Category Archives: The UK – Le Royaume-Uni

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace.

Handsome Harry has a problem: he hates belonging to the most privileged people in the world and says no Windsors currently wants to be king so now let’s have a quick look at the terrible fate that awaits him and his kin.

Being the monarch is a tough job, but someone has to do it, even if reluctantly. In a magazine interview, Prince Harry has suggested that none of the royal family actually wants the throne.

‘Tough job.” There are a lot of tough jobs out there: teaching, working in A&E, driving a bus, collecting bins, cleaning the streets and being a King apparently. Although, I highly doubt those jobs pay over £3 million every month like being a King does. I can’t speak for other professions, but as a teacher, I can expect a good £1.400/month if I take on some responsibilities in addition to my teaching. And that’s a good salary!

Yes the “tough job” Harry is describing currently pays about £40 million/year and, unlike the rest of the good working people of England in their tough job, the Windsors are in line for a raise of £2.8 million/year which adds to a 57% pay rise since 2012. So let’s admit the £40M stand, that’s £3.3 million/month. For the rest of the tough jobs, it’s bleak I am afraid but let’s try to empathise with the fate of the royal family.

Let’s not forget that the Windors’ tough job comes with free accommodation in the centre of London and a myriad of palaces paid off and maintained by the taxpayers. Weddings needn’t be paid for, nor need your birthdays or any other major life events for that matter. You are provided with hundreds of personal servant as well as bodyguards who parade at great expense everyday, a plethora of carriages – some in pure gold and a fleet of cars so large that even your crown has its own.

The question then begs: why? Why do they get to be given so much? What does the tough job involve to come with such perks, money and yet be such a drag?

“We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

My, that modernisation must be a heck of a job, whatever that means in actual fact. Marrying “commoners”, perhaps? That’s modern, ain’t it? No, that’s just because all your parents and grand-parents are cousins and you desperately need to avoid the fate of the Habsburgs or yet another inbreeding-related endemic like hemophilia and mental health issues that came after Queen Victoria and King Christian IX decided they wanted the whole of Europe’s rulers to be their grand-children.

So is it having a beard and playing football with kids in Africa – between two safaris, a hunting trip and some strip snooker in Las Vegas? Charity doesn’t pay (ask Doctors Without Borders), hunting is archaic, and the playing naked and drunk in Vegas is only seen as ‘modern’ by penniless chavs on their quite unenjoyable stag night.

Maybe I am being mistaken on what he means by modernising the monarchy but I don’t see why it justifies a rent-free life at Kensington or Buckingham Palace in addition to the 3.3 millions pounds you get every single month.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

First, his father begs to differ.

Second, “we will carry our duties”, yes you will! That’s we pay you for so if we say “Dance monkey!”, you dance and you don’t get upset because comes to think about it, you have no other purpose whatsoever. Your tough job is not a job, it’s birth right that some people in a far past and who are as much related to you as to me gave themselves after they actually served a purpose. Their life was Games of Throne without the dragons. Whereas yours is a apology of privilege-born blasé laziness. Your academic degrees were given to you, your record in the army is anything but grand and the only reason why you can afford to do so much charity work is because your nan is the Queen so she gets paid £3.3 million/month.

Now, if you really do resent the “tough job” to the extent of going public with it, then remove yourself from the line of succession, give up your privileges, give the money back and live a normal life. But do not publicly go to tell the rest of us who struggle to meet ends and must go by in the shittiest jobs that you don’t want to be something you will be if and when your father, brother, nephew and niece were to die.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace: do not lead your people to actually ponder a world where you don’t exist and where you have no use, for you will be surprised of how extremely livable life is without tending and pandering to the most outrageously over-privileged people the Earth has ever accommodated.

Your tough job…I’ll do it! Let’s swap. Not for a day but forever. I’ll give the 10-, 12-, 15-hour working days, the screaming kids, the insulting parents, the down-looking management and the pay squeeze and you give me the free money, the palaces, the never-ending holidays, the cooks, the fitness trainers, the countless servants and I will do the “tough job”. For that money, for that comfort in life, I will sit on that throne and smile until my teeth come off and the best dentist that ever that was gives me new ones…for free.

