Blissfully contemplating the benefits of a climate that requires neither air conditioning nor central heating I am not unaware that in rural France the seasonal preoccupation is firewood.
The ants will be fine. They have wood seasoned for three years and chopped to length stacked in a rotation system. The latest tranche was delivered in July by Mr. Cromagnon who was glad of the money at the short end of the year in his finances and gave them a good deal.
The grasshoppers, however, will be trying to contact Mr. Cromagnon via a telephone sporadically manned by his wife whose promises as to his likelihood of response are piecrust, as Mr. Cromagnon only touches base for sleep before setting out again on his mission to sell at a premium price the green wood which the ants would not buy earlier.
He knows his grasshoppers and will be at their door with an offer they cannot refuse when he is working their commune.
In the fullness of time.
Some customers do not give a monkey's about fiscal fraud...they want their firewood and if that means withdrawing the folding stuff from the mattress, so be it.
After all, as yet (but don't hold your breath) the insurance companies have not demanded that their clients keep a record of the supplier of their wood in order to pass the buck to his insurers when the chimney catches fire from the tar issuing from the green wood burned in the insert.
Other clients are more rigorous but Mr. Cromagnon is not bothered about taking cheques and giving receipts....it gives him something to show the taxman.
However, he is less likely to be pleased and may express himself forcefully should they ask him if he has paid his Voluntary Obligatory Contribution on the wood just sold.
Yes, you did read that correctly.
Let us proceed to a little dissection.
Now, anyone who has lived in France for a while knows that mention of 'contribution' or 'participation', while to the English speaking ear betokening some notion of a goodwill payment, means money passing from your mattress to the coffers of whoever is demanding the said 'contribution' or 'participation' whether you like it or not.
You visit gardens on the Journees de la Patrimoine.....and a well dressed woman is at the gate with a table of tickets.
This is not something so vulgar as a sale...no, it is a 'participation'....your recognition of the cost of weeding the wonders you are about to see.
So the Contribution bit poses no problems. Mr. Cromagnon has to cough up.
He's not the only one.....
Farmers who want to keep some of their own grain to sow in the following year are obliged to make a contribution....to the costs of research of, for example, Monsanto.
Vignerons too...where the 'contribution' is more accurately called a 'cotisation' - membership fee. They're obliged to cough up to support the activities of their regional promotion board, even when said board does nothing whatsoever to promote their particular wine.
There may be others...I have not delved deeply into this particular woodpile.
Still, what about the other two elements....
Obligatory poses no problems either....somewhere along the line the contribution has been recognised in law.
It is the juxtaposition of 'obligatory' and 'voluntary' that makes the eyebrows rise.
How can it be both?
Easy peasy. This is France. Alice au Pays de Merveilles.
In French political thought, the will of the people is held to be expressed in the body representing them.
While the incongruity of this theory and the standing of Mr. Hollande in the polls immediately strikes the eye we are not dealing with transient realities here...we are talking French political thought.
Thus, the will of any particular group is expressed in the body which represents them....no, it does not need to be elected, it just has to be recognised as representing them; this is French political thought, not some Anglo Saxon heresy.
Who has to recognise it? The government which, as stated above, embodies the will of the people.
Thus the organisation 'representing' Mr. Cromagnon has voluntarily decided to make an obligatory contribution.
Which makes it a Voluntary Obligatory Contribution and Humpty Dumpty a French political theorist.