It was always going to be a strange experience, returning to the country I’m from after having spent more than half my life living outside of it. Moving back to Melbourne, Australia, every day brings an odd mix of startling familiarity, discomfort and discovery.Read More
We had just arrived in Jodhpur after a long day of travel, and we were enjoying a meal at our homestay over looking the city’s magnificent fort, when the manager requested us to come downstairs. Expecting some sort of issue with our booking, my husband went down to see what the problem was. “What was that about?” I asked when he came back up a few minutes later. “We've been asked to be extras in a Bollywood film”.Read More
Flying from the south to the north of India, we have traded luscious palm and banana trees for arid desert, rice for wheat, tranquil silence for incessant noise, sweltering humid heat for dry days and chilly nights, a tropical paradise for an Arabian nights-esque adventure complete with camels and royalty.Read More
Ever since my husband and I set the wheels in motion to move from France to Australia, an extended “transition trip” to India was always part of the package. This vast, diverse country has long enticed us with its colours, culture and cuisine, and seemed to us to be the perfect place...Read More
The dead bodies are appearing more frequently these days. On the side of the road, under trees, in puddles after a shower of rain. Lying on their plump bellies, eyes bulging but unseeing. Blue-green marks on their heads, wings shimmering.Read More
I know some people who are addicted to big cities. They are enlivened by being in a large city like New York or London. They tell me they feel connected. I often hear the sentiment of “being able to touch the pulse of the city”. I’ve never really had such a visceral reaction to big cities. Living in London is an expensive privilege but I don’t think it is an obvious choice.Read More
Let me open on a personal note. Seven years after first arriving in France as a nervous and naïve exchange student, I officially became "naturalised" as a French citizen last month.Read More
A few weeks ago at an all-you-can-drink office party a new colleague got up to make his obligatory speech and said that when he was a foreign correspondent he saw that outside of Japan nobody speaks Japanese and nobody knows much about Japanese news.Read More
Winter in Paris has been damp, grey and generally lacklustre. After the shockwave of the November 13 attacks and COP21 in December, January and February have felt uneventful in comparison.Read More
It was fairly ridiculous. I was outstretched out alone on the sand last Friday when it struck me once again how good we have it.Read More
A mild December has arrived in Paris, but one wouldn’t know that Christmas is just around the corner. The tension from the attacks is slowly dissipating; the city is no longer crawling with policemen, the headlines are moving on, and people are taking the metro to work and going out to bars and restaurants because, at the end of the day, what else can one do?Read More
I know I wrote in my last column that winter was creeping into London. Well it has completely abandoned all pretence of gently easing into the capital and has opted more of a shock and awe tactic.Read More
It's hot in Sydney. It hit 41 celsius on the weekend. The first hot days of the summer that will be with us in a few short weeks. And I wasn't prepared. I wore jeans and a white shirt. A mistake I think.Read More
On Friday 13 November, my husband and I were on holiday in Cape Town, South Africa. At 11:30pm, just as I was setting the alarm for the next morning, an update from the Guardian popped onto phone screen. “Oh my god” I said slowly, then “ohmygodohmygodohmygod”.Read More
Autumn has decidedly descended upon Paris; daylight hours are dwindling, the parks are awash with yellow and red, and brisk mornings have Parisians frantically digging out their jackets from deep inside their shoebox apartments.Read More
As advertised in movies and Will Smith songs, Miami is hot. Many of us still don’t believe summer ended as the crows from New England, and other snow birds, haven’t yet migrated down to perch on our power lines until March.Read More
I’ve fallen in and out of love with New York so many times, that my heart should receive some kind of award for its resilience.Read More
We have no door. No bedroom door. In a share house of five having no door, you can imagine, causes some problems.Read More
The rooftop bars are closing, cough medicine is on sale and London has decided to give autumn a miss and head straight into winter.Read More
It is September in Paris, and the city is gripped by la rentrée. So much more than the "back to school" vibe of most other countries, in France, la rentrée signals a new year for adults and children alike, and in Paris, a return to frenetic levels of noise and bustle. Every advertisement screams “la rentrée!”, from urging parents to get their children's school stationary (complete with the ominous hashtag #Septemberiscoming) to reminding us that now is the perfect time to get that gym membership. This is counterbalanced by the packaging on French cheese encouraging you to indulge a little à la rentrée, presumably to ease the pain of leaving summer behind. Colleagues return to the office bronzed after spending a month on a beach, and all those sporting, musical and cultural activities that you were doing after work start up again - or you can launch into something new. Last year it was Spanish and salsa; this year it's Italian and swing. Whole sectors and industries, from government to literature, have their very own rentrée.
La rentrée takes on such a magnitude in part because the summer shutdown in France is so extreme. Activity slows down to a trickle in July, before grinding to a complete halt in August. All those sporting, musical and cultural activities stop for the whole two months, which means that, speaking from experience, getting a yearly subscription to anything is not value-for-money. Public transport empties out, and for two blissful months you can get a seat on the metro. Restaurants and cafés shut up shop, and bakeries in each neighbourhood confer to ensure that at least one will remain open. The Anglo-Saxon approach of students working the summer shift has not made it to French shores.
With reality back in full swing in September, the favourite national pastime of the French, la manifestation, starts up again. No sooner had Hollande settled back into the Palais de l’Élysée than French farmers rolled in from across the country to blockade Paris’ main arteries with over 1300 tractors. Falling food prices due to lower demand from China, Russia’s embargo on EU goods, and a flood of products from Germany and Spain are forcing farmers to sell below production costs, and 10% of French farms are now on the verge of bankruptcy. Fearing the protests could bring the country to a standstill (think nationwide blockades in response to the 2010 proposed pension reform, or the fuel price riots of 2000), the Hollande government pacified the protesters with a 3 billion euro cheque; it remains to be seen whether this will be enough for the industry at the heart of French identity which is suffering a long, slow decline.
Two days later, a manifestation of a very different nature took place at Paris’ Place de la République. Late in the afternoon, thousands gathered to show their support and solidarity for the tens of thousands of refugees flooding Europe. Titled “Pas en notre nom” (not in our name), participants urged politicians and their fellow citizens to open the borders and welcome those fleeing the conflicts raging in the Middle East. The refugee crisis looks set to dominate headlines and EU political agendas for the months to come.