As an atheist, I will even graciously bow and blow smoke up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s arse if asked. I’ll do anything so my future can look as worry-free, secured and bright as yours looks everyday. I will do your tough job, Your Highness. Anything, so the only three things I can worry about is: my hair falling, the colour of my ties and who I am dating that doesn’t draw too much of my nan’s wrath.

And, my Lord, I think you’ll find millions of people would do your tough job if they could considering the life it comes with. I am not saying we would forever like it but for £3.3 million/month, I’ll do it for a couple of years then, once I am rich beyond my dreams, I’ll pass it on to the next volunteer and so on and so forth.

Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s modern monarchy.

 

Brexit: The Pandora’s box is open.

Before I start on the topic, I’d like to point out that I am not here to say whether I am in favour or against Brexit or siding with or against the “metropolitan elite”. As a gay, socialist foreigner who lived and worked in the UK for almost a decade as a language teacher, I belong to this elite that tends to favour remaining in the EU but as a continental working towards a more socialist and fairer Europe, I do see London as the biggest threat to our democracy, the rights and livelihood of everyday people for it has established itself as the spokesperson for the almighty business and neo-capitalism. So I am both, I guess.

Now the news is that, in the midst of uncertainties, the High Court of England and its three judges with lovely wigs have decided that the parliament has the final say on Brexit. Fair enough to remind everybody that democracy is best spoken by the elected assembly.

As an historian, I know all too well the referenda are tools of the popular, authoritarian executive facing with difficulties in pushing their agenda through a diverse elected legislative chamber and therefore grant the good people with a direct voice in the name of democracy. France has had its share of them: Napoleon III used it to become emperor and put an end to the Second Republic, De Gaulle used his prestige and popularity to overthrow the parliament-centred Fourth Republic and install the monarchy-like presidential Fifth Republic instead.

What surprises me is the “Victory!” cry from the Remainers as if everything was finally sorted out and was where it should have been to begin with, i.e. the way they want it to be. The High Court just said they think the parliament must have the final say on the trigger of Article 50. Why are the Remainers convinced it will stop Brexit?

Of course, I am not stupid and I am aware that it’s because they know the parliament would block Brexit. They are certain a majority of MPs regardless of party affiliation are against it and that’s exactly why that woman legally challenged the value of the referendum to begin with.

She basically pulled a Donald Trump. Even if her intentions are deemed more positive. She did not challenge the government or Cameron on the legal weight of his promise and actual proceedings of the referendum when it happened. Although she had months to do it. Months to show and prove that it would be irrelevant in any and every way, that the Commons would have the final say whatever. But because there was a chance things would go her way, she did not. She waited for the results of a perfectly legal, well-conducted democratic process to displease her to finally mount a legal challenge.

The problem is that far from preventing anything, it has instead triggered an absolute political nightmare. I am not talking about political minefield but proper battleground. Yes, MPs are a majority to believe remaining is the right solution but does that mean they are going to vote according to what they believe to be good or what their constituents believe to be good? The High Court decision does not dictate how the Commons should vote, nor does it dismiss the results. It’s saying that the democratic process has spoken and it’s up to the Commons, the legislative branch, and not the government, the executive, to act upon it. It’s not saving the UK of Brexit rather is purely testing its relationship between the people and the elite. The results in the long term may get way uglier than Brexit.

As an MP, you are elected by a people majority to then serve every single person regardless of differences of any kind, so I reckon, and most people who believe in democracy will agree, that the right to do is to check what the outcome of the referendum was in your constituency and vote as such. In that case, the legal challenge is ridiculous because the result would be the same. 52% of the English people voted “Out”, if the MPs are indeed doing their job as expected by proper and respectful democratic process, it should 52% “Out” in the parliament as well, for they are supposed to be the voice of their constituents.

Therefore, the challenge that “selfless, philanthropist” paid for out of her own money (the media seem to think it’s important to point that out) would be remembered as nothing but time wasted, money wasted, more dithering, more restlessness from all sides and more divisions within the country when the effort should be to stand strong and united, not resentfully fighting against something only after it happened.

Or, as Remainers obviously expect, the MPs will disregard the actual voice of their own constituents and vote according to their own agenda, beliefs and fears. Then that legal challenge will be remembered as the moment the parliament, the political and financial elite (the one who can afford to mount such a challenge without going bankrupt) officially and openly became completely detached from its own electorate, from the people who entrusted them to speak in their name and keep their promises to represent them.

That legal challenge is a Pandora’s Box putting MPs in a difficult position: either following the voice of the ones who voted for them or going against it at the risk of losing them altogether. To the far right, most likely.

So they could gamble and argue that many voted “Out” out of anger and spite and actually wanted “In”. They could argue that many did not cast a vote in the first place. They could argue that the current economic uncertainties and bad news have turned the tables. They could gamble and convince themselves that these aforementioned people are now hoping for the Commons to clean up the mess the people have made.

However this is all hypotheses, for the MPs also know that the one and only certainty is all this is that 52% of the people directly said “Out”. 52% from all parts of the political spectrum, all wealth, genders, places and races. 52% who will not take betrayal lightly after they were offered a chance to speak their mind. Some say they could call for a fresh general election to find out but unless they ask the question again, or remodel the whole of English politics into two new parties “In” vs “Out”, or the Labour and the Lib Dem party manage to multiply fish, I don’t see how it’s going to change any outcome.

Referenda are a tricky political move, challenging them is worst.

In the name of all

I did follow the London mayor debate and on the behalf of all Muslims – and that’s what I do, as a Muslim we always speak for all of us…There are 1.6 billion of us and I spoke to them all before I came here tonight. We are not very happy because he is not a “proper” Muslim. No beard.

Adil Ray on the subject of Sadiq Khan

The long read: Brexit – After thoughts

Overall.

It’s a “I want to divorce!” not just thrown in the face of the European Union, about whom it is difficult to say how much the people do care, but also, and most importantly for them, from the UK to the UK itself. So of course, there are the usual steps of copying: surprise, anger, denial, inner fighting and inner questioning. However, when there could be a way to find peace and solutions, all I see is bitterness and even greater divide.

The Remainers.

They are the divorcee but the ones I blamed the most. They did not fight enough: arrogance? hubris? taking results granted? “Even a simpleton would see it’s bad to leave”, one said to me. They are the ones who thought they had the upper-hand on all aspects of the marriage, felt threatened towards the end but as they never thought they’d have to try and convince anyone, it was too late. They failed and never managed to convince its disgruntled other half to go along with what they think is the best for both.

Of course they are sore losers. Who wouldn’t? They genuinely believe that their vision is the way forward, not just for themselves but for everyone: old and young, poor and rich, natives and migrants, here or there, alive or to be born.

So, yes, they are sore and hurting. As a European in heart and mind, I understand it goes far beyond saying “yes” or “no” to some what kind of food we want to import or tax rates. It’s about their future falling apart. For them everything is gone by now. Hopes and dreams they never bothered to communicate have been replaced by fear their leaders played on. It backfired, they are the ones to be dreading and angry, not the opposite side.

What I don’t understand is the violence with which they are now attacking the Brexiters who are all dismissed as daft peasants whose racism and xenophobia equal their inability to see what’s good for them. They are good for nothing, they know nothing. Just check..everywhere! “Old”, “without a degree”, “poor”, “illiterate”, “easily fooled”, “intolerant”…

Who are you to talk about tolerance when you are happy to dismiss the choice of a majority and/or demand to be heard again because you have convinced yourself that only you know better?

For me, London encompasses what Remainers are sadly becoming. They could change their old ways of disdain for others whilst contemplating their own achievements and start to listen so they could find empathy and try to find solutions. They could stop looking down on whoever thinks differently and insult everyone who has different views because this is actually part of what lead the second city of the country to vote “Leave”.

