Thursday, June 26, 2008


Our days in France are limited. Limited to only a couple of weeks in fact. Where has the time gone? We've been in France for five years now, having arrived in the midst of the dreadful canicule heat wave summer of 2003. I remember when we first arrived at our new house, walking in through the door at 10 pm in the evening and feeling the heat trapped inside. I touched the radiator and shouted "some idiots left the heating turned on!" But they hadn't. It was just the latent heat of that tremendously hot day still throbbing through the pipes.

My younger daughter, that's her in the photograph above, has grown up here, and it's her who will miss the place most. I can hear her playing next door at the moment, talking to herself in French. Luckily we have been able to find a French school in the place we are going to, so she will not lose this gift. It has been great to see her slowly fitting in among her French peer group, and to see how well loved she is by the teacher, whom she adores in return, kissing her on the cheek in the morning when she arrives and in the evening when she leaves. She is the only child that does this!

France hasn't changed very radically in the five years we have been here, and I think that is, on the whole, a good thing. The longer I am here, the more I appreciate the rather conservative approach of the French. A suspicious approach to liberal free market economics, a healthy over-evaluation of their own culture, a robust state bureaucracy, plenty of rules, plenty of formality, no Sunday opening. All of this is good for France in an odd sort of way. It slows down the pace of life to one that is manageable, not frenetic. It values traditional things and at the same time does not seem to stymie innovation.

There is, in France, a level of group activity which should be the envy of other countries in Europe. In my sphere of interest, for example, there is the 'Marche de la Poesie' which brings together all the small publishers of poetry from all over France and unites them in a single poetry jamboree. This kind of event, which exists in all different spheres and at both regional and countrywide level, can allow you to become passionate about the things you love, whether that be reading poetry, consuming wine and cheese or touring on a racing bicycle.

So now we have to bid our adieus. Several friends have said they wished we were staying. Have said how much they value our contributions to the community. They are especially referring to my wife who has energetically supported almost every organisation known in Croissy-sur-Seine. But... our thoughts are already moving on, we have found a new house, are dreaming of mountains, fjords and sandy beaches...


Anonymous said...

Good luck, Jonathan. All the best to you and your family in your new lives!

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thank you Stuart. Maybe you'll be able to make it to the poetry reading?

Lucy said...

I feel an odd lurch of vicarious grief that you are leaving!

And I recognise so much of what you say, though I envy you just a little bit the cultural scope you've had in Paris.

I hope you go on blogging in your new place, where are you going?

(I had other friends in Croissy, I realise, though they left about three years ago; they were an Anglo-Japanese family called Crews. But their girls were older, and went to an English school.)

George S said...

Where are you off to next, Jonathan?