Yesterday I had lunch with Yves Jaffrennou, who was Sylvia’s partner.  It had been Yves who took me to the doctor, the chemist and the laboratoire for a blood test and then he wanted to make sure I was eating properly now that I’m better!

Yes, I ate well – indeed with too much gusto – and thoroughly enjoyed spending several hours chatting with Yves, who is really quite a remarkable man.  Retired teacher, he writes books, takes photos, sculpts, broadcasts on local radio … …  It was good being able to discuss politics- there are not many here who are interested in discussion (as opposed to adopting strong stances at dinner parties!).

Obviously we covered IS, immigration, and the integration of immigrants.  We considered how the different colonial heritage of our two countries had shaped attitudes to immigrants.  I suggested that the British colonial model had been essentially a hands-off, indirect rule, which perhaps led to more tolerance – relatively – of multicultural societies. The French colonials lived more closely with the native populations, but wanted to impose French culture – language and customs – on them.  Similarly, in France they want immigrants to integrate, adopt all things French.  Added to this is the fervent belief (in theory) in the secular state. Hence the dislike of not just the all covering burka but the more casual hijab.

I referred to some of my friends – also Yves’ – and remarked how passionate they were about being French and wanting all who lived here to appreciate all things French.  I added that I did nothave similar sentiments about being British.  I had a sense of my family and the various places in Britain and Ireland from whence they came, but I had more a sense of being European rather than British.

That pressed a button for Yves – identity.  Off he went to get a book, a collection of weekly radio talks he gave a few years back, covering the alphabet with a ‘word of the day’.  When he reached the letter I, he talked about Identity.

For those that can read French, here is what he wrote (click on each image to see the larger version).

He starts by discussing what is it which makes each person unique, gives them their identity.  He explores the concentric circles which make up his identity : his ancestral heritage, the region where he grew up, the places where he has lived, like the Cévennes, his belonging to the French community – its history, language and values – his sense (like me) of belonging to Europe, but also his sense of belonging to the human race  – and beyond even that circle, the idea of us belonging to the eco system of this planet.

I wonder how many local radio stations in Britain would give weekly space to complex ideas like this.

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