Getting my hair cut causes me some angst even when I am on home territory. Here, there’s even more to give me the heebie-jeebies; not only explaining what I want, and hoping it will happen, but coping with the expectation of some general conversation – en français of course.
I’ve recently found a hair salon (Àlapointe) that I like on rue Lamarck in the 18th. I’ve nailed the right language and process for booking a rendezvous and today, for my second visit, I sailed through the routine questions like “is the water the right temperature for you?” I show a picture to help explain the style of cut I want and I’m reasonably competent with conversation about the weather, explaining where I’m from and how long I’ve been living in Paris. Tick. Tick. Tick.
That only leaves the dreaded Random Topic of Conversation. What will it be, will I understand, or will I plummet into the black hole of incomprehension?
Settled in the chair, the scissors snipping near my ears, the hairdresser asks me something about “genne com pee yon”. Ahhh what? Clearly I look puzzled because he repeats it – it still sounds like “genne com pee yon.” I’m at a disadvantage. Without my glasses on I can’t see his face to observe the way the sounds are formed, I need all those visual clues to hear the word and understand. I turn in the seat and peer at him – the scissors stop – and he says again “genne com pee yon”.
“OH! Jane Campion (imagine my best New Zild twang there); oui, oui, oui, elle est néo zélandaise bien sûr, elle est Présidente de la jury du Festival de Cannes cette année” I witter. I ask en français if he’s seen Top of the Lake; he has, just the first 2 episodes so far. We agree she’s very talented.
This guy must be a film buff; he mentions Avatar and James Cameron, Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Weta workshop. I have enough vocab to respond in some way for each subject explaining that I come from Wellington where PJ and Weta are based. I more or less managed to tell him about being at a cricket match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington some years ago when PJ asked the crowd to make marching sounds and battle chants for sound effects in the second movie of the Rings trilogy. He got the gist and seemed amused and impressed – impressed with PJ, not my French I mean.
So I left the salon smiling for a few reasons.
- My haircut is very good (again), and the hair cut experience totally pleasant.
- Despite the faltering start I understood the random topic conversation points and even if my responses were less than perfect they were on the same topic at least.
- I felt rather proud, all over again, of NZ’s film industry fame.
Worth a coffee and scone with delicious strawberry and (I think) rhubarb jam at Soul Kitchen further up at number 33 rue Lamarck to celebrate another successful adventure in Random Conversation Topic territory.