Monthly Archives: April 2007

And then there were two…

So now it’s just between Segolene “La Belle” as my girls see her, and the twitchy yet strangely engaging Nicolas Sarkozy. Charlotte keeps pleading Segolene’s case, especially as between the two rounds of voting her team has managed to find an even more beautiful photo of her and put up a fresh batch of posters. I, however, am not convinced. More taxes, more social charges, more power to the unions that already have a strangle-hold on the country…

Francois Bayrou (the cool, centrist uncle) got 18% of the vote in the first round, so in the end it will be his electors that will decide this election. He, however, has refused to endorse either of the remaining two candidates, and is milking his heady moment in power for all it’s worth.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, I am happy to report, got a measly 11% or something like that. Still too many but a huge improvement on the last election when he could have potentially been elected president in the 2nd round. You should have seen his expression when the results came in – like he was passing a kidney stone!

Rendez-vous the 6th of May to find out who is the new President or Presidente of France.

Election Fever

Yesterday morning I found Charlotte and Camille cross-legged on their fairy mat in their bedroom. In France each elector receives a fat envelope containing fliers for each one of the candidates. Charlotte begged to have the sheaf of fliers after we were finished with them, and she had spread them all out on their fairy mat and she was reading them out loud, one by one, to Camille.

In the end, they remained unswayed by Sarkozy’s or Bayrou’s promises. They have declared they have chosen Segelone Royale, because she is the most beautiful.

Today is le jour!

"L’Election", or ‘The lesser of several evils"


The campaign posters have already been put up in front of the Mayor’s office of Villers-la-Faye – where you will find me Sunday morning!

This Sunday, April 22nd, is election day in France. For the first time since receiving my French Passport and “Bienvenue a la Republique” letter from Jacques Chirac, I am voting as a French citizen. And this just isn’t any little municipal election. No, on Sunday we are electing the new “President” or “Presidente” of France.

However, like most elections, there is no one candidate that stands out in my mind as one I really feel good voting for. Rather, it is a case of picking the lesser of several evils, such as;

Arlette Laguiller – Rather ancient yet rabid communist and head of the “worker’s combat” party who wants to increase taxes and increase social spending. Won’t be voting for her, as am already paying more than enough taxes at the moment, thanks.

Jean-Marie Le Pen – Terrifying person whom I often wonder isn’t the reincarnation of Hitler? Anti-immigration, racist, resoundingly “family values” except that “family” in his definition does not include single parents or homosexuals, or anyone who doesn’t have white skin, basically…has, in the past, referred to the holocaust as a “small detail of history.” Sadly, he remains a formidable orator (and I have read that Hitler, Mussolini were too). The fact that he got to the second round in the last set of Presidential elections is a huge motivation for me to hustle my rear end down to the Mairie on Sunday morning. I will do everything in my power (i.e. voting for someone, anyone else) so that it doesn’t happen again.

Segolene Royale – This is who Charlotte is pushing for me to vote for as she learned in school that if Mme. Royale is elected (and she is in second or third position in the poles at the moment) she will be the first woman president of the Republique. I was of the same mind for a while, but her traditionally Socialist platform of more civil servants, more taxes, more social charges, and more pandering to the unions will, I believe, sound the death knell of the French economy. When we got a letter from the bank this morning saying that the government had deducted 11 centimes from each girls account as social charges on the interest they earn on the 45 measly Euros theyhave saved up in their kiddies account, I knew I could never vote for a Socialist in France. Unless, of course, she was up against Jean-Marie Le Pen (see above).

Nicolas Sarkozy – Little man who I have often wondered could be reincarnation of Napoleon? Economically to the right, which is actually centrist in a socialist country such as France. Seems to be the only one who could potentially reform stronghold of unions and lower taxes, a la Margaret Thatcher. In any case, he’s the only one proposing a thorough, wholesale reform of the french economy. However, he remains a rather unpalatable person – small, screwed up face, hyperactive manner, and is unable to hide his huge ego and ambition…he was humanized a bit when his wife ran off last summer to have an affair with a New York Sports’ Journalist (she has since returned, but is now lingering resolutely in the shadows), but there are still a lot of questions in my head as to how humane he will be as a president. He is leading in the the poles right now.

Francois Bayrou – Very uncharismatic man who claims to be a centrist although nobody really seems to know what he stands for besides an alternative to the front runners Segelone Royale (left) and Nicolas Sarkozy (right). He has the mystical quality of coming across as a nice, cool guy you would like to have as your uncle, even though every time he opens his mouth to answer a question you end up ten times more confused then before you asked it. This, however, has never been an obstacle to politicians being elected in France in the past.

