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May 9, 2017

A friend was giving me advice yesterday. When I say she was giving me advice, I mean she interrupted what I was saying to tell me that her experience had been much worse than mine.

‘Ha, you’ve got nothing to worry about,’ she said. ‘You’ll be fine.’

My friend is Chinese and while she more or less dismisses anything I tell her about myself, especially if it’s about a problem, she is in her way, only trying to make me feel better. It’s a cultural thing: the idea is that I will feel better if she is having a harder time. Of course, she also prefers to talk about herself.

I met her in 2000 at the City Lit in London where we were both taking a crash course in French before moving to Paris. My friend had bought an apartment near the swanky rue de la Pompe, a stone’s throw from Trocadero and not far from the Arc de Triomphe.

Hers was a big, elegant place with a marble bathroom, oak herringbone parquet and swirly flourishes throughout. The plaster ceiling was decorated with rose garlands and the bathroom had brass taps in the shape of swans. My Paris apartment is a lot more modest but a lovely, sunny thing located in the boho chic 11th arrondissement.

I was telling my friend that I am now making preparations to sell it when she interrupted me to describe the hell she’d gone through to sell hers. ‘The woman I sold it to was too tough. She caused me so much trouble,’ she said. ‘She sent some guy around many times to check. Always checking, checking, checking. It drove me crazy.’

But surely, that’s understandable, I said. The apartment was a very valuable piece of real estate.

‘No, it was a lot of trouble. I had a leak in the bathroom. I put something in front of it but the man noticed and asked me what it was.’ She paused for a chuckle. ‘I told him it was my jewellery. Ha, he believed me.’

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