Friday, 30 November 2012

Dominique Strauss-Kahn should have listened to my father

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is said to have reached a settlement with Naffisatou Diallo, the New York housemaid who claimed that he had forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her whilst she was cleaning his room at the New York Sofitel where he was staying on 14 May 2011. He was charged with various sexual offences and was subsequently forced to resign in disgrace from his position as head of the IMF. The affair also wrecked his political career and he and his wife, Anne Sinclair, finally separated.

The deal was announced yesterday and details of it, including the amount that Strass-Kahn would have to pay, were said to have been made subject to a confidentiality agreement. However, Le Figaro reports this morning that Le Monde will allege in an article to be published tomorrow that the agreed amount is $6 million (€4.6 million.)

Le Monde will also allege that Strauss-Kahn will be forced to take out a $3 million loan to pay half of the sum, with the rest being lent to him by Anne Sinclair. The settlement will put an end to all ongoing legal proceedings in the case.

This sad and sordid affair may thus be drawing to a close and as it does so I am reminded of a conversation I had with my father when I was 12 years old. I explained to him that although I had a 'serious girlfriend' at the time I had also met another girl who I liked very much, and I asked the following question;

"Do you think it's okay for me to have two girlfriends at once?" His reply came instantly, and I have never forgotten it.
"Listen son, it's already difficult enough to have a relationship with just one woman, so you have got to be stark staring bonkers to want two."
He was right of course, as Dominique Strauss-Kahn has now found out to his enormous cost.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Happy 80th birthday to Jacques Chirac, one of France's most loveable political rogues

Happy Birthday Jacques!
So you're 80 today. Ah Jacko, I know I used to think some rather less than charitable thoughts about some of the things you did during your long stint in politics and as prez but I must confess to having missed you since you decided not to seek a third mandate in 2007.

You drove me up the wall with your daft decision to sell a nuclear facility to Saddam, I tore my hair out when I heard you say that immigrants smell and sponge off the state, and I was very angry at your 'banana-republic' style arm-twisting of the Constitution to stop you being tried in connection with a whole slew of corruption and jobs for the boys scandals. The list was long.

Still, no harm was done in retrospect because Israel subsequently blew your nuclear facility to bits, you were manifestly half-drunk when you made your anti-immigrant speech (and who has never said something they shouldn't have when they have had a drink) and, concerning the corruption charges, well, given how notoriously corrupt French politicians and French politics are it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to be clean.

So forgive and forget as they say and it must also be said that you were quite a loveable rascal in some ways. I mean, who but you would have the indelicatesse to invite Queen Liz to the Place de la Concorde, where French kings got their heads chopped off? She wasn't happy with that, and nor was she happy when you clumsily if well-meaningly tried to guide her with your hand, thus breaking all protocol about touching Queeny and inspiring The Daily News to print the banner headline 'Get your hands off her!'

I also admit to an admirative snigger when you said that "the only thing the British have contributed to European agriculture is Mad Cow disease" and that "you can't trust people whose national cuisine is that abominable." You may be French, but your biting humour is almost perfectly à-la-British in many ways.

Then there was the time when a young TV interviewer thought he'd try being clever buggers and try to find out the motivations for an opinion you had offered by asking "Who is talking here? The mayor of Paris, the President of the RPR or the future presidential candidate?" You drily replied "I'm Jacques Chirac. I know you're only a young journalist but even so I would have thought that {your bosses] would have told you that." Even the journalist couldn't conceal a smile.

And I loved your almost impossibly naive opinion on the Web whilst prez and just when the Internet was taking over the whole planet. In all seriousness you solemnly announced that "My dear compatriots, yes, it's true, the Anglo-Saxons have the Internet. But we, the French, have.....Minitel"!!! Hi-la-rious! (Oh and R.I.P. Minitel by the way.)

Finally, who can't have a soft spot for a man who announces that he didn't have a teddy bear when he was a child, but a furry rabbit instead, and who mistakenly referred to the World Cup winners trophy as "the French Cup."

Yes, those were the days alright.....

I read that you haven't been in the best of health since your stroke in 2005 and that you are rumoured to be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. That's bad news of course but on the other hand it's good to know that you are still able to stop off almost daily for a quick apéritif at the Brasserie de la Concorde and that you are still active in your decades-long support for culture and the arts worldwide. I also hear that your morale is good and that you are keeping yourself as busy as you can.

