Semi Circular

Driving cross London – the A406 – or North Circular Road – a three lane 1960’s built highway that cuts a swathe through the north east London suburbs. Residential streets crooned off from the road by walls or wire fences. This is the worst of suburbia – mad urbanization meets neglect. This for me is like some kind of parallel world. I wouldn’t believe that people could live in places like this, unless I saw it with my own eyes – we are not totally detached, jet semi detached – mile upon mile of that unique “English” housing format, built everywhere by private developers between the two World wars.

After the slaughter of the Western Front, the returning soldiers needed “Homes fit for Heroes”, built on they premise that an Engishmans’ Home is his castle – the result – small “cottage like” three bedroom houses. A unique and national but non imposed housing format – I’m not even sure that Soviet Russia could have achieved such uniformity.

A few photos of semi detached house on the North Circular Road, hence “Semi Circular”

 

 

Make mine a Doner

Just finished painting the bathroom, and I now finally have time for a “photographic” post. The theme is fast food. A report this week in the UK press that fast food outlets are gradually taking over main shopping streets in the UK. In some parts of the north of England, almost 45% of businesses  on some shopping streets are fast food restaurants. According to the report, fast food is also fat food – UK obesity rates are soaring – so, the report has inspired me to post a few fast food clichés – restaurants in France and the UK. I hope you enjoy them.

Kebabs with everything

Kebabs with everything – this is the Kebab House somewhere in north east London

Run Chicken! Run!

If it isn’t kebabs, the it’s chicken with everything or everything and chicken. Here welcome to the Chicken Run, somewhere behind Wentworth Street in East London. And here is more chicken by night.

Chicken by nite

Chicken Cottage

 

And if you an’t get fast food, try the all nite supermarket

All Nite Cost cutting

 

Tradition British fast food – Fish and Chips – used to be the Friday night working class treat – a bit of cod or haddock fried in batter and a huge portion of chips, soaked in salt and vinegar – Take away and eat at home – traditionally it was all wrapped in newspaper. Ok, fish is expensive nowadays and the humble Friday night staple is now a rare treat – for connaisseurs  and fish and chip nostalgics – a plate of Fish and chips and a couple of Fish and Chip shops or “chip pies” as we used to call them. These Chippies are on the Fulham road in London.

Great British food???????

Closed down

Light House near the Fulham Road

 

Fish and Chips (with a kebab on the side)

 

Another traditional form of historic UK fast food – the ice cream van. This one is taken near St Paul’s cathedral in London.

Ice Cream Van

The first McDonald’s restaurant opened in London in 1975. I remember my fist bite of a Big Mac, it was – a revelation – far better than the traditional British high street Hamburger chain “Wimpy” – Here are  few McDonald’s clichés from the outlet on the Strand in central London.

Traditional American food on the Strand

Here are a few punters

Love is sharing a burger

If you don’t fancy burgers, kebabs or fish and  chips; try the other great British staple – breakfast – a trend of theses recent years, cafés and even bus, serving an “all day breakfast.” Here is the Big Breakfast in Beckenham in south east London, where in December last year I had an excellent breakfast and a lovely cup of tea (a cuppa) all for under ten quid – I’d recommend this place to everybody.

Big Breakfast in Beckenham

And the original fast food outlet – this one is near Aldgate in London

Original fast food outlet

Okay, the Brits love their curry, and when in London, do like the locals and head off down Brick Lane for a good old Ruby Murray (Cockney rhyming slang for curry)

The Sheba

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend curry for breakfast, but this place down the back of Petticoat Lane market used to do a tandoori breakfast.

Tandoori breakfast???? No thanks.

And you though only the Brits had fast food. Here is kebab outlet in the small village of Mourmelon in eastern France – the only kebab in the village, it does a good trade from the massive army base nearby.

Kebab (à la française)

Yep, we’ve got Kebabs in France – Ten years ago you couldn’t get a Kebab in my corner of small town France – and now ???? I’ve got five kebab restaurants all within a ten minute walk from my house

Kebab in Bourges

Kebab at the end of my street

Kebab restaurants are like Irish pubs – there isn’t a single town or city in the world without its ersatz Irish pub – well there ain’t a town or village in France that doesn’t now have a kebab outlet.

