Saturday 9 July 2016

July: The Little Family is back (for better or for worse)! Good news / bad news ?

Some news from The Little Family who is now firmly rooted in July, warmth, sunshine, early mornings (when possible), sometimes late nights if there is something from the summer music and theatre festivals on TV, fruits, vegetables like courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, nectarines, soon melons... 

And soon the Great House Scouring Party on the 21st of July, the day Anne-Fleur celebrates her birthday. As you know she will be 57 and cannot remember it because she sees such discrepancy "between her age and what she feels inside" - so she told me.

Add to this the Fête nationale (we never call it Bastille Day in France) on the 14th, Anne-Fleur's saint day on the 26th (Sainte Anne), and you may imagine what an eventful month we are living!

And we already went - no, this is not true - I went through three events this week: one good, one less good, and another that does not concern us/me directly, but that I wish to mention.


 There has been a leak for months in the loo. It was nothing important, nevertheless the noise was irritating and we were wasting water. The plumber had been ready to intervene since February but the finance administrator had given no green light for laziness, carelessness, and slackness. In the end all these were remedied and the plumber came at the beginning of the week. It took him ten minutes and a piece of black plastic to mend the leak. He has been working for us for some time now as he is the famous boiler man as well. In fact, he is the boss of a little enterprise nearby; he comes from time to time to do an odd job and overlook what his employees have been doing.

So, this job done, he stayed for a few moments, on the little terrace of the kitchen, talking to me. And then came the genuine kind word that was THE revelation for me! "Do you remember the first time I went? You were really ill then. You looked... You looked... Well, you looked badly ill. Now, you look..." Trailing voice. I get an appraising glance. "You look normal."

YES! For a non-professional like Dr Quack or social workers or, even, the Socializing/Shopping Lady, I look normal. I told this to a friend who said that there had never been a moment that I was not normal. If I was disabled, it was by illness, stress and strain. If I still was slightly disabled, it was as a consequence of the stress and strain. But at no time I was or am mentally handicapped or disabled.

Hooray! I am normal!


 BUT... Why is there always a "but"?

The Socializing/Shopping Lady is not as interested as she was before by The Little Family. She thinks that we are difficult patients. We do not want to "socialize". We spend our time in books, classical music, magazines, quiet occupations that we may lead alone, and this is definitely not normal. We should be going out more. Why don't I create some "social link" with The Girls going shopping with them? Why don't we go to the gym together? Why don't we have activities outside the house together? 

I told her that we had always found our happiness in reading, writing, listening to music, not in moving much, and not in doing the activities offered by the associations of The Village. That we were Townees. That we liked quiet. And that, plainly speaking, I was very, very happy to be left in perfect solitude, three hours a week, at home, while she was taking The Girls shopping. She watched me with a look of incomprehension, commiseration, and disdain. I was saying that I could be happy without The Girls. This is heretic when you are a parent or a sibling of handicapped people. They must be the Light of your Life. 

Therefore, she leaves us more and more into other hands: she is on holidays, she cannot come for such or such reasons, she is not available, etc. It seems that after some unpleasant fluctuations, we have a rather permanent Stand-In Lady who started this afternoon. As I did not know who and how she would be, I decided to go shopping with The Girls to test our Substitute Lady.

She was nice to The Girls, polite with me, and helped me, although she was clearly dejected not to  decide to which supermarket we were going, not to have to push the trolley (Anne-Fleur's task), not to make the menus (I had made them and then the shopping list accordingly), not to choose what to buy (ditto the shopping list plus the calculator to keep an eye over the spending). 

Coming back, while she was driving, she asked me: "But who is the mentally handicapped person? YOU are the one, aren't you?" I was utterly dismayed. 

Boom! Live with Down Syndrome people and YOU are the mentally handicapped one! Now I have to think very, very hard at what the plumber said. And I have to use the méthode Coué: "Je suis normale, je suis normale, je suis normale..."

No, truly: I am laughing.


The third event happened on Thursday night.

There were semi-finals in the European Football Cup and France was playing Germany. France won the World Football Cup in 1998 with a team that was called "Black, Blanc, Beur", which means that there were Black, of Arab origin, and White players. This had a very positive, if not lasting, effect on French society. We understood that we could be united, together, do something, and win. There was no question of skin colour or creed anymore. We were together.

