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English take back France, one business and house at a time

June 16th, 2009 · 6 Comments

One of the stranger quirks of the last two days has been running into Brits who’ve decided to chuck their boring lives on the Rainy Island and become quasi-French.

Last night, we had dinner at a beautiful old house in the middle of the countryside in Dordogne. The menu boasted that the restaurant had a slow-food philosophy and all kinds of dishes — the duck a l’orange and the little fried smelt-type fishies — were sourced locally. And our host for the evening at Le Salvetat? Steve Jordon, a one-time manager in the plastics industry, originally from Birmingham.

Today, we stopped for lunch in Eymet, a small town to the southwest. Sitting at the table next to us as we drank our cafe cremes was … William King, a one-time computer programmer from just south of London, who is living in Eytat and running a business brewing English ale. It’s a tough go, he said, as most bars in France have exclusive agreements with their suppliers. But he’s got his hopes up, because the anglo community in some town 100 kilometres away has been asked to organize an English bar for that town’s July 14 celebration. He’s hoping he’ll sell at least 200 litres.

In the meantime, he was having a great time basking in the sun in front of a bar that was plastered with English soccer newspapers in the windows. He claimed that Eytat has the largest English population of any town in France and that locals sometimes call it the capital of Dordogneshire.

All of which is a reminder to me, yet again, of how fluid borders are these days. As it becomes easier to move around all the time, there are waves of immigrants from the high-carbon-footprint countries moving all over the world to enclaves that they’ve decided are their paradise.

It makes me wonder what the end result of all this melding will be — Will it create more diversity? Or will it create communities where, since everyone has moved there for some particular quality they value, there’ll be a narrow and rigid idea of what that place should be?

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