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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How do we solve a problem like Marine?

Very little makes me want to sit right down and vent my spleen: mostly I prefer to mull something over and give it due consideration. However, this afternoon the French parliament is voting on gay marriage, a debate raised by the Parti Socialiste that will almost inevitably not pass as the right wing government has the majority and they are not minded to bring France in line with many other countries in the developed world. Indeed France still considers itself to be a Catholic nation and the right wing parties tend to be the ones who like to be seen to uphold Catholic values.

Now that makes me a tad annoyed and a tad sad. France was one of the first nations in Europe to enact laws enabling same sex couples to be recognised legally with the PACS, but this contract between two people whatever their gender, gives very diluted rights and obligations and is nowhere near to being equal to marriage or civil partnership.  Meanwhile countries such as the UK have brought in equal rights for gay couples and the discussion has now moved on to whether same sex couples should be able to (civil) marry albeit that is the shorthand that many use to describe their civil partnership just as they use husband and wife as terms to describe themselves. The argument for marriage in church is something else again and is not an area for government diktat. I believe that sometimes there is a confusion in people's minds as often civil and religious weddings take place in the same place ie in the church with the register signed there too.

So in France, where if people wed in church they also have to take part in a civil ceremony at the Mairie, just as they do in other countries, you might be forgiven for thinking that it would be easier to separate the two and to allow civil weddings for all.  Mais non! Not whilst there are politicians defending only heterosexual rights. And now Marine Le Pen, the glamorous leader of the French National Front,  has waded in with her jaded and hackneyed declaration that if we allow gay marriage then why not polygamy too?  Perhaps in private she alludes to people marrying their pets? I do hope she is not defending the sanctity of marriage since she has allowed herself to be married and divorced twice already and at the age of 43 has plenty of time left in which to repeat her commitment to this holy institution.

I looked up "Catholic" and saw that the capitalised word pertains to one church as in the Catholic church being the one true church ie exclusive whereas "catholic" lower case adjective has almost entirely the opposite meaning ie

1.universal; relating to all men; all-inclusive
2.comprehensive in interests, tastes, etc; broad-minded; liberal

Such a pity then that the debate this afternoon won't be lower case.

Ms Le Pen is a problem that is not going to go away soon  cf Sarah Palin, but at least she is starting to put her true cards on the table and her catholic appeal may well diminish as her Catholic tendencies become clearer.

PS - fingers crossed the Parti Socialiste will indeed sweep the board next year in which case there is a chance for this attempt at equality.

Rant over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cherry picking

Salut mes petits lecteurs très chéris! I've just had it pointed out to me that this has been a dormant space for a few months. Anyone would think I had nothing to say though Stuart would know that not to be the case as I seem to be able to respond almost fluently to some of the interesting propositions and ideas he posts on Facebook. It's debate you see.

Summer came early here in le Nord and we were veritably basking in it during April. It was at that time that we made the acquaintance of a temporary lodger, here in Lille working on the production of Verdi's Macbeth at the Opéra de Lille. It made a very pleasant change to have another english speaker - or is that English speaker or even English english speaker? - around. Disappointingly, we didn't after all get to see the opera performed, especially since it had some positive reviews, but we do have a rather lovely mini fig tree kindly given to us by Geof, as in it is small but bearing already one rather large and ripening fruit and a number of more recent much smaller but future large fruit, we hope.

I spent three weeks in the good old U of K from the end of April because, not surprisingly, the cost of renewing my passport in France ie via the Embassy in Paris, was twice the cost of having it done whilst within the realm itself. So I took full advantage and, basing myself in Grantham where the majority of my immediate family reside, I also arranged subtrips to Penshaw and Leeds. And yes, I was there for wedding. Yes it was a beautifully staged event. Yes I was exceedingly bored by the media hoopla and all the fawning and scraping. I'm not sure which I like least out of the UK or the French or indeed the Stateside take on society though "she was born to be a princess" strikes me quite simply as garabage. 'Scuse my 'Merican.

Which brings me to Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The DSK affair. The whole "affair"within l'hexagone is a succinct illustration of how the French tend to treat their great and good, their "movers and shakers" ie with an inexplicable and automatic deference. Add in their attitude to extra marital liaisons et voilà: everyone is very discreet. One gets the feeling that such public figures are somehow different to the rest of us and that their peccadilloes are a totally acceptable and logical part of being who they are. That's not to say that DSK is automatically guilty as charged in the States where the biggest crime would often appear to be shameless hypocrisy: one only has to look at a presidential campaign to realise that a potential winner is required to be almost pure, certainly god-fearing and, never to have issued a cuss let alone a profanity nor have been with three leagues of a joint.

Aha! Another ripened fruit: Eurovision. What on earth were the French selectors thinking when they chose the semi operatic number, something Corsican I believe? Yes, Nolwenn Leroy has " made a cardboard box" as they weirdly say for someone who has had a success, with her latest CD of reinterpreted songs from Brittany but you need to be of slovakian origins to get the douze points in the song contest. When will they learn? In any case can anyone even remember who did win? It was only a month ago!

So last week I macheted my way through the semi jungle that is le jardin Newman-Legros and have reconstituted something approaching an ancient forest, in which we discovered for the very first time two, not one but two, plum trees. We've only been here five summers! It's not as if the trees are small either, though toppled sideways under the weight of the foliage and the fruit, one must be about 5m tall.

Three visits viz including friends and the world's biggest chihuahua and fairly regular use of the magic carpet running machine, and a CV. I read only today that actually having Curriculum Vitae or its abbreviated form heading up said document is outdated. I shall delete the offending letters before proffering this latest oeuvre to the wider world.

That's us just about all caught up, phew! In the meantime I've been picking cherries and to say that this blog was rather all over the place and unstructured might be said to be doing the same. Ha!