Valérie Trierweiler’s notebook: Christmas as a singleton

Plus: Throwing out books, and #BringBackourGirls

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

13 December 2014

9:00 AM

Christmas will be a very warm occasion for me. I’ll be spending it with the Massonneaus — my family — as I do every year. It will be five brothers and sisters, gathered around our mother in our childhood home, a council house that, for us, felt like a palace when we first moved in. As always, our mother will try very hard for everything to be perfect, from the meal to the mountains of presents. With 12 grandchildren, who are all at an age to bring around a special someone or a ‘fiancée’, it usually becomes quite boisterous. However, this will also be my first Christmas for a very long time as a single woman and it will be my last Christmas in my forties. In two months, I will cross the threshold of 50. I am preparing myself, getting ready, with a firm resolution to accept my wrinkles. Or not.

The anti-poverty organisation Secours Populaire, which I sponsor, is 20 years older than me. It celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2015. Julien Lauprêtre, who has been its president for more than 50 years, has 80,000 volunteers and one objective: solidarity. With them, there is no charity make-believe, political correctness or fancy language. A poor person is a poor person, not a disadvantaged person. ‘Le Secours pop’ gives out 181 million meals every year and is active in about 50 countries. They also launched a movement called ‘Copain du monde’ which introduces children to each other from across the world. Their greatest success? Bringing together small Israeli and Palestinian children.

My new year’s resolution is — wait for it — to learn English, though I should admit I have broken this promise before. I don’t really know what holds me back. I have, however, learned how to drive, how to send an attached file, and how to switch on a DVD player and a washing machine. The DVD player is essential to my English mission. Since I discovered 24 and Jack Bauer, I have been bingeing on all the episodes, in English. OK, so I do put on the subtitles, but I am nevertheless making progress. During my recent four-day trip to London to promote my book, I probably learned about 12 new words. I now know how to say ‘Oh my God’ and even ‘Thank you for this moment’. I understood what was being said to me (thank God!) and managed to hold a proper conversation with Lord Ashcroft during a private dinner organised by my publisher. I even caught and laughed at some of the subtleties, although the second glass of wine helped with that.

I hope I am wrong, but it seems unlikely that the 219 Nigerian girls who are still missing after being kidnapped by Boko Haram in April will be returned in time to spend Christmas with their families. Some of them have been raped, forced to marry or reduced to slavery. No kidnapping of this magnitude has ever been attempted before (276 girls were taken, some of whom escaped). We all remember Michelle Obama’s banner ‘#BringBackourGirls’. The first lady took a firm and single-minded stand and spoke in the place of her husband to ask for their release. The young girls are the age and colour of her own daughters. Malia and Sasha will have the joy of spending Christmas with their parents, but they and I will think of Esther, Yana, Rébéca, Déborah, Ruth, Salomé, Margret and all the others who have been robbed of their freedom.

I am lucky to receive a number of free books every day as a result of my column in Paris Match. Sadly, I now have too many, and have to spend a lot of time rearranging them. When I was young, I could not imagine separating myself from a book, but nowadays I have to give some away. Many of my books have been following me for 30 years, and some are still in boxes waiting for me to take them out after three consecutive relocations. A few have had their corners chewed by mice. A number of books caught my eye this year, like the one about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Le roi disait que j’étais diable, written by Clara Dupont-Monod, and A Train in Winter, by Caroline Moorehead. The latter prompts one to think of those very drastic images from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah and the empty trains on their way back from Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as all the barbaric behaviour around the world. Think of the recent beheadings of hostages by Isis. It’s so difficult to comprehend. Just when you think you have seen the worst of humanity, something even worse comes to light.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Thank You For This Moment, by Valérie Trierweiler, is published by Biteback in hardback at £18.99. Valérie Trierweiler’s Merci pour ce moment, a memoir of her separation from President François Hollande, had sold half a million copies within weeks of publication.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • Frank

    Trite piffle.

  • Damian Hurts

    A council house can be a home? Not in brainwashed England.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    I’d prefer a Christmas piece by Marine Le Pen myself.

    • BarryObola

      I second that.

  • rtj1211

    You can learn plenty about the atrocities of man by reading up on French colonial history in Algerie, dear lady… many was it you bumped off? 1 million?? 1.5 million?? Not much to be proud of there.

    I’m no supporter of ISIS or Boko Haram, but their butchery is as nothing compared to the recent pasts of European powers. My country’s and yours. Although yours were rather more brutal and murderous than ours since 1945, it has to be said…..although once you get past 50,000 dead, as we both did with ease and then some, really the moral relativism becomes a bit of a futile bit of political bullshit.

    Strange how we airbrush all that out and then express faux outrage at far smaller atrocities down the track. Isn’t it??

    A new English expression for you: there’s no more strident moralist than a reformed alcoholic……..

  • Edward Snowden

    Been kicked off the Guardian site, apparently Alan lost the bet.

    Facts are free there now, only comment is sacred.


    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Got anything more on MI6 tapping the Transatlantic cable, Ed?

    • ArthurSparknottle

      The Comment is Free site is seriously misnamed. They delete any remarks that are even slightly to the right of center and will ban you at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, lefty opponents can call you the ‘C’ wprd – I mean the one that rudely denotes the female genitalia and their remarks stand while those questioning the seriousness of global warming (0.8 degree C in 160 years – mean global temperature) are grounds for commenting privileges being withdrawn.

      The Guardian comment website seems to be run by some latter day Mao or maybe Stalin as far as free speech is concerned.

  • Edward Snowden

    Dear Valerie . . . did you not learn the Bill Clinton lesson?

    [You are Monica Lewinsky, lite.]

    You got off lightly, run along now: lest they make an Amy Winehouse out of you.