The Remainers could try to accept and rebuild under their own terms, if they are so powerful and clever. No, instead, they are dismissing the choice of 52% of voters because it’s not their own, they are wishing the worse on them all the while pushing for a referendum that, this time, will be binding because they are convinced the results will satisfy them, they are pushing their beloved self-appointed beacon of civilisation (London) to part ways with the rest of that “stupid, outdated, backward-looking, good-for-nothing and racist’ country. Not a good way to rebuild and be strong as one.

I might be the harshest on them because I expect better from my peers. And I also know they will manage to get the better out of this situation because they do have the intellectual, economic and political means so instead of punishing the other half, be a better person and try to mend your ways.

 

The Brexiters

The divorcer. They want out, they are fed up, they want their country back, whatever that means.

It’s difficult to picture a Brexiter because I know many and none of them are the same person and I can’t help but feeling that they are going to be the worst affected by this decision and I do have pity for them before anger.

They are the  xenophobes, the ones who unforgivably blame their own failure on foreigners, but they are also foreigners themselves. I know people from outside the EU who say they voted “Leave” because it’s not changing anything as far as they are concerned, but also because they have grown fed up of being told they were stealing British jobs. “Make the continentals go and see if those lazy Brits will actually accept to do their job…That should shake the rust off their racist back!”

The first ones believed Nigel Farage, the seconds bought happily to the Tory rhetoric of skiver vs strivers. They watch Benefit Street populated by lazy white people living the good life on benefits while they are working 15hrs/day to barely make a living and be able to diligently pay their taxes.

I am fascinated by Brexiters as I am trying to understand the scale of their wilful self-harm. A self-harm that comes with a smile and cheer. Why? For months, I have read and watched a lot about them, I have listened to them a lot and there is complete blindness and simplistic thinking in desperation.

There is foolishness too and a gob-smacking amount of narrow-mindness, especially within the older generation, the same who voted “IN” in 1970s and who refuses see the world for what it really is. I am not talking about accepting neo-capitalism and its jungle-like fight for survival for they are the first to champion these views. I am talking about this bovine refusal to leave a time that is not anymore.

When you hear them chanting “Great Britain will be great again”, you see the colonial past behind it where England was dominating everything: if not the world, at least the British Isles. They want to go back to a time before Brussels came in and forced London, not only to cough up the cash, but mostly to consider the other nations of the UK and devote them some power.

Today, they are happy. England is still at the wheel. Scotland said IN, they said OUT…It’s OUT then. Brilliant, we are still in control and will forever be now. Everybody’s happy.

But beyond the nostalgia of the ones who love to rewrite history they never bothered to learn because they “lived it”, there is the desperation of the ones who believed what they were told, did everything they were told to do and got nothing in return. Because they had nothing and still have nothing, they firstly did not buy to the Cassandras in the Remain Camp predicting economic Armageddon. For them, it’s a reality, not an oracle. Nothing has been, is and will be going to be better for them, nor their children and that’s they cannot see that the UK is what it is because of its own politicians, not because of Europe.

Yes, I do feel pity for these ones because they were, once again, used and abused by the ones fighting for power.

 

The politicians.

In a nutshell, when you play with fire you are going to get burnt.

First, Tories and Labour, forty years of blaming the EU for every single of your own unpopular policy is not going to be wiped out within two months of lukewarm campaigning. We like to say that people don’t listen to politicians anymore, it’s true. Most Brexiters think Farage and Johnson are as corrupted and deceiving as the leaders of the Remain camp. But in the long term, words do sink in. The 2010 and 2015 Tory victories were won on scaremongering about immigration, “EU diktats” and making Britain great again. Labour has found nothing better to do than join in or remain silent in fear of losing the votes.

The Brexiters did nothing except believe the endless Brussels bashing and finger-pointing London has been doing since the day it entered. Just look at the opinion of Europe since 1973 and it’s constantly going down, governments after governments. I think the only thing we can admire the Liberal Democrats for is to have always proudly advertised their pro-Europeans stance.

