Thank God it's Friday

13th November 1998 at 00:00
MONDAY: I'm usually in the office on Mondays filling in a weekly diary. Instead, legally but still feeling like a truant, I set off for a city break in Paris. I've never been to Paris before but, as the train leaves York station, I am reminded of Robert, who has. Eight-year-old Robert listened attentively as his teacher described Paris and I sat at the back of the class and watched.

"A beautiful city," she enthused, "with elegant buildings and fine old churches, art and pavement cafes. A romantic city. Have any of you ever been to Paris?" Robert had.

"Robert, you lucky boy. When did you go? Last summer? With your parents? Oh you lucky boy. Did you like it?" "Not really," said Robert. "It were full of dog shit."

I had higher hopes of Paris last Monday morning but, in the event, Monday was spent in the departure lounge of Manchester Airport.

TUESDAY: We arrive at the hotel at 4.30am, sleepless and exhausted. Still, it's better than doing assertive discipline with an infant school staff -which is what I would have been doing.

Fortified by two hours of sleep, set off for the Musee d'orsay. The Monets and the Manets are even more-than-usually wasted on me as I can't keep my eyes open and have difficulty walking straight. I trip over a metal pole someone has carelessly stuck in the ground to hold wire to protect the paintings; fall drunk-enly against one of Monet's lily ponds.

Apologise profusely to horrified curator who, having checked that I hadn't wiped millions off the value of his museum assures me "Ce n'etait pas votre faute, monsieur!" Too bloody right it wasn't. Wait till I get my hands on the travel company that delayed us.

WEDNESDAY: I'm smugly glad not to be attending our weekly team meeting and set off on a famous people hunt to Montmartre. They're all there. Offenbach, Zola, Nijinsky, Berlioz. Beautifully kept graves and tombstones, every one. Notre-Dame, too, dark and serene, dimly lit by flickering candles.

Even the metro stations hold history. Still displays of war-time France and artefacts from the Louvre, unvandalised, help to pass the time for waiting commuters. On the train a tenor saxophonist plays "Misty" for me and I forget to get off at my stop.

In the evening I consider going to see a film. Have already seen "It is necessary to save the soldier Ryan" and don't fancy the crisply-titled "The man who murmured into the ear of horses" so settle for more good food and even better wine.

THURSDAY: By the time we've climbed to the right floor, I'm too tired to appreciate the pictures we want to see in the Louvre. Settle instead for a quiet seat where I can watch younger tourists than me scuttle from picture to picture mentally ticking them off like up-market train-spotters.

FRIDAY: Wake at 5.30am for the 6.30 coach back to Beauvais airport where we spend most of the day. I am stuffed with good food and wine, have culture coming out of my ears, thoroughly museumed out. Today I would have been in the biggest primary school on my patch, seeing children who may need a statement.

Paris? Loved it. I'll come back one day and have another look. Now I need the weekend to recover. And, oh, in that particular respect, Robert was right.

Michael Mills is an educational psychologist in York

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