Since then, there was the financial and economic crisis, the rise of the Extreme Right (Front National), the Arab Spring, DAESH, ISIS, Syria, Iraq, terrorism, attacks, racism again. Meanwhile the French team behaved like spoiled children, money came in, new generations came, and we did not even play one match in the World Cup on South Africa, on a whim. The French players went to the stadium but refused to get off the bus. We left the competition far, far before the semi-finals, at the very beginning of the competition! It has now taken years to build another team and we were not too sure of it!

Slowly, this year that France is host to the European Championship, the new French team went up, up up, match after match. Until we played Germany yesterday. It was in Marseilles, which is a difficult town with lots of problems with racism and violence. We were not too confident in a French victory and we were already congratulating ourselves that we had been so far! 

And we won!

I am not much interested in sports, even less in football. The Girls do not understand the game. We watched a film against racism on another channel. When it was over, I turned to Channel 1 and we saw the French players being applauded and applauding the supporters in the stadium. I understood that we had won. It was confirmed: 2 for France and 0 for Germany. But what was beautiful was this new "Black, Blanc, Beur" team and the usually oh so racist public sharing a moment of collusion and of joy. Tomorrow - that is Saturday evening - France will play Portugal in the final. We may well lose. I hope not. It would be wonderful to live another complicity moment between the team and the country. This would soothe the rise of racism, the horror of the difference, the fear of the refugee, the idea of a Frexit. I long for another time like the one that followed the victory of 1998.

And I want to thank England. There were different teams representing the UK, England represented England. While the English were playing in Marseilles, and after, as they left the competition rather early, English supporters created and built a "synthetic" stadium in one of the multiracial, difficult, and violent suburbs of Marseilles. This will allow youths of different origins to come and play together. 

 The UK voted for Brexit. But who says that all British are racists? Thank you, England. Thank you, UK. This is the way we like you.


  1. I'll start with the soccer very quickly.

    Want to send you two stories.

    Why Portugal will win Euro 2016
    Why France will win Euro 2016

    Yay for synthetic turf! Went for a walk today and saw the tennis courts in action. It is an oval path with a basin and pipes in it and a skate park too. Then ate at a souvlaki shop. There were 20 cars in between and many roll-on animals that children go on like panthers and cheetahs as well as fantastic creatures.

    Claude really knows how to paint - he of the salt and vinegar.

    Wanted to talk about The Mighty writing opportunities.

    Chronic Illness
    Mental Illness
    Down Syndrome

    Coue and his autosuggestions are known and taken into account.

    And that bloody toilet leak!

    In July there is Wattle Day and Tree Day which is on the 31st July.

    Glad you found your I, Camille.

    Entrepreneurs like to see their clients feeling and getting better in some way due to their work.

    And this whole BUT about the Ladies and their respective behaviours and relationships.

    Artificial turf in Marseilles - the sod has to be laid and the people will come and play.

    International Piano Competition is on my mind.

    Here is someone who is terrific at meal planning:

    Red the cook, chef and meal planner - he got his mate to lose weight and live healthy too

    1. You seemed to have had a nice walk and lunch!
      I wanted to have paintings about summer, fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc.
      Thank you for The Mighty writing opportunities. This is interesting.
      I wished to underline that the English were not bad racists who voted for the Brexit but they did something very positive in Marseilles with the artificial turf and stadium in the difficult suburbs. I am not particularly interested in sports and soccer. I hate it when they are used as "panem et circenses". But if they unite and lessen such a thing as racism, why not?
      A friend told me in an email that the Ladies were "imbeciles". I like him for his directness. This is what I think most of the time. But their story would take too long to be told here. Let's say that they have a smattering of psychological facts, no diplomas, no instruction, but think all the people they come to help are poor mentally deficient people. Of course, this is not exactly the case here, and I intend them to do as I wish and not that I do as they wish. Even if I am very, very polite when they are not. But politeness is a strength - something they do not understand. This leads to misunderstandings from them. I laughed at the Stand-In comment.
      Meal planning: when we were in Paris, The Girls were seeing a dietitian and I have a list of what they may or may not eat and the way to make menus. Of course, I have to think hard one morning a week, but I find this less tiring than thinking every day and most of all less expensive. I balance the meals afterwards with the what was too much with what too much in earlier ones.

