23 June 2011

213. My world

 My world, i.e. my place, my environment, my identity, who I am, where I live, my specific reality... To define my world quite specifically is my aim here to-day in this post.

It feels awkward. How do I start? Perhaps by describing my immediate environment. A HP computer set on a do-it-yourself blue desk, next to an old kitchen cupboard inherited from my father, where a home-made earthenware vinegar pot stands with a bottle of oil, a mustard jar and a homemade garlic container. This is situated just under the inside eaves of a loft, above a derelict old house built some 2 or 3 centuries ago. Swallows occupy the bottom part of this house where a not so famous rebel Christian reverend was born in 1860. I was born next door in 1944. Outside, complete silence. The village has 3 streets and the traffic is mainly of large farming machinery going past full blast at times.

I am French and I live in France. The point is that I spent many years of my life in various English speaking countries, mainly in the South Pacific, and therefore my French identity can appear somewhat blurred to some. But I was indeed brought up as a French kid in the 1950's in a well-to-do family of farmers, forresters and industry owners. My deep sitted manners come from that upbringing.

The basic essence of being French is:
1. to be an aesthete, i.e. a person who has a highly developed appreciation of beauty (Collins dictionary) and
2. an epicurean, i.e. a person devoted to sensual pleasures as per the philosophy of Epicurus.

It means in real life that I was taught to do nothing without making it look beautiful, e.g. setting the table with care and taste, wrapping my school books with care and taste, looking after myself and my belongings with care and taste. It means also that taking pleasure in eating or resting or listening to music or admiring a landscape was far from frowned upon but actually encouraged. Making the best of a pleasurable moment was not frowned upon. I came across puritanic ways much later in my twenties in foreign lands.

Why do I write all this actually?

Because I've had 3 different sets of visitors recently and 2 of them have been downright painful. In my 50 square meter loft I have my bed at one end and 2 bunk beds at the other end. When I have visitors we share the middle part with a table and kitchen facilities as well as the bathroom at my end of the loft. It is always hard to share one's abode with strangers. In one case it was really nice. In the two other instances it was unpleasant, awful and quite disturbing.

Strangely the nice instance was with a young woman who could have been my own daughter, not a native English speaker and not knowing much French but of a continental European nationality. We spent a month together in harmony, respecting each other's ways and curious of each other's national identities and cultures.

The two painful instances came from people of my own generation... of Anglo-saxon background. I am not writing this post to throw fuel on the ancient hatred between the French and the... Saxons! I just want to explain how I felt so very insulted by their lack of curiosity of my ways, in my own country in my own house. How can I be more precise without sounding nasty?

In my teens I used to spend my summer school holidays in the family of my German or English penfriend. It went without saying that in somebody else's house I was to behave with respect and humility. I had to learn anew how to behave at the table, ask about kitchen manners and so on. I would never have dreamed of taking over or demanding what I was used to. It was a great school of observation actually. When I arrived at my in-law's in Australia much later I found I had to adapt to yet another set of rules. In Australia in the 1960's other than British immigrants were not happily tolerated. The request to comply to their ways was very heavy. I did comply but it was a heavy twist on my personality and I ended up leaving the country in the end.

This experience makes me touchy to anybody entering 'my world' nowadays. I do expect anyone under my roof to be respectful of my ways and not take it for granted that I live like they do.


Paige Hadley said...

Dear Frankie,
I visited your blog for the first time today and, reading this post, was quite surprised and delighted by what you said about your identity. It really made me think, which is certainly a lovely sensation. I really treasure what you stated as the essence of being French: being aesthetic and epicurean. Those two qualities are beauitful together and sound very healthy and wonderful. I think myself that the basic essence of being Australian is humility, friendship and authenticity, but time has made these things less obvious in our culture. When I blog and write, I sit at a laminated wooden desk at a small Lenovo laptop who I fondly christened 'Herbie'. Beside me to the left is a plastic jar of pens on which is glued old stamps and pictures of places I would like to visit, and a china mug of pencils. In front of me is a china milk jug in the shape of a dog in which sits a cluster of fine paintbrushes, a candle holder, a photograph of a beautiful dog from my past and a perfect skimming stone. To my right are folders and notebooks of various sizes. It is quite a lovely place to be, near the door to my balcony.

Thankyou Frankie and take care.

Frankie Perussault said...

Thank you so much for your comment. I've added your blog on my blog list.

Paige Hadley said...

Thankyou Frankie. Yes, it does sound like we've got a fair bit in common. (The quotes are on my bedroom wall and I often look at them while I'm writing. George Orwell has said some very true things about the process of writing, my favourite being "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as if it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink." That is one of my favourite quotes.)

I am going to come and Follow your blog, and I will try to comment on each new post if I can.

You might be interested in my blog, too, because I talk a lot about the books I am reading. What authors / books do you love most?

Pandabonium said...

I have found it was easier to share my "space" when I was young and became progressively more difficult as I grew older. Maybe that is just me getting more inflexible.

Yet, my 30 years in Hawaii gave me an appreciation for the ways of the people of many cultures and traditions that share those islands, and taught me to treasure the differences.

So perhaps I have just become intolerant of intolerance. "Everyone has got to be just like me" is a recipe for dischord and unhappiness, and totally unacceptable behavior for guests in anyone's home.

I hope you have more pleasant experiences in the future. Perhaps you should chose to spend time with more younger people.

Frankie Perussault said...

...to treasure the differences, that's exactly it. Before you treasure them, you've got to be curious about them. Perhaps kids should be told at school to 'treasure the differences' rather than to smooth them out as if the world was just one big play ground!