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.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sunshine all the way

Kaz at Get Real France has very kindly passed me the Sunshine Award - to be acknowledged and passed on while making some heart stopping revelations about oneself.

I've liked her blog since it started - based in the Perpignan area it's a mix of family life, heads up on new businesses in town, suggestions for visits and shrewd commentary on current affairs - well worthy of the award. So if you don't yet know it, do take a look, as I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

I thought I'd  do the ten suggestions first to slow you down before getting to the confessional but I feel obliged to make one admission first.

My computer seems to be jumping two steps at once which is what I think happened when I was setting up the link to Kaz' blog.
Had I not thought to check the link you would, instead of arriving in Perpignan, have been contemplating the wares of Gspot Sex Toys....

Now paranoid, I have checked all the others and unless the computer jumped while I was checking I think the only thing to raise a lather is the quality of the blogs I would like to suggest to you.

Croixblanches at Nowhere on Thames with a troublesome neighbour...

Annie at Moving On who will find her ideal house in Spain one day...

Salchichas at the wonderfully titled Cojones del Dia....

Status Viatoris who has just acquired a new camera and is putting it to full use in her Ligurian village.

Mark at Views from the Bikeshed for a unique combination of philosophy and nature.

The Magistrate's Blog  for a view from the bench.

Delana's Du Jour blog for a taste of Provence from a forthright lady.

Merewoman's pot pourri at No Damn Blog for humour and for very serious purpose when it comes to animal welfare from the author of several unputdownable books.

Bloggertropolis...if you don't know it you should!

And I still think so for an essayist's take on life in Canada...and no, Canada is not boring. Not when you read this blog it isn't.

I like all these blogs...and they all have the quality required by the award, that they positively and creatively inspire others in the spades!

Now to the revelations....are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Favourite colour....don't have one.
Favourite animal...husband.
Favourite number...see colour.
Favourite drink....what are you offering?
Facebook or Twitter...can't understand how to do either of them.
Your passion....Cricket and nothing gets done in this house while Geoffrey Boycott is commentating.
Giving or getting presents....has to be giving as the getting is non existent.
Favourite day...any day that friends come over.
Favourite flowers....any that are in the ground rather than in vases.

I follow the Perpetua rules on obligation on the recipients to do anything at all, least of all make revelations....but if you take a look at these blogs you'll have plenty of sunshine in your life.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Raining on the Parade,

English: "[John] Bradford Appeasing the R...  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While keeping the notion of motes and beams well to the forefront of my mind I am aware that I regard the Roman Catholic church somewhat warily, due in part to the sole Sunday reading matter available at one grandmother's place being Foxe's Book of Martyrs and in part to my father's stories of families in the horror of the depression in Glasgow so poor that their children had no shoes but put to contribution by their well shod parish priest.

One thinks one overcomes the prejudice engendered by these things but, though pushed to the background of one's mind, it takes but a jolt to raise the old Adam - before Eve slams him back in his hutch, doused in a little realism.

France has divided state from religion since 1905 in order to deprive any religious body of influence in the body politic. Churches belong to the state and congregations are allowed to use them but not to own them.

Didier always used to snort at this notion of lack of influence.
He was young in the days where if parents didn't scrape to send their children to the private 'church' school they wouldn't be employed by the unco' guid checking attendance at mass on Sundays, in a building whose upkeep fell to the commune's finances and thus on the local taxpayers, churchgoers or not.
As did the maintenance of the presbytery, although the priest was reliant on his tiny stipend from the diocese and the gifts of the faithful in order to keep body and soul together.

Madeleine was another snorter.
At every budget meeting in her commune she would protest at the grants being made to the private (church) school in the commune.
But, Madame, it is the law that equality in grants between the public school and the private school has to be maintained.
Yes, passed under Balladur, 'Sa Courtoise Suffisance', to get the bigots' vote - much good that it did him!
So much for the separation! It separates givers and takers all right!
But Madeleine was an old fashioned Republican and had even been a 'godmother' at a Republican baptism!
You don't see many of those these days....

Guy was yet a third snorter.
A devout parishioner, a grenouille du benitier, had given land in the vines outside the village for the construction of a replica of the grotto of Lourdes.
There had to have been a large slippage between the cup and lip of commissioning because the result was a true 1960s concrete brutalist structure which was the cause of many an accident as motorists arriving at the junction nearby were so fascinated by its ugliness that they forgot to check for oncoming traffic.
What Guy wanted to know was how the monstrosity had obtained planning permisssion while he couldn't even build a shelter for his tractor.
Dirty deeds at the clerical crossroads, he was sure...

I snorted myself when the new priest persuaded the best black pudding maker in the area to close his shop on Sundays....his black pudding day.
It had been a ritual.....the women in the church, their husbands in the bar and then a gadarene rush to the shop for the black pudding....
A priest with no respect for tradition.