You have led an event-filled life so far and although you had the good sense to quit politics when you did you are sorely missed by friend and foe alike. In fact I'd almost be tempted to ask you to come back and knock Copé and Fillon's heads together, the silly sods. Then again, you've seen it all before so I would imagine that you quite rightly consider that whatever happens in politics is ephemeral in the greater scheme of things. Besides, you deserve your retirement just as much as anyone else.

So Jacko, congrats on getting to the big eight-zero, have a great evening and I sincerely hope to be writing something similar for your 90th.

Happy Birthday!

(p.s. You were quite right about that impudent young upstart, what's his name, oh yes. Sarkozy. To use an expression you yourself coined, his presidency went "pschitt" and disappeared.....)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Livin an' dyin' an' where do we come from an' what're we doin' 'ere an' where are we goin' an' all that stuff etc...sort of thing..

Just a quick word to inform my millions, thousands, low hundreds of readers that I have a Youtube channel which I rarely use and do nothing to promote, to the point of not even tagging my videos in order to attract hits. I've only done 7 videos, some of which are photovids. But I tagged them yesterday because I dunno why.

Anyway, here's one of them, and this is the blurb I used to describe which autobiographal images the song conjures up for me;
From the 1988 Depeche Mode tribute album 'For the Masses.' The pix? Oh, they're a kind of 'from before birth to death and onwards to infinity' collage. Enjoy..
So, ummmm, enjoy, I hope, and have an excellent evening.

Politicians: the machine-gun option

Photo credit Lionel Bonaventure for AFP
Having problems understanding the Byzantine UMP vote scandal which may damage the image of politics in France for years to come? Never fear, here's the issue explained in an easy-to-follow ten-step guide, why it happened, and what should be done about it.

So, and without taking sides;

1) French opposition party holds internal elections to elect party prez. Two candidates.
2) One candidate wins.
3) Losing candidate alleges vote-rigging and party election committee admits some votes were not counted.
4) Top-level neutral party inquiry successfully demanded by loser and respected senior member chairs it, asking party top brass not to get involved until inquiry presents findings.
5) Pro-winner top brass committee decides that winner won fairly. Winner refuses to cooperate with neutral inquiry. Inquiry chairman throws in the towel after just a couple of days.
6) Loser threatens court action to challenge results. Party scared of possibility of law investigating illegal methods and sticking its nose into politics.
7) Party mentor Sarkozy advises against legal action, suggests compromise via for/against new election referendum for party members.
8) Loser announces will form a seccessionist party which will split party into two, reduce party taxpayer funding by half and render opposition totally ineffective.
8) Both protagonists finally decide to move towards Sarkozy compromise using guarded language.
9) More developments tommorow.
10) French public totally disgusted by whole farce, which will continue for months to come, whatever happens.

Those are the facts.

Why did this happen and what should be done about it? I'll leave you with the words of another Blogger blogger (sounds daft that..) who answered those questions in a comment thread in a perfectly simple and succinct manner with which I wholeheartedly agree;
I've often I've longed for a machine gun when watching politicians of all parties mouthing off about the daily life and frustrations of their constituents. Situations they clearly know very little about.
There you go, simple as that. These jokers couldn't care less about anything else but their vain little internecine power struggles and lining their pockets. 'The People'? You've got to be kidding.

I'm off to my local machine-gun shop to see what's on offer......

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Video: A pro-Palestinian demo in Lyon

You can come across a demo about something or other on most Saturdays in larger towns and cities. That's a good thing of course and seeing one reminds me that I live in a relatively free country where people can express their disagreement with something in public as long as there's no violence.

So after last Saturday's anti-gay marriage demo this Saturday saw pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to the streets and I came across their demo by accident. It was a smallish affair - I'd say there were about 400 demonstrators maximum - but what they lacked in numbers was more than compensated for by their enthusiasm.

Here's a video I took of them. It proves two things; one, that they were passionate about their cause and two, that I am no David Lynch. Still, he doesn't use a hand-held Panasonic to make his films so he has an unfair advantage. That's my excuse anyway.

