When you are born, you lean and breathe and believe others
you have no choice
when you grow, your mind grows with you and questions and tugs and preens and polishes
you have a choice.
Where was our choice, it was decided by a percent or two. I just said goodbye to my previous life, I would do to get back to you.
I want more trips, but others have different plans. Others and others and others flood in, flood out, flow about, oh, but why are they still here?
Get them out they say. Away away, where they can’t see the day, that Britain starts again. This is not their home, not their real one….
Where is home outside of Europe? Where is my French spoken here, where can I jump again, jump over the line, when you said WE WANT NONE.
The translation class was flowing along nicely. Sure, I may have had to repeat my english sentence a few times so that all my French classmates could copy it word for word because it was right, but it was fine. Just fine. Until the teacher asked everyone what they wanted to do after they graduate. The girl sitting next to me outright refused to be part of the conversation; her head started shaking, the words ‘I don’t know’ (Je sais pas) were uttered and she continued to doodle on her page. The rest of the class weren’t so extreme in their reactions, but the mood suddenly turned from a bit of lighthearted Friday morning translation fun to doom and gloom, and I got the feeling that anyone who walked by the door at that moment would have been able to smell the fear emulating from our Salle. France’s economy is in crisis. Francois Hollande has promised to boost the economy and get the ball rolling, but it just isn’t happening. The unemployment figure stands at 10% and it is becoming more and more difficult for young people to secure a job. This is not a recent development: four years ago I was sitting in a similar room, this time in Scotland, talking to a french assistant who had written the topic ‘ECONOMIE’ on the board and asked us to talk about it. She gave us handouts which stated that french students are extremely pessimistic about their job opportunities and economic prospects after graduating, and many of them don’t see the point of studying at university as there is still a small chance of ending up in paid work at the end. Most students are worried about securing a job after university, but in France the fear is so widespread, so ingrained in young people’s psyche that the question ‘what are you going to do when you graduate’ feels almost like a death sentence. It is as if in that room they collectively said, without saying a word, ‘do not even go there’. In Britain, there are always people who respond enthusiastically and have some kind of plan- the cocky guy who is going to be a self made entrepreneur, the girl who somehow gets a journalism internship, the people who still, despite the economic climate, have a plan. The strong reaction of my classmates last week was echoed by an older french woman who I teach english to weekly- her exact words were ‘It is hard….Here there are no jobs for young people…There aren’t even jobs for old people.’ I had been talking to her for twenty minutes when this opinion surfaced. The state of the economy, in France, is inescapable. It is easy to criticise, less easy to empathise. The best I could do with that women was agree that things are bad and to hope that this negative disease of fear, that by no means stops at the french border, will one day give way to reason to believe again.