French Numbers

House numbers in France (when compared with those in England) tend to reflect the more subtle cultural and political differences between our two countries. Some towns and villages that I have visited in France have settled on a kind of ‘house style’ for their house numbers, to identify and celebrate the local community, what might be termed civic pride. There is, of course the distinctive and ubiquitous white numbering on blue enamel style to be seen throughout large parts of France that speaks of national pride, but towns like Bayeux and St Malo (for instance) have their own very distinctive style of number ‘plates’, and in Quimper faience style decorative ceramic tiles abound. But there are always idiosyncratic exceptions to the ‘rule’ and nowhere is this more pronounced than in coastal locations where the exception tends to become the rule and where sometimes weirdly individualistic and distinctive house numbers are much more in evidence. In some of the Petites Cités de Caractére the house number style would appear to be strictly controlled (as it would be in a National Trust village like Lacock, here in England, for instance) but there are always intriguing exceptions to be found – statements of individuality and minor acts of rebellion, and uniqueness. And then there is the wear and tear; the rusting and peeling; the cracking and crazing that create the patina of ageing to add meaning, significance, character and personality to the otherwise anonymous number.

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