Je Suis Charlie


I looked at my blog plan this morning and saw the title ‘The Best Tarte Tatin in Paris’ but following the attack at Charlie Hebdo today it doesn’t feel appropriate to write about apple tart.  I’ll write that one another day.

Followers of my blog will know that I usually write about the history of Paris. I write about French vocab. I write about my attempts to get my novel published. I’m not a controversial blogger and I don’t write about politics – not because I’m afraid of them, they just aren’t my area.

So then I thought that maybe I wouldn’t write anything. Maybe it would be inappropriate to write about Paris at all today.

But it would be inappropriate to not write tonight.

I write about Paris because I love it. I love Paris and I’m not ashamed to say so.

I love Paris because it is resilient. It is a strong city that has overcome some of Europe’s bloodiest wars and grown into a glorious city of peace. I never once experienced homophobia in Paris and, moving there at 18 from a small northern English town, this was a revelation. I remember being a student and having after-dark dinner parties with Muslim friends during Ramadan and thinking what an amazing and diverse place it was. Of course, like every major city, there are problems with integration, poverty, crime and, sadly, extremism. Nobody could claim Paris is perfect but there isn’t a city in the world that could make that claim.

I love Parisians.  I love how they speak their mind. I love going to a café and hearing the owner having an argument with a chef and not caring at all that customers can hear. I love that people tut and grumble at each other in the metro. I love how unapologetic they are for their opinions. In London, everything is prefaced with ‘sorry’. ‘Sorry, is that seat free?’ ‘Sorry, can I get past?’  There are fewer sorries in Paris.

I love how Parisians protest. How they stand out in the street in the rain, sun, sleet and snow and demand that their government follow their wishes. I don’t agree with everything they ask for of course – the anti-gay marriage protests had my blood boiling like nothing else. But they’re out there at least, campaigning for what they believe in, unafraid to speak their minds. Unafraid to express themselves. They know it is their right to do so.

So when I read the news reports this afternoon I was deeply saddened. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attempt to suppress the freedom of expression that makes Paris and Parisians who they are. It’s an attack on everybody’s freedom. It is made doubly sad by being a senseless taking of life that is deplorable and thoroughly unjustifiable.

If I were still living in Paris you would have found me on Place de la Republique this evening. Instead I joined the crowds gathered on Trafalgar Square and held a pen in the air in solidarity with the city I love and in memory of those who lost their lives so tragically this afternoon.

It is a sad day but Paris is strong. JE SUIS CHARLIE.

trafalgar square

Crowds on Trafalgar Square. 7 January 2015.


17 responses to “Je Suis Charlie

  1. I loved what you have written. I felt the same exact way about writing on political or religious matters. But after the events of yesterday, I felt that I couldn’t and shouldn’t avoid it. If there were ever a time to share an opinion, it is now.

    Beautifully said. Thanks for your post .

  2. Andrew, I empathized with your hesitancy in writing this blog and thought your integrity and disbelief of the horrific shooting of the staff at Charlie Hebdo echoes thoughts and opinions from around the world. Tonight at the opposite end of the world in Aotearoa, New Zealand ex-pat French citizens alongwith other people are gathered together to express there disbelief and concerns and like other cities around the world will hold a candlelight vigil.
    It was a sad day for Paris and the rest of the world.

  3. I love this piece Andrew, and I’m glad to discover you thanks to your comment on my je suis Charlie attempt. I like to think of you in Trafalgar Square with pen held high! Have you seen the photos of pens in breast pockets and safety pins in lapels. Such homely objects to be signs of resistance. Perfect. There are a lot of us.

    • I haven’t seen those but I’ll certainly look out for them. Thanks so much for following my blog and for your nice comment. It’s always great to connect with fellow Francophiles!

  4. I loved this Andrew and am glad to discover you thanks to your comment on my Je Suis Charlie attempt. I like to think of you holding pens high in Trafalgar Square. Did you see the photo of pens in breast pockets and safety pins on lapels as symbols of resistance to terrorism. Such homely objects. Perfect. There are a lot of us!

  5. Hi Andrew, thanks for the follow! What an absolutely incredible gathering today in Paris. A wonderful response to the week’s atrocities. I’ve never been to Paris – I’m a country girl. I’d love to go one day just to experience it. I’ll pop back soon to check out the Tarte Tatin!

    • The march has been incredible to watch. So comforting to see so many people out on the streets, united with one purpose. What a wonderful response to such terrible acts. Thanks for commenting too. And you already know I’d recommend the tarte tatin 🙂

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