17 August 2016

En vacances

As my earlier correspondence on the Named Persons judgment suggested, I've been furth of the United Kingdom on my holidays for the last few weeks. (See an uncanny artist's impression, left). But touching back down in Scotland this morning, I found Glasgow bathed in something resembling natural sunlight. It was balmy. Unfamiliar blue patches had sprung up in the sky, as I steered back from France. This novel experience was uncanny, but found me in cheery, serene, hopefully restored fettle. 

But before I landed, I filled in for an absent National columnist this morning, reflecting on one or two of the more curious characters I met, and political conversations we had, trundling around the south of France. Again and again, I encountered the curious character of the foghorn-leghorn Brexit voter -- souls who have moved to France, but blithely cast their ballots in favour of Britain's crashing out of the EU.

"OUR location? La belle France. Our temperature? 32 degrees. We’re many leagues into taps aff territory here, through warm fields of vines, and parched Cathar castles, and Cypress trees. Cicadas electrify the woods. Crickets keep up dry and woody symphonies in the underbrush. And my current complexion is what my mother would describe as a “healthy puce”. Hypertension red. 
I have become the traditional lobster ecossais which results whenever anyone from this country is exposed to anything like natural sunlight for a sustained period. Rudolph has nothing on me. I might use my face as a reading lamp, or perhaps deploy it to power a modest solar energy scheme – if only Ms May’s new government hadn’t shuttered our renewable future and squandered all my ruby phizog’s potential energy. 
But as the rays beat the terrace outside ruddy, I loiter sweltering in the back cave of a local bar. A rugby match rumbles on, on the telly. 
The hooker takes out a prop and the referee misses a gruesome tackle. Offside rules are flouted, provoking only the occasional outraged Gallic interjection. Our audience is principally French, sipping little beers and lining the snug, watching one local team leather another. 
The atmosphere is convivial. 
But in their midst? Our John Bull, ex patria, is determined to give the citizens of his new home a passionate defence of why he voted for Brexit. Their incredulity is general. My ears burn."

Unlike my weekly Times bits, locked away behind the paywall on Thursdays, you can read the whole thing here. More peated blogging when we have it. 


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  2. Surely not your first encounter with an ex-pat John Bull? I have had many experiences in my overseas career travels. John Bulls of modest academic qualifications, low in self-awareness, bellowing at "foreigners".

    I've owned a modest little place in a small village deep in rural France for a number of years. I was the only non-French person, and I'd often enjoy a beer and lunch at the rundown village hotel. A few years on, the John Bulls began to arrive. Another few years, the village hotel advertised Friday evening English fish'n chips nights. Then it closed.

  3. Been in that particular heart of Darkness. On a visit to a old French colleague in the heart of Limousin, we went to a bar, owned by expats. What a sad sultry place, no doubt due the lack of integration, they lack the ability to attract the locals (beyond a first curious visit). No wonder the long faces and many repacking their bags, selling up and returning to Blighty being a common trajectory for many. Given half a chance I would get in with locals one way or another -easy for a sociable person like me, some knowledge of the language and a French wife -whilst always looking friendly to expats all the same (lessons learned from my B&B running Grandmother many moons ago, when I could be expected to be scrubbed in the Farm house kitchen sink).
    The bottom line is if you go to live some where you have to be friendly and make the effort otherwise you are just a colonist, generally,the worst type of humanity, I can think of

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