Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Place Saint-Sulpice

Stood beside the fountains, in the shadow of a roaring stone lion, I watch.

A gentleman sits at the farthest tip of a bench. He wears a pale blue and white striped shirt beneath a black trench coat, stone coloured trousers and brown sandals. He has very little hair, but a bushy grey moustache, and he stares in contemplation into the middle distance. He flicks baguette crumbs from his coat and trousers to the floor, stands, then takes his contemplation elsewhere.

A tourist thumbs through an A-Z, stopping at Île de la Cité. She studies the page thoroughly.

Two cyclists, a couple, arrive on hired bicycles. They stop, dismount and stare at the grand façade of the church across the square. Having shown their appreciation, they mount their vehicles and depart.

Two ladies prepare to take photographs, one with a camera, the other posing, pretending to hold in her palm one of the stone columns from the church’s double colonnade. The camera flashes. They inspect the picture, laugh and resume their positions. Several flashes follow, each with the lady’s palm in a slightly different position. They inspect the new pictures. Satisfied, they laugh once more, then embrace.

A man leans against a bollard, cigarette in hand, earphones in his ears.

A single pigeon descends from the eaves of the church, three or four storeys above the square. Slowly it falls, a tiny moment of movement dwarfed by the immovable grand eighteenth century stone building behind. At the last moment the bird lifts its wings, converting the fall into a glide. It reaches the ground, where it has spied breadcrumbs.

And then, chaos.

Suddenly, a hundred other pigeons swoop in. Unsighted mere seconds before, the air is rife with birdlife, eager to share the spoils of the solitary breadcrumbs. Some tussle and fight, others jostle for position. Some are quick to give up. It is not long before all have returned to their distant perches and calm returns.

A lady walks past with her dog, both neatly presented.

A homeless man sleeps with his back against the church door.

A lady sits on a bench, waiting. Another sits, talking on her phone.

Teenagers sit on the church steps, smoking and texting. One rises, armed. With one fell swoop, the bread arcs through the sky, out into the square.

A single pigeon descends from the eaves.

Chaos, however fleeting, returns.

Lunchtime continues in Place Saint-Sulpice.