Les pompiers interviennent rue d'Aubagne

Un Anglais à Marseille #7

Prof d’anglais et coursier à vélo à Marseille, Rory Launder livre son regard sur la ville tout en vous donnant une occasion de réviser votre anglais toutes les deux semaines. Dans ce septième épisode, il raconte « sa » rue d’Aubagne et se rappelle le 5 novembre 2018.


Scuttling from my bedroom on rue d’Endoume to my kitchen (same address) I wear ski socks. The tiles are cold. I’m not sure anyone lives downstairs. I’m certain the flat on the sixth floor next to mine has been unoccupied for over a year. There is at least someone living upstairs.


I won’t put the heating on because I prefer to have the window open while I smoke. I go to bed half-dressed and peel off the rest as it warms up. In the morning, clothes go back on before going to pee. I’m lucky. I’m youngish, I’m single, (I’m white, I’m male) I work, I have parents to help me, lots of friends . . . within three months of the buildings falling down I had moved to the Septième.


Proud of my status as a ‘type de quartier’ the “Anglais à vélo”. I adored the Rue d’Aubagne. I basked in its glory. Herman Melville writes of rivers running under streets, flows of people, flows of history. Moby Dick is long, but I entreat you to read the first chapter, and to listen as it evokes the rue d’Aubagne. The street that everyone flows towards, consciously or not, unavoidable in its magnetic pull.


As we descend we have: Molotov (the former Balthazar); Asile 404 (the former Vélos en Ville); Dar Lamifa (the former Paradox) where I arrived as if by magic on my first ever night out alone in Marseille to meet Baptiste and Éric, who then put me in touch with Bruno in the vendanges, who then in turn opened all of Marseille for me.


Continuing down the hill: the African bar with the mirrored mosaics where we’ve danced until very late on New Year’s Morning; over the bridge the rainbow steps to Cours Ju; Laurent at Coiffeur Masculin; paperasse and bashment at Cemka Studio; that dodgy café tabac where the girl smiles once in ten; everyone’s favourite canetterie; Mama Africa “one fish, one maffé please, we’ll share”. Not forgetting just before on the right La Machine à Coudre – an institution – rest in peace. A second African bar forming the corner with Moustier, where we were flabbergasted to meet jubilant Angolans and Cape Verdeans celebrating their colonial overlord’s victory against France in the Euros. Dreadlocks, rum, brown sugar, and lime.


The rue d’Aubagne is not without its detractors. The Fête du Soleil always had punch-ups. If female you had to be local to avoid being harassed. Two Germans, blond and big-boobed told me they would never walk up that hill again.


The fifth of November 2018. I awake at 7.30, comfortable, my apartment is warmed by those below, above, and from the sides. It’s Monday. I sniff, I scratch, I ponder. I drink water in bed, I wonder. I’m unemployed, but have a job lined up for first of December. I should probably do impôts or CAF or something, or write maybe. But there’s something deliciously guilty about falling back to sleep on a Monday that I choose not to resist.


By half-eight I’m up, patrolling my kitchen / living room area drinking coffee and smoking. With time there’s a knock at the door, reluctantly I open. My neighbour: bald, retired, still with a swagger ‘un vrai type de quartier’ of thirty-five years explains “a building has collapsed, I don’t have any electricity”. This is not really hitting home for me. I ask if he wants to charge his phone (I have electricity). He says no “a building has collapsed, we have to leave”. Perplexed I close the door.


I drink coffee I smoke. The door knocks again. This time it’s two young men in red overalls, firemen. “A building has collapsed, you have to leave, we are evacuating the premises.” Something clicks. “How long do I have? Can I have ten minutes?” I leave the door open.


My breathing quickens, there’s a fuzziness across the top of my head. I grab my bag and take two clean t-shirts, pants, socks, and an extra jumper. My laptop, a towel, I scan my bedroom, phone-charger check. I scan my living-room. There is an unfinished Durum Kebab on the table, tinfoil, orange sauce and chips. I close the windows. I take my bike, lock the door, and move hastily along the corridor down the stairs and into the street, no toothbrush. I don’t remember where I slept that night.


Rory Launder



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