Yesterday, I started to notice a mood of aggravation at about 4pm. A few people were getting more snarky than usual, a little more sarcastic, a little less patient. If a comment could be misread, it was. If it could be misconstrued, it was.
And people were getting more provocative too. It’s kind of an in joke that whenever someone mentions the dreaded phrase “who do people use to fetch stuff over from England?”, a row breaks out. These questions periodically appear in various anglophone places and inevitably go like this:
Person #1: Who do you use to get your shopping from England?
Person #2: You buy shopping from England?! Where can I do this wonderful thing too?
Person #3: You live in France. Therefore you should only buy French things. And I think you’re perfectly hideous and/or common for buying stuff from Asda/Tesco anyway. Horsemeat, cheap stuff, grumble grumble.
Person #1: Yes, but we like Bisto and it either costs £17 from an English shop or from the foreign foods aisle or Catering to English Whimsy haulage company will bring it over for us from Asda for 50p.
Person #3: France will DIE without you spending every single penny of your money in French shops.
Person #4: I use Waitrose online.
Person #2: I want to buy Iceland instant meat paste purée.
Person #5: That’s outrageous. You common people with your love of Iceland. Move back to England if you love it so much.
Person #6: I buy all my shopping in France for 14€ for a family of 4. We eat very well.
Person #1: You’re a sanctimonious hypocrit, Person #6. And Person #5, why the hell should we? All I wanted to know is who you use to get your groceries from. If you’ve got nothing useful to contribute, wind your neck in.
Person #7: I miss Double Gloucester.
Person #8: You’re all effing lucky. I’m Australian and you can’t get vegemite here for love nor money.
Person #9: But you’re not having the full cultural experience if you aren’t eating andouillette and hunting your own meat on a Saturday.
And thus it continues. Essentially if you hanker for any single thing that is slightly English, you should move back there immediately to satisfy your urge for weird wartime goods like jelly and trifle, whipping cream and custard, bangers and mash, gravy granules and proper teabags.
And if you do your shopping as I do in France, for whatever reason, you are a sanctimonious hypocrite who’s too la-di-da for their own good, probably with a secret hankering for malt vinegar.
Anyway, I digress. This is one such provocative thread that ends up causing no end of judgement on both sides. If at any time there is a slight whiff of love of England/desire for English things, it’s met instantly with a ‘go back there then’ in a rather ludicrous way that suggests that nobody in England buys anything other than Made in Great Britain and that we all live off entirely English products. And it has its counterpart argument of “Don’t be such a ridiculous snob. You’re not French, so don’t act like you are.” as if the average ex-pat in England doesn’t have a hankering for whatever food of their home country.
It’s all a bit silly, really. I didn’t get met with derision when I lived in Yorkshire if I asked for a bit of Lancashire Hot Pot, as if I’m some sort of cultural heathen. I can’t understand how 22 miles of ocean turn it into a ‘Leave all your former loves here at the border’ kind of thing.
But it wasn’t the only provocative bomb to drop last night. Someone else asked about whether they should wear fur again now in France and then it all got a bit heated again.
On other forums, angst was popping out at the seams for all kinds of other issues. I got a couple of messages from people having all kinds of dramas that really seemed to be very trivial indeed. Phone calls had been made, tempers were frayed, this person didn’t want to be connected to THAT person. This person would help out on this occasion but didn’t want to do it with THAT person and if they were made to, well, they would walk out. People behaving in general like petulant babies who’d thrown their dummies out of the pram.
I retired to bed with NCIS and a cup of English tea (because there is no other teabag quite like it, I know).
I thought all the mealy-mouthed crosspatchy behaviour would have died a death. But not quite.
A Man – how very dare he! – had infiltrated a women-only forum – again, I say, how very dare he! – and posted an advert for voodoo.
Now that’s either extremely coincidental or extremely good marketing. Find a group of women who like to fall out a bit, wait for an argument and then offer to sell voodoo dolls to them.
It was only when I was gardening this morning – the earth is delicious right now for digging and thinking of Seamus Heaney – and Heston and Tilly would not stop barking at all the other neighbourhood dogs that were also barking continuously – that I realised. There is definitely something in the air.
I don’t know what it is, but the dogs know. They’re all barking at each other barking at each other. And that’s a bit like last night.
Perhaps it’s all time we got down off our high horses, put away our deliberately provocative questions and got some mittens that prevent us typing, texting or phoning others when we feel a little bit narky. Heaven only knows, we might also want to say “Ah, you’re a great person. I love you very much. Thanks.” to someone as well. Life is far too short to fall out over teabags and pot noodles. As I know my mum would say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”