Life in England

/Life in England

Be afraid

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:30+00:00 October 6th, 2016|Life in England|

The recent developments in the British Government's stance on Brexit have horrified me. Mrs May's positioning of the conservative party as squarely on the far right - a space that once belonged to UKIP and the BNP - is huge cause for concern. This is happening even though the referendum margin was only 4%, even though the conservatives got a parliamentary majority with only 36% of the vote, even though only 12% of people at the general election thought UKIP were worth listening to and even though Theresa May hasn't been elected by anybody - not even her own party. Yet to the media at large it all seems so perfectly acceptable that they are hardly bothering giving the subject any airtime at all. We should be afraid, very afraid, at the nation's march towards territorial nationalist "populism." - for where will it all end? I predict that the first victim of a Hard Brexit will be the NHS - with hospitals, clinics and health trusts rapidly sold to American firms for a pittance having lost 30% of their [...]

You call that a coffee?

By | 2015-08-03T16:14:56+00:00 August 3rd, 2015|Life in England, Life in France|

I guess you might call it a case of mild reverse culture shock. Although I've returned to the UK regularly since emigrating, nearly ten years ago, each time I come back there is usually something about British Culture that feels somewhat alien to me. For example, this time around it's coffee. I'm amazed at how much coffee is consumed in Britain; there are now as many coffee shops as there were once pubs, where it's not unusual to see people drinking caffine-based beverages in quantities you'd once-upon-a-time have associated with beer. The average coffee cup seems big enough to hold a whole pint (500ml), and a "small" coffee equates to something half-pint sized. In France the biggest, or rather "longest", of coffees might come close to a small British one, but that's where the similarity ends. In France coffee is usually consumed in receptacles not much bigger than a shot glass. Quantity, in addition to quality I might add, is what seems to matter to the UK consumer. Having come accustomed to enjoying just two "petits noirs" per day [...]

Missing the music

By | 2015-07-26T11:18:29+00:00 July 26th, 2015|Life in England, raising bilingual children|

We're on hols in the UK at the moment, our country of origin. As ever we've been soaking up the British weather (literally) and the culture (metaphorically). The kids were surprised and somewhat disappointed to learn, this time around, that NRJ Hit Music Radio is not actually available in England. Moreover that none of the UK stations we've managed to find play anything French. Although by 'French' our eldest's understanding is it means it can be heard in France - so we had to break it to him that Rihana was not in fact French! No, nor Katy Perry. Maroon 5? Nope not them neither. Indeed, if there's anything that helps you enjoy your time off it's a few of your favourite 'tubes' playing over the airwaves. However, the odds that we'll hear Louane, Kendji or Les Frèro Delavega, all authors of the current most toe-tapping-poppy numbers over in France, are slim to none. Indeed, I've felt the need to tune into Youtube (can I say that?) to download Maitre Gims's latest tour de force. All this, I suppose, [...]

It can’t go on …

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:34+00:00 August 9th, 2011|Life in England|

The British obsession with dissing the Euro project had to end sooner or later. Although, none would have predicted that the collapse of law and order across the entire country would be it. Now, as violent youths ransack high-streets up and down the country, the Eurozone PIIGS seem to have been quickly forgotten. With images of embarrassed British politicians picking through the wreckage of their country are broadcast around the world, those leading the five Euro nations under the magnifying glass (Portugal, Ireland, Italy Greece and Spain) must be letting out a collective sigh of relief. Ironically, even the phone hacking scandal was not enough to stop the likes of the vociferous Jeremy Vine verbally lacerating the Euro on his Radio 2 phone-in show throughout July. (Balanced discussion anyone? Don't make me laugh!)  The Euro crisis has consistently been the way the UK media have chosen to displace or ignore what's going on at home, particularly if they can also imply that it is the cause of economic problems at home. The events of the last few days are [...]

Rastamouse : linguistic regression for the nation’s youth

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:35+00:00 July 6th, 2011|Life in England, raising bilingual children|

Language development in a bilingual child can be severely retarded if they see no point in learning to communicate in a language that is not spoken locally. So, as the parent of bilingual children, one of the reasons you need to make regular trips back to your homeland is to demonstrate to your offspring that your native language has value, and thus to give them the impetus to learn it.

A good reason to stike?

