Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Home at Last
So I'm back. It was always going to be a conundrum as to where my heart really was. I lived in England for close on sixty years, and unlike many of my fellow compatriots who have set off for greener grass I have only returned to my native East Anglia once in eight years. My thinking on this subject is to commit yourself whole-heartedly to a new life and don't waste time dwelling on what you've left behind.
Every country, every new life, has’ fors ‘and ‘againsts’ and the more you compare, the worse your situation may appear. Especially now, when we who have retired on meagre pensions paid in sterling are beginning to feel the pinch. Well, its swings and roundabouts, so for the next few months it's a case of 'batten down the hatches and ride out the storm' And the storm will abate, that's for sure.
Meanwhile I had only to step off the plane at Toulouse (thanks, easyJet for another stress-free flight) to know that I was home.
The air was almost balmy, the light at 4.30 pm (3.30 GMT) just as I knew it would be, soft, golden, welcoming. The pace of life just that much slower....although once we hit the city ‘rocade’ (ring road) I was well aware that the French habit of tail-gating, and their total incomprehension of that funny little thing attached to the steering wheel known to UK drivers as an indicator, is still firmly in place. Yes, welcome back to the land that has produced the worst drivers in Europe.
Sometimes, rarely, one will encounter a driver indicating as he/she circumnavigates a roundabout. Don’t automatically assume they are informing you which exit they intend to take .It will probably mean that they've just discovered the indicator, and to their utter astonishment not only does it work but is quite good fun to play with. The fundamental trouble is that for years the French couldn’t be trusted with the gentle art of polite traffic filtering. Traffic lights were the only way to control junctions, so most drivers over the age of forty have their own individual way of attacking a roundabout. Combine that with a mental block regarding the use of an indicator and you’ve got an accident waiting to happen..
But its things like that which makes France so special. And it's one of the many idiosyncrasies that I've missed during the last month.
England is still a nice place to visit, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those expats who slag off everything about the UK. And this year the shopping was great! I spent a happy half hour in Wilkinson’s, stocking up on continental conversion plugs, cookie cutters and eco light bulbs (so much cheaper than here in France).Yes, I know. I'm a deeply sad person!
And numero uno on my shopping list was spices. In particular, Thai spices. I stocked up in a West Indian shop in Letchworth as if they were about to be rationed the next day. I explained my manic behavior to the charming Asian girl on the check-out.....why was some-one buying industrial amounts of garam masala, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom, and fresh tamarind? 'Cos in my neck of the woods it's unheard of. She understood, and even sympathised. Hadn’t her own aunt done exactly the same thing a few weeks before?
Yes, I love duck, goose and all their by-products but sometimes I yearn for something spicy. And that, in French eyes, is close to treason. They’ve no time for foreign ‘muck’.
So, despite that, I’m still pleased to be home, and back writing my blog which I’ve sadly neglected.
All I have to do now is to wish you all a Happy New Year, and start reviewing my New Year Resolutions.