The Novelist, by Andrew Auerbach


read writeups about our family trip to Limoux, April 2012: Limoux 2012 Intro

Paris France 28 April – 1 May 2012


“We had better take our seats in the theatre now,” Andrew advised us, “there is really only room for twenty people and the Wilsons are coming and there are other invited guests as well.” This was Andrew’s debut reading of his new play, “The Novelist”, and we were all looking forward to a good reaction from the audience.


We had flown to Paris Saturday afternoon with Atticus and Roman. Despite soft rain falling on us, the boys were excited to see their Mother waiting for us as we got out of our taxi van at the Felix Faure apartment. The boys had been very well behaved for us the entire week but they were looking forward to being with their parents again. Herb and Mary Auerbach had changed their return flight to Vancouver in order to attend Andrew’s play on Sunday night, so we were back to two sets of Grandparents for dinner Saturday night. There was lots of chat at dinner that night as all of caught up on the events of the previous week. Andrew had the week off to get ready for the play reading, Erica had gone back to work, Herb and Mary had visited friends in Paris and of course Ray and I had just finished a busy week with the boys in Limoux.


There was time Sunday for a visit to the park where the boys could ride their bicycles and kick the soccer ball around. The boy’s babysitter arrived in the afternoon and after a light supper, we took the Metro to the Carr's Pub, where Andrew met us. He had left early in the afternoon for a rehearsal of his play.


The pub is a center for English playwrights in Paris. Every two weeks a reading is held of a new play and the audience is invited to critique and give feedback to the author. Andrew had been apprehensive about exposing his work to an audience expecting a finished product. He knew that the final editing had not been done. He needn’t have worried.


The production was in a vaulted basement room with bench seating for the audience. There were five, excellent actors to read the play and Stephanie, an English woman who organizes the plays, had provided stage direction such that it was like viewing a bare bones live theatre production. Herb and I had read the play and we both found it was better in production than we had anticipated, despite pub workers occasionally walking across the set to retrieve supplies from a storage room. The over-capacity audience declared the first act of the play to be the best and offered constructive criticism to improve the second act. After the reading we all celebrated with a beer and toasted Andrew’s success as a budding playwright. We look forward to seeing the final version of “The Novelist” staged as a professional production.


Monday, Erica went back to work and Ray and I walked the boys to school. Roman was reluctant to leave his grandparents in case he missed some exciting event, but as soon as he saw his friends in his class, he was off, playing happily.


This was also time to say goodbye to Herb and Mary. We had lunch with them is a local restaurant and relaxed in the apartment until their taxi came to take them to the airport. Because they had changed their flights home, they were flying via London, Heathrow, where they were staying overnight before boarding a direct flight the next morning to Vancouver. Nothing about travel is quite as easy as it sounds. They boarded the first flight just slightly late, but then found themselves captive while the plane was examined for possible damage. It had been struck by lightning on the way to Paris. Finally, the plane was declared air-worthy and they took off, almost four hours late. What promised to be a relaxing evening in an airport hotel turned out to be a wretchedly long evening and a short overnight sleep. They needed time to recuperate on arrival in Vancouver.


The First of May is Labour Day in Paris. Almost all businesses and schools are closed for the holiday. Roman’s class had visited the Paris Sewers as part of lessons about water. He was keen to visit again and show the rest of us his favourite exhibits. We all took the Metro to the entrance to the Sewer exhibitions, on the banks of the Seine. The more recent improvements brought back memories of Ray and my visit to Ottawa’s filtration plant during Open Doors last year, but Paris is a much older city with a history stretching back to Roman times. The growth of Paris meant that the existing water systems never kept up to the requirements of the population. There was the Black Death in the middle ages and cholera epidemics to point out the need for improvements. In the mid- 19th Century, Baron Haussmann, who rebuilt the city with its distinctive boulevards and apartments, and the engineer Eugène Belgrand, designed the present Parisian sewer and water supply networks. They built a modern, double water supply network (one for drinking water and one for non drinking water) and a sewer network which was 600 km long in 1878. It was an fascinating exploration of the history of the city and the mechanics of providing clean water for a population of over 12,000,000 people.


The day was sunny and warm and families thronged the parks and avenues. Buskers, food booths and small funfairs entertained the people. Andrew found a deli where he bought gourmet lunch treats which we shared, sitting on a park bench on a promenade beside the Seine. After lunch the boys had a great time tumbling down one of the large inflatable slides set up next to our picnic spot.


That evening Andrew and Erica’s good friends, the Wilsons, arrived with their children Phoebe and Max to join us in an impromptu dinner. Atticus was especially pleased with his supper; a selection of his favourite sushi, which he shared with Roman and Max. It was a good way to end our Paris visit, enjoying a meal and a glass of wine with friends while the children watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3 once again.


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