Never-ending stories

Kim SOS 2It’s a bit of a short post this week sports fans, given that at the Granny Flat, reading (and rugby) has beaten writing quivering into a corner. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important, after all, what in the world could be more important than books? If you’ve been reading over the last few months, you’ll know that wine fans don’t come much bigger than me, and chez moi, my wine rack is full of weighty tomes just waiting for me to dive into. And what perfect timing! Nothing says autumn more than curling up on a darkening evening with a mug of something steaming and a good book to get lost in.

I’m also a fan of doing good where possible (as I’m sure you are too, dear reader), so SOS Help’s bi-annual book sale perfectly combines my philanthropic tendencies with my desire to fill my open dumper truck arms with as many books as my puny muscles can handle. And by God I’ll need them with a room full of paperbacks for a euro and hardbacks for two (the majority English language), not to mention comfort therapy in the form of home-baked cakes and coffee. Just in time to replenish those shelves for the long black evenings of chilly winter, the second sale of the year takes place on Sunday October 11th.

Kim SOS 3For those not familiar with their work, SOS Help is a charity that offers a free and confidential listening service to English people living in France, providing a friendly ear for those worried, stressed, lonely and confused. France is a wonderland of opportunity and experience in many respects, but life as an expat isn’t always sunshine and roses, and that’s where they come in.

When starting this blog, I decided never to act as a promotional tool for other organisations, giving me the freedom to choose whatever subject and angle my heart desired, and I stand by that. But in this case I’ll make an exception, knowing what valuable work SOS Help dedicate themselves to. Plus this bi-annual book sale fits in with my budget ethos and provides me with my yearly reading material for the price of a couple of pints, and whether we have need of a friendly ear or not, the imaginary world of books is sometimes all we need to climb over life’s prickly obstacles. Donations are also accepted, check the website for details.

Kim SOS 1Sun Oct 11, 12-4 pm
Orrick Law Offices
31 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 16e
http://www.soshelpline.org

God bless the little ones

Kim plaque 3Despite the (admittedly partly true) stereotype of the miserable Parisian, I consider myself incredibly lucky to be living in a place where all of my needs are comfortably met. I lack not food, water, shelter, love, security, freedom and adventure, and sadly it’s only when headlines detailing the struggles others are facing in other parts of the world, that we selfishly realise how good we’ve got it.

France, like most of Europe is deep in the midst of the migrant crisis, though it’s only through the media that we can begin to understand what difficulties others are living through. It’s easy to turn off the TV or computer, or put down the newspaper when those hardships become difficult to confront, and we’re all guilty of closing our eyes when concentrating on our own fortune is easier to bear. But turning the page is only temporary – above all, it’s important not to forget.

Kim plaque 2I may live a life a million miles away from families who have lost their loved ones at sea in the hope of building a better life, but the recent images of tiny beings tragically washed ashore are impossible for anyone to ignore, regardless of how removed our own realities are. I could never hope to understand the torment of their plight, though thinking of such innocent young lives in such peril made me cast my mind to the children of Paris who have suffered throughout the years, plaques of remembrance scattered throughout the city meaning that we will forever be surrounded by their memory.

Kim plaque 1Walk around with your eyes open and you’ll soon likely encounter one of hundreds of the city’s schools, most proudly displaying a black marble plaque near the front entrance, usually accompanied by a large brass ring, and frequently a bunch of flowers. It’s easy to walk by without realising the significance, but look more closely, and you’ll see that the inscription pays homage to the thousands of Jewish children who were removed from their homes and schools during the horrors of World War II and shipped to concentration camps by the Nazis.

Kim plaque 4Some plaques detail individual names, some quietly remember the numbers lost in each arrondissement, and others point to the horrifying city-wide total of 11,000 children deported from France between the years 1942 and 1944. Even today floral tributes are often placed within the brass ring to show that even though such terrors have gone, they will never be forgotten.

It may be beyond the powers of most of us to tackle the route causes of such needless suffering, but it’s at most important to us to remember what has passed, and those it has affected in a world where we have power to at least influence change. In a society when looking inward (often to the point of narcissism) has become more the norm, I find these plaques a sobering and poignant reminder to appreciate the freedom we have when others would give their lives for it, as is all too familiar in the past, and devastatingly, the present. Let’s hope one day we won’t need to remember such dark times in the first place.