Bonne Année à toutes et à tous! Being ever so politically correct you have to say that now as the all encompassing but essentially male "tous" is no longer sufficient.
So, where to start after another - guilty - rather extended break from this blog writing lark? OK, let's continue the political theme with a look at the currency that not only celebrates 10 years of active use this very month but also one that is the target of endless speculation, concern and some jubilation both positive and negative. Yes the €€€€€€! Will it survive the year? Now let's get serious here, this is the second most traded currency in the entire world, one that is the national money of 17 sovereign states. It is unlikely to cease to be without bringing down perhaps a substantial element of the world economy. Currencies do not stand alone. And despite the endless articles in such august organs as the Daily Mail which on a good day go so far as to flirt vaguely with the truth as it panders to its increasingly xenophobic middle-England aging readership, the Euro and the EU are not the devil incarnate but the products of political and economic discussion, agreement and reaction to national and international events. David Cameron may well have found his Thatcherite mojo - though not her abundant hairstyle - with his recent "non" but in reality whatever he says and does on behalf of the UK, the reality is, whether as full part, part part or outside of the EU, the UK will be affected by what goes on in Europe.
Staying with politics but this side of the Sleeve, the race warms up ie becomes slightly tepid, for the presidential elections with the news that up to 30% of the electorate would consider dropping everyone's favourite nationalist Marine Jeanne d'Arc Le Pen's name into the ballot box. You have to understand that here we don't - I don't at all not having a vote - put a cross or a mark on a piece of paper, we get a fistful of candidates name papers and we choose the one we want to drop in the box discarding all the rest. reading carefully it seems that the true figure is actually 18% since 12% actually responded that they probably would not vote for her, but hadn't completely made up their minds. Lies damned lies and statistics.
What is undeniably true is that in a time of perceived austerity a return to the "good old days" is an attractive proposition especially for those who claim to have experienced them ie the more mature element of the population. Thus it didn't surprise me at all that, during our visit to our next door neighbour "pour les voeux" ie the official Happy New Year call, she announced that she would probably vote for Le Pen, since she could not see the socialist, and current favourite, François Hollande as president. Our neighbour is in her seventies and has a typical working class background without the benefit of more than basic education so her profile is one that matches well with the target of the nationalists. After all what have such people to lose? In reality of course, it is unlikely that our elderly neighbour will even bother to vote and that, is the true danger of the forthcoming elections.
On Saturday we were honoured to be present at the formal wedding of friends Khadijah and Raymond aka Coco! Apart from having a lovely day and seeing the inside of the impressive Hôtel de Ville - 1930s administrative art déco - it was a timely reminder about communication and language. In the party of eight including one child there were three non-native French speakers. The bride herself is Moroccan and chatters away in a French that is littered with mistakes but with an enthusiasm that is infectious. It was a relief that one of fully French guests was the one who completely misinterpreted the menu and asked the waitress if she could have the help yourself buffet as a main course when it was plainly already on the list of possibilities. Lesson learned: we can make mistakes, misread or misunderstand the object is not to be perfect but to be understood and to understand back.
The funniest thing and possibly the most irksome thing I have seen on the television for quite some time was Paul Danan's appearance on Celebrity Come Dine With Me. To the sound of a barrel being soundly scraped this bright spark announced that he was Jewish and that he had never ever ever eaten pork. He then went on to explain that even though bacon and sausages come from the well known pig animal that these don't count as pork and so they are OK to eat. A thirty something year old with the mentality of a nine year old, sadly not so uncommon these days as we learn that the lovable twins, Jedward, are to return to the "Celebrity Big Brother" house. A quick reminder: these scallywags are TWENTY years old!!!
I can feel the blood pressure rising so I am off for a run on the magic carpet in the outhouse. Happy 2012!