Happily living in London, all that’s left of France is a vague distaste for carpet and a tendency to drink coffee out of a bowl. Yet, tonight I’m afraid because tomorrow I shall take to the polls and have no idea which way the wind’ll blow.
Yesterday, in bed, on my phone, in a small flat in Finchley Road, I watched a clip of a particularly vociferous Marine le Pen spitting venom on “15 Minutes to Convince”.
They’d interrupted the show to report on the shooting, and le Pen appeared in red with a contemptuous smile, opening stridently: “I intend to give the French people the keys back to their home”.
the french people
the keys back to their home
I’ve noticed that I tend to wince at the words ‘the French people’. Perhaps, it’s because I make an altogether awful specimen of a French person. Or perhaps it’s because le pen’s political family has always been that iceberg lurking in the distance, punctuating their sentences with those words.
Back in Montpellier, my family’s old house used to be right beside a zoo. There was a little stone wall that you could climb over if you were brave enough that would lead you right into the lion’s cage –perhaps that’s a false memory– or at least right next to it anyway.
That’s pretty much how I feel about le Pen. She’s this incredibly harmless-looking quaint little stone wall right beside your house, that is, where your mum and dad live, bless them, but that could rip your life apart were you to give it the chance.
Cultural identity is as elusive as the clitoris. But sometimes it pulls through.
For instance, once, years ago, in my shabby student hall in Bethnal Green, a hungry high-strung ex-boyfriend stomped out of my bedroom and made a small detour to my kitchen, whereupon opening my food cupboard, he found a little box of matzos peeking out at him.
Apparently, whatever outrageous thing I’d done or said to him that night instantly frittered away at the sight of my matzos, and he rushed back to me.
National identity, I imagine, must feel like a cozy blanket of warmth and understanding that you can curl into, like a box of Jewish crackers sticking out for you in the chaos of the night amidst all the noise; like someone holding your hand when you’re doing a shop on a Sunday night just before closing time, or when you’re walking down the street by yourself and love whispers in your ear:
“I am here”.