Image via WikipediaJogging at his official residence at Versailles on the weekend, President Sarkozy slipped to the ground, suffering from a malfunction of the nerves controlling his heart. Or just from over exertion in the heat of the afternoon. Or whatever the next spokesperson tells us. He was shipped to hospital and found to be in good general working order, but in need of a rest. So that's all right then, isn't it?
The photographs of him emerging from hospital with his wife, Carla Bruni, made him look like a small boy being dragged along by his mother, reluctant and apprehensive, which as he is supposed to be an intelligent man, he might well have reason to be. As the Cautionary Tales would have it
'Always keep a-hold of nurse
For fear of finding something worse.'
Will he be returning to the regime imposed upon him by his/her personal trainer....exercises to reinforce his pelvic floor...didn't know men had them before...and instructions to lose two dress sizes...or the male equivalent? Will he be forced to continue to jog publicly on all state visits abroad? What will be his fate? Since he is going to spend his hols with the in-laws in the south of France it is to be hoped that their septic tank problem has been solved by now.
You have to congratulate Sarkozy for being relatively open about his health. Previous presidents have carried on in a state which would give grave doubts as to their ability to take important decisions...notably Pompidou and Mitterand. Chirac disappeared into hospital for something that was never properly explained. Mark you, how many important decisions are actually taken by presidents rather than by their advisors is a moot point, so perhaps we worry unduly about their state of health.
Sarkozy has been open about the presidential expenses, too. He like us, is late paying his utility bills and has had to pay the penalty. He, unlike us, has had this paid by the French people, however. He graciously decided to settle some of the items presented as expenses himself when the auditor raised an eyebrow, which makes you wonder what was involved as the staggering bill for flowers was passed nem con.
What did disturb me was the tone of the comments online in some sections of the press....one may not like the man or what he represents, but cheers of delight at his ill health, wishes for his speedy demise and sheer vulgar abuse reveal a side of the French national character that is not at all attractive. The sheer hatred that these comments reveal, the lack of common decency, is something so alien that it took me aback.
It shouldn't have done...there is a streak of spite in the French makeup that comes out in various ways...the rejoicing at someone else's misfortune.
Guy was telling me about a colleague who had put all his retirement bonus into shares in the chunnel company...Eurotunnel...when it was first launched. It had been a disaster, the individual shareholders, investing under the impression that the company would not be allowed to go down by the two governments, had been wiped out. Mark you, only a French investor would assume that a government would back up a failing company as a matter of national pride...this was the Thatcher era, and her governments had a distinctly different view of things! The point is that Guy, a charming, helpful and friendly man, who had worked with this colleague for years, who had bought a house near his in order to continue their friendship in retirement, was delighted by the contrast between his friend's misfortune and his own good luck and frequently referred to it in his friend's presence.
In the dear past days of maiden ladies cycling to matins and cricket on the green, before the Euro emerged, blushing, into the limelight, the U.K. slipped ignominiously from the European Money Snake, causing expat incomes in sterling to crash from eleven French francs to the pound sterling to seven. It's not just Brown and Darling who have these disasters...at least Darling doesn't tell the House of Commons that
'Non, je ne regrette rien.'
Living quietly in rural France, far from the self satisfied Lawson, I was astounded at the number of people I had thought of as friends or pleasant aquaintances who came round to gloat over an aperitif and other expats told the same story.
Still, Sarkozy is French enough to take all this in his stride and, to return to his working life as President of France. If there is an emergency his staff will always be able to find him. Unlike Chirac, prowling Paris in the evenings, his whereabouts unknown to his wife or to anyone apart from his chauffeur, Sarkozy is always to be found within leading rein distance of his wife. No chance of being found bathing in a pond in the early hours of the morning, falling from a train, running into a milk float in the wee small hours and certainly not dying after an encounter with a mistress. This President is respectable....even if starved.