Why on earth would anyone give up this and willingly return to a gloomy, grey post-Brexit Britain in which, as my great friend Pete Sixsmith put it on the phone today, there is a distinctly nasty atmosphere? Not so much racism, he thought, but xenophobia, a loathing of all foreigners.
Brigitte Bardot comes out with heaps of nonsense, not least of them her occasional declarations of support or sympathy for France's rotten far right.
For once, she has my support when complaining in what has become a stock-in-trade - an angry letter fired off to the mayor - about the "intolerable and violent noise" of warplanes streaking through the skies above Saint-Tropez in preparation for the Free Flight World Masters, an air show held at neigbouring Sainte-Maxime over the weekend.
Her letter to Vincent Morisse, the mayor of Sainte-Maxime, was written while pilots were practising their formations. I suspect her mood was not improved when the show actually took place.
This is a quick comment I posted at Facebook in the aftermath of the outrage caused, at least to decent people, by the British home secretary Amber Rudd's vile comments at the Tory conference:
Viewed from France, the rise of UKIP - and the Ukipisation of the Tory party - is among a number of seriously disturbing developments.
The socialists in France are in even greater disarray than in the UK, and at least as unelectable. I foresee Le Pen getting through to the second round next May against whoever the Gaullists (these days called Les Republicains) put up, ie Sarko or Juppe. It is not the sort of option that will have left-minded voters rushing to the polling booths to stop Le Pen as they did with her father in 2002.
Then there's Trump, of course, and the threat from people like Wilders in the Netherlands and assorted racists in Germany and Austria (I almost said neo-Nazis). Even without obvious worries about other world regions, I fear for the political landscape of the West...
Many years ago, I came across a Church of England clergyman whose duties then involved serving as diocesan press officer. At one point during a minor crisis affecting his diocese, he complained to me that "journalists keep ringing me up". Plumbers objecting to mending leaks, accountants rebuking clients for wanting help on tax returns and teachers playing truant all came to mind.
Now we have a former French minister, Roselyne Bachelot, who earns good money from the media, complaining that the media sought her thoughts on Jacques Chirac, in seriously declining health. From my latest column on words* ...
Welcome, Bill Bryson, to Salut!s unashamed tendency to write about books when it comes across them, not necessarily when they first come out ...
Bill Bryson, on his own candid admission, is something of a curmudgeon. That is not all we have in common. We both worked for newspapers, local and national, and became rather pedantic about aspects of our trade. We enjoy the English countryside, beer (though, being American, he is more of a lager fan than I could ever be), Indian food and sport (he'd say sports).
There our similarities more or less end. Although we both write for a living, he does so with huge and deserved success, and I do not.
His 1996 book, Notes from a Small Island, describing his introduction to the UK as a young American backpacker starting inauspiciously in Dover, was and remains a bestseller. Other books have followed, as well as television programmes, lecture tours and a university chancellorship (in blessed Durham). He no longer needs to work for newspapers. I, meanwhile, struggle to complete my first book, a proper one as opposed to the single chapters contributed to a couple of compilations; I still file copy diligently to newspapers long after I ceased to be in their actual employment and the highest academic honour in County Durham that I can claim was being asked by my great friend Pete Sixsmith to talk to his sixth form liberal studies group about journalism.
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, annoys members of his Parti Socialist by not being socialist enough. Another way of putting that would be to say he is unpopular with non-realists in his party. I admire him, as I have said previously. But I think he is hopelessly and dangerously wrong in his support for the right-wing mayors who want/wanted to ban Muslim women from wearing burkinis (burqinis in the style of The National*) on the beach.
Remember, when you see those images of police officers ordering women to uncover as baying idiots shout "go home", that they are already wearing considerably less than French law permits on the street. Logic, I am afraid, has defeated the French in this debate. But Valls, rebuking The New York Times in an inaccurate response to an article quoting French Muslim women's concerns, tells us it's all to do with protecting freedom, not - as might seem obvious to a child of 10 - denying it ...
My guess is that if you know who Cats on Trees are but do not live in France, and did not watch a subtitled French TV drama called Disparue when shown as Disappearance on British TV, you first heard about them here. That series used the outstanding duo's Sirens Call as the fade-out theme as the credits rolled.
And from the same south-western city of Toulouse comes my next French musical recommendation. Let us please hear it for Jain.
Stop Press: it is almost beyond belief but a) various mayors are behaving as if the Conseil d'Etat makes rulings for fun and b) this now comes from Manuel Valls, the prime minister and a figure I have admired for his attempts to counter French resistance to change. "Her [Marianne, symbol of the republic] breast's exposed because she's feeding the people; she isn't wearing a veil because she's free."
For the French, we had our vaches folles. For anyone who rather admires the values embraced by the high-minded national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité, France has had its maires fous. No, not mad horses in place of mad cows (BSE) but utterly foolish, however well-meaning mayors. The gruesome French burkini saga may or may or not have been brought to an end by the Conseil d'Etat's ruling on Friday suspending the ban in one French resort. But this has not been France at its best, as I argue at The National ...
Choudary on the left in this photo from Scotland Yard. Mohammad Mizanur Ra (right), one of his followers, was also conficted of encouraging support for ISIL (right
As France continues to make a rather dangerous fool of itself over burkinis on the beach, on which I shall have more to say, here's another look at the rotten world we've become ...
Three significant developments, two of them loosely related, in the struggle to overcome terrorism have captured attention in Britain and France. First came news that Kadiza Sultana, 17, one of three London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015 as "jihadi brides", had been killed in a Russian air raid on Raqqa.
Then we learned that, after a secret trial, the UK judiciary had caught up with the dangerous rabble-rousing of Anjem Choudary, co-founder of the banned Al Muhajiroun group.
Maybe this is taking it a step too far. But then, several mayors and a prime minister I have hitherto respected, Manuel Valls, seem determined to make France a laughing stock. Let us be blunt: banning the burkini, burqini or body-covering swimsuit from French beaches, because it makes the wearer look like a terrorist or is somehow unhygienic, is on any analysis stupid. That is without even considering the Corsican louts who attack Muslims on the beach because of how they are dressed. They are just that, louts.
We must all be vigilant in troubled times, but is it strictly necessary, in the war on terror from within, to invent provocation? And here's a thing: I wonder how two of my late aunts, both nuns, might have fared in modern-day, intolerant France. One was a Protestant, the other a Catholic - would the latter have been treated in the street as if her appearance implied support for the Inquisition? ...