Living in the now

Aside

“You are a beautiful and unique snowflake”

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As I stare across the street at the woman on her terrace, I think of this phrase and it rings sort of hollow.

She is an exact carbon copy of a former friend of mine in Edinburgh. Same lithe form, same love of clean simplicity, same adoration of all things vintage. As she methodically places a table, two chairs plus requisite vase of flowers (just for aestheticism – she will not sit there) out on her terrace, I smile to myself. I think of that old friend of mine who always wanted beauty around her, and who equally saw beauty all around. Her apartment was like walking through a gallery filled with old photographs, bunches of flowers and herbs, an old bicycle in the doorway. Obsessed by Françoise Hardy while not speaking a word of French, she would spend her evenings designing jewellery and organising her collection of vintage clothes for  Markets at the weekend while listening to Madame Hardy whisper stories of love long-lost or even love which never was. Living in a sort of vintage bubble, she paid no attention to the problems of the “real” world. She never read a newspaper, never looked at anything on the internet other than fashion or her emails. A true dreamer.

As I watch the girl across the street, I’m nostalgic for my old Edinburgh life. Back then I had started to live in this vintage bubble too, going to my rubbish services job which I in equal parts hated but adored because I loved my colleagues, while at the same time going for tea or coffee in cosy artistic places and sitting and reading Vogue. Perusing the local library for old classics and philosophy books. Careening through charity shops and picking up the hand me downs of someone’s old Auntie Bertha.

Was I successful in the eyes of society? Not at all

Was I happy? In retrospect, yes

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I was going nowhere. I had hit pause on plans for real life, and “growing up”. And it was magical. I felt a freedom there I had never felt before. Everything I had was my own, I took care of all my own affairs. I suppose in a  big way I was growing up. I had a lot of bad times in Edinburgh but plenty of good times. I met the Frenchman there so that city will always hold a special place in my heart. Whenever I go back  it feels like home again. It’s ironic as I spent around the same amount of time there that I have now spent in Reims.  I cannot say I have embraced Reims in quite the same way. Maybe when I leave Reims I will look back with my rose-tinted specs. We all have a habit of doing this, don’t we? Perhaps I am nostalgic for an Edinburgh that doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s an idea I have in my mind of a time and a place I was at in my life which I will never feel again.

Letting go of the past sometimes feels like the hardest thing to do. But it’s the only way to really enter the future and live in the now.

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Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.

~Doug Larson

Les Français sont nuls en anglais? I found the reason!

Yet again I find myself frustrated by French irritating nationalism and overarching pride in la belle langue.

Today I’m ranting about French doublage (dubbing).

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It’s something that has bothered me for a long time but I’ve never got around to writing about it. Now, I do frequent a great independent cinema here in Reims (http://www.cinemasreims.com/) so I can’t complain too much as without it I would go insane. They offer all their films in the original version (VO) with French subtitles as opposed to the French version (VF). As opposed to the horrific chain Gaumont which supplies all the latest trash from US Hollywood and French Hollywood (apologies French daydreamers, not all French films are in black and white with lots of wide shots of Paris‘ rain soaked streets with smoking androgynous girls).

Before the naysayers begin, I am not just another “Eeenglish” who can’t bear to watch anything that’s not in my native tongue, au contraire, I would rather pull my eyes out with a snail fork –9818843-snail-on-a-fork-sitting-isolated-on-a-white-background

A snail fork you say?

Noooooooo! That’s not a snail fork! This is a snail fork.

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Now back to the story

– than watch Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain in English. A charming Parisien dashing around Montmartre uttering the words of Shakespeare? No thank you. By contrast the French have neither shame nor worry with the contrary; quintessential English roses running around London, or swashbuckling Irish gardai chasing drug dealers in Connemara – all get to communicate through the tongue of Descartes, Rousseau et. al. And why not? It is the most beautiful language in the world after all… mini-violins…

I have spoken with many French people about this, of whom  over 90% are in agreement with me: just put the subtitles on goddamn it! It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to figure it out. In Europe, almost all Northern countries subtitle their English language films and TV series, we’re talking Norway, Sweden, Holland, Denmark etc. While Southern countries(excluding Portugal), Spain, Italy and France dub EVERYTHING. If you want an example of why I put the last word in uppercase, it’s because even on the news during a foreign item, if someone, a protester perhaps, speaks in English, it’s dubbed! Surely it’s not quicker and cheaper to just put up subtitles? So where is the connection? Ah, I’ll tell you. Have you ever met a relatively young person from Northern Europe who didn’t speak extremely, impressively good English? ……….see?

