Tomorrow sees the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. Fast-forward to today's world. What might people in the '40s have made of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Google? No-one could possibly have imagined how all this technology has changed the world for individual citizens. I remember, post-war, reading futuristic comics of flying cars and supermen, but nobody foretold of how in the future ordinary people would be empowered to learn and liaise via amazing instant technology, within the reach of everyone from Alaska to Africa to China. Hillary Clinton says the internet has become the world's town square, classroom, marketplace and coffeehouse. You'd think that wars would no longer be with us, now that individuals can talk things through so easily. Back in 1916 a Frenchman called Francois Georges-Picot tried to bring order to a chaotic world by re-drawing the Ottoman empire. But now? Yet another faction has emerged, vowing to restore and extend all these lands under its supreme domination. They have all the modern benefits of i-technology to liaise and consult freely with the people, but do they? No. Ancient barbarism reigns, yet again. Where is Superman when you need him?
It was over 50 years ago when I first fell in love with France. It was a school exchange and I was a shy, gawky14. Jacqueline Brient was a surprising 21 and very chic. She shared a bohemian flat, with its ornate tiny balcony overlooking the Left Bank. Across the street was a noisy, eclectic marketplace so redolent of Paris. Strong French cigarette smoke trails into my memory, together with that first meal. Haricot verts sizzled alone on the plate. I looked down and waited - surely there must be more? But no, so I ate and was amazed. The most delicious thing I'd ever eaten, mixed with what I now realise were baked garlic and onion. And then the train journey to the countryside around Blois where her parents lived. Walking through waist-high fields, golden with yellow daises, wild blue sage, cow-parsley and marguerites. Ah, such memories. But now? After nearly 10 years of living in France, have I fallen out of love? Certainly, the old loves still remain: le bien manger, le soleil, la qualite de la lumiere, coupled with the amazingly efficient health service. But, c'est bien evident: I have fallen out of love with les francaises. Just too cold and reserved, making me feel unloved, miserable and dejected. For the future? On verra.
Biggest flaw with what the US provides for its citizens? I'd always considered the US to be the best for customer care, but I was surprised. US health provision, despite tinkering around the edges by the new Obamacare, is still appalling. In France there are many things that fall short, but its health care provision is rightly the best in the world. I'm disappointed in Obama. As leader of the richest nation, he had every opportunity to bring French-style health care to US residents, but clearly he's failed. Here's what I found in one aspect. When immigrant seniors become US residents, it's impossible to find 100% health coverage. The system assumes that all seniors are automatically entitled to Medicare from life-time working in the US. So, both the immigrant senior plus the family-sponsor soon become bankrupt - one single treatment like radiation therapy can cost as much as $50,000! And if immigrant seniors have pre-existing health conditions, forget it. I know the US is founded on commercialisation but you can't run a health service with profit-seeking insurance companies - that runs completely counter to the patient's best interests. Come on Obama: send Ms. Burwell, new US Health Secretary, to France and see how a health service should be run! And Him indoors: I've come to barack Obama not to praise him...
The bells of Notre Dame were pealing on Friday. Not only did they commemorate 100 years since the start of WW1 in Paris but also the assassination of anti-war socialist Jean Jaures in a Paris cafe just before the war. What would he think of the world today? So many people losing their lives. But, things are murky. Historically, countries went to war to get rid of a tyrant, innocent civilians and soldiers being the inevitable casualties. Everyone accepted that, with no modern blow by blow analysis by incessant media intrusions. Just imagine if the world had told Churchill to stop fighting the madman Hitler because of innocent German casualties. But now? How on earth are we to get rid of insane terrorist organisations, whose sole purpose is to proselytise the whole world to their way of thinking, if everyone complains (however understandably) when there are casualties displayed in the media every waking moment? Neville Chamberlain would tell you. You can't negotiate with terrorism in any form. They'll just grow stronger and stronger, eventually taking over the whole world. The only way is to eliminate them completely. Netanyahu knows this from centuries and centuries of his people being attacked. Jaures had the best intentions, but the best way to deal with a festering boil is to lance it quickly and let the poison out.
As with most with E. European heritage, I like to complain about things all the time. And if life seems to be going right, don't say anything: you might be tempting fate. Years ago I used to argue with a Professor. He said never trust people, only machines. But I just don't get on with machines. Never have. Cars work every time for trivial journeys, but just when you need it for that urgent trip to the airport/hospital, that's when it decides to break down. I worry that this laptop will do the same just at a critical moment, so I've thought of getting another one. Being an old touch-typist, I need a qwerty keyboard + English system. Dell used to do both, but will no longer change the system in France. Amazon uk won't send laptops to France, so I thought I'd buy one when in the UK on a forthcoming trip. But for security reasons flights to/from the UK now require electronics to be powered-up at check-in. Can I do that with a brand-new, boxed-up laptop, or does it need a complicated set-up first? Him indoors says he'll just ask for a screwdriver. What? They don't sell alcohol at check-in. No, not to drink, just to open the box.
Terrible global air tragedy this week. Then there's that push for so-called passive euthanasia. In France remember Dr. Bonnemaison's decision to poison 7 terminally-ill patients? What on earth's wrong with the world? Too much emphasis on death - not enough on life! Here's my 'cure' for the world: The UN to assist every country to become a democracy; every voter to elect intelligent, economically-astute women leaders. France could have Christine Lagarde, Germany already has the excellent Angela Merkel, Burma has Aung San Suu Kyi, etc. Why? All wars and terrorist organisations are run by testosterone-driven men, hungry for yet more land and power who seem programmed to kill to achieve their aims. Women would deal with problems in a very different, calmer way! Above all, get rid of all weapons - their only purpose is to kill! My individual recipe to live longer: Against dementia: add turmeric to all meals (known to bind to plaque in the brain). Against degenerative disease: eat tinned sardines (B12). Against cancer: 1 glass of red wine from S.W.France (something in the terroir); broccali, 75mg aspirin p.d. (G.P.s take this); lemons + baking soda; bright-coloured veg, no red meat. Always buy food 'without a label' - natural/unprocessed. Remember Him indoors: Doctor, it's not younger I want to be, but older.
French National Day tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it around here. The Gaillacoise all look so miserable, you'd think they were English! Don't know whether it's because France lost the World Cup, Mauresmo's protegee lost Wimbledon or simply because the weather's changed unseasonably into Autumn. Whatever. Of course the French think the 14th is all about Federalism, but the rest of the world calls it Bastille Day, a time when the mob ran riot cutting off the heads of their own royalty. And yet look how they admire English royalty now, in June practically fawning over the Queen. My feeling is the French are fed up with 'common' Presidents like Hollande and have a desperate need to look up to someone they can respect, over and above scheming politicians. Perhaps now is the time to bring back from exile handsome and debonair Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou with his young family, including a ready-made next Dauphin de France . Now that would cause a stir and revive l'esprit de coeur over here. Mind you I wouldn't be in Louis' shoes, thinking of what happened in the past. He'll certainly need a strong head on his shoulders.....