There was a long long queue of people waiting to get into the Orangerie to see Monet’s water-lily paintings. All of a sudden it rained and the whole of the top half of the queue disappeared under a carapace of umbrellas. The rain slanted against the people – and the queue began to look forlorn, beleaguered and dismal.
I turned south and crossed the river Seine; I edged past the VIP statues in front of the National Assembly and walked on hoping that the rain would stop. It didn’t. So, when I came to one of the big beautiful churches of Paris* I pushed open the door and went inside. The church was surprisingly warm. I glanced at the typewritten sheets of paper that outlined the order of service for Christmas day; I took in the calm and reverential mood that had been created by the clusters of burning candles dotted here and there throughout the church. I walked up the aisle and looked at the stained glass windows and the carved wooden pulpit and the golden altar-piece. I carried on walking into the dim and then dimmer spaces behind the altar. After a few steps I heard a murmuring voice; the voice had the soft melody of a honey-coated bell. I carried on walking towards the voice. And then I saw a young girl sitting on one of the grates from which the air that warmed the church came. It was this girl whose voice I had heard. Her clothes suggested that she came from distant lands. Opposite her was a small pushchair and in the pushchair was an even younger child. Perhaps the child in the pushchair was three years old. Then I noticed that as the older girl chatted away to the child in the pushchair she adjusted some sort of package that was placed on the hot air grate. I realised what was in the package: it was a pizza. The pizza was being slowly cooked on the hot-iron surfaces of the central heating system.
The scent of pizza-topping started to mingle with the scent of incense that lingered in the sacred spaces of the church. It was an unusual combination.
I smiled at the young girl and the child. The young girl looked at me for a moment and then she smiled in return. As I moved away, I realised that I had never seen an ecclesiastical pizza before.
* The church was the St. Clotilde in Paris 7eme