jeudi 9 septembre 2010

A is for Abroad

Je ne peux pas etre au four et au Moulin — I can’t be in two places at once

Welcome to France. You can watch British TV and listen to British radio; you can buy Heat magazine, the Radio Times and day-old copies of the Daily Mail at three times their cover price. You can subscribe to which? or the Spectator. You can order from the Boden catalogue or have knickers delivered to your door courtesy of your M&S.  But you can’t find a decent curry, fish and chips or a proper sausage and you are banned from using BBC iPlayer.

You get excited when you see mint sauce, cream crackers or fresh coriander in the supermarket. And forget perfume; you beg your friends to bring you Oxo cubes and oat cakes when they visit. (On second thoughts, you can bring the perfume too, please.)

It’s more than just using Euros, driving on the right and trying to be understood in French.

The news, as read by Laurence Ferrari or Harry Roselmack, is more relevant to you than that broadcast by Huw Edwards or Fiona Bruce. You read more about Johnny Hallyday than Jordan, yet somehow Susan Boyle has become a national heroine. No one has heard of Ant and Dec, let alone Nick Clegg. Big Brother is Secret Story; Midsomer Murders has become Inspecteur Barnaby and The X Factor is — OK, it’s The X Factor.

You go to the local cinema and watch Mama Mia in English with French subtitles, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Swedish with French subtitles, and the very funny Odette Toulemonde in French with no subtitles.

There is a saint for every day of the year. Today it’s the somewhat obscure St Tanguy. I looked up my birthday, but sadly am not that inspired by St Gladys, despite the fact that she did various good deeds and suffered dreadfully in Wales in the 5th Century.

Christmas goodies don’t appear in the shops until well into December, and Boxing Day is not a public holiday. Don’t feel too sorry for the French, though, they do get extra days off on 14 July (Fete Nationale), 15 August (Assomption), 1 November (Toussaint) and 11 November (Armistice).

You dial 18 or 112 for the Fire Brigade. If you want to cook by gas it’s likely to come in a bottle. Post is delivered to a box outside your gate; junk mail arrives in a bundle every Tuesday and newspapers and milk aren’t delivered at all.

You need a medical examination before you can pull a trailer or take part in aqua aerobics, but the Pharmacie will sell you any number of potent potions over the counter.

You may be less than two hours from London, courtesy of Ryanair or Easyjet, but you most definitely do live abroad. Vive la France!

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