If you drive towards the Mediterranean coast from my house on a Tuesday evening, you will see a curious sight among the vineyards: people dressed in whites, playing cricket. The players are mainly English, but there are some locals, notably the ow
If you drive towards the Mediterranean coast from my house on a Tuesday evening, you will see a curious sight among the vineyards: people dressed in whites, playing cricket. The players are mainly English, but there are some locals, notably the owner of the village newsagency. “I have no idea what’s going on,” he says. “But it’s more fun than boules.”
Over the last year I have been invited to a curry lunch (tempting — I do miss chicken tikka masala), to a Christmas carol service, to join an English cinema club and to bonfire night. I was even asked to join a new branch of the Women’s Institute, which hopes to cater for British women around the Med. I told them I would only join if I could pose naked in their calendar. To date, they have failed to respond to my generous offer.
Just before Christmas, an English deli (a contradiction in terms some might say) opened in our local town. The biggest outcry came from the English community. “What are they thinking of?” asked one incensed lady. “I think it’s outrageous. I didn’t move to France to eat baked beans.”
Colette, a French friend, is more sanguine. “I think it is good news. I put Worcestershire sauce on everything and love custard powder. I wonder if they have that funny mustard you English eat?” In Montpellier, the hippest place to eat is an English restaurant called Auntie Lou’s. There you can enjoy favourites such as Thai curry and fish and chips. For some reason these are never on the menu at your local French bistro.
“I find it all very depressing,” says Charles, a neighbour of mine with a holiday home here. “I didn’t come to France to do all sorts of English things. I came here to live like the French.”
Another expat friend is even more vocal. “I find it offensive that Brits are moving here just to get cheaper housing, and then carry on living as if they hadn’t left Tunbridge Wells. What’s the bloody point?” When we first moved here, I was eager to live the French adventure. I shunned my River Café cookbooks in favour of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. I manicured my nails, wore matching underwear and vowed to mix only with French people. I then decided to talk to the English as well, partly because they seemed to understand what I said. Now I have decided to talk to anybody, as long as they’re interesting.
I don’t see why one should immediately shun all that is English just because one is in France. Why would you suddenly give up Jamaica ginger cake? Now the supermarket stocks it in its recently revamped English section, there’s no need to. Would you rather watch George Clooney in English, or talking out of synch in French? The French have actually taken this invasion of Brits and their traditions better than some of the expats. At a screening last week by the film club, I spotted my daughter’s teacher. I asked her what made her come along to a film in English.
“I like to see a film in the language it was made in,” she said. “I can’t bear all that dubbing.” An English bookshop recently opened in Béziers. The owner tells me half her clients are French. They especially like the chick-lit genre. Apparently there is no such thing in France. No wonder French women are forced to create other diversions, such as sleeping with their best friend’s boyfriends, to amuse themselves...