27th June 2010

A bad week for the French. First, no warning from France Meteo about the terrible floods in the Var region. One poor woman opened her front door and found herself swimming to her neighbour's house. Then, the debacle with the French football team, where everyone blamed the manager.
And now, the UK'S former Europe Minister, Chris Bryant, calls French a 'useless' language and questioned whether it should still be taught in British schools. A fine cultural ambassador he is! Meanwhile, a study here in France found some top firms were unable to deal with phone calls in English. Try talking to British or American firms in French! It is our job to learn their language, not the other way round. French, Spanish and Latin should be mandatory lessons in school - we need more linguistic scholars, who could then turn to Mandarin and Arabic/Hebrew. It's common for Chinese business people to communicate in several languages. The official language of the UK for about 400 years was Norman French, so it's at the heart of our language with only 184 pure Anglo-Saxon words remaining in the English dictionary.
So, in summary: Don't worry when things go wrong. It's just a dip in life's ever-changing graph. Teach discipline and respect for those in authority, and bring back language teaching. Only when we understand each other can we live in peace.

20th June 2010

According to a recent report in the Guardian, apparently more and more English expats in France are ordering food online from cheap UK supermarkets like Asda: even stuff like wine and croissants! Can you believe that? I don't believe it for one minute, and I certainly haven't seen any giant Asda lorries in our village - not that they'd be able to fit into our tiny lanes anyway. Maybe in the Costa del Sol, where cafes advertising 'Tea like mother used to make' and 'Pie, beer and chips' are always full of red-necked English. But in France? No, no, a thousand times no. One of the first things you learn here is that the food we eat must have a greater priority in our budget: it's what governs our health and the length of time we live. Far more important to spend more on the superior quality and freshness of French food and less on so-called 'must have' consumer goods.
There was another report that English people moving to France were 'quite mad' - especially when moving from a busy working life in a city to the quiet French rural countryside. I can understand this report a little more. It's certainly a big culture shock - not only is it so very very quiet, but me and 'him indoors' are together 24/7 for the first time in our lives.
Enough said.

13th June 2010

World Cup fever. Painted faces, tribalism, everyone obsessed in trying to beat the other team in the name of 'nationality'. In 1969 Karl Deutsch said that a nation is '..a group of persons united by a comon error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbors..' Very true.
But for expats everywhere, there's a feeling of identity crisis in all this. Indeed, the other night even the weather joined in. A local thunderstorm wiped out our Sky transmissions and we were 'forced' to watch the terrestrial match between France and Uruguay! Quite enjoyed it actually. There's something about the 'ugliness' of Ribery that seems to match that of Rooney, dare I say it, but they're both very good players.
But then came last night's England v USA match. I don't mind if we don't win due to honest endeavour, but that fumbled, inept, shambolic goalie error.....Words fail me.
So, from my own actions last night in nearly kicking in the TV screen, it's clear that I still feel English in thought and deed. And, what happens when England play France? It's clear I should be committed to integrating fully in our new country. So, who will I support? What do you think? Courtesy of Rupert Brook..There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England....Come on England!

6th June 2010

How to enjoy English books when they're so elusive in French shops?Amazon? Not really. Amazon.com in the US and amazon.co.uk mean hefty delivery charges, and the English section of amazon.fr gives free delivery but too-high retail price. I recommend the BookDepository.co.uk, which gives reduced prices plus free delivery anywhere in the world.
As a writer, I'm always looking for good books to read. And that means not those published due to the celebrity-status of the author, but due to the quality of the written word. Well, I've now found a real gem. Although first published in 1937 in Germany, this beautifully-written novel is only now available in English. It's pure poetry in motion, it's 1,000 pages long, and I find myself lingering on every word. For lovers of good books, I can only recommend it here, but make sure you get the original, unabridged edition - (not a shorter version with different title from Penguin).
Here are the details: 'Wolf among Wolves' by Hans Fallada, published by Melville House, isbn 978-1-933633-92-3. It's a novel set in 1923 Germany and gives a vivid account of the collapse of the German economy and the mindset of the people at the time. Its characters are dark, desperate and full of invention on how to circumvent their lives. Its original German edition was published despite fears of Nazi retribution. Read it!
Let me know what you think.