The Labour? Well, it should be ashamed to have let the Tories take control of the debate on the EU they actually endorse. Yes, their reputation is in tatters after they left their own voters behind, became aloof and ignoring of what people wanted (the No to the war in Iraq) but they went the easy way. They could have regained dignity breaking away with Blair and his murderous and corrupted cronies. Only Labour can be the link between the elite and the working class today, through unions mostly, so they could have educated their voters on the benefits of the EU everytime the Tories went on the attack since the 1970s. However, they made the mistake of leaving it to people to figure out the Conservatives were lying and when the damage was done, they became scared of alienating their few voters left further so they just joined the half-baked and outlandish scaremongering of the Tories. No hopes, just fears. That’s not what the Left should be selling.

Speaking of fears, Cameron eventually paid the price by wanting to ride the ones of the voters for political gain. I talked about it earlier but something did not add up during this frankly daft campaign. Europe went from the source of all evil in 2014 to the best thing that has ever happened to the UK in mid-2016. I know he was trying to straddle every Tory fences and have it both ways. We talked about him maybe being a political genius in managing such a feat. No, he became yet another victim of his own making by lighting the fire under a slow-cooker with no pressure valve called “Populism.”

Farage’s and Johnson’s reputations precede them but Cameron is now going to be the one who triggered the end of the United Kingdom and serves him right.

 

The media.

Two words: excruciatingly appalling. I am not talking about tabloids, they think publishing pictures of Xabi Alonso’s half-naked toddling daughters playing on the beach is in the public interest just because their faces are pixelated.

I am talking about the newspapers. Even the Guardian, my favourite. The analysis has been fantastic since the Leave vote but where were they before? Even the most serious newspapers threw proper journalistic investigation to the wind and became an open platform for both side’s dismal scaremongering. I got so fed up with the Guardian’s daily “Armageddon is coming with Leave” that I almost wrote to them to ask them if their columnists had been locked in the basement so no one could actually analyse what was behind the terrible forecasts they were made.

We had a couple of good analysis on how ridiculous it was for the Remain camp to bring in the big guns (Chiefs of IMF, Bank of England, NATO, EU…) to pile up the fear of voting Leave on the poor neighbourhoods of Northern England for the people, even Remainers, distrust these unelected elites and aloof institutions in the first place.

In the face of abysmally poor political debate, I was expecting the serious press to be there to inform us, to guide us and I truly believe the outcome of the vote would have been different had they done their job properly of informing and educating the adults. Instead, they set themselves as nothing but a relay for one or the other side.

The EU.

We’ll be fine. We’ll kick out the UK asap with harsh negotiations to ensure no one else is tempted to leave and regroup as 27. Notwithstanding, there is now only hope that the elite reflects (for more than 2 weeks before the holidays!) and understands that populism is nothing to be dismissed or used for political gain. It is a time bomb waiting to explode. People who are afraid are not all racists or xenophobes, people who hate are not all bad in essence and deserve to be ignored, people who rebel are not all a threat and the majority’s silence does not mean it agrees with you.

We say France is next. I would not be surprised. All above is exactly what is happening with a man who think his winning the majority of votes in 2012 gives him the right to discard his promises, betray his supporters, disregard his own people’s opinions, force laws through the parliament without debate and without even consulting his own rebelling party, and drag everyone who dares fight in the dirt, when not hitting them directly.

This Leave vote is first and foremost a shout to the aloof, down-looking, self-righteous and dismissing elite so it is time people are listened to – which does not mean we have to agree with them. But we need to take time to know them, to educate and stop rushing through for our own greatness (every country wants its EU presidency to remembered) and in the name of “superseding considerations people would not understand”. We will understand, just explain. Yes, it takes time but it will eventually prevent such vote that brings down 40 years of hard work.

 

The UK

Right now, there is healing to be done in the UK. They will never amount to anything if they can’t manage to find a way to be one again. I don’t hold on too many hopes, though.

