The right to be heard

I hate things that start “I don’t usually post this sort of thing” but, I don’t usually post this sort of thing, I’m generally keener on putting up photos and little pieces on the local area. but I have felt more and more emotional about this, and it came to a head last weekend when I had to announce to my fellow councillors that I would unable to stand at the next local elections and could hardly get the words out for the lump in my throat.

I remember the first time I voted when I was 18. I remember several occasions when getting to the polling station was not easy, but I got there. I remember taking my little brother with me to show him how to vote and telling him how important it was (he was 10 and the lady at the polling station objected to me taking him into the booth with me.) For me as I’m sure it is for most people voting is both a duty and a right.

Since I have lived in France I have had a postal vote for UK general elections and of course for the referendum (despite having always been pretty anti referendums in general) as well as a vote here for municipal and European elections. For the last 6 years I have also had the honour of giving something back to my community as a local councillor.

Suddenly everything is changing. As things are at the moment, when the current mandate finishes in March I will be unable to stand again, what’s more I will be unable to vote for those who do. My right to vote as a European is being taken away and from July, when I have been here 15 years, I will also lose my right to a vote in the UK. I will be without a voice anywhere. It could happen that my son, born in the UK but in France since he was 4 and who has just turned 18 may never have the right to vote.

People will say, “go for French nationality” and I intend to do so. So does my son. But it’s not really the point; Whilst I am deeply committed to my adopted country, even more so to my local community, I feel more European than French. I find people are generally happy to celebrate the diversity that different backgrounds bring, I am no less Bournazeloise or Aveyronnaise when I’m also British-European. Unfortunately along with my vote I feel I am losing a part of my sense of self and my worth as a citizen. One of the best things about the European Union is just that…the union of the countries, I have come to feel at home here, part of the community whilst still being British.

I may have adopted many of the local ways of life, I may feel, very much part of this community, but I spent 44 years in the UK before I came here. I speak French well but with a British accent, I still come across occasions when my attitude is more British than French, I still make mince pies at Christmas. It is who I am. Part of who I am is being taken away along with my right to do anything about it.

How can all the struggles towards universal suffrage be so casually forgotten.

Spring Clean

I saw this on Facebook the other day, the virtues of dandelions are not exactly a revelation around here. They are a vital part of the end of winter detox, after a winter of meats preserved in fat and a lack of fresh vegetables.

people are out and about as soon as the dandelions or “pissenlits” (literally wet-the-beds) raise their heads above the ground. The tannic bitterness of the leaves in a salad certainly feel like they’re cutting through the winter fat lining your arteries, although the traditional addition of lardons or preserved gizzards does seem a bit counter-intuitive!

Now research is showing that years of tradition does have factual backing, dandelions are a rich source of beta-carotene and polyphenolic compounds, both of which are known to have strong antioxidant effects.
And some tests now seem to be showing they have anti cholesterol properties as well as protecting the liver tissue from toxic substances and oxidative stress. Music to the ears of the people of the South West of France who at times seem to be a little obsessed with their livers.

Another bitter “vegetable” which is very popular is respounchous/répounchous, (i’ve seen other spellings) which are the bitter shoots of ” tamis commun ” a plant usually considered poisonous in Britain.

You can see people of all ages, sometimes several generations at once, clambering around in the hedgerows to pick the shoots to make a salad or an omelette. So lovely to see the tradition being preserved.

“Tanous” another word from the local patois are the shoots of over wintered bolted brassicas. In keeping with the local attitude to food, nothing is wasted and these are gathered into bunches and sold by smallholders at local markets. These are also blanched and served as a salad. I love them “tiede” with an olive oil and lemon dressing although that is certainly not traditional! What! No hard boiled eggs, no lardons!

First day of Spring

It’s the first day of spring and as the sun shines, the mood improves and I finally feel motivated to take a stroll.

Chapelle

Starting at the Chapelle I head down to let the chickens out and realise that the frost is still clinging on in shady corners

The violets are edged with frost.

But as I continue along the path out onto the open the sun is warmer and the spirits lift.

The birds seem to be out in force too. They flit from tree to tree and a hawk skims across the field.

As I complete my circuit and head back towards the village I see other people brought out by the sun and discuss the merits of a morning stroll in the sun.

Back towards Portail Bas. The road is edged by trees in blossom.

Back at the house my cat waits patiently .