Absent from the blog again. Two weeks away. Reasons? A spot of serious paid writing and a few days away, hurtling down the snow covered slopes of the Auvergne. In between much has happened since my last post, so, here, for your reading pleasure – a couple of half hearted “starts” to what should have been, lengthy analytical posts that never made it to their full potential. Actually, they are probably better like this. Subject matter; French farmers and The UK Euro referendum. First off, farmers
IN THE S***
Alas, there are those days when, the world literally is … a load of s***.
I did hesitate at using this faecal term, however, I am not using it in either an expletive or adjectival sense. When I say « s*** », I mean real s***. Mountains of the stuff, piled high at strategic points across my town – at major road junctions or in front of public buildings or government offices. Manure, muck, slurry or just s***, call it what you will, it is everywhere.
The ephemeral and odorous manure mountains are the work of local farmers, who have hitched trailer loads of animal waste to their tractors and have rumbled into town to protest.
Our farmers, those heroes who plough the fields and scatter, they who rise early come rain hail or shine, to tend their flocks, herds and birds and who till God’s great earth to bring us this day and everyday our daily bread.
On this February morning though with the strong odour of muck hanging thick in the morning air, our « heroes » are a bunch of embittered agricultural malcontents. The cause of their faecal-fuelled protest? Dwindling profit margins.
The nation’s major retail groups are paying less and less for what the famers produce and, according to the farmers, it is no longer possible to live off the fat of the land. Ancestral family farms are going out of busines. Many farmers can’t even pay themselves a living wage; some are even driven to suicide. There are those who say that if this carries on, then farming in France has little or no future. It will come to a point where none of the food on French plates will be grown or reared in France, and farms, if there are any left, will be no more than working museums.
A nightmare vision. So, what do the farmers do? What they always do when they are unhappy, they head into town and drop piles of s*** everywhere. This time round; in a display of anger directed at the nation’s main supermarket chains, local farmers have dumped huge piles of manure at the main entrances of several local hypermarkets. Driving past one on my way to work, I can see early morning shoppers queuing up with their trolleys, unable to get in and shop because of the s*** blocking the doors.
Yes, this morning, my town is literally covered in s***, because the farmers are in the s***.
SEX FRIENDS AND FOG IN THE CHANNEL
Being one of the « token » Brits in my small French town, I am regularly contacted by the local paper for a « British persepctive » on events, when those events might be of intesrest or of consequence for the locals. An example: The election of Tony Blair in 1997 – a good thing or a bad thing and what do the Brits think? Or The 2012 London Olympics – Are you proud that the Olympic Games are taking place in London? What are the benefits and what will be the long-lasting legacy? Giving an up to date situation report on what the Brits are thinking, that’s okay. Giving some extra input into the British psyche, that I can manage, but giving an opinion … that’s more difficult. The London Olympics – good for London , but really I couldn’t care less. As for Tony Blair … well it seemed good at the time, and then he got Britain involved in a useless war on the strength of falsified evidence and 13 years down the road, we are still paying the price.
Early Saturday evening, the phone rings and… it is a familiar voice from the local paper – one of the journalists who always rings me up for “the British angle” on the forthcoming EU referendum.
What do you think? Will the Brits vote to leave the EU? What do the Brits think of the EU?
Not easy to explain in a few friendly sound-bytes or a few column inches in our local “rag” (the rather disobliging sobriquet given by some UK journalists to local papers.)
“What do the Brits think of Europe?” asks my journalist contact
“Erm – it’s a nice place for a holiday.”
“Will the Brits vote to leave the EU and why?”
“Erm, probably, because they don’t like being told what to do by a bunch of foreigners.”
For the British attitude to Europe, allow me to quote a headline from a UK national daily newspaper.
FOG IN THE CHANNEL. EUROPE CUT OFF.
This is a much vaunted headline, though possibly a result of popular contemporary myth rather than pure journalistic truth (if such a thing exists)
Europe is (or has traditionally been) that part of the world, easily accessible from the UK, where the weather is better and wine is cheaper – yes, a nice place for a holiday. Get sloshed on cheap French plonk and then fall asleep on a sun drenched beach. Many Brits actually make the lifestyle choice, sell up in the UK and move to Europe for a life of …
I have met many Brits in my time who have made the permanent Channel hop, because the quality of life in France is so much better than in the UK; cheap property, long lunch breaks and cheap booze. Some of those who become permanent ex-pats have done so because of a “value shift” An example: a couple from London with two small children who bought a large, rambling house in a far flung village on the edge of a wildlife sanctuary, roughly an hour’s drive from where I live (so they’ve bought a house in the middle of nowhere) “Living here” they said “is like living in rural Kent back in the 1950’s. Life is simpler, everyone is so friendly and there is no crime.” There are those places in the UK that may very well correspond to the same description, however at current UK property prices, such places are probably unaffordable. So, move to France, because it corresponds to a rural idyll, that I doubt ever existed in the first place – (it’s a little like spending your holidays at Disney World and saying that you love America.) Moving to rural France because it is like “Olde England” is this another way of saying that the French are not quite as “evolved” as the Brits?
Brits like what Europe offers, but they don’t want to be a wholesale part of the continent.
In other words
We’ll take you Europeans as occasional sex friends, but we don’t want a long term relationship
And if you are prone to using any practices with which we don’t agree – we want an opt out (though as far as I can think, it is traditionally the Brits – the English – who are the supposed to be the kinky lot) Guess this does bring a new perspective about asking people their position on Europe.