By Sean Power
The war in Ukraine has affected France deeply and most towns and cities have made social housing or accommodation available to those who have fled the country.
AUTUMN has descended on this part of France. From my schooldays in Ireland, I remember these words by John Keats: ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.’ We have passed from an unusually mild October to rain, wind, and more rain.
November is a very important month in France for remembrance. The first day of the month is significant and most families visit cemeteries with flowers.
This is followed a few days later by Armistice Day on 11 November. All towns hold ceremonies at 11am and this town is no different. France has some survivors from the period, mostly from the Algerian War of Independence. France attaches great importance to this early part of November.
There are some other differences between life in Jersey and life in France on important dates. The French, per se, do not send many greetings cards. New Year’s Eve is the exception, where greetings and best wishes are sent. Birthday cards are few and far between, as are anniversary and Christmas cards. Twenty-first birthdays are not particularly celebrated but 18, then 20, 40 and 60 are marked.
The rain has been extensive in the past few weeks and while French and European rivers are recovering, they are nowhere near their healthy and sustainable level.
The Gendarmerie and the Sapeurs-Pompiers (Fire Service) have been busy with an increase in road accidents owing to wet and slippery conditions, with highways covered in leaves. In November, households are asked to support the emergency services by buying a calendar produced by these services. Fire service personnel go door to door, selling their colourful calendars. Likewise, the person delivering the mail also has a supply of La Poste calendars in the yellow La Poste van and most houses have one or the other or both.
This household is the owner of both La Poste and Sapeurs-Pompiers calendars. The normal contribution is about €5 per calendar.
In the cafés on Monday market day, and other days, there is much discussion of inflation. The cost of fuel has increased and is nearer to €1.89 a litre. Inflation to October 2022 was running at just over 6%. The war in Ukraine has affected France deeply and most towns and cities have made social housing or accommodation available to those who have fled the country. The local schools and child daycare centres have all absorbed thousands of young Ukrainians into their systems.
I read in the JEP in the past week that another childcare provision operating in a number of parishes has ceased trading. This must be very difficult for Jersey parents. Childcare in France is almost a Holy Grail and is highly organised and subsidised by the state. My understanding is that childcare provision is easier to find in the towns and outside of the big cities. There is a means test for the amount parents pay. The whole system is designed to enable them to continue working. The costs are varied but affordable. Low-income families pay very little. High-income families pay more. Middle-income families pay an affordable amount ranging from €2.50 per hour upwards. There are state-supported daycare centres for children up to the age of three. There are different crèche structures, family and corporate.
Then, linked to primary schools, there are ‘Garderie’. These are before- and after-school provisions to allow parents to drop children off at 7.30am and leave them in school until 5.30pm. That allows for a full day’s work for a parent.
Schools play a very significant part of life in France. Most have a provision for children with disabilities. These set-ups support the parents of these children. The origins of childcare in the French school system date back almost 70 years. President Charles de Gaulle had a daughter, Anne, who had Down’s syndrome. Her special needs caused him and his wife, Yvonne, to change the French education system and this tradition is carried on to this day.
As I finish writing this, some ‘pub’ (publicity) has dropped through the letterbox. The offerings are starting to turn to Christmas and the local shops and supermarkets will take on a Christmas flavour. Green-fingered enthusiasts will be able to visit the local garden centres and avail themselves of the sales of saplings, fruit trees, shrubs and all manner of plants.
The gardens go to sleep but there is much autumn and winter work to do, not least a deluge of leaves blown in and generated by one’s own greenery.
More soon as we head into winter.
Sean Power served in the States between 2005 and 2014, on Scrutiny, as Assistant Minister and Minister of the Housing Department. He served as chair of the Planning Committee under the late Deputy Rob Duhamel. He also served nearly seven years with the JSPCA, latterly as vice-president. In 2011, he co-founded Sanctuary Trust with the Rev Mark Bond and the late Colin Taylor.