And that was my fast food photo trip. I’ll leave with one final photo – Leyton High Street, where I once bought a very tasty kebab whilst waiting for a bus.

High Street Leyton

French Nationality and the Norman Yoke

It was the standard government bad news envelope – « Republique Française » stamped high up in the left hand corner and my name and address visible through the small cellophane window  – the kind of envelope that never brings any tidings of joy, just tax demands or parking fines. I’ll open it later.

The envelope got progressively buried under a pile of magazines, junk mail until I finally retrieved it and opened it and read the letter inside and shouted OMG, nice and loud so the Almighty himself might hear because I am French – I mean literally, I am French – It says it here in the letter – I have just been awarded French nationality, I have been French since July 1st, a whole week the envelope lay there and … that’s one whole week I’ve been French and I didn’t know.

I’m not sure now if I have dual nationality or two nationalities or I am French in France and British in the UK – I’m going to have two passports, at lets I will apply for a French passport and when I renew my Britsh passport I just won’t bother telling anyone that I have a French one.

I’m not sure either if this makes me Anglo-French or Franco-British. Am I now two different people at the same time, or just half and half ?

It all started roughly eighteen months ago – whilst Britain was in the throes of a rather accrimonious referendum campaign – to brexit or not Brexit ? That was the question. For many it was just a formilaty, a forgone conclusion. Of course Brits would vote to remain in the European Union – it would be madness to leave, but just in case the tide went against the prédictions of the pundits, I decided it would be wise to have some kind of insurance policy, so I applied for French nationality.

I’ve lived and worked in France for 26 years – I’m a fully paid up member of French society, but I’d always clung on to my British nationality, despite feeling more French than British over the years . I work as a civil servant – normally a status reserved for French nationals, but since the enactment of the 1992 Maastricht treaty, all EU citizens have been able to work in the French civil service – then on June 24th THUD – SHOCK – DISBELIEF – the Brits voted for Brexit and by doing so voted to rip all those treaties and agreements to which they had been signatories – those precise and precious papers that guaranteed my job security – faced with the prospect of being « stateless » – like many Brits living in France ; I applied for French nationality. Now I am French, I have a job and a future in the land I call home. Whatever the fate reserved for UK nationals living as ex-pats in the European Union, I at least won’t be sharing it. Yes, it was a question of survival, but after so long living here I guess the time had also come to take the plunge.

Yes, I am happy to have French nationality, but joy is tinged with anger agaisnt the 1.7 million or so Brits who tipped that balance in favour of Brexit. I can’t say there is a standard Brexit voter, they seem to be a hotch potch of elderly people, white working class and bunch of misguided nationalists believing that Brexit will make Britain GREAT again. I suose in the thirty or so years between the end of World War Two and the oil crisis of the early 70’s there was a notion of « greatness », though I would be more prone to call it a misconception born from the fact that Britain emerged victorious from World War Two and until the 1970’s enjoyed relative prosperity, as did France. Yet in their Empiric and Waterloo like mindset, the Brits always thought they could go it alone, until evrything came crashing down in the mid to late seventies.

I am mistrustful of all these Brexiteers who trade in terms of « Greatness » and « Freedom » and the idea that now the UK is leaving Europe, the nation will be free to determin its own destiny and make its own laws. Was living within the EU so bad ? But now that the UK is « free » and is all set to be « great » again, towards which historical model will the pro Brexiteers look ? How Churchillian, Cromwellian, or Victorian will the Brave New Britian be ?

