Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo via FlickrPresident Sarkozy's party, that is......and we're not talking a knees up in the Elysee Palace while Carla sings to a small guitar....
In the rush to break your leg on the ice in the supermarket car park on the news that Birds Custard powder has been sighted on the Exotic Produce shelf of super U you might be forgiven for not noticing that next year is 2011.
You'll worry about that next week, when the remains of the turkey have been surreptitiously given to the dog and you're again risking life and limb in the Super U car park for the whisky without which no New Year can be said to have properly arrived and the Jagermeister without which no January 1st can be safely negotiated.
What's so special about 2011?
Because it's the year before 2012. Presidential election year in France.
So next year, 2011, President Sarkozy will be passing among you, pressing the flesh, in his bid to win a second term in the Elysee Palace as the candidate of the right wing UMP.
It isn't only the individual voter he has to conquer...it is also his own party whose barons now see what a mistake they made in putting a potential reformer of their quaint Spanish practices into power and have spent the last three years stalling any initiative he tried to make, thus bringing themselves and Sarkozy into opinion poll disfavour.
They would love to ditch him...and he knows it, so he's coming out swinging in 2011 to remove any potential challenger from the ring.
Thus flesh pressing.
Not any flesh it must be said.
Sarkozy will not be passing among you at the vin d'honneur for the retirement of the local fire brigade sergeant, for example...too much risk of encountering people like Papy, over ninety - so might not make it to the election anyway - dressed in the traditional male fashion of rural France - battered plaid cap with, depending on the season, one or two layers of cardigan - and smelling strongly of medicinal spirits.
It is felt that a photograph of the President with Papy would attract only a limited section of the potential electorate....and there is also the risk that Papy might ask the President to do something about replacing the 'cattle crossing' sign down the road from his farm which was removed in mysterious circumstances in 1992.
Sarkozy is known to be testy under such circumstances....and Papy has form as well.
No, the flesh to be pressed will be that of sections of the electorate who normally vote right wing but who have felt aggrieved at the action or inaction of the man they put into power.
This is a risky project.....
Go near a farmer whose spoon has been removed from the gravy and he is likely to throw something that spoils a good suit.....likewise a fisherman whose ability to scrape the very floor of the sea clean of fish has been limited.
So this is where you come in.
If you are a British immigrant, you will be anxious to assist the man who has offered to rush to the defence of British interests (here) with his aircraft carrier that can't leave port without the propeller falling off or the crew being short of Alka Seltzer.
You will also be aware, because all the books on living in France have told you so, that there is only one thing in France that goes down better than integration and that is ingratiation.
So here is your chance to show your gratitude and get on the local Prefect's New Year card list.
Don't ring him just yet, though...he will have things on his mind.
The Prefects...and police chiefs....of France will probably be on their knees solidly over the festive season
a) praying that the President doesn't decide to press the flesh in their bailiwick
b) practising to get their heads on a level with his if he does.
Why this reluctance to welcome the Head of State?
Because he is somewhat testy....and, like Papy, has form.
Fail to sort out his mother in law's septic tank problem (here) and bang goes the pretty uniform and the grace and favour apartment....you're still a Prefect, because being a public servant you can't be sacked, but your future lies in a cupboard in Limoges, where you will also find the police chief who let demonstrators within shouting distance of the Presidential convoy and the Prefect who provided only tall people to surround Sarkozy at a photo shoot.
It doesn't take much to upset him.
You may remember the matter of the voodoo dolls.
These Sarkozy lookalikes (not far off for size, either) were covered in quotes from his election campaign and were sold with a set of pins to stick into the said quotes.
The President was upset.
He had sole rights to his image...he said...and these dolls were next thing to an incitement to hatred....so he sued.
An appeal court finally decided that a ban on the dolls would be going too far, in the interests of freedom of expression.....but did ordain that the manufacturers must provide the dolls with stickers warning that sticking pins into a presidential image was offensive to the presidential dignity.
Goodness only knows what would be his reaction if someone were to manufacture a squeaky rubber Sarkozy as a dog toy.
Those dog owners who lived under the rule of Mrs. Thatcher must remember that best selling line...the squeaky Thatcher.
The sheer joy of watching a dog rip her head off was worth the price.
On good weekends I'd buy two.
I can't see Thatcher worrying about the dog toys...probably the only reaction would have been to buy a couple to sit in for her for at Cabinet Meetings so that she could go off to handbag the European Union...but Sarkozy is sensitive and it is this sensitivity and the consequences of rousing it which will be ruining the digestion of highly placed public officials over Christmas.......for the visits start in January.
Two a week.
Apart from making sure that there is no snow, there are two main imperatives for the visits.
The President must be surrounded by vertically challenged people and the said v.c.p.s must under no circumstances heckle.
The British, as so often, have the solution and once the visit schedule is announced, you may ring the Prefect and put him out of his misery.
They're small....imperative one.
They don't heckle...imperative two.
They have many varieties so it will be no problem to find one that is felt to be appropriate......
The ones with fishing rods for meetings with whatever the Chasse, Peche, Nature version of the Front National now calls itself.....
The portly ones for the meetings with the Chamber of Commerce.....
The ones holding rakes and wheelbarrows for meeting with expenses claiming local councillors....
I strongly advise you, however, not to offer the Prefect the version photographed here as the President might feel that some allusion was being made to his wife's private life.
I have seen gnome moulds for sale on Anglo Info, so this will be a way for all those auto entrepreneurs who thought they had got out of paying the taxe professionelle only to fall foul of the tax on the value of their business premises to start saving for next year's thrilling fiscal innovation.
So, forget the board games by the fire over Christmas......nip into Brico Depot for cement and paint instead and get the family on the production line.
Your local Prefect will be eternally grateful.