Thursday, July 17, 2008

Au revoir cher Blighty

Well, we spent just over a week in the UK where I defied the DailyWail by not getting stabbed or mugged by a juvenile criminal, where I was served in shops by several Muslims who neither tried to convert me nor blow me up, where I travelled from East Sussex to Gloucestershire to Kent to London without getting stuck in a traffic jam and where I managed not to snag my tights on 'this broken society'.

So what does it mean? Could it possibly be that the headlines that shout forth from the Wail and the Torygraph - same paper with longer words! - are not true, at least not everywhere in Blighty. Could it be that groups of teenagers get together for other reasons than to indulge in a quick round of granny bashing or happy slapping? I was, to be honest, disappointed not to have been kicked around a bit by a disadvantaged junior member of the Daily Wail's and Owa Dayve's broken society. At least then I could sit here in my expatdom like so many others, most of whom have nothing better to do than Blightybash in the 'Your View' section of the Torygraph website and talk about how the country's gone to the dogs.

But I wasn't. Damn! What now? I'll have to talk about all the happy, smiling people I met. How so? The UK is way down the Happy Scale according to uSwitch while the French, Europe's biggest depressives, are apparently at no. 2. Clearly no one has told them!

The British media is really something. You could never accuse it of putting the truth before a good headline.

ONE FIFTH OF CHILDREN BORN TO NON-BRITISH WOMEN shouted the Torygraph. Sadly, it couldn't even agree with itself as two paragraphs down... TWO THIRDS OF CHILDREN ARE BORN TO MOTHERS WHO WERE THEMSELVES BORN OUTSIDE THE UK. Well I wasn't born in the UK so my children and my brother's fall into this category. What's your point?

HOUSING RECESSION WORST SINCE 1970s it bellowed on another day while the Business Section on the same day proclaimed HOUSING SLUMP WORST SINCE 1930s. That's some slump if it could fall so dramatically between the news and the business pages!!

I indulged in a little (or should I say a lot unless the CH is reading) retail therapy and worshipped at the Shrine of Tesco where I filled me boots with BOGOFS (a concept virtually unknown in France) even if I didn't really need them, paid homage to the retail god that is Bentalls, where I was to be seen wandering round like a mental patient on a day pass mumbling 'nice things..... lovely things' while the sales ladies eyed me suspiciously, and became alarmingly ecstatic in that altar to Mammon that is TK Maxx. I ate real sausages and bacon that wasn't wafer thin, drank tall skinny lattes till I couldn't drink any more and got DS some uber cool Red or Dead specs. No sign of the credit crunch in Kingston upon Thames.

I met up with old friends who asked 'when are you coming back, we miss you' and 'what are you doooooing out there in the arse-end of the universe - well France at least?'. They don't get it at all, my old friends. How did culcha'd city girl become French peasant girl in the space of a few short years?

It was the Hampton Court Flower show and we reminisced about the many evenings we spent at the Gala Opening night and how the sun always seemed to shine except for the last one when I'd just announced we were leaving the UK, when strangely it was freezing and rained.

We shed a tear on parting though why I don't know as we'll all be together over the summer but god, I miss them. That's the worst part about moving abroad. You leave your comfort zone, your friends who've known you for years and shared you joy and pain and start all over again. I've got some fabulous friends here in France who have been unfailing in their support during the CH's absences, they've minded the children, chopped up wood, mended leaks and changed taps and they are special people.... but we have no history yet.

CH and I went to our old stamping grounds like the Harrow near Shepperton Studios where I worked for several years (studios not pub!). It's a real film industry pub with photos of movie stars drinking there and posing with the various landlords. It's always got a fantastic mix of interesting people from brawny stunt guys to fey directors. This time we sat between Trevor Baylis, he of the wind up radio fame who still lives downriver on Eel Pie Island, and on the other side, the special effects director on the latest Batman film. Talk is all over 'pictures' (they're never referred to as films) and who's doing what and who's seen who lately. Who's doing well, who's retired and who's struggling to find work. Upcoming films, prima donna actresses and actors who think they are the new Peter O'Toole. It's so vibrant.

The CH even managed to take some time off work, no thanks to a certain leading actor who went out on a bender on Saturday night and didn't turn up for work again until Thursday. Schedules had to be changed and at one point the CH nearly had to hire a lorry and drive it to the studios in Ireland with a complete set in the back. I'd have given the little shite (not the CH you understand!) a belt round the ear myself but these modern line producers just don't know how to rein in these jumped up little egotists!

