I currently live in the most beautiful city in the world. Paris, the temptress town, the most visited place on earth, the most desired and revered. It may be all those things but it's just not fun. Well to me anyway.
Paris is like one its many patisseries. A macaroon or a sugary chouquette. Exquisite to look at but actually when you prod at the choux theres not much underneath. As opposed to a good ol' chelsea bun or a lump of fruit cake that fills you up to the brim and gives you that instant feel good factor.
You can always gauge the happiness level of a country when you step into one of their taxis. "'Ello love" is the genuine greeting from any London cabbie who then natters about the weather and thrusts the Currant Bun/Sun in your hands. You'd be lucky with a grunt in Paris.
I have just spent a few days in London and am buzzing from all the eclectic influences and conversations. Soho is alive with tapas and hummus bars, Aussie coffee shops and bubble dogs (hotdogs eaten with champagne). Brits seem to have taken life by the scruff of the neck and are doing what they want and to hell with the consequences. Careers and climbing the ladder are out and being authentic is in. Dozens of people are ditching the path well trodden to do what they really want. The in word at the moment is a mumpreneur, a mother who wants to invent as well as raise kids. Dreams are possible. Everyone is a filmaker, a photographer, a web designer.
I then cross the Manche back to France and the cold front hits you in the face. The moment you step off the Eurostar everyone is pushing and moaning. Gone are the eccentric tweeds and shorts and suits line the boulevards. You work to live in London these days and in Paris it's live to work. Job is your key to social acceptance. I was shocked to learn that if you have a Bac (their A-levels) in the arts, it means you're a bit of a dummy. Maths is the only way to be accepted into the business elite.
Personally I blame their lack of king or queen. It means they have created another class system, a professional one rather that calibrates people by their rank and file.
All of this means that Londoners seem pretty happy in themselves and bounce along the cracked London pavements with a smile on their chops. They like what they do and do what they like. Binnies cabbies and posties would be considered menial jobs in France but in Blighty they are the pillars of society.
This freedom to be what you want goes through to fashion, cooking, music and beyond. Who cares if you're in trackie bums or are having a bad hair day. A Starbucks barista will just beam back at you as one of the many colourful personalities that make Britannia cool. The Frenchies hate to look bad. It's a cardinal sin. I have seen many a Parisienne have strop for less than a chipped nail or the sight of another rival with a more glittering watch or skinnier legs.
I have just written three books, a trilogy, a sort of Harry Potter for girls. They are all about self-esteem, a big issue for teens these days. Yet I'm thinking that the Frenchies actually exhibit all the signs of angry teens. They appear arrogant to us Brits but actually it is masking the real problem, a crisis of confidence. They have lost faith, in their leader, in their system, in their fellow citizens. They think that when someone smiles at you in the street they want something. Or if someone laughs loud at the other end of the dinner table it might be about you. It is like wearing a pair of grey tinted glasses.
Us Brits have the worst weather, our cuisine sucks, our beaches are pebbly and our sea is brown. We have a lot more to moan about but our spirit is to keep calm and laugh it off.
Maybe laughter is the answer. The Parisians need to let out a few belly laughs in public, some real snorty guffaws. They should see how it feels to smile back or chat to a stranger in a queue. They could even try going out without a blow dry in sloppy clothes and see how liberating it is. Maybe even let another car overtake you without grimacing or honking a horn.
Come on Paris, it's time to let go, for everyone's sake, most of all your own.