I copied this following quote from some media piece, which ran during the Scottish referendum frenzy. I believe that the author wanted to explain why France would not leave the EU. (Underlining is mine.) Unfortunately, I did not note the source nor can I recall. Nevertheless, I find that it rather nicely sums up the success/reason for being of the euro and the European Union.
“For the French, the euro is not some bureaucratic notion dreamed up in Brussels. It is a catastrophic life-insurance policy that France, and the rest of Europe, has written for itself against the possibility of a revived German nationalism. (The crucial number to keep in mind is not the value of the currency but the number of European deaths in the thirty years between 1914 and 1944: thirty million.) A forward-moving European Union has created an extraordinary island of prosperity and peace in the thousands of years of European war.”
The European Common Market was conceived, I believe, to prevent France and Germany from continually fighting wars. History had proved that these two liked to squabble with the latest military weaponry. Now, their economies have become so intertwined that war is (almost) unthinkable.
Something similar happened after the Iron Curtain disintegrated: trade links between former enemies mushroomed. Many thought that war would no longer be possible in Northern Europe. Sadly, they failed to reckon with the hopes and dreams of weapons manufacturers and jingo politicians. Although many countries are trying to salvage their own interests, while mouthing platitudes about justice for Ukraine, it seems that war is more attractive than commercial interests, especially for those living at a distance.
I will be interested to see if we will have gas to heat the house in the winter, since a large portion of German fuel supply comes from Russia and must transit Ukraine. Being selfish, I am more interested in my comfort (and survival) than the politics/freedom of Ukraine. Sad, but true.
I spotted the following headline in some newspaper, which made me think. I recalled the stuff called “white bread” that one finds for sale in US supermarkets. There is little resemblance to bread I buy at German bakeries or enjoy on trips to France.
White bread is not the dieter's friend: A new study claims it can foster obesity
French people, who eat well and are notoriously not overweight, have surely not seen this study. Few, if any, would agree with the result. Most would laugh and mumble something about crazy Americans. Anyone having spent even fleeting moments in France will recall seeing citizens carrying armloads of baguettes every morning and evening. Each citizen downs more than one “serving” of white bread a day and does not suffer from obesity. Perhaps the reason lies in eating bread made by a baker and not wrapped in plastic from a factory in New Jersey.
Why do Americans hate (or, rather, are told to hate) France, the French, and anything French. Few know anything about the country or culture the France. In contrast, Americans tend to like or tolerate Germany and things German (about which most know just as little).
History suggests that the US should be BFF with France, since they have always been allies and have never faced each other in war, unlike the Germans and British. Americans tend to forget (or never learn) that the Revolution was fought against the English (France was the only friend, because they hated the English), and Britain is the only nation to attack the United States. English troops set fire to the White House, but tend to be forgiven. Instead of appreciation for friendship, the French suffer denigration and insult. (Because of this, I refuse to order freedom fries.)
I believe the reason that American citizens are told to dislike France by politicians and media puppets is that the French do not respond to the beck and call of American leaders and tend to have a mind of their own. This is not allowed in the US worldview. Germans tend to be obedient by nature and suffer a bit from having lost two wars (with some rather appalling behavior during the last one). Like the kid that becomes water boy for the football team, because he is not big enough to play, Britain wants to hang out with the US and do its bidding. The French don't care about being liked or disliked; they just want things their way...just like Americans.
This is an interesting article, and not just for those interested in languages. What the guy writes makes sense, something rarely finds in opinion pieces.
Everyone should learn languages, but it helps if the one chosen is useful. When I was in school, the only language offered--language study was required--was French or Latin. I was smart enough to know that learning language was difficult...and worthless, so I chose the lesser of two challenges. I did not have any use for French, but I could imagine traveling to France at some point in my life. And, a version of the language was spoken just up the road in Quebec. Usefulness has been limited, although a few words do come back during vacations in France...only to be immediately forgotten upon crossing the border.
Now, I would urge anyone willing to listen to learn Chinese, because these folks will rule the world long after I am gone. The combination of English and Mandarin should be useful on the international stage. Anyone staying home, can get by with the local language, although knowledge of English will be useful for understanding entertainment products. I cannot imagine Chinese music or films conquering the world.
