Lessons in Fear Management

Friday, 31 January

Today is a sad day, not because the sodden weather has merged Paris rooftop and sky into one lump of grey or because it’s too warm by 10°C/20°F for the end of January, but because come midnight the United Kingdom will forsake the European Union and retract into the confines of a small-island stand-alone state.

I ventured my opinion on the narrow decision to go solo in 2016 and haven't changed my mind one jot, like almost everyone else with strong feelings on the subject. Leavers have continued to see the lone road ahead like this…

…and Remainers more like this…

Whichever side you are on, it has been disheartening to watch a continued inability to compromise, despite the closeness of the referendum's results, and to witness the country turning itself into a laughing stock on the world stage. Parliamentary debates have often looked more like cock fights than the deliberations of a venerable legislative body. Absolutely nothing seemed to get done, except the rehashing of an agreement that no one could agree on. Not, anyway, until Trumpian Boris Johnson, who played a heavy, not quite even hand in the Leave Campaign, succeeded in his long-term plot to become prime minister. After all the convoluted wrangling, he won on the simple slogan "Get Brexit Done". Tomorrow twill indeed be done, leaving the multitude of details in the divorce settlement to be thrashed out over the next year.  

Over here on the Continent, the final act of this tragicomedy has elicited shoulder-shrugging from some, relief from others. As recently retired French European Parliamentary deputy Alain Lamassoure put it: “The British have been constant pains in the ass since 1973.” For those of us like me, however, who hold a UK passport and want to continue living in the Union it has triggered angst and despondency.

I obtained nationality through my first husband Charles. In many ways it seemed a natural development in my life. My father was a Royal-loving Canadian. One of my first memories is in Toronto in his arms, waving a flag at a passing Queen Elizabeth whom I vexingly never actually managed to pick out of the crowd because she wasn't wearing a crown and a diamond-studded dress. My first school years were spent in a very British-style institution; along with O, Canada, we sang God Save the Queen every morning at chapel. All that Union Jack waving must have had some influence on my decision to study in England my junior year of college and perhaps laid the groundwork for those nine months that so profoundly changed my life. It was then that I fell in love with this side of the Atlantic.

Today I look across the Channel from Paris and feel let down, even resentful. Until tonight at midnight being British has been a source of pride because it has allowed me to be a European, which is what I profoundly feel. Now who am I? And what about my children and their partners, Georgina and Amal, Christopher and Kerry, who live and work in London? What will Brexit mean for them and the UK economy?

Dawn, Jardins des Tuileries

This January also marks three years since I collected the quivering, crouching wreck that was Tasha from the animal shelter in Tilloy-les–Mofflaines. That’s a fair chunk in the life of a dog and, given her complications, a toll-taking slice out of her owners’ as well. It's been a while since I've given you an update. How is she doing?

Still a princess. I don't know where this Franco-German mongrel got such a taste for royal ways but she requires comfortable bedding wherever she settles.

When we come in from a rainy walk, she sits pertly at my feet waiting for me to towel her dry. Her demands for affection are ever more imperious and if not satisfied are now accompanied by barking.

Love me, now

She is very sporty...

...and loves to roam the countryside, while stoically accepting certain constraints to her freedom of movement...

Hunting equipment: gilet jaune and GPS tracker
Urban Outfitting: blinking red light to improve visibility on winter mornings

Unfortunately Tasha continues to have a somewhat fearful, recalcitrant relationship with the outside world, barking at certain human and canine strangers, particularly when tethered to her lead. But she does make an ever greater effort to control herself and as everyone remarks who has seen her at different stages over the past three years, she is much calmer. Last weekend, for example, we finally had a house-warming party in the Perche and after some initial protest, she settled right in and enjoyed herself as much as the numerous guests.

Ditto with Koffi, where Tasha still joins the pack once or twice a week in the Forêt de Meudon for long walks that go some way to tiring her out.

A European Union

Come to think of it, she shares many traits with the British: monarchical, sporty, outdoorsy, somewhat xenophobic. But if a dog like Tasha has managed to tame her baser fear instincts and realize the benefits of communal living, what on earth is wrong with the British people?