But be careful if you think that that being in the home of liberté means doing as you please. France has for decades
laboured under a bureaucratic, centrist administration that likes people to stay where they are put,
and do nothing to cause trouble. Once you choose a career path, teaching say, it's almost impossible to change to something else
afterwards. The French government has passed a series of measures to stamp on regressive elements in society. Begging
in the streets? Six months. Being an itinerant? Six months.
Hanging around stairwells with your homeys? Two months. And if you want to want to seek out a French tickler
for a bit of naughty Parisian fun as seen on TV? Racolage passif: six months.
By the way, if you feel this is state oppression and you want to fight back, and decide to demonstrate against the
injustice of the system? Insulting
the French flag: six months and a 7500 euro fine.
Blaming the Emigrés
While the English are blundering around the south of France pretending to know something
about wine, many of the young French are sneaking off the other way, to live in London and
pretend to know everything about everything.
You might suppose the main reason for doing this is to complain about the English weather
and insult the local food, two activities no doubt satisfying in themselves: "Call that a paté,
foouf, I could dig a better paté from under my fingernails. And to live under these clouds all day,
this sky must be made out
their insipid sliced bread."
But then you ask them, you must long to go back to France?
"France? France? That country of narrow minded parochials and petty bureaucrats? Where everyone thinks
they're so clever and posh? My God, no, who'd want to live there..."
La Prochaine Télésiege
Even below me now, the mists are clearing. The mountain tops all around are a brilliant, searing white,
the sky the shining blue of daydreams and children's paintings. I look across to the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc
swaggering, French-style, in their timeless perfection. There's eighteen inches of pure, fresh snow on the
hillsides today and we're going to leave our tracks as much of it as possible. No time to waste
on the manicured pistes, we'll take our chances on the rocks and trees, and bounce down the snow drifts
and soft rivulets between the runs, burying ourselves just for the fun of it.
All aound us charge the French, skiing in perfect style in their spotless outfits,
eating the best, drinking the best, arguing fluently. This is their country. Cocky bastards.