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A bridge in Paris

Posted on August 27th, 2017

It was 1961 and tensions were running high in Paris. Over the previous four decades France had welcomed Algerian workers to replace Frenchmen killed in the First World War, a process repeated after WWII. By the time the Algerian War of Independence began in 1954, more than 200,000 Algerians had already arrived, with many settling in Marseille and the 18th Arrondissement of Paris. In 1961 the violence of the war spread to the French mainland where several police were murdered and a Strasbourg to Paris express train was blown up killing 28. As the situation became increasingly volatile many French decided these immigrants were no longer welcome. Maurice Papon was the tough and uncompromising Police Prefect for Paris, who had served in Algeria and…

Marriage equality

Posted on August 26th, 2017

In France, same sex marriage has been legal since May 2013.  There have been 40,000 gay marriages and despite religious prophesy, the sky hasn’t fallen. More than twenty civilised countries now have marriage equality, so it’s sad to watch the equivocation of Australia’s right-wing government. First they refused to allow a conscience vote in parliament, knowing that some government members would vote yes. Under pressure from Christian hard-liners, their next ploy was to promise a plebiscite, to delay and possibly postpone a decision indefinitely. In the uproar that followed, the government shifted to a non-binding postal survey costing over $150 million. This latest ruse has begun to backfire badly. Younger voters typically vote left and favour marriage equality. To be eligible to join the…

Plagiarism in Aix

Posted on August 26th, 2017

The Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence has an excellent and varied collection of busts, cubist art, sculpture and paintings by Cézanne, Monet, van Gogh and Picasso. Among the collection are two almost identical works juxtaposed for comparison. On the left above is Le Baiser de la Muse, painted by Félix Frillié in 1857 while on the right is Le Baiser de la Muse, painted by Paul Cézanne three years later. It is the Cézanne version that receives all the publicity. More pictures of the exhibits can be seen: HERE    

Hunting again

Posted on August 25th, 2017

The hunting season has begun again, just for sanglier (wild boar) at the moment, but it will gradually open for other species soon. It is relatively quiet today but this is August, when all of France is on holiday. We expect the woods and fields to become hazardous from early September. Last season 143 hunting accidents were reported across France, including eighteen deaths. Three of those deaths occurred while hunting small game, mainly rabbits, pheasants, partridge, hare, thrush and other small birds. The highest number of deaths, fifteen last season, was during large game hunting for deer and sanglier, of which there are plenty near us. Local sanglier hunters employ chasse d’attente, where several guns lie in wait for sanglier to be driven towards them by large hunting dogs.…

Twins

Posted on August 23rd, 2017

In a small corner of the Marais in Paris there is a memorial to the Zajdner Family. Fifteen year-old twins Bernard and Simon Zajdner were deported to Auschwitz in May 1944, along with their father, mother, brother and sister Micheline. The twins were victims of the experiments of Josef Mengele. Only Micheline and her mother survived. “My name is Simon Zajdner. I am fifteen. I am five foot six inches tall.” That’s what I had to write, as soon as I came to the zoo. Currently I am lying on the bed of my bunk, shared with two other Jewish children. One of them is my twin, Bernard. I came here with him, on the trains. I was being held closely by my mother-…

Cannonball

Posted on August 23rd, 2017

The Hotel de Sens in the 4eme arrondissement is one Paris’ few remaining medieval civil buildings. It was built by the Archbishop of Sens, Tristan de Salazar, between 1475 and 1519. The archbishops departed the building in 1622, after which it was rented out until the revolution, when it was seized as a national asset and sold privately. The Hotel was finally repurchased in 1911 by the City of Paris, which commenced restoration lasting 32 years. It is now a library of decorative arts. The building has one remarkable feature. In July 1830 there was a three day citizens insurrection against King Charles X. The revolutionaries surrounded the Hotel de Ville district, building barricades and firing cannons into the old city. One of those…