A great read Hannah! The most exciting droplet of wonder came in the form of your enchanting French Spider, who informs me that it doesnt have the luxury of either retirement or pension!

I said that cant be the case ...perhaps look on the web to see if spiders are due any benefits!( youre welcome!)

Having just turned 64 and trying to chase up the swindling NHS for my " lost" pension spanning 23 years , this weeks penpal really resonated.since going completely digital and thus disposing of " paper work " fron 1996 , it seems there is no current record of my superannuation payments.

Therefore I, and very many of us old timers are having to get legal and detective advice to claim it.

Long story , but I am 100% with your French countrymen in both their refusal to lie down and accept changes to their sacred lifestyle , including lunch , and time to Recoup and actually live.

Life whizzes past Hannah andstopping to savour its finer points is imperative. I firmly believe that much of the mental health problems facing so very many young people today come from the constant expectation that they are " on" plugged in and available grid wise at All times. Awful!

As usual your splendid article got me thinking and wondering.

Keep the lunches , keep the age of retirement ( its 66 here in England ) 60 is about right.

Keep pressing for the right to enjoy this magical life.

In the words of Sally Bowles from Cabaret " It isnt that long a stay !"

Look forward very much to next weeks Penpal.

Marvelous company.


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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Hannah Meltzer

Best Sentence: “But then again, I have to admire the zeal with which French people protect their rights. ‘Why do they complain when they have it so good?’, we think — but you could also argue that they have it so good because they complain.” Ah, la poule et l'oeuf !!

1st Runner-up: “I, for example, had accrued 500 euros over the last few years, even as a self-employed person, and I can use that to pay towards a lot of different lessons — I’m considering finally getting my driving license.” That proves the French way uplifts the masses. Q.E.D.

2nd Runner-up: “…any attempt to introduce fees would be met with so many barricades that there would be no chairs left in the Latin Quarter.” Nice allusion to the play, Les Miserable!

Miss Congeniality: “On the subject of lunch, a French friend who works on a building site told me this weekend that EVERY lunch he and his boss have a three-course lunch, entrée, plat, dessert, and a quart of wine, often a cognac. He sees this as key to a productive working day.” That jogged a memory loose in this 69-year-old brain: Early in my career (protected by a labor union) as a hospital pharmacist, we would regularly abuse the lunch “hour” by going to a local place called the “Boatyard” which had upscale food and bar fare. One day we took a new hire with us and ordered Long Island Iced Tea’s along with pasta with calamari sauce. Who should walk in but the Director of Pharmacy and his wife! The new hire aged 10 years fretting about being caught drinking at lunch (the bosses wife, though, seemed entranced by the new hire and looked to be playing footsie with him under the table.) All in all, it was a civilized way to have lunch in the French manner.

In my opinion, being retired the last 2.5 years from a 44-year career in hospital pharmacy (boring!) and a concurrent 20 year career in organized labor, 10 of which spent as the president of a 140 member union of non-nursing professionals (exciting and engaging; I led an 8 day strike against a very large hospital system back in 1986, when I was 33), there is no answer that will balance work with pleasure for the most of us. I’ve seen both sides, from the perspective of a labor activist and I have to say that in the end, human nature corrupts both sides. A guaranteed human wage, with support for the family and leisure, is the ideal. Yet human beings, on both sides of the argument, would seek advantages (I know I did and I’m a “fairly” responsible person.) Ants and bees work for the common good; humans not so much.

The French showed the ultimate corruption of human nature after they threw off their bonds, forgot all about their new freedoms, and began purity tests that resulted in beheadings; The Paris-based Insurrection of 31 May – 2 June 1793 replaced the Girondins who dominated the National Assembly with the Committee of Public Safety, headed by Maximilien Robespierre. This sparked the Reign of Terror, an attempt to eradicate alleged "counter-revolutionaries"; by the time it ended in July 1794, over 16,600 had been executed in Paris and the provinces.

The key is to balance power so that the state and employers are not so powerful and so the workers are not so powerful. One side winning would result in tyranny or chaos. Phrases like liberté, égalité, fraternité are poetic, but usually not much more.

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Jan 22, 2023Liked by Hannah Meltzer

A delight as ever. I’m now committing my teetering TBR pile to reading both the art books - the original and then the version including 52% of the world!

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