I’ve rambled on a length about Brexit – misguided musings with the occasional pertinent pointer, but I have never spoken about the « Norman Yoke » – nothing to do with eggs from Normandy- Let’s take a trip back into the dim, distant, but still very relevant past – The English Civil war, or what some historians such as the late (great) Christopher Hill, referred tas The English Revolution. In its entirety, the war lasted from 1642 to 1651 – I know that Charles 1st was beheaded on January 1st 1649, but it took Cromwell’s parliamentarian « roundhead » forces another two years to « mop up » the last Royalists in England and Scotland. Charles 1st may have been no more, but his son – the future Charles II carried on the campaign against Cromwel’s forces with the help of the Scots – historians refer to this period as the Third Engish Civil War – has this anything to do with Brexit ? Of course – apart from the various political and religious causes of the English Civil War (or Revolution), there was also a considérable part of the Parliamentarian forces who were fight for Freedom for all Englishmen – There were factions in the anti-royalist forces who blievedthey were liberating England from The Norman Yoke – yoke being that large wooden « harness » hung around the neck of bulls or horses to pull a plough – these « true Englishmen » believed that there ad been no such thing as true English liberty since 1066, when William of Normandy won the battle of Hastings and the last true Saxon (English) king, Harold 1st was slain (hit by an arrow in the eye so legend goes) – from 1066 onwards Kings of England were no more than French usurpers and al those wars with France wewre no more han family feuds where good English blood was spillt to settle the diferenecs of accrimonious French cousins. The rise of the Puritans and their staunch anti catholicism is also the story of the rise of the first English nationalism – both go hand-in-hand. Though England had become a protestant country over a century before the start of the English Civil War, there was still mistrust of the Church and the monarchy for supposed catholic sympathies. Charles 1st had a French (and therefore catholic wife) – Queen Henrietta Maria – she had a Catholic Chapel built in her private résidence at Greenwich and Charles 1st was suspected of having convertde secretly to Catholicism. The Norman Yoke was all this, the idea that around 1642 all true Englishmen had been living under foreign political and religious domination for nearly 600 years – with the exécution of Charles 1st and the declaraion of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, all Englshmen were finally free – I think this is somewhere within the mindset of pro Brexiteers – Britain is free once more. This might all seem flippant or even futile as an argument, but somewhere we are still in the mid 17th century mindset, there are still Cromwellian dinosaurs out there.

The current conservative government is kept in power by a minority protestant party from Northern Ireland – The Democraitc Unionist party (DUP-) – founded in the early 1970’s by the late Reverened Ian Paisley, they were no more and no less a radical regional party set up in Northern Ireland to (as they saw it) protect Protestants and above all to protect and maintain the union between Ulster and Great Britain – hence Unionist – as opposed to Republicans who sought a United Ireland. The DUP (in my opinion) are a 400 year old throwback to Cromwell. They are the modern incarnation of « The Norman Yoke », and they are currently maintaining Theresa May in power. This is not good for Britain, and convinces me that any Brexit will be negotiated in a mindset of misguided nostalgia, a harking back to a time when … I keep thinking that our Brave new Britan will be like some kind of Beatrix Potter thème park – a rural idyll where the peasants are free to sit round drinking ale and … It’s a nightmare.

Parting thought – the UK conservative government are trying to negotiate (what I hope will be) a common sensé Brexit. They are maitained in power by a manipulative minority party (the DUP) with a credo that is a throwback to seventeenth century Britain. They were founded by a venemous Victorian vicar caled the révérend Ian Paisley, who one qualified the European Union as « a manifestation of the anti christ. » If the Queen does finally pop her clogs, then Brexit will happen under the reign of the future heir apparent – Charles III – sorry have we just gone back 400 years.

Hey I am happy to be French and living in a republic. I think what Britan needs now is Charles De Gaulle.

Of Satellite TV, Advertising, Barbecues, German supermarkets French Wine, Napoleon, British Bangers and the Metric System

I love my satellite TV – over 300 channels and I can still say (hand on heart) that there is nothing to watch of en evening. Take out the news channels, the plethora of religious channels, the shopping channels and TV reality channels – there isn’t much choice left, BUT, I do get British TV. I have a direct window on British news, views and contemporary culture . I can enjoy some excellent drama and also follow my favourite soap operas. Best of all, (and the best indicator of social and economic trends) I get all the ads –

British ads are so different from the French TV commercials. They are funnier, quirkier and far more professional than their French equivalents – There is nothing better tan the humble TV commercial to highlight the cultural divide between France and Britain.

