Lemons, figs and pomegranates
Sometimes people have tried to tell me that there isn’t much difference in culture between England and France. OK, so perhaps there’s no culture shock as in some countries: most of us will have sufficient of everything and can expect sanitation, education and a roof over our heads, but the differences can lie elsewhere…
As I travelled the length of France on Saturday in order to reach my destination of Perpignan on the south coast, the change in landscape was phenomenal. The roofs turn red, the spaces of open land expand, dry land becomes pools becomes sea and the mountains greet me, stretching high into the blue blue sky flooded with sunshine. Stepping off the train the heat hits you and all in all, the difference between where I’d come from and where I’d arrived was immeasurable. The south to the south with a whole lot of differences in between.
The French couple who met me are lovely. Some of the differences between their home life and that of my family are things like their habits of drinking wine with each of their meals, of having the main dish, then salad, then cheese, then desert – and bread with any of those plates. At home we would eat the salad and the main dish together and we would have eaten the cheese with bread at lunch time. Insignificant? Perhaps it could seem so but these are the bricks that build up different lives and make up life around the world.
In my garden at home there are plum trees and apple trees. Here there are fig trees, pomegranate trees, lemon trees. The bright red insides of the figs were a beautiful surprise to me as they showed me how to peel them and cut them open. The brilliant yellow of the lemons is something I’ve only seen in supermarkets before and pomegranates belong in South Africa, as far as my experience goes. And yet here we are in the south of France where my familiar is their unfamiliar and our overlapping lives are full of exciting surprises.