the time the cliffs disappeared, the coast of France appeared on the other horizon and slowly grew to fill it as we pulled into the landing docks at Calais.

I headed off gingerly, remembering to keep my right shoulder nearest the curb. It was a grey day and nothing struck me apart from the flat land and the straight lines of trees down each side of the road and the fact that, judging by the sign posts, I seemed to be covering a lot of miles in relatively short order before realising that, of course, they were posting in kilometres.

Typically, I had only the vaguest of plans for Paris. My friend Jerome had suggested I look up his ex-sister-in-law whom I'd met a couple of times at his place. After some dodgey moments on the Periferique and one or two of the frighteningly massive roundabouts, I stopped to buy a city map and ask directions. Although I could get by asking the questions, my school French wasn't helping much as I tried to fathom what was being said in response. At one point, quite near I thought to my destination, a lady responded to my query by pointing repeatedly down the road and saying, “Tous droit, tous droit.” I naturally assumed she was saying turn right and right again (yes, she was saying, “Straight ahead, straight ahead”) and I was soon lost again. It was near nightfall when I finally found the address. I was confronted by a fierce concierge who looked me up and down disdainfully and informed me that, of course, they were all away on holiday.

So to Plan B, except that I didn't have one of those either. As I cruised aimlessly around, I spotted a row of abandoned derelict terraced houses in varying states of collapse. After a bit of foot reconnaissance, I drove the bike up a rough footpath and through a doorless doorway, into a small half roofed room off to the side. I spread out my sleeping bag on the sagging floor and slept the sleep of the sublimely unaware.

In the morning I awoke to the sound of engines and movement outside, then silence. As I got up there was a tap tap at the shutters still in place on the front window. I wasn't expecting visitors but I opened one of the shutters to see, standing well back in case there was trouble, a fully geared up riot policeman. And arrayed behind him was a phalanx of about thirty similarly dressed policemen all looking my way, and behind them again a row of corrugated snub nose Citroen police vans with wire mesh bolted across their front windscreens.

“Bonjour,” I said to the one nearest me. He asked me what I was doing there. I said I was just getting up, having slept the night. “Is there anybody else in there?” he asked. “No,” I said. He didn't look as if he believed me and glanced off to his left. I leaned slightly out of the window to follow his glance down the tumbling terrace. There, a couple of doors down, stood a neighbour of whom I'd been totally oblivious. A tiny ancient white haired lady in her kitchen smock was peering out of her ramshackle doorway and regarding me with incriminating suspicion. I can't have been less surprised than she. I couldn't have imagined anybody actually making a home in this dilapidated setting, but there she was - clear as day and clearly affronted.

“She reported many people in here last night. There was a lot of noise,” said the policeman. “No, only me,” I said. He asked for my passport and, having studied it, concluded I wasn't a threat and said, “Go. You cannot stay here.” He went back to his men and they all rested their shields and pulled out their Gauloises. I went back into the room, rolled up my gear and packed the bike. When I was ready, I kick started it and rode out through the front door again.

To my horror, all the cops had thrown away their fags and grabbed their shields and stood braced for what they must have assumed was an armoured charge. I stopped the bike immediately and switched it off to calm all our frazzled nerves. The officer again approached me, more angrily, and I had then to produce papers for my bike as well.

In the end we parted without blows. I looked nervously back as I rode away. The old lady, still standing in the doorway of her precarious façade, glaring fiercely after me, was still plainly the most affronted of us all.


See also....

For more by Deacon Martin:

© 2013 Deacon Martin


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)