On this, the hottest weekend of the year so far, when common sense would dictate that we all crawl under a stone rather than stand outside in the blazing sun, the good folks don my street are all firing up their barbecues. Midday was the sound of popping corks, as neighbours « unplugged » their rosé wine, and come early afternoon – following a long aperitif, the air was thick with the irresistible odour of sizzling meat.

I daresay this scene is being repeated across the Channel – everywhere in the UK is enjoying unseasonably warm weather – And on both sides of the water, there will be people crawling in to work tomorrow morning with hangovers and red raw flesh burned by the sun – Yes folks, never get too drunk on a hot day like today, and never snooze off in the sun for a drunken post BBQ nap.

Back at the commercial break, I am watching an ad for that German discount supermarket with an unpronounceable name – Lidl –

The ad is doing the hard sell on BBQ goodies. I am told that at Sainsbury’s supermarket, a good bottle of French Champagne will set me back £30, BUT for the same price at Lidl, I can get a second rate bottle of French fizz, a bottle of French white and French Rosé wine, several slices of Italian ham and a Moroccan cous cous, all for £29,95. Now I am not sure that the advertisers have actually understood what a cous cous really is, and they perhaps mean Taboulé – notwithstanding that’s quite a bit of food and booze for just under thirty quid and it’s all FRENCH – Oh thank you European Single Market. Oh thank you EU trade deals. Oh thank you EU. On this, the day before Britain sends a delegation to Brussels, to being Brexit negotiations. AH, all those European garden party goodies. How much will they cost after Brexit? Food for thought indeed. BUT if you are enjoying beer, burgers and sausages – yes they might be British bangers made at your local butcher’s, but they were made in regulation with EU-inspired food and hygiene norms. As for that beer, are you sure it isn’t a continental lager ? Perhaps from Belgium?

And that was a tenuous link into my next rant which takes you (dear reader) to Belgium) and the small village of Watterlot, known to the Brits as Waterloo.

Before we head to the site of the famous battle though, a quick final word on TV ads – you would never get that Lidl ad on French TV. Under national French TV regulations it is illegal to advertise alcohol on TV.

Off to Waterloo, which was a battle that gave its name to a London mainline train station and the 1974 Eurovision- winning ABBA song.

Napoleon cartoon wih more than a littlle hint of Mr Stallone

So the Brits named a station after a victory against Napoleon, well the French did the same – Austerlitz train station in Paris, named after old Bonaparte’s December 1805 victory over a Russian/Austrian army under the command of Czar Alexander 1st (Austerlitz is situated in the boundaries of the modern Czech republic)

Now we have a phrase in French –«  C’est son Waterloo » – meaning that it is a person’s last heroic but futile stand. Ironically (more Brexit) Britain begins Brexit negotiations tomorrow (Monday 19th June) in the Belgium capital of Brussels, just 30 kilometres from the battlefield of Waterloo. Will this be the British Waterloo – in the French sense ?

Napoleon – love him or hate him – left us a few daily reminders. He was the guy who introduced the metric system to France and eventually to Europe. I noticed this week, after the tragic events at Grenfell House in northwest London, all the journalists, fire fighters and assorted experts were giving their measurements in metres.

Back t the weather – on Sunday June 18th 1815 it was raining and the battlefield was heavy going for the cavalry. On Sunday June 18th, afternoon temperatures in my corner of France hit the 34°c mark. On the Friday night BBC London News bulletin, a very voluptuous lady informed viewers that Saturday temperatures would hit a 32°c high – no more Fahrenheit on the BBC, although wind speeds are still given in miles per hour.

Meanwhile back at the Lidl advert, the bottle sizes are being quoted in centilitres and the weights are in grammes and t is all for French wine. Perhaps Napoleon did win in the long run.

Okay – time to sign off and uncork a bottle of French Rosé. Later on, I’ll be having my Father’s day treat of a juicy Aberdeen Angus steak with good old Mc Cain oven chips made in the Netherlands.