He might have persuaded the charcutier, but all his firepower could not make headway with the local council on the question of the public lavatories.

I am convinced that the post war maire - truly the father of his commune in every possible sense - had been inspired by reading 'Clochemerle' when proposing to clean up the village square once the traditional cattle fair had given up the ghost under the twin attacks of the pre-war removal of the tramway and the wartime German occupation when congregating cattle just made it easier to count them.
Just as in 'Clochemerle' he sited the loo alongside the church, the difference being that given the lie of the land, his loos were subterranean.

As is usual with a French loo, people unaccustomed to its little ways tended to shoot out rather faster than they shot in, but it was, indeed, of public utility.

However, this being in the days when the separation of church and state were marked locally by two bands ...that of the cure and that of the commune...and two amateur dramatic groups, one marked by its improving material and the other by liberal shows of female leg - the maire decided that his loo would also partake of the nature of the separation.
He had it bolted on Sundays.
It was still bolted on Sundays some forty years later.
It was still bolted the last I heard some twenty years after that.
The maire's successors had a great respect for tradition.

And just recently I heard that in Chiottes la Gare the old antagonism has raised its head once again.
The church in the town centre has been undergoing renovations. For about eighteen months.
Roads have been barred to traffic, local businesses are going to the wall and the council's answer is to set up an enquiry to delay possible compensation yet further.

Tempers in the area are high, the general feeling being that the council should do something to control the activities of those living in subsidised housing in the old town....marked by tattoo parlours, pitbulls and their droppings and loud music at late hours.
The council's feeling is that it will set up an enquiry.

The church finally free of scaffolding, it was the day appointed for First Communion and fleets of cars approached the church in a fury of lashing wind and driving rain.

Parents,grandparents, aunts and uncles all in their best, not to speak of the little lads in suits with white armbands and the little girls in their white dresses, veiled and crowned with flowers.
A sight to soften the heart of the most dedicated Republican.

Except one.
The deputy maire with responsibility for traffic had had barriers set up to all the approaches to the church - the council feels that parked cars are not a suitable adjunct to their shining new old church.
It doesn't occur to them that it is a building which people wish to is a council project.
To be looked at.

After some hooting and honking, fathers decided that their little treasures were not going to their First Communion like a gaggle of drowned rats so they removed the barriers, deposited their families in the church porch and parked in the streets and squares alongside.

The service took its course.....but outside another vehicle approached.
The paddy waggon of the municipal police, called out by the deputy maire to do its duty and stick a parking ticket on every car around the church.

Now anyone could have told the deputy maire that he was on a loser. It was known to all that you could safely speed through the town as if on a Formula 1 course and park where you liked in wet weather because the municipal police are afraid they might melt if in contact with water.

The problem was...what to tell the deputy maire to excuse their inaction....he'd never accept rain and high winds. It had to be something better.
Heads were put together in the caff on the corner and a solution was arrived at.

The police could not stick parking tickets on the illegally parked cars as the local caff owners were in revolt at the thought of the custom they would miss as the families turned out of church....and would be claiming increased compensation.

The police went home to dry out..the families filled the local caffs and restaurants..and the deputy maire was left to gnaw the dry bone of old controversies.
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Saturday, 19 May 2012

There's something wrong here....

Above, we have the photograph of the government picked by Mr. Ayrault, the Prime Minister selected by the incoming President of the French Republique, Mr. Hollande.
A government demonstrating parity - seventeen men, seventeen women -  and diversity - non white faces.

Here we have the female members of the government accompanying the President and the Prime Minister.
All seventeen of them.

The parity.

But also the diversity.

Check the top picture.
Take away the women and there are only white faces to be seen.

Of the 'regalian' ministries....Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Interior, Justice...only one, Justice, has gone to a woman - a woman from Guyana, thus neatly copping the two categories in one person.
The rest remain in the hands of the white males.

So, overall there might be parity, but parity without clout, without power.
Diversity has become a sub category of parity, and men are excluded.

It strikes me that this new government shows exactly what is going wrong with the integration of originally immigrant communities in France.
Immigrant women can benefit from the 'empowerment' programmes open to all women in France  - until they hit the glass ceiling - but what happens to the men?

They get sidetracked.
Much depends on who your patron is in France - who will push you - and pushing a woman from an immigrant community gets patrons more brownie points than pushing a man with the same background.

Is it any wonder that the men rely on their own communities for validation of their worth?
Any wonder that they confine their efforts and their talents to their own communities - but, without patrons - unable to empower those communities.

I'm not a fan of Hollande.
I'm not a fan of his party.

But it is a party that claims to offer opportunity to all.
To help the disadvantaged take their place in society.

