Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to comedian Ian Moore about what France means to him.
Ian lives in the Loire Valley with his wife and three children, is a regular headliner at London’s famous Comedy Store and has also appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival. He describes himself as almost single-handedly leading the resurgence of all things mod, although I think Sir Bradley Wiggins might have something to say about that. His book A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France. published by Summersdale is available now.
Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?
Ian: Quite simply, it’s the people. The French are almost a distinct race in themselves and possibly the most contrary one at that! Immense pride in their beautiful country and yet blind to the amount of dog poo covering it for instance. But in a world of increasing homogeneity they still stand out as different and that’s to be applauded. In essence they’ve decided what the important things in life are, food, family, pace, rights, freedom etc and are prepared to defend those things at all costs even if the institutions and conventions governing those things are so convoluted they almost work against the principle they protect!
2) You left the UK with your young son, just like we did, but why did you choose to move to France?
Ian: The destination was never in doubt. My wife is half French and we’d been holidaying in the Loire Valley for years with her family. The plan was to retire here but then we took a very French decision to put ‘quality of life’ above everything else and do it as soon as we could….
3) When you first arrived in France what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?
Ian: We very quickly became immersed, or at least Natalie and the children did. She is fluent in the language, has roots in the area so it wasn’t a difficult transition for her. I’m trying but I still have to spend half of the week in England for work – but I love how quickly we all became accepted, part of the community. It just confirmed that we’d made the right decision. Having said that we may have been a bit greedy with the property that we bought and though I wake every morning and ‘survey my estate’ as it were, the sheer scale of the place and the upkeep for a very non-outdoorsy person is daunting.
4) Do you have any top tips for learning French?
Ian: Don’t bother. Just have enough children and make a special translating team out of them. I’m joking! My French is good(ish) but I’ve been lazy and hidden behind Natalie and the boys, so my suggestion would be just dive in, chat as much as you can because that thing you always hear, “Oh the French, they hate it when you get the language wrong,” is utter nonsense and they love a good chat.
5) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?
Ian: My job as a stand up comic means that I’m very good at avoiding language mishaps, unless I directly seek them. My mishaps have all been of the cheek-kissing/hand shaking minefield. There are no rules apparently, people just make them up but there are definite no-nos and one that is detailed in the book still haunts me. I haven’t seen the unfortunate woman since…
6) Do you think the French have a similar sense of humour to the British?
Ian: No. Quite the opposite. The French for all their erudite sophistication still cling to the world of slapstick. It’s almost like they take everything else in life so seriously that only the most childish humour is a good enough release. Of course the British like slapstick too but not as much as the French, and if there is one big division in our sense of humour it’s that the British can laugh at themselves much more easily than the French can. That is the main reason why there is a tradition of stand up in the UK and not here.
7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?
Ian: A Ricard and I’ll surreptitiously nibble off a still warm baguette under the table.
8) Is there any French food you won’t eat?
Ian: I know this is stereotypical but the only thing I haven’t tried is Frog’s Legs. My eldest son brought some home as part of a science dissection homework project once but I’m convinced his teacher was actually just trying to wind up le rosbif!
9) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?
Ian: Great question! I live in the home of goats’ cheese so I’m going to stay local. I’m a versatile goats’ cheese, I can be hard or soft, always well presented, slightly nutty and excellent with wine.
10) Best French tipple, and yes I know there are many to choose from?
Ian: When you live in a country that has so many great drinks and for all meals, even breakfast, how do you narrow it down? Anyway, a late night vintage Armagnac after a long meal and attendant debates with good friends and family.
11) Can you describe your perfect French apero for us: the drink, the nibbles, the location and the company?
Ian: The apero drink would be a neighboring farmer’s homemade epousses des pins, a blackthorn concoction that knocks your socks off! The nibbles would be a warmed fougasse from the boulangerie, either lardons or goats’ cheese and complimented by some English crisps (the French are light years behind on the crisp front). The location would be our own terrasse with my beautiful family and some good friends telling us how jealous they are!
Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?
Ian: Apart from the book A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France. I am performing stand up all the time so check out my website. My wife and I are also reopening our own ‘creative’ school next year, so if anyone has any courses they would like to see in France (writing, painting, needlecraft, book binding etc) check out the Les Champs Creatifs website too.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.
You can follow Ian's blog here.
You can follow Ian's blog here.