It’s not easy being green…

kim-vege-2…So said some frog or another on a lonely Monday afternoon. Well, whatever his particular woes, he may have had a point, but in the Paris of 2016 under the environmental-leaning lead of mayor Anne Hidalgo, the statement doesn’t really ring true. In fact it is unbelievable easy to be green in France’s modern capital, despite how life in a congested, polluted, concrete-coated sprawl might suggest otherwise.

Long-term readers may have picked up on the point that thanks to a country upbringing, I have chlorophyl rather than the red stuff coursing through my veins. Despite the miniature confines of my precious Granny Flat actively discouraging me from persuing my horticultural passions, I’ve managed over the years to grow in my window boxes everything from mustard leaves to rocket, basil to kale. Yes, kale. I have a family of spider plants who between them have produced over 25 babies. Too long a time between seeing a green tableau of trees and I start to turn into a quivering crazy person.

kim-vege-3So a strange choice to move to the big bad city you might say, but just because the urban address often wins, doesn’t mean any of us need to forgo a frequent inhalation of green air in our daily lives. Despite not having a central blanket of luscious green as cities like London and New York can boast, Paris can offer the bookend parks of Boulogne and Vincennes and plenty of little pockets of lawn and flowers for picnics and plant-gazing.

But cast your eyes away from your smart phone whilst trotting along the pavement (dear God, please), and you might just find something a little bit more guerrilla going on. In numerous tiny pockets around the city, local residents have said a rousing non to allowing useless slabs of ugly wasteland to remain untouched and unused, taking it upon themselves to get planting, turning these urban eyesores into environmentally friendly tableaus, full of flowers and green things, and even fruit and veg.

kim-vege-1Many have to fight the powers-that-be to stay as horticultural spots, coming up against urban developers who would prefer to fill the voids with concrete instead. But thankfully, the Parisian authorities have realised the power of nature, and in summer last year launched a scheme to allow and persuade local residents to cultivate their own patches of vegetation wherever they could find an empty space ripe for planting, whether it be a lonely street corner, a bare patch of wall or the base of a pavement tree.

Willing participants must contact the city of Paris and obtain a permit giving them the right to greenify their chosen spot, and are sent a planting kit complete with earth and seeds ready to burst into colourful life. Your permit will last for three years (though renewal is possible) and there are a team of green-fingered experts on hand if you don’t know your pansies from your begonias.

kim-vege-6And it needn’t only be flowers brightening up the urban landscape; walking past Montparnasse one afternoon, I spotted a fledgling veg patch bringing the grocer, quite literally to the streets. In these times of increasing poverty and food banks, what could be better then a couple of home-grown free tomatoes? If your plant skills encompass only the power to kill anything in a pot, then just walk by and silent appreciate the efforts of others. Just don’t let your pooch pee all over their hard work, ok?

 

I came, I sawed, I conquered

From this...

From this…

In both French and English, touching wood is seen as an insurance policy against bad luck. In America the superstition is taken one step further and concept is rendered a great deal noisier (knocking rather than touching), and given a disco soundtrack. Here at the Granny Flat we’ve been stockpiling luck insurance like it’s going out of fashion, not just touching, but rescuing, cleaning, measuring, sawing, nailing, screwing and reinventing wood, meaning that bad luck has not a slither of hope against us. The DIY bug has well and truly hit.

....to this.

….to this.

I promised you a while ago that I’d keep you updated with how Granny Flat’s facelift is progressing, and with frosty January supplying perfect toolbelt-toting-handywoman conditions, many a wooden project has been completed. And I’m not just puffing out my chest to show off my DIY skills here (ok, maybe just a little), all of this carpentry business has been underpinned by the Paris Small Capital ethos, meaning that I’ve been delighting in the chance to go back to basics and use my hands to create my own furniture, spending hardly a euro in the process.

Living room bad....

Living room bad….

Old Dame Paris has had a hand in the creative process too, kindly gifting me with all of the materials I need, invoking the magical spirit of waste-not-want-not. Since moving to the 18th, I’ve noticed that my fellow inhabitants are fond of abandoning unwanted furniture on the pavements, meaning that it’s not unusual to compete for space whilst walking home with wardrobes, sofa beds, offcuts and toilet bowls (not to mention crispy old Christmas trees). Head out of the luxury-gilded tourist areas, and you’ll see this is par for the course in the residential bits where us authentic Paris residents lay our heads. Don’t buy into that Amelie romance rubbish; if the film was true to life she’d be living in a tiny box room with a single mattress and just enough room to swing a starving sewer rat.

...living room better!

…living room better!

Honestly, I could have furnished my apartment ten times over with the spoils I’ve walked past languishing on the street. Sure, most folk make a beeline to Ikea, but Granny Flat is extremely picky in her sizing, so trying to find the right piece for the right hole is like to trying to find a Frenchie who doesn’t like wine. So imagination and an eye for design have taken over, and an abandoned oak unit has been rejigged into a smaller kitchen unit and a few sturdy shelves.

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Building confidence with every screw screwed and every stroke of my borrowed saw, I decided that after hanging my shelves all by myself (I think I may have even punched the air when I filled them up and they didn’t fall down), the next logical step was, of course, to upgrade the poof I’d found and re-covered, into a curl-up-with-a-book comfy armchair. Enter stage left my Mum’s old blue curtains, an old duvet and some mongrel off cuts, and you can see for yourself what I managed to rustle up. With this and all my handywork though, it’s better not too look to closely or start brandishing about anything too heavy.

But I’m pretty chuffed with the results, and for a total cost of less than 15 euros for the lot (DIY megastores Castorama and Leroy Merlin supplied much needed screws and the like), I feel hugely virtuous financially, and importantly environmentally. Louis XVI furniture it ain’t, and you probably wouldn’t want to wobble any of it too hard if you’re keen to stay in my good books. But Paris isn’t all parquet floors and chandeliers you know. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Though after all that I wouldn’t say no to a bit of hand cream).