Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Late, Lost Lyon

The reason for the delay in writing about Lyon more fully is mostly about processing: Tom had three years; Tim Moore perhaps one. Here, with the imperative to post several times each day, a different kind of writing emerges, more hesitant – less prone to definitive judgment. The choices are too great.

Bawdy, blasphemous, boisterous, bon vivanting, Lyon has the Rabelesian set. It is here that Tom stops for a few days and meets some people:

“…the other Turk was a notable companion and a great scholler in his kinde; for he spake six or seven languages besides the Latin, which he spake very well: he was borne in Constantinople. I had a long discourse with him in Latin of many things, and amongst other questions I asked him whether he were ever baptized, he tolde me, no, and said he never would be. After that wee fell into speeches of Christ, whom he acknowledged for a great Prophet, but not for the Sonne of God, affirming that neither he nor any of his countrey men would worship him, but the onely true God, creator of heaven and earth: and called us Christians Idolaters, because we worshipped images…

…At mine Inne there lay the Saturday night, being the fourth of June, a worthy young nobleman of France of two and twenty years olde, who was brother to the Duke of Guise and Knight of Malta. He had passing fine musicke at supper, and after supper he and his companions being gallant lustie Gentlemen, danced chorantoes and lavoltoes in the court. He went therehence the Sunday after dinner, being the fifth day of June.

…At the south side of the higher court of mine Inne which is hard by the hall (for there are two or three courts in that Inne) there is written this pretty French poesie: on ne loge ceans à credit: car il est mort, les mauvais paieurs l’ont tué. The English is this: Here is no lodging upon credit: for he is dead, ill payers have killed him. Also on the South side of the wal of another court, there was a very pretty and merry story painted, which was this: A certain Pedlar having a budget full of small wares, fell asleep as he was travelling on the way, to whom there came a great multitude of Apes and robbed him of all his wares while he was asleepe: some of those Apes were painted with pouches or budgets at their backs, which they stole out of the pedlars fardle [small pack], climbing up to trees, some with spectacles on their noses, some with beades about their neckes, some with touch-boxes and ink-hornes in their hands, some with crosses and censour boxes, some with cardes in their hands; al which things they stole out of the budget: and amongst the rest one putting down the Pedlers breeches, and kissing his naked, &c. This pretty conceit seemeth to import some merry matter, but truly I know not the morall of it.”

One senses he fell upon these conversations with a happy heart: just as I am pleased to have Connie and John and their friends when I arrive late. Connie is 31 and has seen a lot of the world, one way or another. She quit the corporate world at 23, having been instrumental in setting up “Yahoo” in Asia. She first left home at 13, adopted by a brother for a while. Connie is Canadian Chinese, with some Jamaican blood somewhere, she says. She’s been married to a Frenchman, lived in Dublin, knows her way around many places. “We were put up in Madonna’s suite, at the Home House, Porchester square – do you know it? [This is London]. We had the whole friggin’ floor – we just didn’t know it. The room service people kept knocking at the wrong door.”

This was the dot com world, a long time ago now. These days when girlfriends come around Connie is giving away her old designer executive clothes to any who are the right size. Connie is still a poster-girl for the betwixt world of the digital. She’s at home with the technology, and it forms a central focus: for learning, for writing (she blogs as LadyC), for communications and organisation. Because music is such a passion Lyon is a great place to be, much happens here – and Paris for one-off concerts is two hours away by train; festivals and raves happen a lot in the region.

“I have no home except here,” Connie says, “It’s this, my apartment for the next few months – then perhaps we’ll move outside, find somewhere in the country nearby.” Her friends are French, Moroccan, Irish, Indian, Trinidadian…from everywhere. When we are out people know her, thought the very Rabelasian greeting from one friend: “I want to eat your pussy,” did seem, ah, extravagant, even for libidinal Lyon.

Music is bought, ideas found, movies watched, via the computers (though there is a new small collection of vinyl growing in the corner – how funny the way these things come around). Connie and her partner John are time-shifted, start late and work and live through to the late small hours – then start again. They don’t have much money; but their needs are minimal: somewhere to work on their many projects, somewhere to sleep; life not too far away.

I’m always a little nervous-protective in the presence of the truly rootless, a product of always having had a family base in London – in the end. Yet here in their temporary home Connie combines the fluidity of the traveller and the solidity of the “at home.” Perhaps Lyon, its people and its presence – its sheer easy balance – takes the place of the family.

Connie met John at “Burning Man,” the yearly desert festival in Nevada, America. A courtship began – in time they were living together, first in Dublin, then here in Lyon.

John is 25; he also quit a high-tech start up young. He was hired the day he completed his studies and within a couple of years was managing his own team of four. The work was punishing; not just the cutting-edge (literally) technology – lasers cutting silicon wafers to make chips, the cheapest being £2 million, Hewlett Packard bought 89 of them – but also the hours, and the travel. Promotion at 24 would have meant living in Asia training engineers on the project; instead he now makes hand-made musical instruments, guitars, “theramins”, a project that might be named “Fotosis”…he’s interested in “circuit bending”, the reprogramming of ancient chip-based forms, such as dolls or children’s games. He has a studio space in a local-government approved squat close to the Lumiere museum which houses installations that look like houses and houses that look like installations. Here he has vice and power tools. A home he can work on computer-based projects.

He knew the party life of Dublin, these days he thinks that perhaps it is too much. “It’s a great city, but its wild, really wild these days. A kind of madhouse.”

“We’re going to build a tandem, “ Connie says, as we climb the long stairs back up to the Croix Rousse area in which they live right now. “You saw off one wheel frame from each of the two bikes, there are these braces….” I’m lost very quickly in the conversation, admiring of the practicality, the physical understanding of material. “Most of the great parties and raves happen outside the city,” Connie says. “And there’s never a way to get home. Once we were trying to find a taxi and ended up on the grounds of Lyon airport in a bit of a messed up state. Better to have your own transport…

“We don’t go out so much, we don’t have tons of money,” Connie says. In their apartment there are piles of “National Geographic” magazines: so much more of the world to see. “We’re lucky, we know people from all over the world, we meet in queues at bus stations, people come and stay, we go back. One friend, an Indian actress, she came through, stayed three weeks, one day we’ll go and see her in India. One day soon.” Both are extremely clued up to what is happening in the world: they think the Guardian newspaper has gone off, the Independent got a little better. They know about the very latest music, and about Miles Davis’s 1970 phase. They put most music “fans” to shame with the scope of their knowledge.

“Everything is out there now. People can teach themselves, about technology, the very latest open source things, about anything at all. If you are online you can find it out. The only times I’m surprised is when it isn’t there. And then it’s usually because the article is badly tagged and doesn’t come up in the search. Of course we have to learn how to search, there are more things than Google,” John says.

Neither miss the start-up culture world: “One of my bosses, on his third start-up, he’d already made a lot of money, had a heart attack at 32, I don’t want that, but that’s how the pressure is.” The life they have chosen, abroad, rootless, nomadic and striving, has many pressures of its own, but these are people who make it seem quite delightful. They seem to get Tom’s trip straight away: one email and I am staying at their apartment.

Rabelais would approve – from his blasphemous heaven, wherever

No comments: