When it comes to training: running and cycling, I’m a morning person. Within 20 minutes of my eyes opening and after the performing of the perfunctory matutinal ablutions I’m out either running between 3-5 miles or cycling 15-20. Given that our lives are now unfortunately consumed and partially wasted in front of a multitude of screens I find it important to exercise. Losing weight is less of an interest to me than just getting out in the natural elements and… moving. I did try the gym once for a stint of about 4 months through a dark wet British winter (is there any other kind here in Blighty?), but it was short lived the moment the sun started to rise early, and so it was back outside for me. Plus, I couldn’t take witnessing men video themselves in their Lycra lifting weights anymore to post on the ‘gram. Let’s be honest who can? And furthermore, who ‘likes’ that?
On the mornings when I’m not exercising, I always stroll down to the beach. My house is only a 15-minute ambling to the good old British seaside. As I walk, I filter through the early morning thoughts in my mind, compile a list of what I need to do that day, what I didn’t do the day before, analyse my anxieties if there any in those early hours, deliberate, cogitate and cerebrate. The cars are few, the morning chorus is loud, and nature is alive! By the time I reach the stony pebbles that dress the shoreline I am in fully thinking mode and ready to meditate while listening to the lapping of the sea on the littoral. I always think of the earth breathing in and out as the tide moves back and forth, I find it a fitting metaphor for the Gaia theory.
It’s a clear morning. Blue skies and a calm grey marble sea. It is on days like this that I am able to see France, and almost directly opposite where I am standing across the aqueous divide Calais is to the left and Boulogne-sur-Mer to the right. A friend of mine who works for the coastguard tells me on such days through the telescope he uses, he can see what time it is on the clock tower in Boulogne. At first this sounds amazing, quite the miracle especially given that there is a huge expanse of water between the two countries, but on reflection it is only about 30 miles in distance, less than the journey to Maidstone, Margate or London. It is tantamount to just over a Marathon away, incredibly close really, but yet so different.
As I stand here looking at the grey-blue amorphous shapes of the French coastline on the horizon I start to think on the differences. Obviously, there is the language, their customs, their food, their philosophy which in turn creates their culture. There is their fashion, their politics and of course the history of the French revolution that clearly influences the civil unrest when the population disagrees with governmental decisions in the now. Personally, I struggle to attack our neighbours across the channel as many of my compatriots easily utter. What may seem like innocent persiflage actually feels like it has an undercurrent of deep-seated hatred in my opinion. I find it more interesting to look across the water and imagine the quotidian occurrences in the life of a French native, than to criticize and condemn.
What is also interesting is how somewhere so close can be so different and how this can cause such problems for some British indigenes. It illustrates something about the human, it highlights the fear and the reluctance of the acceptance of another that aren’t like ‘them’. If we can’t accept those literally across the water, how can we possibly accept others further afield, of which we have witnessed numerous examples with the abject anti-immigration invective that permeates across social media. This lazy racism clearly displays the inability for any empathy, understanding or compassion.
When the Brexit vote was on the table, it never crossed my mind once to vote to leave Europe. I wanted to remain purely on cultural grounds. Why would anyone want to end their free movement into Europe? It’s insanity! Why would anyone want to curtail their own liberty? The world is full of systems, rules and leaders that want to control, restrict, and regulate you as a human being. And yet so many people voted for exactly that. I love the French culture as much I love the British culture as much as I love the Italian culture and so on. Our societies only benefit from such foreign influences in many different ways from food to music to fashion and more. I have visited Paris many times, driven through France to its southern coast and jumped on a hovercraft more times than I can recall in my youth with friends for day trips to Boulogne. Never once did any reason emerge for me to find fault with the French. Of course, politically, and societally they have their faults, but who doesn’t? We only need to look at our own leaders and imagine how other countries populations view us Brits.
So, I say lower the drawbridge, learn another language, and add some fucking freedom to your lives!
On ne sait jamais, ça peut vous plaire.
Image by Anthony Choren