Pluto in Capricorn, the Zap Zone Post-personal Pluto transit, what else to do but The Year Of Living Selfishly?
For a Cap having a mid-life meltdown _ softened by the golden parachute of a redundancy payout _ it was really no contest. Might as well be unemployed in Paris as unemployed in Melbourne. Loveliness is consoling, and I needed a lot of consoling. The profession I had loved for 30 years was dying, one of MM’s dinosaurs. And moving to France seemed a change huge enough and hare-brained enough to be Zap-Zone compliant.
With Pluto in Cap, all my Cap friends have suddenly found themselves losing their jobs; some, their partners or their health as well. I also had Pluto doing something ghastly in my personal chart for seven appalling years a while ago. Frankly, I have had enough of learning experiences that help one grow. I want some pleasure. And aren’t the French supposed to have perfected that?
I think each nationality has the traits of a particular star sign. America is Aries, brash and optimistic and full of itself. Australia is Sagg; sport-obsessed, cheerful, outgoing, says what it thinks and loves the great outdoors. England is Taurus: reliable, stoic and resistant to change, and happiest with the stodgy food of nursery years.
And France _ France is Virgo: intellectual and analytical, moody and perfectionistic, graceful and vile-tempered. It is endearing one minute and infuriating the next, with such a powerful sense of aesthetics that it created the world’s most seductive city.
I expected the worst of the French. Grouchy arrogant bastards with no patience for foreigners, is the general view. But I arrived in the middle of a northern winter. Paris is not swarming with tourists. Parisians are living their ordinary lives.
And what you notice is A: the courtliness of their manners and B: their enthusiasm for correcting you _ not to hurt or humiliate, but because there is A Right Way, and you have somehow strayed from it.
Madame must be careful, her backpack is undone! Madame must tie the belt of her coat, it has drifted loose and she might lose it! Madame must not laugh when the man at the bank tells her he cannot track down the card that has not arrived because, without that same card, he cannot access her account. “This is very serious, madame!” he says reprovingly, as she giggles over the Catch-22. (Madame, by the way, adores being Madame – so very grand!)
Struggle with a word at the butcher’s and you find yourself first corrected by the man behind the counter, who twists his face into comical spasms as he exaggerates the way to wrap one’s mouth around French vowels. This is done at stentorian volume with the whole shop listening attentively. Then, each member of the queue behind you will lean forward in turn to contribute his or her little gem to the topic in hand, all opening their mouths widely and speaking very, very slowly as if to a tiny child or a grandmother with a hearing trumpet.
It’s like being in a classroom with 10 teachers and one student. Virgo corrective nagging par excellence.
The movie When Harry Met Sally has always seemed to me to be about a Capricorn/Virgo love affair: Sally the Miss Hospital Corners who softens up over the years, and Harry the pessimistic, details-obsessed Virgo wounded in love who is frightened to try again.
I order food like Sally. I have been known to throw away a kebab because they slathered it in ketchup instead of tzatziki. I always order sauces on the side (because what if you don’t like the sauce and it’s already all over everything?) And I conduct a forensic cross-examination of the waiter before deciding: Is it a chicken breast or thigh? A lamb shank or fillet? Is the chocolate cake served warm or cold?
It drives Australians insane. My adult children want to hide under the table.
The French, bless them, adore it. Stony-faced waiters smile. They nod. They debate. They dash back to the kitchen to ask urgent questions of the chef. Madame is taking the food seriously. This is to be respected. Dammit, this is to be ex-pected.
Caps are meant to do the hard stuff early. I’ve had years of it, on both the work and the home fronts, and Paris is to be my reward; the year of living selfishly. There have been magical moments. Rushing out of the bank, shoving dreary documents into my bag, and glancing up to see the Arc de Triomphe. Leaving the print shop with my new business cards and catching sight of the Opera at the end of the road. That sweet lift of the heart at magnificence in the midst of the mundane.
And there has been the happy discovery that the French know how to laugh at themselves. In the movie Seven Psychopaths at the cinema in Les Halles, two of the film’s characters debated how best to end the script of a film they were writing. One wanted a blood-spattered shoot-out. The other wanted the characters to leave their guns, go into the desert and talk about the meaning of life. The splatter-fan said in exasperation, “What are we making, French movies now?”
The French audience roared.
They also know how to laugh at me. At dinner in a brasserie near the Bastille, I found myself sitting close to a man who looked in profile to be the handsome young actor Romain Duris. If I weren’t such a well-behaved cougar, I would have reached out and stroked those glossy black curls.
“Was that Romain Duris?” I asked the sardonic young waiter (note to self: tautology, all French waiters are sardonic). “No,” he said, whisking away dishes. “But I have seen him in this area.”
Casting a wicked glint over one shoulder as he disappeared into the kitchen, he called out, “Maybe you will get lucky!”
In classic Saturn fashion, Capricorn in Paris wishes to remain incognito, so no link.
Image: Paris – Gili – Society 6