Je suis devastated

I’ve recently returned from a few days’ holiday at Center Parcs in northern France. For those of you who are not familiar with the CP brand, they offer activities, adventure and private accommodation pitched at families, in particular.

The twins (my partner’s granddaughters and mine, to all intents and purposes), their parents and the dog came with. We all had a jolly good time and the weather was truly amazing. All good.

Then, there was not so good, unwittingly caused by the dog. Not her fault, but under EU regulations, the dog must be wormed  between 24 and 72 hours prior to return to the UK from an EU country. For that to happen, we must visit a vet who administers the correct worming tablet and checks the dog is fit to return home. The dog has her own passport, in which the administering vet records the giving of tablet and her fitness to trip back home. We then hand over a disproportionately large amount of money relative to the process in question, but c’est la vie. We want our dog to accompany us on holiday as often as possible, and accept this is how we manage that.

On previous trips we have visited the same vet, in a Belgian town, which we know, about 1 hour from Calais. This time, it would have been miles out of our way to go to the same vet, so we located one in a nearby village to the Center Parcs at which we were staying. Whilst the girls threw themselves down water chutes and flowed down the lazy rivers of the swimming complex, we decided to make an occasion out of necessity and enjoyed a very pleasant lunch, en plein air, prior to attending the vet at the appointed time.

In lightning quick time, the veterinary process was complete, we were figuratively mugged for 38 euros and the dog enjoyed her extra treats for being such a good girl through it all. Rather than pay the inflated prices at the Center Parcs supermarket, I decided to do a food shop in the village supermarket. As anticipated, it was cheaper in there, so I bought some bits and pieces for our supper.

My French is rusty and imperfect, but I always give it a go, as I am very conscious that the British have a bad, imperial hangover in the way they expect everyone, across the world, to speak English, whilst making insufficient effort to learn other languages. So, there I am at the cash desk, burbling away in my schoolgirl French, only to be met by the perfect English of the guy operating the till. When this happens, I tend to continue in the language of the country, whilst the person I am speaking to continues to speak English, which is kind of weird, but I have a “started so I’ll finish” kind of approach to the whole business and plough on.

Anyway, I exchange some pleasantries with the till guy, then he asks me where I am going next. I say back to England. Quick as a flash, he gives me a hard look and says “why?”

I was taken aback and looked intently at him to try and check if he meant what I thought he meant. “What do you mean?” I asked, this time in English. He gave a wry smile and a little snigger and said “Nothing.”

Now I don’t know for sure, because I chose not to delve deeper, but I took his meaning to be related to Brexit, which is rather preoccupying the British people at the moment. Having been a Francophile since I went to France on a school trip, when I was 13, and having adored the French, their country and their lifestyle for so many years, I was a tad shocked to get this back at me, from the till guy, in a none too warm tone of voice. Is this how it’s going to be, I asked myself, as I stepped out into the autumn sunshine, which was casting a warm golden glow over the characterful buildings of the pretty village square? Despite the warmth, I felt a little chilled.

Anyway, I’m not going to use this blog to make political points, but on the way back to the park, I found myself reluctantly reflecting on the Brexit business, which I was hoping to avoid, whilst on holiday. My thoughts meandered on to the so-called democratic process and how it has operated around Brexit.

We’re told by those that claim to know, that Leave voters included many people who felt left behind and ignored by the influencing liberal elite in the UK. I don’t entirely buy this, as most of the Leave voters I have spoken to, voted that way, for different reasons. I confess, I haven’t spoken to that many, as I now try to avoid the topic as much as possible, because I’m so sick of it. I personally voted to Remain in the EU, but more people voted to leave, so there we are. I accept that and I just want us to get on with it and get to wherever we are going to get to.

One thought that struck me at the time of the referendum, to which I keep returning, despite myself, is this. I now fall into the category of people who feel left behind and ignored. Whether I am right to feel that way or not, is beside the point, for the purpose of this blog. The point is that I find myself wondering whether true democracy means different groups of people having to take turns to feel unhappy about their lot and it’s just my turn. Well, as they say, you have to take the rough with the smooth, but what about those who are in the majority, whose will is to be obeyed? Do those people get what they want, by virtue of being in that majority? I don’t think they do, because even within a majority grouping, there will be those who want something a bit different to others within that group.

Hmmm. Not sure about this democracy lark. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle… what were you thinking?

As with everything in life, I guess nothing is perfect, especially political and social systems. The older I get, the more I think, you just have to make the most of it and accept that people hold very differing views about things and you should try and listen to viewpoints, respectfully, even if you fundamentally disagree with them. Of course, there must be limits on individual freedoms to offend and harm, but shutting down discourse is not a tried and tested way of addressing grievances, in my opinion. Hopefully till guy would have accepted that, if I had put it to him, though I’m not in the habit of engaging in philosophical discussion whilst doing my food shopping.

Hey ho and on y va!

PS. Incase you’re wondering about the title, I wanted to use the French word désolé, but couldn’t get the accents to work on the letter é, in the title, only in the text, so I used my English translation instead. Doesn’t work half so well 😦