Some might have noticed gushing stories about the French president and his women: there are several and all are attractive (which cannot be said about him). This story does not surprise me.
I have a relative, by marriage, who lives in France. Although I have not seen her in years and have heard that she has become less so, she was a very attractive young woman. She never married, but did live with a number of men and has one child. None of this is interesting. What is interesting is that she has had (I believe they still meet) a long affair with a French politician, who has a wife and children. I recall hearing that he might have been a minister in one of the national governments. Her--and his--behavior seemed to be rather normal and accepted in France.
That's French. Besides offering lovely photos of flowers, I feel obligated to broaden a horizon or two. If at all possible...
Since France is known for culinary excellence (i.e. good food), the title fits to the below photo. Theoretically, this is a flower, but it's really blossoms of chives, which grow in my herb garden.
Closet editors and pedants out there can criticize the title, but I will ignore all. Potatoes, potatoes; tomatoes, tomatoes; herbs, flowers.
And, sharp eyes will have spotted the bee, which appreciates the blossom as more than I do...
This is not just any old flower. This one has a story and a pedigree (if flowers can have such a thing). The German name is Kornblume. If I look for this in a dictionary, I find several translations: cornflower, hurtsickle, bachelor’s button, cyani flower, bluebottle, and boutinnier flower. Take your pick. I’ll stick with the German, if anyone asks how my garden grows.
A friend brings back seeds from various vacation trips and plants them in his expansive garden. Each time I visit, he regales me about some flower’s provenance. I pretend to be interested, but do enjoy the sight of a pleasing blossom.
I received a seedling from said garden and planted it in my garden. The original seeds came from the Ile d’Oleron off the coast of France. I have visited that island. While vacationing there, I saved a man from drowning. That is my most-prominent memory. I do not recall seeing corn flowers.
When I was a child, my mother made lemon meringue pie. I recall enjoying this occasional treat with its subtle blend of sweet and sour.
Today, a nice lady gave me a lemon meringue tart made by a French pastry chef. I carried it in a small box to Geneva Airport and devoured it in the lounge while waiting for my plane to Frankfurt. This was my lunch.
This tart was perfect. I cannot imagine how anyone could produce a better one. French pastry chefs understand sweetness, or rather how to achieve perfect sweetness. Tarts, pies, and cakes might look the same, but all are too sweet (especially in the United States). And, no one can produce a crust like the French, with a subtle flavor of butter. Heaven.
...which is why Germans have a saying about “living like god in France” to denote luxury.
Today was different. I was driven to the airport, accompanied by Number One Grandson. He accompanied into the terminal, where he inspected the offer at the bookshop, while his father bought magazines.
I was fortunate to have had a flight at a calm time of the day, so there were no lines. I tried the check-in via internet and use of boarding pass in my phone, which worked surprisingly easily. The flight departed on time, with only one other passenger in Business Class. There were people in the back of the plane, but I did not count. Airline profitability is not my concern. For a one hour flight, the food was better than one receives in first class on a transcontinental flight on a US airline.
Lyon Airport is large, with two parallel runways. The airport is far too large for the traffic it must handle. Taxpayers have forked out a whole bunch of money to appease local politicians and continue to support a money-losing operation. I do not mind, because arrival was smooth and easy. I was able to meet my contact quickly and get on the road. Budget cuts being fought over in Washington are not an issue here.
The next pleasant surprise was the highway to Annecy. The road was wide and smooth, with little traffic. France is more rural and less populated that Germany, but that’s not the issue today.
I enjoyed a fine meal at my friend’s house, which sits on a hill above Lake Annecy. The local wine was excellent, and he had caught fish in the lake for dinner. I recalled stories about my grandfather rising early and catching fish for his breakfast. One could do that in Annecy.
Life in France continues to be good, despite what one reads in the media.
Tomorrow, I must talk for three hours to students of marketing. I have many stories to tell, advice to impart, and suggestions to make. It will be interested to learn if anyone is interested, in this day and age of the internet, in the ramblings of an old man that has been in the trenches....
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.