Before I go, this Sunday is polling day in the second round of French parliamentary elections – this isn’t one to bet on, Emmanuel Macron’s « La République en Marche » party is set to wipe the board a forecast puts him at over 400 seats in the 570 seat French parliament. I can’t help thinking of a recently elected British prime minister who would love a similar majority – no snuggling up to the nasty Unionists.

Of course, voter turnout has been low, everyone here is too busy at the BBQ to go and vote.

Ok it is officially wine time.

Cheers

London and the New Blitz

25 years ago, when I moved from London, to my provincial French bubble, keeping up with events in the UK was a challenge – the occasional British newspapers that made it down to my corner of small town rural France, would always arrive a couple of days late, and if I wanted to keep up with events on a daily basis, I’d flick on the radio to listen to the BBC World Service – coming through loud and clear with everything happening everywhere in except for that place I used to call home. On a good day, with the wind in the right direction I could occasionally get weak, crackly and erratic reception of the BBC « Home Service » in the modern guise of BBC Radio 4.

Now, I am fully aware and connected to events in London thanks to satellite TV and Internet. I can watch BBC London News over breakfast, knowing that delays on the Central Line, traffic chaos at the « Sun in the Sands » roundabout or roadworks on the M25 or cancelled Woolwich ferries, will have no effect on my journey to work. I like the « nostalgic » ex pat disconnect – a distant and reassuring view from deepest France of life in that place I once called home – and as long as London life trundles on …

Then there are those mornings when you hook up, switch on, tune in, connect from your disconnect and just think out loud with a huge F word on your lips – « this can’t be happening? – Not in London. »

Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Borough Market – this isn’t happening, I know those places. I’d walk across London Bridge everyday to get to class when I as a student. I’d often go for a few pints in the pubs in and around the Borough on the South bank – starting off at The Anchor and finishing up at the Market Porter before getting my train from London Bridge Station – there’s a big slice of my life around there, including that wet night in February 1989 when my partner and I had our first embrace, leaned up against a lamp post just a few years from the Anchor pub. And now, London, I go as a visitor to see my dearest lifelong friends who still live there.

Innocents mowed down by madmen on the bridges, diners an drinkers hacked to death in Borough market, a policeman stabbed at the gates of Parliament in the shadow of Big Ben – I know that place well, my dad was a parliamentary correspondent for the Reuters news agency – he was always taking us up to Parliament for visits, we’d have a coke in the press bar, we’d have our tea in the Parliamentary canteen, and every Christmas, we’d go to the Christmas party held in the bar normally reserved for Members of Parliament. These are places that were (and are still part of my life.)

I‘ve spent the past few weeks glued to the TV watching every event as it unfolds. French news has taken second place, from the recent Presidential, to this weekend’s parliamentary election in France – both events seem relatively unimportant.

I suppose the first bombshell was last year’s European Referendum result. A slim majority of elderly « Little Englanders » had voted us back into the past – by the time Brexit finally happens, most of them will be dead – and then in recent weeks, the terrorist attacks and now the tragic fire at Grenfell House in West London. All this as Brexit negotiation loom large on the horizon. There is of course no link between Brexit and other tragic events, save one – Britain is in trauma and frankly the Powers-That-Be, cannot cope.

Theresa May’s lack of compassion and action on the Grenfell House fire is shocking, the fact that on a visit to the site of the tragedy, the Prime Minister had to be « evacuated » under police escort to protect her from the anger of residents and survivors is proof that she should have and could have done more and more quickly.

I wanted to draw a parallel with the London Blitz, that period in the early years of World war Two, when German Luftwaffe flew nightly raids over London, trying to bomb the city and Britain into submission. Everyday from September 7th 1940 to May 10th 1941, Londoners lived with the prospect of death as a daily reality.

There are those « heroic » images of the time of Churchill, smoking his cigar and picking his was across the rubble of bombed buildings. There are Pathé newsreels showing the King and Queen visiting the devastated streets of the East End. This week though we haven’t seen similar deeds by Theresa May or her ministers.

The local authorities have also seemed strangely inactive, even non-existent. All support for survivors of the fire has been community and charity based – with financial and matériel donations pouring into the area from ordinary people.

