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 29 September 2012

More Adventures in Wonderland

While I know that he didn't, for someone who took his education elsewhere Mr. Hollande, (Moije) President of France, shows all the signs of one whose learning was acquired at the school under the sea, at the knee of the Tortoise.

I support this view by his expertise in the fields of reeling and writhing.

Reeling first.... demonstrated by his pre election promise to renegotiate the European Stability Pact - an austerity measure produced by the Merkozy - which resulted in him reeling from the disapproval of the Mer part of the Kozy (and probably also from the disapproval of the minder from Rothschild's Bank who is at the Elysee to keep an eye on him).

Writhing ensure that the Socialist Party deputies elected on a programme including that promise wriggle round and vote for the opposite measure.

Further supporting evidence for his alma mater.....fainting in coils.
Ably demonstrated at the recent United Nations annual No One Has Talent show for heads of state.

He, with entourage, was about to enter a corridor when he beheld his ex ladyfriend and mother of four of his children, vice president of the Socialist International and president of the region of Poitou Charentes, giving a press conference on the other side of the glass doors.
Did he enter, salute her courteously in passing and go on his way?
Did he do a right about face and remove himself from the vicinity?

No, he spent some time with his back to the doors  - peek a boo, I can't see you, everything's looking fine - demonstrating to fascinated television crews the art of fainting in coils before shabbing off round the back way.

And he is a sound student of the four branches of arithmetic:

Ambition.....well, he he is at the top of the greasy pole.

Distraction.......that bit of fainting in coils will win him no brownie points with his latest lady friend.

Uglification......not a pretty sight in the baggy bermudas.

and, of course,


During the election campaign he had nothing but derision for Sarkozy....referring to him as a 'salopard'.
He treated Sarkozy and his wife with contempt at the handover of power...turning on his heel as they walked to their car.

And now he is treating the ordinary people of France with derision.

A few token swipes at the rich.....but the working population put to contribution to support the bloated ranks of central and local government bureaucrats.

People who want to get ahead, be independent? He'll learn 'em....
The 'auto entrepreneur' scheme set up by Sarkozy, where you paid social security contributions based on what you made, is to have the guts torn out of it.
Bang goes an opportunity to get on your own feet.

At a period when utility bills are soaring, freezing the tax brackets so that more and more will be caught up by them is not a popular move any more than measures to penalise people for running the older cars they cannot afford to replace.

It is not appreciated either that when the state reckons you owe it money it's the bailiffs and the frozen bank accounts.....but when it owes you money, as when the courts order compensation for the state's illegal actions, you can whistle.

I just wonder if the French people will put up with they seem to put up with everything.....or whether another person from Wonderland will make an appearance......

The Queen of Hearts.

'Off with his head!'


Wednesday 26 September 2012

An Oxymoron's Adventures in Wonderland.

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 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, 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 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, 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.


Tuesday 25 September 2012

Arsouille of the Universe

On the left, Condoleezza Rice, ex  American Secretary of State.
On the right, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, ex head of the IMF.

They are attending a jolly organised by a PR group owned by a friend of the latter, in Yalta.
A grandly named European Strategy conference, graced also by the presence of Gordon Brown and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Erdogan.

B list then.

Strauss-Kahn appears to have put his problems behind penal proceedings for the Sofitel affair and no court appearances in the case of the Lille based prostitution ring.
He's on the circuit again....  a small start to be sure, but with a little help from his friends.....

But what is Condoleezza Rice thinking of to be sitting next to him. Accepting his presence.

This is a man whose attitude to women has been all too clearly revealed. Women are objects, to be used and, in his case, misused.

I know she worked with Bush but can her sense of decency be so dimmed that she would consent to have any dealings with a man like this?

Or is it all right, in her view, as he is not going to lunge at a woman whose status is on a par with his own.
Women employees and prostitutes are another matter...on another planet. None of her concern.

Given his conduct and her tacit acceptance of it, which one is the 'arsouille' of the universe?


Friday 14 September 2012

In and Out the Plastic Windows

Hello there, Victor! A glass of  Zizi's demi sec?

That would go down well! How did you get your hands on that...the old bugger rations it!

Ah, well....I cut him in on that Rivesaltes that Jean Yves gets through the old railway comrades. There's some of them can't afford to take their share these days so I took it off his hands.....and Zizi has never been able to get in on the syndicate.

 I don't get it. He makes a wonderful demi sec...why does he want to buy Rivesaltes?

Because he can sell his demi sec for more than the Rivesaltes costs and that way he's always got a wine for the ladies.

What ladies?

Any ladies. He's not called Zizi for nothing....

Yes, if you's been quite a day.
I've had my nephew know, Herbert, Agnes' boy.

Yes...she married Robert's son, Didier, from Ste. Connasse....runs the garage there...

That's right. Well, Herbert's been working in Paris, met a girl there, they've got a little boy and they wanted to come back to the country so the kid would have a good start and Herbert could help his dad with the garage.

Sounds a good idea to what's the problem?

The flaming church...that's what!

What's the matter...the priest there hasn't refused to marry them has he...he's a nice old boy, Pere Jean Aymard, but a bit overworked with five parishes these days.

No...they married in's not The's the church!
The church in Ste. Conasse!

What do you mean...what about the church in Ste.Conasse?

Well, Didier looked round and found a nice house....old, a bit to do, you know....with a little garden for the kid right in the centre, near the church, handy for the garage.
They came down, took a look and agreed to buy it.
We all said we'd give a hand to modernise it and all and that was that.
They moved in, Herbert started at the garage and we got down to doing what needed doing.

So what's the problem?

Well it all started out all right....we ran  the toilets into the drain that goes to the river....

What about the SPANC? They couldn't have bought the house without an inspection of the drains...

