Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Pas Francais. Espagnol!

I was going to tell you about the rotovator today, but first:

I have been so proud that 'French' roofers are repairing Labartere, and not anyone else of a 'foreign' nationality. It seemed to us important that since it is a French house, then it should be healed by French artisans. And I tell the French I speak to that this is so. 'Pas Anglais charpentiers. Les charpentiers est Francais' (not English carpenters, the carpenters are French).

We do not want to be seen as being English invaders. There are loads of English here, and most don't want to integrate with the French people. Yet in England it is frowned upon if people do not speak English and prefer to live in their national groups and maintain their homeland's cultural ways. The same here. There is a distinct sub-culture of English people, living as if they were in England, proud to own imposing houses which they wouldn't have been able to afford in the UK, which makes them pompous and arrogant. I don't think they mean to be, but most do not have respect for the country which is now housing them. They don't see the culture as being of any benefit to them: they are here for the sun (when it shines which it often does), the food (which is sometimes good sometimes not, as in all countries), and the way of life, which is laid back, and because they can get a big house for their money. They bring England here. They do not leave England where it is, and allow themselves to become gradually absorbed into France.

I think to come to live in a country and not want to integrate as much as one can by trying to communicate as often as one can to the people whose country it is, is insulting to those people. Rarely do I see any English person even make the effort to communicate with people like the lady on the till in the supermarket. These are the people I practice my French on

Most times they are terse, and quite rightly the French can be unhelpful back. We are immigrants, and I find that if one remains aware of this, and respectful to the fact that the French are having to tolerate a huge swathe of incomers most of whom can't be bothered, and do not want to, try and merge with them by making the effort at least to say 'Bonjour, ca va?' then the French are lovely. Yesterday a lady actually came up to me in the supermarket and initiated a conversation with me, because I had twice already commented on her garden as I passed it on by. My French is still minimal, but she was patient and we managed to communicate sufficiently enough to end up in guffaws of laughter. I try. I wish the other English would do the same. Because most times I tend to feel ashamed of the English here, especially the two-homers who gallop around the supermarket as if they own the place. Most of us genuine incomers tend to steer clear of being associated with them and never would I speak English in earshot of them.

And so, Lester was given a lift to the Galiax wood mill by Stephan. Now working on the half-barn roof, Dani had decided that two beams needed to be replaced. So off Stephan and Lester went, to purchase the replacement beams.

So on the way back, and Stephan puts some music on.
"That's not French music" Lester says.
"Non, je ne suis pas français, je suis espagnol! Il est la musique espagnol." says Stephan.
"Non, vous etes espagnol?"
"Oui. Et tous les charpentiers sont espagnols. Dani, et Jean-Michel aussi. Tous les charpentiers!"

Mmmmm. So let me explain! Apparently ALL the men working on our house are Spanish! Which is why we don't have the foggiest idea of what they are saying either to us, or when they are talking with each whilst working! But it isn't clearly Spanish they use, but is a curious mixture of Spanish and French.

Well, we don't have a pig's ear of a chance to get off the starting blocks with this one! They do, however, understand "voulez-vous une tasse de thé anglais?" (do you want a cup of English tea) and I understand "le gateaux. Vous faites? C'est bon" (the cake, you make? It is good). Somehow Lester manages to communcate better, I just smile. I can do French / English. I can't do Spanish-French / English!

I have blathered on for quite some time, so will let you know about the rotovator next time. But on a last note: When Lester almost had a fatal accident last December, and I was waiting for the ambulance to sort him out, I thought to myself "What would I do if he died?" And the answer I received back from myself was "I would stay here. I am here for the duration". It is with great pleasure that after ten months we know as many French people as we do English. And when out and about, I speak as much French as I do English, or try to. As I have said, it is a steep learning curve, but in my heart I have the deepest of respect for a nation with whom we hope to spend the rest of our lives.

And the roofers, albeit of Spanish nationality, have been hard at work on the half barn this week.

Holay! We are looking good!

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