Home Thoughts From Abroad

Thursday 24th August

This was a poem by Robert Browning.  Also the title of a song by Clifford T. Ward where he references the poet too.  We probably studied this poem at school – but until we brushed on the War Poets in the Sixth Form, I must admit that Poetry, especially that of Wordsworth and Shelley passed me by….

I have just been home.  Or what I once thought of as home, England.  My thoughts are obviously coloured by living here in France.  And coloured is the word which springs to mind.  It seems to me that the five days I spent in England were almost in black and white, or rather some dirty smudgy over-wash – the colours all muted and bland.  And suddenly when you step off the plane at Bergerac you emerge into full splendid vibrant colour.

And my, how the temperature is different.  We have got used to it, living here in France.  There are days when it just feels too hot, but the houses are built differently, they are cooler in summer, they have shutters to keep out the worst of the sun.  But mostly I simply like it, warm every day.  It was pretty cool and miserable weather in England.  It managed to rain a bit every day, and the skies were overcast and greyish.  Then as the plane doors open in France it is like stepping into a hairdryer, hot hot hot air – and of course you are overdressed.  You had to be, because in England you never know what to expect.  I have been in shorts and t-shirt and sandals for months now but always wear long jeans, shoes and socks in England, especially on the tube. There it is all push and shove, no happy faces at all, as the thousands manage their daily commute, heads buried in phones or i-pads, making sure they make no eye contact with anyone else (to speak to a stranger would be almost committing a crime), all absorbed in their own little screen worlds.

And the biggest difference seems to be the people.  I know I am prejudiced but almost everyone you see in England seems unhappy, dour, not exactly miserable but not relaxed and happy either.  Last night we had the busiest (so far) Night Market, here in Eymet.  And you simply cannot imagine this happening in England.  Communal eating – long tables and stools all around the square and into the side streets, and people all talking to each other, to their neighbours, to the people they happen to be sitting next to.  Food everywhere, and very reasonably priced; moules et frites, calamari, paella, barbecued duck, saussices canard, pizzas, crepes, waffles and chichis, melon baskets and even a vegetarian stall – all doing roaring business.  And several stalls selling wine at 5 euros a bottle.  We were very busy selling mostly cold drinks with a few wines and beers thrown in.  Our four table were constantly full.  There are also stalls selling jewellery, clothes, pottery, second-hand vinyl, hats, soap and all sorts of touristy things.  It goes on until quite late, even at midnight there are a few stalls still selling stuff.  And the bars and restaurants are heaving too.

But the main thing is that everyone had a great time.  They maybe spent 15 euros a person and less for the children.  There were no fights, no drunks, no bad behaviour, just everyone having a good time.

So, home thoughts from abroad I am afraid  are not too enthusiastic about an England that politically too I really am afraid seems to be settling into a rather unhappy place.