All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The World Turned Upside Down

equalityImage by saxarocks via Flickr
Produced during the English Civil War in reaction to Parliament's attempts to make the observance of Christmas  a solemn religious event rather than an excuse for bacchanalia, this tune was popularly supposed to have been played by the bands of the English regiments marching out under the eyes of the victorious American colonists after Cornwallis surrendered to them at Yorktown in the American War of Independence.

Unfortunately, thanks to the quota system for playing music on French radio, it is unlikely to be heard in France, but, at the moment, it would encapsulate the French reaction to the news of the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn  in New York.

And it would encapsulate the local reaction to a latecomer being turned away from a concert out in the wilds of La France Profonde, too.

As I have previously noted, local dignitaries have a habit of keeping everyone waiting when they attend an event, strolling in, well fed and watered, to take their free front row seats.
It is one of their inalienable rights.
So the world was indeed turned upside down when Monsieur Lepalfrenier, maire of his village, departmental councillor and president of the local association of communes, arriving at the usual interval of one hour after the advertised start of the theatrical performance in a neighbouring village, found himself and party turned away.
By the maire.

'Du jamais vu!' said Guy over the telephone, imparting the gory details. 'Unthinkable!'

A little background information might help to show the significance of this shattering event.
Since President Mitterand started a process of decentralisation of power in the 1980s, all sorts of bodies have sprung up in France....departmental councils, regional councils, local planning associations and groupings of communes for common supply of services.....in other words, the effect of decentralisation has been to supply an increased number of troughs in which local politicians can employ their snouts to best effect.

Lately, as part of a general shake up of local government, it has been decided - in Paris - that the rural associations of communes should be attached to those surrounding the local towns and, accordingly, it has been decided by the Prefect - Paris' man in the department whose job is to see what local politicians are up to and tell them to stop it - that the association presided over by Monsieur Lepalfrenier should be split between two local towns....Chiottes la Gare and Benitierville.

Monsieur Lepalfrenier waxed wroth.
His reaction could be best expressed by quoting from Sellar and Yeatman's presentation of 'The Witan's Whail', dealing with King Canute's attempts to impose upon his council his views on outfangthief.

'Wroth was Cnut and wrothword spake
Well wold he win at wopentake.
Fain wold he brake frith and crake heads
And than they shold worshippe his redes.'

You get the general idea.
Monsieur Lepalfrenier was not pleased.
His association would be split between two towns with their own ideas on development...and Monsieur Lepalfrenier would lose one source of his emoluments.

Now, one of the success stories of his association had been the installation of a business park just outside the village of St. Boulot which had attracted a number of firms and which had thus created a significant number of jobs in the area.
Under the proposed changes, the commune of St. Boulot would find itself annexed by Benitierville - which had its own, larger, business park - and the maire of St. Boulot reckoned, with some reason, that his pet project would be left to wither on the vine in favour of its bigger neighbour.
Monsieur Lepalfrenier agreed with the maire.

So the long planned inauguration of Zone B of the St. Boulot business park by Monsieur Lepalfrenier in the presence of local politicians and the prefect promised to be interesting.
What would he say?
Would he 'swinge..this illbegotten lot?'

He rose.
He thanked the assembled dignitaries for their presence.
He said that he thought that the disappearance of his association would be, overall, a good thing, harnessing rural communes to the powerful motors of towns like Chiottes la Gare and Benitierville.

In the silence which followed he shook hands all round and left before the vin d'honneur.
'Du jamais vu!'

Once the dignitaries assembled had collected their breath and their thoughts, there was but one question....
No, two questions.

How much had he got..... and from whom....?

It will not surprise you to know, then, that the theatrical presentation from which he was excluded was held in the village hall of St. Boulot.


With all this going on locally it takes something pretty big to attract attention elsewhere, but the policemen of New York have managed it.
They have taken Dominique Strauss-Kahn, boss of the IMF and ex French finance minister, into custody on suspicion of sexually assaulting and imprisoning a chambermaid at his hotel in New York.

There seems to be general stupefaction that he was taken into custody at all.....after all, he wouldn't be in 'garde a vue' in France  -  a few telephone calls would suffice to push the whole thing under the carpet.

And as for being photographed in handcuffs on his transfer to the court...well, Eva Joly, ex investigating magistrate herself and now ecology party bigwig, saw fit to say that it seemed that the American police didn't seem to appreciate the difference between the boss of the IMF and any other suspect.
Well, no, it seems they don't.
Good for them.
'Egalite' before the law and all that.