So where are the non white men in Hollande's government ?
Where are the campaign promises to empower men from immigrant communities?

French society has intertwined two strands.....integration of immigrant communities and female empowerment.
In that immigrant communities are seen as patriarchal the effort goes to empowering women.
Very laudable...but where does that leave the men?

Powerless in the context of general society they reinforce the patriarchal power in their own community.
Cocks of their own dunghill.

Why cannot Hollande's party see this?
Because it is run by the products of the 'tick the box' nature of 'higher' education in France.
Not only is there only one answer...there is only one question.
The products of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration think as a shoal of small fish in the ocean.
It makes for cohesion in administrative practice and for the survival of the mass of the shoal, but not for flexibility of thought, nor for anticipation of problems.

The Sarkozy presidency was a 'blip' the enarques are back in control.
They can happily tick the parity and diversity boxes without troubling themselves as to the relation of these boxes to French society.
Their blindness only equaled by their arrogance.

An arrogance shown by that nice guy President, Mr.Hollande.

He arrived at the Elysee Palace for the handover of power with Mr.Sarkozy. The two men met briefly, the nuclear codes were handed over and Mr.Sarkozy prepared to leave with his wife.

Mr.Hollande did not have the courtesy to escort the couple to their car - something the humblest person in France would have done without thinking.

Mr. Hollande could not even wait until the couple had reached their car. He turned on his heel and entered the palace.

I bear no brief for Mr.Sarkozy and less for his wife.
He will inevitably be involved in unpleasant legal enquiries before too long as he is not one of the elite from the ENA -  he is a maverick easily sacrificed on the altar of keeping up the pretense that France is not a banana republic without even the bananas to hide her shame.
Mme. Sarkozy has enriched her friends at public expense.

But for an incoming President to dispense with the normal courtesies of life, not to speak of the magnanimity required by victory, indicates that France is back in the hands of her natural masters......

The masters of smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Shark attack...

Fresh shark fins drying on sidewalk at Hong KongFresh shark fins drying on sidewalk at Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No, not sharks attacking people, but people attacking sharks.

In order to respond to the expansion of wealth in China, boats have been out seeking the desired shark fin for the soup to be offered to the rich and famous.
Boats are fishing in Costa Rican waters...catching sharks in their nets, cutting off the fins and dumping the mutilated sharks back in the drown slowly and painfully.
Costa Rica has laws forbidding the practice...but money talks, as in any country, and the trade continues.

Avaaz is now offering a facility by which one can start a petition..get enough signatures and Avaaz, with all its fire power, will take it on
Here is a link to the petition I have submitted

Will you please sign up, send on the message....try to stop this cruelty. 
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Friday, 4 May 2012

All change!

Français : Insigne notaire, France, BeauneFrançais : Insigne notaire, France, Beaune (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am most disappointed, Monsieur, and somewhat surprised, that Maitre Plouc could not see me himself.....with a portfolio of interests such as mine I need the most expert advice and I had counted on the personal attentions of Maitre himself now it looks as though the Reds are going to come to power and tax us out of existence.

No one could regret more than Maitre Plouc that he is unavoidably detained, but, my dear lady, one of your character would be the first to understand that some of his more elderly clients are physically unable to come to the office and as the elections loom, time is of the essence.
As his clerk of many years, I am of course, well acquainted with Madame's financial arrangements,but, in any case, Maitre Plouc has left me some notes relating to the management of Madame's portfolio.
What is it? You look as though you had seen a ghost!

Call the gendarmerie! There's an armed man in the garden....they are coming for us already...
Call the gendarmerie, Monsieur! I'm going before they cut off the front door! Sauve qui peut!

Victor! For goodness' sake! What the hell are you doing in Plouc's garden with a shotgun?
Here, I'll open the back door...

Yes, Monsieur Clement? What happened? Mme. d'Enculade came rushing out through the waiting room shouting that the Reds were here and all the other women followed her out....

It's this idiot...come in Victor and put down that gun while I lock the door - the old bag saw him in the garden with his shotgun and thought the Red Brigade was coming for her....pity they're not...
Just in case, Claudine, ring the gendarmerie and tell them she saw the man who'd come to shoot the rooks and took fright...don't want them round here poking their noses everywhere while Plouc is out...anyway, they know what she's like by late morning...

Yes, Monsieur Clement.

Oh, and Claudine...

Yes, Monsieur Clement?

Steer well clear of Plouc in the office from now on. The Constitutional Council has just ruled that sexual harassment is no longer a crime in France.....
He probably won't hear about it for months, knowing him, but just keep out of reach, huh?

Yes, Monsieur Clement.

Now, Victor, what the blazes are you playing at?