What are my opinions on the Israel-Palestine question? Well - and like any other person with an ounce of humanity - I feel desperately sorry for all those ordinary Israelies and Palestinians who just wish the violence would stop and I just hope that they find peace one day.

As to their 'leaders' however, be they Israeli or Palestinian I think they all need a bloody good clip round the ear and should be sent to bed early with no supper and no video games.

Have a good Sunday everyone.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Photos and video of 'La Fresque des Lyonnais'

This jumbo-sized fresco can be seen down by the river Saône in the Martinière area of the town centre here in Lyon. As its name suggests it was painted in honour of the people and culture of Lyon and it attracts visitors all year round.

The six-storey fresco was painted by Cité Création, a local association which specialises in wall painting and mural art. Based just up the road from where I live, Cité Création has created over 580 building-sized frescos all over the world, including dozens here in Lyon alone.

Of all the frescos they have done in Lyon however this is one of the biggest favourites with the locals. It showcases the city's literary traditions and culinary excellence as well as some of its most famous personalities.

Here's a video of it I took this afternoon, followed by photos of a few details. There's an amazing amount of detail in there, particularly given its size. Everything you see has been painted. Impressive stuff I say..

Some of the better-known names in local produce production

If you ain't ate 'ere, you ain't ate nowhere baby

Abbé Pierre. Born in Lyon, he was a Capucin Catholic priest, a war resistant and an influential campaigner for the poor and homeless

Most people here quite rightly detest the stuff, but still, we drink it once a year to support this local industry

Lyon's literature. I love this detail in particular because the reflections in the window look so real...

A painting of a mural artist painting a mural

Wanna fresco on your garden wall? Give 'em a ring...

...and while you're at it say hello from the English guy in Gerland. I have visited their offices and facilities several times and they are always willing to discuss their work.

I'll be posting more frescos by Cité Création in the future, and for anyone interested in mural art and wall painting their site is well worth a visit. There are photos galore there of most of their works from all over the world.

Right. It's time for an apéritif so see you soon and be good. If possible. :)

Copé and Fillon get a severe dressing down from a VERY angry journalist

Photo credit Lionel Bonaventure for AFP
Have you ever heard of Olivier Mazerolle? No? That's not surprising because until a couple of days ago he was a relatively anonymous political journalist at the French TV rolling news station BFMTV. They have modeled their presentation on Anglophone stations such as BBC World or CNN, although they are hardly known outside France.

Anyway, there he was live on BFMTV with a couple of other journalists recently and they were discussing - what else - the vaudeville political farce which is the aftermath of the UMP's election designed to designate a new party president. Copé and Fillon have accused each other via a viewer-hungry media of cheating, vote-rigging and everything else short of eating babies.

The whole country is sick of it and nobody understands all the underhand shenanigans which underpin this fight to the death, although they know full well that it's a total disgrace and a disaster for the already appalling image of French politics both at home and abroad.

Mazerolle has also had it up to here, and that explains his sudden and blistering attack on both belligerents, some of which I have translated below.

"Let's stop mucking about shall we. There's a major political problem. Nobody understands anything about that (UMP) party and nobody trusts anyone else in that party. So there's a man who says 'me I'm a former UMP General Secretary, I'm a former UMP president, I'm a former PM and I want everyoine to agree but only on the condition that you let me get on with the job and I have sufficient authority and I won't let myself be manipulated' he says. That's it, that's how it is now. Ok, right. Stop it! No I mean it, put a sock in it! Because I'm fed up to the back teeth of all this two-bit cheap French politics! I'm a journalist too and I'm tired of it all just like anybody else and I'm sick and tired of being obliged to report on all this nonsense and that's all there is to it."
Right on the button! I have often been highly critical of the French press' tendancy to kow-tow to politicians but BFMTV isn't too bad because it is much less dependent on state aid than are the state-controlled major TV stations and the big three newspapers.

So put yer' mitts together and let's have a big round of applause for the only person who has said anything worth listening to about the Copé-Fillon fight. How about if we flew them both to Corsica where we wouldn't have to listen to them any more and while we're about it - and to please Corsican independentists - we could then cut the mooring ropes and allow Corsica and its politically-toxic cargo to drift out into a Mediterranean sunset. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hollande invents the law of the land which you only obey if you feel like it

A recent photo of French president François Hollande
A stupefied France is today debating what will surely go down as one of the most bizarre and baffling presidential U-turns in this country's history.

