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  • Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee

Blog 14 - Au revoir Josette!

Maryse likes me, and I am moving from an arrondissement named after Diderot, the editor of The Encyclopédie, and a hamlet called Reuilly, to one named République after the whole of France.

All night long, there were comings and goings in the bathroom, and when I left the house to go to school this morning, Josette's bed hadn't been slept in.

I received a text from my darling sister Adie/Damaris, saying it's okay to leave Josette, as she is a businesswoman and, to be honest, can turn on the charm, but she is shrewd and would have suited my orange coat.

I go into the office, and Nathalie isn't there, although you never know who will be behind the desks in the office, as this is a communal society. I am very nervous. I stand in the corridor, and Nathalie comes up the stairs. I'm always surprised when French words come out of Nathalie's mouth, as she looks like a comfortable English matron who should be wearing a tartan skirt and walking her beagles in the countryside.

"Bien alors (well then), Ashlee?" I hear, with that familiar "what is it now" tone in her voice.

Our conversation takes place beside the coffee vending machine and outside my classroom, which has a window through which Chahinez lifts a lazy eyebrow at me in that haughty way of the French, intimating she couldn't care less that I'm not coming in.

"Nathalie," I say, "I cannot stay with Josette anymore. There are people living behind a curtain."

"But you told me it was too far out of Paris."

"That's right, Nathalie, I did. I didn't want to get Josette into trouble."

"Well," says Nathalie, "I have to tell you that an older lady just like you from London passed very happy times with Madame Allali. She was an avocat, and she had no problems."

But Nathalie, I must say it is quite uncomfortable and unusual to have someone I don't know at all using the bathroom behind my head at all hours of the night. And you did say in the contract that it would just be me and Madame Allai. It's the use of the word "contract" that does the trick. There is no arguing with a contract.

"Well, Ashlee, you must write an email."

"But I thought you were in charge of correspondence."

"Yes, I am, but you must write an email and we cannot find you any accommodation. You must find your own accommodation."

I go into my classroom and I am not quite sure whether I should write an email or not. At the pause which we have at 11, Nathalie comes up to me.

"You must be gone on Sunday 21 as per the contract. You must go and not come back to Madame Allali's."

I am not sure if I still have to write my email.

My lovely German friend Katia comes to me and asks if I want to have lunch as it's her last day and she wants to say goodbye. She is going to read my blog and she says, "I'm very excited to read what you will write... I met a horrible woman called Katia," she jokes, but jokes fall a bit flat in another language. I tell her I am moving in with an 80-year-old woman and she jokes again, "iz gut, hopefully she will die." I think Katia is trying to say that if she were to die, at last, I will have my own place, which is a very kind thought, but again the joke doesn't really work. She says that I have to make such a lot of travels, but that she is excited as her daughter is selling (but she means buying) her wedding dress and she must help her. Katia's husband is coming tonight and she is gently letting me go. She says I'm too alone, and that it is sad to be alone, but when something is shit, it will get better. Katia is impressive with her jokes and swear words.

We hug each other, and it is lovely. We haven’t done anything really, but shared breakfasts while Katia did her homework, and I wrote my blogs. We were strangers together in a strange place for a moment in a lifetime, but the transient beauty of our friendship has touched my heart.

I go back to school, and there is an email from Nathalie.

Dear Ashleigh,

I hope you had a lovely afternoon. Following our d

iscussion this morning about your wish to cancel your stay with Madame Allali from the 28th of May to 17th of June 2023 (3 weeks), as you are clearly not feeling comfortable there, I have asked our Accommodation Manager to cancel the stay with Madame Allali.

Of course, don't worry, we will not inform Madame Allali of the reasons why you need to cancel the second part of the stay with her, so you do not need to be concerned about Madame Allali's reaction to your leaving. As agreed this morning, you will need to leave Madame Allali's home on Sunday, 21st of May in the morning, as per your original booking.

My colleagues in the Accounts Department will send you a credit note for the 3 weeks' accommodation cancelled, and they will refund the amount of 1080€ directly on the credit card you used to pay for the stay.

I hope you will enjoy the rest of your stay in Paris, and I wish you a lovely week staying with your friends in Paris.

Je vous souhaite un bon week-end.

