This might be my last entry until the new year, unless something major occurs, like a Moroccan victory in tonight’s match against France. Or if the Qatar corruption scandal, which is spreading fast through Greece, Italy and Belgium, spreads into the Hexagon. Which begs a question: Monsieur Macron, why are you in Doha tonight? Yes, your team is in the semi-final, but the optics aren’t optimal. To some, it might look like a benediction. As Thomal Legrand opined in this morning’s Libé:
just as it would be outrageous for a president to go to an event organised by Eva Kaili, the Greek vice-president of the European Parliament suspected of corruption, it seems equally outrageous for him to go to a World Cup organised by the corrupter.
But chances are, this Hexagon is going dark for awhile. Before it does I want to thank all my subscribers, paid and free, for showing up these last six months, for taking the time to read my random bits of this and that, and for pushing me forward. If you coughed up, even better. But even if you haven’t, or can’t, or find the idea ridiculous but still want to check in from time to time, by all means, be my guest, and accept my profoundest gratitude.
To show the latter I’d love to invite each and every one of you to our party this Saturday. But that, of course, is absurd. Our place is tiny and in Paris and most of you live a million miles away. And already have plans this Saturday. But a pretty considerable number of you live in France – mostly in Paris – and while I would love to see you all at my door, you too are too numerous to be added to the guest list. Hence this treasure hunt. Not one that will have you running around the freezing streets of Paris — where it’s supposed to snow tonight. One that you can do from the comfort of your home. But the prize can only be claimed at my home, and only on Saturday night, during our annual Fêtes des Fêtes, our first since 2019. To win you must start here, and, as it were, show up here, by correctly identifying the name of the street we live and will be partying on, from six pm until well into Sunday.
Please don’t put your answer in the comments. Just show up. Those of you who already know the name and number of our home are disqualified (and probably already on the guest list).
Ready? Oh, before we get started, one more craven plug:
Hexagon is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It’s an innocuous enough street, gracefully curving past mostly early-19th-century residential buildings housing restaurants, bars, an elementary school, a post office, a derelict supermarket, a few shuttered shops and a number of converted storefronts like ours. It runs east to northwest, descending slightly—following an old chemin that was once a creek bed, towards the canal. It starts at a busy boulevard that once marked the edge of an ancient commune, which shared its name with the third and final novel of a novelist who died almost certainly from hyperemesis gravidarum. It ends on a street named after a spy – a woman who lived above a telegraph office occupied by the Prussians during the 1870 war, in a town that shares its name with a small scalloped-edge sweet or savoury tart. The woman, a 22-year-old single mother, found a way to bypass and divert the telegraph wire, which ran through her first-floor room. For two weeks she secretly sent intercepted Prussian army’s dispatches to the French authorities, and was said to have thus saved the lives of 40,000 soldiers. When the diversion was discovered, the Prussians sentenced her to death, but the armistice was signed just minutes before her execution. She was pardoned by the Prince of Prussia himself, who, upon her release, asked to shake and kiss her hand.
(Warning: According to Les Beaux mensonges de l'histoire by Guy Breton, this whole story is horseshit, a fable cooked up by a Le Figaro journalist in an article published in May 1877.)
From 1672 until 1877, when it was rechristened after a French Revolutionary army that conquered a European neighbour in 1793-1794, this street was named after a three-syllable French word meaning “small” pint, the cylinder in a pump body under its piston, or, in Mauritius only, hubcap. It is not to be confused with a similarly spelled French term of endearment for a cute girl or an adorable thing.
It is shared by highways in British Columbia, Iceland and Tasmania, a large positive integer — the largest in fact, that cannot be expressed as the sum of different numbers exhibiting a specific geometric form, and the number of French miles in the circumference of a phantom island whose purported existence was believed to explain why all compasses pointed to it. An easier one? The atomic number of an element that certain bacteria can use in compounds as respiratory metabolites.
That’s it. Bonne chance. Et bonnes fêtes!
So enjoy your labyrinthical essays that wind and weave, full of twists and turns, "crammed" with literary and experiential "plums."