When I first came to live in Paris as a 21 year old, I put a notice on the wall of the British institute looking for a room. Within a day I received a call from a Dutch girl called Haneka who wanted to rent me her little maid’s room on the top floor of a block near republique for 400 francs a month (£40). All the other maids rooms on the floor were locked up and used for storage by residents of the apartments below. There was Turkish toilet on the landing, no hot water and a mean trickle of cold water. It was perfect.
I lived there off and on for a few years. I worked a lot around France and so stayed in hotels often on weekdays. When I moved to a nicer place I kept the room and sub-sub-let it (at the same remarkable price!) to a catalogue of different tenants. There was Marie, the pretty air hostess with the Marseille accent; the Italian whose name I can’t remember who never wanted to pay the rent but loved to show me his collection of silk ties. He wanted to pay me in ties and was scandalised that I had the poor taste to refuse this contract. The room became a bit of a pain to manage, especially when a homeless man started squatting on the landing and traumatising my Italian. Eventually, I got a call from Seamus, Haneka’s ex, who said he needed somewhere to live (Haneka had kicked him out). Seamus took control. My relationship with the room was over.
Today when I walk past 10 rue du chateau d’eau I look up. That entire floor of central Paris real estate will now be worth millions and must surely have been transformed into two or three sophisticated penthouse apartments. In my day the room was a random space that had escaped the lock-up (I never knew who owned it), home for few years for the young jetsam and flotsam of metropolitan life. Where the young jetsam and flotsam go now I don’t know.