François Hollande's election campaign included the promise, supported by a large majority of French citizens, that he would legalise same-sex marriage, and indeed he kept his word. Or at least he seemed to have done so until yesterday. The law had been drafted and was waiting for what would have been a formality of an approval vote.

However, last weekend witnessed large demonstrations in many French cities and towns (see this photoblog) by anti-gay marriage associations, one of which turned violent, and many people were surprised by the high turnout. So, it would seem, was Hollande, and he finally emerged from his silence on the issue yesterday evening during a speech at a meeting of French mayors in Paris to make this confusing and astonishing, statement, which was clearly designed to appease the many mayors around the country who have said that they would not apply a gay-marriage law;

"(If the law is voted) I recognise the freedom of conscience of mayors who would refuse to celebrate marriages between people of the same sex.... The possibility of delegations (i.e; of mayoral delegation of powers and duties) exists, and they can be enlarged.... There are moments in the life of a nation, and it is the role of the president, where we have to make choices and reflect the evolutions in society. It appears problematic and then the time comes that (the choices) are accepted by all, even those who are against a law proposal. The law of the land applies to all but it mast also respect freedom of conscience"

In other words, he quite simply offered mayors the possibility of refusing to marry homosexual couples if they felt like it, despite the fact that the law would guarantee that homosexuals would have the right to marry. Or in even simpler terms than that, he is buying mayors off by allowing them to break his own law, thus going back on his earlier declarations which insisted that no mayor would be allowed to refuse to marry gay couples.

Dumbfounded pro-gay marriage associations and politicians all over the country could hardly believe their ears. An Inter-LGBT spokesman said that he "couldn't undestand how anyone can justify a law which is not applied in the same way all over French territory." "We are stupefied", commented Elisabeth Ronzier from SOS Homophobie, adding that the president had "backed down."

Vincent Fleury, a regional leader for centrist party the Modem declared that freedom of conscience for mayors means that they may resign if they do not wish to apply the laws of the Republic, but that they may not remain in office and exempt themselves from them. Another centrist, Chantal Jouanno, reminded the president that he had opened up "an extremely dangerous breach" in the rule of law and "that freedom of conscience exists for voting in parliament is only right but it cannot be used to refuse to obey the law."

A baffled Noël Mamère of the EELV party denounced "a retreat, a submission and fudging.... By giving in to the most ultra (i.e. right-wing) mayors he has shown an inexplicable weakness." Mamère is also a mayor and he explained that Hollande's speech means that mayors would be able to delegate their duty whilst simultaneously imposing strict limits on what the person who is mandated to apply the law may do. He said that it would now be possible to refuse to delegate and even to delegate that only traditional marriages could be celebrated on their territory.

Others emphasised the danger that mayors would be able to extend the freedom of conscience clause to refuse to marry blacks, Arabs or anyone else they didn't like and, by extension, even refuse other rights.

In a more light-hearted vein, France's Twitterati is busy posting irreverent tweets asking if it's now okay to rob a bank or kill their noisy neighbour as long as they use freedom of conscience as a defence.

Meanwhile, anti-gay marriage supporters are celebrating what they clearly see as a major victory over the government saying that their pressure was beginning to pay off and that it is now time for Hollande to abandon the idea of legalising homosexual marriage.

With this astounding announcement François Hollande and his government have made it obvious to all - as if it were not already obvious - that they are there to be U-turned by anone who wishes to make them do so.

Hollande has now watered down, U-turned on or put off almost every major election promise he made, including on issues such as Europe, the right of foreign nationals to vote, the 'cumul des mandats' which permits multi-office holding by politicians, the national debt, legalised euthanasia, tax breaks for the rich and many more.

But his decision on freedom of conscience is the most cowardly retreat of all.

Faced with a weekend of demonstrations by a motley and ugly band of fascists, racists, church organisations (this is supposed to be France, a secular country) and Catholic integrists, François Hollande has proved to be a weak-willed and spineless president whose term in office so far has almost entirely consisted of appeasing his opponents.

