a sparkling day that makes you want to rush out and do something. No, it's grey and damp, the zinc roofs round about look rained on, or about to be rained on. The streets are quiet, perhaps too quiet for the run-up to Christmas. France has dragged its feet about de-regulating shopping, letting stores open late and on Sundays, the way they do in the US and Canada: "We don't want to turn into a nation of shoppers"; and I can sympathise with that. However, there's a feeling that the economy is weak--weaker than a year ago. My gym is empty most days, the squad of personal trainers has vanished, save for one or two, and last night, when I popped into Monoprix to buy [rice, ground, meat, zucchini] for my son, who arrives tomorrow, I didn't have to wait in line at the cash registers. And tourism has certainly dropped off--the Picasso Museum was well, practically empty, last week when I went back for a second visit.

Did I say this? The best part of the Museum, for me, right now, is the fifth-floor attic rooms, which have hung a number of Picasso's paintings by other painters: a small mountain scene (peaks, meadow, farmhouse, winding road) by...Matisse. The head of a mountain goat, with human eyes,  by Courbet. Some cows and peasants by Le Nain--Picasso's animals are as expressive as people. And also, more expected, paintings by Cezanne and later Matisse. 

While I was over in the Marais I dropped into the Italian Bookshop, La Tour de Babel, on the Rue du Roi de Sicile, a lovely shop whose keeper found me something to fill the void left by having read all of Ferrante, some books twice. I ended up with a novel--a detective story--by a woman called Dacia Maraini, whom I didn't know and whom I'm enjoying. It's more conventionally literary and less tumultuous than Ferrante, but still a page-turner: a women returns from a few days' absence to discover that the woman in the next apartment has been murdered. A pair of turquoise trainers are neatly lined up just inside her apartment. Something about the shoes...