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Mariage pour tous

Posted on April 24th, 2013

On Tuesday evening the French Senate voted yes to “Marriage for All” and the first gay marriages are expected in June. The debate has been hard-fought, acrimonious and attended by violence, both inside and outside parliament, led by the Catholic right-wing. Opponents of the new law seem unable to admit that their entire case rests upon homophobia. Scratch their veneer of sanctity and you rapidly find bigotry. For these people homosexuality is a grave moral disorder. Homosexuality is serious sinning. Love, tolerance and unity can take a back seat. And so anti-gay marriage protesters rely on scaremongering and deliberate falsehoods: “But it will destroy society!” they scream, as the Bishop of Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin, announces that marriage for all will lead to polygamy and incest. “But…

A sad end

Posted on April 21st, 2013

Morning walks often take me past the wreckage of an old car, hidden in the undergrowth. It appears to be a Renault Primaquatre from around 1938. Launched in 1930, production of successive Primaquatre models continued into the war years, ending in 1941. It had a 2.4 litre engine, delivering 41kw of power, about half that of a new Golf today and was capable of reaching 120 km/h. Driving must have been daunting – this 1550 kg vehicle had unassisted cable brakes and a three-speed transmission without synchronisation.    


Posted on April 10th, 2013

A while ago we were dining with friends and conversing in French. I intended to say we were getting a new puppy. French for puppy is chiot which is a male noun, but our puppy is female. Unsure what to do, I feminised the French word and proudly announced we were getting a new chiotte – a shithouse. Online newspaper The Local recently published a list of potential gaffes to avoid: 1: When discussing food, remember preservatives are conservateurs. Avoid mentioning preservatifs, unless you want to discuss condoms. 2: Canard or connard? Get this wrong in a restaurant and you might be served asshole a l’orange, rather than duck. 3. You’re on the phone with a friend, who invites you to his house. You ask “When?” but your friend…

Window onto officialdom

Posted on April 6th, 2013

The French Government recently commissioned a report into excessive official standards and regulations. An earlier post, entitled Fonctionnaires, discussed France’s veritable army of public servants and their capacity to complicate rather than simplify bureaucracy.  It is telling that the new report has 116 pages and still misses the point – if there were fewer bureaucrats there would be fewer standards. France has 400,000 regulatory standards. In 1833, eight codes covered 828 pages, while today seven codes require 21,000 pages. Fonctionnaires continue to add new standards or embellish old ones without regard for the cost or difficulty of implementation. When problems arise, rather than seek more effective use of existing regulations, French bureaucrats write new laws. The cost of implementing new standards issued between 2008…


Posted on April 5th, 2013

The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris belong to the Luxembourg Palace, home to the French Senate. Reuters reports that its 22 acres are carefully tended by 78 gardeners, or three gardeners for each area the size of a soccer pitch. The gardeners are paid 40% above the national average salary, receive wet weather bonuses and have jobs for life. Everyone in France is either a public servant, wants to be a public servant or has many friends and relatives who are public servants. The state employs over 5.3 million fonctionnaires as teachers, administrators, medics and clerks, amounting to one in five of the French workforce and growing. There are so many fonctionnaires that to deliver the same ratio as other European Union countries, France must…