Tuesday, 4 August 2009

French Taste

I'm fed up to the back teeth of the French being portrayed as arbiters of good taste. There is a yawning chasm between French taste and good French taste.

It used to be on a monthly basis that you would affronted by their total lack of comprehension to the finer points of the delicate preservation of their great national heritage but it has to be said, alas, that you can be insulted every single day by their total crassness and misunderstanding of progress.

In Great Britain the National Trust was set up in the 1920's. It was recognised that after the first world war England was blessed with some wonderful houses of historical interest and that it was in the benefit of future generations to preserve their heritage. If it wasn't for the efforts of the Trust many great houses would have been lost forever. After the hideous blight of plastic double glazing and replacement windows with the obligatory ghastly free front door which in an instant wiped any characteristics many old streets held the tide has turned. The windows have now shrivelled as their short life span, a mere twenty years or so, is ended and people have reverted to wood which lasts a hell of a lot longer and is far more pleasing to the eye.

France abounds with Medieval architecture and yet it means nothing. Landscapes that have not changed in centuries are being raped right left and centre. There is no skyline which until last year would have been recognised by Saint Dominic in the beginning of the 13th century which is so sacred that it cannot have a Stalinist concrete tower block built beside an 11th century church, itself built on the foundations of a Roman Temple to Jupiter. There is no 17th century Manor House or Chateau so beautifully proportioned, even as to its windows made of evergreen oak soaked for three years in water and still perfectly sound that cannot at a whim be refitted with plates of double glazed glass framed with white PVC.

France loves its 18.m visitors that flock to its shores every year but it is questionable whether many understand why they come. If they did have any notion whatsoever they would passionately preserve the intricate finesse of their country, but they don't, and they laugh openly at us all for caring.

From beautiful long lines of Plane Trees razed to the earth, from the overnight transformation of my favourite Domaine in the name of progress, from the gentle view of a Medieval village nestling amongst the hills, blighted forever by an ugly wart of a housing development. If things go on as they are then France will just be a archipelago of monuments linked together by hideous modernity.

Never forget that this is the nation that thought fit to erect a glass pyramid in the courtyard in one of Europe's, hence the Worlds premier palaces.

Why not paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa ?


Guy Clapperton said...

I think what gets to me sometimes is the sheer insularity of the tastes over there. 20 years ago when I was at college I had a conversation with a French colleague pointing out that other cuisines were taking over as excellent and that the world was discovering other wines. She shrugged these suggestions off as irrelevant.

We fast forward to the present day and there's definitely a tide turning against france being the ultimate foodie destination - good French food is utterly superb, I was there only a couple of weeks ago and had one of the best meals I've ever enjoyed, but some of the grot you find in tourist cafes is unsurpassed for inedibility even in the blandest English eateries. It's something that has improved beyond recognition in the UK and stayed much the same in France. And of course New World wines have been outselling the French varieties for a fair while now. They seem not to understand what they've actually got in that country - spending time and effort trying to preserve the language and keeping updates like 'Le Weekend' out and passing laws against combining certain grapes in wines but not spotting that they're spending too much time on the trimmings and not enough on the core of what's great about France.

Veronica said...

Well. I don't agree at all about the Louvre Pyramid -- it's beautiful, and a great example of French style and daring which complements the original buildings. Likewise the Millau viaduct -- stunning and resolutely modern.

But. Just. Don't. Get. Me. Started on uPVC windows, shutters, and ghastly doors on centuries-old houses, even in "villages class├ęs". Aaaaaargh!! Why is it allowed??

Signed, one who replaced rotten old windows with wooden double-glazed ones perfectly in keeping with the building.

Pondside said...

I have to agree with you re that ugly glass pyramid - I'll never forget seeing it for the first time and wondering 'why?'.

lampworkbeader said...

I love France Sally but I do agree with much of what you've said. I have a post WW1 poster somewhere in my attic that says something about selling war bonds to keep whole 'La Douce Terre de France.' It seems that's no longer a priority.

KittyB said...

Something's rattled your cage, Sally! Totally agree with you on UPVC, in France or here - in homes new or old, I detest UPVC windows, and so unfriendly to the environment.

Have to say I am mildly insulted by the French generally believing that their food is superbe and ours is merde. Depends where you eat - on both sides of the Channel!

corine said...

Aww.. the French can't be that bad...says the french girl who has taken refuge in the US for the last twenty years.