Firstly because I am convinced Scotland and Northern Ireland are going to break away. When the Tories were elected in 2015, I said it would open a fascinating time as a historian for Scotland and NI would not put up with London’s overbearing unique voice anymore, not with Brussels acting as a shield. Putting up with Tory governments and ministers they have no elected is one thing, being forced out of the EU they want to keep because it made them the proud nations they are today is another and one they will never accept.

Now there is England and Wales plagued by infighting, anger, denial and hatred. Remainers want a new referendum. How can they be so sure people would vote like they want? Why would the second one be more biding than the first one which was an electoral promise kept and planned months in advance by the democratically elected Prime Minister? What if the result is indeed different? What would stop the Brexiters from launching another petition signed by millions for a third one? When will it stop ?

There is talk of forcing the Stay through the Parliament but Cameron was clear on that : the people has spoken. What best way is there to push people towards the extremes by, yet again, having Westminster ignoring the voice of the masses and doing whatever it likes because the outcomes is displeasing them?

Cameron has jumped the boat he stirred into the rocks, the Tories are already tearing each other to piece to get a new leader by October. The Lib Dems are dead silent. The Labour is in disarray as it is its voters in its heartlands that helped the Eurosceptic get what they always wanted. This vote was also a punishment on Tony Blair and his New Labour for it has embraced overbearing London and chummed up with the financial elite to the detriment of the working class. How can they reconnect now?

The Remain campaign said the country would sink if they left. Today, England and Wales need to prove all the forecasts wrong by being strong and united to get make the most of a bad situation. Instead, they are as weak and divided as ever, creating the perfect conditions for the planned Armageddon to happen.

Something doesn’t add up…

When I left England in 2014, the Conservatives were campaigning on a scaremongering programme that struck me, a European citizen, as extremely anti-Europe. The message was that, on top of losing Scotland if Labour passed, voting for anyone but them would worsen the current situation where the UK had become a free pick and mix of assets for all Europeans to abuse and lay bare.

They talked about “Health Tourism” and its outlandish claim that the continentals were the biggest strain and threat to the NHS for it was very easy to take advantage of. Speeches after speeches described how we were all coming to the UK to get free treatment, all paid by the British taxpayers who could not do anything because it was a European requirement to staying in. UK had to go to be able to stop this abuse. Where has it gone?

As a Frenchman, I was told and was hearing, day in day out, that I was stealing British jobs. Please do find a British who would accept to work 12-14hrs/day in a school where they teach French, German, Spanish and Astrophysics. You haven’t since I left? Interesting…

Okay, maybe I was not stealing a job as such but I was still a liability to UK’s full employment because I was here living the life a British could be living and there was nothing Brits could do for letting me live in the Midlands was a requirement to belonging to the EU. The UK had to go to find full employment again. Where has it gone?

They talked about immigrations in the wider terms, a “true invasion” that was threatening the British culture and putting a costly and unnecessary strain on schools, and other institutions, that not only had to teach British children with close to no funding, but take extra time to teach immigrants’ kids what it takes to be British. UK had to go to be able to control its borders for belonging to the EU was forcing them to accept people they did not want and were too high-maintenance. Where has it gone?

They were criminals too, that was the problem, the government said. Brains are fine…ish, money’s always welcome but it’s poor criminals who were flooding the shores of Albion and the UK not being able to deal with them the way it actually wanted to because it had to conform to some European convention on Human Rights. Rapists, paedophiles, child-killers, abusers, wife-beaters, drug dealers…Multiple times criminals that UK was forced to set free or treat fancily at great costs of money and lives. UK had to go in order to regain control on its own policing – presumably to accommodate rich dictators and despots in London empty luxury flats. Where has it gone?

Being British, money needs to be at the centre of anything: we heard about billions of pounds given to European technocrats who would then use it to spoil lazy French farmers or undeserving Greek struggling public servants. UK had to go to regain control of its finance, stop this robbery in plain sight and ensure the money it was making would stay within its borders and used as it wishes. Everyone was suffering: from the worldwide British banks to the house prices of everyday people. Where has it gone?

