Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I’ve lived here for a long time now and generally I’m pretty much at home in France. I’d say that with a few idiosyncratic tweaks, French culture is more or less my culture*. But yesterday evening I had to go to a memorial mass and it was brought home to me that I’m really just an imposter here.
I’m not a Catholic and church services here are an absolute mystery to me. (My English-speaking Catholic friends tell me that it isn’t much clearer for them). For a start, I have no idea when to stand and when to sit and end up doing everything several seconds after the rest of the congregation. The priest makes some innocuous pronouncement and with no warning the entire church answers in unison giving me the fright of my life. Sometimes they all mumble the same words with total confidence, sometimes they all sing a couple of lines, sometimes they all cross themselves. Meanwhile I’m left fumbling around, surreptitiously glancing sideways to work out what everyone else is doing and and trying to look as inconspicuous an idiot as possible. Usually I have P. with me to prod me in the right direction, but last night I was all by myself.
At least this time I wasn’t fooled into queuing up with everyone else while they waited to take mass – something I’m pretty sure I'm not allowed to do anyway. Last time I joined the queue by accident and ended up having a statuette of Jesus thrust towards my face. I kissed the wee plaster man on the lips – it just seemed like the right thing to do. How was I supposed to know that it’s the done thing to kiss his feet ?
*except for a few obvious exceptions such as:
the consumption of snails,
jumping queues with impunity/letting other people jump queues with impunity
driving gaily through red lights