People of this demeanour existed in the UK back in the seventies and early eighties; I remember them well. What drove them indoors and out of the limelight could be the subject of many a sociological study, but in France they still exist.
Who am I talking about?
Old-timers, pensioners, grannies, old men – but not all of them of course, just the ones who feel it is their duty to demonstrate that ‘older’ really is ‘wiser’, by pouring unwanted advice on people passing by, or indeed people who aren’t passing by – but who obviously need a good talking to, which in France, unfortunately, is most of them.
Old ladies in particular can’t help but serve up childcare advice at the slightest opportunity:
- “Your child should/shouldn’t be wearing a coat – it’s very cold/hot today”
- “Here’s a hanky – your child’s nose/mouth/hands are dirty”
- “Your child shouldn’t do that – they might hurt themselves.”
… being among the most popular.
For old ladies queue jumping is not impolite – it is a divine right.
Last week an old man caroomed his bicycle across the park lawns to give me and my 18 month-old son a piece of his mind. “Don’t pick the flowers” was the underlying theme of his tirade which included some supporting information about tax-payers and municipal facilities being for all to enjoy. Once finished he went on his way, clearly feeling no guilt at spouting his petty dogma in front of a toddler for whom the flowers were simply ‘pretty’ things.
The fact that he was having a go at me for allowing my son to pick WILD flowers was neither here nor there, nor indeed was the fact that he was cycling in an area which is prohibited under the park bye-laws, but there you go – old people clearly know best. I wished him ‘Bonne journée’ and shook coffee beans in his general direction.
What this demonstrates though is something rather nice about France, the fact that the older generation feel safe enough to be able to get away with being miserable old sods to all and sundry, they feel respected by society and safe on the streets.
In the UK I have a feeling that an elderly person wouldn’t dare open their mouths these days for fear of being insulted, mugged or stabbed as a result. Am I wrong?
Whatever the case – I look forward to growing old and miserable in France.