Weeks, months, years of tension building up between London and Brussels with Westminster throwing around accusations and thriving for independence in a copycat way Edinburgh did a year before with London.

Where on Earth has it all gone?! The continentals sucking up the NHS dry, the freed paedos and their Human Rights, the immigrants stealing jobs driving wages down and house prices up, the billions unfairly fed to Brussels…Are all these problems the Conversatives mentioned in 2014 really solved? Where is 2014’s plucky Britainia who stood up to Hitler and would again rise to save and inspire the world in resisting European invasion in all its forms?

In a desperate campaign where both sides are akin to Jehovah Witnesses (We are all going to die! Do join us if you want to…who knows?), the Conservatives are suddenly listing all the benefits of the EU: security, money, power. If the UK goes, it’s the WWIII at once, billions lost, taxes up, years of the worst economic downturn ever predicted – by experts who did not even see the economic crisis coming in the first place.

In a nutshell, from the worst thing that has ever happened to the UK, EU is now the best.

What happened? Something doesn’t add up. Were they lying at the time or are they lying now?

I go for both.

What England taught me: learn to listen and to shut up.

I am always dissing England but as I said before, I chose to move there and it was my home for years. A place I was eager to go back to because a place where I felt comfortable in my own skin, a place where I could reinvent myself far from the social shackles of France.

One of the thing England gave me is the ability to leave people be and to know when it’s not my place to intervene.

I always like to tease the English when they say they have the ability to just leave people alone. I always tell that they don’t, the only ability they have is to not give a shit about anybody but themselves. I am such a bitch!

But the truth is: I have changed a lot. I have also learnt silence: when to keep it, when to nurture it, when to attack with it. As an anxious person, I used to babble endlessly haunted by the silence of the other, feeling them creeping in my mind and reading who I was so I would just carry on talking. Now I have learnt to control the silence and my ability to wait for people to ask me about things rather than flood them with everything that flushes out my mind.

I spent virtually three days with my family celebrating Christmas from December 24th (yes, we are not Anglophones) to December 26th and I have discovered how much more restraint I was in conversations. I still tend to monopolise it if I initiate it but hey, I only initiate to show off and be the centre of attention so shush and listen!

What I observed was my family being French, very French: barging in conversations, not knowing what was said and what was agreed, just because they heard a sentence that triggered an opinion. And in France, there is this idea that when one has an opinion, one has to give it openly and the others must be grateful for such an act of dedication. Even if there is no consideration for others or question as to whether it is appropriate or even relevant.

I have hundreds of example: my brother taking my cousin apart to tell him that his girlfriend is a bitchy weirdo everyone hated. My cousin did not ask him anything but my brother felt like it was something worth saying.

My mother, grandmother and other cousin were talking about depression, support and medication in the kitchen, my uncle barging in and just starting to aggressively monopolise the conversation to expose his uneducated findings on the pluses and minuses of medication. He had no idea what the others were saying and nor did he care.

My other uncle questioning about my coming back to France until I realised he was not listening, just waiting to tell me that he disagreed with my choice. I see him twice a year and all he has to tell me is this? My mother told him about it in September so he has been saving it for months as well.

Sure, I had millions of opinions. Opinions I would have expressed loudly a couple of years ago. I would not have told my cousin what my brother said but ended up fighting with the latter about his being an absolute obnoxious dickhead. I would have joined the discussion about depression I was just watching from a chair next to the window because I do know a lot about depression but unlike my uncle I understood that it was just not for me to barge in. I was not involved. I would have gladly meddled in with my aunt and grandmother to tell the latter that her continuous smoking on the face of all her grandchildren for the past 30 years was way worse than us walking barefeet on the tiled floor. And definitely told my uncle to “Go find someone who cares!”.

And I did not. A couple of years ago, keeping what I thought to myself was an endless struggle. It was literally like trying to swallow down the vomit filling your mouth when you feel more is surging up your throat. Words and opinions were gushing out: I had to say it, people had to know the full extent of my agreement, disagreement or lack of care. And people had to submit to my desperate need to have the last word. Now I give it away gladly.

