Dealing as I do on a daily basis with nitwits who can’t see that today’s Arab despot will almost certainly be preferable to any replacement the “rebels” have in mind, at times it is an enormous relief to just sit and write an ATEOTD about the amusing normalities and harmless abnormalities of real life.
So here I am – living in the heart of rural France, soaking up the culture of small community life….and the couple running the local boulangerie are called Fred and Lil. I mean, it’s not exactly Clochemerle is it? But they’ve settled very quickly into my nearest village, and the bread they churn out is excellent. Also they are up for a laugh.
Across the road, Valu and Pepito’s multi-purpose épicerie (is it a grocers is it a tabac is it a presse is it a butcher’s?) waits for the local bureaucrats and architects to finally decide when construction can start on the new joint Mairie/private sector project to give the village a bigger shop with more choice – alongside flats for the elderly – on the site of the old Catholic primary school. This amount of planned change all in one go has clearly been too much for the local government infrastructure: it needs time to digest it all before diving in the deep end. At this rate, the new venture will be constructed, up and running some time in 2027. (By which time, as they say in Ireland, “Sure, all de old people will be dead”.)
About ten minutes from here by car, the local town’s elders decided two months ago to rebuild the covered market. In classic builder fashion, their workers turned up to demolish the rickety old roof, replace the old stone upon which it rested, and then construct the steelwork web for the new roof. At which point, the human forms who carried out these works vapourised into another dimension. That was three weeks ago, since when nothing has happened. The market having decamped to a new site, I have the sense that it might be very difficult to tempt them back to the old location….which would be a shame, as two bars, a restaurant and a butchers have seen their turnover dip sharply since they left.
The weather, meanwhile, continues to behave as if it was June and we were in St Tropez. It’s been 23 – 27°C for nine days now, and apart from rain forecast for Saturday, seems set to keep this up. For any Brit – expat or not – an Easter Weekend with even halfway decent weather is not so much a joy as a miracle.
Aquitaine at this time of year really is a bit special. The blossom heralding fruit later on is everywhere, the winter-soaked soil gets sucked up to produce bright green foliage, and every manner of wildlife wakes up from hibernation, or returns from a winter spent in North Africa. The hoopoes are once again to be seen parading like gay punks, gigantic hare skitter about like Atlantic supply ships evading U-Boat torpedoes, and the Coypu venture out of an early morning in search of new shoots. But whether you glance down at insects or look up at birds, one activity is common to all: shagging.
One species that did well out of a mild winter is your common or garden ant. Another is the field mouse. Both have invaded my domiciliary space in the last week. And so the battle continues for the lowly human inhabitant of all this, the never-ending struggle to cut grass, trap mice, dissuade ants, stop coypu from digging escape tunnels, and fire warning shots at shrieking magpies.
I was saying to one of my more ribald and irreverent French chums the other day, “La variété est l’épice de la vie” (variety is the spice of life). Sadly – as usual with me – I under-pronounced the é on épice, and thus uttered ‘le piss’. This was received as ‘Variety is the piss of life”. “Ohlala,” he giggled, “how you English like the surreal side of philosophy”.
Jean-Pierre knew perfectly well what I’d said. He was just taking l’épice.
On a broader canvas, this is how most ordinary French people see the nature of existence – far too serious to be taken too seriously. They believe passionately in the mutuality of communities, but they see the undermining of national politicians and bureaucrats as essential to the success of those communities.
A classic example would be the Farmers’ view of pc affectations. Yet another of their crypto-Soviet signs has gone up this week in my area: it suggests, ‘Save a farm-labourer, kill a Vegan’. Heaven help me, I laughed out loud. The previous notice asserted, ‘L’Elysées – pay your debts and leave us alone’. The one before that (a reference to cropping in August) alleged ‘Ever noticed how, when there is work to be done, the pen pushers are on holiday?’
Sadly, the right EUNATO propaganda at the right time can quickly bring back C’est l’heure de gloire pour La Patrie jingoism – or easy acceptance of candidates like Macron. However, even when this happens, a certain pride in individual thought remains. I think Marine Le Pen will get more votes in the run-off than many expect; but she will not win. The French majority don’t need cunning racists to spot the Islamic threat to their civilisation: they will punish the élite if they fail to deal with (and learn from) it. But they will not elect Marine Le Pen as President.
Having the time now to make do and mend (which most people don’t) I’m probably every neocon’s idea of the Beast from Hell. But only by having the time to refuse to repurchase does one appreciate just how disgracefully compromised most durable product design and manufacture is. However, when you add to time spent on that lark the dozens of wasted hours frittered away trying to correct the incompetence of bureaucrats – tax inspectors, insurance clerks, retail banking staff, welfare departments and so forth – it becomes clear just how much of our Time left on this mortal coil is held hostage by the corporate State.
Over the last two decades, a third leg on the stool that is life has been grown in order to give our slave fate a firm basis. I refer of course to information technology software.
Here’s a fab fact with which to anaesthetise your supper guests: if you ignore software updates for four months, it will take two days of nonstop downloading to get your pc back up to date. And at some point during the process, a panel will appear onscreen to allege that the drivers you require to perform the updating downloads are obsolete, and also need
I do not doubt that if we all just ignored the bastards, not only would very little harm come to us: the Behemoth that allows them to live well and then retire in luxury would implode….and the ghastly Überbau that renders us all figurative Quasimodos would be gone.
But only briefly….until the next set of freedom-fighters become der neue Überbau.
However, it’s Easter, the headcases are mainly with their long-suffering families, and so I offer a very happy crucifixion nostalgia to you all. A bloke dies from slow, drowning asphyxiation in an alleged attempt to save us all, and the British eat chocolate bunnies to commemorate the event. To celebrate his birth, the Germans have evening markets where you can eat delicious sausages and drink Gluwein. As a mark of respect for him wandering about in the desert, we give up sugary things and mind-altering substances. To stay truthful to his message of pacifist tolerance, we create Crusades, Inquisitions and Holy Wars.
We do not know we cannot tell
what pain he had to bear –
but to give one more holiday
he hung and suffered there.