Brian Pendreigh: Parisians take Notre-Dame’s ruin in their stride

We have all been there – it was a hell of a night, but you wake up next morning with the realisation that you have survived, writes Brian Pendreigh.

When day broke over Paris yesterday it was clear that Notre Dame had survived.

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Despite fears the previous evening the ancient Gothic cathedral might collapse completely, Notre Dame was still there.

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris following a fire which destroyed much of the building on Monday evening. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

And to most tourists the cathedral itself probably looked pretty much as they remembered or imagined it.

The twin towers, made internationally famous by Victor Hugo, Charles Laughton and Walt Disney, still stood proud and iconic on the Ile de la Cite, in the heart of Paris, as they had done for 800 years.

For most people those towers symbolise Notre Dame.

They are part of the face of the cathedral.

The steeple, which collapsed so dramatically in the fire, is a much more recent addition, tucked behind them.

At first glance everything might have seemed perfectly normal – were it not for the fire engines and the police road blocks at the bridges over to the island.

There were dozens, possibly hundreds, of television crews – the most I have seen anywhere since the Lockerbie disaster.

Thousands of curious onlookers stood along the banks of the River Seine.

On Saturday I saw the gilets jaunes assemble in the Place de la Nation, where so many heads were separated from so many bodies.

On Sunday I ran past Notre Dame in the marathon and on Monday afternoon I visited it on a walking tour.

I was enjoying happy hour in a bar a couple of miles away and the first I heard of the fire was in a message from Scotland.

Paris supposedly wept while Notre Dame burned, but around me people continued to sip their wine and sup their beer.

I was the only one excitedly photographing the smoke and what I thought was flames lighting up the darkening sky until I realised there was a big orange circle in the middle of my photo.

Although road blocks had been set up, police were allowing many people through yesterday, people who were showing their passes to prove they worked on the island.

Many people seemed to be turning up for work as usual.

There was an air, if not of normality, at least of calm, in a city famous for civil unrest.

Notre Dame had survived the Revolution, the Terror and the Nazis. It had been repaired and restored.

And yesterday Paris was taking the latest events very much in its stride.