Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse

Here’s your Monday burst of music from the uber-sharp working man’s hero Paul Weller.

The lyrics seem particularly poignant to me today. France is still in a state of national mourning following events on Friday evening. There’s no reason it should be any more poignant apart from the fact that it is close to home. Facebook turned red, white and blue and attacks in Kenya and Beirut went without column inches.

It always reminds me of seeing the prayer plaques in Japan, where I’d read things about people’s wishes for world peace, for love, for kindness, for understanding. The one that always sticks with me was the little one saying, “I wish my friends were nicer.”

That’s one thing I never have to wish for.

One of my friends was up in the north of France this weekend. She’s been collecting clothes for refugees and was tired of waiting for someone to take them up there, so she piled up her van and went up to do it herself. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Thousands of people who need to know that they may find a home, that the actions of a few radicalised home-grown terrorists may have cut off any hope for sanctuary in Europe. Seeing photos of Roni handing out gloves to children – it reminds you of what is important in life. I’m glad I have the kind of friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sometimes facing great derision.

You see, I never get that. Nobody really ever gets in your face when you volunteer with animals. Sure, there are petty battles and there are times when people burn out, their capacity to feel compassion shot to pieces. But nobody ever thinks anything of you, other than the fact you are obviously a little touched. Roni has to face all the people who think we should close borders and send the thousands of refugees back to Syria and Iraq.

It makes me so sad. Living as an economic migrant in a country of my choice makes me realise once again the privilege of being English, of being able to live and work wherever in the world I choose, if I want. Why is it that I can make that choice, but a Polish or Bulgarian woman who wants to live in the UK is faced with obstacles and thinly-disguised racism?

Don’t get me wrong, we face racism from certain French people, that’s for sure. But that is meaningless. It’s not hurtful or harmful. I don’t face endless obstacles to prevent me doing what I want. Bureaucratic racism is the kind that hurts, as all the refugees in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk are realising.

I do wonder what your life must be like in order that you will set forth on a journey of five thousand miles across two continents with nothing other than the clothes on your back and a desperate hope that some distant country will offer you sanctuary.

I suppose a bit of kindness is too much to ask for these days when everyone is so desperate to hold on to what they have.

Funny, actually, since this term’s exam question is to persuade people to take part in community events. It couldn’t be more synchronous. Most of the responses involve litter-picking and yoga in the church hall. Perhaps it’s time people felt a little more connected to the community that they are a part of.

So, it’s time for a little love this Monday. What am I loving?

♥ The Jam. They’re the right combination of anger and frustration to suit my mood.

♥ My heart-on-the-sleeve friends.

♥ My friends who go out of their way to drop things off to me. Unexpected favours are a gift.

♥ The quiet solitude of the woods as the autumn sets in.

♥ The particularly delicious cheese and onion pie my dad made for tea last night.

♥ Teaching my French students about the life-saving qualities of a cup of tea, and the nuances of builder’s brews and tea as my Nana makes it. Nobody really quite understands the very special relationships that English people have with tea. Life is good when you can have an hour discussing things like “not my cup of tea” with willing students.

♥ My Christmas dog photos. I’m particularly impressed. Here’s hoping this Christmas will be as magical for as many of our oldies and long-termers as it was last year.

This week is a busy one of course. My usual timetable plus GCSE marking plus preparations for various events over the next two weekends. Next week is worse. Luckily, then it is December, my marking is finished, calendars are printed, events are over, students go on Christmas breaks and the bills stop. It’s been a hard three months here with three big bills in succession: buildings tax, habitation tax and the one that really sticks in my craw, business property tax. Hollande you knob, I know you’re otherwise occupied, but tax me for living here or working here, not both. I’m doing one or the other, not both. They don’t charge people for living in their offices. Once next month’s bill is paid, that’s it until the social charges bill at the end of January. Boy do I need a break from bills!

Have a very lovely Monday.


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