I see him coming from a mile away. The accordion player sits down with serious meaning next to me on the bench in the open square. In a deep voice he yells something about the pigeons around us. I only know it is about the birds because he points at them as he rambles on in French. His mustache just about covers his whole mouth and he has a half jack of brandy in his trouser pocket. I pretend that I understand what he is saying, and I wish I did, but it all just sound so angry and un-French-like. I gather that he really hates the birds and he proves this by showing me the pigeon droppings on his accordion. “Merde” I tell him. He nods and approves that the word sums it up.
It is the street art around every corner and the smell of hand made soap that make me fall in love with Marseille, within the first five minutes of walking down its narrow artsy streets. It is still early on a Sunday morning but the town is slowly waking up.
I see a nun in crisp white cloth praying in the shadows of a towering cathedral while a vagabond searches for a make shift pillow. A street cat scavenge the remains of some cordon bleu while a petit mademoiselle hangs up her freshly washed laundry overhead.
Even though I don’t understand the language, I understand the gestures and along with it the song of the streets. It has a rhythm to it that speaks of small portions of exquisite cuisine and beautiful wine being drunk at small street cafes. The people look so happy in their white and blue striped shirts.
I walk into a bar and a man having luncheon outside greets me as if he has known me for years. I go with it until I have to recite a line form a Jack Johnson song.
Je ne compra pas Francaise
You have to speak to me some other way
When you tell someone in their own language that you cant speak their language it leads to all kinds of interesting mixtures of charades and Frenglish.
“Je voudrais une biere s’il vous plait, le preferably le ice cold my le good monsieur,” I say as I point to the fridge.
He asks me what kind of beer I want and I say I want a ‘blonde’ one. As I do so I point to a brunette lady sitting at the bar and I say ‘non’ while shaking my head. He gets what I mean and he smiles. Without saying anything I can see that he is rather impressed with my attempt to express myself. As French people do though, he corrects me by teaching me the correct way. I like it. I want to be taught right.
The beer goes down well; both because of our short dialogue and the ambiance the traditional music creates to fill the room. “Merci beaucoup monsieur, au revoir.” I feel so – how can you say it – French as I step out and straight away a couple from Australia ask me in broken Frenglish: “Excuse moi, Where to find Le Cathedral De Major?”
Aromas of preserved French lavender
All over they walk, plenty petit mademoiselle, sexy and slender
Alo Alo! Mwha Mwah
People saying hello, different to my usual ‘ What’s up Brah’
Puppeteer with a music box entertain
All the while
Another boat comes in by means of a sail
And wish to become French in the city of Marseille