Système D.

I live in Charlbury, Oxfordshire, UK.

I grew up in Cheshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, and studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic at Cambridge University. I write, cycle, and play the church organ. I'm married to Anna. Our 40ft narrowboat, Iago Prytherch, is moored in Worcester. (Our other boat, ex-GUCCC Hagley, is under restoration on the Aylesbury Arm.)

"The French have a verb, se débrouiller, and a corresponding noun, débrouillardise, which like all the words for things most cherished by the speakers of a particular language are multiple and elusive in their meaning.

"Se débrouiller means, approximately, 'to manage', 'to get by', 'to fend for oneself', 'to look out for oneself', in certain contexts 'to wangle' or 'to weasel out of'. Débrouillardaise is thus an admirable resourcefulness.

"Together these terms have generated a slang idiom, le système D. It serves as watchword for a society which has, at different points in its past, variously prided itself on peasant independence and republican individualism but always on its knack of simultaneously subverting and accommodating itself to officialdom."

(Ian Ousby, Occupation - the ordeal of France 1940-1944)

E-mail Richard Fairhurst.