There will be French people who will say “baaaah we don’t care about English” which may be true, but any relatively ambitious person in France knows that, for business, without English, you’re dead. So why then, do the French dig their heels into the ground, regarding subtitling English films and TV series on French television? Because they really like having their heels dug into the ground because of their problems with change (see the Mariage pour Tous debacle at the moment)? I’m joking this is not the only reason. The media are also in a hole with this as apparently a programme broadcasted in VO will see a fall in audience numbers of 30%!  (http://www.slate.fr/story/18195/pourquoi-la-france-double-t-elle-tout-le-monde) It is no secret that oui, les français sont nuls en anglais (the French suck at English) and as the French never like to lose at anything why would they be reminded of their language ineptitude when they are watching TV? But the solution is shockingly obvious, introduce subtitles and break the curse!

A child who is exposed to a language up to the age of seven greatly improves their chances of speaking the language fluently when they are older. The human race’s fatal flaw of never seeming to be capable of thinking longterm hinders the French again. The millions spent by French companies to teach their hopelessly nul executives to speak English at the age fifty (when the brain has a much lower capacity to learn a new language) will be SAVED if they introduce subtitles on television. The French must surely realise they cannot rely on notoriously bad English language education in schools, which of course is improving somewhat but teachers at l’école primaire are teaching children English when they themselves can hardly speak. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Why am I suddenly so irritated today? Because I really love good cinema; the details, the charm and the subtleties of good dialogue and good direction. At the moment, I’m interested in going to see “I Give it a Year” (Mariage à l’anglaise) which has the air of being an atypical English comedy. Basically something I cannot bear to watch in French (much like Shutter Island a few weeks ago…Leonardo Dicaprio is NOT French). Unfortunately, my beloved indie cinema has not taken it up, leaving me with the option of watching it in VF at Gaumont. Decisions, decisions. Je pense que ce sera un non pour moi.

Why are French people so irritating beyond the point of belief?

I never thought I would meet a nation of people more annoyingly stubborn than myself.

Sexism in France

Living in a new country, and attempting to integrate and understand a new culture can be daunting at times. Often the difference between success or failure in this task is your own psyche. A few questions I often find myself asking is: how abhorrent is this cultural difference to me? Will I take the cultural relativist road and try to use my own intelligence to think: this is simply a different way of thinking, this does not make it wrong; or will I simply push it away in the box labelled “The Irish Way is the Best Way.” Today in relation to the topic of a woman’s appearance, sadly, I have had to go with the former.

Sorry, France. Today, you suck.

This is a subject which has been covered again and again, however this time I won’t be writing an insipid article detailing all the ways women in France eat “all that cheese and bread” while keeping their figures. Amazing, we are ever in your humble shadow ladies.

NB: They have much better weather and they EXERCISE guys.

No, after the recent discovery that the “weight” I have gained since moving to France was recently a topic of conversation between my boyfriend and his father I felt the need to discuss this a little bit (and rant) with the internet. As a 5″7, 57 kilos, size 10, 22-year-old, I can hardly be labelled as a fattie. Of course, the proof is in the pudding: I have put weight on in France (53 kilos upon on arrival), that is not the problem, the fact is where French men feel they have the right to comment on a women’s weight. The simple fact is France is an inherently sexist country. The language itself says it all, the word vagina is a masculine word (ownership of a women’s sex organ right there). But my main irk is the fact that so many intelligent French men seem to have a blockage to the FACT that they live in a sexist country, right down to the language.

I’m moving off the point. The mere fact that my weight was up for discussion between my boyfriend and his father is laughable. The thought of that occurring in Ireland is quite simply, hilarious. As if two Irish men would discuss a women’s weight (perhaps in some instances they would, when the women in question was perhaps verging on the obese) firstly, they have better things to talk about, secondly, they would also see it as rude.

But in my case, where in nearly every country on the planet I would be considered slim and healthy. Yes, I am eating too much cheese, I am drinking too much wine etc. but to think that this is a topic up for discussion behind my back is absolutely inappropriate. Living in a country where a women’s appearance is consistently held up as a topic of discussion sickens me. I can only look to the women of France, who still allow this to go on. I have been in the room when a woman’s weight etc. has been nitpicked, maligned, destroyed, and I don’t stand for it. I ensure that my opinion is made known and that I am unimpressed with that kind of behaviour.

The fact that French men still feel it is appropriate to have these kinds of discussions leads me to feel French women let it slide, as long as it’s not them under the microscope. So fellow English speakers, don’t be impressed by the French woman’s maintenance of her figure long into adulthood, among other reasons, she is avoiding having her weight to be mocked and ridiculed, discussed at length by her fellow countrymen in the wondrous equality driven country, la belle France. As feminists have fought against for many years, the French woman’s appearance still matters more than anything else, sadly.