Oh, Didier sorted that with the inspector....he passed it as A1 for the sale and Didier fixed his suspension.
Anyway, everyone on that side of the village is on that drain and SPANC isn't going to say a word...if over 15% of the houses aren't up to scratch with their drains then they'll have to install a sewage works and no one wants to start finding the money for that.
No, no problem there.

So where does the church come in?

I'm getting to that.
We did up the inside.....Herbert's good with wallpaper by the way......did the ceilings without a crease or a join showing...all the poppies matched up perfectly....and as for the doors!
Lucky he put on bright brass doorknobs or you'd never know where to get out. Lovely job!

But what about the church....?

Well we didn't know about that...
Didier fitted up nice new plastic windows with roller shutters - just the way the insurers wanted - and put some of that nice plastic grille - you know, the stuff they sell in rolls - on the top of the front garden wall to keep the kid safe.
All nice as you like....a real picture. Pity the others in the village don't do looks really tatty except for the place the English have as a holiday home on the corner.
Mark you they spent a fortune...wooden windows - I ask you! Bought old tiles for the roof instead of something modern....more money than sense.

So where does the church come in?

It was on Thursday. Didier had nipped in for an apero after trying for a few partridges. He was a bit fed up because with this drought and whatever there weren't any to be seen.

No, I saw in the paper some bright spark in the Vienne shot a horse and said he thought it was a partridge...

Well, Didier came close! As he went out he saw this man lurking about -  a foreigner - and asked him what he wanted. After all, what would a foreigner want in Ste. Conasse? Had to be up to no good.

Did he understand French then, this foreigner?

Of course he did...he was French, wasn't he, Didier could tell by his shoes...but not from round here.
Anyway he asked if Didier was the owner of the house and Didier asked him what business it was of his if he was.

Because, said the foreigner, if he was he was going to serve him with a proces verbal.

What the hell for?

Because the foreigner was from the STAP.....blasted Architectes des Batiments de France......wasn't he, and someone had denounced them for putting in plastic windows!
They were within 500 metres of the church wouldn't believe it....that gloomy old hole is an historic monument! Something to do with the porch...
Anyway, they were supposed to have any works passed by the STAP and they hadn't.

Surely they'd applied for permission? They weren't that daft!

Well, of course they's not like the drains where nobody can see.
The maire passed it through on the nod on his own responsibility, the way he always does. Nothing wrong with that and, anyway, what would bring those chair bound bobos out of their comfy offices to see anyway?

Something did.

Yes, they were denounced.....and Didier found out later that this foreigner has an aunt in St. Supplice and he must have used this as an excuse to put the petrol on expenses to visit her.
He probably came back via Ste. Conasse after the aperos with her...his car was parked by the church.

Anyway, Didier said if that was the case, what about all the other places with plastic windows? They've all got them...except that English place.
And do you know what he said, this foreigner?
He said he wasn't bothered about them because they hadn't been denounced!

So what did Didier do...he must have been wild!

Well he had his gun....but no one would believe he mistook this foreigner for a partridge, not in the middle of the village, so he telephoned the gendarmerie.

Well they'd never come out....

No, it wasn't for that. It was to give old Claude the car number so he could get the patrol to breathalyse him on his way back.

Anyway, that must have got his back up because Herbert's been told to apply for permission and, in the meantime, take out all his windows...and take down that nice little grille too.

What about the maire? Old Alain won't like that, someone messing on his pitch...

No, he didn't, especially as he got a  warning for not contacting the STAP.
Didn't take it kindly.
He's applying to have the church removed from the list of historic monuments and if that doesn't work then the porch will have to have an 'accident'.

Yes, I think another drop of Zizi's demi sec....


Thursday 13 September 2012

Revenons a nos moutons....

Thank you for your kind words which were a great help to me.
The last post having served its purpose, I have taken it down.

Now...revenons a nos the parents in western France who, needing one more to make up a class in order that the school should not be closed, brought a sheep to school.

They treat us like we gave them one..... 

Sunday 2 September 2012

Famous Women...or where Maggie went Wrong

Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us....leaders of the people by their counsels.... wise and eloquent in their instructions.
There be of them that have left a name behind them that their praises might be reported.

I have grave doubts as to whether any of the current crop of political leaders would qualify for having their praises reported in the terms laid out in Ecclesiasticus on the grounds of the wisdom of their instructions, but famous they certainly are in terms of their presence in the media.

For what is fame?
Fame is being talked about widely, one's actions being reported, and the media certainly do their best to encourage interest in politicians - if not in their policies, it being deemed unwise to encourage the hoi poloi to meddle with the interests of the hoi oligoi.
Such meddling has the potential to overturn apple carts and find alternative uses for street lamps.

My assumption had been that fame sprang from something done, something achieved, something worthy, but a riffle through the newspapers - let alone the television - shows me that I am sorely mistaken.
Modern fame consists of being what I would have classed as 'well known'......and it doesn't seem to matter what the nature of that notoriety might be.

Just achieve fame and the gravy train awaits.....newspapers will publish articles in which you express your vapid views on holidays, food, relationships, bringing up children......couturiers will lend you clothes.....hoteliers will give you free accommodation in which to be photographed in the buff...and nightclubs will swarm to attract your custom.

So is it any wonder that women, in particular, see a career in just...being famous?
Why study, why fight discrimination at work when you could just wear a minimum of clothing and flash your ...teeth?
Not that it is just that...competition is fierce and the losers are more likely to end up as the good time that was had by all on the local scene than as the A listers in London.....but being famous now seems to be a career option - like media studies without the need to study.

So should you be thinking in terms of turning your life around, take a few tips from Fascinating Aida.


Just think, though....if Margaret Thatcher had followed this career path rather than that of politics...might not the U.K. now be a different place?