People power or people pulling together in adversity just to survive – that was one of the « legends » of the Blitz – solidarity and self help born in adversity – a kind of collective survival instinct fuelled by anger and defiance.

To be fair to the local council – Kensington and Chelsea – they did wheel out the deputy council leader for the benefit of he nation’s media – an inept, tongue-tied, curly-haired but fresh-faced official looking more like a young graduate than a seasoned politician, unconvincingly reassured viewers that the council were doing « everything we can » to handle the situation.

I would like to add that no one from the company that carried out the refurbishment of Grenfell House has been questioned, and there are some serious questions to be answered, on the refurbishment and the materials used (cladding)

What is clear is that no one in authority is actually Handling anything, people are fending for themselves.

In the terror attacks on London (and let us not forget Manchester) it is clear that the Emergency Services did their best to cope, however all these tragédies prove one thing, the authorities cannot cope, and if (God forbid) there were a serious of major attacks on London or a major disaster, people would be helpless.

They say that a week is a long time in politics. Just a few days ago, Mrs May was striding her way back into 10 Dowing Street, sure and safe in the knowledge that she would be Prime Minister – with a little help from a minority protestant party with a 19th century vision of the world. She was ready to go for Brexit, but now ? I would say , expect the unexpected. The tragic fire at Grenfell House was way off anyone’s radar, and these events in north west London and the ensuing government indifference and inaction – well they are events strong enough to bring the newly elected government down.

What all these tragic events show is that Londoners are all Londoners, regardless of race, colour, creed or origin and they are all pulling together. These tragic events also show that all Londoners regardless of race, creed, colour or origin – new Londoners or old Londoners – they are (we are) all targets. Like our ancestors in the Blitz, death is back on the agenda as a daily reality.

In her official birthday message today, the Queen qualified the last few weeks as « sombre times. » These words from her majesty carry far more weight than Mrs May’s timid words of sympathy ? May I suggest now that Her Majesty backs up words with action and flings a few million pounds the way of Grenfell House.

Finally this « Blitz » comparison does leave one huge question – were the authorities at the time of the London Blitz really able to cope or did London survive thanks to the brave men and women of the emergency services and the solidarity of Londoners and their sheer bloody mindedness ? Certainly the latter.

So, on this warm, and thankfully peaceful afternoon in rural France ; I have spent an hour scribbling away in what I call « Cross Channel gazing » – a sideways look across the water in that land that was once home. So far from the realities of anything in my ex-pat disconnect, until, the day it happens here.

Historical Info

The London Blitz Septembet 7th 1940 to May 10th 1941. An estimated  43,000 dead and 48,000 to 138,000 injured.

 

 

Freedom?

FREEDOM!  screams a huge banner headline from the front page of the Daily Mail.

Freedom ? Freedom from what ?

Has Britain just been liberated from years of foreign occupation ? Have the British people just risen up and toppled a vile dictator ?

« This is E-Day. » proclaims a sub-header

March 29th, E-Day ?

Has the world (or at least the Daily Mail) gone mad ?

Pardon my flinching , semi senile, wine-soaked, ex-pat memory, but unless we have just booted the nazis out of Blighty, I thought that Britan had been a free and democratic country for the past … well at least for the past 72 years since the end of World War Two, and possibly long before that – OK bar a few arguments about when full and fair universal suffrage was finally achieved – Britian has been « democratic » since mid –to-late Victorian times.

I know with this last sweeping assertion I am going to make some history buffs howl with indignation, because Britain (or England) had a « parliamentary » tradition for many centuries before, but not everyone got to vote for who was supposed to represent them.

History aside, I am glad the Britian is free again, and now, casting myself into the Daily mail mindset, I can say that Britain will be GREAT again.

March 29th, E-Day (or Exit Day). We should declare this day a national public holiday, along with St George’s Day and June 23rd which was Brexit day itself. – B-day – June 23rd 2016 ; the longst day though was June 24th – a long slow depresssing and distressing day, where us « remain » supporters were in a state of jawdropping disbelief, occasionally pinching ourselves just to remind us that this was not all a dream, or a nightmare or a parallel universe

I therefore propose three new public holidays – Merci Brexit, and if there too many public holidays , we will et rid of all those « unBritish » days that the European Union inflicted upon us … how many ? The Mayday Bank Holiday – I get the feeling though that many Brits would quite fancy keeping that one, as well as getting the three others –

Three new public holidays – think of all the extra shopping time that’s going to give the Brits – but I think quite a few of you might be working to pay the astronomical costs of goodies, when Brtain also leaves the single market.

