March miscellany

In once sense the high point of the past week has been us collecting our rather nice smart-card-like titre de séjour from the splendid building of the Sous-Préfecture at Draguignan.

When we were there the place was full of British people, all of who it seemed would have happily had Les Brexiters Gove, Johnson, Rees-Mogg and Farage shot.

That this splendid building is now hosting the formalisation of the residence status of so many Britons is fascinating because it owes its grandeur to the British. It’s an odd story.

Although a relatively minor town, Napoleon selected Draguignan to be the prefecture of the Var in 1797 over the much bigger Toulon. His reasoning was that Toulon could easily be attacked and seized by the British who then ruled the seas. (Having made his name in seizing Toulon back from the Royalists and the British in 1793, Napoleon knew what he was talking about.) The full prefecture status was given to Toulon only 40 years ago, when presumably it was felt that a British invasion of France’s chief naval port was now somewhat unlikely. So, being kindly given formal residence status in France in Draguignan is vaguely amusing. However, it’s about the only amusing thing about the whole Brexit debacle, which defies explanation in French and it seems, also in English.

Other events have been some short walks. Spring is advancing rapidly, although alas still without any hint of rain. We heard of someone using a drill to plant flowers in the concrete-like soil.

The ultimate arbiter of what season you are in down here is provided by the supermarkets. How this works we don’t know, but presumably someone in the supermarket looks at the weather forecast, consults seaweed, sniffs the air and then rings around saying “guys, it’s time to get the summer stuff out”.

So, mysteriously, overnight, stoves, heaters and firewood disappear, to be replaced by gardening tools, deckchairs and the vast array of essentials for the swimming pool that every French household must have. In the clothing section duvet jackets, gloves and hats give way to T-shirts and sandals.

Spring is always a brief season down here and this year it may be briefer than usual.

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