My tiny room in the centre of Paris

Years ago I remember a friend telling me that he'd just bought a house in a NSW country town for the price of a car. I've just done something similar with my purchase of a tiny room in the centre of Paris for less than the price of a car parking space in Sydney.

At the end of April, I spent three days staying in an airbnb maid's room near the Luxembourg Gardens. I'd just arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport and I was headed to England to spend a month with my sister.

I thought to myself that I would like to own a room like this. I mentioned that in conversation with a friend in Lille who once worked selling real estate in Sydney. He's bought and sold several apartments in France, and he told me that it was easier than I imagined.

So with his help, I found online a five square metre room on the sixth floor of a building without a lift, for sale for 65,000 euros. It's in Châtelet in the First Arrondissement, a few minutes walk from either the Louvre or the Pompidou Centre. One of Paris's priciest locations.

I had my offer accepted in late June and signed the final papers and received the key at the notaires' office in Paris on Monday.

The room has a single bed, a shower, a toilet, a kitchen sink, a fridge, a wardrobe, and not much else. Just about all I need.

Five square metres is about the size of the bathroom in most Australian houses. I've stayed in capsule hotels in Japan in the past, and the room I lived in when I spent five weeks in Tokyo around August measured exactly five square metres.

Most buyers would probably classify the property as a renovators' delight. I could spend tens of thousands of euros gutting the room and engaging professionals to transform it into a designer showpiece. But I like it the way it is, at least for now.

It's too small to rent legally, and the low purchase price means I don't have to earn an income from it. I will just spend a few months here each year getting to know Paris, and offer it to friends who don't mind simple accommodation for one person in a ramshackle building.

The notaire was intrigued and described the purchase as 'interesting', the same word an Australian lawyer friend used a couple of months ago. Before I signed, he also warned me of some of the things that could go wrong. For example the Marais - the Paris City Council - could decide that it is too small for human habitation and force me to rent it as a storage room.

It seems it's not wired to make it easy to connect to fast internet. So until I find a better solution than my current 3G mobile phone data plan, my online life will be in the slow lane. Which doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Eulogy for my kaffir lime tree

In recent months our backyard garden has been attacked by a rat and denuded of much of its vegetation. She or he selected several trees to ringbark, and the trees subsequently died as expected. There were three citrus trees in large pots. The Tahitian lime tree was left alone but the lemon and kaffir trees are dead.

I was particularly sad to see the kaffir lime tree lose its life. I remember going all the way out to Cabramatta to purchase it at the huge Asian market there. It was around 1994. I was doing a Thai cooking course at the Sydney Community College and kaffir lime leaves were a staple.

My dead kaffir lime tree

The tree survived numerous challenges over more than 20 years. At the beginning of 1997, I cleared my house for renting when I left Sydney to live and work in Rome for two years. The tree went to Albury in the removal van with my furniture and whitegoods to a house that was being rented to accommodate a succession medical locums from out of town. It returned to Sydney to my original house in 1999, and then in 2001 it moved with me 12 doors down the street when I bought my current residence.

I admit with a certain amount of shame that I have neglected its welfare. It's not my fault that the daily appearance of the sun in my backyard is fleeting, but I've always refused to buy plant food or fertilisers of any kind, even though it was obvious that the kaffir lime tree and my other plants were being constantly attacked by bugs.

The citrus trees were supposed to save me money, not cost me. I didn't understand that they needed love, and that it could involve some financial investment, which would then encourage them to respond in kind.

Despite my lack of care, the tree did bear fruit for two years around the middle of its life. I was surprised to see the fruit and did not realise the limes were edible or useful for cooking, so they went in the bin. In fact they are prized. The tree seemed to respond to my ingratitude by never again bearing fruit.

Yesterday I told the story of the tree to my South African immigrant friend. She kindly offered to give me a cutting of hers and told me of her particular burden of shame in owning a kaffir lime tree, which was rather different to my own shame.

She said: 'We didn’t get kaffir lime trees in South Africa and I was appalled when I encountered them here. That word - kaffir - was used as a slur against black South Africans. I’d never said it in my life before I bought one such tree; I use a different pronunciation - kaf-eer – so as not to be loaded with guilt.'

It seems my friend has found an effective way to deal with her shame. For mine, I'm hoping that I will discover how to nurture the plant and love it into a long and productive life.