May 20: Muffled in paradise

Ted listening to the radio

Ted, as you can see, couldn’t care less what language he hears on the radio. This is him listening to France Inter’s morning show, in which they are discussing the Dominic Strauss-Kahn affaire. They have been discussing DSK ad infinitum here since it all blew up, and because it’s such an international story, I find it has an extra few angles for me here. First of all, it makes me realise how much I miss understanding what on earth is going on.

Even if I could understand everything I hear without thinking about it, that wouldn’t mean I’d get the references. Yesterday someone on France Inter was giggling at the thought of someone on CNN explaining to an American audience what gauche-caviar means. I was thrilled, I’d learned how to say champagne socialist in French! But it also made me realise how many layers there are to the DSK story which, if the main character were British or American, I would understand. It’s a crash course in knowing how much I don’t know. I’ve got such a long way to go, it’s a bit dispiriting.

The good thing about the DSK affair (for me) is that it seems to be covering every part of the French psyche, from how much everyone believes in conspiracies to freedom of the press to why the French adamantly refuse to care about the peccadillos of their politicians. (I heard someone saying that it was a reaction to the excessive puritanism peddled by the Americans – at least that’s what I thought I heard…). And of course I’ve had a crash course in socialist politics, too, as everyone who has been considered to take over from DSK for the 2012 election has been interviewed all over everything. Think how long it would have taken me to get under French skin without DSK to lead the way!

Fortunately there’s the internet. When I think I really don’t know what’s going on, I can check BBC or the Guardian, but I keep trying to avoid that in case I become too Ex-Pat. I’ll never forget a woman I met in China who complained because the English-language Chinese newspaper never had any important news in it. When I asked her what she meant by important, she said stuff that happens in England. Hmmmm. I met peasants in China who had never even heard of England.

When I whined to my wonderful perfectly, literately bi-lingual French friend Sylvie, who lives in London, about feeling like a foreigner, she said, Don’t worry – you’ll always feel like a foreigner! Good advice. I should try to stop worrying about what I don’t know.

What I do know is that Joel has just come home, and has brought me the artichokes I bought at the market the other day when Gloria and Margaret were visiting. I left them there when we went exploring and forgot to pick them up. He asked the sous-chef to cook them for me. He’s also brought a melon that smells absolutely delicious. I understand exactly what that means: eat it right now.

Gloria looking very happy with the white asparagaus she bought to take home to London.


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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One Response to May 20: Muffled in paradise

  1. Robin Morris says:

    In US all this DSK stuff means is another name to add to the list of who has used power to get laid today… situation normal.

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