It's that time of year already. The London hibernation is almost over, as I explain to readers of the new edition of The Connexion, the monthly newspaper for English speakers in France. The good and bad lists for each country are a lot longer than I had room for, of course.
I'll miss Tesco vouchers that make Intermarché look less generous than Victorian coal-owners. I'll miss family and vibrant London life but I won't miss being invited by restaurant staff to a) pay for bread and b) add a tip even after being hit for a whacking service charge. I do not look forward to seeing a lot more of Marine Le Pen on the box, but at least Ukip will recede from my viewing life (until the climax of the general election campaign, when I fear even France will take an interest) ...
Why on earth spend winter wrapped up against the cold in the UK, people ask, when there’s warmth in the south of France?
The answer is simple. If the year must be divided at all, better to have summer in France, when the weather can broadly be expected to behave like summer, and accept the British winter for what it is.
That is not to say the annual departure for Calais and onwards to London is accomplished without regret. March may be an odd time of the year for la rentrée but mine - same journey, opposite direction - is imminent. It is an occasion to gladden the heart.
There are aspects of life either side of the Channel to please or dismay. In Britain, I despair at the National Health Service, which makes it nigh on impossible to arrange an appointment with the GP without a fight or long delay, or both. “A doctor will call tomorrow to decide whether you need one,” we’re told.
The process of having a blood test takes an age. That elusive GP appointment and a demoralising wait at the local hospital are followed by more frustration until the results arrive by post at the surgery. In France, they are emailed to the patient within hours.
Even allowing for uneven comparison between capital and provinces, the difference is staggering. Yes, we know France cannot really afford its generally excellent health service; it remains one part of the overburdened public sector I'd man the barricades to defend.
There is much more to miss. Those obligatory bonjours on entering any shop or approaching someone for help or directions, may seem false, especially when failure to comply draws the rebuke: “On recommence. Bonjour, monsieur.” But they are preferable to the surly exchanges that characterize many similar encounters in London.
My wife, who is French, loves London while missing her own country’s joie de vivre and dinner parties where conversation is not dominated by house prices. It goes without saying we both long, when in autumnal or wintry Britain, for the outdoor life of France, particularly eating on the terrace, even if that smacks of having it both ways on the weather.
By way of paradox, one of the greater pleasures of being in the UK – albeit a masochistic one –is that I am able to spend quite a few afternoons and evenings, shivering or not, at Premier League football stadiums. Since my club is Sunderland, disappointment is common - but not so unexpected as to ruin the pre-match renewal of old friendships or the sheer passion of the event.
Ligue 1 has plenty of fine players, and some useful teams, but lacks the excitement and - in all but a handful of cases - big crowds of its English equivalent.
On the other hand, I rarely pine, when in France, for warm ale, breakfast fry-ups, the Yorkshire Dales or Coronation Street. French living offers ample recompense: regional wines, much tastier croissants and bread than most British bakers could produce, breathtakingly varied landscapes and Un Village Français, the compelling if sanitised saga of France under Nazi occupation.
Importantly, I also happen to lose weight during the French portion of my year. This may have something to do with the brisk daily walk – downhill there, so uphill back – for my local newspaper and baguette. But regular lapses mean it is hardly daily at all, so the diet must be healthier.
And to ensure that I will settle seamlessly back into French life, the return has been deliberately timed to catch the local corso, with its colourful floats and street entertainment. This year’s theme? So British.