It’s starting again. The French general election is looming, and I keep receiving emails from far too many candidates essentially saying ‘Vote for me!’
The truth is, I don’t read them any more. It’s like deja-vu all over again. Frankly, I can’t be bothered. I still read French newspapers, but it seems to me that, over the last years, France has remained stuck in its old way, and things are not going to change any time soon.
New ideas seem to emerge, like the basic income (which, as I understand it, means that everybody would receive an unconditional sum of money), and I feel like France, once again, hasn’t changed. It’s all nice and well to give money away, but who is going to finance it? France already has one of the highest tax rates in the world! This would cost c. 25% of France GDP, or over 550 Billions Euros. Where would they come from? The already hard-pressed taxpayers and businesses? Seriously? And what about the culture of entitlement that we are going to perpetuate if this is implemented? Who is going to do the hard work, such as collecting the bins, caring about the elderly, cleaning, stacking the shelves…if it’s easier to sit on the sofa and wait for a guaranteed paycheck? As much as the idea can appeal from a theoretical point of view, I find it completely unrealistic.
Where to start? I didn’t want to write such a post, but hey, here we go. To cut a long story short, I had a fantastic French-inspired dinner on the 13th of July, was about to write about it on Bastille Day but didn’t, and woke up on the 15th of July in a state of shock when I heard about the horrible attack in Nice. Words fail me. I could have been one of the victims: the only reason why I wasn’t in Nice was because my teenage daughter is doing some work experience in London, and we’ll all go to Nice when she is finished, in about ten days or so. In fact, anyone could have been a victim, because going out to see fireworks on display on Bastille Day is as normal as buying your daily bread in my home country. That said, this time, I am angry too: I have yet to understand how a 19-ton truck could end up on the Promenade des Anglais without being stopped. As usual, politicians and representatives are all blaming one another, and this lack of accountability, together with what seems to be gross incompetence on the part of whoever was in charge of security, are pissing me off in equal measure (excuse my French).
So where do we go from here? Well, as an ordinary citizen, I initially felt powerless. But then I realise that maybe, just maybe, it’s the small things that matter, because they give way to the bigger things. What am I talking about? Well, here it is: the things that matter stretch from the apparently anodyne, such as enjoying good food and wine, or feeling the sun on your body on the beach, to the much heavier weighted freedom of speech and democracy.
So yes, I will tell you about my lovely dinner in London, and I urge you to have a glass of Chablis to celebrate life in general and France in particular. Because that’s what life is about, and because that’s what our way of life is about. And yes, these things matter. Actually, maybe we have taken them for granted for far too long?
Well, if you have been living in London over the last week, you will know that things have been pretty rough. Everyday came with its own share of surprise resignations and bad news. But hey, stiff upper lip and all that. Not to mention that if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I removed the BBC news app on my iPhone. Simply put, I didn’t want to know what had gone tits up yet again (excuse my French).
Mind you, at a more personal level things have been quite hectic too. Yesterday evening I was driving back home, and happened to be on Shepherd’s Bush Green, right behind a white van. We were waiting at a red light. The driver suddenly lowered his side window, and threw up abundantly. I was stunned. As soon as the light turned green, he drove away, as if nothing had happened. Wow. I suddenly had a newfound confidence in this country’s resilience. Because it’s all about staying positive, right? I am a glass-half-full sort of person anyway. Come to think of it, that Green always had a weird vibe.
That’s it, we now have the results of the referendum, and as everybody knows the British people have chosen to leave the European Union. I must admit that the result came to a surprise to me. As I have made my opinion on the subject pretty clear (click here in case you have missed it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12173177/Im-French-but-Ive-lost-my-patience-with-the-EU.-Ill-be-voting-Leave.html), I have been at the receiving end of various not-so-nice comments (can you hear the British understatement here?), and I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for them. So let’s start by making something clear: I am not racist, I certainly don’t feel old (According to the media only old people have voted Leave) and I am well-educated (I have two master degrees, after all). So enough with all the condescending assumptions please.
I can’t help thinking that, had the Remain camp won, we would have been told to accept it and move on (which I would have done). That’s what democracy is about: people vote, and you respect their decision, even if you don’t like it. Because of the unexpected result, some Remainers have been behaving like toddlers who have just been refused a sweet. They are now threatening to throw up a tantrum. It’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and behave in a more responsible way.
What particularly annoys me is when I hear European expats of all walks of life complaining about the referendum results. Some of them have been living here for decades, and I am struggling to understand why they didn’t become British after all this time. They could have had a saying in the matter, but somehow they chose not to. So why complain now? Maybe we’ve had it too good for too long, and we took things for granted. It seems to me that our society is suffering from a severe case of over-inflated sense of entitlement. After all, being able to live in a foreign country is a privilege, not a right.
With the referendum tomorrow, and in my case the article in the Daily Mail (see here in case you have missed it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3649689/What-French-women-REALLY-think-us.html) emotions seem to be running at an all-time high.
What is going on? Where has the legendary ‘stiff upper lip’ gone? Why has everybody taken up such entrenched positions?
Whatever the result of the referendum, I will still bring my children to school on Friday. I will continue to do my grocery shopping, and to go to work. Life will go on, one way or the other. Am I also allowed to say that it’s OK (and actually quite healthy) to disagree? In short, I think that it is time to put things into perspective, try a little kindness, and move on…
As you all know, a referendum is being held on Thursday, 23 June to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. I tend to steer away from political issues on this blog, but today I will make an exception. As some of you have already read, I have made my position abundantly clear on the national press (read the article here in case you have missed it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12173177/Im-French-but-Ive-lost-my-patience-with-the-EU.-Ill-be-voting-Leave.html)
It is an understatement to say that my position has surprised most of my friends and family, but hey, here we are. Once again, as much as I love the concept of Europe, I don’t think that it is working, and I am sick an tired of all the forms that I have to fill for my business in France (not to mention that it keeps changing). I sometimes wonder what would happen if I stopped doing it. I think that I would have fines to pay. Because that’s usually the way it goes, right?
It’s all over the news and I still can’t believe it. What am I talking about? Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine, a well-known journalist, hails separate bedrooms as key to a happy marriage. Oh, and for those of you who don’t know him, Michael Gove happens to be this country’s Justice Secretary. What can I say? It’s a small world. The article can be found here if you don’t believe me: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3361842/SARAH-VINE-Sorry-chaps-women-love-sleep-FAR-sex.html
As you will see, I didn’t invent anything, and the title of her piece is really ‘ Sorry CHAPS but women love sleep far more than sex !’ Wow! And it was in the front page -no less.
I tend to write light-hearted things on this blog. That’s the way I have always wanted it, because there are far too many people taking themselves far too seriously already, and I don’t want to be one of them. My blog is supposed to make you smile. Sometimes cringe, maybe. But that’s all. And, to me, that’s more than enough.
But today, I can’t really write about anything else than the Paris attacks. Because I am still in shock. Because I used to live in Paris. Because somehow I naively believed that we were dealing with a few ‘lone wolves’ rather than such a well-organised terrorist organisation. Because I still can’t believe that what has happened has actually happened. A part of me still expects the whole thing to be a nightmare. Let’s face it, it could have been any of us having a drink on a terrace, or attending a concert. We are all potential victims of terrorism. My daughters. My family. Me. My friends. Anyone, really. And anywhere too. Why would a group of human beings do something like this? We are dealing with monsters here, not humans. That’s the only plausible explanation, right? They are already dead inside.
Back by popular demand, here is the latest chapter of Carine & Archie’s story. You can read the last chapter here.
I need to prepare my citizenship test.
The UK did not join the European Economic Community (EEC) until 1973. Still today, it is a sore subject. You will not read anything else about the EEC in this guide. No questions on this subject will be asked during the Life in the United Kingdom Test anyway. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to revise this paragraph.
Life In the United Kingdom, (Almost) Official Study Guide
With a heavy heart I manage to get Alexandra and myself to France, in the small city where I come from near Nice. There is a direct British Airways flight, which helps. There is even a quirky Anglican church there, I don’t know why. My ankle feels a lot better. I think that I overreacted a bit. I must be tired. All I needed was a few good nights sleep.
I might be a self-proclaimed French Yummy Mummy but, as some of you know, I also have a British passport. I am not sure that it makes me fully British (I will let you be the judge of this), but it allows me to vote at the next general election. Obviously France and Great Britain are both Western democracies, but there are a few notable differences between the two. As a first-timer in the UK, here are the main ones as far as the voting system is concerned:
1. In the UK, ordinary citizen like you and me vote once, and your vote will be used to elect the Members of Parliament and the leader of the party that won becomes Prime Minister. In France, there are two elections: one for the President, and one for the MPs (‘deputes’). Obviously nowadays both elections happen at the same time, or within a few days. It used to be different, and it led to having a President of one political party, and a Prime Minister of another political faction. We used to call it ‘cohabitation’. Ah memories! ‘Cohabitation’ is a bit like the polyamory of politics: the French decide to commit to two different parties with the consent of all people involved (they didn’t have much of a choice, to be honest with you). What can I say? My home country used to be very progressive: it clearly anticipated this new polyamorous trend (politically speaking, of course). Things have slightly changed now. Cohabitation has disappeared, we talk about coalition. And it is the same in the UK of course. Coalition is much more of a practical arrangement, come to think of it. It is a bit like choosing another flatmate when the rent is too high. The main party will choose the flatmate who will make the most compromises.