As things stand Hollande is France's modern-day peactime equivalent of Neville Chamberlain, and if he doesn't soon find the guts to govern the country correctly that epithet shall surely prove to be his political epitaph..

Monday, 19 November 2012

The real winners and losers of the farcical Copé-Fillon UMP leadership elections

Photo credit Lionel Bonaventure for AFP
The UMP's Jean-François Copé and François Fillon remind me of two drunken clowns running around a minefield, and as any child will tell you drunken clowns who run around minefields invariably end up stepping on a mine and blowing themselves to smithereens.

France is fond of proclaiming 'the French exception' when it comes to protecting its interests, and that maxim certainly applies here because the current and still-undecided battle for the leadership of the UMP is, well, as exceptional as it gets. This ongoing farce of an election saw both Copé and Fillon declare themselves as having won late last night as vote-counting began to draw to a close after yesterday's vote by party members.

Once rumours began to circulate of possible vote-rigging however, they instantly changed their tune and began to accuse each other of fraud and ballot-stuffing. A depressed and weary France finally went to bed at about 3am with the announcement that no winner would be declared until today and that the vote had been so close that enquiries would have to be made into the allegations.

As I write this it is becoming clear that the results will not be known before late this evening at the earliest. Accusations of cheating have to be investigated, recounts will be needed in many places and confusion reigns. But the result, whatever it is, will prove to be totally irrelevant.

The press, the public and members of all political parties including the UMP are sickened by this spectacle. The Nouvelobs did a tour of the regional papers and found epithets such as 'grotesque', 'pitiful', 'surreal' 'theatrical', 'fratricidal' and the heavily ironic 'politics in all its splendour' to describe this amateurish imbroglio. The French word 'politique', which already has a highly negative image here, will surely be classified as a filthy swear word when this is all (thankfully) over.

However, the world being as it is there's always one idiot who puts his foot in it and cuts dinner conversation dead by asking his host how his gran is only to be sharply reminded that, as he had been informed last week, poor old granny fell under a bus the week before and is thus now in a non-ongoing existing situation.

The self-designated nitwit this time was hapless and one-time-short-lived-stopgap-expendable Prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin who came out with the totally inept and inaccurate assertion that all closely-fought elections lead to problems before going on to quote the Bush-Gore election as being an example. He had obviously forgotten (wasn't aware?) that whereas Bush-Gore was an election pitting two political parties against each other, the UMP débacle has been manufactured in-house. Also, you can bet your beret that, unlike for Bush and Gore, neither Fillon nor Copé will graciously accept defeat.

And therein may lie their future downfall. These primaries - the UMP's first - remind everyone here of the unseemly bitchfest between rival candidates Ségolène Royal and Martine Aubry after voting ended at the Socialist primaries in 2008. They accused each other of cheating and fraud and Royal and her lieutenant Manual Valls even announced that they would open legal proceedings to challenge the legality of the procedure. They finally stopped short of doing so however and the result was that although Aubry was eventually declared the winner, neither she nor Royal was designated as presidential candidate or candidate for party leader this year, and both have since slipped off the radar.

Both Copé and Fillon have lost pocketfuls of Brownie points since yesterday and whoever wins this fight will be faced off against the other in an ugly and party-splitting battle which will render the UMP even less efficient as an opposition party then they are already. As a result it is by no means certain that either will be endorsed as the 2017 UMP presidential candidate, and to understand why let's go back to the minefield analogy.

Their suicidal antics have been contemplated with hand-rubbing glee by their enemies, who have been standing on the sidelines and are taking great delight in watching them do a passable imitation of clumsy suicide bombers who blow themselves up without killing their intended victims. Their enemies shall thus live on to fight another day from an ever stronger position. Who are they?

The most obvious beneficiaries are François Hollande and his government. Their reaction has been wisely discreet up until now, given that the result is still uncertain, but they know that from now on they will be faced with a divided and weakened opposition which will have no more lessons to give in the future about the executive's right hand not knowing what its left hand is doing. The Front National on the other hand has lost no time in ridiculising this excuse for a democratic internal election and have every reason to be optimistic about picking up disgruntled right-of-centre UMP votes in future elections.

