Sunday, July 08, 2007

What I Did On My Holidays, by Nige

Well I'm back from France, where my time was devoted to vegetating, pursuing the undemanding daily round of the dedicated flaneur, reading a fat Saul Bellow (The Adventures Of Augie March, since you ask) and enjoying the familiar pleasures of La France Exceptionelle - a country that, in sharp contrast to ours, appears to function remarkably well with a minimal outlay of effort. Okay, it's unavoidably full of French people, but you can't have everything.
My sole window on the world during this sojourn was CNN on hotel room TV, the news equivalent of Groundhog Day, so don't expect any intelligent comment on world affairs from me. It's remarkable, if hardly surprising, how much pleasanter the world seems when you don't know what's going on in it... However, my extensive researches in the cafes, bars and restaurants of La Rochelle established that, in Free France, they know how to respond to a smoking ban. In nearly all such establishments, ashtrays come as standard with every table. While England stubs out and knuckles under at a word from our masters in Brussels, in France they just shrug and carry on as before. What's more, their towns aren't infested, like ours, with giant scavenging birds, but are populated by the cheery sparrows that are fast disappearing from our carrion-strewn British streets.
Anyway, despite all that, it's good to be back.


  1. France can only BE France if it is full of the French. Why would you want it otherwise?

  2. Well OK Mopsa, fair enough. The trouble is, I think, that the very character traits that have motivated and enabled the French to maintain the many attractive features of their national life are in themselves somewhat unattractive to non-French people. There - that's a fair and judicious summing up, isn't it? Most unlike me...

  3. I wish *I* were in France right now! Quit your pissin' & moanin', Nige. Some of the best of us have French ancestry, including many a Brit (I do believe the national language of England was French for about two-hundred years, no?).

    Anyway, consider the alternative. Instead of a vacation this year, we have the eldest going to university. This weekend she's been utterly indulged, having had four wisdom teeth (2 impacted) yanked on Friday a.m. In her first hours, she looked like an extra for "28 Days/Weeks Later," now she just looks like a chipmunk. A very demanding chipmunk ("Don't we have *peach* ice cream? What about chocolate pudding?").

    Where's La Rochelle? Sounds like the North Coast, not an area I know very well.

  4. Ah Susan, I sympathise - and I do love France, believe me, but in the conflicted English manner, with a kind of incredulous resentment that the French of all people could have got it so right. La Rochelle is getting on for halfway down the lefthand side, i.e. Atlantic coast, north of Bordeaux, in Poitou-Charentes, an area disputed for centuries between the French and the English (inasmuch as the two nations had a distinct identity in medieval times). Ferocious rivalry between Protestants and Catholics led to the destruction of most of the old churches (bar the towers) and to a brutal siege in Richelieu's time, designed to force the city back into the Roman fold after 30 years of Protestant peace and prosperity. The Brits sent an incompetent expedition under the Duke of Buckingham, which failed to help, and the pitiful remnant of La Rochelle's population was eventually obliged to capitulate. But enough of that - if you get the chance to visit, Susan, I recommend it.

  5. and it's good to see you back, nige. what is Jekyll without Hyde?

  6. He is Hyde, Ian, no doubt about it. When he drinks that stuff, it's as well to stay clear