I caught myself telling someone that Tadpole and I are going ‘home’ to England this weekend...
I caught myself telling someone that Tadpole and I are going ‘home’ to England this weekend.
Tadpole was born in Les Lilas (in the neuf trois - she’ll probably grow up to be a gangster rapper one day) so England will never be the place she calls home, and as for me, I’ll be celebrating my tenth anniversary as a Parisienne this autumn. Which amounts to almost a third of my life spent in the city of light. When I leave England on Monday (luggage weighted down with many bags of mini eggs and other chocolate treats, I hope) I will also say that I am going back ‘home’ to Paris and Mr Frog.
How many homes is one allowed to have?
On the one hand there is England, which represents my roots, upbringing, education, my misspent youth and the place to which I will always return to visit my parents and sisters. On the other hand there is France, the country I fell hopelessly, irrationally in love with when I began learning French, where I have spent my entire working life, where I fell for my not-quite-husband and gave birth to our daughter. And, last but not least, the home of my own personal ambrosia, the pain au chocolat.
I feel English and yet, at the same time, painfully out of touch with Blighty in many ways. I’ve never watched an episode of ‘Big Brother’. I didn’t realise David Blunkett was blind until he resigned. I haven’t a clue how much things cost in pounds sterling. If the British government ever brings in one of those citizenship tests they have been threatening for some time now, I would probably get all the questions wrong.
When in France I claim to feel nostalgia for places, foodstuffs, pub culture, and British TV, for example, yet I am often left feeling bitterly disappointed by these very things when I go back. Memory can evidently be a treacherous beast. Pub culture: rowdiness, acres of flabby flesh hanging out of vulgar outfits, having to stand up for hours on end surrounded by people who have drunk too much, too fast. Food: the fish and chips (with mushy peas and scraps, naturally), baked beans, rice pudding and hot cross buns that I crave never actually taste quite as good as I expect them to. The chips are soggy. The rice pudding is bland and a touch of vanilla wouldn’t hurt. When I switch on a television, I lament the fact there is nothing decent to watch, exactly as I do when in France. Where are all the gritty homespun dramas I was convinced I was missing?
Could it be that rather than pining for England I’m actually just reminiscing about a time when I was younger? Feeling a sense of nostalgia for the twentysomething me I was when I last lived there? Or is this just a classic case of “the grass is greener” on the other side, so that I am doomed to always miss England when I’m in France, and France when I’m in England, feeling absolutely at home in neither?
I think I’ll ponder that important question over a few toasted, buttery hot cross buns and a nice cup of Yorkshire tea this weekend…
Petite Anglaise / Expatica
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