People watching in Paris

pink socks top

I love to watch people. How they walk, how they move, what they’re wearing and where they’re from have always fascinated me. Usually I just drink it all in and enjoy, rather like watching a film. Occasionally though, somebody surprises me (like intergalactic Grandma) and I’m shaken out of my reverie. This takes quite some doing as I have been consciously people watching for at least fifteen years, everywhere I’ve been.

I’m not sure if this man was a scout leader, something that only ocurred to me when I got the photo onto a bigger screen and saw the inverted triangle on his t-shirt and payed more attention to his hat.

Think about it though, what do you expect him to be wearing below the knees?

Think hard. Harder.

Here you go:

pink socks

Now I BET you weren’t thinking of pink knee-high socks and orange shoes!

Intergalactic fashion in Paris

spaceage granny - top

Paris is not a fashion-forward city. Stylish, chic, classic, yes, but there are not enough risk-takers in the attire department to make it a trend-driver. This does not seem to differ whether people are in the older or younger generations: everybody dresses like their peers.

So look at the photo above. It’s taken in mid-July at around noon. Our Parisian lady moved deceptively quickly past my lunch companion and I. In a pillarbox red coat* and black berret, she already stood out – red is not a typical colour to see on a Parisian, especially a coat and more especially on a lady who is probably a grandmother, as they usually (read: always) opt for black or beige.

Sometimes all this sameness can get a bit boring.

A French Grandma with intergalactic boots


So imagine our squeals of delight when we spotted her utterly fabulous intergalactic boots!


*I haven’t altered these pictures, they were taken with the iPhone in a hurry so a bit blurred, but the coat really was that bright!

Fake it

It’s a strange thing wearing skirts again after 9 years of almost never wearing them. I find myself constantly patting my thigh just to make sure there is still fabric covering my modesty. My favourite dress has concealed pockets at hip level, so I can (I think!) surreptitiously make sure it stays in place in case the wind blows. So far, there haven’t been any accidents, I’m just overly concerned.

Getting out of trousers also brings with it the legs issue: they are on display. Parisiennes seem single-handedly to keep the bronzing market in business. Not deep tacky tans (oh la la! Heaven forbid!), but gentle kissed-by-the-sun-like-I-have-spent-the-summer-in-the-sun-swimming-and-drinking-cool-ros̩ tans Рin April. You know, the sort of tan that makes you look good.

I caught my friends’ very polite eight year old daughter staring at my legs with furrowed brows.

“Is everything ok?” I asked

“Um, yes. I was just wondering..are you wearing tights?”

“No, not today, it’s too hot.” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t think so, but I was just wondering..why are your legs soooo white?”

Aah, bless…

Right, time to make an appointment at the fake tan centre!

Take the men out of Egypt's La Senza, Women's Secret and Nike Woman!

Admittedly I’m in a grumpy mood today: I always am after a bad night’s sleep.

But, but BUT, I wasn’t last week when I went shopping and I was superbly pissed off then too.

I walked into La Senza at our local hypermarket/shopping centre. It was about 9.30am and there were seven guys in their twenties, two of whom were clearly behind the tills, the rest were just hanging out, chatting with the two female floor assistants. Of the guys there, four were clearly watching me as I perused the lingerie. One of the girls came to follow me around and smooth out anything I even breathed on.

I hate that. I don’t care if they do it when I’ve left the shop, but following me and straightening every, single hanger while I’m there, like I’m ruining their display of hanging garments, which is there so that people like me come and look and then, presumably, buy, drives me nuts. Team it with some sexually repressed spectators and, La Senza, there’s not a hope in hell of me getting out my credit card.

So, I left the shop last week without buying. Not before quick glance at the two guys who were still watching me, then the two cashiers, then the guys sitting around the changing rooms with the other floor assistant and saying, in Arabic, loud enough for them to hear, “So, this is where all the guys come to hang out?” and walking out.

Today I went in just to see if it was different. Instead of seven, there were five guys.

I just don’t get it. It’s lingerie. It’s a conservative society. Women are covered up to protect their modesty, and so as not to titillate men, but lingerie stores have men working the tills? I know that there are bra stalls in markets and women pick their bras in full view of everybody, not just the male stall holder, but this is (for Egypt) an upmarket, expensive store.

It’s not just La Senza. A few shops away is Women’s Secret. They have a female floor assistant with a man on the till. The same with Nike Woman. Is it that Egyptian women cannot count and so cannot be trusted with tills? Nope. Perhaps it’s the patriarchial society. I don’t know. I don’t CARE! I don’t want some guy folding my bras, checking out if I might need another size (what the hell does he know about how bras fit?!) by asking and taking a quick ‘glance’.

Egyptian women are smart. They are also really nice and friendly. I would have probably bought something in all three stores today had there not been men checking out what I was going to be wearing for Mr S (and him alone). Egyptian men are also smart, but there are plenty of other retail ‘experiences’ that talented men can work at, there is no reason for them to be pawing my panties!