But the prize for the biggest cheshire-cat grin on the block goes to Nicolas Sarkozy, the man for whom the UMP was created. He hasn't said a single word about this disaster yet, but it can be safely assumed that his shadenfreude knows no bounds and that there there is sure to be a major uptick in the number of impassioned appeals by UMP politicians and rank-and-file party members for him to return as the Messiah who shall save the UMP from being banished to the political wilderness.

All of this however supposes that the UMP will survive this crisis. But both Fillon and Copé are already being exhorted to form their own parties if they lose, and that would weaken each of them even further in terms of electoral appeal.

The Socialists, the Front National and Nicolas Sarkozy haven't had to fire a single shot yet they have still won a major victory. All three are delighted with the disastrous picture these primaries have painted of the UMP as a credible opposition party and their victory is already total after watching Fillon and Copé condemn themselves to a hellish future, whoever is declared to have won this lamentable and irrelevant primary 'election.'

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Photoblog: the anti-gay marriage demo in Lyon

Anti-gay marriage demonstrations were held in several major French cities today, including Lyon. Police sources estimate that about 118,000 protestors took to the streets nationwide, including 22,000 in Lyon.

Lyon's demo march was scheduled to begin at 3pm and as the marchers converged on their initial meeting point numerous police units positioned themselves at a discreet distance. The second photo is of anti-riot police and the third is a group of guys who are not to be messed with. They are the BAC, the Anti Criminality Brigade, and they are not known for handing out sweets to children. They don't like having their picture taken either, and some of them turn away...

Shortly before the demo set off however, a small group of about 150 pro-gay marriage counter-demonstrators suddenly appeared out of side streets and gathered together 30 yards from the main demo. The riot police move nearer.

As they did so a group of uninvited extreme-right wing demonstrators appeared as if from nowhere and the mood suddenly turned ugly, with both sides spoiling for a fight. Official demo organisers could be seen imploring them to go away.

Both sets of demonstrators were quickly and forcefully escorted and dispersed under riot police control in different directions and the march organisers set off the procession. Not everyone had to walk though.

Their destination was the square in front of the City Hall. Here they are as the head of the cortege arrives and the square begins to fill with people. The police ordered the march to continue on out of the square to prevent immobile bottlenecks of impatient demonstators building up behind them.

The demonstrators finally returned to where they had set off from as darkness fell.

Dancers on a sound-system truck blast out disco music and hold up a large doll to represent a baby.

Their bon enfant mood would prove to be short-lived however. A young woman looks confused as police units suddenly rush past her and continue on down the street.

The demo had been interrupted by a series of loud bangs and bright flares on top of a nearby Tourist Office building. Riot squad vans raced around. The extreme-right demonstrators were back.

The extreme-right demonstrators finally descended from the roof and were just being congratulated by their followers when the riot police arrived and kettled them. I asked one of the police squad what they intended to do with them and he answered "these guys are going to remain kettled here until they get cold and hungry and we'll most likely let them go at about 11pm."

(This blog is a factual account of what I saw but anyone wishing to read my views on this issue may do so here.)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Afternoon and early evening photographs at the Opera of Lyon

I spent this afternoon at the Opera in Lyon in connection with my work. It puts on operas, ballets, classical and other music concerts. Here it is, under a cold grey sky.

It has 18 levels, of which 5 are underground, followed by 7 within the older part of the building and 6 in the glass dome at the top, which was added in the Nineties, when the whole structure was modernised to meet today's demands in the world of opera buildings. The dome was not popular with the locals at first although it is now a landmark. Every afternoon sees groups of teenagers dotted about under the outside cloisters playing breakdance music on their computers etc and practicing their moves. They are good kids who willingly accept that they have to behave properly, respect the building and those going in and out of it, and not push the volume too high. More power to 'em I say and they are an attraction in their own right.

Do you see the seven statues outside the base of the dome? You'll be seeing them from a completely different perspective lower down the page.

The Opera is smack-bang opposite the rear entrance of the Town Hall. But it's not because it's 'only' the rear entrance that it's not an attractive sight in its own right.

My appointment was high up in the dome on the fourteenth level, which is the one above where the statues are placed. But on the way I had to walk through this beautiful hall, which is behind the big windows on the façade of the older building.

And once up there in our meeting room, which was on the façade of the building, I took this picture of the Town Hall down below. It was a kind of privilege to be able to do so moreover because the public rarely gets to see this view. You can see part of one of the statues too.