There are lots of other candidates – the baby faced extreme left candidate Olivier Besancenot who is still working as a mailman while he runs for president, the grey haired Phillippe de Villiers who is the rejected pet of Jean-Marie Le Pen and has now gone out and formed his own party…the ecologist Jose Bove with his famous handle-bar moustache, list goes on…

The polls say that over 40% of the french (like me) haven’t made their final decision re: who they are going to vote for on Sunday. And, as we saw last time around, the French electorate can serve up some very nasty surprises (aka Le Pen). I’ll keep you posted, and if anyone needs me Sunday morning, you know where to find me!

The Great "V" Divide

For men who become overwhelmed or distressed by the subject matter below, here is a photo I took a few days ago of a nice, calming canola field.

Yesterday, Franck and I had a delightful lunch at the Cafe de France on the Faubourg Bretonniere with our newest resident at Le Relais du Vieux Beaune, Ardythe from Nova Scotia who is striking out on her own and staying for 8 weeks.

Our spirited conversation, fueled by the house red and a tasty boeuf bourgignon, covered such diverse topics such as bear attacks, gay marriage, and a most interesting, albeit sensitive, subject that in my mind highlights almost better than anything else the cultural divide between France and Canada. As the three of us were chortling over it I exclaimed, “Oh my God, I have to write a blog about this!” so here it is;

*****

Smoking / Non-Smoking habits used to strike me as one of the main ways to separate out the French from the North Americans. During the years after we first met, way back when Franck still rolled his own cigarettes with Drum tobacco, he was always the only smoker in a crowd of non-smokers in Canada, whereas in France I was always the only non-smoker in a crowd of smokers. It also always made me laugh (and cough) to witness how you could distinguish the French passengers on a trans-Atlantic flight freshly disgorged at Charles de Gaulle. They would, of course, be the ones who lit up within seconds in front of the “Fumer Interdit” signs.

However, times and mentalities have changed. Franck, his sister, and many of our friends have (thankfully) given up the habit.

Luckily, however, I have since stumbled on another subject that proves to me that the cultural divide between France and countries such as Canada is still alive and kicking.

That subject is the big “V”.
No, not “Victory”, the other “V”…Vasectomies.

Amongst our Canadian friends, the huge majority of the men we know who have had all the children they want have very pragmatically gone out and had what I have often been heard referred to as the “snip-snip”. Their wives, who have generally spent years dealing with such joys as labour, episiotomies, C-sections, and various birth control methods, are, rather understandably, quite amenable to this solution.

Mention the widespread practice of vasectomies to a table of French people, however, and you too will see that their reaction is nothing short of astounding to the Anglo-Saxon mind. It goes far beyond the almost instantaneous crossing of male legs that occurs worldwide when the subject is evoked. The French are stunned, horrified, and frankly initially disbelieving when enlightened about the existence of this parallel reality.

Statistically, the number of French men who have had vasectomies is so low that it is noted by the Marie Stopes Foundation as “nil or negligible”. One of the reasons for this may be that vasectomies are still illegal – yes, you read that right – in France under some obscure sub-section of the 19th Century Napoleonic Code which deems the act “self-mutilation”.

But the astonishment of the French in regards to the whole vasectomy issue goes far beyond the question of legality. After all, in my experience laws have never been something that the French feel they need to take too seriously. No, it is as though French men are almost incapable of believing that any man would willingly undergo the procedure short of being restrained with chains and shackles. They are simply aghast that anywhere in the world (and really, it is an accepted practice in many, many countries besides Canada and the US) men could accept what they can see only as, apart from castration, the worst possible affront to their identity as an homme.

A few of our male French friends (I will use no names to protect the cowardly) who had been, up until hearing about the high rate of vasectomies in Canada, eagerly planning a trip there suddenly cool on the idea. Another one has considered constructing a little cardboard sign to wear on a cord around his neck saying “Pas de vasectomie pour moi, s’il vous plait.”

I truly believe that the vasectomy practice seems so far-fetched to French men that they secretly begin to worry that – why not? – a brigade of scalpel wielding urologists huddle in wait at Canadian airports, just waiting to pounce on their latest prey and give them on-the-spot vasectomies before they are even allowed past our Immigration Booths.

And, most surprisingly, it is not just the men who are astounded at the preponderance of vasectomies in North America. French women are even more, if that is actually possible, horrified about the practice than the men. They would never, they swear, never allow anyone to do that to their husband. So it turns out that the whole “masculine identity” thing isn’t just some rather sad illusion that French men harbour about themselves. It really is a culturally wide phenomenon.

As for me, straddling both cultures, I can truly see both sides of the issue. For the record, I think both sides have their merits. Most of all, however, I am just happy to have stumbled on a subject that is guaranteed to enliven any dinner table conversation.

Recette

Charlotte just came home with a neat homework assignment. The school system here is very committed to exposing children to poetry, art, and culture at a young age, and today Charlotte had to memorize a poem and put it back together in order, which she did perfectly (not boasting at all here or anything…).

I loved the poem, especially as it is gorgeous here right now – around 26-27 degrees Celsius in the afternoons, and it foretells of moments to come this summer.