Well, I'd been shooting rooks down on that piece by the river and as I had to come by here to get to the car I thought I'd drop in and see whether Plouc had got anywhere with that dispute with the English across the way from me.
I was going in the front way when I saw the waiting room full of old bizzoms - looked like a furriers in there it did - so I thought I'd better nip round the back so as not to frighten them - or get bitten by their blasted pug dogs come to that. Nasty vicious things.

The women or the dogs? No, never mind. No, Plouc hasn't done anything - what did you expect with the elections being on? He's got other fish to fry.

So it's down to you. Why haven't you done anything? They're driving me mad, complaining about the state of the stream running through their garden.
If I've told them once I've told them a thousand times, that's the comes off my land, runs under the road and goes through their garden to the river. Always has done. It's natural.

From what I recall they're upset that there are herbicides and whatnot in the water....

Well of course there are! Where else am I going to clean out my tanks after spraying?

No, Victor, I haven't been able to do anything.
I've been too busy fielding the old bizzoms for the last few weeks - once it looked like Hollande would win they've been panicking about being taxed up to the hilt so they're on my back from morning to night wanting to get their money into cash and back into the mattress.

So what's Plouc been doing then? Sitting on his backside as usual?

Far from it, Victor. Plouc's been busy from morning to night. But not with legal work....he's going into politics.

Well, so you said before...but he'll never get Lepalfrenier to give up.

He doesn't have to. He's got the Deputy to give up.

What! How'd he do that?

I don't know if you remember, but the taxman got his hands on a list of people holding undeclared Swiss bank accounts...about eight thousand of them....but only about three thousand were followed up.
Well, Mme. Plouc's cousin's daughter works in the tax HQ at Bercy and she saw the list, and, more importantly, the names that were taken off it. Including our Deputy.
Well, as Plouc pointed out, if Hollande comes to power, some of the five thousand who thought they were in the clear won't be. There'll be a clear out of civil servants and the new ones in post will want to socialists will still be all right, but people on the right won't be. Especially politicians on the right.

So Plouc wants to be Deputy?

Not just now. He wants Lepalfrenier to stand for Deputy because it looks likely that the socialists will take this seat in the elections for the National assembly in June.
So Lepalfrenier will get the blame, and he'll be past it by the time the next elections come round and there is Plouc - dedicated party man - all ready to take his place.

Bit sure of himself, isn't he?

Oh, he's laid plans...that's why he's never here.
He met up with the big cheese of the Front National months ago and they hammered out an agreement. Plouc helps them and they help Plouc.
Didn't you see the article in the local rag? 'Public spirited notaire helps elderly people to exercise their right to vote'.

Yes, I did. I didn't know it was Plouc, though....

There was supposed to be a photograph of him surrounded by old age pensioners, but it was cut for lack of space. Plouc was furious.

He's been round every old peoples' home in the area signing papers authorising the grannies and grandads to let someone else vote for them - the someone else being their son or grandson in the Front National - and he's collared Doctor Sangsue to go round giving out medical certificates stating that the grannies living at home aren't fit to go to the polling station and then gone round himself with the voting papers.
I reckon he boosted the FN vote in the first round by a good thirty per cent.

But that's working against his own party!

That's what he wants. He's out now doing the second round papers and his agreement with the big cheese is that they'll all vote socialist this time to boost the socialists before the National Assembly elections when they'll knock out Lepalfrenier.

So what happens when Plouc stands?

Same thing. They vote FN the first time and Plouc the second and Deputy Plouc joins the right wing of his party and co operates with the FN in the assembly.

And what happens to his legal practice?

He reckons his son will be qualified by then and can take over....he's a lot brighter than Plouc and a nasty piece of work to boot.
If they don't put sexual harassment back on the statute book Claudine will have to watch out for that one!

Claudine! What is it?

The gendarmerie on the telephone, Monsieur Clement.

Yes, Clement here.
Adjutant LeBoff, bonjour.
Yes, Maitre Plouc is helping pensioners to sign the procurations in the old peoples' home at St. Ragondin today...that's right.'ll be calling here, then....
Well, thank you for letting me know....goodbye.

What did they want?

Apparently a bunch of the grandads have got Plouc holed up in the bathrooms over at St. Ragondin.
The warden told the gendarmerie that they've got him on the hoist and they're ducking him in the bath.

Oh ho! There's a lot of old railway workers over there....old communists....still, I suppose the gendarmerie will get him out sharpish...

Not that sharpish, Victor. They're coming here first to interview you.

Me! What for? I haven't done anything...I've been shooting rooks all morning.


What! Nothing illegal about shooting rooks! Get the young ones just as they leave the nest.

No, agreed, Victor....but it's illegal to shoot at the nests. Endangered species of birds of prey might use them.

How in blazes am I supposed to shoot the rooks and not the nests?

Don't know, Victor.....but it's a two hundred euro fine in any case....

It's a scandal! No wonder people vote Front National!

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