Pierre Perret – Donnez-Nous Des Jardins

A reader sent in a song that she thought I might like.  She was right, it’s wonderful and has made me just as happy as the free books I was getting sent for review.  If only I had more than outdated GCSE French!

Her introduction and translation follows:

I’m just writing to ask you whether you can speak French or not, just because a famous-ish song sprang to my mind as I was reading one of your posts today. It’s by French singer Pierre Perret, who’s something of an institution now but became famous in the 70’s with songs that were usually highly irreverent, full of slang words … and catchy, and funny, and very popular. 

The one your post(s) reminded me of is “Donnez-nous des jardins” — “Give us gardens”, which he wrote in 1974 to protest against the housing projects that were being built outside cities everywhere to house poor families (immigrants mostly!), and never included play areas.

The chorus goes something like this:

Give us, give us gardens
So we can get in trouble
Gardens from where we can pick up a few flowers
When we go home with a torn shirt
Gardens from where you’re happy
To come back with grazed knees

and the first verse starts like this:

I’m not saying we’re bored
At the foot of those buildings
But try doing somersaults on concrete slabs!

It reminds me so strongly of the council estates that PATH and other great Play Associations deliver sessions on, places characterized by hard edges and unyielding grey surfaces.  They had been designed with standard fixed equipment playgrounds, but even those poor substitutions for gardens had been long since torn out.  There were heartbreaking stories of children climbing the scaffolding and falling, of children’s afternoons spent hanging around without anywhere to go where they could feel free.

It’s true that housing developments like these are exactly where new forms of play such as parkour (or free running) were developed, but people’s ability to do somersaults on concrete is no reason why they shouldn’t also have gardens as well.

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