The American judicial system has had to be explained.
Notably in 'Le Figaro'.
It's a pity that the journalists concerned hadn't  read the relevant post from Maitre Eolas before informing their readers that under the American system, it was up to the accused to prove his innocence.

No one has all the details of the incident and speculation would be improper but there is one thing upon which the French establishment, whether right or left, is united.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the victim.

Perhaps they could explain this to the Americans, who persist in thinking that the victim is the woman bringing the complaint.

But for the French establishment to understand that a chambermaid and an ex minister have the same weight in the scales of justice the world would indeed, need to be turned upside down.





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17 comments:

  1. Your peeks under the carpet of French attitudes and goevernment get better and better, Fly. :-) The president of our small community of communes actually lives in our tiny commune, not the chef-lieu as is often the case, so I'd quite like to ba a fly on the wall in their meetings....

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  2. Perpetua, cultivate sources! You'd be amazed what goes on...but the fixing usually takes place elsewhere.

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  3. It might well turn out to be a very expensive shower for Mr Strauss-Kahn. Only time will tell.

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  4. Pity they can't retain Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Guantanamo Bay... that really would upturn the world order. Well, in France at least.

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  5. Jimmy, well, they've refused bail until the next hearing, so he'll be meeting a different class of person over the next few days.

    Steve, now there's a use for the facility....stick the entire French establishment in there and see if anyone misses them.

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  6. Accused as victim seems to be fairly par for the course in sex crimes.

    I'm impressed that so far the hotel has supported their member of staff rather than an extremely well-paying (and well-paid) guest.

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  7. Pueblo girl, yes, given it's a French owned chain hotel it surprised me too...but it seems her colleagues rang the emergency services before alerting the management.
    A senior manager has stated that the suite is very inconveniently laid out...you can't see the entry door from the bathroom....

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  8. I doubt he will enjoy his prison showers quite so much...

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  9. Jimmy, depends who's soaping his back...

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  11. well written and interesting

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  12. John Gray, thank you. Local politics in France can be a bit like 'The Little World of Don Camillo'.

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  13. The part that I find the most laughable is that the unfortunate accuser clearly doesn’t understand the ‘French Way’ of these things either. I mean does the poor woman really expect us to believe that a man of such trust, importance and prominence in the critical decision making executive of the IMF as well as potentially the highest floors of French government wouldn’t have already worked out that if he just hung on and abstained for a few more days he could have exercised his carnal needs with complete abandon and impunity back on his home turf in the clutches of all manner of choice and fully informed ‘French’ chambermaids. There’s the main thrust of his defence right there.

    I mean, as a director of our world’s biggest piggy bank, we have to entrust in M. Strauss-Khan to regularly make complex decisions that if not considered intelligently and carefully, could send our world’s economy into hopeless freefall and ruination. So there’s no way this French banker of note would be stupid enough to jump the gun in NYC like this…Is there?

    Du jamais vu!

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  14. The part that I find the most laughable is that the unfortunate accuser clearly doesn’t understand the ‘French Way’ of these things either. I mean does the poor woman really expect us to believe that a man of such trust, importance and prominence in the critical decision making executive of the IMF as well as potentially the highest floors of French government wouldn’t have already worked out that if he just hung on and abstained for a few more days he could have exercised his carnal needs with complete abandon and impunity back on his home turf in the clutches of all manner of choice and fully informed ‘French’ chambermaids. There’s the main thrust of his defence right there.

    I mean, as a director of our world’s biggest piggy bank, we have to entrust in M. Strauss-Khan to regularly make complex decisions that if not considered intelligently and carefully, could send our world’s economy into hopeless freefall and ruination. So there’s no way this French banker of note would be stupid enough to jump the gun in NYC like this…Is there?

    Du jamais vu!

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  15. Phil, I trust you have offered your services to his legal team...I think they need you!

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  16. Give these guys a 'powerful' job and they think that they are owed their awful attitudes.
    There are,though, some women who will exploit the rich & famous (esp. footballers) and egotistical for their own agenda.
    Perhaps it is as well that this DSK is outed before he could get elected to the Presidency.

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  17. Lesley, sorry for the delay in replying...I think you were 'Bloggered'.
    Yes, there will always be whores, in and out of the sex trade proper.

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