Today is the first day of 2014 and as always on the first day of a new year I’m feeling wildly optimistic and positive.
Some of my French friends have shared their New Year’s Resolutions with me, they’re pretty tame on the whole – no one has any urges to do anything out of the ordinary. Grow more veg, finish building something, lose a bit of weight. Perhaps that’s what New Year’s resolutions are really all about, a chance to state the things you know you really want to do out in the open. Get people on side. Garner some support.
I’ve tried to come up with a resolution for the New Year but nothing jumps out that wasn’t on the list last year – finish writing my book, more travel in France, write more features for newspapers and magazines, work out what all the buttons are on my new camera. My New Year’s resolutions actually read more like a job description!
The place to go for some good advice is the local French cafe. Towns and villages in every region in France will have one – a place where people go to meet and talk. My local one is a typical rural French café. It is completely unpretentious; the décor is unchanged from the 1960s with its orange wall paper and linoleum floor. That’s not the only thing that’s unchanged in there – most of the customers have been going there since the 1960s too and the same family have run it for generations.
It is the sort of place where people go for a strong coffee – the kind that keeps you awake for three days. You can get a glass of wine here that would clean a drain. The Pastis will knock your socks off. It is generally a quiet place where you can sit at your 1960’s Formica table and enjoy the ambience knowing that many have enjoyed this same view for more than 50 years. Every now and then something out of the ordinary will happen – one day I was in there and a band wandered in, played a tune and wandered out again. Nobody batted an eyelid or even acknowledged it.
Everyone has an opinion in the café – if someone says it’s a lovely day outside, someone else will say they heard it might rain later. They’re not cantankerous, they’re people who like to debate about the most mundane things in life and most of them have known each other their whole lives. French cafe philosophy – it’s in every town and every village in France, it is a way of life.
There is an old man in the café who seems to be there every time I pass by. He is not the most talkative of men but we got to chatting and once we figured out that I understand French better than I pronounce it we were fine! The old man has no New Year’s resolutions. He said he’s too old to have them and too wise to waste time thinking up things to do that he knows won’t happen – so why bother. He did though have some good advice which he says is for anyone at any time.
He says we shouldn’t worry about writing things down to do for the sake of it – we should just do it if it needs to be done. Whether it is something we know we should, for fun or because we want to. We shouldn’t worry so much about making mistakes – we should just try our best. If we fail – we should try again. His parting gem: “life is what it is, don’t waste time moaning about it – deal with it”.