My life could have been so very different

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I have just returned from a couple of days in France (more about this on the blog soon). Sat on the Eurostar on the way home, I got thinking how different my life could have been.

France, French, family life, divorce, separation
This little boy left France at a very young age and was raised a Brit. In later life, however, he he did have an interesting run-in with a French salad and had to dodge being drafted into the French military.

If the dice had landed differently, you see, I would have been raised French. I have the one French parent and, while born in the UK, lived in France while a baby.

When my parents divorced, I came back to Blighty. My fate was sealed: I was raised a Brit.

I could allow this blog post to descend into some puerile and extremely un-funny series of stereotypes, You know, how I almost ended up eating snails, smelling of onions and having a litany of mistresses. Alas, that would be incredibly dull. Trust me, I faced enough of this rubbish while at school. We’ll move on shall we?

To be clear, I was born a British Citizen. Even so, the French seemed quite keen on the idea of having me in their gang. Not only did they actively want me to be French, they foresaw a military career for me.

At the age of 18, you see, I received a call-up card and a formal but polite letter asking if I’d care to become a French citizen and undertake a spell of national service. Yes, you read that correctly, I received a call-up card. I was to report for duty at Perpignan barracks in the South West of the country…or risk being arrested and thrown into the army if I ever entered France.

Thankfully it was a relatively straightforward administrative process to dodge the draft. Even so, it was a tense time as one or two influential members of my British family thought I should go ahead and do it (thanks guys).

I can barely string a sentence together in French. Imagine me wearing a khaki uniform and defending the Fifth Republic when I can’t even say “Defending the Fifth Republic” in French? Well, I can do the last bit: Cinquieme Republique but saying the word “defend” or putting it in anything other than the present tense? No, no, no, c’est pas possible.

Instead of learning to love French gastronomy, I grew up loving roast beef and curry. In fact, I have an amusing story about French gastronomy.

Some years ago I paid a visit to my French family. One relative, apparently a vegetarian, arrived at the dinner table with a huge bowl of salad:

“Voila, salade foie gras!”

That was probably one of the most confusing and amusing moments of my life. Many years later I still laugh at that occasion.

As a boy I played British Bulldog instead of boules. I never learned the French language, certainly not properly, and so I learned to enjoy Orwell, Steinbeck and Zadie Smith instead of Proust, Satre and Verne.

If I’d been raised French, August would have been one long, sun-drenched holiday in Cannes, Nice or St Tropez, even as an employee with a job. Instead it is a rain filled wash out. Oh yeah, and as a Frenchman, I wouldn’t be obsessed with the weather.

I’d have been educated in a school system where philosophy is taught from a young age and in a society distrustful of capitalism. This would have been difficult for me as I concede I’m quite keen on entrepreneurship and benefiting from your own hard work.

Looking at my later life, it would have been much more difficult for me to become a stay at home dad if I’d been French. When it comes to such matters, the UK is far from perfect, but France is way behind. To be honest, if I’d been raised French, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Oh, yeah, and if I’d become a blogger, I guess it would have been Papablogfr.com.

Okay, so I’m efectively looking into a crystal ball trying to imagine what might have been. I have no idea what a French John Adams would have achieved and the experiences he would have had. I make no comment as to whether life would have been better or worse. I can safely say, however, that it would have been tres different indeed.

7 thoughts on “My life could have been so very different”

  1. You would have made a great papa français. Fois gras is so nice, even if you are vegetarian, you can’t miss that out! French logic, don’t try to understand it! When my partner announced that he was about to become vegetarian some years ago, there was a big silence in the room. The look on my dad’s face just said it all. Still laughing thinking about it. A shame you missed your service militaire. Perpignan is gorgeous, you would have liked it for sure. Hope you had fun at the conference.

    1. Ba ha! I’m sure Perpignan is lovely, but probably not for a non-French speaker expected to take orders from a life-long soldier. Can’t say I’m too upset by that one. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll leave you to the foie gras. Really doesn’t appeal!

    1. Yeah….good point. I’ve amended the text so it doesn’t show up as a hyper link! Thanks Fran and hope you had a good journey back.

  2. Hey! This is such a great post and it made me think of my kids, too because they are half Portuguese and half French but probably more Portuguese because we live here.
    Take care!

    1. I’m pretty sure your kids will think of themselves as Portuguese. My advice: make sure you raise them multi-lingual. I wasn’t, but I have encouraged my kids to speak french from a very young age. Thanks for commenting Magsa, it was great to meet you the other day and hope we cross paths again in the future.

  3. Pingback: Euroblogging at #Efluent5 in Paris - Dad Blog UK

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