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, 5 December 2011


Česky: Detail fresky Danse Macabre. Hrastovlje...Image via Wikipedia
Watching the Merkozy Dance of Economic Death during this round of the Euro crisis made it clear that European political leaders leave a lot to be desired, running like headless chickens at the behest of 'the market' (which turns out to be a few banks) and attacking the interests of their own people.

Wondering how long it will be before we are trotting along to the Post Office (if not closed by 'austerity' measures) pushing wheelbarrows in which to take home the worthless paper in which our pensions will be paid, I see no one of the stature of Hjalmar Schacht on the horizon, to pull us out of the mess as he did for Germany in the twenties and thirties.
Let no one suggest Dominique Strauss-Kahn.....

Wishing that we hadn't let power fall into the hands of self perpetuating oligarchies who exclude all talent not under their control, I see nowhere in Europe anyone capable of putting life back into the real economies upon which, in the end, we depend.

The myth of the strong man is one to be resisted as a solution...there have been enough Stalins, Hiters, Maos in our lifetime....but there are temptations.....

What we need now is a remake of ....General de Gaulle.
De Gaulle in 1961 at the Köln/Bonn airport.Image via Wikipedia

A man who declared that you could bounce on your chair shouting Europe! Europe! Europe! for all you liked.....but that it meant nothing.
Forget slogans (for which read soundbites) had to see things as they were.

A man who devalued a currency to get an economy back on its feet.....not that my elderly neighbours in France took much notice, they were still thinking in 'old' francs fifty years after the event.
Just as they were still thinking in pounds and gallons two hundred years after the Revolution.

A man who declared that national policies did not depend on the state of the stock market.

A man who made America pay in gold, not in paper dollars, for the purchase of French assets.

A man who saw the morass into which France had staggered in Algeria....and got out.

A man who was honest with public money....if his family came to dinner at the Elysee, he paid what it cost to feed them.

A man with that forgotten virtue...courage. Walking unmoved down the nave of Notre Dame while Vichy sympathisers shot at him and his entourage dived for cover.

A man whose  'Non!'  kept Britain out of Europe....if only the politicians of the time had taken heed!

The General in his pomp was quite something...and for those who remember those years here is a little song about no way could it be described as a Flanders and Swann...when they also were in their pomp.


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  1. One does have to wonder where or how all this is going to end. Then there is the matter of global warming. Maybe the end of the world is nigh? But I think not.

  2. Cheshire, that would be too easy...

    If you're looking to stabilise the markets can you think of a worse way to go about it than to bring up the spectre of 27 referenda on the treaty changes!

  3. I remember those years and the General's Non and even (very faintly) the Flanders and Swann song, for which many thanks, Fly.

    The line about collecting our pensions in wheelbarrows immediately brought to mind my lovely, elderly German teacher at school in the early 1960s. She was a German Jewish refugee from Nazism who spoke so vividly and with such deep feeling about how, in the hyper-inflation of 1920s Germany, workers would literally rush to the shops with their week's pay to buy what they could with it, since if they waited even a day or two they would be able to buy less. I've never forgotten that and I must have been about 16 when she told us - a brand new sixth-former.

  4. Perpetua, the animosity he aroused!

    The German experience was what was in my father told me about it, but it must have been considerably more vivid coming from someone who had experienced it.

  5. I, too, remember the stories of wheelbarrows of (almost worthless) money.
    And I certainly recall de Gaulle.He was a treasure trove for cartoonists, especially those of us who couldn't see England doing well in the Common Market!
    27 referenda? Heaven forfend!

  6. Here in Spain, things look bleak. I'm worried, but nobody talks about it, it's the elephant in the room.

    I too remember stories of the Germans wheeling cartloads of paper to buy a loaf of bread and wonder if the euro will come to that.

    I've waited 7 to 8 years for my ex to pay me for my half of our jointly owned house, and when he finally does, it's just as the euro is about to collapse!

    I hope I won't have to wait as long for him to lend me the rotovator to dig over my garden for potatoes, if it comes to that!

  7. dinahmow...I remember canvassing in the referendum and passing a village cricket game.
    My colleague raised the megaphone and bawled
    'Vote No...or you'll be playing French cricket!'

    I suspect that if people are allowed to vote in referenda, Merkozy will have a battle on its will turn into a vote about Europe and no one seems enamoured of Europe in its present form...

    Pueblo girl, friends in France are worried....they can see everything they've worked for going down the tubes...starting with the house they bought as a source of money in their old age...thanks to tax changes they'll have to wait thirty years rather then fifteen to realise their which time goodness only knows what currency it will be in and how many barrows they'll need.
    If they're still alive!

  8. Politicians everywhere seem clueless, don't they?

  9. I'm like an ostrich really - I watch the depressing news and just think I'll keep my head down, work hard and try and live a little.