Dusk was approaching, so all the lights were on within the building and the exterior lighting had been switched on too.

It is almost 7pm now and my working day is done. So I take a couple of pictures of the illuminated statues on the balcony below me................

...............before leaving the building, now dressed in its evening robe of light.

It had been a tiring if agreeable afternoon and early evening, so before going home I stopped off at my favourite bar in the area to drink a well-deserved beer on the terrace and let my eyes drift over my surroundings.

And now that I've posted this it's time for another beer. Cheers to one and all!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

French PM Ayrault actually gets annoyed about something!

It's enough to put you off baguettes for life
I nearly fell off my chair when I read his words. Could these really be the words of long-serving Socialist dozy party-line plodder and faithful servant-cum first thus expendable Prime Ministerial scapegoat Jean-Marc Ayrault?

He is talking about an article in The Economist about the French economy when he suddenly and uncharacteristically blasts an all-guns broadside plus missiles for good measure full of vitriolic anger which, could words alone kill an international news magazine, would have vaporised The Economist in an instant and orphaned all its subscribers and readers.

Asked by a German TV station to comment the article he replies "you're talking about a mere newspaper and the excessive exaggeration it uses to sell its paper and I'm telling you that France couldn't care less."

Okay okay, don't hit me I'm wearing glasses! Fair enough, we know where you stand Jean-Marc.

The article he was referring to contains scathing scriticism of the way the French economy is being handled under François Hollande. The headline and standfirst read;
The time-bomb at the heart of Europe
Why France could become the biggest danger to Europe's single currency
It goes on to say in so many words that Hollande and his policies are even worse than catching ebola, that he eats grannies for breakfast, that he has pictures of both Stalin and Hitler on his Elysée office wall and that he would like to see the whole of Europe thrown into economic anarchy and civil insurrection. Well, it nearly does.

Now I'm no expert on economic matters but I have been following Hollande and his government's progress since they came into power.

And that's why I'm telling you, Jean-Marc, that it looks to me like the pressure is getting to you. You and your prez have been urged since you were elected by France, Europe, the World and its dog to do something about the appallingly imbalanced state of your economy instead of merely standing around like gnomes in a garden.

And you may have mistakenly believed that the measures that Hollande announced a few days ago to help businesses to live were enough to take the heat off, at least for a month or two.

But they aren't, and that's why you were rattled by the article. That, and the fact that you, as a former (and deservedly much-appreciated and successful it must be said) mayor of a major French city know full well how to run a budget.

Which means you also know that Hollande and your government are not going to finish U-turning on your election promises anytime soon. For the sake of France I sincerely hope that you and Hollande will succeed in getting France out of the hole, however many U-turns it takes.

Bonne chance...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Autumn trees, birds, statues, a bear and largish cats...

The weather was wonderful this afternoon so I put on my coat and went for a long and leisurely walk in the Parc de la Tête d'Or. It's one of France's biggest urban parks. Trees here are beginning to shed their leaves in preparation for winter and that means that the park is particularly beautiful at the moment.

There weren't many people there because I arrived at about 4:30, when many people are still at work, but I didn't mind. It was almost as if I had the whole place to myself.

Here are some photos I took whilst walking around.

The park has several entrances and this is the first thing you see as you go through on of the smaller ones.

There is a lot of birdlife in the park and some species are not what you'd usually see in your back garden. Apart from the ducks that is.

Here is one of my favourite statues in the park. I appreciate its simplicity and it has been tastefully situated.

I wanted to take some pictures of trees and my route towards the most wooded area of the park went through the zoo. I'm not a big fan of zoos, but what can I do, they are there, so I thought I'd snap a few pixtures of some of its inhabitants. There's a bear....

...and some big cats too. The male lion was roaring and although I've heard lions roaring many times in my life it never fails to impress me. The leopard was prowling around quietly.

But I had come to see the trees as they changed colour and I took lots of photos of them. The first one looks like it's growing out of the top of the drinks and snacks stand and as I walked around I saw many other splendid colours.

But of all the many thousands of beautiful trees in the Parc de la Tête d'Or this is my favourite.

May I wish everyone an excellent evening.