Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A nice bit o' cheese, Grommit

Today has been a day off. You just need one from time to time :-) Two more chapters of my thesis went off yesterday to my supervisor who is perhaps even now smudging the ink of the first page with his tears of despair.

A friend last night voiced the opinion that the French were manic workers but very good at holidays and days off. Though I am reluctant to admit it, this is actually true. I moan about the French too much, so much in fact that a colleague and I recently felt obliged to make a WNPT, i.e. a Whining Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, my French friend is right: the French do know how to relax. Savoir vivre is not dead in Frogland, though something somewhere is not quite right; not long ago it was said that the French were the biggest consummers of Prozac in Europe. Does that maybe show they also work too much?

The bit about manic workers was certainly once true. I'm no communist, but I cannot take any credit away from Paul Lafargue - son-in-law of Marx himself - who was so upset by the busy, busy bees in French society that he famously composed his manifesto 'Droit à la paresse' - The Right to Laziness. Is this why the French transport system tends to go on strike every Monday morning? I think we should be told.

Still, if you have a day off, France is as good a place to spend it as any (not that I really have the choice; this is a bit like a prisoner warmly recommending a trot around the exercise yard, but bear with me). And, for me, there's nothing that finishes off a day spent resting from quotidian travails than a plate of smelly cheese and a bold, melodious, full-bodied red wine (a what????).

And so that is where I'm going now, muttering, as I leave, the following lines which, though they speak of an English cheese, celebrate smelly cheeses everywhere.


Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I--
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.

Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading 'Household Words',
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.
G.K. Chesterton.

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