France is quite literally part of my DNA. Almost every year we had French visitors of one sort or another – distant relatives, students etc etc. I even spent one Summer teaching French students English. It always struck me how effortlessly chic they all seemed. I was looking at Louis Vuitton handbags the other day and a long forgotten memory reached up from my subconscious. I remembered how a French lodger who had once stayed with us for a while, had owned a Louis Vuitton handbag. I was little more than a toddler at the time but somehow a vision of that handbag had found its way into my brain.
Almost every year growing up we had either had a French visitor or had actually visited France. Dad had even taken us to a French war cemetery. One French visitor whom I had found particularly fascinating. had given me a silver charm bracelet, complete with an Eiffel Tower and an Arc de Triomphe among other things. He had also me a given me a huge book entitled ‘This is Paris‘, which I had adored. I had known F was vaguely related but none of us had known how. I had been told how F had been imprisoned and had almost faced the firing squad during WW2, as he had been part of The Resistance. I sadly recall The Arc de Triomphe had fallen off my bracelet even before he had left. This memory had resurfaced when my daughter had also lost one of the charms, as I have now passed my bracelet on to her.
My aunt had introduced me to French culture and Edith Piaf.My French is reasonably fluent so I have taught both English to French students and in my last job in the UK I taught English students French.
It was interesting to take my Australian youngsters to France and to realise they did not seem to have that same connection. My daughter did however, appear to develop French mannerisms, while we were there. We had stayed in a beautiful old flat and I had remembered the film Sarah’s Key and had wondered what dramas the flat may have seen.
I love French literature. One book in particular stays with me.
I think it is one of the most passionate books I have ever read and yet Jeanne only fleetingly acknowledges the German officer upon his departure. The German soldier persists and tells them ( Jeanne and her father) about himself. Meanwhile Jeanne quietly falls in love with him. He eventually heads off to the Russian Front totally disillusioned with the cause for which he is fighting. I found the book absolutely heart-wrenching. At one point the German officer in the book speaks of the greatness of French literature and German classical music. When I have talked of Europe to my youngsters, I have talked in similar terms. We may be very diverse but we Europeans are all inextricably linked by our struggles.
Brexit may seek to take Britain out of the European Union but you will never take the European out of this particular woman.
Celia M Torres https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC98SHBfEH2Ws8ev3UQlndaQ
You Tube Movies https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClgRkhTL3_hImCAmdLfDE4g