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A week is a long time in politics

Posted on November 28th, 2012

French politics are seldom boring. This week has been no different. We have been diverted by a destructive quarrel for leadership of the UMP, (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire), the centre-right party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy. When Sarkozy lost the presidential election to Francois Hollande of the PS (Parti Socialiste), the UMP moved to choose a new party leader, someone they hope will be the next president of France. The two front-runners were Francois Fillon, a former prime minister under Sarkozy and Jean-Francois Copé, who declared victory with 50.3% of the count. Fillon has fought back, claiming votes from some overseas territories were omitted and that Fillon was the true winner. So we have stalemate and an unseemly squabble in which neither candidate will yield.…

Lazy, smelly, fat, vulgar friends

Posted on November 15th, 2012

The cultural gulf between France and the United States is often discussed here. Mark Twain once remarked “In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language”. TF1, one of the leading commercial television channels in France, has recently published its thoughts on how the French and Americans see each other:   What Americans think of the French The French are lazy communists, always on strike: Americans see the French as a nation on welfare, always on vacation or on strike. All French people smoke: Around 30% of the adult population of France smoke, compared with 20% in the United States. French women are hairy, especially under the arms: The…

Funghi

Posted on November 15th, 2012

It is the season for mushrooms. Many types of funghi have appeared throughout the pine and oak forests all around the house. Some are dangerous, so it is wise to visit a pharmacist, all of whom are trained to identify mushrooms. Despite this free verification service, there were 388 reported cases of mushroom poisoning in France in 2011. Last month two people died in hospital in Lyon while awaiting liver transplants. It is thought the 75 year-old woman and 38 year-old man ate death cap mushrooms picked in the wild. The deadly plant resembles several edible varieties. Truffles will begin to appear in the markets later this month, with early season prices exceeding 1,000 euros per kilogram. Last night we celebrated with truffle omelette,…

Thou shalt not

Posted on November 13th, 2012

France has yet to witness revelations of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to the extent seen in many other countries. Which is curious, considering 70% of French citizens identify as Catholic. But in this fiercely secular culture, less than 10% now attend church, falling below 5% in Paris. The decline of catholicism began with the French Revolution and was reignited more recently by the clerical fascism evident in Vichy France. Today the Catholic church in France is an anachronism and an irrelevance. Its leadership is considered out of touch and there is widespread rejection of Catholic moral teachings. Churches are better attended by tourists than by the faithful. As elsewhere, the Catholic leadership pretends to represent a powerful political constituency, but its support base…