    2. And it is a directness I still appreciate. Even if it does mean throwing people under the bus.

      I got through life with "at least a smattering of psychological facts". And it is what I do with these facts that taught me - I must help people as they are equals.

      Here is the Mighty article which is fantastic:

      Leslie Johnson writes about Ramey - there are some suggestions for the Ladies

      This is a story we needed to see.

      Glad to see your approach to meal planning. Uncle has been known to keep a list.

      I did have a nice walk and lunch, thank you!

      Have discovered tre [3] Criniti pizzas + pizza dough from my Sunday visit. Ate a multigrain salad with jalapenos and many things including aioli. A fig salad is supposed to be mainly figgy!

      Pizza lessons at Criniti's

      A tasting menu

      Then yoghurt in a self-service shop a few doors away. Yo-Chi is the store and there is Hanoi Hannah too.

      Leftovers are awesome.

  2. What was the anti-racist film you watched?

    1. It is called "Michou Daubert" and is a officially a comedy for families but is much, in depth. During the Algerian war, two brothers are taken from their Algerian family living in a suburban town north of Paris (Aubervilliers - Auber for short) because their mother is terminally ill and their father cannot cope alone. They are sent to the same village in the countryside in the centre of France. The elder goes to a family who treats him in between an animal and the lowliest domestic. The youngest is sent to a family who receives such children with more compassion and love. They already have a teenager with Down Syndrome who is working in the garden for them. The wife, Giselle is nice and quiet; the husband, Georges, is the postman of the village, a drunkard, an ex-military man who fought in the Indochina war and came back with marsh-fever, hatred of "Viets" and of all people who are not French and white. When Giselle welcomes the little Messaoud, she is afraid of Georges' reaction when he comes to see they have ot a little Algerian boy. She colours his hair blonde, she changes his name into Michel (Michou for short), says that his is from the North (of France). By chance, the schoolmaster is in love with her and pro-free Algeria, therefore accepts the boy in his class as Michel Daubert (d'Aubervilliers makes Daubert). The priest remembers how he made false certificates for Jewish children saying they were good Catholics, and does the same for the little Muslim boy. From there onward, the story is that of the changes Georges undergoes, racism in the village, racism against Michou, the difficulties of his brother and finally his flight, a portrait of the deep France during the Algerian war, etc. In the end, Georges and Giselle have made atrue family with Michou whom they want to adopt as their son as there has been now two years that they have had no news from his family. But when everything is ready for the adoption, the father and the elder brother come back to fetch Michou who has to become Messaoud again. He will live again in Paris suburbs as an Algerian boy (harki). Nevertheless, Georges fulfills his last promise and takes the little boy the sea (as figure of reunion and freedom).
      This is not very intellectual but this is the kind of film we can watch all three together and that I can explain to The Girls and then discuss with them. There is an allusion of "L'Etranger" by Camus, another thing I can explain? It leads us to geography, history, literature, ethics, etc. It is the best way I have found to tech them things.

    2. Ah, evacuees!

      Seeing the difference between the brothers and their lives is important.

      I can see the Daubert and what the priest did.

      And Michou lives again in Paris and sees the sea.

      Film as teaching method is wonderful. A few years ago someone was doing a homeschooling unit of Filmosophy...

  3. The insistence on our very identities depending on our socializing with others, so that we almost don't exist unless we do, links with the theoretical stance that much of our behavior is performative. Now when we are alone we have no audience, so now we need Lacan to explain that we imagine how others would regard what we are doing alone. That covers that gap neatly.

    19th century people would have been astounded at this extrapolation from daily life. 18th century writers enjoyed saying how people like to herd together so they can prey on one another more easily -- that's John Gay in The Beggar's Opera.

    I suspect this new definition of what is natural and normal (policing words) comes from the need to network to get a job nowadays. There was much less in the 19th century, and civil service exams might be seen as a culmination of a century where skills needed to do a job were what people focused on verbally. Probably the survival of Robinson Crusoe so sanely is a naive myth but it has shored up many a reader yearning for independence.


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