Strange how something that seems so regular, so constant, even rut-like with nothing on the horizon to disturb it can come to an end just like that! Take an ordinary person’s everyday “Treadmill” life. You get up in the morning, go to work and then go home in the evening… day in, day out… until something out of the blue happens. Sometimes it’s a bereavement, sometimes it’s a rupture, sometimes it’s a separation and sometimes it happens because you’ve been offered an opportunity you know you shouldn’t refuse.
Happily dismissing the first two scenarios after thirty years of living in France an era I thought would go on forever, or at least until my retirement, is coming to an end because something unexpected happened and a new adventure is about to begin.
Did I just say “Retirement”? Yes well like a lot of people aged anywhere between 49 and 60 I received status update from the French state pension administration one day informing me that I had accumulated a certain number of trimesters and could already estimate the amount of my still distant pension.
Ah the French! Whereas other countries are, either out of social awareness (aging demography, declining birth rate, that sort of thing) or pursuing a clearly defined strategy to bolster productivity, deciding to work longer, the French, or at least a certain and very vocal (syndicated) portion of them, start thinking of retirement once they hit the 50 mark, and I don’t mean financial planning for it, I mean actually planning on what they are going to do once they retire because they consider that retiring as early as possible is a permanently acquired Social benefit and a State obligation, rewarding them for a life time of productivity. Statistics may show that the French may or may not be highly productive and if the situation were otherwise why not let those who wish to retire do so but at least leave that decision for the individual to make. The prospect of retiring, and here I mean “removing” or “withdrawing”, an able-bodied and willing person at sixty or sixty-two from employment simply because they have reached the mandatory, state legislated retirement age, imposed by the powers that be to pander to a minority, from the Public sector, is illogical, counterproductive and from a bye gone era when the vast majority started working at the age of 16, perhaps earlier. It reminds me of the 1976 film “Logan’s Run” in which a crystal embedded in a person’s hands changes colour when they reach a certain age until ultimately they are “Retired”, and I mean terminally, from society to make way for others… but I’m digressing.*
A long time ago, and following the advice of a wise Bavarian mentor, I left the UK to spend my post college formative years learning a trade in Germany before eventually deciding to go and live in France, after a minor detour via Switzerland. One of the things that initially attracted me about France, all those years ago, was the easy-going “Savoir vivre” image the French portray internationally, not quite a chaotic as in Italy but definitely very spontaneous ( a complete change from the carefully thought out life style in Germany). Thinking that I could combine career advancement with life style, working for a living and not vice versa as in certain other European countries, I upped and left my South German residence, crossed the Rhine and set up life in France*, all those years ago.
*The main reason for my coming to France is buried in the mists of time and will remain so.
Today the French way of life that once seemed so attractive is showing signs of fatigue, just like its Political system, at about the same time as a personal life phase is coming round full circle, the reasons (read responsibilities) for remaining in France rapidly dissipating one after the other, annulled… expired… accomplished… or adult and already flying solo… It’s time for me to go… it’s time for us to go!
So there I am, with this whole new chapter about to open before me, and my wife an intrinsic part of it. Excited by the prospect of a new adventure, I just love adventures, but equally lucid about the challenges we’ll be facing (bring ‘em on!) my wife and I are looking forward with excitement to what is beginning to happen, temperance and planning ensuring that it happens correctly.
But before opening a new chapter you obviously have to take the time to close the previous one properly, tie up loose ends, that sort of thing and part of that ritual consists of sharing some of the adventures I’ve experienced these past thirty years while roaming around France, adventures of the travel kind because the others, like the real reason for my coming to France, are buried and will remain so… until I decide the time is right to “Un-bury” them… but in the meantime sit back and enjoy some more tales from an insatiable traveler-cum-incorrigible scribbler guaranteed to make you want to come to France and judge for yourself.