Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

French musings

Im back in Fwwance. For Christmas. Heathrow was a nightmare. Packed with people jetting off and the usual jobsworth BAA staff trying to make everyones lives twice as difficult. And that was before the fog set in.

Landed in Fwance. I checked. No sense of impending doom. Or encroaching Eurabia. Just the usual. Nicely decorated streets with seasonal red carpets out for shoppers. Hundreds of frosted trees. Cafes still quite full with locals still sitting outside (its quite chilly). Old ladies in big fur coats (its not that chilly!). Jewish families out celebrating with hanukkah lights in the square last night. They didnt look remotely like they were about to be set upon by the small contingent of local french arab youth walking by - who couldnt have given a toss. They were more interested in joining in the break dancing 'act' on the cobbled street. (The French will never be cool). The little jewish boy was cycling around and cutting through them with flashing hannukah lights attached to the back of his bike. Each street is decorated differently for Christmas. Chandelier style lights in one road and flashing strobe effects in another. The cake shops all look enticing as usual. Beautiful glistening works of art in every window. There are queues for cakes at this time of year and the variety increases. Photo required i think.

We took a trip out to the supermarket - giant hypermarche - on the outskirts of the city - to buy some food to make for a starter on Christmas day at friends. With so much fresh food to choose from it is hard to know where to start. The fish section is washed down regularly as new batches of fish are thrown into the pool bays and lobsters, oysters, mussels and unrecognisable assorted scary alien looking things are piled high. There is one ice display with crab and lobster claws sticking out in perfect rows. They look sort of comical. We took time out to have lunch in the one of the cafe arrangements in the centre of the supermarket. The food is amazing and all the locals will sit and take the time to lunch properly. With a glass of red wine. As did all of us. Actually we got quite pissed which made choosing the starter easier. Somehow we came back with a tube of creme de frozen mashed up snail.

Watching the world go by in a coffee/bread shop today my dad (who had surgery recently c/o that fab french nhs) told me how the woman who runs it had come to be known as Madame Cleavage (by my parents). The story was funnier when in one of those mobile phone conversations my father had to raise his voice to give directions to my mother..."Yes the cafe opposite the Spar...yes you do know...yes you do....Madame Cleavage!" with his hands cupped around the phone as best he could. Hopefully she doesnt speak English. She was modestly dressed today. She must be about 40 and wears an incredible amount of makeup. She looks a bit like a painted doll. She is very polite and helpful. And shriiillllll. Each 'Bonjouuuuuurrrrr!!!!' could shatter glass. Today she was wearing a polo neck and dress over the top. Her hair is bright bright red. Eventually she tottered round to check on a customer et voila...a skirt the size of a belt. But. Possibly because she is French she somehow manages to carry this off. I think if she had opened her mouth in England she would have sounded awful - like a bird from Croydon. But her happy shriiiiiill French accent seem to make all the difference. She is an anomale though. Most French women appear to have a permanent bad smell under their noses. Nothing fills me with more fear than entering a boutique. It all looks pretty. Beautifully laid out. But the second you enter the shop the snooty female assistant NEEDS to help you. You cant sift through bits at leisure. You have to be helped, jostled around, frowned at. Which makes me feel all English and apologetic. However. If you find a cadeau for Christmas, the moment is transformed. Your purchase is beautifully wrapped. Bowed. And presented back to you as a gift. All for free. They will turn any little purchase into a ceremony.

On Friday there are Christmas drinks with a variety of people all of whom im going to politely interrogate about Europe's impending demise. Finnish, Dutch, French, Italian and a Persian French woman who prefers to be thought of as Persian French, not Iranian. My mums French teacher who by rights should be an ardent socialist agreed with my mother today that 'la greve' (strikes) are a waste of time, irritate a large number of French people generally and that France needs a Maggie Thatcher. Not a Segelene Royal. Sarkozy has announced he will rid France of beggars in three years. They arent inundated but they add to the riff raff he dislikes. And in other news a previously unsolved mystery in Monaco was finally solved (please say solv-ed with a Clouseau accent to add to the occasion): 68-year-old former lawyer, Jean-Maurice Agnelet, has been acquitted of the murder of missing hotel heiress Agnes Le Roux. The 29-year-old woman vanished in 1977 during a casino war in Nice. In exchange for a payment of £300,000, Agnès Le Roux betrayed her mother at a business meeting, thereby removing her control of the casino and forcing her to sell it to her rival. Mr Fratoni paid the money into a joint bank account in Switzerland in the names of Ms Le Roux and her lover, Mr Agnelet. Four months later Agnès Le Roux disappeared and her body has never been found. Suspicion quickly fell upon Mr Agnelet, who had transferred the £300,000 into an account in his name alone. His wife provided an alibi. He was back in the dock after he divorced his wife for his mistress. Unfortunately for him she retracted her statement. I wonder why! lol. 'Beware the fury' and all that. The Telegraph wrote: "The case relates to the events of 1977 and bears all the hallmarks of a
James Bond plot – passion, money, betrayal, a glamorous heroine and playboy protagonist".

Finally in another cafe musing - we were wondering why 'war' is feminine and 'paradise' is masculine in French. 'La guerre' and 'le paradis'. DAFT.


At Friday, 22 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the advent of so many new words and phrases who decides if they are male or female?

I was talking about fixing a printer with a french girl, she said he doesn't work and he doesn't print. I said some men are like that.

At Sunday, 24 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Alison,

Just dropping to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


At Sunday, 24 December, 2006, Blogger DV said...


You make it sound lovely! A Very Merry Xmas to you and yours. My plans to invade France are put on hold...

At Thursday, 28 December, 2006, Blogger Wolfie said...

Re. French shop assistants.

I know what you mean, I find the solution is to flirt outrageously with them - which leaves them licking your hand in appreciation. Like you say, its the experience and not the goods that make the boutique.


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