I have been back “home” now for two weeks and seem to have arrived with a fresh eye to view my native region. Strangely, I feel a bit foreign in my hometown, so am perhaps more objective about it, or perhaps romantic or critical.I’m not sure what I feel yet. Whilst pouring my coffee, from my cafetière “for one”, I contemplate….
Things I am enjoying in Yorkshire:
Pubs with open fires and bitter, yet floral, pale ales, which can even be enjoyed alone, whilst reading the newspaper – something I would never have done in rural France. Women were not seen alone in café/bars – or in groups for that matter.My morals would have been severely questioned and quite frankly, people would have looked at me funny.
Speaking Yorkshire again. There are some things only a person from York will understand ie. “river’s up”.
The dynamics of an English conversation and our ability to “self-mock”.
Sunday roasts, with Yorkshire pudding, like this one at the Wellington Inn in Nidderdale, a fantastic, dog-friendly pub.
Swaledale sausage and chutney sandwiches, at The Duke of York pub.
Hearing the seagulls in the morning (living in Eastern France, I was probably in the farthest French corner from the sea). We are only 45 minutes from the stunning Yorkshire coast here.
Walking the dog, without fear of running into a wild boar or a wolf. Only gangs of youths to worry about now – nothing compared to 90kg of charging, tusked beast! I’d prefer an altercation with a “chav” any day!
The patchwork landscape, bordered by hedgerows and dry stone walls.
Watching almost tame herds of deer, in frosty fields in the morning – they always quickly scarpered in France, probably fearing that I was a hunter.
Lambs running and hopping.
Hearing my four year old niece in person, growing up so quickly and asking very relevant questions:
“Aunty Claire, when you look in the mirror, how do you know it’s you?”
“Aunty Claire, does a booby trap, trap boobies?”
Things I am finding strange:
Bread in plastic bags that lasts 2 weeks. We had 5 boulangeries in a small town of around 2000 people and we bought bread daily, as most people did. Bread had a crust and was aerated with both small and large air pockets in it, not dense and uniform, like an old sponge. Thank goodness I have discovered those who advocate proper bread.The Ainsty Farm Shop, who make a lovely loaf and Via Vecchia makes superior, artisan bread.
Pre-chopped vegetables. When was it chopped and why? I don’t understand. I went on a trip to a major supermarket the other day and was unable to find leeks or lovely Yorkshire rhubarb which were not already trimmed.I reluctantly bought some rhubarb which I needed to place on pancakes, steamed and mixed with mascarpone and honey, then topped off with almonds. It was actually very good, but surely the freshness of the vegetable is affected when it is already chopped on both ends.I reiterate: all hail great farm shops. I look forward to discovering local markets.
Perfect lawns. When I used to take Milou out in our somewhat wild garden in France, he would dart in and out of the bushes, in between trees. Here he just stands there, glances at the perfect square of the perfect lawn and looks back at me, as if to say what am I supposed to do on here. It appears to be an extension of the carpeted living room, which he actually adores – a giant dog bed to him and he proceeds to lie down. Around this time in France, wild chives would be peeking out of the grass; the first flowers, purple wild cowslips would soon be appearing, along with violets under the trees in the dappled shade. Morel mushrooms wouldn’t be long, if it is a warm month of March, at the bottom of the garden on the rocky rough ground. I wonder about the effects of the abundance of weedkiller, used to create the perfect English lawn. I always remember my dad saying “bloomin’ eck they’re not very house proud here”, referring to the lack of garden fences and dishevelled nature of the house exterior, in the Jura. If that dishevelled appearance means that fauna and flora can flourish, then i’m all for dishevelled.
I feel the need to become a home tourist, to study what lies within these city walls, which once made me feel hemmed in and encouraged me me to leave, by trying to find a frugal style of living in York/ Yorkshire. There is a tendency for rustic, simple good food to be chic and expensive in the UK, which is not the case in France. I intend to search for those hidden gems which contradict this trend.
As Stendhal said in “La Chartreuse de Parme”: “A quoi bon chercher le bonheur si loin, il est là sous nos yeux”. In other words, “Why look for happiness, so far away, it is here under our noses”.