Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Spotlight on the Nord! We don't get mentioned much in the news but when we are noticed it is invariably for something ridiculous and often plain stupid. Comment nous sommes bêtes, nous les ch'tis!
I don't really believe that people have fallen for what is so evidently a political ruse, a way of getting faces into the media spotlight in the run up to the regional elections next month. But the media is running with it.
The central Roubaix branch of Quick, the hamburger/fast food chain, has, since the end of november last year been halal friendly, or to be more accurate, totally halal. All meats served have been prepared in authorised ways and pork products taken off the menu. Thus one burger - the Quick Burger Strong Bacon,which boasts not only bacon but also "bacon taste", excuse me? - has been replaced with a burger decked with a slice of smoked turkey. Have the people of Roubaix been spared?
The local population and, more importantly, Quick's clientele, is made up of a large proportion of muslims so this appears, at least on the face of it, to be a sensible commercial decision. And it's not as if, for instance, non muslims are not able to enjoy halal meat too. Indeed beau père used to stock almost exclusively halal meat at his shop as it was popular and thought to be tastier then the usual dead animal.
Enter Marine Le Penn, who has graced this blog before, and more than likely will again. Candidate for virtually everything one can be a candidate for here in France where the multiple mandat though much derided and much debated for reform, but still exists. She is, of course, prime candidate to succeed the bête noir of French politics, Jean-Marie Le Penn, who so famously made the run off in the presidential election in 2002. More about that elsewhere.
Marine finds that the burger joint's conversion to halal is discriminatory. The socialist mayor of Roubaix - what's French for bandwagon*? - appears to agree with her and has made an official complaint to the courts. Kerching kerching! More wasted public money and more opportunities to appear in the media looking indignant. I have scratched my head and searched my brain and yet for all my thinking I cannot for the life of me understand how a fast food outlet (don't make me call it a restaurant)'s menu can be the source (ketchup with that?) of discrimination. Where is choice? Should we have a right to demand fish 'n' chips everywhere we go and would we be right in appealing to the courts when we don't it? Of course not.
Roubaix is in any case well provided for when it comes to le fastfood and the preponderance of non halal establishments far outweighs the meagre halal offering. Indeed on checking I discover that there are three branches of Quick in Roubaix and only one of those has gone halal. According to yesterday's news the halal branch has seen it's turnover increase by anything up to 30% and the burger bar opposite is almost empty. Of course that's what customers do isn't it: vote with their feet?
This is, as in the UK, simply pre-election silly season. Whilst the UK gets stories of "bully Brown" we get force-fed tales of Quick islamisation, which provides easy sound bites but has nothing to do with discrimination and, although more about choice, the only real lack of choice here is a decent candidate for the regional elections.
This entry was written without harm to any animals and without recourse to eating any animal products.
* for once less interesting than the English it's "prendre le train en marche" - take the moving train.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
How brave were we to leave intramuros behind and to venture beyond the périférique to take in the assorted bric-a-brac and collectibles in the markets. I have never seen so many chandeliers nor so many huge ones. You could warm a room with the wattage they'd take to light up completely.
Anyway, back to behind Montmartre and a scruffy little street market where apparent bargains were to be had. We had an uncertain moment not knowing whether to risk overtaking a woman, dragging a shopper trolley, whose profligate sneezing and hawking was uninterrupted by hand nor handkerchief. What if she'd deposited a generous portion of her germs all over us as we ambled past? Would the hand gel we so liberally used all weekend have offered an adequate defence?
She finally stopped at a stall and we carried on unimpeded by uncertainty and followed a slight incline upwards towards our goal, where others had already found their eventual or unexpected end - the cimitière de Montmartre. I am a complete fan of the ancient and architectural graveyard and have spent many a happy hour in the company of Père Lachaise but, somehow, I'd never either located nor visited his smaller but equally fascinating rival. It seemed almost appropriate a destination given the demise of neighbours on both sides over the last few weeks.
We were immediately fascinated to see that a road bridge - apparently constructed well after the cemetery was inaugurated - effectively bisects the hallowed ground, and wondered whether it would be better to have one's monument beneath the bridge or not. It certainly affords some shelter from the elements.
A helpful information board indicated the whereabout of the more famous residents and we chose a random few to pass an hour or so. First off the tomb of the songwriter and musician, Michel Berger who died suddenly in 1992 at the age of 44. It was hardly what you would expect for one so feted, so unexpectedly taken, whose life work still regularly punctuates the airwaves and is endlessly reinterpreted: a flat surface with no headstone covered with what looked to be astroturf.
Degas, the artist, was allocated a longer span getting to 83 when he departed in 1917. He was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas and was associated with the impressionist movement.
Max is a big fan, or so he says, of Dalida. So off we trundled to a suitably over the top monument including a life-sized statue of this French naturalised Egytian/Italian singer whose life was almost as big as her career but not as enduring, and whose brother continues to live off her ongoing success. Dalida died of an overdose at the age of 54, leaving a note saying her life had become unbearable. Her memorial is, controversially, within a few metres of a public convenience.
Though we had chosen some, to us, well-known names, it is as interesting coming upon unexpected celebrities of their time and thus we lit upon Miss Bluebell, the dancer and choreographer and Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone. We also learned that Emile Zola has been granted access to and so moved to the Panthéon, and that Hector Berlioz was originally in a less conspicious area of the burial ground but now surveys all from a spot overlooking the roundabout near the entrance.
So in death there is life and history and fascination. Max has determined that he will have a monumental sepulchre when his time comes. He tried to persuade me that I should enthuse at this possiblity but I, despite my continuing interest in necropolises, just want my ashes scattered to the wind. Not quite yet though - I still have to visit the cimitières at Montparnasse and Passy.