Burkini beach

Burkini beach banThe New York Times has called it ‘farcical’.

The Guardian has suggested there are many good reasons to wear the ‘wet suit with a hood’, and not just to annoy the French.

In Rio, burkini-clad athletes competed alongside others in skimpy bathing suits.

As our long, hot summer continues, the ban on the burkini by the mayors of several French towns has me hot under the collar. And this photo of police in Nice forcing a woman to remove her cover has me in a cold sweat.

What’s all the fuss about the burkini in France?

It’s about fear.

Fear of losing our national identity. An identity that has more to do with the freedom of topless sunbathing than it does with religion.

It’s about Islamophobia, another form of fear. Fear of terror attacks by those purporting to defend Islam, even while we understand that ISIS has nothing to do with Muslims.

It’s about the secular state, which is highly valued in France despite the fact that we march to the Christian calendar. It’s about fear of foreign ways and wanting to feel ‘chez nous’.

It’s about politics, plain and simple. In other words, when French prime minister Manuel Valls says he understands the mayors of several towns who have banned the burkini, it’s a smoke screen. It’s fear mongering, and it’s keeping the otherwise vocal French quiet.

To be fair, the French have always been somewhat hysterical about public swimming pools. Men: do not attempt to enter a public pool in France wearing swimming trunks or longer shorts. ‘Le caleçon’ is traditionally forbidden in pools here for so-called reasons of hygiene. The only acceptable swimwear for men in France is the ‘slip de bain’ aka the noodle bender.

So by extension, I can accept that, by the same logic, the burkini might be forbidden in public swimming pools. But on the beach? Alors là, non! It is just ridiculous. What does it mean for those who wear wet suits, people with sun allergies or those who are just plain shy? Can you imagine these cops asking a nun to remove her habit?

While I disagree with the fundamental principles that lead these women to cover their bodies, I will fight to the death for their right to do it. However misguidedly, and for whatever reason, religious or otherwise. The way we choose to dress is an essential right and freedom that should not be dictated by any government.

I love the fact that the French ban has sparked sales of the burkini. It is an innovative piece of clothing design by an Australian-Lebanese woman, one that enables an otherwise-excluded segment of the population to enjoy the pleasures of swimming. In her own words, it is meant to liberate women, not enslave them.

If weren’t so damned hot, I’d probably wear a burkini myself out of solidarity. I’m a shit disturber at heart, especially when I believe that something is full of it.

And the French, for all their dislike of political correctness and respect for private life, are just plain full of it on this one.

Et toi? What do you think about the burkini?

Some like it hot

To buy myself a bit more time on this atrociously long ‘pause’ (I am, after all, une Française!), here’s a post I published a few summers back. A très bientôt!

FranceSays

shutterstock_135377552Let me preface this by saying I was born with a faulty thermostat. I may be genetically predisposed to heat stroke; my mother also became red-faced at the onset of warm weather and fell apart in a heat wave. If she were still here this post would be for her.

I believe the greatest invention of the modern era not to be space travel or the internet but air conditioning. It allows the thermostatically challenged to continue to function when the temperature climbs above the dew point (mine). Nay, it enables us to survive the summer.

As living in France means mostly living sans climatisation, I’ve had to learn to adapt.

The French are convinced that air conditioning is hazardous to your health. So even if a place has A/C, it’s rarely set to a point that keeps me cool. Besides which, there will likely be a…

View original post 475 more words

Le temps d’une pause

Versailles gardensHere in France our summer siesta has begun.

This year more than ever, we need a break. I’ve written before about the fact that la pause estivale is sacrosanct in this country, about how they roll up the carpets while just about everyone goes on summer vacation.

Between the bracketed holidays of Bastille Day on July 14th and le 15 août – one of many religious holidays inscribed in the French calendar – not much will move around here. Hopefully, not even the crazy people who want to kill us.

For me, too, it’s a good time for a break. Time to step back from the routine of normal life and breathe a little. Stare at the sky, watch the grass grow. Think about some things, stop thinking about others.

For the past few years, I’ve been working on a memoir about life in France. It’s been slow going as it spans almost thirty years and many different places and experiences. Recently I began work on what I thought was the final edit – and realized I am still in need of some major restructuring. So it’s back to the drawing keyboard.

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back – you see things completely differently. If I hadn’t got some space between me and that draft, I might not have seen the cracks and the flaws.

Like this picture of the formal gardens in Versaille. It took me a moment to see the other, surprising image there.

