As you know, a week or so ago, I was in Lille, and in spite of my falling-down bathroom I still have things about Lille I want to write about. I love cities - and not just the obvious things, the cafes and museums and art galleries, the theatres, the general confusion of who is working and who simply enjoying themselves.
I love the corners, the bits we don't often look at, the alleyways (which often whiff a bit) and courtyards with the shock of bougainvillea falling down a staircase. And sometimes - I look up.
In Lille, I looked up, to find many wonderful attic windows which set me thinking: who lives up there?
This, I decide, is home to a poet. She works in a restaurant, and by the time she gets home her hands are raw from hours spent peeling vegetables or washing up but nothing can keep her from her poems. She plays with words all night, falling asleep when the cock crows and waking just in time to struggle back to work.
That little window, right at the top ... three student musicians live there. They have one stove, and no fire, so in the winter they must huddle together for their fingers are too cold even to play a trumpet. But in the summer, when the sun shines, sometimes they open the window and glorious music sweeps across the square below and passersby stop, listen, know that they are hearing something precious.
A young lawyer lives here. He pours over his books till his eyes ache. One day, he promises himself, he will earn enough to own this building, and then he will replace this dreadful modern glass with its ancient counterpart and the building will be at peace with itself again.
Look behind the windows - and onto the roof. That look-out tells a story more terrible than any fiction.
For this is Northern France.