Remembering Jim Haynes, and Paris, sadness and other things…

I was sorry to hear of Jim Haynes passing, I wrote about him in my book, ‘A European Odyssey’. In the Guardian’s obituary they wrote about Jim being a ‘leading light in the arts counterculture’. He was instrumental in getting the Edinburgh book festival off the ground. He did many things, he kept busy.

I used to attend his Sunday night dinners in Montparnasse, not because they were particularly interesting, but because I missed hearing my accent. Once upon a time John Lennon showed up on a Sunday night, but that was long, long ago. The dinners were mostly packed with people like me and plenty of people wishing to network and search out further invitations because that’s what expats did in Paris. The city inspired this type of behavior more than any city in which I’ve lived, and I’ve lived in a lot.

Jim was quite nice to me, he came to my flat in Paris and I met him at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of times, after I’d moved from Paris, when he was growing old and rather sad. I think he was frustrated due to some legal drama in his life. The details no longer matter and he is now at peace.

But I’m reminded how comfortable it was to feel sad in that city, it welcomed this emotion, even celebrated it. I appreciated this deeply, because when I was living there, in my 3rd year, I was suffering from a complicated grief after my mother died. I think of that city with great fondness, it was a city packed with delirious distractions and it was a city where one could experience their sadness with space and a sense of security.

It also reminded me of how people in Paris were inspired to monetize their social life. Jim did it well. When a friend arrived from San Francisco I took him to one of these Sunday dinners in Montparnasse. Everyone was welcome and everyone was encouraged to put 20 euro in an envelope for the pleasure.

My friend looked around, holding his paper plate and said, “I think this is a bit of a scam,”…I laughed but it did make me wonder how much was made; there were an awful lot of people surrounding us and spilling into the funky garden surrounding his ground floor flat. And Jim wasn’t the only one doing this, he was simply the one who did it best, with great success.

I think a lot of people appreciated the sojourn to Montparnasse on a Sunday night, including me.

At Beckett’s grave in Paris, in Montparnasse, Paris

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