Football: Museum of bare-faced cheek

Andy Martin At Large In France
I WAS looking for the Museum of Erotic Art. "I'm looking for the Museum of Erotic Art," I said to the woman in the red blouse.

"You've found it," she said. "It's here."

I had just walked out of the Cafe Casablanca on the Boulevard Clichy in the Pigalle district of Paris when this woman took my arm and asked me where I was going. She seemed very keen to be helpful. The recent advertising campaign by the Mayor, exhorting Parisians to be friendlier to visitors, was clearly having an impact.

"Are you sure this is the museum?" I said.

I eyed the sign over the door doubtfully. It read: "Le Nooky". "I want the Musee de l'Erotisme. Apparently there is a special football exhibition."

"Yes, yes," she reassured me, pulling me through the door, "you're in the right place, the football show is about to come on."

I was carried inside on a solid wave of advancing Scotsmen, wearing kilts and hats with feathers in and singing a Rod Stewart song.

"My name is Sylvie," she said. "What's yours?"

"It's rather dark for a museum, isn't it?" I said. Aside from a dimly lit stage, I couldn't see a thing.

"The museum is at the back," she said. "Here, sit down. I'll get you a drink."

She brought the drink and asked for 30 francs. I gave her a 50 note and she gave me 10 francs change. "I don't see any football exhibition here."

The Scotsmen let out a cheer. A young woman in football shorts and jersey was coming on stage, accompanied by throbbing music. She was carrying a football under one arm.

"I'm here to do some research."

"Would you like to buy me a drink?"

"I've really got to find this museum," I said. "I'd really better go."

"Don't worry, I will show you the museum. It's through there." She pointed vaguely.

The woman on stage had now removed her jersey and was dancing with the ball in a way I'm sure the FA rule book declares illegal. The men in kilts were humming a tune that I associate with porridge oats and caber-tossing.

"Have a good heart and buy me a drink." Sylvie put her hand on my knee. Perhaps she had taken the Mayor's message a little too literally.

Up on the stage, the dancer was rolling about on top of the ball. All she was wearing was a referee's whistle.

Sylvie asked: "What do you think of the cabaret?"

Well, it definitely wasn't football, but I had by now come to a pretty firm conclusion that it was not erotic, either. As Roland Barthes wrote in Mythologies: "Striptease desexualizes the woman at the very moment that it undresses her."

"I've got to go," I said.

A man in a suit arrived, bearing a drink on a tray. Even in the darkness he had a swarthy look about him. I had a hunch that he was not so wholeheartedly committed to the Mayor's latest thinking as Sylvie. "Goodbye," I said.

"The bill, monsieur."

"What bill?"

"For the drink."

"I've paid for my drink."

"Sylvie's drink."

"I didn't buy her a drink."

He whispered with Sylvie. "She says you did."

"OK, OK, how much is it?"

The man switched on a torch and pointed at the bill. "Fruit juice. 700 francs (pounds 70)."

"Is that a joke?"

"Non, it is not a joke, it is the minimum."

I had a good laugh at it anyway. "I was looking for the Museum of Erotic Art."

I went to go. The man in the suit started pushing me. It is in this kind of situation where my French generally lets me down. It let me down then. So, for want of any better ideas, I started pushing him back.

"Take your hands off me," he said, in a tone of immense indignation. "You come in here, order a drink, and then refuse to pay. I am calling an agent de police."

"Fine," I said. "Let's call an agent de police."

As it turned out, nobody called an agent de police. For it was at this precise moment that the small battalion of the Tartan army that had piled into the Nooky chose to pile out again. I was swept up and expelled into the light once more.

"Thanks," I said to no-one in particular.

Sylvie was outside.

She thought I was speaking to her. "Come later," she said. "I'll show you the museum."

As I continued up the Boulevard de Clichy, still looking for the Musee de l'Erotisme, the Scots were comparing notes.

"She was something, didn't ya think?"

"Aye, she was - but, ya know, this place is terrible. It's nothing but peep-shows.

I had been thinking about asking them if they wanted to come along to the football exhibition at the Museum of Erotic Art. But I decided to let it go.