Posts from the “Uncategorized” Category

Like father, like son?

Posted on June 12th, 2017

On 22nd August 1962, on a road outside Paris, twelve OAS paramilitaries attempted to assassinate President de Gaulle. The Citroen DS19 carrying the president and his wife was hit by twenty bullets, but both occupants escaped. The attackers were disgruntled French-Algerian partisans seeking to prevent Algerian independence. De Gaulle became their target after he condemned and halted a generals coup in Algiers in April 1961. The would-be assassins were led by Lieutenant Colonel Bastien-Thiry and his second in command, Lieutenant Alain de La Tocnaye. Bastien-Thiry was subsequently found guilty and became the last person in France to be shot by firing squad. De La Tocnaye was also sentenced to death but released after only five years in prison, dying in Cavaillon in January 2009.…

Left, right, left, right, onwards!

Posted on May 8th, 2017

Emmanuel Macron was victorious in the French Presidentielles last night by a margin of 2:1 over far right candidate Marine Le Pen. My department of the Vaucluse voted 53.5% for Macron, but he won 71.4% of the votes in our commune of Lacoste. It was welcome news in the face of gains by the extreme right represented elsewhere by Donald Trump, Theresa May, Malcolm Turnbull and the appalling Binyamin Netanyahu. If you don’t think they are extremists then take a closer look at their policies on refugees, healthcare, privatisation, the environment and taxation. And pay special attention to who supports them, who benefits, where the money comes from and the influence of the religious right. It has been fun reading the right-wing British Brexit…

Flamants de la camargue

Posted on May 7th, 2017

Late winter is when the flamingoes of the Camargue wetlands are at their finest. Thousands assemble near the coastal town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer,  growing brilliant red/pink plumage to attract breeding mates. These are flamants roses or pink flamingoes, who conduct an elaborate mating ballet with necks entwined and low grumbling. Eggs are laid in April/May at the Lake of Fangassier, the only flamingo breeding site in France. Around 10,000 birds live here all year, but the population swells to over 40,000 in summer. It’s a pleasant two-hour drive from here and well worth the effort.

The ex-votos of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Posted on May 4th, 2017

The small town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer lies on the coast, next to the marshes of the Camargue. It is famous for the legend of the three Marys, saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas, first witnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus. It is thought they sailed together from Alexandria, landing at what is now Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The town is also the destination for Roma gypsy pilgrims who arrive each year at the end of May for the festival of their patron Saint Sarah, who is supposed to have come with the three Marys as their dark-skinned Egyptian servant. The church at the centre of town dates back to the 9th century and contains a pagan altar from 4BCE. On display within the church…

The best of friends

Posted on April 14th, 2017

At a time when British newspapers rail against the European Union, blaming France and Germany for all Britain’s self-inflicted economic and social ills, the French media have adopted a more considered and adult approach. It was not always so, for in 1901 France experienced a wave of anglophobia. It was the time of the Second Boer War of 1899-1902 and Britain was holding Boer women and children in inhumane concentration camps. The French were incensed, so after Queen Victoria died in January 1901 their anger was directed towards the new King Edward VII. When the French satirical newspaper l’Assiette au Beurre published the cartoon above, the King was quick to complain to the French ambassador, Paul Cambon. The French Government prosecuted the newspaper for “insults to good…

Time to recover

Posted on April 14th, 2017

During dinner at home last night we heard a loud crash from the kitchen, as though the entry door had slammed. The door was securely closed, but a bird lay injured on the ground outside. Confused by reflections of the sunset, it had flown into the glass window of the door. I feared it had broken its neck, but it managed to stay upright when placed on the woodpile. Black and white plumage with a red underbelly identified it as a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. We often hear but seldom see woodpeckers in the forests around here. After a while it was showing no signs of recovery, so we placed it in a cardboard box for the night. This morning, fearing the worst, I opened…

The circus comes to town

Posted on March 19th, 2017

Two or three times a year playbills appear on every post in the district announcing the arrival of the circus. It’s a very small affair, with only one van, one trailer and one show.  The entire event takes only four hours between arrival and departure. I suspect it takes longer to affix and retrieve the posters. Last week the circus set up alongside the village school, with several clowns, a miniature horse, a goat and a performing dog. Happily these were the only animals and appeared well cared-for. Lamentably France still allows wild animals to be exploited in travelling circuses, yet the practice is totally banned in European neighbours such as Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Holland, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria and Greece. France might…

There’s no honour in cruelty

Posted on February 27th, 2017

The end of February brings the end of the hunting season. The woods and vineyards are silent again. I no longer have to wear bright clothes and Saffy a bell for fear of being shot. No more excitable men wearing army fatigues, rushing around in four-wheel drives, talking agitatedly to one another on their mobile phones. Our wild birds and animals can begin the spring mating season in peace.   There have been many hunting accidents across France since last September – most of them sad while others arouse anger at such gross irresponsibility. Here is a small sample from the past five months: Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef; September 2016. A hunter shoots a woman in the thigh while she is gardening. Saint-Claude; October 2016. A hunter…

A dirty weekend

Posted on January 23rd, 2017

We have been without a reliable water supply for the weekend. Our house is too far from the village to connect to town water but we have a forage, a well with a submersible pump more than sixty metres down in the limestone water table. The water is good and clear, but the high levels of calcium make it harsh for drinking. On Friday morning leaks developed in the pipe and the pump lost power so we were forced to minimise use over the weekend. This morning the pump and vertical piping were replaced and we’re happily back to regular showers, laundry and dishwasher. When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water – Benjamin Franklin