Saturday, 28 January 2012

Must it be about France?

I've been thinking long and hard about this French Blog thingy. Writing about one's life in France is a multi-million pound/dollar/euro/drachma industry, but what is it actually based on? Most of the unassailable references are merely chronologically limited slices of someone's life (Peter Mayle's time in Provence etc), so how to maintain readers' interest over a period of time? I'm sure I'm not the only person to have long tired of the 'OMIGOD! Paris is just so gorgeous, but I don't understand what they're saying; thank God my hunky French boyfriend is here!' school of blogging, but for those of us who live in the sticks, don't live in a converted barn and actually work for a living, everyday life is, er, everyday life, just as it probably is in Madison, Wisconsin, Regensburg or Leamington Spa. So why write about it, just because it's located somewhere where good wine is cheap, foie gras is plentiful and where there is an Ecole Supérieure de la Patronisation, reserved exclusively for minimum-wagers?

I, for one, don't know. From where I'm standing, keeping the blog spicy means either a) discovering yet another incredibly unique facet of this country on an everyday basis and describing it in mountingly orgasmic terms until one's undergarments can stand it no longer, or b) griping about yet another aspect of everyday life, such as strikes, taxes, roadworks etc as if it were the first time any of these inconveniences had seen the light of day. For this latter, I'm just no longer angry enough. It's too tiring and leads nowhere. Yes, my spirit is broken. The Party has won.

Well, guess what? Neither scenario is sustainable. Unless you live in Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree (currently reading it to the Fingernails), everyday life just doesn't stay that exciting, and certainly not year in, year out. What's more, the more our beloved EUSSR gets more uniform and bland, the less there is to surprise us, particularly when you can get everything we buy here in your local supermarket, wherever the hell you are. The only difference is the local quality - I know our vegetables are better than yours; don't ask; they just are - but that's not enough upon which to base an online diary. That's one of the reasons I've diversified into extremely sexy South American government employees, but I digress.

Maybe I should check in a bit more often with Keith Eckstein's excellent blog A Taste of Garlic and see what others are saying. After all, he did give me a glowing review (which he probably now regrets). All of this notwithstanding, until I move Château Fingers a few miles north, south, east or west of our current location, I'm unlikely to be able to provide any Frogblog-watcher with enough interesting information to persuade him or her to click through to a second page. I live in a city centre, my children go to the local school, I cycle to work, and then I cycle home. We buy French food, speak French with any French people we come across, read French newspapers and pay French taxes. On an everyday level, there isn't much more to say, particularly as I tend to speak more German, Italian, Spanish and English at work than French, anyway (Eckstein = Cornerstone). If all my plans for the academic year 2012 - 2013 come through, I'll be spending most of it in Chile, Argentina and Germany anyway. I'll still blog, though, particularly if Christina Kirchner is anything to go by…

So why this fascination for France? OK, I admit it is a stunningly beautiful country with incredible edibles and a host of other things to commend it, but so is Iceland, if you're prepared to cut the nosh a bit of slack. I somehow think it's because France is for Brits rather what Canada is for the Americans: a more wholesome version of their own country, sadly lost to the demands of progress. Back in the late 1990's I was living and working in the USA, touring the country with a couple of Broadway shows. One of these hopped over to Canada for a couple of weeks, to Calgary and Edmonton, to be precise. Once we'd all landed in Seattle, two weeks later, we took stock of what we'd just experienced. The Canadians were still gooey-eyed at having been home for a fortnight, one trumpeter from Atlanta, Georgia was just SO HAPPY TO BE HOME BECAUSE NOW HE COULD GET A CHERRY COKE, and the rest all said that Canada reminded them of the USA of their youth, even of the USA their parents had talked about: the civility, the openness, the unquestioning trust that no-one seemed to want to betray…In short, exactly the same things expat Brits cite when talking about today's France, rural and urban. I can only assume that most expat Brits don't live in the appalling council estates which encircle most major French cities, but then, of course, they don't. There'll always be an England, and this country's version is located in France's upmarket satellite towns, villages and hamlets. Only mugs like Fingers live in the thick of the dispute, even if our neighbourhood is the best in town (despite certain neighbours).

So, gentle, mostly occasional, readers: if I don't always wax lyrical about that amazing truffle market I went to last week, it's because I didn't go. It's because it's located 150 miles from here and I had to go to work that day. Same for the goose-tossing ceremony, singing pig circus or foie-gras exorcism or whatever bit of nonsensical, agricultural hocus-pocus we're supposed to witness every day of the bloody week. Wasn't there, sorry. Did tread in an incredible pile of dogshit, though. Want to hear about that? At any rate, here are two pictures of Toulouse that will paint the thousand words that, due to prior commitments, I wasn't able to write:


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