    Now let me try and fix you to my blog again...


  10. No, it's not taken - it just hangs there with the little box asking me to Add/Cancel. I must go to work now but will try and fiddle with it tomorrow on a day off.

    Anyway whether you are there or not you know how much I think of you x

  11. My parents refused to holiday in France while de Gaulle was in power and boycotted things like Golden Delicious too. They considered him an ungrateful old bugger.

    I'm also worried about the euro and my meagre savings. I'm hoping a little US dollar income will alleviate the pain. Although for how long...

    My dearly beloved is buying silver - less prone to price hikes than gold and easier to sell.

  12. There was supposed to be a 'haircut' on Greek bonds then there wasn't or is there? It seemed so crucial just a few days ago now it seems to be as submerged as Atlantis. Could it be that one (or more)of the banks would fail if it had gone for a hair-do? These days, there's a summit just about every week, at the behest of 'the markets' who seem determined to do down the Euro no matter what - even German bonds are now on negative watch. Despite all this ordinary people get on with everyday things. They get on with what's important in their real lives. The late Senator Robert Kennedy summed it up in 1968 thus:

    “We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missles and nuclear warheads…. It includes… the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

    “And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials… the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile….”

    Oh for his ilk ..or a de Gaulle. Where have all the good men (and women) gone?

  13. e, I think cluelessness was a vital requirement for the bankers to bankroll them to proceed to seek office.

    French Fancy...weird, isn't it...yet another Blogger delight to solve!
    I think governments get away with so much because most people have to do what you are doing....using all their energies just to keep going. There's nothing left over to start

    Sarah, Fingers crossed for a bit of dollar income!
    As much as possible we're in Australian dollars and South African rand, while the wonderfully named Colon was the most stable world currency over the past year!
    I saw France is making it difficult to buy gold with French! They'll be confiscating it in the national interest next...

    My father, very anti-American, thought the world of de Gaulle...whose combination of love of his country and contempt for his countrymen appealed to him mightily.

    fourmenterian, thank you for commenting.
    No discourages investment!
    And look at the latest racket...the Fed (not, as you might suppose a state institution but owned by the banks) doles out dosh at .5% to U.S. banks, who loan it out to Eurozone banks who buy bonds at 10%...9.5% profit at the expense of the working part of the nation.
    Easy peasy.

    Good men and women don't touch politics with a bargepole....disgusted by the manipulations within the established parties and worried by the risk of falsification and vilification in the media if once they start a successful challenge to the financial-media-political nexus.

    They're still there...but mostly limiting themselves to working in their own communities.

  14. Just a quick note to say that the following problem is being worked on by Google engineers as we write, but it's been around for weeks, so don't hold your breath.

  15. Perpetua, thank you...I've given up looking at Blogger help and just induces deep despair!

    Re the comment on war memorials on SP's was in the context of the separation of church and state in 1905..and the huge pressure to conform in rural society in that exclude a name on the church memorial was t6o point the finger, not as, in pluralistic Britain, just to acknowledge people in your own group.
    The tales elderly people told me of their parents having to scrape to send their children to the church school in order that they themselves would be 'acceptable' as employees horrified me.

  16. Fly that is appalling! Thanks so much for putting me right on this. It shows how easy it it to misunderstand when we look at a society through eyes used to a different way of thinking and doing. What you say reminds me of the situation in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, particularly in the countryside, where your employer might penalise you if you weren't seen in church on Sunday. I have had old people tell me this about their childhoods.

  17. Perpetua, not in any way putting you right...and I'm not sure this prevailed everywhere...but, yes, as you say, so similar to the conditions you describe!

  18. I've read about the new proposals and I just don't get it. Penalise already virtually bankrupt countries if they don't toe the line? How does that work? If they had money they wouldn't be in such a state but maybe I'm being too simplistic. Cameron has said No to a referendum but the word on the street is that the Irish may vote against it.

  19. Wylie Girl, and how about the regulatory mechanism...each country's own constitutional court to decide if it has overstepped the mark...
    who do they think they are kidding?

  20. "A man who was honest with public money....if his family came to dinner at the Elysee, he paid what it cost to feed them."

    Really? We could do with a few more like that.

  21. Mark in Mayenne, modern politicians would laugh him to scorn...what a mug!
    And you're right, we could.

  22. Great post. I'm not sure I agree that Merkozy are acting against the interest of their people. Longer term, "stability" in ithe proposed form, will only benefit Germany with, perhaps, some scraps in for France as well. I would be much more worried if I was living in any other Euro country.

  23. The Banking Nerd, yes, you have a point there!
    I was thinking of the 'austerity' programmes which will, as usual, leave the well off pretty untouched.

    And a super blog you have...something of interest every time!