• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Christmas in rural France has never been a frenzied, splurging fest, but this year it seems it's barely being acknowledged

So, we're all still here then?

As I write slightly in advance, I'm still not 100% sure that we are, and I do hope I'm not tempting fate by assuming we are. Anyway, thanks to the power of advertising and Sky TV, I have other things on my mind.

Well, one major thing that is starting to drive me quietly crazy: the song, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.

That's the only line I know but it's going around and around my head on a non-stop loop. Occasionally I find myself singing it out loud, which has a disconcerting effect on my fellow supermarket shoppers but at least gives me a clear run down the aisles.

It's not even as if it's true. Christmas in rural France has never been a frenzied, splurging fest, but this year it seems it's barely being acknowledged.

A few days ago, as I was passing through a nearby village renowned for its pretty Noel lights on the square's main tree, I looked in vain for even a twinkle.

Instead someone had flung a garland of brightly coloured fake parcels up into its higher, naked arms as if Santa had got bored with chimney descents and was flinging all his toys out of the sleigh in spite.

Eventually I spotted a real Christmas tree, shoved in a corner of the bus shelter, looking slightly mortified at being found with two poor bows dressing its branches.

It was after that I began to look more closely at our other villages. All were somewhat subdued; some hadn't even lit the fete lights that remain up all year round and cover a multitude of events.

As the communes supply trees and decorations perhaps the fault is theirs. This year's theme, even in the larger towns, relies on simple fir tree branches sprayed with fake snow and draped over doors and windowsills. They're nice but not exactly dazzling with the promise of delights to come.

It's the same with the houses. In Lavit I have spotted only one plastic Santa climbing his rope ladder. This from the village which has given us Santas headfirst down the drains, full-size reindeer pulling snowmen along a tiny balcony, and memorably, a stuffed boar wearing an elf costume.

Actually, I'm still not quite sure of that. It may have been a hallucination after too many Christmas drinks.

By now M Dupont's barn should be outlined in flashing lights, a landmark landing pad for our passing alien, but no, not a happy flash to be seen as Portia and I creep fearfully out for her last pee.

The supermarkets of course have the usual huge displays of oysters, foie gras and fowl of every kind.

Orders have been taken for the mountain of seafood consumed on Christmas Eve and boxes of canapes and rich desserts are piled high in the cool counters; snails stuffed into choux pastry being this year's highlight.

Trolleys are still being laden with boxes of toys and the kitchenware and gadgets of which the French are inordinately fond. (Even I found myself pondering the vital acquisition of a mini blowtorch for creme brulee at one low point.)

Yet, there's a definite feeling of malaise. I can only think it is down to the semi-recession which is finally penetrating here.

Our social charges, local taxes and utilities have all gone up or are going up.

Our president seems committed to driving the richest and brightest from the country, blinkered to the fact they often take with them the jobs of thousands of others.

Blinkered to the fact his policies are not just hitting his hated wealthy but, increasingly, the already over-charged lower paid.

His opponents are silent, mired in a leadership contest that could destroy the party, and increasingly Sarkozy is talked of almost wistfully, even affectionately. That is how bad it has got, and I write as one with a strange fondness for tricky Nicky.

Quietly, the far right sit tight and dress themselves in the language of saviours.

But then I also wonder how truly deep this all goes. The French adore being miserable. It is their raison d'etre. Nothing is as paradoxically pleasurable as utter depression over the state of the nation, of life itself.

Now they have something to really navel gaze about. What bliss. We are at last beyond enigmatic shrugs and sighs. Statistics can be called into play; figures and percentages quoted to show how la France is being led up a path to disaster, caused by the English-speaking world.

Coming out of the newsagents in Lavit yesterday, I bumped into a friend of Pierrot's, Jean-Marie. We've met but thrice so I simply complimented him on his camouflage two-piece and asked how he was.

Half an hour later we parted with a double kiss.

I think he confirmed all of the above. In a nutshell: the bastards stole Christmas.

I've never seen him so happy. With grave nods and the odd "oui", I agreed with all he said.

His "Joyeux Noel" as we parted was heartfelt. As is mine to you.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas -

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

131979