I’m back in France after the longest time spent in England since I left twenty five years ago. My two and a half months in the motherland has left me dazed and confused and as far as this blog is concerned, mute for weeks on end. In writing about my understanding of France, I have come to realise how little I understand of my own culture.
Like many long-term ex-pats, I imagine, I am afflicted with nostalgia for a place that has ceased to exist. A place of the imagination, distilled from childhood memories of 1970s London and the intense, adolescence experience of hating Margaret Thatcher and what she had planned for the nation. Leaving in 1984, at that particular moment in history – when the class system was breaking down and social mobility dawning, when feminism was finally reaping its rewards, when Channel Four was leading the way to cultural democratisation and race riots paving the way for multi-culturalism – I carried off a snapshot of a society in transition and full of hope.
When I returned I saw all the unwanted concomitants of Thatcher’s revolution: class war, gender war, mass ignorance encouraged and condoned by a rampant and omnipotent media, a pusillanimous state that seems to roll back its own powers with one hand and the personal liberty of its citizens with another.
But then I noticed the dissent. Not of the petulant French variety, but the quiet and determined, free-thinking kind. You find it in pockets in Britain, like desert dew and when you find it you relish every drop.
I’d like to apologize in advance for posting a little less regularly over the next few months. I’m starting my next book, an aching, heart-wrenching, coming-of-age comedy set in a small village in the South of France in the 1970s. Talk about escapist.