Bien cordialement,


After school finishes at 5, I set off on the metro to find my new home. I alight where the borders of arrondissements 3, 10, and 11 meet, and there is Marianne to meet me. Marianne is 31 feet tall and personifies the French Revolution with an olive branch in her right hand and the rights of man in her left. She is the symbol of the Republique, and every time a new President starts a term, they make a new bust of Marianne using the face of women like Brigitte Bardot or Catherine Deneuve for postage stamps. I am going to 34 rue de Temple. There is Boulevard du Temple, Rue de Temple, Rue du Faubourg du Temple, and Faubourg du Temple.

I reach a large imposing wooden double door and text Maryse, "Je suis ici," and she comes down and opens the large doors, doing this charming little giggle. We walk into a small courtyard with one bench, up in a small lift with a real black grille to pull, and on floor 6, I enter a small apartment with genuine old beams holding up a low ceiling and little cracked 6-sided tiles on the floor and a little cozy kitchen. It is all as authentic as a poodle, but they are out of fashion in modern Paris with big Samoyeds, huskies, and dogs that look suspiciously like pit bulls à la mode. Maryse gives me a small glass of tepid water, and we sit on the balcony looking over the square of the Great Republique and beyond to Montmartre. Well, you actually can’t see the square, but you know it’s there.

Maryse says her father would stand on the balcony and watch the protests for the rights of homosexuals. It wasn’t that he cared less about the homosexuals, but he was so moved by the right of people to protest. Then, after standing on the balcony for a while, he couldn’t help himself but had to run down to the street to be part of the great commotion. Huge trucks would pass by with music going boom boom boom. Can you imagine that? The gay music was just énorme, and papa was on the pavement nodding his head to the music. I was with him, and papa was a little thin man, and he was so happy. Ça n’existe pas les manifestations or the homosexuals when he was born in 1913.

She shows me her bedroom and another bedroom with two single beds and asks me which one I would like. Of course, I choose the one that is not hers, and my bedroom is lined with books, and the house feels intelligent. There are no wardrobes, of course, and no shelves to put anything on.

We sit at the little table, and she smokes while continuously asking me if I mind. I am so keen for her to like me that I say I rather like it. She tells me again about how she fell on the trottoir and broke her leg and couldn't get out to water her plants in the great chaleur (heat) that Paris waits for every summer. I see the empty pots that once held all her plants stacked in a heap, and there is a feeling of desolation. There is something about her extraordinary eyes that looks beyond the here and now to a place only she can see. It is as if she is not quite with me. She says she had an old cat once, and it wanted to die, so one day, it threw itself through the black iron bars and landed on the balcony on the 4th floor. "Il s'est suicide," she inhales in her cigarette reflectively and points to something on my nose. I suggest she should get another cat. "Mais non. My daughter Fanny might need me." Fanny is her only child (enfant unique) who lives at the foot of the Pyrenees. Fanny has 3 dogs, 3 sheep, and some hens. Maryse waits every day to see if Fanny needs her to come and help with the animals. Fanny has two children, Pierre in Poland and Anna, who is doing her Bac. Maryse waits for them to call or, if her prayers were to be answered, come and stay with her. But they all work so hard, and now I am here. We agree I will bring my things on Sunday. I go home, and Josette is at the table eating tomatoes with cores swimming in oil. There is a plate for me as per the contract. She says, "Ashlee, I don't know what is happening, but you must be gone this weekend. There is an American arriving on Sunday. Make sure you leave your key."

Enjoy the photos:

Chez Maryse.

My room.

The kitchen.

The shower.

The balcony.

The courtyard.

The stairs.

The entrance.

My savoir.

138 views6 comments


Jul 16, 2023

I’m so enjoying the adventure and getting to know you Chuff


Jun 11, 2023

Darling, this is so different. You'll be able to breathe now, it's another world and a much better one for you, though the nature of the transaction seems rather brutal. There is so much expectation and so little generosity of spirit in these ituations. "C'est la vie" I expect.

We're counting the days to your return - just four more. What will you make of us when you see us again? through the prism of a genuine life-changing experience? It will be a marvellous long storytime for us all.

Love as always



Jun 08, 2023

Beaucoup meilleur!


Margaret Alldred
Margaret Alldred
Jun 07, 2023

At last you leave Jossette or whatever her name is - your new lodgings has promise


Jun 07, 2023

Dear Ash. This looks great and such a wonderful part of Paris. Maryse has a style that is a contrast to Josette. (Stating the obvious) Trust it all goes well and there are some treasures amongst the books. Keep writing - get better and better. Joxo

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