Eventually it was time to go home and with a pit in my stomach I got back on the plane for Toulouse. I love Blighty, I really do.

Back in France, the golden wheat fields have been cut, the sunflowers are starting to appear and life goes on.....


Sandi McBride said...

Really great post...funny yet so true...The news folks here (with an exception to my son who is a newspaper man) are just as bad...Kari at did a great rant on the fifth estate, lol...I loved England, too while we lived there, and miss it still!

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Sandi, noooo, only the UK has bad news - at least that's what the media want us to think. Everywhere else is peachy! Thanks for the link to Kari's blog. I posted a comment. Maybe if enough of us get together we can start our own news channel! VLiF

Lindsay said...

I lived in Bermuda for 5 years many moons ago and I certainly missed UK, apart from friends and family I missed the weather and the NHS!!!!! In Bemuda hardly any change of seasons and too hot for me most of the time - medical care very expensive.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi husband's family live around Epsom/Worcester Park and I used to live in not a million miles from your stomping ground. We go down to Surrey when we can. I cannot make my mind up re:living abroad versus living in the UK. You're right though the UK media who are a pain in the backside. I can only really cope with Radio 4 these days and block out the rest.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Lindsay

Sometimes people think life must be better in a hot country. Having lived in the Middle East for many years where it's hot, hot, hot I know that it's not strictly true. The NHS has it's critics but you can't beat the fact that it's really free at point of delivery. People yarp on about the French healthcare system, which is good, but boy is it expensive if you don't have health insurance! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hadriana - we were practically neighbours! We lived for 9 years in Lower Sunbury and the children went to school in Hampton. Have a great friend who lives in Kings Road in Richmond and another who lived in Kew. Don't you love Kew Gardens? We used to go to the Summer Swing concerts every year - Jules Holland and all that.And Van Morrison at Hampton Court. Well, I guess we've got man with accordion here! I think living abroad is great for making you appreciate your home country but as Sandi said, life's only greener over the septic tank! VLiF

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Well I'm not sure if I should be relieved that the "news reporters" (and I use the term loosely) over there are as off base as the ones over here or if I should be horrified. lol

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post - I was nodding my head as if I'd actually been with you. I'm so fed up with lousy news reporting and just as fed up with spoiled rotten, low-class, high-paid morons that pass themselves off as "artists" but, in fact, are nothing more than great fakers and pretenders (and some aren't even all that great!). Don't even get me started on acters and athletes. There's not enough blood pressure medication in the world to calm me down after 10 minutes of thinking about the likes of them.

(I really should look into signing up for some sort of anger management classes, eh?)LOL

Thanks for your visit to my blog!


Lehners in France said...

I read the Mail on line and it really makes me worried about going back to the UK. Then when I did last month I had a great time, met up with old friends, neighbours and family. I too felt a bit deflated when I left to return to the Darkest Dordogne. Debs x


Cor Blimey girl - I'd swap that place on the plane with you anytime! (even if it is FleasyJet! - better than RyanAir at least)

No, seriously, I'm a Kew/Richmond girl too - so know all you refer to. Well, I was till I got shipped north. Am also a Sussex girl (born and raised near Brighton) so identify with that too. Went back to London recently after 18 months absence and found it weird that it felt like a foreign land rather than my old stomping ground. We change, we adjust to new circumstances. It just takes time - and, as you say, history. Toulouse was where I spent a year out working and I fell in love with it and the area in general. I also fell in love with a french med student (shouldn't have done) and would happily have spent the rest of my life there. But it wasn't possible - we both had other lives. I often wonder if he's still there. Know a great French family who live in Toulouse - their girls have come over the last 5 years to help me with the children and improve their English. In fact got text from them today asking when we would next be in La Ville Rose. I'd be there tomorrow if I could - particularly given the relentless rain and cold up here. They were off to the beach for a few days. Sigh.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Kari, you're a girl after my own heart! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Dabs - whatever you do in your life DON'T read the Daily Wail. It's complete and utter rubbish with just a vague nod towards truth. And that's how a friend who works on it described it. He's longing to finish his kids schooling so he can get a job on a real newspaper!!

Someone told me something that I think is really relevant. Read the newspapers but put it into the context of where you live. If you live in a quiet country village then what happens in Inner London or Moss Side just doesn't affect you. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Dabs? I think I meant Debs!!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi VLiF...there's an award waiting for you at my site...Hadriana x
P.S. I didn't appreciate Kew Gardens enough when I was there (plus I was working loads in the City)...isn't that typical? But it IS a wonderful place....