I took La Fille to her first 'manifestation' yesterday. It was not a huge effort as the demonstration passed the end of our road and I thought she might like it - all the noise and hullabaloo - and it would mark and important step in her cultural education. It would not be unfair or racist to say the French do indeed like striding the streets waving banners and yelling slogans that don't rhyme and La Fille is, after all, half French.
It being a General Strike, the police had sealed off the roads well in advance so there were even more motorbikes, scooters and bicycles illegally on the pavements. Within ten paces I was beginning to regret thinking it might be fun as well as educational as in addition to two-wheel hazards several smokers, not paying the slightest attention to where they were waving their cigarette, threatened to singe what is left of La Fille's hair. La Fille did not look as if she was liking her first 'manif', not one little bit, until we headed for Place de la République. Here the demonstration was headed by a lorry decked out with posters and banners of the French Communist Party. Standing high up on a scaffold stage on the back of the lorry were two protestors: one wearing mask to look like President Nicolas Sarkozy and next to him a man in a top hat and tails throwing leaflets to the crowd below.
"Look, look, look," shrieked La Fille, pointing to the Communist in his penguin suit. "Look, it's Mister Willy Wonka."
The move to France was only supposed to be for a couple of years, not forever. Then I met The Frenchman. Then I had La Fille. Now there's no way back. But La Fille, to whom a horse is a cheval and a frog is just pond life is still half English. So before the Gallic nation claims her for its own, sprinkles her with garlic, sautés her and swallows her up whole we make regular escapes on the Eurostar. And we have discovered the grass is various shades of green either side of the Channel.