First of all we would like to thank so many of you for your support, sympathy and prayers in the wake of the appalling Nice atrocity. It is very much appreciated.
If you want an in-depth analysis on the impact of the atrocity then this is the wrong place and this is the wrong time. We haven’t been to Nice (except the airport) in the last week but by all accounts the town has been full of journalists anxious to ride on the back of one of the most newsworthy attacks of recent times. If the essence of tragedy is bad things happening to good people then this ticked all the boxes: happy families enjoying an evening out, a spectacular location and then the sudden thundering intervention of death. What should have been the nearest thing to paradise instantly turned into hell. (A point the French media made much of is that Nice fronts onto the La Baie des Anges – the Bay of Angels.) And of course it was all videoed and on YouTube within minutes. Are we alone in being concerned about a global culture in which the first reaction to seeing an atrocity is increasingly to pull out your phone, film it and stream it worldwide? Are we all turning into voyeurs of violence?
Well the journalists are slipping away, leaving those involved to begin the long slow process of psychological and physical healing. Let’s hope for many reasons that this event is not soon forgotten because it has been outdone by some newer, worse and probably more videoed event. What will keep it alive in France is that there are elections next year. It seems particularly unfortunate that the first reaction of some people to tragic events is not to express grief, compassion or even outrage but to make a political point. This, one gathers, is not a phenomenon confined to France.
But life goes on. Indeed if it didn’t the effects of terror would be greatly magnified. And actually what are you supposed to do? After a busy few days we did on Saturday exactly what we had planned to do earlier in the week, which was to head out over the Massif de Maures (about which we must blog at some point) and to L’Escalet on the Presqu’ile de St Tropez. (The French say Presqu’ile – the ‘almost island’ – where the English would simply peninsula.) We think L’Escalet is possibly our favourite part of the coast with its wooded granite headlands and cosy little bays. If you get bored you can always try and imagine which celebrity or entrepreneur owns the polished monstrosity of a boat that has just dropped anchor.
Sunday we went into Cannes to church, and while you might have expected that there would be a large police presence, there was very little sign of any of the five or six police branches that operate in France. Maybe they had all gone to Nice. We had a minute of silence and Giles our chaplain had sensitively rewritten his sermon to address events: particularly true and false religion. And as we walked around round we did wonder if beneath flags at half-mast there was a slightly subdued, if not almost embarrassed atmosphere.
At least one person has implied something along the following lines: ‘How terribly sad that, having moved to such a beautiful place, you find something nasty happening there.’ One understands the sentiment but it misunderstands the reason why we are here. We came here not because we wanted to escape but – au contraire – because we wanted to be involved in something useful and we felt this was the right place to be. That involvement initially was with Les Courmettes and A Rocha, something which persists, but our involvement is now also with our church in Cannes (Chris continues his Reader training) and our community in Taradeau. In fact if this was an idyllic, perfect area then we might feel that we had gone to the wrong place. Surely the Christian calling is not about fleeing from problems, but being engaged with them and doing your best to help?