For many of those who retire to France there is a certain schadenfreude in scanning the day-old UK papers, an undoubted dark pleasure in reading out further proof of broken Britain to each other.
And of course it is even more pleasurable when it's done while sitting beneath the bougainvillea, sipping wine as the honeybees flap lazily around.
Be it yet another horror tale from the creaking NHS, photographs of drunken teenagers in city centres, stories of random murders, or the latest immigration figures, all are grist to the expat mill of self-delusion, proof that their decision to come here was the right one, the only one.
And at the dinner-party table that night - for there is always a dinner party happening somewhere in expat land - they will tut and shake their heads in mock sadness.
They'll sweepingly gesture to the outside world of our hidden corner and trade accounts of kindly peasant neighbours, superior health treatment, natural courtesy, life as it used to be - blah, blah, blah.
Should there be French at the table, these natural colonialists whose lips may still tremble on hearing Jerusalem, will happily sell out their homeland, vying with each other for more and more outre examples of a UK gone to les chiens.
The French find this, I'm told, rather deplorable. While they can berate every aspect of life here, they close ranks if foreigners attack. They thought we were the same.
Few understand how, or more importantly, why, we all washed up here, yet they nod politely when told it's because they live in a fifties time-warp; that is the mythical watershed, when all that was good "back home" existed and then vanished.
Actually they find it rather insulting to be apparently living in a museum to the past.
Particularly when it's not even their past.Were I French listening to this and able to follow an English forum currently debating "what do you not miss about the UK", I would scrub any thoughts of ever setting foot in such a vile and evil "fosse septique".
Have I been away too long? Have you all gone feral, and when not crawling around the city centres vomiting and showing your knickers, you're lying in a hospital corridor amid the filth of an uncaring service?
Are your old people so unloved and ignored they are dying alone in droves with state carers ticking boxes instead of cleaning backsides?
I started this column after a day of news in the French press that revealed that the body of a debt-ridden man who hanged himself in his Paris flat had just been found. Eight years later. During which time his flat had been repossessed and auctioned off.
The hall was littered with demands from his residents' association to pay his dues.
In the past few months there have been other stories of death behind closed doors, bodies discovered months or years later.
A new survey has shown that five million people, or 12% of the population over 18, are living solo lives without family, friends, social interaction or community support. Lonely lives.
It is accepted that's an underestimate, and the bulk of those are elderly.
Police and politicians are becoming increasingly disturbed at the rise of binge drinking - in the Anglo fashion - and drunkenness among the young.
Racist attacks are on the rise; the socialist government courts the far right by dragging a young girl off a bus for deportation while smashing down Roma encampments; strikers clog the streets in major cities and towns as taxes rise; and Hollande thrashes around ideologically incapable of doing what's necessary.
No country presents a pretty picture when viewed from afar through the limited lens of its worst excesses.
There are truths and distortions in all we view and we ultimately must accept that cities and large towns, wherever they are, are cruel and indifferent wombs.
But here, in rural France and in the bucolic pockets of the UK, we're still different - aren't we?
God knows in my early time here I warmly extolled in these pages those same sentiments I've just apparently demolished today: time-warp, fifties, reminder of Irish rural childhood, caring neighbours …
I see them still but through more aware and educated eyes.
And much as I and the other expats would love them to remain fixed, they won't and can't.
For now the old people around here are still, in the main, cherished, respected and looked after.
The children exhibit a drummed-in politeness and a rare sweetness and gravity when dealing with their elders.
There is a great sense of community and continuity.
Yet. Yesterday I heard news of a woman I realised I knew. Not knew, but held up in my head as the perfect, contented rural old Frenchwoman when I passed her tending her potager or walking out to church. The woman in the pinny with the stout shoes and the lisle stockings.
It now appears she was never particularly mentally strong or even happy, and at the age of 70 she killed herself.
Passing her almost daily I had invented her life, for me.
It seems we're all broken in some way, no matter where we live.
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