By | 2010-10-21T08:48:29+00:00 October 21st, 2010|Life in England, Life in France|

There was a piece on TF1 news the other night that suggested a disproportional amount of foreign news coverage of French strike action abroad. In many cases this coverage paints the average French worker as stubborn, economically unrealistic if not downright lazy. I think the fact that most foreigners don't understand what the strikes are about is the problem.  So let me spell it out: The issue is the minimum age for early retirement which currently stands at somewhere between 57 and 60 for most of Europe, except for Germany where it is 65. In the UK it is also 65, but if you have a private pension you can retire whenever you like. To get a full pension the French have to work for 41.5 years which is 11.5 years longer than the requirement for the British state pension. In France, retirement is about one of the few ways you can let go of your employees legitimately without going to tribunal.  This explains why only 12% of those capable of work in the 60-64 age bracket remain employed [...]

Anglo-Saxon apathay

By | 2010-10-03T10:51:27+00:00 October 3rd, 2010|Life in England, Life in France|

There's been a lot of tutting and rolling of eyes back across the channel in response to the wave of protests taking place on the continent, both for the austerity cuts and the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62 in France. This is because the British believe that protest makes no difference to the end result, as it often ignores the 'hard economic realities' of the situation. Christian Fraser of the BBC recently contributed to Radio 4's "from our own correspondent" with a typically British view of the situation in France. Yet flipping through the news on the very same website I stumbled across an article by Peter Cunliffe-Jones which argues that protest and pressure do lead to real change.  The fact that the immediate net result is rarely tangible however is neither here nor there.  Nigeria and Indonesia both won independence from their colonial masters at around the same time - yet today Indonesia is economically miles ahead of their African counterparts. The reason PCG supposes is down to the Indonesian people constantly putting pressure [...]

Big excuse

By | 2010-07-20T12:52:19+00:00 July 20th, 2010|Life in England, Life in France|

I have rarely taken the view that the words emanating from the lips of David Cameron are little more than the verbal equivalent of honey-coated horse droppings. That is, seemingly substantial and sweet - yet upon closer inspection clearly just horse manure. Never was this more true than at yesterday's launch of his 'Big Society' project. Which is based upon the idea that if the public want public services then it is the public who should provide them - for free. As an old Etonian, I doubt whether Dave has ever needed to use a public service - so no doubt this all seems quite logical to him? There is one major flaw in his plan however - taxes. The reason the populous pay 'taxes' is so that the government can provide public services. That is the main if not the only point of paying taxes (stealth or otherwise). The fact that the current, last and previous governments of the United Kingdom have failed to use tax revenues as intended, is no fault of the people who pay them. [...]

Austerity

By | 2010-06-29T21:03:52+00:00 June 29th, 2010|Life in England|

It's Zeitgeist, the word of the moment, and seems to be in use a great deal across the channel in the U of K. In context, it's use seems to consistently accompany a justification for the slashing of public expenditure. "The age of austerity" has been introduced to the vernacular and there's even a wikipedia entry* to help you decipher the meaning of this, until now, unfamiliar word. Given the way the British government and financial media present this adjective you would be given for thinking that it is a byword for "prudence" or "fiscal responsibility", but you'd be wrong. The literal  meaning of "austere" is far from being so cosy: "dry, harsh, sour, tart"; and "austerity" well ... Sourness and harshness to the taste. Severity of manners or life; extreme rigour or strictness; harsh discipline. Freedom from adornment; plainness; severe simplicity. The age of spin is not dead it seems. *though as yet no-one has written a wiki-dictionary entry for "austerity measure" [here's my suggestion: A way of spinning massive cuts in public expenditure to make it sound [...]

So what is Guy Fawkes night all about?

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:46+00:00 November 11th, 2008|Life in England|

So went the question punted my way by a Frenchman standing in front of a bonfire last Saturday night. How to answer? At school we're taught the 'official' version of the origins of the celebration, which recounts how a group of bad men plotted to blow up the houses of parliament but failed. However, even when you're only five years old - you have to ask what on earth the bonfire, effigy burning and fireworks are all about then? Indeed, there are many theories behind that one, as an Irish friend put to me once "It's all about burning Catholics". In Lewes in Surrey they also celebrate the 'glorious revolution' on Guy Fawkes night (when William of Orange invaded and sent the last Catholic heir to the English throne packing) by, amongst other things, burning effigies of Pope Paul V. So it would seem that there might be a modicum of truth in the whole anti-catholic thing? And it does seem that many Catholics, and Irish in particular, take offence at the very idea of Guy Fawkes night. But [...]