Anyway, congrats to the Little Englanders everywhere, you can dust down your Union Jacks and toast the Brave new Britain in a good pint of British beer – though enjoy it while you can, in a few years Britain might be no more than a distant memory – Imagine that the Kingdom of England shares a land border with the Republic of Scotland, and what if Northern Ireland decide that after 400 years or so of accrimonious relations with England, to will be far better for all to unite with the South and just have one country called « Ireland » Now that sounds very sensible to me

Freedom ! No ! This is a bad day for freedom, unless of course your idea of freedom is simply being told what you can and cannot do – Yes the nasty old EU setting norms for just how much meat content you should have in a sausage or setting environmental norms for just how much sewage you can pump into the sea.

I genuinely think that joining the EU brought Britain out of the dark ages. Back when we joined in 1973, the UK was beset by strikes, and power cuts, the country was working a three day week, Brits used to stare jealously acrss the Channel at the quality of life in Continental Europe. YES, true we won the War and YES in 1973, Britain was still living firmly in World War Two – well now, Britain can once agin enjoy the War mentality – a ture Churchillian mindset of standing alone aginst this bureaucratic, Brussels driven monolith that is the European Union – now we are free to determine our destiny.

So, a few concrete ideas

Imagine when Brexit is a reality , that you have to get a visa for your two week fling in Benidorm.

Imagine that there is no more cheap unlimited booze and we go back to the old rules whereby you can only bring back three bottles of wine from your European holiday as opposed o the 40 or so bottles you can bring back at présent.

Imagine all our youngsters who might want to work in Europe – that’s going to be an issue.

And if there is economic lockdown ?

We will buy products that are made in Britain – well if you want a cheap TV or car or washing machine, all the parts come in via the EU. So here I am venturing on to unresearched ground BUT, unless the UK strike some serious trade deals with the EU before WTO trade rules kick in ???? Can the UK still independantly produce enough canoës and paddles to navigate itself up Shit Creek ? Not so sure.

My ramblings are fliipant and unresearched, but they come from a Britsh ex-pat who is taking out French nationality so he can still work in France after Brexit because his future was determined by those Brits who voted for Brexit – in a referendum where I did not have the right to vote.

Ok thoughts over for now, but dwell on this. Donald Trump was voted into the Whitehouse despite the fact that Hilary Clinton had 2 million more votes in the final result. As an ex-pat, I was not given the right to vote in the UK referendum because only ex-pats who had been out of the UK 15 years or less were allowed to vote. Democracy does not seem to apply in either case

If Republic of Scotland there is, I shall be validating my 3 generational Scottish ancestry for a Hibernian passport.

To all ye Little Englanders – well done on regaining your freedom. I hope you enjoy it, though put away the Union Jack and unfurl the St George Flag ; and I forecast (thought do not wish you) fractious times head.

End of rant

PS, for all Daily Mail readers you read the  paper founded in 1911 by Lord Northcliffe to halt the progress of Lloyd George’s parliamentary reform bill. and this was the paper that supported the British Union of Fascists in 1936; with that unforgettable headline “Hooray for the Blackshirts.” – Not that I’m calling all Daily Mail readers “fascists”, but there is a nasty whiff of BNP style nationalism about you all.

Do you have the French calendar reflex?

images

1st of January, you open up the calendar and see when the next public holidays fall and on which days – thus knowing how long you will have to survive at work until you get more time off.

The average French worker gets six weeks paid leave every year. Since the introduction of the 35-hour week in February 2000, French workers have had more time off. With the 6 weeks statutory paid leave, time off in lieu thanks to the 35 hour week and national public holidays, the average French worker can now chalk up between 8 or 9 weeks « holiday ».