You will tell me that the family meddling in everyone’s business is everywhere but in France, it’s not just the family when that kind of things happen. I went to a training session and, after seven years of these in the UK, I have re-encountered something I completely forgot: the heckler, the attention-seeker, the only-child, the let’s-talk-about-me-myself-and-I.

In these trainings and meetings, there is only someone, sometime more, usually a man, who keeps interrupting the trainer to talk about how shameless is the amount of taxes we pay, how unfair and deceiving the State is, how things are better everywhere else – when he has actually never left his birth town or travelled abroad. There is always the one who abuses the question time to make it all about himself, to vent his anger, disappointment and try to rally us with me in an orgy of hatred against everything that takes his money away from his bank account – and blaming women.

In England, you meet these guys at the pub. In France, as well: the guy with a inflated red nose and heavy eyes who stinks of cheap English beer and who heckles you across the room to rant at the TV, politicians, immigrants, taxes, women and “poofters” who are ruining France. But in France, you also have these completely sober guys in meetings and trainings in a professional environment.

They are absolute strangers, you did not who they were in the morning and you forgot their name the second they said it but they are French and they have this sense of self-entitlement: they have their freedom of speech and they will use it, they will say what they want and you will put up with it whether you like it or not. Like a teenage bully.

This happens in England of course but as far as I am concerned, I must have seen it, what? Once or twice in seven years. No one ever stopped staff meetings, trainings and such to object out loud and initiate an utterly sterile debate because we know no one gives a shit and can’t wait to get back to actually do something productive. These people will ask questions at the end and if they are relevant and constructive, they will be mentioned in the next meeting.

Five months in France and they are fucking everywhere these people with an opinion that is always worth giving out loud, these people who are wasting everyone’s time with their problems and vendettas.

Now there is one issue with my France vs England: the social media. I say it doesn’t happen in England, however social medias, especially the ones which are heavily used by English speakers are riddled with cheap, easy, uneducated opinions, people lecturing strangers, telling them what to do and constantly venting their opinion. Take any videos on YouTube and read the comments. This is beyond anything you will ever encounter from the worst wino in the street.

In France, it doesn’t happen that much. It is true that we are not as tech-savvy or tech-addicted as English speakers (or me) can be – I am alien In France with my Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. People of my age with their Facebook as a self-advertising page just don’t get it.

To come back on the constant anger, outrage, venting and unsolicited opinions on the social media, I think it is because the English have learnt that they are expected to keep it for themselves in English society that they are happily using and abusing the anonymous status of social media to do what the French will do to your face.

It is not to say that the English are coward, just that they have social expectations and the social prejudice that stem from them pushing them to seek a different way to let it out. Someone who cannot control its mouth in England is automatically categorised as low-educated, working-class or drunk. It is the same in Scandinavian societies so I am wondering whether the place of religious as a private matter rather than a social matter has something to do with it. As a Catholic, you have to show off your faith whereas as a protestant, faith tends to be more private.

I say “tends” to be because it frankly doesn’t apply to the US…

So yes, I have come back to France more private and that’s also why I opened this blog. I used to just think people were there to listen to me soliloquise out loud on various aspect of life, I used to think it was always my duty to inform people of what my opinion was, I used to think I was allowed as a free human being to just barge into any kind of conversation.

Now I write here, for me and for who wants to read it. Now I spectate a lot, leaving people be until they ask me something. Sometimes I say something because I do feel it can bring something more, something they don’t know or constructive to the conversation. I don’t correct people on every single mistake they make like I used to because “I always know better so I must teach them” was my mantra – and I did my share of teaching.

Now if I feel I can’t keep my tongue for myself, I just “aloofly” leave the room.

England taught me to be more considerate of people and more civilised. More aloof too, yes, but I like that. I can watch and observe people more.

“Less social” the French likes to say.

“Do you the story of the meddlesome dog who always sticks his nose in places where it does not belong? It’s too busy listening to the neighbours and gets run over by a bus”. I like to reply.