The View From Across La Manche #12 – From our own correspondent

European Wall Lizard in our garden.

Plus ça change…

Quite a contrast between last month’s featured article photo and this month’s! It seems like it was full on winter only yesterday and now spring is making a definite attempt to show up. We’re still getting occasional frosts but, just last week, I was working in the garden in shorts and a t-shirt, it was that warm. We have a constantly shifting weather pattern that seems to come with early spring here, where we can get everything from sleet through to sunshine and 20C temperatures, often within a couple of days of each other. I’m not sure how the wildlife deal with it – a few days ago we had early Brimstone butterflies dancing around the garden and the lizards were all out sunning themselves on the walls. If the lizards came out today they’d be suffering from hypothermia. It’s difficult to get to grips with what’s going on. Similar confusion seems to reign in the news reports I see coming out from the UK at the moment.

Thiviers Market, Saturday 25th February.

One thing I’ve found fascinating about relocation is the different ways that news gets reported inside and outside a country. It’s interesting to see how news is being reported back in the UK at the moment, with what looks like a concerted effort to exclude Brexit as something that happened and has an adverse effect on people’s lives. Apparently, there are food shortages in the UK right now, particularly of fresh fruit and some salad vegetables, such as tomatoes. The BBC has reported that, according to the UK Government, this is due to unseasonably cold weather in Spain and North Africa (Morocco), areas where the UK traditionally buys certain produce. Looking at social media, many have been quick to point out that we don’t appear to be suffering from these same shortages in the EU countries and I can confirm that, here in South West France, there’s plenty of fresh produce in the supermarkets and at the weekly markets in the towns and villages. News reports here in France are saying that, while there may have been some reductions in the amount of produce that’s available, the shortages in the UK are more down to the fact that hauliers don’t want to transport produce to the UK, because of the paperwork now required and the amount of time it ties up the transport. The view on this side of La Manche is that the shortages are very much tied to problems directly arising from the UK leaving the single market and the customs union, so it is a Brexit issue. The UK could have left the EU without experiencing these issues had it chosen to take the deal that kept it in the single market and customs union, one of the options on the table when Johnson’s ‘oven ready’ deal was being ‘negotiated’.

In a similar vein, a friend in the UK recently sent me a report from his local press advising me of all the problems we were encountering over here because of France’s “numerous strikes” against the increases in the cost of living. It made me smile because it was a report that was, once again, designed to show that the problems the UK is facing are the same across Europe and that Brexit is not a root cause. In fact, the cost of living crisis hasn’t bitten that hard here in France and the strikes we are seeing are, predominantly, to do with Macron’s ongoing attempts to raise retirement age. Inflation here peaked at around 7% and has been falling back steadily. We have seen some price increases but they really aren’t that bad and the government has done a lot to mitigate the impact of things like fuel costs, in particular. Even the strikes over the pension age haven’t had that much impact outside the main cities. There has been some minor disruption to rail services but that’s really the only way these strikes have affected those of us in rural communities. Apparently, there was a one day strike by GPs across the country, in support of their pay claims, the single patient consultancy fee for general practitioners not having changed for some years, but unless you had an appointment for the day in particular you wouldn’t really have noticed – and, in most cases, you’d have been able to reschedule for a couple of days later anyway.

It all makes for an interesting insight into how governments and media try to spin news stories to fit their own agendas. The really fascinating thing is that, in this age of social media, the availability of the internet as a research tool, and the increased transparency in what is happening around the world, you wonder why they bother and whether it is really worth the effort. The truth is, of course, that many accept what their government and/or their press tell them, taking at face value much of the information they’re given. As a journalist, one of the first things you learn is to question any source of information and look for alternative views, but should we have to doubt the intentions of government and the media when they tell us something? Clearly, when it comes to bad news that reflects negatively on a government’s ability to act in everyone’s best interests, they’ll do whatever it takes to spin things in the ‘right’ direction.

As an amusing aside on the raising of the pension age here in France; most French people agree that a retirement age of 62 isn’t sustainable and, in fact, Macron was originally elected (for his first term) for his reformist policies, including raising the pension age. The French agree that the pension age has to change – they just don’t want it to change during their lifetime! Plus ça change…

Here at Americana UK we always have only your very best interests at heart, obviously. You can trust us to always tell the truth where Americana music is concerned. With that in mind, I thought I’d let fellow continental Europeans know about some of the Americana acts appearing in mainland Europe throughout 2023. This thought was triggered by seeing the tour dates for Bruce Springsteen, who has embarked on yet another of his mammoth world tours. The Boss is currently touring in the U.S. but arrives in Barcelona in April to kick of the European leg of his tour that will see him take in most of the western part of the continent. It’s exhausting just looking at the list of dates. Blackberry Smoke are another major American act touring in Europe in the coming weeks, arriving in Barcelona on March 4th before going on to appearances in France, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium and then heading across to the UK for a series of dates. Norah Jones brings her jazz-tinged brand of Americana music over here in July, starting in France and ending up in Portugal at the end of that month. Ryan Adams also has 3 euro-zone dates after his UK appearances; taking in Paris, Haarlem and Brussels in April.

Among some of the more unusual appearances, Courtney Marie Andrews is appearing in Paris on the 11th March, then goes on to appearances in Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin. Singer/Songwriter Jake Smith, aka The White Buffalo, starts in Italy May 18th before going on to dates in Germany, Netherlands, and France, and current country music wunderkind, Luke Combs starts a series of European dates from September 30th.

Finally, Europe’s very own The Tallest Man on Earth, Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson, is active throughout Europe in April/May. All tour dates and details for all the artists mentioned are available on their various websites. Americana music is alive and well and touring continental Europe.

À bientôt.



About Rick Bayles 354 Articles
Now living the life of a political émigré in rural France and dreaming of the day I'll be able to sing those Cajun lyrics with an authentic accent!
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments