I'm going to be honest - I have at least another week of work to do for the project I am working on. It has been hard to see the end of it and my motivation has dipped to record lows. I have had to strictly prohibit trips to the allotment or writing posts until it is finished, and even spent 3 hours working on Boxing day. But my mind still try's to find other escapes and distractions!
So I spent a few days regularly checking for news from the tragedy in France and watching in horror as the events following the attack on Charlie Hebdo unfolded.
I like France. When my kids ask me where in the World I would like to go on holiday I always say France. Of course they always moan because they have dreams to travel the World and see amazing sights, and as far as they are concerned they have already ticked France off the list several times. But the next holiday I am planning will be in ...France :-)
Why? Because of the fresh croissants in the morning. They are nothing like the pre-packaged ones that you can buy in the supermarkets in the UK. It is worth getting up early and walking to the local Boulangerie, which you will find in every village, just for the delicious taste and texture of soft, warm, fresh croissants. Mmmm......heaven!
The French know this - how important it is to have delicious, fresh and varied food. It really makes you feel good to savour a delicious meal, even if it has taken all day to make, and meant sourcing ingredients from several different farms or markets. Just a slice of bread or a juicy tomato tastes better in France, because everything is about freshness, quality and the pleasure it brings, rather than just for hunger. It feels like we have lost this in the UK....if we ever had it.
And this is what shapes France, in my mind. It is why they still have a culture of lots of small rural farms and markets, and they fight companies like Amazon in order to retain small local businesses. It is why the Farmers have a voice and are quite willing to muck-spray government buildings or dump rotten cabbages outside, if the government ignores their needs. It is freedom of speech and more still. It is a population who reject TV dinners and demand better. It is a population who know that they have the power to object to stupid government or EU policies and to provoke a change. I'm not happy about it, but I am sure we would just grumble behind closed doors in the UK.
This is why it is always fascinating to see where the French stand on World affairs. The UK prime minister just parrots whatever the US have said and votes how they vote. But France doesn't always follow the rest of the flock. Look at the lead up to the war in Iraq, when Tony Blair was falling over himself to please President Bush, but the French had their own opinion and took a lot of bad press from the US for it. I seem to remember there was a boycott of French fries ?!?
And more recently President Hollande has been talking about ending the sanctions on Russia. Once again taking an independent line that is counter to that of the US. Here is what President Holland is reported to have said.
Mr Hollande said Russian President Vladimir Putin "doesn't want to annex eastern
Ukraine - he told me that"............
..............."The sanctions must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the
sanctions will stay in place," Mr Hollande told France Inter radio.
On 15th January there will be a summit between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, which may lead to a decision on sanctions. It will be interesting to see what the French decide to do.
For today though there are mass rallies in France. I worry that it will provide a target for more attacks and I hope that the day remains peaceful and that the worst is over for the people of Paris. My thoughts are with the 17 killed in Paris, and also with the hundreds of thousands killed around the World by extremist forces. Let's hope that 2015 brings peace.