Rather to our surprise we suddenly find ourselves less than a dozen days to Christmas. No less surprising is the fact that, at the end of December, we will have been in our house here in Taradeau for three years. We will probably post a brief blog just before Christmas and then not again until 6 January. So in the meantime this is a bit of a miscellany.
First of all many thanks for all the emails, newsletters and other contacts we have had at this time of the year. It was quite interesting how many people have said how they keep track of our doings on our blog. We keep thinking we are not going to have enough to write about but each week there always seems to be something that has caught our attention that we want to share.
First, a seasonal picture. Our favourite mountain, Mount Sainte Victoire, in a telephoto shot just after the snow from the oppidum above Taradeau.
The supermarkets clearly demonstrate the proximity of Christmas and the aisles are almost blocked by special food and drink. Smoked salmon rather than turkey is the preferred French Christmas dish and there is plenty of that but apparently it’s been a very bad year for Pate de foie gras. However as we refuse to eat the diseased livers of tortured ducks that’s not too much of a concern for us.
The big national event in the last two weeks has been the death of Johnny Hallyday, France’s premier singer of every decade from the 1950s onwards. What was surprising was not that he died but that, given a lifestyle of an excess of excesses, he hadn’t died decades earlier. Our observations to one or two locals that he was totally unknown outside France have been treated with bemusement if not incredulity: surely, they say, he must have been a global figure? Sorry. Anyway the French media – who did very well out of his life – certainly did him proud with his death: our local paper – le Var-Matin – carried a 22 page supplement overflowing with photographs of the star, often at St Tropez, and generally with a beautiful woman and always with a cigarette. For days after his death it was hard to find anything else other than Johnny Hallyday retrospectives on television. The reflective and indeed emotional mood over his death was not simply because Johnny was a particularly great musical star. Much of it seems to have been simply due to the fact that throughout five turbulent decades, Johnny was always there. Governments came and went, crises erupted, the influence of the Catholic Church melted away, France modernised itself beyond recognition but somehow, amid all the swirling turmoil of national life, Johnny was reassuringly present. In times of turmoil nations need people or institutions that continue without change: for Britain it is the Queen, for France it was Johnny Hallyday.
At the great farewell for Johnny that seem to bring the whole of Paris to a halt M. Macron gave a passionate and eloquent eulogy that caught the mood of the nation and didn’t do him any harm. And indeed it wouldn’t be right to end a year of blogging on France without a nod of appreciation to Président Macron. Yes, he has his critics – and few people beat the French in terms of their cynicism about politicians – and he has made a few missteps but it’s hard not to be impressed by him. He has rebuked Netanyahu, told Putin to mind his own business, defused a major political crisis in Lebanon, taken up the mantle of the fight against climate change, appointed a genuine environmentalist to run the environment, is working hard to get French labour law simplified (good luck on that!) and is trying to see the EU restructured. It’s early days and we may yet be disappointed but Monsieur le Président continues to radiate decency, intelligence, charm, learning and energy. If you should somehow feel that this list of virtues sounds like the exact and complete opposite of the very public vices possessed by another president elsewhere on the planet, well who are we to argue?
Have a good Christmas!