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talking in the rain

A cold, drizzly Wednesday here. It’s now 1 p.m., and once more, Madame Blin and I have just stopped talking, briefly. Today she is going to mark and I’m going to write to you early in the day, rather than after a bottle of wine in the evening, so you can see if my blog today is more sensible and distant …

We talked a lot about religion and the Bible. How little I know, having never read the actual book – though I’ve always intended to. My friend, as a practising, intellectual Catholic – and this is not an oxymoron, as I’d judgementally assumed – has spent a great deal of time considering matters philosophical and theological. 
But then, also, she lives in a country where people love to spend time considering matters. This is one of the first things noticeable here – people in cafés, large or small groups, young and old, mixed groups of men and women sitting around small tables smoking, drinking coffee or wine, and talking talking talking. People gather here, constantly, to talk and to eat. I told Lynn that when my marriage ended and I was a single woman, I was no longer invited to dinner parties. In Canada, dinner parties provide one of the only occasions for people to get together and converse. It was as if my intellectual life ended with my marriage, because there was nowhere else, for me as a stay-at-home mother, to get together with a group of people and talk about the world. Here, it’s a miracle that they ever stop talking and actually go to work.
I think book clubs chez nous are so needed and popular now because they give North Americans a pseudo-café – somewhere to gather to discuss ideas and to gossip. I do not think there are book clubs in France – not in a country where one of the most important television programs of the week is a kind of televised book club, with a host who knows everything, an author with his/her book and a group of people to discuss it. And where everyone is already sitting around discussing books, and everything else, on a daily basis. No appointment needed.
Lynn also told me about the French university system, which allows everyone in and which is free for all. But this equality presents a huge number of problems, because she says in the eleven years she’s been teaching at the university level, the level of the students and their knowledge has dropped precipitously; that now she has university English students who can barely read and write French. Lynn’s theory is that France purports to be based on “liberté, egalité, fraternité,” but that the reality is that there’s lots of a certain kind of liberty, very little equality, and no brotherhood at all. That this is the most elitist society on earth.
And that Nicolas Sarkozy is a disaster, even worse than she could have imagined. And my friend is not a crazy radical, or even a leftist like her old Canadian buddy.
In a little break from intense discussion, we put on some YouTube music and relived our youth through headphones, one ear bud for her and one for me. We listened to the wonderful McGarrigles with Rufus and Emmylou sing the traditional American ballad “Hard Times,” and then James Taylor and YoYo Ma perform the same song. We heard Joni Mitchell sing “A Case of You” twice, once in her youth and once more recently, with a much deeper and more knowing voice, much more moving.  But in both Joni versions, when she hit that gorgeous “Oh, Ca – na- da,” I was moved to tears. It will be interesting to see my country at a distance. There’s a mention in a blog post just down the page of my huge problems at home with raccoons, and now it sounds like someone writing from the frontier of a savage land. 
After being gone only a week, I think of Canada as a huge, relatively uncomplicated place with lots of space, lots of trees, incredible natural beauty – but not nearly enough conversation. 



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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