Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols: No.10 ~ "Utility Value"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Symbol Boat

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols
No.10: "Utility Value" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The symbol of Paris is a boat. Strange, you might think, unless you think about it a little more.

Paris is a river-based city. That stretch of water has both brought invaders and protected it down the ages. The Paris area, taken as a whole, is purported to be Europe's busiest port.

The river Seine is synonymous with the city and the French capital would be unthinkably lessened without it.

The motto of Paris is 'Fluctuat nec mergitur', which means something along the lines of 'tossed by the waves but does not sink'. Which is metaphorically true enough. Paris has been invaded or under siege or simply revolutionised countless times, and yet has never suffered the whole scale destruction many other cities have.

The symbol of Paris is a boat, often depicted as being rocked on a restless sea. They might not be immediately obvious, but as soon as you become aware of the idea, as often happens, they suddenly start cropping up all over the place. This Paris Top 10 is devoted to the little, and sometimes not so little boats of Paris, in all their incarnations. As ever, if you find a wonderful one you haven't seen here, do tell me and I'll add it in.

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols
No.10 ~ "Utility Value"

This would make a marvellous quiz question. Where would you find this little metal plaque and what does it represent? I say this as my Paris fanatics' social group, Paris If You Please on Meet Up, just had our regular monthly Paris Quiz Night (all welcome!) and so my head is still reeling with all the questions I had to dream up a couple of days ago.

So do you have any ideas? And what about those letters, which would more commonly be 'VP' actually. I'll give you some more blah-blah before I suggest a solution.

I've seen these around a lot on my intra muros meanderings. Because there are a lot of them! In case you haven't got it, they are to be found on all those long rectangular electricity boxes you see on practically every street - the second picture here shows a Paris pooch debating whether or not to water one of them just to its right. Curiously enough, there's another Paris boat symbol in the picture below, but as it's not the subject of this Top 10 entry I shan't dwell on it (but can you spot it?).

I find them charmingly elegant actually. It just goes to show how little the human brain needs in terms of lines to conjure up an image and an entire set of connotations and implications.

The 'VP' you usually see next to the Paris boat symbol stands for 'Ville de Paris', logically enough, but here we have something different: 'EP'.

At first I thought it must be 'Electricité de Paris', as it seemed to be gracing electricity junction boxes, which indeed I believe it is. However, a little pooch (who has an intimate knowledge of these things) growled that it may, in fact, stand for 'Eclairage Public', which I find even better. Public Lighting. All that remains is for you to see exactly where that little tube running out from the top of the box goes, and if it ends at a wall-mounted street light we'll know we're thinking along the right lines.

Whatever order you're reading these articles in, you might be interested to know that this was the very first one I wrote in the Paris Top Ten Symbols series, so humble yet ubiquitous I found it. And the photo's pleasantly crisp too (for my poor old iPhone). So now I have to find nine other examples of the Paris boat on rough seas, each one totally different from all the others. I do love a Paris street challenge!

Discover all my Paris boat symbols... 

* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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