So, for your daily dose of French culture, here you go;

*****

Recette

Prenez un toit de vieilles tuiles
Un peu avant midi.

Placez tout à côté
Un tilleul déjà grand
Remué par le vent,

Mettez audessus d’eux
Un ciel bleu, lavé
Par des nuages blancs.

Laissezles faire.
Regardezles.

Guillevic

Le Comeback a la Quete de la Nouvelle Gloire

After a rather insane week of welcoming new guests at all three gites, Franck and I escaped to Dijon on Saturday for dinner and a movie.

We made reservations at one of our favorite restaurants in Dijon – La Ruelle. Our reservation was at 8:00 and we got there about ten minutes past (and if you have ever tried to park around La Place du Marche in Dijon on a Saturday night, you’ll understand why). The restaurant was almost empty – dinners on the weekends in France usually don’t get rolling until 9:00 or so – but while we were waiting to order at least fifteen groups came in to request tables but were turned away. “C’est Complet!” was the answer they all got.

I was so glad we had reserved a table as we had the most gorgeous dinner we’d had in a long time. I ordered a veal paupiette cooked in saltimbanco style (I had no clue what this meant, but it sounded very intriguing indeed) with fresh gnocchi. Franck had a beef roast and a slice of foie gras in a lovely pastry with fresh vegetables. With that we ordered some Saint Amour, one of my favorite wines from the Beaujolais. We were so in ecstasy during our meal that we could hardly speak. Just lots of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” and “here, you have to taste this!”

Desert was for me three pots of custard: coffee, pistachio, and chocolate. Franck had a crepe flambeed with Grand Marnier served with homemade vanilla ice cream. After that we each sipped our espressos, feeling completely at one with the world.

The total bill was 92.00 Euros. Not cheap, but I would frankly rather do a restaurant like La Ruelle every two or three months than go out for mediocre meals more often. In my mind, that was 92.00 Euros very well spent.

If you are in Burgundy, we would highly recommend La Ruelle for a lovely dinner:

Resturant La Ruelle
8, ruelle Quentin
21000 DIJON
Tel: 03.80.49.98.51 *and definitely make a reservation!

The atmosphere is very laid back, so dressy clothes are not required.

*****

Afterwards we went to the movie theatre to see if we could catch a flick and arrived just in time to see the film “Music and Lyrics”. I am happy to say that even though I missed Hugh Grant’s plummy British accent, his charm came through the French dubbing process intact. I particularly loved the mock 80’s video “Pop goes my Heart” with Hugh Grant doing the motorbike-revving-hip-thrust-dance in tight white eighties pants. It was light and breezy, and exactly the kind of movie I was in the mood to watch, and exactly the kind of movie at which the French disdain. This is why, I believe, the movie has been saddled with one of the most horrendous and impenetrable titles of all time.

That’s right, all over France, from Marseille to Dunkirk, on the adorable poster of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore it reads “Le Comeback a la Quete de la Nouvelle Gloire.”

This directly translates as “The Comeback (apparently there is no french word for such a creature) on a Quest for the New Glory“. Could they possibly have fit any more prepositions in there?

I think this is the French film industry’s way of sabotaging American films that have the audacity to end well and provide closure for the main characters and the audience.

It may be simplistic, but I LOVE closure, and demand it of pretty much every book I read or any film I watch. Yes, it is not representative of life, but that is precisely why I want it in my leisure time.

This reminds me of a french romantic comedy I was forced to watch several years ago. It was called “Le Zebre” and starred the french actor Thierry Lhermitte whom I usually adore. He played a character who was crazy in love with his wife and who adored his several beautiful children, but who lived in terror of the day when he would no longer be able to surprise his wife. One day while the family is on a bucolic vacation in Brittany he goes off for an afternoon sail: his little boat comes back, but he doesn’t. Is he dead? Is he alive?

Fast-forward a few years. His wife has accepted the fact that he has drowned (yes, I too was hard pressed to find the “comedy” element in the film thus far) and then she starts to receive letters and strange messages ostensibly from him.

Is he alive? Is someone playing a sick joke?

This goes on for a good hour, but all in all we (the audience) are rooting for him to be alive, because, hey, it is Thierry Lhermitte after all, although if he were my husband he would sure have some serious explaining to do…but, I digress. So the tension mounts, and it is looking more and more probably that he is in fact alive.

And then a meeting is set up between the wife and the presumed dead-although-we’re-no-longer-so-sure-husband.

But instead of Thierry Lhermitte, her husband’s best friend comes to the rendezvous. It turns out he was instructed to send all the letters, etc. to keep her fascinated with her husband, but that he has no idea if the Theirry Lhermitte character is alive or dead either.

And then the film ends….and I wanted to throw a brick into the screen.

But that, mes amis, is how a french film earns its coveted short and succinct title!