Someone else who has been protesting is the man who runs the bakery and patisserie in Grasse, who had been banned from displaying chocolate figures of ancient African deities. Yannick Tavaloro took the ban to France’s top administrative court, which promptly overturned the ban.
More talking is continuing in an effort to sort out the prolonged dispute at Radio France; mediation efforts are ongoing to try and find a solution. But there have been few complaints from listeners about the absence of top programmes in the Radio France schedule and have been happily tuning in to rival stations, such as RTL.
The latest heist took place in Paris the other day, when €5 millions’ worth of jewels were snatched from a car travelling from central Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport. Such large scale robberies have become almost standard, both in Paris and on the Cote d’Azur. Chinese tourists visiting Paris are another target for thieves, since they are often carrying large quantities of cash. A Chinese business consultant living in Paris, Fanchen Meng, had a suitcase stolen at Montparnasse railway station last November; it too contained a lot of cash. But he has said the police have been useless in trying to recover the suitcase and its contents. He wrote a letter to the prime minister, Manuel Valls, urging him to take steps to improve security in Paris. The letter was published in full in Le Figaro this week, but it seems very unlikely it will generate any new measures. At the same time, around 50, 000 Chinese people have signed an online petition urging the same thing, better security for tourists in Paris.
In another crime attack, a taxi driver was filling up his car at a service station in Clichy in the Paris district the other day; he got into an argument with a fellow motorist, who promptly stabbed him to death. More mayhem came at the end of last week, when a large textile factory in Seine- Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, caught fire. The resulting smoke meant that the RER line and the motorway to the airport had to be closed for most of last Friday. Then the other day in the small town of Pont St Esprit in the Languedoc, an explosion caused much damage to a block of flats used for social housing, killing at least two people and injuring many more.
Yesterday, Tuesday, there was very nearly another train disaster. A train coming to Paris from Belfort in eastern France was passing through the town of Nangis, just south- east of Paris, when it collided with a truck laden with tractors that had got stuck on a level crossing. Five carriages were derailed and out of the 350 passengers on the train, about 30 were injured, two of them seriously. It could have been a whole lot worse.
A collision the other day between a van full of beehives and a car in the Tarn department in southern France resulted in many of the hives being smashed and over a million bees being killed. Tens of thousands of bees managed to escape and they attacked the rescuers trying to get the driver of the car to safety. The poor beekeeper lost the result of months of hard work, as well as a lot of honey production, and he said the crash had cost him about €7, 000. A far more ferocious insect is also in the news, Asian hornets, which have settled in France because of warmer weather. So far, six people have died in France from their stings and now there’ s a concern that as temperature levels rise in the UK, Asian hornets could settle there, too.
Last week saw the death of one of France’ s leading pop stars from the 1960s, Richard Anthony,who was of Middle Eastern extraction. He was described as the master of the yé-yé song and one of his songs, Et J’ entends siffler le train because a hugely popular ditty for summertime. Altogether, he released 600 songs and his records in total sold 50 million copies. He died at the age of 77 from cancer of colon; he died at his home in Pégomas, just inland from Cannes.
I was looking the other day at a YouTube video purporting to show a Métro train on line 10 in Paris going between two stations with its doors wide open. Some people say the video is a fake, but it seems real enough to me. But what did seem strange were all the commuters sitting in the train without a care in the world. On the subject of transport, Easy Jet is bringing in a new shuttle bus service between central Paris and Charles de Gaulle airport, with a single fare of just €2, certainly very good value. And still on transport matters, if you’ve been through Perpignan airport recently and have been perplexed by the sight of a large jet with Islamic lettering on its tail sitting on the edge of the runway, the plane in fact once belonged to Colonel Gadhafi from Libya. That country is in a state of total turmoil, but what passes for a centralised government there has had the plane parked at Perpignan for the past 12 months, to keep it out of the way of armed militias in Libya.
On another topical note, I see that the ban on selfies at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival has been dropped. Bans on selfies have become very unpopular in France after the recent debacle at the Muséed’ Orsay in Paris.
And President Hollande managed to get a warm welcome on his recent travels, to Switzerland, where his two day visit went down well and cemented relations between the two countries. In the past century, he was only the third French president to have visited Switzerland. Mitterand went there in 1983 and Chirac in 1998 and both were subsequently re- elected, but it seems most unlikely the same thing is going to happen with Hollande.
A fascinating vessel set sail the other day from the west of France, bound for America. In 1780, the frigate L’ Hermione took French troops led by the Marquis de la Fayette to America; the following year, they helped Washington win a decisive battle against the British at Yorktown, Virginia. The original ship took three months to build; the replica took 17 years, at a shipyard in Rochefort in western France. More than four millions visitors helped pay for the reconstruction, along with crowdfunding. The ship is now en route to Yorktown, where it’ s due to arrive on June 5. It’ s then going to visit 10 ports along the American east coast, culminating in a grand arrival in New York in time for the July 4 independence day festivities. It’s an interesting scenario, because these days, the US considers that its main military ally in Europe is France, rather than the UK, as was long the case.
Also on the subject of restoration, Paris city council is donating €80 million, with a further €11 million coming from the government, to bring back some of the churches owned by the city back to their former glory. The city owns 95 Catholic churches, nine Protestant ones and two synagogues and many of these buildings are of great architectural and historical interest.
Down south, the prefecture of the Var is hoping to restore the tile making tradition of the lovely small town of Salernes, in the Upper Var, not far from Draguignan. It’ s a delightful spot, home to a mere 3, 600 people, but until the 1960s, had a tradition of tile making that stretched back thousands of years. Even up to the 1950s, some 50 small factories in the town employed in total around 1,500 people, but these days, hardly anyone is left with any of the old tile making skills. Now it’s hoped that new apprenticeships and tax breaks will help bring about a revival.
But one old tradition in France seems destined for the scrapheap, phone kiosks. For the past 50 years, if anyone wanted to make a phone call from a public place, the kiosk was the place to do it. The advent of mobile phones over the past 20 years has made them totally redundant and now the French parliament is putting through legislation to get rid of them all. I wonder how this is going to work in many rural communities, where mobile coverage is still very patchy.
In international news, I couldn’t help but be very amused by the cover of the current Private Eye, which shows Hilary Clinton and her husband Bill. A bubble from Hilary says that it’ s about time to have a woman in the Oval Office, while her errant husband says:” Been there, done that” .
And finally, as the UK general election approaches, it’ s amazing how much of the running is being made by the Scottish National Party, which on present form, seems set to wipe out a dreary and irrelevant Labour Party in Scotland, and take all but about four of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seems set to play a decisive role during and after the election, much to the chagrin of the Tories. Interesting times lie ahead!