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Happy with 'a life of God in France'

I was interested to read one of your reader’s thoughts about returning to the UK after a long absence (Back to the UK after 18 years in France, March edition).

I see where she is coming from (as they say…). However, this leaves plenty of room for those whose aspirations are rather different.

I quote from Somerset Maugham in his novel The Moon and Sixpence.

For me, his view is nearer my own feelings on the subject, even after 25 years here.

“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always had a nostalgia for a home they know not.

“They are strangers in their own birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.

“Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.

“Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never known before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth.

“Here at last he finds rest.”

My Dutch friends are fond of reminding me of one of their sayings to describe someone living a happy life: “He lives like God in France.”

Norman Boyd Hunt, by email

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