The Class Is My Class


I have recently watched “The Class”  a film I would recommend to anyone who has not seen it yet.  The accuracy of it is breath taking and I can confirm that none of the characters are the slightest exaggerated nor would I classify them as clichés…it’s just how it is in certain parts of Paris and beyond…

The film is set in a college located in  a mixed social and racial area of Paris (20eme arrondissement).  It opened a draw in my memory that had remained shut for a long time.  In fact it  took me straight back to my old college  Pyrénées renamed College Dolto a few years ago.

As I watched the kids play (brilliantly) I caught a glimpse of the blond spotty, awkward teenager that I was.
My friends at the time  were from Spanish, Portuguese, Tunisian, African and Chinese origins…I stood out like a sore thumb at a time when all I wanted was to blend in the melting pot that was our school.

I remember the lunch cooked by our friend Honoré from Mali, he was 3 years older than us and lived with his sister in a bed sit while his parents were  still living in Africa.

I remember visiting Maria in hospital  when her dad had gone too far in punishing her…she never returned home and finished her year in a local refuge for troubled teenagers…I remember thinking at the time: “that’s not her who is troubled…it is him!”

I remember Jean-François heavily into rap music and talking like a kid in the streets in “verlan”…a contrast with the BCBG (bon chic bon genre) look of his parents clearly middle class.

The Friday afternoons were dedicated to debates and racism was often on the agenda…while Stendhal and Balzac also made the odd appearance.

I will never forget the day Mrs Smadja arrived half an hour late with none of her usual “black trade mark” around the eyes – the class felt silent and there was no way the lesson would start until she had redefined the lines surrounding her eyes, one of the students threw her pencil on her desk with a mirror and we soon had our teacher back.

Looking back on my time in Pyrénées I treasure the lessons on life, sometime the realities were hard to digest and made little sense to my 14 years…

I realised that I came from a stable and priviledged background compared to some of my peers, that I did not fit there and that none of us did either.  The puzzle never fitted together but together we did collect and share experiences and a great French teacher.

I learned not to be scared of differences and instead embrace them.  It made a decent “broth” for my forever stewing mind .  It made me look at the world through the lense of humility.

Can you remember your class when you were 14?  Please share, it is worth spending a few minutes thinking about it, it certainly helped me understand and reconnect  with my own teenager at home…



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A trip in musée Carnavalet

Carnavalet is the most Parisian of all the museums in Paris. Set in the the Marais area the prestigious hôtels offer 100 rooms dedicated to the history of Paris.
Best visiting it in warm days were the place feels deserted and all the more eery. My inside spy tells me that the place is full of ghosts…

Hôtel Carnavalet
23, rue de Sévigné
75003 Paris


Back to the roots in Belleville

I walked down the streets I used to walk everyday to go to school – Read “Il faut se mefier des mots” on the familiar building thinking – how many times before had I walked by these words and read them out loud in my head as a teenager? They made sense then, they make sense now, nothing has changed.
Stopped for lunch in Lao Siam for the usual coco rice noodles, boeuf séché and salads…nothing has changed.

Nothing lasts, there are no certainties, we grow to accept that but it is so refreshing when little details remain unchanged.

This picture below is a view of Belleville in 1740…Paris looked like a village then and Belleville pure countryside!

It can be seen in Musée Carnavalet.



The last Klapisch Paris is out in the cinemas I went to see it last night. I was really looking forward to it, I have been a big fan of Klapich over the years. For a reason or another his films always seem to hit home somewhere and talk to me. The story line evolves around interesting characters the Klapisch way. A very good mix of cringing, admirable, quirky and everyday people. There is always a character one can identify with. Questions and answers to life that we all come to ask ourselves at some stage.

A lot of the film was filmed in Belleville and the 20th arrondissement of Paris which was an added bonus as I kept thinking…”Oh that’s the Chinese I walked passed every day for 5 years or I had a cafe in that very same place “