I’m hoping a blogging break will help me gain perspective and see a lot more happy faces, Including all of yours.

Hope you are heading off somewhere nice or otherwise enjoying life this summer. Please tell me all about it!

Bisous et bonnes vacances!

Dans la joie et la bonne humeur

Les Bleus Euro 2016Sadly, the joy was short-lived. But for a few days here in France, we were on top of the world again. Et bon dieu did we enjoy it!

Despite the fact that Les Bleus lost the final match, it feels as though we’ve turned a page. ‘Passé un cap’, as we say in French. Summer vacation is upon us, the sun is shining, and today we are celebrating our Fête Nationale, aka Bastille Day. Spirits are higher in this country than they’ve been in a long time.

It hasn’t been an easy year in France. At times it has felt like the terrorists were winning. At others, the overriding disappointment in Hollande’s government and the back-biting from left to extreme right, has been depressing. The latest saga of resistance to change over the new Loi Travail (labour law) has been unending, along with the seasonal round of strikes and demonstrations. Then Brexit comes along and it feels like the end of the EU as we know it.

I surprised myself by actually watching the last two matches of the Euro 2016. This goes against my normal black-out policy towards all televised sports: golf, tennis, the Tour de France – not even the Olympics get my attention.

I don’t dislike sports. I just don’t like watching other people do them.

So although I know next to nothing about football (soccer for my North American friends), I found myself turning on the game ‘just to see’ and then getting drawn in. I watched the first half of the semi-final, and observed that while France was doing a very good job of preventing Germany from scoring, most of the game seemed to be taking place near the French goalposts. The Germans seemed to have good team work, and there was coordination and strategy in their moves.

Any time the French got the ball, things got a little chaotic. A burst of energy and astounding performance followed by – nada. They just didn’t seem to have a plan of attack. So I turned it off and went outside to enjoy the sunset. Then I heard a collective cry of ‘but!’ and the car horns honking – not just once but twice.

It seems that when the French get going, a certain magic kicks in.

During the final with Portugal on Sunday, that magic wasn’t quite there. Les Bleus gave it their best but the drama queens (who I found myself absurdly calling ‘Les Portu-gays’) on the other side got lucky in one single score. See why I don’t like sports? It brings out the worst kind of nationalism and name calling.

But although we may be down we are not out. The collective pysche is revved by the fact that we made to the final, the team did their best and now we get to enjoy some well-earned vacation time. Dans la joie et la bonne humeur!

One thing is certain: Le Coq Gaulois will be crowing again soon.

Coq_French flagHappy Bastille Day!

Les cieux

IMG_1773‘Sky’ is one of those French words that sounds completely different in the plural form. Le ciel, les cieux. So it is with the skies above us and the summer season – they are transformed into something other worldly.

The advent of summer often finds me outside staring at the sky. So much is going on above our heads and at this time of year it captivates my attention.

thumb_IMG_3739_1024Our house is on the flight path into Geneva. Lac Léman is like a highway for air traffic in and out of the neighbouring Swiss city. Planes landing make me feel relaxed and somehow happy, as if the homecoming were my own. Planes taking off are noisier and more intrusive, yet they often circle so high above us that the sound is very far away, a distant reminder of people setting off to see the world.

I lie on my reclining chair (oh, the wonders of this reclining chair, as good as the dentist’s only without the pain) and watch the silver bullets above. Sometimes it seems the planes are playing tic tac toe as their white tails criss-cross in the sky.

thumb_IMG_5412_1024The birds in these parts are a treat. We had dinner by the lake the other night and these little ones provided quite the spectacle. Although they were with some ducks, I am convinced these are baby swans. Any ornithological experts care to weigh in?

Above us, the constantly circling hawks are mesmerizing. They coast way up high on currents of air, emitting strange high-pitched sounds. Although I suspect they are hunting for prey, it is relaxing to watch them circle and soar. At ground level, swallows swoop and dip into the pool for a drink. Little green and yellow birds flit and peep in the garden.

The clouds have been especially amazing this year. The turbulent weather pattern this spring and early summer has brought constantly changing skies that are a wonder to behold. Each glorious day must be savoured; in winter we often get dull days of fog and cannot see the mountains just across the lake.

Something magical happens to the light around Lake Geneva at this time of year. It glows as if lit from within. Although I am a morning person, we get amazing sunset views.

thumb_IMG_4303_1024What does the sky look like where you are?