I bet that sounds a good deal to all you overworked Yanks who probably only get a couple of weeks paid leave per year.

Hey! This is France – we don’t work – we loll around all day eating gourmet meals, drinking wine and occasionally we might produce a few cars, a high-speed train, an Airbus, some perfume, champagne or a designer dress.

Ok, this is a thin time of year for public holidays, nothing now until Easter Monday on April 17th – unlike the Brits, we don’t do Good Friday.

Of course, no self-respecting Frenchman is going to work nearly four whole months without a day off. The next school holidays start in mid February – time to delve in to those valuable days of annual leave and take the family skiing – and this is what mot French workers will do – or at least those who can actually afford to a ski holiday for the family.

The French ain’t dumb; they have most of their public holidays when the decent weather kicks in. During May and early June there are no less than 4 official public holidays

May 1st – May Day

May 8th – Victory in Europe Day

May 25th – Ascension Day

June 6th – Whit Monday

All that holiday! There has to be a catch?

Here is the catch – in France we get the public holiday on the day it falls, so if May 1st falls on a weekday, everyone is happy. If it falls on a weekend – Oh Dear.

There is none of this British business of tagging on an extra day (or days) if public holidays fall on the weekend.

Imagine Christmas day falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day on a Sunday – under the British scheme of things, the following Monday and Tuesday will be public holidays. Not in France though. Christmas day is Sunday and the French don’t keep Boxing Day – so you get a one day Christmas, whereas the Brits get four days of revelry (some might say a one day Christmas is quite enough.)

So, let us look forward to May 2017. Both the May Day (May 1st) and VE Day (May 8th) holidays fall on a Monday this year – long weekends for everyone.

Ascension Day or Ascension Thursday (May 25th) – as the name suggests, always falls on a Thursday. Hooray another long weekend. French workers will once again dig into their leave days and take the Friday as a « bridging day » – a common practise in France to carry prolong public holidays through to the weekend.

Whitsun Monday (well obviously a Monday) falls on June 5th.

Now, seeing as all annual leave in France runs from May to May (Lord knows why), if you haven’t taken all your annual leave by the end of May, then you lose it, meaning that French workers will « use up » any untaken leave in May

So – workers with four or five days left may decide to take their days from May 1st through May 8th.

Monday May 1st – a public holiday. Four days of leave taken for Tuesday through Friday and then another public holiday on Monday May 8th. That’s actually a full six days off work with only four days leave used up.

There are of course those public holidays, which seem almost a waste – Bastille Day on July 14th and Assumption day on August 15th. No matter the day they fall, they always fall during the summer holidays, when everyone is on holiday. However iconic Bastille day may be, it might be better to shift it to another day in the year where it might make some real impact.

November is the next big holiday bonanza with two public holidays: All Saints’ Day on November 1st and Armistice Day on November 11th. This year All Saints’ falls on a Wednesday – a good opportunity to take a couple of those « bridging days » and make a long weekend of it, especially since November 1st is normally during the school autumn (fall) holidays. No so lucky for Armistice this year, which falls on a Saturday.

There is perhaps a valid argument to adapt the British model, where the public holiday is « given » the nearest Monday after the actual event – meaning we all get a long weekend – I suppose that Christmas and July 14 would be the exceptions were such a logic used, after all, December 25th falls when it does, but were it n a weekend, why not give the workers the following Monday as a holiday.

So there you are folks – French national holidays.

Do we get more or less than you lot?

As every year, the French will get 11 public holidays in 2017, two of which will fall on weekends (January 1st fell on a Sunday and Armistice Day will fall on a Saturday), meaning therefore that we only get 9 real « days off »

There are officially 12 public holidays on the UK calendar this year, however, taking into account regional variations (different bank Holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland) – UK residents will get 9 full national UK-wide public holidays.

In France too, we have regional variations. Lucky residents in Alsace, Lorraine and Mosel in Eastern France get Good Friday and Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day) added to their list – a hangover from that period from 1871 to 1918, when the east of France was a German territory. (A thorny and complex subject to explain in a later post.)

Happy Holidays folks (when the next ones come)